The District 6 roadshow continued with an Aug. 10 forum at the Strand Theater that drew out distinctions—if subtle—between candidates vying for the seat on the Board of Supervisors.
During the second major debate of the race, a panel of four candidates for the fast-changing district sharpened their views on topics ranging from public safety and housing to transit. The two front-runners, incumbent Matt Dorsey and Democratic party chair Honey Mahogany, appeared to differ more in style than substance on many of the top issues facing the district, which spans SoMa, mid-Market and the Mission Bay areas.
Dorsey and Mahogany, who are both placing public safety, housing and effective solutions to the city’s drug crisis at the forefront of their campaigns, made few waves in a largely cordial forum organized by Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club and Chinese American Democratic Club and hosted by KQED’s Scott Shafer. This month and through the fall, the two will be competing for endorsements from key elected officials, unions and other groups along with donations to carry them through the Nov. 8 election.
Drugs take center stage
The first question addressed the ongoing drug overdose crisis affecting the hard-hit SoMa district and the city center.
Dorsey, a recovering addict, deemed open-air drug dealing and overdose deaths the “worst public health crisis since AIDS” and as resulting from a criminal justice system “in retreat,” arguing for a citywide strategy that includes more police.
Attitudes towards the city’s recent recalls also emerged as a sticking point, with Dorsey standing as the only candidate who supported the school board and District Attorney recalls: Mahogany and Cherelle Jackson, candidate and labor activist, opposed the recalls while a fourth candidate, HIV activist Billie Cooper, demurred on the recall of Chesa Boudin: “The jury’s still out,” Cooper said.
Dorsey said that Brooke Jenkins, Boudin’s replacement, would more effectively address open-air drug dealing. Mahogany called for more alternative approaches to deterrence such as street ambassadors, while also making police more accountable in responding to resident complaints. She argued that pitting progressive values against public safety was “a false dichotomy,” urging a community-based approach with “a sense of justice.”
Jackson and Cooper offered more indirect solutions, citing inequities that contribute to recidivism. Jackson backed incentives for job creation while Cooper argued for more subsidized, low-income housing as opposed to the current model of building below market-rate units in conjunction with market-rate housing.
Jackson may be eliminated from the race: A recent report in Mission Local on a residency controversy involving District 4 candidate Leanna Louie also revealed that Jackson declared her candidacy a mere day after re-registering to vote in the district. Candidates must have resided in the district for at least 30 days to be eligible.
Asked to list her top priorities, Mahogany named sitting down with Mayor Breed and “building bridges” with her as a first priority.
She also listed public safety, more housing, and carbon-neutral policies in transportation and infrastructure among her top goals, citing her record of work as chief of staff for previous Supervisor Matt Haney in working to build 9,000 new dwellings in District 6 during his tenure.
Also listing housing as a priority, Dorsey noted that the city may face stiff consequences should it continue to lag on new housing production, noting new state laws “that actually have teeth.” Asked how to encourage more housing in slow-to-build parts of the city, Dorsey reiterated that point. Both Mahogany and Dorsey support the Affordable Homes Now ballot measure backed by Breed and pro-housing groups, which seeks to streamline new housing developments that meet certain affordability minimums.
Cars, Ferries and Taxes
Dorsey said that it was time to rethink pedestrian safety, noting that District 6 residents are more “density-friendly” and desire a more car-free environment.
On transit issues, candidates universally opposed reopening JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park to more cars. But on a Treasure Island toll, they were split: Mahogany supported the toll, saying that the city “was in a bind” in dealing with traffic congestion and needed to fund ferries and other transit alternatives to the island.
Meanwhile, Dorsey argued for fees directed toward newer, wealthier residents that would come with planned high-end developments on the island, rather than a “regressive” toll which would burden low-income islanders.
On reactivating downtown, Dorsey described recovery as “slow” and said the city’s business taxes, which disincentivize bringing workers back into the office, may need to be revised. Mahogany adopted more of a “new normal” position, suggesting office use may never return to pre-Covid levels. She suggested redeveloping parts of downtown as new neighborhoods with housing and small business and nightlife corridors.
Each of the candidates supported renewing the current transportation funding tax, a new City College parcel tax, and a tax on vacant apartments, all of which will likely be on the November ballot.
Questions from the audience included how to deal with filthy street conditions, and that opened up another point of distinction among all the District 6 candidates.
Mahogany urged voters to reject a coming measure that would abolish the newly created Department of Sanitation and Streets, a signature accomplishment for her former boss Matt Haney. Dorsey supported abolishing the new department, which is expected to save administrative costs while retaining oversight commissions.
Cooper addressed the issue more bluntly:
“We’re talking about the shit on the streets,” Cooper said. “First, we need to clean up the shit in City Hall.”
Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]