San Francisco has a very, very extremely left group of people on the Board of Supervisors. And I think in some instances their focus is to not necessarily do what’s best for people in San Francisco, but do what’s best to stay in the good graces of this whole lefty movement.Mayor London Breed, 11/11/2020
Below I grade San Francisco’s 11 Supervisors as of April, 2022. What makes a good one?
Doing what’s right over virtue signaling – The Cleve Jones case is a perfect example – see Mandelman below for details. The current redistricting mess is another – see Asha Safai below.
Independence from special interests – Supes should accept minimal amounts of money from PACs, unions, and other interest groups that seek to buy them. Individual donations, and SF’s generous 6X matching grants, are plenty of money to fund a campaign.
Awareness of our crime and drug issues – Open drug dealing, and many crimes, from retail theft to car and home break-ins, are a pressing issue city leaders should focus on, not ignore.
Respect for our tax dollars – Given SF’s high levels of spending relative other cities, good Supes should be vigilant about spending our money carefully, be on the lookout for ways to save, and speak out on waste and corruption. Rubber stamping a $14B budget each year, without a second thought, is a red flag. A Supe proposing an expensive new idea should also state how they intend to pay for it.
Minimal levels of crazy – It’s no secret that SF attracts more than its share of America’s nut cases, who often drift here after being rejected by their home communities. Sometimes they slip into government. Extreme views, unprofessional behavior, etc. should be minimized.
None of our Supes is perfect. For example, all of them, including first place finisher Stefani, below, voted to recite a speech about our being on “Ohlone land” at the beginning of every BOS meeting. Here’s how regular voters feel about such nonsense:
And there are other such issues. Still, as we’ll see below, there’s tremendous range in quality between our better Supes, and the deplorables at the bottom of the page.
Catherine Stefani (D2). Grade: B+
Prior career: Deputy District Attorney, legislative aide.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov. 2022.
Stefani is an asset to to BOS. For one thing, she has been by far the most vocal opponent of crime in the city. She’s directly refuted the “crime is down” gaslighting other board members have promoted. And while some city leaders encourage drug use under the guise of “harm reduction”, Stefani has spoken out against this practice .
Stefani is also the only current supervisor who’s tried to bring our oversized city spending in line with normal cities. For example, she refused to support our $13.6 billion 2021 budget, calling it, correctly, “fiscally irresponsible”. She’s may be the only Supe who advocates treating tax dollars with respect.
While continuously engaged with the needs of her district, Stefani has refused to stoop to the performative virtue signaling and identity politics that plague the more radical members of the board. And there’s no evidence of corruption or ownership by special interests.
In short, there’s nothing special about Stefani. In Denver or Charlotte she’d be a typical hardworking city leader. But by SF standards, she’s extraordinary. Keep reading.
Ahsha Safai (D11): Grade: B
Prior career: None known, union director.
Status: Terming out in 2024.
Safai is one of our less prominent Supes, with a Twitter following of only 5,000 or so users, but in many ways he’s better than the extremists on the board. For example, he appears to take crime seriously, especially after viewing this video taken by a quick thinking SF resident. He hasn’t made a career vilifying the police, even partnering with them on occasion.
He’s often on the right side of issues. Consider the 2022 redistricting saga. When radicals didn’t like the new district map, drawn by an independent panel that spent months gathering public input – they attempted to remove 3 members of it and influence the new boundaries. This is deeply troubling, since it allows Supes to subvert the democratic process and choose their own constituents.
Many politicians, including Mayor Breed and our State senator, Scott Wiener, and the media rushed to the aid of the panel and demanded the body be kept independent, as did the more ethical members of the BOS: Safai, Stefani and Mandelman. The deplorables, (see below), including Peskin, Preston, Chan and Haney, attempted to influence the process. Senator Weiner even called out Peskin and Preston by name in a letter.
And Safai has, at times, hinted that he cares about spending your tax dollars.
But he isn’t perfect. Like Haney, Safai appears to be influenced by special interests. His campaign contributions come heavily from construction-related unions and real estate developers. As a result, he’s fought common-sense affordable housing ideas that don’t line his backer’s pockets, such as the modular housing initiative. Still, one of our better Supes.
