| October 2010
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On Nov. 2, District 8 residents will go to the polls to elect a new representative to the Board of Supervisors for a four-year term starting January 2011. Voters will be asked to rank their top three choices among four impressive candidates: former Oracle business executive Bill Hemenger, Democratic County Central Committee Vice Chair Rafael Mandelman, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan, and Deputy City Attorney Scott Wiener. As the campaign heated up last month, the Voice sent out an email questionnaire asking the candidates to respond to a range of issues, from budget deficits to pedestrian plazas to proper etiquette in board chambers. Below are their answers, presented side by side for easy comparison. Good luck in making your decision.
Residence: Diamond Heights
Residence: Dolores Park
Residence: The Castro
Residence: The Castro
1. Write a classified ad, describing your personal qualifications for the job of District 8 supervisor.
Hemenger: Fiscally responsible businessman seeks short-term relationship (four to eight years) with the residents of District 8 and the City of San Francisco. Must love Jobs, Accountability, Growth, and Balance.
Mandelman: Democratic Party activist and longtime District 8 resident seeks meaningful employment giving back to the city that raised him. Qualifications include serving as president of the Noe Valley Democratic Club, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, vice chair of the Democratic County Central Committee, and commissioner on the Board of Appeals. As supervisor, I will continue to fight for District 8 residents who want better schools, affordable housing opportunities, and a public transportation system that works.
Prozan: Rebecca Prozan is a candidate with deep roots working for the residents of District 8. She is an Independent candidate who will prioritize public safety, small businesses, schools, transportation, and parks. If you know Rebecca, you know she has a reputation for problem-solving, producing results, and getting things done. Her motto? Call Prozan, she’ll know what to do.
Wiener: I have a track record of getting things done. I served as chairman of the S.F. Democratic Party when we registered 15,000 voters. I co-chaired the LGBT Community Center and played a key role building the center. When crime spiked in the Castro, I co-founded Castro Community on Patrol, a neighborhood walking patrol. I served as president of my neighborhood association. As a Deputy City Attorney, I understand how our government works and doesn’t work.
2. What sets you apart from your opponents in the race?
Hemenger: I am the only one who isn’t a politician. I am the only one that is not an attorney. I am the only candidate who is not accepting or seeking endorsements. I am the only one that has significant experience in the private sector, with over 25 years in business. I am the only one who has managed large organizations, balanced budgets, and put people to work.
Mandelman: I have the right experience to represent District 8 and help lead the city. I grew up here, and alone among the candidates, know what it is like to be a kid in S.F. As a commissioner on the Board of Appeals, I earned a reputation for standing up for neighborhoods, tenants, and historic preservation. As an elected DCCC member and Democratic Party activist, I have a record of fighting for social and economic justice.
Prozan: I have a record of accomplishments—delivering parking spaces in Noe, voting on parks and recreation centers, and taxicab policy reform. I bring a balanced approach to decision-making. Voters are frustrated by the political divide; they want the Board of Supervisors to focus on San Francisco. Supervisors will have to make tough budgetary decisions next year. More ideological divide is counterproductive. I bring commonsense independent leadership with a proven track record of results for District 8.
Wiener: My leadership experience and record of getting things done set me apart. Moreover, I am very focused on the basics of running a city. I’m not running to debate international affairs or engage in ideological warfare. The Board of Supervisors’ purpose is to address basic quality-of-life issues and ensure that critical city services—like Muni, public safety, and public health—are effectively delivered. Those basics will be my focus.
3. Name your top three priorities if elected supervisor.
Hemenger: A) Jobs—to make the city more business friendly by eliminating the payroll tax, streamlining the permit process, and inviting business and the commercial sector to the table. B) Growth—providing for sustainable, livable growth. Growth is not the enemy of our quality of life; it is a necessary part of it. C) Balance—the Board of Supervisors needs a balance of viewpoints, and currently the commercial sector is vastly underrepresented. We need more than just lawyers, politicians, and city workers on the BoS; we need some commonsense proven business people.
Mandelman: Managing our budget crisis to minimize impacts to our weakest and most vulnerable residents (children, the elderly, the sick and disabled) and the essential public services upon which we all rely (transit, parks, public health, etc.), ensuring that all new development benefits existing communities and meets the city’s planning goals, and finally, prioritizing our city’s “transit-first” policy by increasing investment in public transportation.
Prozan: Budget—We need smart ways to cut costs and control waste while maintaining crucial services. We must focus on innovative means of revenue generation to continue our city’s vital services and programs. Public Safety—Violence on Muni, petty theft, endemic vandalism and graffiti, senseless street violence, and drug pushers cannot be allowed. Working with SFPD and crime prevention resources is one of my top priorities. Transportation—We must fix Muni’s broken system to ensure that service cuts are restored and residents of San Francisco can count on fast and reliable transportation.
