Don't Mar the Richmond

by Paul Kozakiewicz

The upcoming Nov. 6 election could be the most important ever for the future of the Richmond District.

Always known as a "bellwether" district in citywide elections, the neighborhood took a sharp left turn four years ago, although it was not the choice of the voters.

After the reinstatement of district elections in 2000, district voters supported a local resident who had been active in Richmond issues, particularly housing issues. The candidate we elected, Jake McGoldrick, was relatively moderate in his first term, but once beyond the reproach of voters due to term limits, joined the wacky "regressive" forces led by Aaron Peskin and Chris Daly. No taxes, fines or fees were too large to bestow upon the middle class making an exodus out of the City and there was no longer any need to communicate, or represent, their interests at City Hall. As part of the cabal that seized San Francisco politics, McGoldrick joined the majority on the board who push their agenda regardless of what opposing forces have to say.

There is little compromise in the heavy-handed tactics used by the far left. It is just as ideologically rigid as the far right.

Now, McGoldrick's heir-apparent, Eric Mar, is trying to take the District 1 seat for the furthering of socialist ideology. McGoldrick was a keynote speaker at Mar's campaign kickoff and Mar supported the "loony left's" effort to undo 10 years of hard work for the Bayview community by supporting Prop. F, a plan that would have scrapped an effort to build new commercial space and housing, with much of it affordable. Mar and McGoldrick joined Supervisor Chris Daly in his attempt to force the project to designate 50 percent of its housing units as affordable. If the proposition had passed, a decade of planning would have evaporated because the project sponsor said it could not afford to financially complete the project.

A Question of Character
My biggest problem with Mar is with his character. I'm sure he is a nice guy, who means well, but he used our children to make a political point in Washington, and didn't consider the implications of busing them across town with a school-assignment process he was involved with creating, a process that has been a disaster for parents trying to get their kids in neighborhood schools.

It's no wonder, or accident, that some 90 percent of white high school students in San Francisco go to private schools. Last year, my son applied for several west side high schools and we were lucky to get George Washington. Some of my friends weren't so lucky. Funny how you have to be "lucky" to get a good local school in this City.

Most parents have a stand-by plan, a private school, in case their choices are rejected.

Academic standards are not the only important criteria being considered by parents looking for a school. Transportation to a distant school on the east side of the City can cause a hardship, forcing youths to be driven, or having to take several Muni buses, every day just to get to school.

Everyone who can afford it has a backup plan. For those who can't afford it, they are at the mercy of the arcane school assignment process.

It's not fair to ask a kid to ride Muni for two hours each day just to get to and from school.

But that is a part of Mar's legacy on the school board. All in the name of preserving diversity.

We already have diversity, with Russians, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Pacific Islanders and many other races being represented in our local schools. Mar's school assignment policy drove down diversity by helping drive most of the city's white students into private schools. (In fairness to Mar, the root of the problem preceded his arrival on the school board.)

In June, the members of the Civil Grand Jury issued a report that was highly critical of the school assignment process in San Francisco.

The headline for the jury's press release said: "The school district's computer driven diversity index defies description, discourages enrollment in public schools."

Students Used as Political Pawns
Mar has led the charge to eliminate the Junior Officer Reserve Training Corp (JROTC) program in seven of the city's high schools.

As a member of the school board, he voted with Mark Sanchez, Sarah Lipset and Dan Kelly to eliminate the program to make a political point in Washington D.C. about the nation's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays serving in the military. (Board member Norman Yee voted in committee to kill the program.)

If he wants to make a point about the country's military policies, that is fine. Send an e-mail.

But to use our kids to make a political point is wrong, and crosses the line of what's acceptable by our public officials. Mar, and three other members of the board, felt it was OK to discriminate against San Francisco school children in the name of fighting discrimination.

We should not support Norman Yee, who is running for re-election to the school board, or Mark Sanchez, who is running for supervisor.

There is no doubt that the 90-year-old JROTC program has wide community support, but it was eliminated anyway.

It didn't matter to Mar that hundreds of students, mostly Chinese, showed up to testify on behalf of the program. It didn't matter that principals, teachers, PTAs and parents supported the 1,600-student program.

Several weeks ago, just after school ended for the summer, the school board added an item to its agenda at the last possible moment calling for the elimination of the physical education credit students earn from taking the course. Mar voted to eliminate the credit.

Mar and the other school board members were justifying the vote by saying a lawsuit had been threatened by the Pacific Advocates. If the lawyers and school board are so concerned about non-credentialed teachers instructing various classes, why didn't they go after the other courses that get P.E. credit, including band.

Any bunch of two-bit lawyers in the City can threaten legal action, but does that mean it is good public policy to take action detrimental to the health and well-being of our children because of it?

Mar has also been closely tracked by the SF Ethics Commission, which has sent notices for missing 10 filing deadlines.

No, I don't think Eric Mar has the mettle to make decisions on my behalf. His ambition to climb the political ladder has clouded his judgment, and put our kids at risk.

He doesn't deserve an opportunity to foul things up as a member of the Board of Supervisors. The current crop is doing a good job of that themselves.

There are several highly-qualified candidates running for District 1 supervisor in November. I urge you to investigate their positions in the coming months.

Paul Kozakiewicz is editor of the Richmond Review.