Once Congress gives final approval to $966 million in federal funding for this project sometime in the next couple months, the city will be formally committed to the Central Subway and all its costs. It's too bad that, even during election season, all its supporters have to offer to address valid concerns are "clichés and one-liners."(Steven T. Jones)
Mayoral candidates faced tougher questions than usual at a Sept. 15 forum hosted by the Harvey Matthews Bayview Hunters Point Democratic Club. Whereas debates hosted in the Castro and Mission Bay, for instance, featured questions on how candidates planned to clean up city streets, what they thought about AT&T's plan to place utility boxes on city sidewalks, or how they'd promote a more business-friendly environment, residents brought a thornier set of concerns to the Bayview Opera House.
One question pointed to an alarming statistic based on U.S. Census data and cited by racial justice advocates, showing that residents of the predominantly African American Bayview Hunters Point have a life expectancy that's 14 years lower, on average, than that of residents of the more well-to-do Russian Hill.
Someone else asked about improving mental health services for lower-income community members struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). High unemployment figured in as a key concern. And one member of the audience wanted to know how candidates planned to "improve the behavior of the police," alluding to the mid-July officer-involved shooting that left 19-year-old Seattle resident Kenneth Harding dead, triggering community outrage.
Mayor Ed Lee attended the beginning of the forum but left early to attend an anniversary celebration for the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation; other participants included Terry Joan Baum, Jeff Adachi, Bevan Dufty, Dennis Herrera, David Chiu, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Joanna Rees.
Answers to Bayview residents' sweeping concerns varied, yet many acknowledged that the southeastern neighborhood had been neglected and ill-served by city government for years.
"There is no economic justice here in Bayview Hunters Point," Adachi said. "There never has been. That's the reality." He pointed to his record in the Pubic Defender's Office on aggressively targeting police misconduct, and played up his pension reform measure, Prop. D, as a vehicle for freeing up public resources for critical services.
Dufty, who has repeatedly challenged mayoral contenders to incorporate a "black agenda" into their platforms, spoke of his vision for a mayor's office with greater African American representation, and emphasized his commitment to improving contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
Herrera, meanwhile, was singled out and asked to explain his support for gang injunctions, an issue that has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. "I only support gang injunctions as a last resort," he responded. "We shouldn't have to use them. But ... people should be able to walk around without being caught in a web of gang violence. I put additional restrictions on myself to go above and beyond what the law requires, to make sure that I am balancing safe streets with protecting civil liberties."
Herrera asserted that gang violence had been reduced by 60 percent in areas where he'd imposed the controversial bans on contact between targeted individuals, and noted that the majority of those he'd sought injunctions against in Oakdale weren't San Francisco residents.
Baum brought questions about a lack of services back to the overarching issue of the widening income and wealth gaps. "Right now, the money is being sucked upward as we speak," she said. "We have to bring that money back down."
She closed with her signature phrase: "Tax the rich. Duuuuh." (Rebecca Bowe)