Whether because of it or in spite of it, San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting method to elect its top officials has helped produce an impressive list of candidates for mayor this year.
Click on the photo to the right to see the candidates in ranked-choice order.
That has made it tough sledding for voters who see many people with similar views trying to emerge from a crowded lineup. But during a critical time for San Francisco, which is grappling with a flat-line economy while individuals and families struggle to make ends meet, only three people have shown themselves capable of providing the right balance to steer The City on a course that will result in jobs, housing and rational decision-making for needed reforms in the coming years.
That’s why our top choice for mayor is the one who has been steadily doing the job for the previous 10 months — Ed Lee. We also heartily support City Attorney Dennis Herrera and former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, two sharp politicians with a vast knowledge of city government.
Lee wasted no time in proving his knack for the job. He has shown himself to be a thoughtful and careful consensus-builder during a time San Francisco desperately needed one. His administration and his personnel decisions highlight his vast knowledge of city government. He reaches out to people on every side of an issue before making tough calls — such as his selection of Greg Suhr as police chief and Ed Reiskin as head of Muni, two insightful and smart picks.
What Lee lacks in charisma compared to his predecessor, Gavin Newsom, he more than makes up for in determined, detailed work. He played a key role in getting the unions, city management associations and business leaders to agree on the compromise pension reform plan Proposition C. He didn’t start but certainly helped finish the mid-Market Street tax benefit district that will keep Twitter and a number of other high-tech businesses from leaving town. And he brought order and equity to the budget process with supervisors, something that hasn’t existed in San Francisco in more than a decade.
Moreover, Lee has revealed an understanding of The City and its political mechanics that only a career administrator who has worked on every street corner of San Francisco could possess. He is as calm as anybody could be in the storms that descend on Room 200, as evidenced by his measured responses to months of mean-spirited attacks from his campaign opponents.
When Lee said he would not run after taking the interim post, we believe he meant it. But once he took the job, discovered that he was adept at it and that there was considerable support for him to continue it, he felt compelled to see four more years of guiding a city to which he has dedicated his life. If you want to blame Lee for being human and having a change of heart, you’re likely from an opposing mayoral camp.
We do have some concerns about his ties to former power-brokers and off-the-cuff comments that are now being blasted in negative campaign ads. We implore Lee to work harder to separate himself from those who claim responsibility for his success, for they are just as likely to be responsible for any downfall. We ask that Lee, as we would any mayor to be open and honest about his relationships.
San Francisco is a world-class city, and it needs a world-class mayor. Lee has shown considerable prowess in transforming himself from a bureaucrat into a dignified leader, a needed attribute for someone who will be front and center during the international media swarm that will accompany the U.S. Open and America’s Cup during the next two years.
But as with every city leader, we want to see more focus on the perplexing issues facing San Francisco. Lee needs to continue to emphasize jobs and public safety, but also the chronic homelessness that has vexed the mayors that have preceded him. Muni continues to be a drain on public resources, and the streets are a crumbling mess. It’s paramount for Lee to get The City back to basics, while expanding his vision for the future.
Herrera has also proven that he can perform at a high level on a big stage. He has been a fine city attorney representing the best interests of San Francisco’s myriad agencies. He has been a leader in the state’s fight for equality on same-sex marriage. He negotiated the settlement with Mirant that shut down the poisonous Potrero power plants. He secured nearly $4 million for The City from the Cosco Busan oil spill. He sued to stop PG&E’s parent company from siphoning off billions before declaring bankruptcy in 2002 and has also sought to punish regulators for their sloppy oversight that resulted in the tragic San Bruno explosion last year.
Dufty, for his part, has been a voice of conscience on the campaign trail, showing great understanding of San Francisco’s neighborhoods (which he once represented for the Mayor’s Office), The City’s cultural dynamic and speaking for those rarely heard from, in his case echoing a “black agenda’’ — his bid to help at-risk, unemployed black men.
The former supervisor has zeroed in on some key but practical issues during his run. He wants to deal with the chronic inebriates who clog our emergency rooms and cost San Francisco upwards of $15 million per year. He has worked to find housing and jobs for transitional youths who often fall through the cracks. He has been an advocate of the neighborhood court system to get low-level offenses removed from the main court dockets. And he has been outspoken about the need for reforms at Muni and even the Care Not Cash program.
We are happy a number of other candidates staked a claim on The City’s mayoral political tent, but in most cases they don’t have enough experience to handle the daunting task of running a major city.
David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, has emerged as a solid lawmaker, but he’s only been in that job a few years. Assessor Phil Ting has served The City exceptionally well in that capacity, but his ideas for “resetting’’ agencies such as Muni have gained little traction.
Michela Alioto-Pier has strong pro-business credentials, as reflected by her creation of a biotech tax credit, but didn’t compile enough of a legislative record to be The City’s top executive. And Joanna Rees has been a fresh and often funny presence on the stump, yet her success as a venture capitalist doesn’t transfer easily to City Hall.
Although he deserves much credit for making pension reform the chief topic when he brought it up last year, Public Defender Jeff Adachi undermined his own November pension measure when he decided to jump into the race, placing himself before his Proposition D campaign.
Most perplexing may be state Sen. Leland Yee, who has a long but mixed record in the state Legislature. Despite his many years in office, we still don’t know where Yee stands on some major issues because his positions shift so easily.
Lee does, as he’s proven during his brief time in office. He’s a serious if not overly creative man who is willing to make politics secondary to reaching a necessary goal. From his first day as mayor, he has made job creation and the local economy his top priorities. He has proven to be a fine ambassador for San Francisco, an important role for a city that depends on travel and tourism dollars to thrive.
Herrera and Dufty have also shown the capacity to deal with delicate issues in troubled times. During a period that will test San Francisco, it’s good to have multiple choices.