Endorsement Interviews

The battle for BART board

The race for BART board of directors in the upcoming November election has been highly contested this year. As we previously reported, incumbent James Fang faces a challenge from investor and former solar company entrepreneur Nicholas Josefowitz, a Harvard graduate in his early 30s.

Here’s your opportunity to listen in on the Bay Guardian endorsement interviews with candidates running for BART board. Alongside our colleagues from down the hall at the San Francisco Examiner (check out the Examiner’s endorsements here – they’re rather similar to ours), we spent a couple weeks interviewing candidates running for office in local and statewide races.

Here’s our interview with James Fang.

And here’s our interview with Nick Josefowitz.

As we explain in our Endorsements issue, which hit newsstands yesterday, we decided to go with Josefowitz. It was a surprisingly tough choice, given how long we’ve been wanting someone to make a strong and well-funded challenge to Fang, San Francisco’s only Republican elected office holder and the longest serving director at an agency that has been hostile to worker safety reforms and meaningful oversight of the BART Police Department.

We got our wish when Josefowitz entered the race, did well in fundraising, and got lots of progressive political support. But SEIU Local 1021 strongly supported Fang, who walked the picket lines with striking BART workers last year. They and other Fang allies also highlighted Josefowitz’s opposition to CleanPowerSF and Prop. G, raising questions about his progressive credentials and political naïveté.

Fang deserves credit for supporting BART workers last year and with advocating for a BART extension to Ocean Beach. But the BART board needs new blood, and we believe Josefowitz has the energy, ideas, and perspective to move the district in a more sustainable, accountable, and innovative direction.

Why and how we endorsed what we did


As I sort through the barrage of positive and negative feedback to the election endorsements that we published today — which included some tough calls that have surprised some of our progressive allies — I’d like to take a moment to explain how we at the Guardian approach our political endorsements and what they represent.

First of all, let me state clearly and categorically that our corporate owners had nothing to do with our decisions, which were made entirely by the Guardian’s editorial board, which includes me, News Editor Rebecca Bowe, and Staff Writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez. And the three of us found consensus on all of our choices, sometimes after long discussions, even when we had differing initial views on a particular race or measure.

The other important point to make is that it’s long been the Guardian’s philosophy to avoid choosing “no endorsement” whenever possible. If voters have to make a tough decisions among bad or equally attractive options, then we shouldn’t shrink from making that decision as well, even if that risks the scorn of a segment of our readership. This was the approach that I learned from former Guardian editors Bruce Brugmann and Tim Redmond, and it’s an approach that I’ve encouraged us to continue as editor.

Finally, there’s the philosophical question of what it means to endorse a candidate, a question that we’ve spent a lot of time pondering and discussing during this election cycle. There’s not a clear and simple answer to the question, so I’ll just discuss what I think it means.

At its most basic, our endorsement means that we think our readers should vote for this person or position in this election. That’s all. It isn’t a validation of everything a politician does or stands for, and our endorsements are often driven by a weak field of challengers more than the strength of an incumbent. Frankly, there’s only one challenger in the five supervisorial races this fall who is well-qualified for the board and running a strong campaign, Tony Kelly in District 10, and we endorsed him.

The endorsement that we’re catching the most shit for right now is Scott Wiener in District 8, which was a tough call that we spent a lot of time discussing. To many progressives, Wiener is the devil, someone who has taken strong and inflexible positions on housing and regulatory issues that have angered many on the left.

But I don’t think Wiener is the devil, even though I’ve helped blast him for his bad positions as strongly as anyone in town. I think he’s a complicated person and politician who, in addition to his bad stands, has shown important political leadership and integrity on issues we do support, including transportation, nightlife, and public health. I’ve also found him to be more honest and accessible than his more progressive colleague, Sup. Jane Kim, who we also endorsed with some reservations. If you want to understand why we endorsed them, read our endorsements, it’s all in there.

Personally, for me, the hardest endorsement in our package was going no on Prop. H, and I’m still not sure whether we made the right call — or how I’m going to vote on this measure. I’ve sympathetically covered the political battles over artificial turf and this Beach Chalet project for years, and I viscerally don’t like this project, feeling like it just doesn’t belong right there on the coast.

But I understand the need for more playing time on the city’s fields, we’ve visited the site and seen how tucked away from the surrounding area it really is, and I was persuaded that it’s time to let this project proceed after six-year-long fight. Our strong rejection of the companion measure Prop. I also gives me confidence that we’re not opening the door to a rapid conversion of city playing fields to artificial turf.

Did we get it right? That’s for readers and voters to decide based on their political perspectives, but I can tell you that we made a good faith effort and spent many hours trying. And if you have doubts about the calls we made, please listen to the audio recordings of our endorsement interviews and form your own opinions. Democracy is messy business, imperfect by design, and sometimes “least bad” is the best choice. 

