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Supervisor Mandelman Shares Targets for Desired Second Time period Whereas Trying Again on the Final Three Years – San Francisco Bay Instances

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman on October 25 kicked off his reelection campaign at a birthday event at Poesia in the Castro. (He turned 48 just days beforehand.) Now in year three of his first term, he is busier than ever, with his dedicated, hard-working staff—Legislative Aides Tom Temprano, Jacob Bintliff, George Kolombatovich, and Jackie Thornhill—juggling day-to-day operations with him as he stretches out his already packed personal schedule to include fundraising, media outreach, and other efforts necessary for the reelection campaign.

As a disclaimer, our own team here at the San Francisco Bay Times has long known and admired Supervisor Mandelman, who is a former columnist for the paper. With us he was both professional and genuinely considerate. His leadership skills were evident, yet he never demeaned or diminished the talents of others. In that regard and more, he is in our view one of the best, caring team players we have ever seen hold office in San Francisco. He also remains the city’s only openly LGBTQ supervisor.

Shortly after the campaign kick-off event, he generously took time for an interview.

San Francisco Bay Times: Did you always desire a career in politics, and specifically politics here in San Francisco? If not, what led to that decision?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by politics and government.  When other boys in my elementary and middle schools were obsessing about sports, I was avidly following elections, picking favorite Congresspeople, arguing with adults about various political issues. Following my freshman year of high school, I applied to intern in various local governmental offices and ended up spending the summer working for Doris Ward, who would become the first African American woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. So, it’s maybe not entirely surprising that as an adult I sought out opportunities to engage in local politics, volunteering on campaigns, serving on the boards of various community organizations and local Democratic Clubs and on City commissions, and ultimately running for and winning election to the City College Board of Trustees and now the Board of Supervisors.   

San Francisco Bay Times: Instead of running for the State Assembly or perhaps another open seat this time around, you chose to run for reelection to the Board of Supervisors. What led to that decision?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: Being District 8 Supervisor is the best job I’ve ever had. I have the opportunity to work on solutions to our City’s biggest challenges like homelessness, public safety, and climate change. But I also get to help my constituents with their day-to-day concerns—getting speed bumps installed on a dangerous street or helping an entrepreneur secure permits and open a new neighborhood small business.

A little over three years into my first term, I feel like I am just getting the hang of being a good Supervisor and have a lot that I would still like to accomplish. But San Francisco still has big challenges, and during my second term I hope to use that experience to have a bigger impact on the issues that affect the lives of District 8 residents and all San Franciscans: homelessness and especially unsheltered homelessness, mental illness and addiction, public safety, and public transportation, to name a few.

San Francisco Bay Times: You are perhaps one of the most skilled politicians in the state to bridge the often wide and contentious divide between so-called moderates and progressives. Previously, you were even a President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club who also was loyal to the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club and served as President of the Noe Valley Democratic Club and the District 8 Democratic Club. What have you done to cultivate this skill and what would you like to see happen such that Democrats could better come together over shared goals in San Francisco?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: Political insiders in San Francisco perseverate on the progressive-moderate divide. In my experience, most people have a mix of views, some more conservative and some more liberal depending on the moment and the particular issue. So, I try to focus less on the labels and more on representing the values of my constituents. I do think of myself as a progressive, but I also strongly believe that the most important task for progressives in local government is not just to stake out the leftwardmost positions, but rather to demonstrate that progressive government can be effective government: that we can show compassion to our unhoused neighbors without giving up the ability to use and be proud of our shared public spaces, that we can reform our criminal justice system and dramatically reduce rates of incarceration and also tackle the outrageous and unacceptable levels of retail theft and other property crime in the City, and that we can protect the character of our neighborhoods while still making spaces for new residents looking for an affordable home. 

San Francisco Bay Times: Whom do you admire in politics?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: I love Barack Obama, always will. 

