Kudos on your performance at the 5 Together debate! Five hundred in the audience, wow! That's great. I'm sorry I missed it. Anyway, I took a stab at answering the questions from the Buena Vista, Castro Action & Planning, etc., groups. I hope you find some of these responses useful in formulating your own.
Thinking about how you'd answer the questions on candidate questionnaires like this is a useful exercise for LPSF activists whether you're running for office or not, imho. It forces you to really start thinking about solutions to local issues, and you'll be better prepared when discussing politics with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
Yours in liberty,
<<< Starchild >>>
Q1. The current proposals to deal with SF's various homeless, abandoned,
neglected and lawless "street" populations all are wholly inadequate,
anecdotal and naive band-aids. Hundreds of millions of dollars annually
are spent ineffectively while the inhumane shame of thousands of neglected
human souls on our streets is an intolerable affront to those people, and
to all citizens and visitors alike. What are you going to do about it?
Candidates frequently start their responses to questions by complimenting the questioner for asking such a good question. So I hope you won't dismiss my appreciation of this question as superficial posturing. It really is an excellent question, because it recognizes three important things:
(1) the shame and tragedy of people living on the street
(2) the incredible amounts of taxpayer money that have been wasted on naive and ineffective solutions, and
(3) that current proposals (and I'm assuming this means those current proposals which have been allowed into mainstream political dialogue) are simply offering more of the same
Fortunately there is a current proposal which would do some real good for people on our streets. One candidate for mayor has come up with an actual plan to deal with this. And guess what? I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about Jim Reid. I have endorsed Jim's plan because it's a good idea, and I'm not afraid to implement and give credit to good ideas when I see them, even if they come from one of my competitors.
The problem facing homeless people, by definition, is that they have no roof over their heads. Jim, who is a building contractor, addressed this problem head-on. He showed that you can build a basic house with everything a person living alone needs — bed, bath, shower, kitchen, electricity — for only $6000. Then he actually built one. Unfortunately, our current city leadership would rather have the red tape and bureaucracy of building codes, zoning laws, and review boards than get people off the street. Their definition of "affordable housing" is a home that costs a non-profit group millions of dollars to build, subsidized by taxpayers, and sells for over $100,000.* Jim couldn't get the mayor or a single member of the Board of Supervisors to come out and look at his affordable "Shelter One" home.
If you elect me mayor, I will cut through the bureaucracy so that innovative people like Jim Reid can build the homes we need to get people off the street. And I won't just apply this philosophy to the problem of homelessness. For every major problem facing San Francisco, there are creative people out there with good ideas who could solve the problem, if we just stop stifling them with a costly and time-consuming bureaucratic process.
*Sarosh probably has more specific statistics you can use here.
Q2. Will you look outside the SF Police Department and our City for a new
I will hire the police chief who I believe is best qualified to do the job. As with any appointment I make as mayor, I am not going to say this individual has to come from inside the SFPD, or from outside the SFPD. I'm not going to say it has to be a man, or has to be a woman; I'm not going to say it has to be someone who is gay, or Latino, or disabled, or a current city employee, or someone who isn't an employee. I'm not going to add any of those types of qualifiers. I am simply going to have a competitive interviewing process and hire the individual I believe is best qualified to do the job.
However, I will say that the police department needs some MAJOR changes, and I will definitely be looking for a police chief who is NOT part of the current culture and does NOT belong to the "old boy network" of a police department in some other city. I would look favorably on a police officer who has demonstrated the courage and integrity to be a whistleblower in reporting police abuses.
Q3. SF Muni has been criticized for continually delaying implementation of
quieter clean air, non-diesel buses, though proponents claim current technology is
adequate forSan Francisco's hilly streets. Would you require Muni to
change its position?
Have you noticed, if it's not one problem with MUNI it's another? Mayor Brown promised to get the buses running on time within 100 days of his first term, and half a year later the problem was as bad as ever. And guess what? The service still isn't reliable. Remember the promise several years ago to put electronic ticker-tape displays at the bus stops to tell you when the next bus was scheduled to arrive? Have you seen any of those installed at the bus stops in your neighborhood? I sure haven't. Then there's the safety issue. Did any of you read Peter Byrne's recent cover story in the SF Weekly? Did you know that a MUNI driver can get into three serious accidents in a year without any danger of losing his or her job? Then after a year the slate is wiped clean, so the same driver can start causing accidents all over again. When the police publish the numbers of pedestrian fatalities in the city, they don't even include deaths caused by MUNI, or the total would be a lot higher. MUNI has also started invading our privacy by putting cameras on all the buses that not only record your picture but your conversations as well. Yet the buses are still often filthy and covered with grafitti. We've poured all kinds of taxpayer money into MUNI, and it just doesn't seem to work. Now they've spent millions of dollars on these new buses that not only pollute more than regular buses, but they make a shrill, high-pitched noise that many people find irritating.
What I would do as mayor is say Whoa! Hold on a minute, people. We're not going to have excellent bus service by continuing to tinker with the problems. I'm not going to waste a lot of energy trying to get MUNI to buy the right type of buses, because frankly, without major changes, they're just going to screw something up anyway. What MUNI needs isn't a cosmetic fix. What it needs is free market competition. If I'm elected, I would end the government monopoly on public transit in San Francisco. A hundred years ago we had private competing streetcar companies in this city, and there's no reason we can't do that today. You can find places around town where old tracks have been paved over. With private companies offering competing lines, we can start actually expanding service again, instead of cutting it back. A real company would not stay in business offering the kind of service and wasteful budgeting that characterize MUNI. We can have timely service, clean buses, and more routes at a fraction of the cost. But it's going to take someone like myself who's open to radical libertarian solutions that the bureaucracy hates in order to get it done.