In the end, I’m proud of our endorsements, which provide a valuable public service in helping voters sort through a long and complicated ballot, offering a more neutral and public-spirited perspective than that of the paid advocacy that is filling up voters’ mailboxes and billboards around town right now.

Good luck this election season, and don’t forget to vote by Nov. 4.  

What’s the difference between David C. and David C.?

The Bay Guardian news staff has been meeting with a host of politicians and local movers and shakers recently, to help inform our decisionmaking on the Endorsements issue for the upcoming November election, which hits newsstands Oct. 8.

You can thumb through it for our full package of voting recommendations. In the meantime, we’re offering a closer look at the candidates here on our Politics Blog, where we’ll post the full audio recordings from most of the endorsement interviews we conducted in recent weeks.

Tune in here to learn more about each candidate and ballot measure, and decide for yourself which ones seem worthy of support.

This installment features a pair of audio recordings from our interviews with David Campos and David Chiu, opponents in the race for California Assembly District 17, who represent Districts 9 and 3, respectively, on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

As Chiu notes early on in his endorsement interview, “You have in this race two guys named David C., who both have immigrant backgrounds, who both went to Harvard Law School, who are both progressive Democrats by any standard of the state, who have served together for the exact same period of time. And I would also point out that we have voted together 98 percent of the time. I think the key distinction between David and David is, I have moved forward, I have built consensus at the Board of Supervisors time after time on the most difficult and challenging issues that we’ve had … and I have passed … 105 ordinances, while David Campos has done that about a third as often.”

Listen to the full Bay Guardian interview with David Chiu:

Campos, meanwhile, presented a different narrative when comparing himself to Chiu.

“What this race presents to voters is, I think, a clear choice, between two different visions for where San Francisco should be headed,” Campos said. “I think that there are two good people who are running for this office, who have notwithstanding some similarities, real differences in terms of where the city needs to go. I believe that we need to first recognize that we have an affordability crisis, and I’m proud that I was the first member of the Board of Supervisors who started talking about a crisis. And I think that what we need is someone who is going to be a champion for working people, middle-income people in Sacramento. I am running for the most … progressive Assembly district in the entire state of California. And I believe that the person who follows in the footsteps of Tom Ammiano has to be a champion of the underdog.

Listen to the full Bay Guardian interview with David Campos:

San Francisco Democratic Party decides on endorsements for November election

At a meeting lasting about four hours last night [Wed/13], the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, the steering committee of the city’s Democratic Party, decided on its endorsements for the Nov. 4 election.

A lengthy round of voting followed nearly two hours of public comment, in which San Franciscans chimed in on everything from school board nominations to Proposition L, a motorist-friendly proposal that amounts to a step backward for the city’s transit-first policy. (The formal oppositional campaign slogan is “No on Gridlock, No on L,” but opponents who spoke at the meeting shortened it to the edgier “’L No.”).

Prop. L went down handily. Prop. E, the sugary-beverage tax, easily won the DCCC’s endorsement, as did Prop. J, the proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage.

But Prop. G – a measure crafted to stem the tide of Ellis Act evictions, known as the anti-speculation tax – was a close contest.

Before the DCCC members got down to the business of voting, many local advocates voiced support for Prop. G.

Housing activists lined up across the room while Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, called for meaningful action on the city’s housing affordability crisis.

But the proponents’ show of support was followed by the opposite plea from a second group, which included a contingent of Asian property owners, who crowded into the front of the room to tell DCCC members that they felt the proposed increase was unfair. “We don’t deserve this!” A speaker said, conveying anger and frustration. “Look at our faces, we work hard for our properties.”

In the end, the vote came down to four abstentions, 13 votes for “no endorsement,” and 15 votes in support, tipping the scales in favor of Prop. G by a tiny margin.

Among those who abstained on that vote were Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Speier, and Assemblymember Phil Ting, all of whom voted by proxies. Sup. Scott Wiener voted “no endorsement,” while Sup. Malia Cohen abstained.

Decisions in the races for Board of Education and the city’s Community College Board were time-consuming, since it took several elimination rounds before the final candidate lists were settled.

The school board candidates to emerge with DCCC endorsements were Shamann Walton, Emily Murase, and Trevor McNeil. Notably, that list didn’t include Hydra Mendoza, an incumbent who also serves as education advisor to Mayor Ed Lee.

Endorsements for Community College Board, meanwhile, went to Amy Bacharach for a two-year term, and Thea Selby, Anita Grier, and Rodrigo Santos for four-year terms.

Things got interesting in the contest for BART board of directors, between longtime Republican director James Fang and a well-funded Democrat, Nick Josefowitz, who is in his early 30s.

The vote was complicated since SEIU Local 1021, a labor union with a long history of backing progressive causes in San Francisco, is pulling for Fang, who supported workers during last year’s BART strike. Yet Josefowitz has the backing of other progressive organizations, including the Sierra Club. “I think that BART needs new blood,” Sierra Club representative Rebecca Evans said during public comment.

