June 2014

Smith Out, Tran In, for District 10 Race

Brian Rinker

Last month, Diane Wesley Smith called it quits on the steps of City Hall, officially ending her bid for District 10 Supervisor.

“Why run when we have good candidates with the same agenda as mine, to support District 10 and put the people first,” said Smith, who endorsed three supervisorial aspirants during a press conference after she signed the papers that ended her campaign. “I support Tony Kelly, Marlene Tran, and Ed Donaldson.”

Smith said she worried that too many candidates might confuse voters.  She hoped her dropping out would fend off the chaotic political scrum that happened during the 2010 election, when more than 20 people ran for supervisor. Smith called her strategy “The United Front for District 10.”

“It is a united front against Malia Cohen,” said Kelly, stressing the theme that District 10 residents should “vote for anyone but Malia.”

While Smith is out of the race, Marlene Tran is in. A longtime Visitacion Valley community activist, Tran ran for Supervisor in 2010, coming in fourth in the initial round of ranked-choice voting. Tran attended Smith’s City Hall press conference along with almost a dozen supporters, who chanted “thank you Diane” in unison during the conference. 

“If Malia had been doing a good job nobody would be running,” said Tran, a retired teacher who spent 37 years working with immigrant children and adults. “This is going to be a heated race. More heated than last election.”

A staff member from 50+1 Strategies, LLC, a campaign consulting firm Cohen has engaged to handle her re-election, attended the press conference.  “Simply criticizing Supervisor Cohen without offering positive ideas is both unproductive and unhelpful,” said Nicole Derse, a campaign spokesperson for Cohen. “We are confident that District 10 voters are smart enough to see through the rhetoric and vote to continue improving our neighborhoods.” 

Kelly, Tran, Donaldson, and Smith all said that the district faces the same problems it did four years ago. For Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley residents, the main concerns are affordable housing, jobs, and safety. “We need to create a big social enterprise and employ folks in the community,” said Donaldson. 

While Potrero Hill residents also want a supervisor who focuses on affordable housing, the candidates pointed to other interests specific to District 10 neighborhoods, including transportation, parking, height limits on new developments, and open space and parks. 

Carl Bryant moved to Thomas Street in 2011. He was shocked to see so many people hanging out on the street, particularly around the Bayview Opera House, without the presence of police or social services. “I didn’t see any people representing the City out on the streets,” Bryant said, adding that because “Bayview-Hunters Point is a volatile area, you’d think that the City would have a greater presence.”

 The top supervisorial issues for Bryant are housing and jobs. If the community had affordable places to live and employment opportunities, he said it’d take care of the crime and safety issues. “They all have to do with the economy.” Bryant thought of running for supervisor before he met Tran. Her agenda aligned with his, and he became an avid supporter. 

High housing costs affect Hill and Dogpatch residents too. “The issues in District 10 are the same issues affecting the City as a whole: a growing population and the affordability of housing,” said Potrero Boosters president J.R. Eppler. “Our concern is that we have not seen the city services needed to support the population growth in our district, nor have we seen concrete plans to provide these services.” The Boosters doesn’t endorse candidates, but Eppler said that the candidate who addresses those concerns is the person to vote for. 

For Susan Eslick, the District 10 race hasn’t registered too high on her radar, but “I’m watching Tony Kelly for sure.” Eslick has focused on rallying support for Proposition B, which requires voter approval for developments on waterfront land owned by the Port Authority, and is on this month’s ballot.   

Right now, Kelly is probably Cohen’s biggest threat. He’s been endorsed by Supervisor John Avalos and SF Rising, an organization of low-income, working class minorities that advocate for community-based agendas. SF Rising also endorsed candidates Ed Donaldson and DeBray Carpenter. 

“I’m a Tony Kelly fan,” said Dick Millet, who has lived on the Hill for 45 years. Millet voted for Kelly in 2010.  He believes Kelly would represent the people of District 10, rather than corporate interests. “Tony is not connected to the Chamber of Commerce or the supposedly powers that be.”  Millet has long been involved with community issues. He’s the Booster’s vice president, and a member of the Mission Bay Community Advisory Committee, and of the University of California, San Francisco Community Advisory Group. Millet said he thinks Cohen is using the district as a steppingstone for her career. 

Next month the Potrero Hill Democratic Club will host a District 10 candidate debate.  Cohen and Kelly have confirmed their attendance, said club president Joni Eisen, though all candidates will be invited to participate. The club hasn’t endorsed a candidate yet; its 75 members will vote sometime this summer. An endorsement from the club requires the candidate secure 60 percent of the vote. In 2010 the club endorsed Kelly. 

Transportation is a huge concern for many of Potrero and Dogpatch residents. 

“We feel shafted the most with transportation,” said Eisen, adding that she tried to use the Muni trip planner online to get from the Hill to North Beach, but the route included taking Caltrans. “It’s insane how bad it is.” 

Yet Eisen wondered how much pull a supervisor has on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Still, she wants a supervisor willing to fight for the community.  “The supervisor should draw attention, pass resolutions, grandstand. Do something,” Eisen said. 

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