Mayor Gavin Newsom delivered an upbeat outlook for San Francisco in his State of the City address, “Progress by the Numbers,” Monday, and the mayor rattled off compelling statistics to back up his assessment. As this page pointed out in its endorsement of Newsom for re-election, the mayor has presided over a city that is heading in the right direction, but we would add that there are some trouble spots that urgently need to be tackled during the next mayoral term beginning Jan. 7.
Newsom understandably pointed to a 10 percent drop in serious crime in The City since he took office, but the mayor also acknowledged that San Francisco’s 88 homicides to date put it on track for registering one of its most violent years in decades — a disturbingly unacceptable trend. The mayor pledged to The Examiner’s editorial board Friday that his administration is focused on bringing down the rising homicide numbers, and the addition of 444 police officers with a pledge for more during a second term is a step in the right direction.
One issue affecting perhaps the most San Franciscans that Newsom addressed head-on is the need to improve service on Muni. While the mayor reiterated that Muni’s on-time performance has risen to 71.9 percent from 65.5 percent in 2001, the agency still has a ways to go before it meets the voters’ 1999 Proposition E mandate of 85 percent. Notwithstanding the maddening delays generated by the T-Third line to the Muni Metro network in April, Muni can stand more technological advances such as the addition of the new “NextMuni” real-time arrival notification system and a fleet of 86 new hybrid buses.
Newsom cited the construction of 7,981 units of affordable housing since he took office and his positive vision for Hope SF, a $95 million plan to rebuild public housing. Housing is a key element of the burgeoning San Francisco economy that the mayor trumpeted in his address — notably, increased hotel occupancy and SFO traffic, reduced unemployment and office vacancies, and the promising biotech industry — but it will be essential for this mayor and future San Francisco chief executives to make affordable housing a top priority to try to counter The City’s continuing loss of the blue-collar and middle-class residents so important to its economy.
The mayor says he has attended to those in The City who are homeless, too, touting data that indicate 6,288 formerly homeless individuals are off the streets since he took office in 2004 — a 38.9 percent decline. However, anecdotal evidence clearly suggests that homelessness and the quality-of-life infractions against the law often associated with it remain a vexing on-the-street problem in The City.
The list of Newsom’s glowing achievements goes on and on, from a 346 percent increase in city spending in San Francisco’s flagging-enrollment schools to the mayor’s universal health care program Healthy San Francisco to civil service reform. With so many accomplishments andan enviable 70-plus percent approval rating under his belt, the mayor has a war chest of political capital and we have no problem in advising he use generously to keep The City’s progress going full-steam ahead.