In the end, the DCCC voted “no endorsement,” with that selection getting 17 votes, five abstaining, and 10 voting in favor of Josefowitz. The votes followed a round of comments.

“The Democratic Party is a means to an end,” DCCC member Rafael Mandelman said. “And the end that we are using the Democratic Party to achieve is a more socially just and better world… There are few local entities [to advance that] than SEIU Local 1021. I think it is acceptable for us to take ‘no’ position in this race.”

Several piped up to say they thought Josefowitz deserved the endorsement of the Democratic Party simply because he’s a viable candidate and registered Democrat in a race against a Republican.

But DCCC member Arlo Hale Smith weighed in to critique of Fang’s performance as a director. “I used to hold this BART Board seat 24 years ago,” Smith said. “He’s missed a third of the meetings and he doesn’t return phone calls. He hasn’t returned my calls in a year. This is not the kind of person who should be reelected. Period.”

In races for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and citywide offices, endorsements went to incumbents Carmen Chu for assessor-recorder, Jeff Adachi for public defender, Sups. Mark Farrell for District 2, Katy Tang for District 4, Jane Kim for District 6, Wiener for District 8, and Malia Cohen for District 10. No second- or third-place endorsements were made in the Board of Supervisors races despite multiple challengers.

Just before voting for endorsements began, DCCC member Alix Rosenthal admonished her colleagues for scant attendance during the candidate endorsement interviews, which were held the previous Saturday. “Only 12 out of 32 people showed up for interviews,” she noted. Half-jokingly, she added, “I know Outside Lands was happening.”

Man for the moment?



This year’s supervisorial race in District 5 — representing the Haight, Panhandle, and Western Addition, some of the most reliably progressive precincts in the city — has been frustrating for local leftists. But as the long and turbulent campaign enters its final week, some are speculating that John Rizzo, whose politics are solid and campaign lackluster, could be well-positioned to capitalize on this strange political moment.

Appointed incumbent Sup. Christina Olague has been a disappointment to some of her longtime progressive allies, although she’s now enjoying a resurgence of support on the left in the wake of her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Now two allies of the mayor — tech titan Ron Conway and landlord Thomas Coates — are funding a $120,000 last-minute attack on Olague.

The campaign of one-time left favorite Julian Davis lost most of its progressive supporters following his recent mishandling of accusations of bad behavior toward women (see “Julian Davis should drop out,” 10/16).

The biggest fear among progressive leaders is that London Breed, a well-funded moderate candidate being strongly supported by real estate and other powerful interests, will win the race and tip the Board of Supervisors to the right. The final leg of the campaign could be nasty battle between Breed and Olague and their supporters, who tend to see it as a two-person race at this point.

But in a divisive political climate fed by the Mirkarimi and Davis scandals and the unprecedented flood of hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate and tech money, it’s hard to say what D5 voters will do, particularly given the unpredictably of how they will use ranked-choice voting to sort through this mess.

Running just behind these three tarnished and targeted candidates in terms of money and endorsements are Rizzo and small business person Thea Selby, who described their candidacies as “the grown-ups in the room, so there’s an opportunity there and I’m hopeful.”

Selby hasn’t held elective office and doesn’t have same name-recognition and progressive history as Rizzo, although she has one of the Guardian’s endorsements. It probably didn’t help win progressive confidence when the downtown-backed Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth recently did an independent expenditure on behalf of both Selby and Breed.

And then there’s Rizzo, who has been like the tortoise in this race, quietly spending his days on the streets meeting voters. Between fundraising and public financing, Rizzo collected about $65,000 as of Oct. 20 (compared to Breed’s nearly $250,000), but he’s been smart and frugal with it and has almost $20,000 in the bank for the final stretch, more than either Olague or Davis.

But perhaps more important than money or retail politics, if indeed D5 voters continue their strongly progressive voting trends, are two key facts: Rizzo is the most clear and consistent longtime progressive activist in the race — and he’s a nice, dependable guy who lacks the oversized ego of many of this city’s leaders.

“I see consistency there and a lack of drama,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano, an early Rizzo endorser, told us. “He’s looking not like a flip-flopper, not like he owes anyone, and he doesn’t have a storied past.”



Rizzo, who was born in New York City 54 years ago, is downright boring by San Francisco standards, particularly given his long history in a local progressive movement known for producing fiery warriors like Chris Daly, shrewd strategists like Aaron Peskin, colorful commenters like Ammiano, bohemian thinkers like Matt Gonzalez, and flawed idealists like Ross Mirkarimi.

Rizzo is a soft-spoken family man who has lived in the same building on Waller Street in the Haight-Ashbury for the last 27 years. Originally, he and Christine, his wife of 25 years, rented their apartment in a tenancy-in-common building before they bought it in the early 1990s, although he’s quick to add, “In all the years we’ve owned it, we never applied for condoship.”

