We live in a spectacular city. Many of the gifts we enjoy come naturally: topography that creates fantastic coastal views; mild weather; diverse geographies. Others are human made: dynamic, delicious, and abundant food, music, art, theater and cultural scenes. We’re sufficiently wealthy to support more than $10 billion in annual municipal expenditures without much trouble, an amount far more than the total budgets of dozens of nations. For many San Franciscans, those with resources, life is as good.
Yet there are nagging civic concerns and pernicious public problems. In an extraordinarily expensive city, more than one out of 10 residents are poor, dependent on socially-provided services to get by. Homeless rates remain stubbornly high. Families can’t afford to live here. Almost two out of 10 teenagers don’t graduate from high school, too many of whom are African-American. Our streets are dirty; public transportation is meh. We continue to pave over paradise, flattening the underlying eco-system, obliterating waterways and habitats. We may have reached the limits of what recycling can do to address the plasticky-toxic particles flowing into our environment after we unwrap and discard our just-in-time packages.
The City and County, particularly the Department of Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, wastes a great deal of our money, some, no doubt, as a result of corruption. In the meantime, our state government is engaged in active civil disobedience with the Feds, on such issues as drug and immigration policies; and climate change poses challenges to our fossil fuel-soaked economy and ability to keep land dry.
In this context, San Franciscans must select a new mayor from a field as personally diverse as any presented to any electorate anywhere. There’s an African-American woman who pulled herself out of poverty; a Gay-Jewish man who almost became a rabbi; an Italian-American daughter of a former mayor, who presents herself as anti-establishment; a Korean-American woman; and several others. Among those others, the outsider is the White, Republican, male candidate, who has no chance of winning. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the moment, in which the value of race, sexual preference, and pedigree has been vastly diminished, or even turned upside down.
Identity politics is important to San Franciscans; so too is the entertainment value candidates bring to the office. Like a favorite sporting team, all else equal African-Americans are proud to vote for African-Americans, Asian-Americans for Asian-Americans, and so on and so forth. Even more important to San Franciscans, though, is a contender’s charisma. Willie Brown is Black, Gavin Newsom White, racial distinctions that aren’t as compelling as the fact that they’re both fun to watch.
Mark Leno isn’t the most charismatic of the candidates; London Breed may win that title, with Angela Alioto close behind. But he’s by far the most experienced, and has proven himself a reliable, dogged, advocate for vulnerable populations. In a city in which “conservative” means that a politician is somewhat more protective of property rights than a “progressive,” Leno generally paddles middle-left, not so disruptive as to create angry political rifts, disruptive enough to secure beneficial change. Of those running he’s most likely to ensure that San Franciscans get their money’s worth from their multi-billion-dollar municipal budget and advance an agenda that most of us – bar those voting for the White, Republican guy – support.
Leno has been a public servant most of his life, during which he’s demonstrated excellent, compassionate, leadership. The proof is in what he’s already achieved, including brokering the 2016 deal to boost California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour; passing State Legislation that requires police search warrants to access electronic devices or Internet service providers; and ensuring that essential probation services are provided to felons released from prison, to better support their future success. The View is confident he’ll make a great mayor.
The View recommends London Breed as voters’ second choice candidate; Angela Alioto as third.