San Francisco mayor race heats up at City College

Mayoral candidates appeared at City College of San Francisco Sept. 28 to discuss key city issues ranging from curtailing crime, fighting poverty and preventing police corruption to finding funding for higher education and affordable housing in the city.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Governmental Relations Leslie Smith, who helped facilitate the forum, felt it would provide a unique opportunity for students to be involved in local politics.

“We’re hoping to educate the students and encourage them to be a part of our democracy,” said Smith.

Several students in attendance were there to get information as part of a class. Broadcasting student Tom Morrow admitted he didn’t know much about the role of the mayor in city politics.

“I know a little (about the mayor),” said Morrow. “I think he’s got a lot of politics, and really very little power,”

Student member of the Board of Trustees Jeffery Fang said the forum was overall a success.

“It was informative for the students and it will help them make decisions about who they’ll be voting for,” Fang said.

Fang, along with New America Media and a few other students, organized the forum and delegated the questions to candidates by choosing four or five candidates to answer two questions for each round. Time was split into four sets of questions along with a ten minute intermission for a CCSF student video.

However, due to long-winded and convoluted answers from the candidates, the intermission and closing statements were skipped.

Smith thought imposed time constraints demonstrated which candidates fully understood the issues.

“These were not difficult questions,” she said when discussing how several candidates had trouble coming up with succinct and appropriate answers to the students’ questions.

After exceeding his time constraint several times in a row, mayoral candidate and cab driver Emil Lawrence was told by the New America Media mediator Kevin Weston, “You need to stop.”

Some candidates were concerned with restoring jobs in the struggling San Francisco economy.

“We need to figure out how to reverse the fact that we’ve lost 30,000 jobs in the last two years.” said President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu.

Jeff Adachi, San Francisco public defender, told the room that the best way to encourage the growth of business would be through Proposition B, which would provide legislation to create micro loans.

“That way we can invest in your future and you can choose the kind of job you want,” said Adachi.

The conversation was civil, aside from the occasional overlapping ideas and candidates clarifying that they too have supported an issue when another said he or she was the “only one” who had taken previous actions.

When improving Muni was brought up, Chiu asserted that he was a stakeholder in the issue and had dealt with the shortcomings of public transportation.

“To fix Muni, you need a mayors who’s actually going to ride Muni,” Chiu said.

After similar Muni complaints from CCSF music teacher Wilma Pang, California State Senator for District 8 Leland Yee responded in good humor on the subject.

“I’m going to be the mayor that makes sure that David Chiu and Wilma Pang have a bus when they need it,” Yee said.

Education was the hot issue saved for last at the forum. Candidates were asked how they would ensure that all students in San Francisco have access to a quality education.

Former District 7 Supervisor Tony Hall said that he would do whatever he could to find solutions for the issue by persuasion, but “There’s very that little a mayor can do to affect education.”

Joanna Rees, venture capitalist and educator at Santa Clara University, said that addressing the issue of education was her “moment of obligation” and took this as an opportunity to discuss creative ways to find funding.

A common theme in candidate responses was investing in the future. Whether it be through creating jobs or prioritizing education, candidates emphasized the importance of the students sitting in front of them.

“The overall interest of students was good,” said Fang. “They were sitting and listening the whole time.”

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