Submitted by London Breed, Candidate for District 5 Supervisor
FLFNA Questionnaire Responses
1) Describe in your own words what is the purpose of a Supervisor representing a District in San Francisco? (2000 characters including spaces)
A Supervisor has two equally important roles: to fight for the people of his or her District at City Hall, and to fight for the entire city by ensuring that its laws work for all of its people.
The first of these roles, fighting for the district, is why we need someone representing District 5 who was born here, raised here, educated here, and has spent the last three decades immersed in the issues unique to our district.
As Supervisor, I will use all that I have learned and all that people continue to teach me about the needs and hopes of District 5, so that we can make City Hall the instrument for addressing those needs, and making those hopes a reality.
A Supervisor’s second role is to write and pass laws that work for all the people of San Francisco. San Francisco is the greatest city in the world, but it didn’t get that way by accident. It got that way because its people are always working to make the city better. A Supervisor must craft laws that are focused on the needs of our people, and keep the city faithful to the progressive ideals for which San Francisco is known around the world.
At the same time, a Supervisor must be ready to fight against the forces that try to take away what makes San Francisco so special. Some very powerful and influential people would prefer that city government focus on increasing their bottom lines, consolidating their political power, and compromising our role as a progressive model for the country and the world. The Board of Supervisors must be the fortress where we defend the city against those who would try to make San Francisco just another city run for the benefit of whoever pays the most.
As our Supervisor, I will always be faithful to both these responsibilities, for the good of the people I grew up with and have always served.
2) What do you believe are the three most pressing problems/challenges in the Lower Fillmore and what is your strategy to address and resolve them? (4000 characters including spaces)
The three most pressing problems in the Lower Fillmore are jobs for the people who live there, quality education for our children, and healing the divide between the neighborhood and city government.
MORE AND BETTER JOBS
Not only do locally owned businesses give the Fillmore its unique character, but small businesses provide a majority of jobs across the entire city. To bring more and better jobs to District 5, I will create a one-stop shop for business permits and inspections, to replace the numerous bureaucratic agencies businesses must navigate and that drive up their costs. Making things simpler and less expensive will help business owners to hire more people from the community.
I will also expand the city’s job training programs that make the residents of our neighborhoods the perfect new hires for our expanding businesses. Our citizens are our community’s greatest economic assets, and our businesses should be eager to hire them. That way our district can be a reflection of the people who have made their homes here and given it its historic flavor throughout their lives.
As a product of District 5 schools and the executive director of an arts organization for District 5 children, artist and the community, I am passionate about finding innovative solutions to the challenge of better preparing our children for a successful future.
All citizens of San Francisco have a vested interest in the education of our youth. They are the future business owners, workers and professionals that will sustain our economy, and they are the future good citizens who will carry the banner for our communities.
As a young girl, I walked to Raphael Weill Elementary School and to Benjamin Franklin Middle School with all my friends. It created a sense of community and friendship that I think is lacking nowadays. When a community takes an active role in its schools, everyone involved is enriched. As Supervisor, I will be a fighter for greater community involvement that brings schoolchildren and their neighbors closer together, so that the fabric of our entire community grows stronger.
I will also push for a new approach to learning that is showing promise around the country. Students are more than just memorization machines or number crunchers. They require a balanced approach to their educational process, not an obsession with standardized tests. We must focus on an approach that understands the whole student as a complex human being, who we should help prepare for the challenges of a rich and full life outside the classroom.
Finally, I support a citywide service-learning program for our youth. Service learning is a new approach where students apply what they learn in the real world, for the benefit of themselves and their community. It should be part of the curriculum at all grade levels and at every educational institution in San Francisco.
MAKING CITY HALL WORK FOR YOU
The third problem I would most like to address is the disconnect between the Lower Fillmore and the city government. In recent years, it has become harder and harder for the residents of the Lower Fillmore to trust that City Hall is listening or working to solve our problems.
The gang injunction, the difficulty in starting new businesses, the slow response to educational problems and violence in our community, and the lack of a forceful advocate in City Hall are all evidence of this problem, but all are things that can be fixed. As your Supervisor, the people of the district will be my most important guides. My office will be extremely responsive and open, because no Supervisor can work for the people of their district without knowing exactly what those needs are, and understanding how city government can respond to them.
