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The Play-by-Play for Noe Valley Candidates Night
By Mariva H. Aviram
Instead of watching the Giants play baseball on the chilly evening of Oct. 9, some 70 residents sat on folding chairs in the Alvarado School cafeteria and watched a sextet of candidates vie for Mark Leno's slot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (Leno bowed out of the race in order to run for State Assembly from District 13.)
All six contenders for District 8 supervisor--Bevan Dufty, James Green, Eileen Hansen, Shawn O'Hearn, Tom Radulovich, and Starchild--spoke and fielded questions at the Noe Valley Candidates and Issues Night, sponsored by Friends of Noe Valley and four other neighborhood groups.
In addition, the audience got a chance to hear the pros and cons of four controversial propositions on the Nov. 5 ballot.
"It was one of the livelier and more agreeable evenings that District 8 has seen," said Friends President Jeannene Przyblyski, who moderated the event. "Seeing the supervisorial candidates up close and personal is one of the direct benefits of district elections."
The night started out with five-minute presentations from each of the candidates for supervisor. Here's a recap of the action, from A to Z:
Candidate Bevan Dufty, who directed the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services from 1996 to 2001, said his background in city government has helped him understand "how the city works, or doesn't work." He also feels he has the "knowledge, experience, energy, and passion" to be an effective leader in District 8, and that he'll "bring departments together and improve neighborhoods on a block-by-block basis." He plans to work with public schools, because "we don't want a second-class public education system." He's also "bullish" on the Care Not Cash initiative (Prop. N), because he feels strongly that "changing the city's approach to homelessness is the key issue facing San Francisco." (bevandufty.com)
James Green's black tie with red fire engines illustrated his pride in being a firefighter, paramedic, police officer, and nurse. As part of his career, he has dealt directly with homeless people, he said, and he also supports Prop. N. At the start of his speech, Green displayed a large handwritten placard outlining the points of his campaign. He objects to dangerous panhandling, especially in traffic, and advocates a half-cent alcohol tax (to generate $5 million for detox programs), a short-term detox clinic, and a 24-hour mental health clinic. He believes that DAPTS (a public service term for "drugs, alcohol, or psychiatric treatment street people") who are arrested for public drunkenness or drug use should be dropped from cash support and switched to service vouchers. (email@example.com or 282-0927)
Eileen Hansen, the only female candidate in the group, is proud of her community mediation background and three decades of public service. Still, she is concerned about the direction the city administration has taken by allowing "runaway development and lost diversity" during the economic boom of the '90s. She believes San Francisco should be "affordable and livable" for everyone, including nonprofits, renters, artists, families, seniors, and people of color. "I live here because I don't want to live in Utah or Kansas," she said. "There's a uniqueness here." Hansen advocates long-range planning--for both boom and bust economies--prioritizing city needs, and setting a budget. She opposes Prop. N, and instead supports instituting the Continuum of Care plan, developed by more than 200 community experts, which provides substance abuse treatment, mental health services, job training, and transitional housing. "It's a finished plan, but it's been on the shelf," she explained. (eileenhansensf8.info)
Shawn O'Hearn, who is a member of San Francisco's Democratic County Central Committee, believes that "the leadership has been missing in the districts," especially since the return of district elections two years ago. He feels that a supervisor should be accessible to the public after--not just before--an election, and he therefore supports opening a District Constituency Office as a place for District 8 residents to gather information. "There's a club for every group imaginable in San Francisco, which is good," he said, and therefore he advocates a neighborhood council whose members would get together once a month, like an "input meeting," to discuss issues and resolve conflicts among groups. He also supports spending a small amount of the budget--"say, $100,000"--for neighborhood improvements. (ohearn4supervisor.com)
Tom Radulovich, who has been endorsed by incumbent Supervisor Leno, is active in the Noe Valley Democratic Club and SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association). Because he believes that quality of life is not district-specific, he advocates citywide improvements, such as better transit (he's served on the BART board for six years) and an increase in housing, as a long-term solution to homelessness. He believes he, like Leno, can bridge the gap between Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Willie Brown. However, he sides with neither on the "untested" propositions N (Care Not Cash) and O (Exits from Homelessness). As for improving streets, transit, parks, and neighborhoods, "the key issue is livability," he said. He plans to update BART facilities, install new ticket machines, and implement a plaza plan for the 24th and Mission BART Station. He thinks building a new station at 30th and Mission streets, the "greatest gap between BART stations," would revitalize the south-of-Cesar-Chavez community. (tomradulovich.com)
Starchild, an exotic dancer and escort, was arguably the sexiest and hippest-looking candidate at the event, sporting a bohemian canvas jacket, form-fitting pants, and long windblown hair. As the only Libertarian candidate, he called the overwhelmingly Democratic San Francisco a "one-party town." He believes the Democrats in office have misspent our money, and he promises to "get power back to you." He rebuked city workers who earn six-figure salaries and "huge amounts of overtime," and he opposes Prop. J, which would increase supervisor salaries from $37,585 to $88,000: "I won't raise my own salary at your expense." He supports civil liberties for everyone, including homeless people, who he feels have the right to sleep in their vehicles (currently prohibited by law) instead of on the streets. "I don't support the city being cruel to the homeless," he said. (Libertarian Party of California, www.ca.lp.org)
What Have You Done for Noe Valley Lately?
