In what seemed like a Civil Rights protest with people surrounding the building with picket-signs reading “genuine employment opportunities” or “affordable housing,” was actually just another mayoral forum filled with candidates with opinions so parallel that they can begin to mesh into one straight line.
Welcome to the Bayview Merchants Association’s “Talking Business with the Candidates,” forum where much like the Mission District, small businesses, education, entrepreneurship and safety are the main issues. The only difference in this crowd is it’s mostly African American.
“I am running for mayor because this country is in despair,” says Terry Joan Baum, one of two female panelists. The others attending were Joanna Rees, Leland Yee, Dennis Herrera, David Chiu, Jeff Adachi and Cesar Asarrunz. “The cover of the Chronicle had a poor black woman on it begging for change, and the issue proposed was how do we get her to stop bothering the tourists. I think that’s scandalous of San Francisco!” she said.
As the other candidates introduced themselves there seemed to be several common themes: the majority of the panel is running a grassroots campaign, they want to fix San Francisco’s job market, the budget deficit and they promise to be transparent and for the people.
Only in the Q & A did things began to heat-up.
How do you plan to attract and start businesses on the Third Street corridor? Asked Lashon Walker, vice president of the Bayview Merchants Association, who picked the question out of a box of anonymously written questions from the audience.
“Many businesses are being nickel and dimed,” explained Jeff Adachi, but then failed to finish in his one minute time allotment. The moderator Al Norman, president of the Bayview Merchants Association, cut him off.
“These are important issues!,” said Adachi, San Francisco’s Public Defender, in an attempt to get more time. How do you expect us to tackle these issues in one minute?”
The crowd looked stunned as they watched Adachi scold the moderator
Rees jumped in to break the tension. “Businesses working with other businesses,” she said.
“Reforming Payroll Tax” said Chiu, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
“Create incentives to inspire innovation and expansion,” said Bevan Dufty, former Supervisor of District 8.
Walker, owner of Embassy Realty in Bayview, was unimpressed. “Many of the things you guys are suggesting are already being done and I would expect you to know that as candidates for mayor,” he said.
As all of the candidates nodded in agreement, the moderator moved on to the next question about Liquor Stores—which led to the issue of safety—before any candidate could rebut.
“No more Liquor stores” said Rees, “Entrepreneurial Services need to work harder to attract a variety of different businesses like nail salons, dry cleaners, or restaurants”
Chiu acknowledged that he too liked a good drink, but added “there are too many issues with having too many liquor stores in one area, it becomes a public safety issue and a hub for drug deals.”
That happened in the Mission at Bob’s Liquor and Grocery, which shut down this year for selling liquor to minors.
The audience clapped. Asarrunz, A Bolivian businessman, was ready to move onto the disparity in police presence. Areas such as Bayview “are not taken care of like more affluent areas in this city. For example Mission street is not taken care of like Union Street.”
He did not, however, say whether it was fewer police, fewer garbage cans or less street cleaning.
Chiu again jumped in complaining against the empty promises of politicians to clean up urban areas and proclaiming that the city needed someone with a track record.
Chiu, helped pass an ordinance with Gavin Newson to help reform an estimated 500 vacant buildings in the city. The ordinance, however, has been struggling with only a third of that projected amount registered with the city.
Two hours into the debate, the once packed room began to thin out to less than half than what was present in the beginning.
Before the room grew completely empty, Supervisor Malia Cohen of District 10, thanked the candidates and people for coming and urged them to “not hold back” and stay to the end.
Cesar Asarrunz, aka Mr. vote for me because “I have nothing to lose” began the three-minute closing remarks portion of the forum.
No one ran over the allotted time. Not even Adachi.