Poor Magazine is not known for their love of politicians. Tiny Gray-Garcia, Poor Magazine co-founder and host of last night's District 5 supervisor debate, let attendants know in her introduction that she considers politicians "politricksters" who can't keep promises.
At the table were Sup. Christina Olague, Julian Davis, Thea Selby, London Breed, and Andrew Resignato.
"No one pays attention to this neighborhood. We want to be part of the picture," said Martha Hollins, president of the tenant’s association at Plaza East. "We have people come and stay for a minute. They promise our children so much, especially our teens. And promises are never kept."
Selby and Resignato called themselves the true grassroots candidates. Davis promised that “my City Hall office will be an organizing office. I will always have an open door.” Olague and Breed said that while others may talk the talk, they would be willing to put in the work to truly implement their promises.
Breed's vow to be an accesible supervisor seemed most convincing to the debate audience. She grew up in the neighborhood and talked about experiencing the violence first hand as a child; now, she said, “I’m attending the funerals of kids who are my friend’s kids.”
She said that groups like Mo’ Magic and the Community Response Network know how to prevent violence, and they need more city resources. These groups need the support to get the money they need quickly, Breed said, “they same way we have a rapid response to Twitter and the America’s Cup.”
Breed declared her plans to give residents of public housing preference for city jobs.
When POOR Magazine’s Bruce Allison suggested that property owners pay a tax on vacant properties and the money be used to fund affordable housing, Davis called it a “fantastic idea” and Olague invited Allison to stop by her office to talk about implementing it.
Many audience members said that, with the exception of Breed, they had never seen the candidates before, and predicted that they were only feigning interest in the needs of the neighborhood to get elected.
It’s a community with plenty of reason to distrust government. The city of San Francisco built Plaza East and other Western Addition housing only after destroying neighborhoods and failing to adequately relocate families as part of a redevelopment project that began in the 1950s and lasted for decades.
Housing were razed, residents were forced out. Some were relocated in the neighborhood, but most were displaced.
“Some of us were blessed enough to get back here, but what’s here?” asked one commenter. She said that youth lack access to computers to do their homework and apply to jobs, parents lack childcare, and seniors lack programs and care.
“Ross, when he was supervisor, he came down here and worked with us,” said Mario Rogers, son of the late legendary anti-displacement activist Mary Rogers.
Rogers said the level of violence was such that his kids were scared to leave their houses. “Our kids can’t go outside and play,” he said.
When asked how they would deal address violence in the district, the candidates responded with grand promises about creating jobs, closing the racial achievement gap, and redirecting city money for the neighborhood.
After the debate, Hollins said she was impressed with many of the candidates answers.
But whoever wins, said Hollins, “we don’t stop here.”
“We have to keep making these people stick to what they’re saying tonight. Don’t let them rest. It has to keep going.”
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