Editor’s note: With this column, Mission Local is resuming its biweekly conversations with District 9 Supervisor David Campos, addressing issues and events in the Mission. If you have questions for Campos, send an email to email@example.com.
Mission Local: The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Justice Samuel Alito was quoted as asking: “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?” Do you think it’s too soon for the court to decide on this issue?
David Campos: I think that as a lawyer, it’s very interesting to see the comments and questions that come from the justices. I think that, unfortunately, in some cases, the question implies a lack of knowledge and understanding about the basic nature of … same-sex relationships. The question of whether this is [the right] time or not, I think the answer is very clear. We are talking about a fundamental right — a right to marry — which the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said is a fundamental constitutional right. And when a fundamental constitutional right is being denied to a group of people, in this case members of the LGBT community, there is no time to wait. The harm [of waiting] is so horrendous that there is simply no legal rationale for delaying an opinion.
When Loving v. Virginia was decided, which was the case that struck down laws that prohibited interracial marriages, the court didn’t say, ‘Let’s wait and see what happens.’ The court acted because they knew that we were talking about a very fundamental right. My hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this case, because those of us in the LGBT community, who have been deprived of this right, need a resolution as soon as possible.
ML: This week the Supreme Court also looked at a case against the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal funding of benefits for same-sex couples in civil unions in states where that is legal. What are your thoughts on this case?
DC: When you really look at it, there really is no reason for [the Defense of Marriage Act] other than discrimination. In this case, what we are saying is that the federal government is creating a second class of citizens. I think that it’s important to have equality under the law and that means equality before the eyes of the federal government, but also equality before the eyes of every state. That’s why I think it’s important for the court not only to act in the case involving Proposition 8 but also to act with respect to the DOMA case.
ML: Turning to neighborhood issues, the Mission-based annual Carnaval event has seen financial difficulties this year. The San Francisco Cultural Arts Commission, which has put on the event in recent years, did not come up with the funds this year. Do you have insight into why this happened or when we might have answers?
DC: I don’t have any insight at this point. What I can tell you is that when they came to us asking for the city to help, my first response was that even though we clearly want to help, we do need to know what actually happened. We are talking about an event that over the course of the last few years has gotten a lot of public funding, and I think that we need to make sure that there was nothing improper in terms of how that money was used.
So I have asked the controller of the city to conduct an audit, a review of SFCAT to see what happened. I think that kind of review and analysis is important not only to make sure we protect the taxpayers’ money, but [also] to figure out what it takes to run a successful event. So right now the controller is working with SFCAT to go over their books and to see what happened.
ML: An ad hoc committee has come together to put on the event this year, but what do you think will happen in years to come?
DC: We have less than 10 weeks to put this on. I think it’s important to focus on putting the event together as we’re doing this review of what took place. But I think the objective going forward is to have another entity come in and take this over. Who that is, we’re still trying to figure that out. There are a number of organizations within the community that are more than capable of stepping into that role.
I want people to know that the city is committed to helping and playing a role. But we’re going to do that in a responsible way … We’re not just throwing money at something, but are being very careful as to how the money is spent.
ML: On the issue of affordable utilities, the CleanPowerSF program, which would allow residents to purchase renewable energy via the Public Utilities Commission as an alternative to PG&E, was stalled this week. Rates for the program, slated to begin this fall, were supposed to be decided on. What happened?
DC: I think that the reason why there was no action taken [is that] there was a general sense on the [Local Agency Formation Commission] and the Public Utilities Commission that there are things that we might be able to do to make the rates lower. The lower the rates, the more people will participate. So I think it was a good thing to [take no action this week].
ML: Where did that concern about rates being too high come from, initially?
DC: [That] comes from some of the advocates that have been pushing community choice aggregation. I think the rate-setting board itself has some concerns. I think it’s a legitimate point, and we need to see if there’s something else we can do to lower them.
ML: Is there something you will look to, to lower the rates?
DC: I think we have to explore a lot of different options — how quickly we have a return on the reserve that we’re setting aside; how quickly do we pay that off. The extent to which Hetch Hetchy power is used is a consideration.
The other critical piece for me and for others was making sure that we’re moving forward with the approval of rates … [and making] sure that we have a very concrete plan for the build-out. The hope is not just that we buy energy in the market, but that we actually create an infrastructure so that we’re generating our own clean energy.
ML: Finally, are you a coffee drinker?
DC: I am a coffee drinker, and I drink a lot of Diet Coke. I think anyone here in City Hall will tell you that I’m known for drinking Diet Coke. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but I’m definitely a caffeine person.
ML: Do you have a favorite coffee shop in the Mission?
DC: I’m smart enough to know that the answer is that I like so many different places that I can’t choose one. I like variety, so I have gone to many different places. But my breakfast usually involves drinking coffee and Diet Coke at the same time. Not mixed, but yes.