The people of the Fillmore and Lower Fillmore need a strong-willed champion in City Hall fighting on their behalf. That presence will rebuild trust between the people of the neighborhood and the city government and make it easier to address any challenge that the neighborhood faces.
3) What have you done to improve the condition of people who were negatively impacted by The Redevelopment Agency? (2000 characters including spaces)
Over forty years ago, the reprehensible actions of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency led to the removal of African American citizens, their homes and businesses from the Fillmore District. It was so bad for the residents that afterwards, courts declared that redevelopment agencies nationwide now have to consult with the residents of the impacted neighborhoods, and make them partners in all the decisions that are made.
In that community-oriented spirit, during my five years on the Redevelopment Agency Commission I voted time and again to assist local residents and businesses, and to establish the Jazz Preservation District in the Fillmore, providing millions of dollars in support to Rassela's, Yoshi's, Sheba Lounge and 1300 on Fillmore. We also strongly encouraged Safeway to renovate its Fillmore store and hire more people from the local community.
During my time at the Agency, we saw the establishment of the Fillmore Jazz Heritage Center, and a new block of affordable condos at Fillmore Park on Turk Street. I also voted to give a renovation grant of $5 million to the Martin Luther King - Marcus Garvey Co-operative Apartments; a grant which allowed them to retain 211 affordable homes in the Fillmore.
But one of the things I'm most proud of is my support for Certificate of Preference holders, their children and grandchildren. As many of your members know, the agency issued these certificates to residents and businesses displaced by redevelopment, in order to help local residents with the purchase of housing or businesses once the redevelopment projects were completed.
But it took more than forty years for anything to be built on the land left vacant by the razing of dozens of buildings. To make matters worse, what was built after four decades was rental property at a time when people wanted to own their homes and businesses.
We were able to finally begin to make amends for that delay, refocusing the Agency on better housing and better living for the people of the Fillmore. However, although redevelopment has left the Fillmore, the negative impacts still remain. We need a strong advocate who understands the past and has a proven track record to make the future better despite of redevelopment.
4) Do you believe the Gang Injunction helped the community, if yes how? (2000 characters including spaces)
Having grown up in the Western Addition, and seeing so many of the young people around me tempted by “gangs “ as an outlet for the frustration they felt with poverty and despair. I know how devastating gangs can be on our youth and our communities. We have to do all we can to make gang violence a thing of the past in our neighborhoods and our city.
But while the Fillmore gang injunction was a well-intentioned idea to make the streets safer, it has proven to be the wrong tool for accomplishing that job. Rather than reducing gang violence, the main effects of the injunction have been to harass and even imprison some of the district’s young people, not for committing gang violence but sometimes only for being suspected of being in a gang.
This suspicion can be based on something as small as wearing the wrong color in public, or even associating with a close family member who is also suspected of being in a gang. That means that some young people in the Fillmore can now actually be imprisoned for associating with their own families.
Keeping our streets safer from gang violence starts when our children are young, when they benefit most from growing up in the embrace of our community, receive a quality education, and have quality employment opportunities in our city.
We also need to build an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between law enforcement officials and the citizens of our district, not separate them with a wall of suspicion. Without that spirit of trust and cooperation, it will be much harder to solve all of the neighborhood’s challenges, including public safety.
5) What community work have you done that you are most proud of? (2000 characters)
I have dedicated my professional and private life to serving the community where I was born and raised. I have served for the last ten years as Executive Director of the African American Arts and Cultural Complex, where we have brought together people of all walks of life to create jobs, support the arts, enhance our children’s education, and make our community a richer, more fulfilling place to live.
Because so many different disciplines at the Complex are intertwined, all of our programs and experiences are focused on the community as a whole: an art exhibit or dance performance not only showcases local artists, but engages the children to build connections to community service and artistic expression, builds cultural bridges between generations, and provides a space where we can make opportunity and expression the words that our community and its people are known for.
I am also honored to serve on the San Francisco Fire Commission. From that post I have worked to prepare San Francisco to respond quickly and effectively to disaster, and to be a bridge between the Fire Department and our neighborhoods. The unique challenges San Francisco faces due to our geography and climate make this a serious and solemn duty that I am proud to uphold.