He supports the city’s limits on condo conversions as important to protecting working-class housing, although he said, “The focus should be on building new affordable housing.” That’s an issue Rizzo has worked on since joining the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter more than 20 years ago, an early advocate for broadening the chapter’s view of environmentalism.

He’s a Muni rider who hasn’t owned a car since 1987.

Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said Rizzo brings a wealth of experience, established relationships, and shrewd judgment to his role as the group’s political chair. “We really rely on John’s ability to weigh what is politically feasible, not just what’s ideal in our minds,” she told us.

Yet that political realism shouldn’t be confused for a lack of willingness to fight for big, important goals. Rizzo has been an advocate for public power in San Francisco for many years, strategizing with then-Sup. Ammiano in 2001 to implement a community choice aggregation program, efforts that led to this year’s historic passage of the CleanPowerSF program (with a key vote of support by Olague) over the objections of Mayor Lee and some business leaders.

“CleanPowerSF was carried by John Rizzo, who has been working on that issue for 10 years,” Myers said.

Rizzo is a technology writer, working for prospering computer magazines in the 1990s “until they all went away with the dot.com bubble,” as well as books (his 14th book, Mountain Lion Server for Dummies, comes out soon).

He sees the “positives and the negatives” of the last tech boom and this one, focusing on solving problems like the Google and Genetech buses blocking traffic or Muni bus stops. “On the one hand, these people aren’t driving, but on the other hand, they’re unregulated and using our bus stops,” he said. “We need to find some solution to accommodate them. Charge them for it, but accommodate them.”

That’s typical of how Rizzo approaches issues, wanting to work with people to find solutions. As president of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, Rizzo suffered the bad timing of the district having its accreditation threatened just as his supervisorial race was getting underway, but he’s steadily worked through the administrative problems that predated his tenure, starting with the criminal antics of former Chancellor Phil Day and continuing with “a management structure still in place, and it had calcified.”

Despite being on the campaign trail, Rizzo called the trustees together six times in August to deal with the accreditation problems. “We now have a plan that shows all the things the district needs to do to keep it afloat. City College is back on track.”



Eileen Hansen — a longtime progressive activist, former D8 supervisorial candidate, and former Ethics Commissioner — gave her early endorsement to Rizzo, who never really seemed to catch fire. “There hasn’t been a lot of flash and I would love for there to be more energy,” she admitted.

So, like many progressive leaders, she later offered her endorsement to Davis, believing he had the energy needed to win the race. But after Davis’ problems, Hansen withdrew that endorsement and sees Rizzo as the antidote to its problems.

“We are in such a mess in D5, and I’m hoping they will say, ‘enough already, let’s find someone who’s just good on the issues, and that’s John,” Hansen said. “As a progressive, if you look at his stands over many years, I’d be hard-pressed to find an issue I don’t agree with him on. He’s a consistent, strong progressive voice, someone you can count on who’s not aligned with some power base.”

Other prominent progressive leaders agree.

“What some people may have viewed as his weak point may end up being his strength,” said former Board President Aaron Peskin, who endorsed Rizzo after the problems surfaced with Davis. “A calm, steady, cool, collected, dispassionate progressive may actually be the right thing for this moment.”

Sup. Malia Cohen, a likable candidate who rose from fourth place on election night to win a heated District 10 supervisorial race two years ago, is a testament to how ranked-choice voting opens up lots of new possibilities.

“Ranked choice voting defies conventional wisdom,” Peskin said. “There may be Julian Davis supporters and Christina Olague supporters and London Breed supporters who all place John Rizzo as their second.”

In fact, during our endorsement interviews and in a number of debates and campaign events, nearly every candidate in the race mentioned Rizzo as a good second choice.

Yet Rizzo doesn’t mince words when he talks about the need for reconstitute the progressive movement after the deceptions and big-money interests that brought Mayor Lee and “his fake age of civility” to power. Lee promised not to seek a full term “and he broke the deal,” Rizzo said. “And it was a public deal he broke, not some backroom deal.” 

That betrayal and the money-driven politics that Lee ushered in, combined with the divisive political climate that Lee’s long effort to remove Mirkarimi from office created, has deeply damaged the city’s political system. “I think the climate is very bad It’s bad for progressives, and just bad for politics because it’s turning voters off,” Rizzo said.

He wants to find ways to empower average San Franciscans and get them engaged with helping shape the city’s future.

“We need a new strategy. We need to regroup and think about things long and hard. I think it’s not working here. We’re doing the same things and it’s not working out. The money is winning.” He doesn’t think the answers lie in continued conflict, or with any individual politicians “because people are flawed, everyone is,” Rizzo said.