Wiener: Muni—I support Prop. G, Fix Muni Now. We need to make physical changes to Muni, such as Bus Rapid Transit and better spacing of stops, and to maintain Muni’s infrastructure, as well as our roads. I’ve been endorsed by Rescue Muni. Public Safety—I support Chief Gascon’s efforts to modernize the Police Department, and I support the sit/lie ordinance. I’ve been endorsed by the police and firefighters. Public Health—We need to protect core public health services, such as mental health services, HIV/AIDS services, and health care for kids and seniors. I’ve been endorsed by SEIU/United Healthcare Workers.
4. Should city supervisors spend time and energy making resolutions on foreign policy?
Hemenger: No. The city has far more pressing concerns. It is a waste of time and taxpayer resources for members of the BoS. Many of these issues have little to no relevance to the proper management of the city’s resources, and they are ultimately futile (and, I would argue, more than a little ridiculous).
Mandelman: When Proposition 8 was on the ballot, I believed that it was entirely appropriate for the board to put the city on record as opposing that measure. So too, when genocide is occurring in Darfur, or other great injustices are happening in the world, and where our collective voice, in combination with other pressure from around the world, might have some positive impact, I believe it is incumbent upon us to raise that voice.
Prozan: I believe the voters elect their supervisors to fix San Francisco. We face so many challenges with our budget deficit. There is no time to get involved with foreign policy when there is so much at stake here at home.
Wiener: No. As described above, the Board of Supervisors should focus on the basics of running city government, not international affairs. The board is not a debating society.
5. According to Board President David Chiu (June 2010), the city’s budget deficit is expected to rise to $700 million next year and $800 million the year after that. What are your specific plans to deal with the ongoing budget crisis?
Hemenger: The board needs expertise to cut waste and inefficiencies, free of influence by groups that are truly resistant to change. This means both smaller measures, e.g., taking suggestions from city workers on where they see waste, to much larger efforts, such as cutting overtime entirely, ensuring fair contributions on new pensions, and putting salaries in line with market wages. Second, we need to attract new businesses to San Francisco. We need someone with experience in the private sector who understands business, what incentivizes them to hire and expand, and the obstacles to carrying on operations in San Francisco.
Mandelman: Our city’s budget crisis is largely the result of bad policy decisions at the state and federal level. Nonetheless, we have inherited this crisis, and we must be smart and compassionate in addressing it. We cannot simply “cut our way out” of the budget mess, as San Franciscans need social and health services now more than ever. I will work to find creative, resourceful ways to generate revenue, demand that every department find ways to operate more efficiently, and to the extent cuts are necessary, look to the highest-earning public employees to bear a greater share of the burden.
Prozan: I would propose implementing the Municipal Executives Association’s recommendations:
1. Establish a professional Office of Management and Budget.
2. Establish budget development priorities and guidelines at the start of the annual budget process.
3. Hold joint departmental budget hearings.
4. Increase revenue forecasts from three to five years.
5. Initiate citywide financial planning.
6. Identify and implement organization-wide fiscal strategies.
7. Revise the city’s Rainy Day Reserve to ensure financial resources can be used when needed.
8. Conduct full cost analysis of and include sunset clauses in all set-aside ballot initiatives.
9. Implement biennial budgeting.
Wiener: We need to begin by determining the city services that we cannot do without—the services without which the city would suffer most significantly. These include, for example, Muni, public safety, core public health services, basic infrastructure maintenance, and support for public education. All services will be impacted by budget cuts, and we need to share the pain. But the most critical services should bear a smaller proportion of the cuts. If we consider new revenues, they should be largely transportation-focused. For example, I support having a local vehicle license fee.
6. Noe Valley is considered one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. Yet a rash of bike thefts, store break-ins, and robberies with guns has left the community on edge. How can police resources best be used to reduce crime?
Hemenger: I think that the SFPD is using their resources wisely. We just need to provide them more and improved resources, like improved technology to assist them in reporting and preventing crime. But to do that requires money that the city simply does not have at this time. Cutting waste and attracting business are the only ways to ensure that the SFPD remains fully staffed with officers given the best possible tools to complete their rounds.
Mandelman: My priority is to ensure that public safety resources are used effectively. I support Supervisor Mirkarimi’s Community Policing and Foot Patrols measure as well as cost-effective alternatives to reduce crime and improve quality of life. These include better street-lighting, graffiti abatement, expanded youth programs, more social service outreach to reduce concentrations of street people, and support for the community patrols and Patrol Special police that have been used so successfully in several District 8 neighborhoods.
