Two of the top contenders in the San Francisco mayoral race are breaking ranks with liberals on homelessness issues.
The stances of Board of Supervisors president London Breed and former president Angela Alioto are putting them at odds with the two other prime candidates in a contest that has otherwise seen few differences between the contenders, the New York Times reports.
“In the bluest of blue cities, it can be hard to tell political candidates apart. The four front-runners in the June 5 San Francisco mayoral election, all Democrats, talk about the importance of protecting immigrants and the pernicious effects of income inequality. It goes without saying that they support gay rights, legalized marijuana and more funding for public transportation.”
“And yet on one issue — the roughly 7,000 homeless people and the tent encampments that many of them live in — there are shades of discord.”
Tackling the issue Breed and Alioto talk with shades of law and order Republicans, making the problem sound like it can be solved with more robust policing rather than more extensive social services, the traditional antidote for progressives.
Alioto, who is the daughter of former San Francisco Mayor Joseph L. Alioto, told the Times that, “This is an iconic city that is being totally devastated by poverty, filth and crime.”
Sounding something like a Trump doppelganger, Alioto even ridicules San Francisco pols as out-of-touch liberals wreaking havoc on the lives of upstanding San Fran residents.
Referring to the Board of Supervisors this March banning fur clothing and accessories, she said, “People are dying on the street, they are shooting up, they are slumped over in their own vomit, other people are walking right by them to go to their jobs every morning — and the board of supervisors is spending time on banning fur?”
Alioto’s stance has won her at least a few fans, and last month she picked up the endorsement of the Police Officers Association.
Breed’s rhetoric is less harsh and more polished, but her stated lean very rightward nonetheless. She has vowed to fight vandalism and wants to remove the homeless and drug addicts from the streets.
“I plan to introduce the kind of solutions that in some ways can be quite controversial but are necessary,” said Breed, who is black, at a campaign stop last week. “Taking away someone’s civil liberties is not something that I take lightly, but if we want to see a change on our streets we have got to do something different than what we’re doing now.”
San Francisco is, of course, a tale of two cities. The average home price is $1.3 million but the large numbers of homeless people on the streets living in “tent encampments” and “cardboard boxes” has turned the streets into “public bathrooms,” writes reporter Thomas Fuller.
The two other candidates are sticking to liberal orthodoxy on the homeless problem and rejecting their competitors law and order stances. Former California state senator Mark Leno, claims he can end homelessness by 2020—poof!—with an amalgam of pretty standard liberal solutions, such as preventing tenant evictions, providing “universal mental health care for all,” increasing shelter capacities and increasing funding for social services.
Leno, who would be the City’s first openly gay mayor, balks at increasing the number of cops: “I’m not here to tell you what the needed number is,” he demurs.
Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim, the other leading mayoral contender, opposes yanking the homeless off the street against their will and says increasing the number of policemen is not the answer.
“Police officers and prisons have always been the easy answer to politicians,” she insists. “I think we need some more officers; I’m not sure we need as much as other folks are pushing for.”
But Kim’s campaign website makes no mention of even modest increases in policing.
Instead, she offers traditional liberal remedies (but doesn’t promise to make it magically disappear in two years as does Lene). Her only interesting idea is the City converting old buses into mobile shower and bathroom facilities, which a non-profit organization has already done.
Although June 5 is the primary for the other California races, San Francisco residents elect a new mayor that day because of the sudden death last December of incumbent Ed Lee.
The winner finishes out the rest of Lee’s term and another election will be held in November 2019.
By that time, Leno, if elected, should be almost finished eliminating homelessness in the City.