Yet Rizzo’s main flaw in the rough-and-tumble world of political campaigns may be that he’s too nice, too reluctant to toot his horn or beat his chest. “That kind of style is not me. That aggressive person is not who I am,” Rizzo said. “But I think voters like that. Voters do want someone who is going to focus on policy and not themselves.”

We don’t feel “tepid” about either Nevius or Davis


When we make our endorsements here at the Guardian, we try to be honest with our readers about each candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to understand our thinking and to feel free to choose a different candidate if you disagree with our conclusions. After doing dozens of hours of endorsement interviews and research each election, we share as much as we can about what we know, warts and all.

Most San Franciscans understand this, knowing that we have a reputation for often giving even the candidates we endorse a black eye in the process (after all, we’re journalists, not partisans or campaign boosters), but apparently this decades-long practice is news to Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius. He just wrote a blog post noting our “tepid” top endorsement of Julian Davis for District 5 supervisor.

As usual, this sports-turned-city columnist doesn’t know what he’s talking about – adding this to a whole heap of things that Nevius doesn’t understand but writes about anyway. Perhaps that’s to be expected from a political columnist who describes himself this way on his blog: “Movies, media, sports – and as little politics as possible. Light reading for those who follow the entertaining parts of life, but don’t take them too seriously.”

Well, we at the Guardian do take our politics rather seriously. And as we wrote in our editorial, we care a great deal about who represents the city’s most progressive district: “We hold this truth to be self-evident: District 5 is the heart of progressive San Francisco, the most left-leaning district in the city. The supervisor who represents the Haight, Western Addition, and Inner Sunset has to be a reliable part of the progressive community, someone who can be counted on to vote the right way pretty much 100 percent of the time. That’s what we’ve had since the return of district elections in 2000. ”

Nevius finds fault with our values, quipping, “so much for independent thinking.” Again, he doesn’t seem to understand the nature of representative democracy, particularly in our system of district elections. Voters cast their ballots for the people they think share their values and worldview, and who have the integrity to represent that perspective in the face of economic and political pressure. The “independent thinking” that Nevius values is necessarily unpredictable, unaccountable, and prone to pressure from powerful interests, something we’ve seen too much of in the last two years.

It was important to us that District 5 be represented by someone shares its values, which also happen to be the Guardian’s values, and not the reactionary approach of people like Nevius. We never doubted that Davis shares our values and has the willingness and ability to fight for them.

That isn’t a sign of being tepid, we were simply being honest, just as we were when we wrote that Davis has the “strongest progressive credentials” of any candidate in the race, and our belief that he has “tremendous political potential.” The Guardian and our endorsements can be called many things, but I really don’t think “tepid” is on that list.

Endorsement interviews: Shamman Walton for School Board


Shamann Walton, who runs a youth development program, told us what most candidates tell us — that the schools don’t have enough money. But he’s also suggesting solutions, ones that don’t require the kind of dramatic change in Sacramento that is years away. He talks about leverage federal vocational training funds, about pushing to get more General Fund money for the San Francisco schools, about demanding that developers set aside some money for public education. Walter has plenty of experience in education — he taught at a public school in Solano County, worked with at-risk kids and has helped the SFUSD with support and transition programs.

Walton said he would have voted against skipping seniority for the so-called Superintendent’s Zone schools; when it comes to layoffs, he said, “you have to let the teachers and the union decide that.” You can listen to the full interview after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: Rachel Norton for School Board


Rachel Norton, one of three incumbents seeking re-election to the San Francisco School Board, sees herself as an advocate for parents, particularly parents of special-ed kids. She told us she was proud of the dramatic gains the district has made in some of the lowest-achieving schools and said that in her time on the board, the district has done a remarkable job of managing its budget. She wants to make school food a major priority in the next four years and will be pushing the idea of building a central kitchen so food can be prepared locally instead of shipped in from the midwest.

She also explained her vote to defy the teachers union and protect junior teachers at 14 schools from layoffs.

You can hear the entire interview after the jump.


Endorsement interviews: Jill Wynns for School Board


Jill Wynns has been on the San Francisco school board for 20 years. She knows the system inside and out — and these days, she’s president of the California School Boards Association and had led the group’s efforts to pass (both) tax measures on the November ballot. We fought with her (on JROTC), supported her (on battles against school privatization) and always walked away with an understanding the she cares deeply about public schools and kids. You can hear her discuss why she wants a sixth term after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: Sandra Fewer for School Board


The San Francisco School Board has long been a fractious crew, with members sharply disagreeing on a lot of issues. They still disagree — but according to all the board members we’ve interviewed, there’s a much-better working relationship these days. Sandra Fewer, who has served for four years, talks about that — and restorative justice, ethnic studies and how she wants to build on her accomplishments in a second term. You can listen to the entire interview after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: London Breed for D5 supervisor


District 5 candidate London Breed has an amazing life story. She grew up in the Western Addition projects, living with her grandmother at a time when many of the people around her were killed or wound up in prison. She survived, went through public schools and UC Davis and now runs the African American Art and Culture Complex. She’s served on the Redevelopment Commission, where she voted in favor of the Lennar project, and is now on the Fire Commission. “I am here as the result of progressive politics in this city,” she said. She also talked about fiscal responsibility, and how it’s good to have someone at City Hall “who knows the value of a dollar.”