Prozan: As a prosecutor, I understand firsthand the toll crime takes on our communities. As supervisor, I will work closely with the Police Department to increase foot patrols, expand communities On Patrol and Patrol Specials, utilize technology to deploy officers, support aggressive crime-prevention efforts, push for auto burglary stings to reduce break-ins. For my public safety plan, see http://www.rebeccaprozan.com/category/issues/safety
Wiener: I support Chief Gascon’s efforts to modernize the Police Department. By having better and more real-time technology and investigation practices, the department will be more effective in preventing and investigating crime. The community also needs to be involved in neighborhood safety. We cannot rely exclusively on the police. When the Castro experienced a spike in violent crime, I co-founded Castro Community on Patrol. This and other community policing models are valuable supplements to the police.
7. It’s sad to admit, but many Noe Valley parents leave the city once their children reach school age, because of concerns about the public school system. What would you do to keep families in San Francisco?
Hemenger: Even though the BoS has very little influence on the SFUSD, I would suggest eliminating the lottery system, which fosters alienation among neighboring families. Neighborhood schools means decreased expenditures on busing that could be used for other purposes. Measures to correct waste, e.g., hiring financial auditors to take a look at the District’s books, will help keep the classrooms as small and increase teacher pay, as well as provide for afterschool programs.
Mandelman: The school dilemma confronting Noe Valley parents is not new. When I arrived in San Francisco 25 years ago, my grandmother promptly enrolled me in a private school, which I was able to attend thanks to generous financial aid. I am grateful for that education, but the reality is that we simply must rebuild the capacity of our public schools. As supervisor, I will be a fierce advocate for more resources for our public schools.
Prozan: We must advocate for clean, safe parks and recreation centers; maintaining our libraries; and access to these after-school programs. We must empower parents to make the best possible choices, balancing neighborhood schools and access to preschool, head start, immersion schools, and other city programs. As supervisor, I’ll facilitate, advocate, and problem-solve to make District 8 as family friendly as possible for all families—LGBT and straight. Read my plan for families: http: //www.rebeccaprozan.com/category/issues/families
Wiener: Families must have access to great public schools. This means making all schools as good as they can be, through funding as well as encouraging parental involvement. We also need to keep pressure on the school board to ensure that the school assignment system is not driving families out of the city. The city also must provide families with good transportation options and recreational opportunities—a reliable and safe Muni and well-maintained recreational facilities.
8. Local residents and shoppers would give up their cars and ride Muni more often if they could count on its reliability. What steps would you take to improve public transportation in the city?
Hemenger: Supporting Prop. G is a start. We need long-term sustainability of our transit system. We need to make it safe, reliable, clean, and modern. We have the power to stand up to the unions and to take back the control of the MTA. We must consider efforts to extend Muni rail lines to additional parts of the city, as well as dedicated bus lanes, e.g., up and down Van Ness and perhaps the Geary corridor.
Mandelman: The biggest obstacle to our having a great transit system is historic and ongoing underfunding of Muni. Having worked to pass Proposition A in 2007, I was frustrated to learn that most of the additional revenue we worked so hard for through that measure had been diverted to other departments. We need to restore that revenue and find new revenue for Muni. I also support efforts to reform the governance of the MTA.
Prozan: Fix Muni’s finances. Financial stability must be the primary concern of Muni over the next five years. We must reduce overhead and labor costs that are overwhelming the system, strike concessions with Muni’s unionized workers to pare down the proposed deficit, explore new means of funding that doesn’t include service cuts, and increase efforts to catch fare evaders to help bridge funding gaps. For my transportation plan: http: //www.rebeccaprozan.com/category/issues/transportation
Wiener: We need to pass Prop. G (Fix Muni Now) to get control of Muni’s costs and thus put more money into service. We also need to make smart physical changes to the system, such as Bus Rapid Transit, better spacing of bus stops, and moving away from cash fares in order to speed the boarding process. And we need to do a much better job maintaining Muni’s infrastructure.
9. A Pavement to Parks plan to put a pedestrian plaza in the middle of Noe Street proved so controversial this spring that the city eventually dropped the idea. Were there any lessons to be learned from this incident?
Hemenger: The chief lesson is that decisions like this cannot be merely foisted upon citizenry. Neighbors need purchase into ideas like this. The City needs to solicit input in order to achieve consensus. However, once a decision is made to proceed with a plan along the lines of a Pavement to Parks program, we need to put very strict time limits on the process. Analysis paralysis is the death of many good, well-intentioned ideas.
Mandelman: Definitely. There is a need for more community planning in Noe Valley. Neighbors objected as much to the process by which they heard about the plaza proposal as to the proposal itself. As supervisor, I hope to initiate broader and inclusive discussions about what changes Noe Valleyans would like to see in their neighborhood, and I think if those conversations led to proposals for street closures at appropriate locations, there would be far less resistance.
