By: Zach Drucker
As of January 8, Supervisors Connie Chan and Myrna Melgar became the two newest members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Representing District 1 and District 7 respectively, both Supervisors narrowly won their seats against a packed field of over 10 competing Supervisor candidates in the November 2020 San Francisco election. sf.citi had the pleasure of talking to both Chan and Melgar during our 2020 San Francisco Supervisor Debate Series. Let’s take a closer look at how their tenure will shift dynamics on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and what policy issues they hope to tackle in the coming months.
PROGRESSIVES PASS THE TORCH IN DISTRICT 1
In the hotly contested race to succeed outgoing Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, Connie Chan prevailed by the slimmest of margins—a mere 125 votes. Her triumph continued the Progressives’ undefeated streak in District 1 Supervisorial elections and helped them maintain control of the Board of Supervisors, where they hold an 8 to 3 (or 9 to 2, depending on who you ask) advantage over their Moderate counterparts.
Chan arrives in City Hall with substantial experience working in San Francisco government. She previously worked as a legislative aide to Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Aaron Peskin, served as an aide to then-District Attorney Kamala Harris, and spent time at San Francisco Recreation and Parks and City College of San Francisco. This experience in local government paved her path to being the Vice-Chair of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee and a member of the Rules Committee.
What can we expect from Chan’s tenure as Supervisor? Looking at her legislative agenda, she aims to prioritize the needs of working people and small businesses by keeping people housed, building more affordable housing, closing the income gap, and uplifting the people and communities that have been left behind by past City policies. To dive deeper into some of Chan’s policy stances, we revisited a few of the responses she gave us at our District 1 Supervisor Debate and in our Candidate Questionnaire.
- If elected District 1 Supervisor, what policy would you propose during your first week in office? Chan would make resolving San Francisco’s $1.5 billion deficit her number one priority. She also notes the need for transparency in the City’s budget process and would accomplish this by holding City departments accountable, pushing for audits, and ensuring checks and balances.
- What is one thing you would do to meaningfully address homelessness in San Francisco? Chan believes the best way to address homelessness is to keep people housed, which means funding tenants’ legal counsel and investing in small sites acquisition.
- How would you approach retaining tech workers in San Francisco as remote work reshapes the landscape of how companies do business? Chan sees the City’s high cost of living and housing affordability issues as two of the main forces driving people out of the City—even before the pandemic. She would address these issues by building 100 percent affordable housing, filling the City’s stock of vacant units, and making corporations “pay their fair share.”
NEW DISTRICT 7 SUPERVISOR LOOKS TO CARVE HER OWN PATH
With Board President Norman Yee termed out, Myrna Melgar emerged from a crowded field of seven candidates to become the next District 7 Supervisor. Her victory marks the third Supervisorial election in a row that District 7—known as a conservative-leaning district (for San Francisco)—did not elect someone squarely in the Moderate camp. Melgar, who does not consider herself to belong to either faction in City Hall (Progressive or Moderate), describes her ideology as somewhere in the middle.
Melgar arrives in office with an extensive history in leadership positions at nonprofits and City government. She previously worked as the Director of Homeownership Programs at the Mayor’s Office of Housing during the Newsom Administration, Executive Director of the Jamestown Community Center, Deputy Director of the Mission Economic Development Agency, and served as President of the City Planning Commission and Vice President of the Building Inspection Commission. Given her past experiences, it is only fitting that she was assigned to chair the Transportation and Land Use Committee.
What can we expect from Melgar’s tenure as Supervisor? According to her legislative agenda, she plans to focus on reducing homelessness, increasing homeownership opportunities and rent control protections for tenants, improving public transportation infrastructure, expanding educational opportunities, and reducing the City’s carbon footprint. As with Chan, we dove deeper into Melgar’s policy stances by revisiting a few of the responses she gave us at our District 7 Supervisor Debate and in our Candidate Questionnaire.
- If elected District 7 Supervisor, what policy would you propose for your first week in office? Melgar would repurpose San Francisco’s Facilities Fund to support childcare providers. Specifically, she proposes using the fund to offer grants to childcare providers, many of whom have had to halve the number of children they take in during the pandemic.
- What major steps would you take or support to address the digital divide in San Francisco? Melgar would give each child entering the San Francisco Unified School District in kindergarten a tablet or laptop along with enrolling in the kindergarten-to-college program. Additionally, she would work with community partners to ensure every family is connected to the internet and receives basic digital literacy training.
How would you approach retaining tech workers in San Francisco as remote work reshapes the landscape of how companies do business? Melgar would focus on effectively addressing the homelessness epidemic and high cost of living, which she considers the main reasons tech workers are leaving San Francisco.
SUPERVISORS UNANIMOUSLY ELECT A NEW BOARD PRESIDENT
In their first meeting of the year on January 8, the 11 Supervisors unanimously picked District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton to become the next Board President. President Walton, the first Black man to hold this office, now leads the City’s main political body and is second in line to the Mayor.
Since taking office in 2018, he has championed criminal justice reform, racial equity, and public safety issues. This includes legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes in the City, closing the juvenile hall center, establishing the African American Reparations Advisory Committee, and passing the CAREN Act, which criminalizes racially-biased 911 calls. He also worked to redirect $120 million from the San Francisco Police Department to the African American community last year.
Supervisor Walton generally aligns himself with the Board’s Progressive camp. And even though Mayor Breed endorsed his Supervisorial campaign, he has sided with his Progressive allies against the Mayor on several issues—most recently over the City’s $13 billion budget and the shelter-in-place hotel program. Despite past disagreements with the Mayor, all of the legislators sang high-praises and expressed their utmost faith in his ability to lead San Francisco through these tumultuous times, citing his integrity, level-headedness, and unwavering commitment to the most vulnerable populations of San Francisco.
sf.citi’s PARTING THOUGHTS ON 2021’S SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
As we head into 2021, San Francisco is at an inflection point. The City faces new surges in the coronavirus, immense budget constraints, the decimation of its restaurants and retail stores, high numbers of unemployment, and a growing tech exodus, to name a few. The new Board, while relatively unchanged in its political makeup, must set aside its differences with the Mayor and take leadership in its responsibility as San Francisco’s main governing body in charge of crafting policy and making budget decisions to guide the City towards recovery.