Listen to the full interview after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: Julian Davis for D. 5 supervisor


Julian Davis, a candidate in District Five, has lined up some impressive endorsements. He’s running to the left of the incumbent, Christina Olague, and talked about “why ordinary people can’t live in this city any more.” He told us that in the 1990s, the city of Chicago poured billions of dollars into affordable housing, and “San Francisco needs to think in the billions.” He also called for a “comprehensive and aggressive revenue strategyl.” You can listen to the entire interview after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: Norman Yee for D. 7 supervisor


Norman Yee, president of the School Board, is running in the tighly contested race for District 7, one of the most conservative districts in the city. Yee talked about the sorts of things you’d expect a district candidate to talk about — public safety (and pedestrian safety, an issue particularly important to Yee, who was seriously injured by a car), public schools, keeping libraries open, and parks.

But he also talked about citywide concerns — he’s a supporter of Local Hire, supports the City College parcel tax, and wants to see an audit of city-owned land to look for places to build affordable housing. He supports a program to legalize existing in-law units if they’re brought up to code.

You can listen to the entire interview here:



Endorsement interviews: John Rizzo (D5 supervisor)


We’re underway with our endorsement interviews for the November election, and I’ll be posting the full sound file of all the interviews as we finish them (and as I have time to upload them). First up: Community College Board member John Rizzo, who is running for supervisor in District 5.

Rizzo told us he has the political experience to take on the district’s, and the city’s, tough problems. Among other things, he wants to eliminate the fund that developer pay into for affordable housing and require market-rate builders to construct affordable units on site. He discussed a “scientific approach” to managing Muni and wants a closer audit of the $600 million the city gives to nonprofits providing public services every year.

You can listen after the jump.

Endorsement interviews: Bevan Dufty


Bevan Dufty’s been running for mayor for about two years now. He’s often the star of the debates — if only because he has an engaging personality and is willing to laugh at himself, a rare trait in a politicians. And although he way typcially aligned with the fiscal conservatives on the Board of Supervisors, he has the support of the progressive SEIU Local 1021 — in large part because he’s talking about working with city employees instead of demonizing them. He also told us that the next mayor of San Franciisco needs to have a black agenda — to address the alarming outmigration of African Americans and the economic damage that’s been done to that community. You can listen to the full interview and watch video after the jump.

Dufty by endorsements2011


Endorsement interviews: Terry Baum


Terry Joan Baum is the Green Party candidate for mayor. She told us she got in the race to get progressive issues out and on the agenda; she was a candidate before Sup. John Avalos announced, and she says she’d be supporting him if she weren’t a candidate. She told us she’s the only candidate calling for criminal charges against PG&E in the San Bruno explosion. “I understand that I’m a longshot,” she said, “but I’ve already influenced the debates.” Listen to the interview and watch the video after the jump.

Baum by endorsements2011

Endorsement interviews: Sharmin Bock


Sharmin Bock is one of just two candidates for district attorney ever to try a criminal case in court. In fact, she’s tried plenty of them in a 23-year career as an Alameda County prosecutor. She’s lived in San Francisco all that time, commuting across the Bay because, she told us, Alameda County had one of the two best D.A.’s offices in the country. (Not a nice assessment of the office she’s seeking; her implication is that she didn’t want to work at home because the office was never up to her standards).

Bock really pushed the experience line, saying that a candidate who hadn’t been in the trenches couldn’t lead a team of lawyers on the path toward reform. She told us she doesn’t think low (or maybe even mid-level) drug dealers should be in jail, and is big on changing the was cases are charged. She told us she opposes the death penalty, would never charge a non-violent felony as a third strike, and would focus on fixing the crime lab problems. She also vowed to be aggressive about municipal corruption.

Check out the audio and video after the jump.


Bock by endorsements2011

Endorsement interviews: Paul Miyamoto


Paul Miyamoto is a captain in the Sheriff’s Office and is running for the top job. He told us that at a time when significant change is coming — from the retirement of longtime Sheriff Mike Hennessey to state realignment on prison policy — it’s important to have “someone from within, someone who’s been doing the job.” He vowed (as did all the candidates) to continue Hennessey’s progressive policies, but was a little fuzzy in some areas. He said, for example, that he’s against privatizing jail health services — but would be willing to examine the issue if there were a viable alternative. Audio and video after the jump.