Prozan: Public reception of the Pavement to Parks Plan and the Town Square proposal is illustrative. Neighbors mistrusted the Pavement to Parks process because they felt forced into a decision without sufficient community input. I applaud how the Town Square proposal was handled. Bringing in a third party like Neighborhood Parks Council to facilitate the process is the best way to handle neighborhood decisions. This is the kind of process I would bring as supervisor.
Wiener: The primary lesson is that when considering significant changes to the neighborhood, we need to have a strong process so that everyone is at the table at the beginning. Unfortunately, and through no fault of the Noe Valley leaders involved, City Hall announced the project before a collaborative process had begun. As a result, unnecessary tension and division occurred. In the future, I am confident that we will avoid this kind of situation.
10. A residents/merchants group in Noe Valley is seeking open space funds to help create a “town square” at the site of the Noe Valley Ministry parking lot on 24th Street. Do you support this effort?
Hemenger: If the neighborhood can reach consensus on the issue, I would support it. Parks and open space are critical to the livability of dense urban environments. We need, however, to focus first on our existing assets—the present, existing parks and public spaces—and first make sure they are well maintained and utilized.
Mandelman: I do.
Prozan: YES. Noe Valley feels like a small town in many ways—neighbors know each other and have relationships with small business owners in the neighborhood. The town square proposal is an excellent idea that complements the character of Noe Valley. Just like the farmer’s market, it will create a sense of community and provide much needed open space for parents, kids, and community members.
Wiener: I strongly support the town square idea. It will create usable and well-located public space for the neighborhood, will be a great place for people to get to know their neighbors, and will strengthen a neighborhood that is already quite strong.
11. How will you vote on these measures on the Nov. 2 ballot?
—Prop. B, which would require city workers to contribute more to their pension and health insurance costs;
—Prop. G, which would eliminate city charter pay guarantees for Muni bus drivers; and
—Prop. L, the so-called “sit-lie” ordinance, which would restrict sitting or lying on city sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Hemenger: YES. YES. YES.
Mandelman: Prop. B: Oppose. This measure would make it harder for lower-income workers to provide health care for their children. Pension reforms should be structured to reduce the impact on lower-income workers.
I will vote for Prop. G with some misgivings. I do not believe operator salaries belong in the charter. However, I feel certain provisions of Prop. G place an unfair burden on drivers in arbitration with the MTA.
Prop. L: Oppose. Existing laws already provide an adequate legal framework for law enforcement to address this problem, and the policy question is how to get more police walking a beat and enforcing existing laws.
Prozan: Prop. B—No. Increasing city employee financial contributions to health benefits and pension programs is necessary. However, doubling healthcare costs discourages persons from maintaining insurance coverage, and that is a risk we cannot afford.
Prop. G—Yes. While drivers cannot be blamed entirely for Muni’s finances, something must be done to fix Muni. This is a much-needed first step toward turning Muni around.
Prop. L—No. As a prosecutor, I’m not convinced “sit/lie” will have the desired effect—meaningful progress to our homeless population. I will continue to advocate for meaningful progress such as a Community Justice Center for the Castro.
Wiener: I do not support Prop. B, because it will dramatically increase the cost to employees of insuring their children’s health. If Prop. B loses, I will work to bring forward a pension reform measure that focuses on pensions.
I strongly support Prop. G and share my campaign headquarters with the Prop. G campaign. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who sponsored Prop. G, has endorsed my candidacy.
I support the sit/lie ordinance. The street behavior in some areas of San Francisco is unacceptable, and the police currently do not have the tools to deal effectively with it.
12. What is your favorite hangout in Noe Valley?
Hemenger: I hate to say this because they are both food places, but it is a tossup between Noe Valley Bakery and Barney’s Burgers! I am a big fan of both the sticky buns at the bakery and the curly fries at Barney’s!
Mandelman: Independent Nature, the garden shop at 1504 Church.
Prozan: Besides Bernie’s Café or the martinis at Noe Valley Tavern, my favorite hangout these days is my campaign office on Church and 24th Street. Stop by anytime. Team Prozan would be happy to see you!
Wiener: Barney’s. Great hamburgers.
13. If elected, will you promise to never use the F-word in board meetings?
Hemenger: No—if you mean FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE! But if you mean the CHRIS DALY word, then YES!
Mandelman: Yes. Frankly, I’m not much of a swearer.
Prozan: Yes, I promise never to use the F-word at board meetings but reserve the right to do so in the privacy of my home or office if there is an occasion that calls for it.
Wiener: Yes, I promise.