Candidates give their views of district's needs

by Ed Moy

The San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council (NPC) and Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) held the first in a series of debates with district supervisor candidates on quality of life, environment and park and recreation issues in the City.

All nine District 1 supervisor candidates attended the debate at the Richmond Police Station on Sept. 22.

Candidates attending the event included Sue Lee, Alicia Wang, independent film and television producer Nicholas Belloni, attorney Jason Jungreis, businessman George Flamik, store manager Sherman D'Silva, consultant Fidel Gakuba, teacher Eric Mar and engineer Brian Larkin.

Topics covered during the question and answer segment included road maintenance, parks accessibility, playgrounds, graffiti and vandalism, homeless camping in the park, and Muni's plan for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan on Geary Boulevard.

Moderating the event was Burnell E. Holland III. Opening and closing remarks were made by NPC Program Director Meredith Thomas and Executive Director Isabel Wade.

Lee, a former member of the Planning Commission and former vice president of public affairs for the Chamber of Commerce, has worked in a variety of economic development and small-business development positions at City Hall.

"I feel that we as a city need to set green spaces as a priority," Lee stated when asked how she would improve parks, trails, increase green spaces and improve quality of life in the neighborhoods. "We need to figure out new funding streams and funding sources. We need to assess ourselves so that we can create the infrastructure to create a better quality of life for all San Franciscans."

Mar, a lecturer in Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, has been a member of the Board of Education for eight years, and a member of the Democratic County Central Committee.

Wang, a teacher at San Francisco City College, is also the first Asian American woman to be vice chair of the California Democratic Party and previously held seats on the Democratic National Committee and the local Democratic County Central Committee.

Wang said her goal is to "bring change to City Hall." She vowed to "not continue supporting a dysfunctional political system" and emphasized being a voice for families and diversity. "Nobody speaks for us," she said of the current political situation.

Concerning the recent closing of a portion of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays, Lee remains opposed to the closures while Mar supports the expansion of the road closures to include Saturdays, as well as Sundays.

Two hot topics in the Richmond, that of the future of the JROTC program in high schools and the school-assignment process for determining where local youth go to school, were not among the topics of discussion.

All of the candidates running for supervisor, except Mar, would work to keep the JROTC program in city schools.

November's election will feature the new ranked-choice voting system, which allows residents to select their first, second and third choices to avoid a runoff in December.

Although early polls have Lee, Wang and Mar as the early favorites in the supervisor race, the other candidates are fighting hard for Richmond votes.

"The top three candidates are the most politically connected," stated D'Silva. "However, I would remind my neighbors that we have had 30 years of intelligent, politically-connected individuals administer our city but they still cannot find funding to install traffic lights at some of the busiest commercial corridors."

D'Silva chose to run for supervisor after witnessing a pedestrian get struck by a car at a busy intersection.

"At the end of the the day all San Franciscans pay taxes to have basic services provided," D'Silva added. "These include paved roads, traffic lights at commercial intersections and trash and graffiti removed quickly. These issues are not flashy, but they are the most basic issues we all face each and every day we step outside our front door."

Belloni supports neighborhood schools and a BRT program that could be implemented immediately, using Geary's right hand lanes during rush hour for buses only, and not tear up the center of Geary at a cost of $200 million.

Gakuba wants to increase fiscal responsibility and accountability to the people of San Francisco. He claims to be a hands-on problem solver not beholden to politicians at City Hall.

Jungreis is a member of the Coalition to Save Ocean Beach, Friends of Sutro Heights and a board member of the Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR). He has extensive plans for returning fiscal responsibility and improving quality of life issues as his platform. He is also concerned about plans underfoot to increase the housing density in the Richmond.

Larkin wants to find the funds to put a Geary BRT underground. As a member of the committee advising Muni about the project, he thinks the transit agency's plan to tear up Geary could have a detrimental effect on the merchants in the neighborhood.