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San Francisco Politics 101 aims to educate community on local government

October 8, 2018

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San Francisco Politics 101 aims to educate community on local government

Members of the community gathered at Ortega Branch Library with a panel of experts to discuss San Francisco politics and the relationship the public has with all levels of government, starting at the local level up to the national.

The United Democratic Club, a group aiming to unify and empower San Francisco democrats, hosted the event on Sept. 24. The organization presented panelists directly involved in local government and community action, and concluded with a discussion led by California Sen. Scott Wiener.  

The purpose of the meeting was to educate locals about the various levels of government. Panelists included: Jessica Ho, legislative aide to District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, David Latt, field representative under Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Joel Engardio, a guest columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

Corey Smith, president of the UDC, felt that having an event like this was an appropriate resource for people to attend and learn. Through SF Politics 101, Smith wanted to ensure that people in the community knew about the issues and details surrounding their government as election day nears.

“Back in mid-2016, we realized there was a big gap just in terms of education about what most San Francisco voters knew about their local politics,” Smith said.

The first speaker of the evening, Engardio, laid out the context of the political environment with a presentation on San Francisco history and an explanation on why there are so many varying perspectives in the city’s democrat community.

“We’re going to do a fast San Francisco history lesson. We’re going to do 150 years in about five minutes. And I’m also going to try to explain why San Francisco democrats come in different shades of blue,” Engardio said to his audience.

Engardio emphasized that the diverse opinions of democrats in San Francisco are rooted in local issues and the shades of blue are not concrete; political identity is a complex spectrum for the city’s residents. He is a member of the UDC and heads the LGBTQ committee of the organization.

“I try to be as nonpartisan as possible on our shades of blue,” Engardio said. “I try to explain both the progressive and the moderate side and use a little bit of my journalistic hat to kind of go back and research. Tell the history, help explain why things are the way they are and hopefully illuminate how we can move forward.”

Engardio’s education in politics was cultivated at Michigan State University, where he majored in journalism and history, and then he completed his graduate work at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, he was able to look at the bigger picture of the United States’ political structure.

Wiener did a presentation on state government where he explained his role in government, the roles of his colleagues and the issues at hand in San Francisco. He addressed the state government’s budget distribution citing that the budget total is about $200 billion and $135 billion of that is for general fund.

Near the end of the session, panelists made time for questions about what had been presented to the attendees. The audience was curious about the current policies being put forward in California legislature, one of which is Wiener’s bill to ban gun shows at the Cow Palace, which was proposed due to complaints made by residents in the surrounding area.

The 2018 midterm elections are a month away, with voting taking place on Nov. 6. For California, this will include the election of a new governor, a title being contested between Gavin Newsom and John Cox.

The UDC, along with the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, will be hosting another SF Politics 101 event to discuss local politics and government policies before the midterms on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Kirk is a print and online journalism student from Novato, CA. He is also studying for a minor in Political Science.
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