Miyamoto by endorsements2011


Endorsement Interviews: Leland Yee


State Sen. Leland Yee, who is running for mayor, has been involved in local politics since the 1980s, when he joined the School Board. He’s been a supervisor elected at-large, a district supervisor, a state Assembly member and now a senator. And he stirs up strong passions in the city — supporters of Mayor Ed Lee say they urged him to get into the mayor’s race in part to stop Yee from winning. Yee was a fiscal conservative on the Board of Supervisors, but in Sacramento, he’s been a foe of budget cuts. And he told us he wants to see new revenue — including a city income tax — to make sure that “the people who need services get them.”

You can listen to our interview with Yee and see the video after the jump.

Yee by endorsements2011

Endorsement Interviews: George Gascon


George Gascon is, as far as we can determine, the only police chief in the country ever to become a district attorney. It’s put him in an odd position, particularly given the recent problems in the SFPD: He has to monitor and possibly prosecute people who used to work for him. That conflict has been a big part of the campaigns against him.

Gascon discussed the situation at length, telling us that he’s proud to be “a progressive chief of police who became district attorney.” He said that he was the one who brought some of the department’s problems (the crime lab, the lack of a Brady policy) to light. “I have taken on police corruption aggressively,” he said.

You can listen to the full interview (and see the video) after the jump.

Gascon by endorsements2011


On Guard!





While supporters of the controversial Central Subway project — from Mayor Ed Lee and his allies in Chinatown to almost the entire Board of Supervisors — dismiss the growing chorus of critics as everything from ill-informed to racist, they refuse to address the biggest concerns about the project.

In a nutshell, the main concerns center on serious design flaws (such as the lack of direct connections to either Muni or BART), the city’s responsibility for any cost overruns on this complex $1.6 billion project, its estimated $15.2 million increase to Muni’s already strained annual operating budget (a figure used by the Federal Transportation Administration, well over the local estimate of $1.7 million), and the city’s unwillingness to implement its own plans for improving north-south transit service on congested Stockton Street rather than relying solely on such an expensive option for serving Chinatown that doesn’t start until 2019.

Judge Quentin Kopp, a longtime former legislator, called this summer’s grand jury report, “Central Subway: Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit,” the best he’s ever read and one that should be heeded. He recently wrote a letter to top state officials urging them to reconsider the $488 million in state funding pledged to the project. As we reported last week, mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera is also challenging a project that he supported before its most recent cost overruns and design changes.

But supporters of the project pushed back hard on Sept. 14, using taunts and emotional rhetoric that avoided addressing the core criticisms. “Beneath the unfounded criticism about costs is actually a disagreement over values. The grand jury report relied upon by critics makes a only brief and superficial criticism about costs,” Norman Fong and Mike Casey wrote in an op-ed in last week’s Guardian.

Actually, the 56-page grand jury report goes into great detail about why it believes cost overruns are likely, citing the myriad risks from tunneling and SFMTA’s administrative shortcomings and history of mismanagement, including on this project’s less-complicated first phase, the T-Third line, which was 22 percent over budget and a year and half late in completion. Even with the contingencies built into the Central Subway budget, the report notes that a similar overrun would increase the local share of this project from $124 million to more than $150 million.

Mayor Lee purportedly addressed criticism of the project during the Question Time session in the Sept. 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, prompted by a loaded question from Sup. Sean Elsbernd offering Lee the “opportunity to move beyond the clichés and one-liners of political campaigns.”

But Lee’s answer was classically political, touting the estimated 30,000 jobs it would create, praising those who have pushed this project since the 1980s, offering optimistic ridership estimates (that exceed current FTA figures by about 9,000 daily riders), and ignoring concerns about whether the city can cover the ever-increasing capital and operating costs.

“Now is the time to support the Central Subway,” Lee said, flashing his trademark mustachioed grin.

We called the normally responsive Elsbernd, who prides himself on his fiscal responsibility, twice, to ask about financial concerns surrounding the project and he didn’t call back. During their mayoral endorsement interviews with the Guardian last week, we also asked Sups. John Avalos and David Chiu to address how they think the city will be able to afford this project, and neither had good answers about the most substantive issues (listen for yourself to the audio recordings on our Politics blog).

Once Congress gives final approval to $966 million in federal funding for this project sometime in the next couple months, the city will be formally committed to the Central Subway and all its costs. It’s too bad that, even during election season, all its supporters have to offer to address valid concerns are “clichés and one-liners.”(Steven T. Jones)



Mayoral candidates faced tougher questions than usual at a Sept. 15 forum hosted by the Harvey Matthews Bayview Hunters Point Democratic Club. Whereas debates hosted in the Castro and Mission Bay, for instance, featured questions on how candidates planned to clean up city streets, what they thought about AT&T’s plan to place utility boxes on city sidewalks, or how they’d promote a more business-friendly environment, residents brought a thornier set of concerns to the Bayview Opera House.

