Publisher’s View: Supervisor

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San Francisco elects its supervisors by district, rather than citywide, so they’re closer to neighborhood people and issues.  The hope is that district supervisors will be chosen by voters who know their character, with a mandate to advance community interests. 

With almost 73,000 residents, District 10 is one the City’s most complex jurisdictions. Although taken as a whole the area is as diverse as anywhere in San Francisco – 37 percent Asian, 27 percent White, 20 percent each Black and Latino – race and income are highly geographically clustered. Potrero Hill is largely wealthy and White; Dogpatch has become tech bro heaven, an employment center for start-ups and the design industry; Bayview is a classic, striving, American melting pot, with a spoonful of African-American displacement on top; Visitacion Valley is predominately Asian-American, with both these latter neighborhoods dominated by working class families, an LBGT community, and elevated poverty levels. 

In this context, there’s no “average” District 10 voter.  It’s safe to say, though, that most people share a few significant municipal concerns: ever increasing traffic congestion and mixed public transportation reliability; a struggling criminal justice system, whether evidenced by petty or profound crime or inequitable and expensive handling of the accused; continuing chronic homelessness, as an unsightly street nuisance or humanitarian crisis; the need for access to quality child care and good schools; and the ever-rising cost of living, as dominated by housing.   Other worries include inept government, as evidenced by the incomplete cleanup of the Hunters Point Shipyard; inadequate and ill-maintained open space; and a lack of vision and willingness to follow through with it related to the built environment and public infrastructure.

Seven candidates for District 10 Supervisor have bravely stepped forward to help solve these, or other, problems.  While both Gloria Berry and Uzuri Pease-Greene bring compelling perspectives on such issues as community engagement and criminal justice, there are solidly three frontrunners:  Theo Ellington, Tony Kelly, and Shamann Walton. 

A charismatic 29-year-old, Ellington, a Bayview native, previously served as public affairs director for the Golden State Warriors.  He’s generally a centrist, meaning that in the context of San Francisco politics he’s more London Breed than Aaron Peskin. A Shipyard resident, along with his wife and daughter, he’s made proper clean-up of Hunters Point a central theme of his campaign, a literal, if not legitimate, not-in-my backyard posture. To those who know and love him he’s always been ambitious and community-minded; a gifted and natural leader.  To the rest of us he’s like a shiny wrapped present under the Christmas tree, who could be just what we wanted or a pair of socks. Which would still be useful.

Kelly, 55, is the progressive of Potrero Hill, running for District 10 supervisor for the third time. If you want a lefty, as endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, he’s your man.  Kelly would almost certainly be a reliable advocate for the Southside neighborhoods, less likely to be swept up by the allures of City Hall power politics and developer-technology wealth, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see him distracted by the latest collectivist gathering.  Kelly has focused his energies on civic activities for the past 15 years, intermixed with poorly paid stints as a theater director and layout specialist. If Ellington is a compelling mystery gift, Kelly is a dedicated fist pounder.   

Of the three leading contenders, it would be most excellent if Walton, 43, was just right. Endorsed by political opposites Scott Weiner and Peskin, Walton seems able to make allies across aisles. He appears to have effectively directed the Potrero Hill Family Resource Center and Young Community Developers, do-good nonprofits that require political and managerial skills to be successful, experiences which no doubt schooled him on District 10’s characteristics and needs.  But as president of the San Francisco Board of Education Walton stridently opposed charter schools without offering broadly effective reform pathways to student excellence, and sometimes didn’t pay attention to details.  Still, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and will likely mix well with the “city family” while doing his best to represent his constituents.

All three of the leading candidates have the potential to emerge as spirited champions for District 10, and solid advocates for a better city. Given their strengths and weaknesses, as well as political inclinations, the View recommends Walton, Ellington, and Kelly, in that order. Whoever wins will have their hands full; we wish them the very best.