Candidates for San Francisco mayor talk jobs, small business and Irish reunification
It’s a funny thing, said San Francisco mayoral candidate Tony Hall: Whenever people are around the Irish, they want to be one.
Hall’s remark Thursday night certainly seemed to hold true when Hall and eight others hoping to be the next mayor of San Francisco brought their campaigns to the United Irish Cultural Center. Candidates put almost as much effort into aligning themselves by heritage or affinity with the city’s Irish and Irish-American community as into explaining their perspectives and policies.
A uniquely Irish perspective
David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, said he is the son of immigrants and grew up in Boston, where he said he was the only Chinese student in his class at a Catholic grade school.
“Raised by Chinese parents and Irish Catholic priests, I’ve had some identity issues,” he joked, later giving his name as “David O’Chiu.”
The Irish American Democratic Club sponsored Thursday’s forum, and its unique perspective on San Francisco politics was evident in questions asking candidates how they would ensure the future of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and whether they would publicly urge the British government to work for the reunification of Ireland (Though not everyone directly answered the reunification question, none said they opposed the idea).
Irish American Democratic Club President John O’Riordan said Thursday’s event drew 554 people to the UICC, on 45th Avenue near Sloat Boulevard.
“I think it’s a testament to the great importance of the voters on the west side,” O’Riordan said.
Jobs, small business and the budget
Other topics cut across ethnic lines to get at issues broadly important to the city’s western neighborhoods: jobs, the business environment, public safety, the city budget and the economy.
State Sen. Leland Yee said that problems for the construction trades and other blue-collar workers have causes that sometimes extend beyond the city’s borders, such as the statewide elimination of redevelopment agencies and their funds that pay for new construction.
“Whoever the mayor’s going to be needs to understand that development and jobs is not just simply what’s going on in San Francisco,” he said.
“Right now, the redevelopment agencies throughout the state of California are poised to be eliminated. I voted against it. I fought against that. … That is a $7 billion take of local government.”
Many candidates said they wanted to ease what they said was a burdensome regulatory environment for small businesses, filled with fees, permits — and worry that the Board of Supervisors will get involved even when they follow the rules.
“Unfortunately for small businesses, we have a knack (in San Francisco) for making their life very difficult. ‘The game always changes’ — I hear that from restaurateurs all the time,” said former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.
Venture capitalist Joanna Rees warned that San Francisco needs to address the impacts of people who live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley and spend their money there.
“We have to grow our way out of this budget deficit. Twenty-five percent of our population — the people who pay the premium to live in San Francisco — commute out of the city every day,” she said.
“We have to eliminate the additional employee payroll tax and stop taxing stop options so those jobs stay here in San Francisco.”
New election method, new strategies
November’s election will be the first in which San Francisco voters choose a mayor through ranked-choice voting, a system in which they can name not only their first-choice candidate but also their second and third choices. One effect of RCV is that while candidates in previous elections strove to distinguish themselves from the field by taking strong positions on issues and criticizing opponents, this time around they are careful not to alienate voters who might consider them for a second- or third-choice vote.
That might go far in explaining the similarity of candidates’ statements Thursday and the overall lack of jabs or even strong disagreements. Helping families and small businesses was a common theme among the candidates, along with eliminating City Hall waste and inefficiency.
However, some of the candidates pointed to positions that set them apart from the rest of the field.
“I’m not afraid to talk about wanting to tax wealthier people in San Francisco,” said John Avalos, who represents District 11 on the Board of Supervisors. Avalos said he favors a local income tax on the city’s top money-makers.
“I do not go along with the pension-reform plan that was negotiated by [Mayor] Ed Lee and the unions,” said Hall, who represented District 7 on the Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2004. The city’s pension plan is still in deep trouble, and the deal doesn’t go far enough toward asking the members of city-employee unions to contribute their own money to the plan, he said.
See the candiates’ opening remarks, from YouTube user sfmemory:
All photos: Jonathan Weiand / Ocean Beach Bulletin
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