One question pointed to an alarming statistic based on U.S. Census data and cited by racial justice advocates, showing that residents of the predominantly African American Bayview Hunters Point have a life expectancy that’s 14 years lower, on average, than that of residents of the more well-to-do Russian Hill.

Someone else asked about improving mental health services for lower-income community members struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). High unemployment figured in as a key concern. And one member of the audience wanted to know how candidates planned to “improve the behavior of the police,” alluding to the mid-July officer-involved shooting that left 19-year-old Seattle resident Kenneth Harding dead, triggering community outrage.

Mayor Ed Lee attended the beginning of the forum but left early to attend an anniversary celebration for the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation; other participants included Terry Joan Baum, Jeff Adachi, Bevan Dufty, Dennis Herrera, David Chiu, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Joanna Rees.

Answers to Bayview residents’ sweeping concerns varied, yet many acknowledged that the southeastern neighborhood had been neglected and ill-served by city government for years.

“There is no economic justice here in Bayview Hunters Point,” Adachi said. “There never has been. That’s the reality.” He pointed to his record in the Pubic Defender’s Office on aggressively targeting police misconduct, and played up his pension reform measure, Prop. D, as a vehicle for freeing up public resources for critical services.

Dufty, who has repeatedly challenged mayoral contenders to incorporate a “black agenda” into their platforms, spoke of his vision for a mayor’s office with greater African American representation, and emphasized his commitment to improving contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

Herrera, meanwhile, was singled out and asked to explain his support for gang injunctions, an issue that has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. “I only support gang injunctions as a last resort,” he responded. “We shouldn’t have to use them. But … people should be able to walk around without being caught in a web of gang violence. I put additional restrictions on myself to go above and beyond what the law requires, to make sure that I am balancing safe streets with protecting civil liberties.”

Herrera asserted that gang violence had been reduced by 60 percent in areas where he’d imposed the controversial bans on contact between targeted individuals, and noted that the majority of those he’d sought injunctions against in Oakdale weren’t San Francisco residents.

Baum brought questions about a lack of services back to the overarching issue of the widening income and wealth gaps. “Right now, the money is being sucked upward as we speak,” she said. “We have to bring that money back down.”

She closed with her signature phrase: “Tax the rich. Duuuuh.” (Rebecca Bowe)



The selection of Ed Lee as interim (or not-so-interim) mayor of San Francisco was one of those moments that left just about everyone dazed — how did a guy who wasn’t even in town, who had shown no interest in the job, who had never held elective office, suddenly wind up in Room 200?

Well, former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who was going to nominate Sheriff Mike Hennessey and switched to providing the crucial sixth vote for Lee at the last minute, told us the story during his mayoral endorsement interview last week.

Remember: Lee, as recently as a few days earlier, had told people he didn’t want to be mayor. “An hour before the meeting, Gavin (Newsom) called Michela (Alioto-Pier) and me into his office and said Ed Lee had changed his mind,” Dufty told us. He walked out of the Mayor’s Office uncommitted, he said, and even Newsom wasn’t sure where Dufty would go.

After two rounds of voting, with Dufty abstaining, there were five votes for Lee. So Dufty asked for a recess and went back to talk to Newsom — where he was told that the mayor thought the reason the progressives were supporting Hennessey was that the sheriff had agreed to get rid of about 20 mayoral staffers — including Chief of Staff Steve Kawa, “who had engineered Ed Lee running.”

So Kawa, with Newsom’s help, preserved his job and power base. “It’s all turnabout,” Dufty said. “I figure Mike Hennessey’s had a couple of beers and a couple of good times thinking about my vote. But that’s politics.” (Tim Redmond)



Friends and supporters of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were kept in a state of agonizing suspense over whether the two men, both 29, would be released from the Iranian prison where they’ve been held for more than two years following an ill-fated hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On Sept. 13, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated publicly that Bauer and Fattal could be freed “in a couple of days.” The announcement brought hope for family and friends who, just weeks earlier, had absorbed the news that the men were sentenced to eight years in prison after an Iranian court found them guilty of committing espionage, a charge that the hikers, the United States government, religious leaders, and human rights advocates have characterized as completely baseless.

Reports followed that the Iranian judiciary would commute the hikers’ sentences and release them in exchange for bail payments totaling $1 million. But by Sept. 16, when supporters gathered in San Francisco in hopes that of an imminent announcement, they were instead greeted with new delays.

The constantly shifting accounts hinted at internal strife within the Iranian government, and contributed to the sense that Bauer and Fattal were trapped as pawns in a power struggle. By Sept. 19, their Iranian lawyer remained in limbo, awaiting the signature of a judge who was scheduled to return from vacation Sept. 20.

“Shane and Josh’s freedom means more to us than anything and it’s a huge relief to read that they are going to be released,” the hikers’ families said in a statement Sept. 13. “We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us and looking forward to our reunion with Shane and Josh. We hope to say more when they are finally back in our arms.” (Rebecca Bowe)