Candidate, District 5 Supervisor 2012
Responses to Endorsement Questionnaire posed by Fillmore Neighborhood Association for Endorsement on May 23rd, 2012.
1) Describe in your own words what is the purpose of a Supervisor representing a District in San Francisco? (2000 characters including spaces)
Supervisors in San Francisco serve three purposes:
1. First, they write legislation for the City and County of San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors is the legislative body, with the Mayor serving as the executive body.
2. Supervisors also appoint committee members to various city oversight bodies, including the Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee, of which I am Chair.
3. Finally, Supervisors represent and serve on behalf of their district constituents. They are beholden to members of their district and listen to their concerns more than they would people of other districts. This does not mean that all decisions should be made only for the good of one district, but it theoretically makes the Supervisors more accountable to issues specific to their own districts.
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:
1. Safety (real and perceived) -- In the past year, there was a homicide at Hayes Valley South, which is on Rose Street between Webster and Buchanan, and another homicide at Eddy and Divisadero. CompStat, a SFPD computer statistics model, lists numerous assault and weapons calls over the past year.
Safety is a foundation for a strong and resilient neighborhood. When people do not feel safe, they cannot move forward to create a thriving community. That is why my first priority is ensuring every neighborhood is safe, which is necessary for creating economic opportunity and a stronger, more prosperous community. The strategy to address the issue is multi-fold. Keep the police as a presence in the area. Provide opportunities for jobs and multigenerational recreational activities for the people in the area. Add local “low-key” activities (see last question for one of those) that give people a chance to know each other on an informal basis.
2. Lack of economic opportunity -- The Lower Fillmore shares many of the economic problems common across San Francisco, but the area faces more acute challenges in job opportunities and job preparedness for the community. This is a recognized problem, and there are several Community Based Organizations that are specifically tasked with helping youth and older residents become more prepared to get a job. Even when one completes a job preparedness program, there has to be available jobs. We have also been in tough economic times for almost three years now. Several storefronts along the Fillmore have closed, meaning fewer jobs for people who want to stay and work within the community. Buildings that could be revitalized and made into job centers, like the Muni Substation, remain mired in red tape. There is little oversight on what can be done to make this revitalization happen. There are pockets of hope, which I will discuss later. However, without job opportunities people will continually feel disconnected from society and look to other means for making ends meet.
3. A divided community – I believe in community policing, but do not know if it can happen in the Fillmore until we have built a bridge of trust between the residents and the police. That bridge of trust is not there now. People distrust the police because they have been treated badly by them in the past, their loved ones have been incarcerated, or their complaints were previously ignored. The police do not trust the community because they cannot get any information about neighborhood activity. This kind of uneasy and uncooperative relationship exacerbates troubles in the area and needs to be improved. The best way to get people to start to talk to the police is to train and hire people of color to work in the areas with the largest distrust.
3) What have you done to improve the condition of people who were negatively impacted by The Redevelopment Agency? (2000 characters including spaces)
- Worked with Brothers for Change to make the Muni Substation a reality so that a building, in the middle of the Fillmore with a rich history, can become a cross-generational place to work and create.
- Worked with the community merchants to encourage parents of Rosa Parks Elementary to visit Fillmore businesses. Fillmore merchants have been generous in their donations over the years to fundraisers at Rosa Parks Elementary.
- As PTA Vice President at Rosa Parks, I helped build the Green Schoolyard, which positively benefits the children who are still in the Fillmore. This gives local children the opportunity to garden, learn about fresh fruits and vegetables, cook the food, and bring recipes home to their families. With the addition of chickens this year, the children now have fresh eggs to eat as well. I was also a former board member for Community Grows, a program that teaches Western Addition children about gardening and green jobs.
- During this last round of redistricting, I testified at meetings held in the Fillmore urging the redistricting task force to keep Japantown and the Western Addition together in District 5. There is a deep history of African American and Japanese communities here. We want to keep those two groups together.