San Francisco Bay Times: So many of our longtime friends, neighbors, and coworkers have moved out of the Castro in recent years. In July of this year, it was reported that the “San Francisco exodus” is over, but it doesn’t seem like that in the Castro. The loss of such individuals, and particularly LGBTQ community members, is felt by many. What steps are you and others taking to help retain the unique character and history of the ever-evolving Castro, while helping to make it a welcoming place to live for LGBTQ individuals and others?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: The Castro has been recognized worldwide for half a century as a symbol of LGBTQ liberation and an enclave for LGBTQ people like Harvey Milk to find safety, acceptance, and chosen family. Unfortunately, many of Harvey’s contemporaries—the folks who lived through and helped make the social revolutions of the seventies, eighties, and nineties—have by now been priced out of the Castro or are hanging on by their fingernails to a rent-controlled unit that is their only tenuous protection from exile from San Francisco in their golden years.

As Supervisor, building and retaining affordable housing for these folks, as well as newcomers to the neighborhood, has been a top priority of mine. I ensured that there was dedicated funding for neighborhoods like the Castro in our 2019 $600 million Affordable Housing Bond, worked with the Mayor to find $12 million to acquire a union hall site at Duboce and Market for a major new affordable development where we will build more than 100 units of LGBTQ-affirming senior affordable housing, and set aside funds to conduct an analysis of ways to preserve and build affordable units in the Castro and other District 8 neighborhoods.

In 2019 I authored legislation creating the Castro LGBTQ+ Cultural District to allow the neighborhood to access critical resources to support queer small businesses, nonprofits, cultural institutions, and people who make the neighborhood the heart of our city’s LGBTQ community.

San Francisco Bay Times: How has the focus of your campaign changed since your last one for Supervisor, in terms of the issues that you are highlighting?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: We are still grappling with many of the same issues that San Francisco and District 8 faced in 2018. COVID certainly made some of them worse, although the City’s strong response to that health crisis has given me renewed hope that, if we set our minds to it and find common ground on a path forward, we can actually make progress on seemingly intractable issues like homelessness, mental health, and housing affordability that have been among my highest priorities from my first day in office. 

Crime and safety are growing concerns in my district and citywide. Property crimes like burglary, vandalism, and auto thefts skyrocketed during the pandemic and District 8 neighborhoods were among the hardest hit. I’d hear from neighbors who had their garage broken into and bikes stolen four times in a year and small business owners who had their storefront windows smashed so many times that they were considering closing for good. I strongly support alternatives to policing and incarceration where those alternatives make sense. However, I also do believe in community policing and I believe that public safety requires the detention and effective rehabilitation of serial offenders.

San Francisco Bay Times: Focusing on the current issues highlighted by your campaign, you have been active in addressing homelessness and mental health problems. Without getting into too much detail, please update us on the 17 individuals who were identified last year as being among the most troubled, and troubling, in the Castro. Can you share a few of their particular stories and what happened to them?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: My office maintains a list of people in District 8 who present a danger to themselves or others in the community in the hopes of getting more focused and sustained attention on them from the City. We regularly update and share the list with relevant City departments, as individuals on it commit new crimes or get into other trouble. It is enormously frustrating to see the same very sick and/or troublesome people languishing on the streets for months and years.  Unfortunately, that list has now grown to 35 individuals.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prevents us from knowing too much detailed information about public health interventions to help them, so oftentimes we aren’t fully aware of good outcomes like someone being placed in residential drug or mental health treatment programs. But we have heard about at least a few tragic outcomes.

Mary Botts, whom many neighbors referred to as Princess Leia because of the way she would wear her hair up in buns that recalled the Star Wars character, was one such sad story. She could often be found in Jane Warner or Harvey Milk Plaza, in the bus shelters, sometimes lying on the sidewalk outside Hot Cookie, often darting out into traffic and back. Her fear and anxiety were palpable even to a casual observer.

I, and just about every person who encountered Mary, could see that she was struggling. Lots of folks, including my office, tried to get her help. We appealed to City departments to intervene—to come up with a plan, to get her into treatment, to do something.  And I know that the City tried, in the way that the City tries. There was no shortage of City contacts with Mary: HOT (Homeless Outreach Team), EMS (Emergency Medical Services), DPH (Department of Public Health), SFPD (San Francisco Police Department) all engaged with her. But it wasn’t enough.

