On September 9, sf.citi hosted our second San Francisco Supervisor debate of 2020 with the candidates running to represent District 7. With incumbent District 7 Supervisor and Board President Norman Yee having served the maximum two consecutive terms as San Francisco Supervisor, his seat is up for grabs. That makes the District 7 Supervisor race one of San Francisco’s most competitive races heading into the November 2020 election. During our debate, we heard from five of the top District 7 Supervisor candidates, including Ben Matranga, Emily Murase, Joel Engardio, Myrna Melgar, and Vilaska Nguyen.
District 7 is home to West Portal, Twin Peaks, Park Merced, and San Francisco State University. Not sure if you’re a District 7 resident? Find out here.
IF ELECTED DISTRICT 7 SUPERVISOR, WHAT POLICY WOULD YOU PROPOSE FOR YOUR FIRST WEEK IN OFFICE?
To kick off the debate, the District 7 Supervisor candidates described a policy initiative they would pursue during their first week in office. Take a look at what they had to say.
- Eliminate small business fees. A small business owner himself, District 7 Supervisor candidate Ben Matranga empathizes with the plight of small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. If elected, he would propose legislation to eliminate small business fees that cost more for the City to collect than they generate in revenue.
- Build strong, resilient neighborhoods. District 7 Supervisor candidate Emily Murase helped found the neighborhood network Resilient Lakeshore to bolster District 7’s emergency response. She wants to ensure the more than 40 neighborhoods in District 7 remain strong and resilient in the years to come.
- Expand transportation options in District 7. District 7 Supervisor candidate Joel Engardio noted that certain bus routes in District 7 have been eliminated, leaving some residents “stranded.” He proposes using vans, which are cheaper and more efficient than traditional bus lines, to expand District 7’s transportation options.
- Support childcare providers. If elected, District 7 Supervisor candidate Myrna 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.
- Reform the criminal justice system. In his first week in office, District 7 Supervisor candidate Vilaska Nguyen would like to ensure San Francisco police officers respond only to crimes and not intervene in mental health crises. He noted that such a reform would help the City be more “judicious” with its police budget.
HOW WOULD YOU PREVENT A TECH EXODUS OUT OF SAN FRANCISCO AS REMOTE WORK RESHAPES THE LANDSCAPE OF HOW COMPANIES DO BUSINESS?
Pinterest paid nearly $90 million to terminate a 460,000-square-foot lease in San Francisco. Twitter listed over 100,000 square feet of its San Francisco headquarters for sublease. Both moves come on top of record numbers of tech workers leaving the City for more affordable locations. It’s no longer a question of if the tech exodus is happening, but how the tech exodus will impact San Francisco long term. We asked the District 7 Supervisors how they plan to retain both tech companies and tech workers in San Francisco.
- Stop taxing tech companies. San Francisco is going to “kill the golden goose,” warned candidate Joel Engardio. Instead of driving tech companies out of San Francisco through excessive taxes, he argues the City should prioritize attracting and retaining businesses, even more so in light of its $1.5 million budget deficit.
- Improve homelessness and housing. According to candidate Myrna Melgar, the main reasons tech workers are leaving San Francisco are the homelessness epidemic and the high cost of living. In order to keep them, both she and candidate Vilaska Nguyen believe the City needs to effectively address these challenges.
- Encourage innovation and hold City Hall accountable. For candidate Ben Matranga, City Hall has not made it easy for people to explore new ideas and create. He believes bringing greater accountability to City Hall will ultimately retain tech companies and businesses of all kinds.
- Convene a tech council. Candidate Emily Murase proposes creating a tech council to better understand and overcome the barriers facing tech companies in San Francisco, whether that be taxes, the business environment, or quality of life.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ DECISION TO USE CITY RESERVES TO GRANT PLANNED RAISES TO SAN FRANCISCO CITY WORKERS?
Due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco is looking at a $1.5 billion budget deficit over the next two years. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has nevertheless decided to move ahead with granting planned raises to San Francisco City workers. In order to do so, they will dip into $36.9 million of the City’s reserve funds. Do the District 7 Supervisor candidates support or oppose that decision?
- Support granting raises to City workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. District 7 Supervisor candidates Vilaska Nguyen, Emily Murase, and Myrna Melgar support the planned raises (though Murase does not think the Supervisors themselves should take raises). They noted that situations like the COVID-19 pandemic are what the City’s reserve funds are for and that City workers have been on the frontlines.
- Oppose granting raises to City workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. District 7 Supervisor candidates Ben Matranga and Joel Engardio oppose the planned raises for City workers. Given San Francisco’s uncertain financial future, they believe the City needs to make hard decisions and warned that things could get a lot worse.
DO YOU SUPPORT MAKING MUNI FREE EVEN AS THE SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY (SFMTA) FACES A MOUNTING BUDGET DEFICIT?
Current District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston popularized the idea of making Muni free for all San Francisco residents. Keep in mind that Muni already provides free service to low- to moderate-income seniors, youth between the ages of five and 18, and people with qualifying disabilities. We asked the District 7 Supervisor candidates if they support Supervisor Preston’s proposal to make Muni free even as the SFMTA has seen its ridership plummet and budget shortfall widen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Support making Muni free. District 7 Supervisor candidates Vilaska Nguyen and Myrna Melgar support making Muni free for all. They believe making Muni free for all riders would incentivize people to take Muni over other transportation options.
- Oppose making Muni free. District 7 Supervisor candidates Ben Matranga, Emily Murase, and Joel Engardio oppose making Muni free for all. They argue that we have already made Muni free for those who need it most, while making Muni free for all riders would compromise other City services.
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We covered many other topics, including San Francisco’s digital divide, the business taxes heading to the November 2020 ballot, classifying gig workers as employees, and more. We encourage you to watch our District 7 Debate in full to dive deeper into the nuances of the candidates’ policy stances and priorities.
We also invite you to stay tuned for our candidate questionnaire, which comes out in early October. In addition to our voter guide, this sf.citi election resource will shed light on how the District 7 candidates stack up against one another on various issues. Make sure you’re subscribed to the sf.citi newsletter to keep up with all of our November 2020 election coverage and materials.