- I have participated in numerous fundraisers for Mo’ Magic and for Brothers for Change. The monies from these fundraisers go to help the children of the Western Addition and also formerly incarcerated people who need jobs when they come out (e.g. Red Rose Culinary Academy).
4) Do you believe the Gang Injunction helped the community, if yes how? (2000 characters including spaces)
This is a serious question for me, and one that I set out to find an answer to before this questionnaire was due. I spoke to a member of the D.A.’s office who formerly headed up the Gang Unit, to the City Attorney’s office, to a member of Brothers for Change as well as a former legislative aide for District 5. I read a comprehensive report from Brothers for Change, and the information sent by the City Attorney.
I do not feel that I can say yet if the two gang injunctions, one a block above and one a block below Fillmore Street, from Ellis to Turk, have improved the lives of the people in the community without doing more research. I would want to talk to members of the community where the gang injunctions are in effect, and to get data from the City Attorney’s office about what has happened to crime in these areas. One of the people I spoke with mentioned that the gang injunctions were one of many things that were done at the same time in an attempt to stem the violence, including beat cops, fixed post police cars (mentioned by several people), and better accountability for violence prevention groups.
As stated earlier, I strongly believe that people have to feel relatively safe before anything else positive can happen in a community. The concept of a “safe zone” may be a good one for that reason. I would want to understand if people feel safer in the “safe zone” since we are sacrificing civil liberties for that safety. Once people feel safer, then there is more work to be done to make neighborhoods thrive. Economic work (i.e. job creation) and work to build community and to make the community thrive.
There appears to be a disconnect between the D.A.’s office, where the Gang Unit prosecutes gang injunction crimes, and the City Attorney’s office. The D.A.’s office says that the City Attorney’s office keeps all the stats but a layperson cannot determine whether gang injunctions work by looking on the City Attorney’s website. Since the gang injunctions are permanent, I would like to ensure that careful monitoring of the program at regular intervals is done with any resident able to see the results. We need to track the efficacy of the gang injunctions to determine if gang injunctions are a useful tool (one of many), or a way to hassle and harass certain young men in the area.
I also have a question regarding the “opt-out” process for individuals enjoined as part of a gang. I am asking the City Attorney how many people have opted out since inception of the opt-out process in 2010. There should be a way to get out of having this hang over you. I would like to know if anyone has used it. If no one has used it, I question again whether it works.
5) What community work have you done that you are most proud of? (2000 characters)
I am probably most proud of the little stuff. Before we started the Lower Haight Merchant + Neighbor Association about 5 years ago (how time flies!) we held a block party on my block. It was a total low-key affair. We had a cookie bake-off (my husband won with his ginger snaps and two entrants), a neighbor taped giant sunflowers to the parking meters, we had face painting that pulled in families from the 300 block. We really did not know each other at that point except maybe through emails. The block party (no money raised, little money spent) was one of the first things to pull us out of our houses and our shops and to get us to shake hands and start learning names. That is when we started to figure out what a wonderful neighborhood we had. Some of the people who participated became my dear friends, and several have died since then--Unicorn Escobedo, LGBT activist and documenter-extraordinaire, Larry, 75-year old curmudgeon who would sit on the stoop and challenge anybody--old, young, rich poor--to act right. That block party taught me something--that when you make an open invitation to people, you never know what will happen. But something will happen, and it will be good.
I am also very proud of my yearlong volunteer stint at Hayes Valley South teaching computer skills to the residents of Hayes Valley South and North. We started out the classes stuffed full of interested students, and dwindled down to two die-hards. The student:teacher ratio was good--1:1, and we taught at least one of them a lot. Moreover, we became good friends to boot.
The common point in those two stories I think is this:
1. Reaching out takes a certain kind of bravery, but when you have no expectations you find that you are always rewarded by doing so. Plus, it builds community.
2. Volunteering can be as much for you as for them. Persistence may pay off in small ways, but it is still worth it.