A debate Thursday night between San Francisco's mayoral candidates that
focused largely on the issues of the city's black residents ended with a
focus on one of the candidates who did not attend -- the current mayor.
Interim Mayor Ed Lee was one of four invited candidates who did
not come to Thursday's forum, organized by the Fillmore/Lower Fillmore
Neighborhood Association and the District 5 Democratic Club and held at a
conference center on Fillmore Street in the city's Western Addition
The debate mostly addressed the issues of a lack of adequate jobs,
affordable housing, schools and other city services for San Francisco's black
Instead of attending, Lee was at a pub crawl in the Lower Haight
neighborhood before he attended a previously scheduled meeting with business
and community leaders on Cathedral Hill later Thursday evening, according to his
campaign spokesman Tony Winnicker.
Winnicker defended the decision, saying Lee will be doing many
more pub crawls in the future.
"The mayor talked directly and in-depth to dozens of real,
undecided voters -- not political insiders -- about the issues they care
about," he said. "They're also fun."
But at the end of Thursday's debate, former supervisor Michela
Alioto-Pier blasted Lee for going to bars instead of joining the other
"He's on a pub crawl as we sit here ... talking about the issues
of the black community," Alioto-Pier said. "Running for mayor isn't always
going to be a party, it's about looking you in the eye and talking about
Jed Crawford, president of the neighborhood association that
organized the event, said he was disappointed that Lee didn't attend, but
hoped it would spur his community to reach out to the mayor.
"Maybe it's good he didn't come, now we'll be motivated to meet
him one-on-one," Crawford said.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, City Attorney Dennis
Herrera and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting also didn't attend Thursday's debate
because of previously scheduled events, but Chiu and Herrera taped
pre-recorded answers to some of the questions asked of the other candidates.
Besides the drama over Lee's absence, the candidates spent most of
the debate tackling issues important to San Francisco's black community.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi talked about "the direct correlation
between poverty and crime" and how reducing crime would only come after the
city gives more support to its low-income residents.
Supervisor John Avalos said City Hall supports big businesses like
Twitter but does not give enough support to small, often minority-owned
businesses in the city.
Green Party candidate Terry Joan Baum said "we need to break up
the machine" at City Hall and "become the city outsiders think we already
Venture capitalist Joanna Rees said City Hall also needs more
black representation because "our city government needs to reflect the face
of our community."
Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty also called for more black
representation at City Hall and condemned attacks by Herrera and others on
Mohammed Nuru, the city's newly appointed acting director of the Department
of Public Works.
Earlier this week, Herrera released a statement criticizing the
appointment of Nuru, calling it "cronyism" and "poor judgment."
Nuru had been a target of an investigation by the city attorney's
office in 2004 into possible illegal campaign activity by a city-funded
nonprofit he headed.
State Sen. Leland Yee said the lack of adequate affordable housing
and jobs are "pushing more and more of our families out of here," while
former Supervisor Tony Hall says the city has to enable more black families
to own their homes.
"They're getting chased out of their neighborhood because they
don't own it," Hall said.
One member of the crowd at Thursday's debate, Sharen Hewitt,
executive director of the Community Leadership Academy & Emergency Response
Project (CLAER), which provides immediate assistance to victims of violence
in the city, said she appreciated that most candidates who showed up
"minimized the mudslinging" and addressed the issues.
However, Hewitt said she was left unsatisfied by most of the
"Showing up and just being physically present doesn't mean you're
ready to be the boss of me," she said.
Hewitt said city officials have to address the issue of poverty
since that often leads to the other problems with crime, schools and housing,
not just for the black community but for all communities in San Francisco.
"This isn't a Western Addition problem, this is our city's problem
and it's going to continue to have one" until it's solved, she said.