by Fernando A. Torres
Despite the poor job at structuring the event by The League of Women Voter, LWV, the five candidates; Amy Weiss, Stuart Schuffman, Reed Martin, Francisco Herrera and Kent Graham, were able, for the first time, to direct their grievances directly to the Mayor.
But what could have been a rich exchange of ideas and a serious debate about the city’s greatest issues, became a primary-school like bunch of questions and one-minute answers by the candidates. The rumor on the streets is a question: how much City Hall “helped” to plan for the forum? Which, no doubt, it served Lee to dodged all the arguments in a no-controversy safety net. As a result, Lee was the only loser in the forum who, sadly, had to leave through the “kitchen door” rushed out by his two body guard – familiar faces to reporters by now – right after the forum ended.
Several comments by Weiss, Schuffman, and Martin clearly directed to the mayor were simply ignored by Lee and Maxine Anderson, the moderator. In more than one occasion Weiss, and Schuffman reminded Mayor Lee that one of the consequences of “his” economic boom are the thousands of homeless. “Homelessness starts at the moment people cannot pay their rent. It has to do with the lack of a vision and better planning,” said Herrera.
Herrera, who is fast-emerging as a leader in neighborhoods beyond The Mission, said that the consequences of the city’s “economic boom” also resulted in the loss of homes, and loss of local jobs because many small business had to close, leaving people without local job sources.
In a sharp, calm, yet discerning way, Herrera stayed focus on the most pressing San Francisco issues most of them covered by Herrera’s eight-point political platform.
“The level of corruption that people feels at City Hall right now, only nourishes the experiences of people saying there is no respect for the law and adds to the criminalization of the homeless, the criminalization of youth, the criminalization of folks who don’t have the money to pay, is part of a bigger problem we are seeing here and it comes right back to the lack of political will at City Hall…and the crisis people are experiencing right now. The level of anxiety is going throughout the city, no just folks on the street but actually city workers who can’t afford to live here,” said Herrera who at moments looked directly at Mayor Lee seating at his left.
Weiss, who spelled out a specific plan for the homeless she called transitional ecological villages, made a call which has become a slogan for the opposition: “Use rent-choice voting in order to vote 1, 2, 3 to replace the current administration with a people-power candidate. I liked to joke that at least Gavin Newsom broke the law for gay people and for love but what’s being happening lately is that the law is being broken for corporations and we need someone to come in with a level head,” she said.
Definitely, the end of the forum left everybody wanting more. For this rare occasion and maybe the last time we see them all-together, The League of Women Voter missed a one-in-a-life-time opportunity to set some records straight and help the city in the process.
At the exit doors of the Genentech Hall on the UCSF Mission Bay Campus someone commented that the best part of the Oct. 8 mayoral debate that it-was-not, was the comments made by rapper Equipto to Mayor Lee on Oct. 6, and recorded on a short viral video: “The people who built this city … you’re getting them all kicked out.”