After the short speeches, the candidates responded to some direct questions about Noe Valley neighborhood planning, affordable housing, and dog and park policies.
Highlights included Green's suggestion that park planners grow hedges, as they do in France, instead of erecting "penal Gothic architecture" chain-link fences to separate dog runs from other areas. Another showstopper was Starchild's telling of a childhood anecdote --about a third-grade teacher who kept all the students after school because a few kids had thrown spitballs. This was Starchild's illustration of the "individual responsibility" core of his Libertarian philosophy: just as the entire class should not have been detained because of the poor behavior of a few kids, the majority of dog owners should not be punished for the actions of a few irresponsible dog owners.
Several candidates were stumped by the savvy question: "What have you done for Noe Valley lately?" Green, O'Hearn, and Starchild were honest about doing nothing. Green, however, said he continues to stay educated by attending local meetings, and Starchild, in keeping with his Libertarian philosophy, promised to "leave Noe Valley alone."
Dufty said he worked with local merchants to combat the acid-etched window vandalism that occurred on 24th Street last summer. Hansen said she facilitated meetings between builders and neighbors so they could negotiate their differences outside the Planning Commission.
A Closer Look at Four Hot Propositions
After the candidates Q&A, Przyblyski introduced spokespersons for and against four propositions on the November ballot: Save Hetch Hetchy, Care Not Cash, Exits from Homelessness, and HOPE.
Jennifer Webber, campaign manager for Prop. A (Hetch Hetchy Repair and Upgrade Revenue Bond), said the bond measure is needed to repair and earthquake-proof the pipelines and tunnels in our 90-year-old Hetch Hetchy water delivery system. She also claimed water rates would not increase for low-income residents and seniors. Sierra Club member Caleb Kleppner countered that Prop. A would be a step backward: Congress had given Hetch Hetchy to San Francisco, but this proposition returns the authority to the state. In addition, Kleppner said the bond failed to fund the total cost of seismic retrofitting and that residents would pay higher water rates to cover a "massive expansion" of the system. (savehetchhetchy.com, noonpropa.com)
The audience greeted Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who authored Prop. N (Care Not Cash Initiative), with warm applause and cheers. Obviously a graduate of Toastmasters, Newsom silenced the room with his impassioned plea for reform of our homeless services system. He said Prop. N was written in response to last year's record number of homeless deaths, which he called "a disgrace, an outrage, a tragedy." He also said, "No other county gives so much and requires so little" of its homeless population. He believes Prop N. will "convert the cash [the city now spends on direct grants to the homeless] to guaranteed access to services," such as food, housing, medical care, and drug treatment programs. (carenotcash.org)
Community Vocational Enterprises specialist and former mental health worker Quintin Mecke held his own against the charismatic Newsom. Mecke implored, "Accountability without support is a form of cruelty." There are no "guaranteed services" in Care Not Cash, he maintained, and the destitute must fight over crucial and underfunded services. He asked the audience to imagine living on less than $2 a day, and reminded them that they would be "directly influencing someone's life" on Nov. 5. "I find it morally troubling," he added, "for politicians to further their careers on the backs of the homeless." (www.nomorehomelessness.org/committee.htm)
Mecke said Prop. O (Exits from Homelessness Ordinance), which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop housing, new treatment programs, and annual budgets, was created as a more flexible alternative to Prop. N. But Jim Ross, campaign manager for Prop. N, said Prop. O lacked the teeth to reduce homelessness. Of the two measures, Prop. N alone would make reforms mandatory, he said.
U.C. Hastings Law student Philip Grady, a renter, voiced his support for Prop. R ("HOPE"--Home Ownership Program for Everyone). He feels the measure, which would allow tenants to buy their units if the owner of a building and at least 25 percent of the tenants agree, will help keep middle-class people in the city. "The number-one reason people leave San Francisco is lack of affordable homeownership," Grady said. (sfhope.org)
Prop. R opponent Scott Weaver, an attorney who's worked in tenants rights since 1976, countered that under HOPE, few tenants will actually become homeowners, because condos still won't be affordable (average selling price is $500,000 in San Francisco, higher in Noe Valley). He also claimed that the measure provides no real protection against Ellis Act and owner move-in evictions. (saverentcontrol.org)
By the end of Noe Valley Candidates and Issues Night, the audience was full of facts and figures, but much closer to deciding their choices, come Nov. 5. And the San Francisco Giants were well on their way to winning the National League pennant.
Voters can find more information online at sfgov.org/election. For links to all the propositions, go to sfpolitics.com.