Why has it been so difficult for women in progressive politics in San Francisco?
The Board of Supervisor’s new progressive majority was once again achieved with an all male slate — many of whom ran against women of color. And now we’re hearing that progressive men are trying to stop Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s campaign for board president because she’s “too emotional” and they find her self-advocacy unseemly.
As a woman who’s serving as vice president of the San Francisco Planning Commission, I can assure you that no woman has ever gotten a leadership position by quietly waiting for a back room filled with men to hand it to her.
What makes this worse is that this is all in stark contrast to national politics, where women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams, and even Nancy Pelosi are showing what a modern progressive movement can look like. Gender equality and representation are progressive values and San Francisco should be at the forefront.
The last time we had a progressive, and also male, majority in City Hall, it was damaged by a hyper-aggressive leadership style that set the progressive movement back for almost a decade. The Peskin-Daly-Mirkarimi led board was focused on deal-making, power grabs, and decisions made in back rooms with drinks rather than in public with community. Their leadership style left voters feeling cynical and disengaged and became a huge public relations problem for the progressives.
The new progressive majority needs to show that they’re not returning to their old tricks. Maybe it’s just me, but rather than watching men battle over their egos, I want to see two smart, principled women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds in the most important leadership roles in City Hall: London Breed as mayor and Hillary Ronen as board president.
Ronen and Breed don’t always see eye-to-eye, and that’s a good thing: different points of view foster democracy, engagement and inclusion. I know Breed and Ronen will work together when they agree and will have a respectful debate when they don’t. What both women share is the belief that the best way to solve our city’s problems is to face them head on with new and creative ideas, even if those innovations sometimes make people uncomfortable.
In the time Ronen has been on the board she’s proven herself to be one of the most effective supervisors in recent history. In only two years she’s opened three Navigation Centers, successfully mediated large housing projects in the Mission District that brought with them significant community benefits, created a new city department to address sexual assault, got raises for the home health care workers the city relies on, and when BART refused to clean the Mission BART Plazas, went with a broom to clean them herself until BART management broke down and hired janitors!
The new majority has a chance to show San Franciscans that progressives will be focused on solving homelessness, building affordable housing, and cleaning up our streets. Electing Hillary Ronen as the next Board of Supervisors President will send a clear signal that the new progressive majority takes its mandate seriously while also owning gender equality as a progressive value.
Myrna Melgar is vice president of the SF Planning Commission, an active Democrat and a graduate of Emerge, California.