The Bay Citizen is the media sponsor of the forum presented by the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.
The forum is moderated by Scott Shafer, Host of "The California Report" on KQED FM.
6:45 p.m. | Good evening, folks, it’s a cold and drizzly Thursday in the heart of San Francisco. Queena Kim and I are here inside the Rainbow Room at the LGBT Center on the corner of Octavia and Market — just steps from Chris Daly’s aborted dive bar and on the eastern edge of District 8, home to one of the most closely-watched, high-spending races in the city.
There’s a podium stage right for Scott Shafer, the mellifluous voice of KQED who is going to moderate the final debate tonight between the four supervisorial candidates, from left to right (not politically of course): Scott Wiener, Rebecca Prozan, Rafael Mandelman and a proxy for Bill Hemenger, who didn't show.
We have four gay candidates and three attorneys running for one supervisor spot. (Hemenger comes from a business background.)
Joseph Peralta, the Center’s community programs coordinator, has been scrambling to put up the campaign signs in front of where the candidates are going to be sitting, so we can get a really good look at this essential element of any local campaign.
Giants are down, top of the 6th, and the series could be going back to Philly.
There's some grumbles about the suspense out of AT&T Park but the room’s filling up nicely, though, with maybe 60 in the audience.
7:05 p.m. | Either the Café Trieste coffee from down the street is a bit too strong for this time of day or Scott Wiener’s glowing neon orange campaign sign is capable of inducing an unmistakable migraine.
The drawing of Mandelman’s head on his campaign sign bears an uncanny resemblance to...his real head. Prozan’s sign, with the gears and the play on the number "8," is the cleverest by far. And Hemenger's? Simple. Timeless.
7:16 p.m. | Rebecca Rolfe gives some welcome remarks. She gives a shout-out to three former chairs of the Center's board: Shafer was the first chair of the Center back in 1996. Scott 2.0, a.k.a. Wiener, was also on the chair of the board after joining in 1998. Your humble media sponsors, The Bay Citizen, also get a quick hat tip. Shafer, formerly spokesman for Mayor Art Agnos and later of KQED, gets his introduction.
7:23 p.m. | And we’re off! Shafer gives a quick intro. He reminds everyone to “keep it a civil and respectful forum.” For those of you who listened in on that brawling lieutenant governor debate last week -- well, Gavin Newsom and Abel Maldonado apparently weren't debating at The Center.
7:30 p.m. | The four introduce themselves, starting with Hemenger's proxy and ending with Wiener. The budget deficit is a big issue, and they go over their experience and backgrounds. Hemenger's proxy has to talk in the third-person. "Bill's status as a political outsider gives him an advantage," his proxy says. "His sole obligation will be to the voters of District 8."
Mandelman talks about making revenue generating easier, and Shafer follows up to ask if he means he wants to raise taxes, to which Mandelman says yes. "Why don't we consider a local income tax?' he says. "This is not currently legal under California law," he adds, but he wants to "start the conversation." Welcome to San Francisco, folks.
Prozan: "We have to renegotiate labor contracts again, we saved $250 million just by renegotiating labor contracts last year."
Wiener says Muni, cops, public health has to be a top budget priority. But he says "until the economy turns around, until the state gets its house in order, there will be more cuts."
7: 45 p.m. | Shafer asks about what candidates think of business, and in particular, chains coming in, like American Apparel, Levi’s or… Blue Bottle Coffee.
Prozan: “We need to make San Francisco friendly to all business. I thought Levi’s coming to the Castro was good, but not American Apparel. They said: We should be here because we’re American Apparel, and I don’t think that’s how they should do things.” Take that, Dov Charney.
Mandelman says he wants to bring in commercial rent control, at least as a “threat” to landlords. The arrival of chains, he warns the Castro denizens, might make “an Emeryville in your own neighborhood.” Oof.
He says Blue Bottle backed down “wisely” off the Dolores Park plan.
Hemenger's man says he doesn't have enough info to speak on Blue Bottle.
Wiener calls the business permiting process "byzantine" and says we have to migrate away from the payroll business-- small businesses are punished by hitting the $250,000 revenue point. Calls chain stores a case-by-case thing.
8:00 p.m. | Shafer asks about the size of government and prioritizing services during tough budgetary times.
Wiener: I like Healthy SF but we need to maintain our roads and public transportation system. "I'm not going to focus on international affairs. I'm not going to focus on toys and Happy Meals, I'm going to focus on basic services that people depend on for their quality of life." Somewhere in the Richmond, Eric Mar is objecting, Your Honor.
Prozan is really hammering the deficit theme here. Being supervisor is going to be about tough choices, she says. "Nuts and bolts are my strong suit," Prozan says. "I frankly love to fill pot holes."
Mandelman jabs at Prozan and Wiener: "I'm not sure I hear a lot of hard choices being made here." He says "I'm not going to harp too much on the revenue issue here, but I'm going to harp on it." He says that we can't live like Sweden if we tax like Alaska -- as in, we need higher taxes. Otherwise "we're not going to have the services we want" -- and there comes the first applause all night!
Hemenger's mouthpiece: "I do need to talk about how we can manage to have it all. Bill would really speak about looking at the waste, and the $120 million in city employee overtime. He would view that as a problem with management and their ability to handle their human resources."
He responds to Mandelman's harping on taxes: "If we get sufficient jobs and business back here, we'll have to rely a lot less on our individual citizens."