Rafael Mandelman (D8). Grade: C
Prior career: None known.
Status: Up for re-election: Nov 2022.
Mandelman’s a mixed bag, but let’s start with the good. In some cases, he swats down irresponsible ideas, for example for making Muni free. He’s generally supportive of law enforcement especially after reading my tweets. He behaves professionally, and is not a core member of the band of crazies with failing grades below.
An example of this his good judgement is the implementation of SB 1031 in 2019, which would have required mandatory treatment for some of SF’s mentally ill and drug addicted homeless. Stefani and Mandelman sponsored the legislation, while Ronen, Walton, and Mar managed to kill the bill because, apparently, mandatory treatment for addicts is un-progressive. The bill failed, and the result is the human misery you see on the streets three years later.
Now on to the bad. Mandelman sometimes chooses grandstanding over ethical behavior. Take the case of Cleve Jones. Cleve lost the below-market rent on his apartment when he violated the terms of the contract in all sorts of ways, mainly by moving to Guerneville. In response, the landlord began charging the market rate for the unit, as she’s allowed to.
The adult thing to do here would recognize that rental laws must be followed, or to at least wait and see what the Rent Board (which was currently hearing the case) decided. Instead, Mandelman held a “rally” to support Cleve, and to vilify the landlord. I asked Mandelman if he could clarify who is and is not above the law, but he didn’t respond. Shortly thereafter, Jones admitted defeat and gave up the apartment.
And Mandelman’s got other warts, for example he’s championed friendly-sounding tax increases that distort markets and ultimately drive up prices here. His ideas to provide homes and living expenses for anyone who drifts into SF are misguided. And he’s aligned himself with some of our most radical pols, including Chesa Boudin sidekick David Campos. So not our worst Supe, but certainly not our best.
Shamann Walton (D10). Grade: D
Prior career: None known.
Status: Up for re-election: Nov 2022.
Walton can best be summed up by the Chronicle’s endorsement of him for supervisor. Their best argument? He, uh, “has some good ideas”.
Four years later, there’s still not much you can say about him. When he does speak up, it’s usually about race, or defunding the police, or both. He seems most proud of promoting and passing the KAREN Act, which fines people for calling 911 on Black people. I’m not aware of anyone having been fined since the act was passed.
And he’s got a few other unpleasant ideas, like having SF residents pay Black people “reparations”, despite the fact that there was no slavery in California, or even many Black people in SF before 1940. You can scroll through his press releases here, and see if you think he’s done anything to improve our city.
Walton occasionally brings up important issues, then immediately forgets them. For example, he championed “Vision Zero“, and ambitious plan to end violent crime…for about 5 minutes, until moving on to the Next Important Thing.
Regarding spending taxpayer money carefully, I see no evidence Walton cares. As far as I can tell, he’s never questioned our budget, or looked for ways to bring it in line with other cities, other than defunding the police, of course. Walton just kind of is.
Prior career: Murky. Some non-profit and city work.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov 2024.
I looked for positive things to say about each of our Supes, and with Melgar, came up empty.
Breaking news! I found something good to say. Melgar declined to vote with the deplorable Supes on SF Prop C, which would have made it practically impossible to recall elected officials, moving her up in the rankings:
And now the bad stuff: She’s aligned with some of the darker forces in local politics. She doesn’t seem to care much about the serious problems plaguing our city. She’s never mentioned our city budget, or spending taxpayer money with care. Crime? Drugs and drug dealers? The sideshows taking over her district some nights? Melgar evades questions about them.
So, what does she care about? Drawings, apparently. Melgar exposed herself as a virtue signaling opportunist by taking part in the recent “Chesa as Mao” non-issue, whereby a picture of DA Chesa Boudin in a Chairman Mao jacket brought crocodile tears to progressive eyes. The adult thing to do would have been to ignore this non-event, and focus on the city’s serious problems, which, as we’ve seen, Melgar just doesn’t seem to care about.
She tends to be slippery, rather than forthright. When asked a direct question, for example, about her advocacy of abolishing the police, she’s refused to answer. She’s also been unprofessional at times, tweeting sarcastically about other supervisors who care about law enforcement.
I’m also concerned she may be, um, storing her account passwords on twitter? Hmmm…..
