20 questions for Fiona Ma

Pub date April 25, 2006
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

Sup. Fiona Ma, who is running for state Assembly, last week decided to skip an endorsement interview that she scheduled with the Guardian – making herself unavailable to answer questions important to Guardian readers – so we’ve decided to put some of our questions out the publicly.

We encourage voters to press her for answers before the June primary, and if you have any luck, please let us know by e-mailing City Editor Steven T. Jones at steve@sfbg.com.

1.   What kind of health care system do you support for California? Ma’s opponent, Janet Reilly, has made single-payer health care her top campaign priority and issued a detailed plan for what that would entail. Health care is one of just five issues that Ma discusses on her website (the others being Housing, Education, Budget/Jobs, and Transportation), vaguely indicating she support universal coverage and stating, “I support state measures to provide incentives for business owners to cover their workers and other such efforts, but we need the political will on the national level to be successful.”  The first part sounds as if she’s advocating tax breaks to businesses that offer private insurance health plans to their employees. The caveat at the end sounds like she doesn’t intend to do much of anything until the feds do. But then, during the only debate that she’d agreed to have with Reilly, Ma said that she support a single-payer health care system, without offering any other details. This is arguably the most important issue the Legislature will face in the next few years and we have a right to know whose side Ma would be on.

2.   What will you do to protect renters and rental units in San Francisco? Again, it was the sole debate and its aftermath that yielded much confusion about where Ma stands regarding renters. She has made no secret of her strong support for increasing homeownership opportunities and her record is one of opposing local efforts to slow the number of Ellis Act evictions. But at the debate, she went further by declaring, “The Ellis Act is sometimes the only way for some people to become homeowners and I support it.” After being criticized for the statement, she defended herself in a piece on BeyondChron.org that only seemed to dig a deeper hole, arguing that she supports “ownership units [that] are affordable to San Franciscans of all income levels.” And how exactly is that going to happen?

3. What’s up with the $20 million?    In that same Beyondchron.org column, to defend her bad record on renters, Ma cited an effort that she made earlier this month to amend the city’s $20 million housing subsidy program to prioritize those who have been evicted under the Ellis Act. City officials said it would have had little practical effect and the gesture seemed to contradict you statements of support for Ellis Act evictions. Why should we see this as anything but a crass political deception?

4.      Why have you been unwilling to provide details about your policy positions even on the five issues you raised on your website – so voters would know how you intend to vote?

5.      How do you intend to increase revenues coming into the state, which you will need for even the broad goals you cited in education, transportation, and business “incentives”? We’re particularly interested in this answer after watching Ma chair the city’s Revenue Advisory Panel two years ago. That body was charged by the mayor’s office with recommending new revenue sources, and ended up recommending none.

6. Are you just a pawn of downtown business?At luncheon speeches that she gave to SFSOS and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce over the last couple years, Ma you blasted and belittled her colleagues on the board while fawning over the business community. What is she willing to do to show her independence from downtown?

7.      Why do most of your colleagues on the Board of Supervisors support Janet Reilly —  and why shouldn’t voters see that as an indictment of your tenure as a supervisor?

8.      Is there anything new that you would require of the business community, such as improved labor or environmental standards, greater corporate accountability and transparency, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, health care benefits for employees or their same sex partners?

9.      Your record is one of consistent opposition to requiring developers to pay more or offer more public benefits, such as open space or affordable housing. Why shouldn’t rich developers making obscene profits pay a little more? Has your position been influenced by the financial support of people like Oz Erickson, Joe Cassidy, Warren Hellman, Don Fisher, and Bob McCarthy?

10.     Why did you oppose legislation that would have limited the number of parking spaces that could be built in conjunction with the nearly 10,000 housing units slated for the downtown core, legislation that Planning Director Dean Macris called critical to good planning? Did your support from the downtown developers who opposed it have anything to do with your position?

11.     You supported a deal that extended Comcast’s cable contract without requiring any new public programming requirements, even though other comparable cities have better plans. Do you think that’s why Comcast is supporting your campaign?

12.     You’ve been a big advocate of tax breaks for corporations, including the biotech and film industries in San Francisco. How would you make up for these lost revenues and are you concerned that having cities compete with tax breaks creates a race to the bottom that starve public coffers? And on the biotech tax credit, given that such companies often lose money for years before reaping high windfall profits, how would be insure those companies eventually pay taxes to the city rather than just moving somewhere where they won’t be taxed?

13.     You were a longtime supporter of Julie Lee, continuing to support her even after it was revealed that she illegally laundered public funds into political campaigns. Why, and do you continue to support her?

14.     In a recent letter to supporters, you warned that Janet Reilly was trying to buy the campaign so people needed to give more. At the time, she had raised about $600,000 to your $700,000. How do you justify what appears to be a deceptive statement to your own supporters?

15.     We understand you support the death penalty, but many studies have shown that those on death row have been represented by inexperienced and ineffective lawyers, that they are disproportionately poor and minorities, and that based on detailed studies conducted in other states, it is likely that at least a few are not guilty of their crimes. Given all of that, are there any reforms that you’d like to see in how executions are carried out?
16.     In the debate, you said that the state is not required to balance its budget and that the federal government may simply print money to cover its budget deficits. Would you like to clarify or amend either statement?

 17.     What is your position on drug prohibition? Are there any current illegal drugs that you would decriminalize or are there any other changes you would make to the war on drugs?

The statement you issued on your website dealing with “Transportation” – one of just five issues you addressed – is only 48 words long. Is there anything that you’d like to add? And are there any other issues facing the state that you think are important?

  The Reilly campaign has warned of a possibly illegal effort to attack her by a group called “Leaders for an Effective Government,” using money laundered by Comcast and your old boss, John Burton. Are you aware of this effort and have you taken any steps to stop or repudiate it?

20. Why do you think it’s okay to avoid tough questions from the press?