In the second event of The Standard’s election debate series, Supervisor Matt Dorsey and candidates Honey Mahogany, Cherelle Jackson and Ms. Billie Cooper will face off Wednesday evening to discuss the key issues affecting District 6 and the city at large. Below are live updates.
The Standard’s second general election debate, which is being held at our dapper headquarters on Division Street, has welcomed several dozen guests to listen to the four District 6 candidates discuss the issues. Our Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Weber will be moderating. The format will start with short introductions by the candidates and then questions in which candidates can respond, followed by rebuttals. The candidates will also be allowed to pose questions to one another and then the public will have its own chance to grill the candidates. Let's go!
Honey Mahogany, a social worker who has previously served as a staffer in District 6, opened the introduction period of the debate by saying the city needs to hire more nurses and social workers to help the thousands of people in need on San Francisco’s streets. “It is a simple matter of prioritization,” she said.
Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who received an appointment after Matt Haney relinquished his post to take a seat in the state Assembly, said one of his top priorities if elected would be to institute a plan called San Francisco Recovers. He created the plan to address the city's drug crisis with colleagues Catherine Stefani and Rafael Mandelman.
Cherelle Jackson, president of the Black Voices and Allies Leadership Committee, noted that, as an essential worker, she has seen firsthand how the city needs to provide more funding for treatment programs. “This is about making sure they have the resources they need,” she said.
Ms. Billie Cooper, a social worker who like Mahogany is a transgender woman, said that as a person in recovery, she feels the city needs to make sure it is diagnosing people properly. This would apply to those addicted to drugs or dealing with mental health issues.
Dorsey pointed to spending money from the city attorney’s lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies. Mahogany, who is leading in campaign fundraising, noted that she spent four years working in City Hall and knows “how the sausage gets made.” She added that the city has plenty of money to fill needed positions. Jackson said that San Francisco needs to make sure current programs are properly funded. And Ms. Cooper, whose voice is booming over the other candidates, said it’s time for elected officials to roll up their sleeves and help those who are marginalized.
Candidates were asked to answer questions with a simple answer of “yes” or “no,” but the segment went a bit off the rails when Ms. Cooper told Mahogany to “close your mouth” after the latter questioned if she could answer with a full answer—as others did—or needed to limit herself to a one-word answer. Weber was able to restore order. We’re having fun!
Should people clearly suffering from mental illness be forced into conservatorships? Should people addicted to drugs be cited when police come across them using in the street? These are real questions San Francisco is trying to answer, and many people are divided on what is a compassionate approach and what leads to lawlessness and unsafe streets.
Below is a rundown of the yes/no answers from the candidates:
Jackson - yes
Dorsey - yes
Mahogany - yes
Cooper - no
Should drug users be cited?
Jackson - yes
Dorsey - yes
Mahogany - yes
Cooper - no
Mahogany said she would introduce legislation that would require each district to come up with a plan to up-zone every neighborhood. Dorsey said that people want density, and we have to build housing because of a mandate from the state Legislature. Cooper said there’s plenty of mid- and high-income housing, but they’re largely empty. She suggested we need more affordable housing. Jackson said we need to make sure there is enough housing for the thousands of homeless people living on the streets, in addition to creating more middle-class housing.
The pandemic drove thousands of workers out of the city, and they haven't returned despite a relative return to normalcy. Dorsey said the city should encourage tech workers to come back, but we need to “be thoughtful and diversify our workforce.” Mahogany said the city has no mechanism to force tech companies to require workers to go into the office, so the city should focus on making it safe for families and creating a mixed-use district. Jackson said the city needs to give tax incentives to different industries to bring a more diverse workforce to San Francisco's downtown.
Groans and laughter broke out in the crowd when Weber announced we have entered the portion of the debate when candidates can ask each other questions. Ms. Cooper has repeatedly gone after Mahogany and The Standard’s moderator for what she feels is preferential treatment in questions. She threatened to have her mic removed to walk off the panel, but cooler heads prevailed. Dorsey asked Ms. Cooper what she thought it would mean to have an HIV-positive supervisor such as himself elected to serve District 6. Ms. Cooper, who is also HIV positive, said she appreciated the question and told a story about her own health issues and losing an eye due to a lack of treatment. She then noted that District 6’s poorest residents need better access to health care.
Jackson used the candidate-question segment to ask the supervisor how he intends to address the needs of the Black, Indigenous and people of color in the district. Dorsey, a white man and the only non-person of color on the panel, said this issue always comes back to housing and trying to right the wrongs of past generations. He also cited his work with SF Police Chief Bill Scott and how the department responded after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
One person quoted Dorsey as saying the city is waging a war against drug addicts, before asking how he can be trusted to handle the issue. The supervisor responded by saying that the current status quo in the city equates to a war on those suffering from addiction. Dorsey added that more people have died of fentanyl than U.S. soldiers who perished in the Afghanistan war. He ended by saying he is uniquely positioned to find solutions to the drug crisis as a former drug addict.
One audience member asked why there is such a long waitlist for treatment. Jackson hammered the point home that the city has not made the proper investments going back many, many years. Dorsey said that the city has on-demand assessment but lacks on-demand treatment, and, in a rare show of agreement with Mahogany, he noted that they both know the issues well after working with the team at HealthRIGHT 360.
In final statements, each of the candidates gave impassioned speeches on why they should be the District 6 supervisor.
Ms. Cooper got the microphone first and said the person who gets the job should have lived experience. “This is the face of District 6, and this is the face of San Francisco,” she said.
Jackson said that marginalized communities should not feel hopeless. “We can get this done together,” she said. “It's important for you to see someone in that street who can represent you the most.”
Dorsey talked about asking Mayor London Breed for the appointment and why this job isn’t about money, but instead is personal to him. He noted how the overdose crisis overlaps with his own journey in recovery. “This is the obligation of my survival,” he said.
And in final comments, Mahogany gave a rousing speech in which she noted how the community banded together during the pandemic. “I have been fighting my entire life because I love San Francisco,” she said. “That’s why I have the support of all the people who clean the city’s biggest messes.”
And like that, we’re out.
David Sjostedt contributed additional reporting for this story.
Josh Koehn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org