Our endorsements for San Francisco’s top offices

MAYOR

London Breed

London Breed is not running unopposed, but none of her opponents have the political support to win or govern effectively. She is all but certain to be our mayor for the next four years and possibly beyond.

Breed has taken actions we support during her current term, including standing up to neighbors opposed to the Embarcadero Navigation Center and making strong appointments to fill vacant seats. She took clear action to seek a new director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency when it became clear Muni was struggling and has pushed to speed up street safety improvements in the wake of bicyclist and pedestrian deaths. Her support for increasing affordable housing development and opening more shelter beds remains clear, even if progress is much slower than we would like it to be. Her efforts to streamline development approvals are noted and appreciated.

Overall, however, Breed has largely continued the cautious policies of her predecessor, Ed Lee, with similarly incremental, uninspiring results. As she continues to grow into her role, here’s what would we like to see from her administration in the next four years, and we invite her to meet annually with our editorial board to check in on the progress.

First and foremost, we would like to see more significant focus on actually solving homelessness, rather than merely covering it up or moving it from one neighborhood to another. Breed has pointed to a reduction in the number of tent encampments as a sign of success, but since she took office the shelter waiting list has remained stubbornly above 1,000. There are clearly no fewer homeless people – just fewer tents.

Breed set a laudable goal of creating 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of 2020, which would be a good start. She may hit somewhere around the halfway mark by the end of this year with the launch of the embattled Embarcadero Center (which we wholeheartedly support), but she still has a way to go. She must work to build consensus and broader support citywide for the placement of shelters, including in the neighborhoods that currently have none, if she is to reach her goal.

The City needs to stop using the police and the Department of Public Works as its first response to complaints about the homeless, stop pushing them from one neighborhood to another in a fruitless game of whack-a-mole and stop seizing the belongings of The City’s most vulnerable residents. Instead of repeating harmful half truths about “service resistant” homeless people, The City needs to offer them more than a single night in an uncomfortable shelter bed — which even police officials recently acknowledged accomplishes little — and offer real long term help and housing.

This will require a massive expansion of outreach efforts, services and supportive housing, some of which we hope will eventually be paid for by funds from last year’s Prop. C, which taxes large corporations to fund such programs. We remain disappointed by Breed’s decision not to back that tax, but hope she will make good use of the funds when they become available.

We would like to see mental health resources greatly expanded, including long-term beds for those who need them. The mayor has campaigned on a promise of expanding conservatorship for the most mentally ill, and state legislation has been approved to allow that to happen. But we are not confident the city is actually prepared to manage those cases and provide the level of care that is needed. Given recent issues, it appears the Department of Public Health will need a major overhaul and stronger leadership to rise to the challenge.

The City also needs to find ways to reduce property crime rates and drug dealing without resorting to knee jerk law and order crackdowns that rarely accomplish much beyond the initial headlines. Breed’s administration so far has been far too fast to resort to quick actions to sweep away problems rather than long term solutions.

The City also needs to finally move forward with the safe injecting site that Breed campaigned on in her first run for mayor last year. We cannot wait for state and federal approval, the need is too urgent.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY

No Endorsement

This was supposed to be the first district attorney’s race in more than 100 years in which there was no incumbent. Voters would get a chance to choose freely among four well-qualified candidates, all of them first-time office holders.

Instead, in the space of less than 24 hours, District Attorney George Gascon announced his resignation, effective Oct. 18 — and Mayor London Breed appointed Suzy Loftus to fill his seat on Friday, with just over a month until the election.

This puts us in an awkward spot. We seriously considered endorsing Loftus.

We felt she stands the best chance of successfully navigating the political challenges that a San Francisco district attorney is likely to face in working with police, the public defender’s office, the mayor and Board of Supervisors — not to mention her own staff in the district attorney’s office. Loftus has courtroom and legal experience through her work as a prosecutor, in the state attorney general’s office and as legal counsel for Sheriff Vicki Hennessy. But it was in her work as president of the Police Commission, where she steered through significant reforms in the police department’s use of force policy, that her strength as a leader and manager and her combination of progressivism and pragmatism was most visible.

It’s unfortunate, however, that in appointing Loftus interim DA on Friday, Breed added an asterisk to this election, offending voters, and risking Loftus’ relationship with progressives right out of the gate, should she be the victor.

The move and its tainting of the race convinced us to decline an endorsement and let the voters decide among the hopefuls.

We have a great deal of respect for Chesa Boudin’s experience as a defense attorney and for his role in the bail reform fight in which the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office played a key role. His credentials as a progressive reformer are incontestable. We were also favorably impressed by both Leif Dautch, a bright, progressive young deputy attorney general, and Nancy Tung, a seasoned prosecutor and manager with strong ties to the DA’s office.

But in the end, the voters should decide this one, without any further persuasion.