8:00 p.m. | Affordable housing.
Prozan wants to take foreclosed homes and make them city-managed, Circle Bank-financed, Habitat-for-Humanity-remodeled homes.
Wiener is touting affordability-by-design. "We don't build a lot of rental housing."
Hemenger's proxy, apparently named Geoffrey, says "examining an increase in smaller units" is a good idea.
Shafer has been getting what he wanted: It's so far a very civil, respectful and super wonkish debate, perfect for voters who uh...care about issues.
8:10 p.m. | On to ballot measures. Hemenger is the only one that would vote for Prop. B -- and Shafer skips over any discussion on what is right now the biggest debate. in. the. city. Perhaps because Hemenger isn't actually here.
Prop C: Mandelman is the only one that gleefully raises his hand in support for "Question Time," which Wiener calls "a gimmick."
Mandelman says it would help fix a structural problem with SF, with its "imperial mayor distant from the supervisors."
Prozan suddenly cuts in: "This is what's wrong with San Francisco politics right here: We're literally fighting over whether the mayor should go to the board and talk. Do we think that's going to solve our budget deficit?"
Prozan and Mandelman don't want sit/lie, the other two do. The crowd applauds the two (self-styled) lefties.
8:15 p.m. | The candidates now get to ask each other questions. Hemenger's proxy, Geoff, gets asked by Mandelman how he plans to remain an "outsider" after being elected to City Hall.
Geoff responds that at least Bill wouldn't want someone who is part of a "machine" who "rides someone's coat-tails into office." (Translation: the coat here belongs to DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin; Mandelman is doing the riding.)
Prozan also leaps in with a dig at Mandelman's deep DCCC ties: "How can you say you'll fight City Hall insiders when you have six supervisors supporting you, when you have thousands of independent expenditure dollars?"
Mandelman, in response, tells it like it is -- though he may have just lost any hope of ever winning national office: "I like insiders and I like lobbyists. They're a lot of fun."
"I'm proud to have the support of the labor council and nurses and the DCCC," he says, before pivoting away from Prozan and launching instead a swipe at landlords and CPMC -- who are indeed backing Wiener with heaps of soft cash, campaign filings show.
8:25 p.m. | 85 minutes after the debate was supposed to start, Shafer finally brings up the elephant in the room: "Where's Bill tonight?"
Geoffrey explains that he's delayed indefinitely and "had prior commitments, he anticipated it would be finished earlier."
The audience doesn't sound like they like that answer.
8:30 p.m. | On homelessness and sit/lie, a question from the audience: Can you suggest an alternative to sit/lie?
Prozan: Bevan Dufty had a homeless liaison, and lost it during budget cuts. "I'd do roving patrols myself or with my staff," she says. "We would go from person to person at different times of the day" to attempt to move people "who are um, hanging out... not doing good things."
Wiener says there's a lot of alcohol, we need other options for young'uns.
Mandelman: "When I was growing up our Civic Center was taken over by a homeless encampment" because the government couldn't ensure enough affordable housing and adequate human services. "I like to talk to homeless people," he adds, to find out about how tough it is to get access to mental health care.
Giants lost 4-2. Back to Philly.
8:35 p.m. | There's been some questions about undue financial activities within the Pride committee.
Incumbent Supervisor Dufty has called for an audit and the candidates are all for an audit, although Wiener warns not to "jump to conclusions, I don't want to do a pile-on."
8:40 p.m. | People are trickling out of the room and it's time for the candidates to make a last pitch in closing statements.
The proxy for Hemenger, the unbought and unbossed candidate, says: "there's a political elite or "Politburo" running the city. Bill, instead, has hutzpah and "unmitigated gall" -- Queen's English for "cojones," I believe -- and can bring outsider perspective to fix City Hall's problems.
Mandelman, the compassionate candidate next, with a grin: "I'm tired of this constant red-baiting. I am not now or have I ever been a member of the Communist Party." (Once again, San Francisco, folks). He says he'll "stand up for San Francisco values: in a District 8, reasonable, pragmatic kind of way, insistently demand more social justice."
Prozan, the common sense candidate says: "If you have traffic, call me. If you need potholes fixed, I'm your person. We need someone who can work both sides of aisle. I share endorsements with Rafael and Scott. The reason is because I'm the common ground candidate. If you elect them there's more of the same. If you elect me there's a glimmer of hope."
Wiener, the experienced candiate: "I've spent every day of the past 13 years working my rear end off for this community. I have strong views, you never have to guess where I am." But, he says, "I'm going to work with every single person on the board." He pitches his campaign as grassroots, says he doesn't pay his volunteer phonebankers.
8:50 p.m. | And that's it. Not a lot of fireworks tonight, but it's a heated race considering how much third-party money is pouring in. It was impressively substantial compared to the circus that have been state level debates, and every candidate really knew his or her stuff. His proxy did fine, but if only Hemenger could've been there in person!
Stay tuned for more campaign coverage from The Bay Citizen staff in the next 10 days.
Oct. 23 | We got an email on Friday from Geoffrey Murry (note the spelling), Bill Hemenger's proxy, who clarified that with the "politburo" remark he meant not that San Francisco is socialistic or autocratic, but that party fidelity in the city makes candidates have to "toe a line that they might consider ill drawn" and makes dissent devalued.