​​Mary became one of the nearly 700 people who died from an overdose last year. And her passing was all the more infuriating because she didn’t have to die.  I strongly believe that folks like Mary need to be conserved to keep them safe and alive until they are able to take care of themselves.

San Francisco Bay Times: For each of the issues of focus—homelessness/mental health, public safety, affordable housing, the climate crisis, and public transportation—please share your primary goals, providing as much specific information as possible in terms of active legislation and/or planned efforts to remedy these challenging, long-term issues.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: I’m happy to share some of the work we’ve done and are doing in each of these areas!

Homelessness/Mental Health

  • Authored legislation for San Francisco to implement housing conservatorships for unhoused individuals suffering from severe mental illness and substance use disorder and pushed for expansion of the City’s use of its existing conservatorship tools.
  • Authored legislation to require the City to provide shelter for any unhoused person willing to accept a safe exit from the street.
  • Championed Street Crisis Response Teams to provide alternative non-police response for individuals suffering from mental health crises.
  • Convened and Co-Chaired the 2019 Methamphetamine Task Force to propose improvements to City response to rising meth use and overdoses.
  • Supported drug sobering centers to provide alternatives to emergency room, jail, or the street for individuals suffering from drug intoxication.

Public Safety

  • Opposed budget reductions in police training, academies, and overtime to make sure we are able to maintain and increase the diversity of the Police Department and meet critical staffing needs.
  • Supported expansion of community policing efforts like neighborhood foot patrols.
  • Worked with neighbors, the Police Department, and the District Attorney to facilitate the arrest and charging of drug dealers, violent offenders, and serial burglars.
  • Investigated the Superior Court’s repeated pretrial release of individuals on ankle monitors, even when those individuals have repeatedly violated the terms of prior releases.

Affordable Housing

  • Introduced legislation to curb monster homes while allowing fourplexes Citywide to encourage production of more units affordable to everyday San Franciscans.
  • Worked with Mayor Breed to acquire a parcel for the development of more than 100 units of permanently affordable LGBTQ-affirming senior housing in District 8.
  • Worked to identify existing sites and secure funding for additional permanently affordable developments in District 8.
  • Authored legislation to prevent landlords from reducing housing services to longtime tenants.

Climate Crisis

  • Authored and passed the City’s declaration of climate emergency.
  • Authored and passed legislation requiring that new construction be all-electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings (currently 40% of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions).
  • Authored legislation establishing new onsite water reuse requirements for large new developments and directing the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) to investigate and report back on additional opportunities for water recycling Citywide.

Public Transportation

  • Convened the 2019 Transit Reliability Working Group to identify barriers to Muni service improvements and strategies to overcome them.
  • As Chair of the County Transportation Authority and Vice Chair of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, I worked to secure funding to bring Caltrain and High-Speed Rail to the heart of Downtown.
  • Currently working to identify potential new revenue for the Transportation Authority, MTA (Municipal Transportation Agency) and BART to improve reliability of local transportation systems.

San Francisco Bay Times: Your staff is tremendous and has a reputation, as do you, for being incredibly dedicated and hard-working. Are they planning to stay on your team should you be reelected?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: I have been enormously fortunate to have a great team working with me these last three years, and I certainly hope they will be with me for a long time.

San Francisco Bay Times: Looking back on your current term as Supervisor, what have been some of the most memorable moments for you?

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: There has been no shortage of amazing moments, but I think some of the most inspiring arose from the creative ways the community found to celebrate Pride during the pandemic: the lighting of the illuminated pink triangle on Twin Peaks for Pride during that dark first year of the pandemic and then again for the whole month of June this year (thank you, Patrick Carney and Ben Davis); the mass gathering of labor and queer community outside Allen Baird’s home organized by Cleve Jones and the Teamsters during this year’s Pride to let the longtime labor activist and friend of Harvey’s know we had not forgotten him; the screening of LGBTQ films in Oracle Park (congratulations, SF Pride and Frameline!); the grassroots marches led by queer people down Polk Street this year and last (thank you, Alex U. Inn and Juanita MORE!).

San Francisco Bay Times: Please mention anything else that you would like for our readers to know.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: Just many, many thanks to the Bay Times for your continued coverage of our diverse community.


Published on November 4, 2021

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