CITY ATTORNEY

Dennis Herrera (uncontested)

Dennis Herrera has served as City Attorney since 2001 and is running uncontested for an astonishing sixth term. A prolific and vigorous litigator, Herrera is known among other things for his role in San Francisco’s legal fight against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In this current term alone he made San Francisco the first city in the nation to sue the Trump administration over threats to cut law enforcement funding over sanctuary city policies. He has sued the administration repeatedly since then, most recently over a rule change that would allow health care providers to refuse care on religious grounds. His office has also prosecuted bad landlords in recent years, sued oil and energy companies over their role in climate change, defended City College of San Francisco from overzealous accreditors and wrangled with Uber and Lyft, gun companies and AirBnB, among many other cases.

TREASURER

Jose Cisneros (uncontested)

Jose Cisneros has held the seat of Treasurer since 2004, when he was appointed by Gavin Newsom. In his role as the city’s chief banker, investment officer and tax collector, Cisneros has worked on initiatives including the Financial Justice Project, which examines the fines and fees that disproportionately affect poor people, and the Kindergarten to College program, which creates savings accounts for the families of city school kids.

PUBLIC DEFENDER

Manohar Raju (uncontested)

Manohar Raju gained his seat in the worst possible way, following the tragic and sudden death earlier this year of Public Defender Jeff Adachi. A well respected attorney and manager within the Public Defender’s Office, he had a relatively limited public profile at the time of his appointment. While not as flashy as Adachi could sometimes be, Raju shows every sign of carrying on and improving on his legacy of providing high quality representation to clients, expanding services to immigrants fighting deportation and tackling racial inequity and criminal justice reform. In our editorial board meeting Raju also emphasized the need for human gestures such as reaching out to family members, and said he hoped to expand the social services and support his office can offer to its clients.

SHERIFF

Paul Miyamoto (uncontested)

We would have liked to see a contested race for sheriff, following the decision by Sheriff Vicki Hennessy not to run for reelection. However Paul Miyamoto, the sole candidate, is an experienced hand with more than 20 years in the Sheriff’s Department who has risen to the rank of chief deputy. He has pledged to continue steps undertaken by his predecessor toward the adoption of body cameras and make improvements in the training of deputies and in internal procedures following recent scandals involving mistreatment of inmates and the mishandling of the investigations. In an editorial board interview with The Examiner he emphasized the need for The City to move on replacing the dangerous and decrepit jail at the Hall of Justice, and said he was willing to seek outside oversight for the department, but stopped short of endorsing a proposal for an oversight body similar to the Police Commission.

SCHOOL BOARD

Jenny Lam

Jenny Lam, who has served as education advisor to the mayor since last year, was appointed by Breed to the school board in January. She probably would have been unopposed in this election if the board had not taken up the explosive question of whether to remove or cover up historic murals at Washington High School, which include troubling depictions of African Americans and Native Americans. The resulting furor prompted two other candidates to enter the race.

While the mural decision was made with good intentions, as a gesture of support for black and Native American students, it stands to consume far too much of the district’s limited time and money. But Lam remains by far the best qualified candidate, given her experience working with both education and social justice nonprofits as well as the district and her deep knowledge of education issues.

DISTRICT 5 SUPERVISOR

Vallie Brown

Vallie Brown has a compelling personal story of overcoming hardship and a childhood that includes time spent living out of a van. She worked as a community activist and as a political aide for both Ross Mirkarimi and London Breed before being appointed to the District 5 seat by Breed last year. In her brief time in office she has advocated for better pay for Muni drivers and helped secure a site for a safe parking pilot program for homeless residents living in their cars.

The strongest criticism of Brown is that she has a close working relationship with Breed and ties to the moderate camp. So far, however, she has acted in a reasonably independent and bipartisan manner, bucking Breed in her support of last year’s Prop. C, openly condemning homeless sweeps during a recent editorial board meeting, and frequently joining with progressive supervisors on legislation.

There is a history in District 5, of course, of elected officials, including Breed herself, tacking to the left during an election and then drifting right again once their seat is safe. We are cautiously hopeful that Brown will continue in her current course if she is re-elected.

CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO BOARD

Ivy Lee (uncontested)

An attorney and former immigrant advocate, Ivy Lee’s background includes stints as an aide for Supervisors Norman Yee and Jane Kim; it was while working with Kim that she played a key role in developing and winning support for the Free City program, which provides subsidized City College tuition for San Francisco residents. She was later appointed to the college board by Mayor London Breed.

City College has had a troubled few years and is still working to right itself after an accreditation fight and resulting enrollment drop. Its administration has struggled to negotiate and implement the Free City program, seems prone to frequent issues such as problems with registration software, and is caught up ongoing battles over potential cuts to beloved programs and inadvisably large raises to administrators. In addition, the college is preparing to ask voters to approve a bond measure next year. In this atmosphere, the board needs someone like Lee with some political savvy and experience who is willing to challenge the administration and push for greater accountability.

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