Gordon Mar (D4). Grade: D
Prior career: None known, former Director of the “Chinese Progressive Association”.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov 2022.
Gordon Mar is a generic, cookie cutter, me-too progressive. He’s a big supporter of radicals like David Campos, Dean Preston and Chesa Boudin. He routinely attacks, rather than supports, law enforcement. When I asked him about his support for the DA recall recently, he again blamed the police for crime, not the consequence-free environment progressives have created here.
He’s been head of the BOS Budget Committee, but has said not a word about finding efficiencies or bringing spending in line with other cities. Like Walton, he supports the popular cause of the moment, promptly forgetting about it when the next one comes along.
On the other hand, Mar can be found on the right side of certain issues. He called for school board member Allison Collins to resign over her clearly racists comments (perhaps AAPI virtue signaling, but we’ll give him credit). He’s also called for investigations into SF’s ubiquitous corruption. In terms of professionalism, he’s a step up from, say, Connie Chan, below.
Is a D a passing grade?
Matt Haney (D6). Grade: D-
Prior career: None, maybe a couple of year’s teaching.
Status: In state assembly runoff. His seat is up for re-election Nov, 2022.
I’ve written extensively about Matt here, so I won’t repeat myself, but to summarize: he’s a friendly fellow with bad ideas, who’s largely owned by special interests. He’s done a terrible job managing the Tenderloin, being far more concerned with his career than, for example, fighting for consequences for drug dealers there.
Still, Haney didn’t quite land an F grade. You’ve got to do more than be merely a far-left careerist, corrupted by special interest money, to earn such a rating. You’ve got to be really atrocious (keep reading).
Connie Chan (D2). Grade: F
Prior Career: City worker, Peskin’s legislative aide.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov 2024.
Connie, bless her heart, isn’t the brightest bulb in the tulip garden. And from this undersized brain comes some interesting thoughts….
…and a weird obsession with plastic bottles. But the endless bleats of racism are what makes her truly unqualified to lead our city. She speaks forcefully against crime…as long as the victim is Asian. The banking system? Racist. Small business issues? That’s racism too.
She’s a big supporter of Chesa Boudin, and, true to form, took the “Chesa as Mao” (see Melgar above) incident to absurd theatrical heights, actually sponsoring a pointless BOS resolution to “condemn anti-Asian imagery”. I suppose political cartoons will be banned in “Women Land”. When I called Connie out on this stupidity, she, shockingly turned to the darkest internet trolls, who spend their days harassing anyone they disagree with.
Otherwise, she’s the typical me-too progressive with no real values, for example, siding with the police when they’re popular, vilifying them when the mob does.
When an unhinged Hillary Ronen posted and offensive tweet that was condemned by virtually everyone, Connie defended her. She’s endorsed by Jane Kim, and others on the far left. In terms of financial stewardship, Connie doesn’t care much about the $14 billion the city spends per year, unless more of if goes to Asians. For a while she wrote a column for the SF Examiner. The column name, unsurprisingly, was Politically Asian.
I could give Connie a D for dumb, but I think she’s earned our first F grade.
Hillary Ronen (D9). Grade: F
Prior Career: Attorney at non-profit, legislative aide.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov 2024.
Where to begin with this wild-eyed progressive? Ronen’s judgement is atrocious. Take for example, a 75 unit apartment building providing new housing to the Mission. Instead of encouraging its development, Ronen did everything she could to stall the project, eventually claiming a laundromat in the building it would replace was a “historic business“. Her reasoning for battling this new housing? She believed it would “gentrify” the neighborhood.
Another example: It was clear to anyone living in SF that crime was increasing during 2020, but Hillary insisted it was down (she’s flanked here by fellow radicals Dean Preston and Chesa Boudin).
Do you think reciting a speech about San Francisco residents trespassing on “unceeded Ohlone Indian Land” at the beginning of each Board of Supervisors’ meeting is a good use of time? If so, Ronen, and fellow deplorable Peskin, see below, may be the city leaders you’re looking for.
Ronen could care less about victims of crime (especially drug dealing) in our city, but she’s on a lifelong vendetta against the police. Defunding and demoralizing SFPD seems to be about the only thing she cares about. When it comes to city budgets, cutting the police is her only goal.
If an issue exists, Ronen’s on the wrong side of it, from making everything free to taxing empty homes. She promotes the worst in identity politics, failing to support London Breed for Mayor because she was supported by “rich, white men“.
Another prime example of how Ronen weakens our city: Mayor Breed’s original Emergency Declaration to reduce drugs and crime in the Tenderloin, actually had some teeth, as it relied on a greater police presence there. But Ronen prevented this:
“Between now and January, if they use a cent to increase [the San Francisco Police Department budget], we can cancel this order on the spot,” Ronen said. “I’m going to vote to approve this order today, but I’m going to watch this thing like a hawk.”Hillary Ronen, 12/23/21
Each time I think Ronen has achieved peak crazy, she outdoes herself. What a mess.
Dean Preston (D5). Grade: F
Prior Career: Generally none. A few years working for a law firm long ago.
Status: Up for re-election, Nov 2024.
To call Preston crazy would libel the insane. Where to begin? He’s is not a Republican or Democrat, but a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a fringe group which, among much other madness, vilifies NATO countries like the US. A taste of his value system:
Preston literally, seriously, wants to eliminate law enforcement in America. No police, no prisons, no consequences for raping a child, or robbing a bank. Think about that.
As the tweet above alludes to, Preston’s in favor of socialist revolution, not improving things via current democratic institutions. He calls government takeover of the private sector “municipalization“. Far from handling citizens’ money with care, Preston finds joy in new taxes of every variety. His wild ideas, like “cancelling rent“, are fortunately not taken seriously by the adults in the room.
Dean’s unique in that he sometimes manages to be on *both* wrong sides of an issue. For example, he demanded for a “vacancy tax” on unoccupied homes, then called the perfectly legal actions by Cleve Jones’ landlords to raise his rent when he left his apartment unoccupied “outrageous“.
Apparently unsure how the law works, Preston’s plan to stop legal evictions was to declare his district an “eviction free zone“.
Dean’s the king of complaining about current events, without offering solutions. A classic example here, or here, where he promotes “solutions to crime that work” without stating what those might be. Unsurprisingly, he’s on an endless jihad against SFPD, seeking to defund and demoralize them at every turn.
People have had enough of Dean’s schtick, and as I like to say, a rabid racoon could beat him in 2024. But that feels like a long time away.
Aaron Peskin (D3). Grade: F
Prior Career: None known. Former “Environmental Activist“.
Status: Terms out (again), Nov 2024.
Peskin embodies the worst of San Francisco, and humanity generally. He’s a bully. Both on the internet:
And in real life.
Peskin’s also a sleazy double dealer, as this article notes.
After coming to work drunk and abusing his colleagues, you’d think Peskin might understand the need to recall malfunctioning elected officials from time to time. Quite the opposite – he’s created and championed legislation that would make it effectively impossible to recall politicians – denying voters a key element of control over bad actors like him.
I’m in D3, so I admit this one’s personal, but I’ve never seen someone lie like Peskin. I was involved in an attempt to get a lower cost grocery store, a Whole Foods 365, in the old Lombardi Sports building. Polls showed 85% of the neighborhood was in favor of it, but Peskin battled hard to not only to prevent the store, but ban all “chain stores” on Polk St. generally. Here’s what he said on the topic:
“Whole Foods has spent a ridiculous amount of money going door-to-door organizing residents and creating a huge astroturf movement in their favor,” said Peskin.SF Chronicle, 6/1/2016
The problem is, this was all a lie. A complete fabrication. I was in touch with Whole Foods VP Rob Twyman, who lead the process to get this store approved. No Whole Foods representative went door to door, or spent even a dollar with organizing or “astroturfing”. Peskin wasn’t merely exaggerating here, he was pulling whole narratives out of thin air.
Helped by a radical Planning Commission board that demanded affordable housing in the store, Peskin won, voters lost, and five years later, the building sits empty, decaying, frequently vandalized and broken into.
Peskin shouldn’t be a Supervisor at all – they’re supposed to only server 2 terms, and this is his third, exploiting a loophole that the two terms only had to be “consecutive”. I hope D3’s next Supe is a decent, honest person. Peskin’s set the bar so low that it shouldn’t be a hard thing to accomplish.