Q4. Our population is aging: what provisions would you make to ensure
that our elders live out their lives in safety, dignity and comfort?
(Relate a personal anecdote about your own parents or relatives here, or perhaps an anecdote from seeing how they do things in Taiwan to show the advantages of less government intervention?)
Q5. San Francisco derives much of its income from the tourist industry and
downtown business. How would you go about making the downtown hotel,
shopping, and office areas more welcoming while also seeing that the
neighborhoods receive their share of innovative development?
Obviously addressing the homeless issue is key to making downtown more welcoming to people from out of town and businesses that might be thinking of locating here. (You can refer here to answer from Question 1.) But the biggest single thing we need to do, and this applies to both the neighborhoods and downtown, is make it easier for change to happen. Right now we've got a system where it is incredibly difficult to get anything done. All it takes under the current planning process is a tiny group of dissatisfied busy-bodies to throw a monkey wrench into any project, no matter how many people want it or how much it would help the local economy. In some ways San Francisco resembles a Third World country, because there
Q6. What would you do as mayor that will make the most significant
change to the city's public transit service and system?
(You can use the responses to Question 3 for this question as well.) The first thing I'll do to change the city's public transit systems is tell MUNI and BART to OPEN THEIR DAMN RESTROOMS! The restrooms in MUNI and BART stations have been closed for years now, out of alleged terrorist concerns. This is absolute nonsense! There is no indication whatsoever that terrorists are targetting our public bathrooms. Before it was terrorism, in some cases they were saying that they couldn't comply with the laws for disability access to the facilities, so they had to close them to everyone. I think the real story is that transit employees just don't want to take responsibility for keeping the restrooms clean and properly maintained. They certainly weren't doing a good job of it when the restrooms were open! Keeping them closed is making it less desirable to ride public transit, and putting more cars on our streets. This is completely and totally irresponsible.
Q7. What should be the balance between service cuts and higher
taxes in order to achieve some fiscal stability in the city's
budget? Should large businesses pay a bigger share of taxes?
The idea that we have to either cut services or raise taxes is a false dichotomy. The fact is that way too much is being paid in taxes for the services we're getting now. Everyone should pay less taxes, including businesses, and we can make this happen WITHOUT cutting services. How? First by limiting the salaries, INCLUDING OVERTIME, of all city employees to less than $100,000 a year. No one being paid with your tax money needs to be collecting a six-figure income! Second, by eliminating the "special assistants" hired by Mayor Brown, which are mostly a bunch of crony positions. Third, by readjusting the salary of all city employees to match market rates. If employees are willing to do their jobs for what a typical San Francisco business would pay them for similar work, then they can keep their jobs. If they insist on getting paid thousands of dollars more than what people in the real world are earning, then I'll invite private sector contractors to come in and do their jobs for less. The problem with big businesses isn't that they don't pay enough taxes. Larger businesses already pay more taxes than small businesses. The problem is that a lot of large businesses have developed political connections that let them feed at the public trough and profit at the public's expense, and we have a lot of corrupt politicians that are letting them get away with it.
Q8. The intersection of Castro and Market is designated asHarvey
Milk Plaza, but is currently a high-speed traffic conduit lacking
any coherence and comfort associated with the word plaza, and
hardly a fitting tribute to Harvey Milk. Will you support
planning and construction, with public funds, a real plaza
honoring Harvey Milk which would also be a safe, beautiful, and
inviting public open space at the center of this neighborhood?
Redesigning the intersection of Castro and Market as a public plaza sounds like a good idea to me. If this is something the majority of San Franciscans want, then I think it ought to be done. The way I would pay for it is by letting businesses and property owners take a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction for every dollar they donate to the project. Since we're talking about money they were going to pay to the government anyway, this will have the same economic effect as using public funds. The difference is that it will give people more choice about how their tax money is spent, and I think it's important that we start giving people more choice in this area instead of just letting the politicians spend your money the way the special interests convince them to.
Q9. InHayes Valley a new public park space is proposed as part of the
Octavia Boulevard development project. Many of the residents of Hayes
Valley (as well as the local police) are worried that this area will not be kept
up or will turn into yet another homeless encampment. What specific
measures would you take to protect our public spaces and ensure they are well-maintained?
Under a Mike Denny administration, either the Wreck the Parks Department would start doing a good job, or if I heard from neighbors that they were still not doing a good job, I would fire them and turn the job over to a private contractor. I think this would make them a lot more conscientious about their work.
Q10. Currently zoning codes require that every new unit of housing
constructed must include a dedicated off-street parking space. TheOctavia Boulevard
project and the Better Neighborhoods plan promote pedestrian and
mass-transit options and propose that the surrounding Hayes Valley area be
an experimental exception to this zoning policy, requiring less parking
spaces per unit. This proposal will have a significant impact on residents
and businesses. While many residents are in favor of the proposed changes,
others worry that there will be insufficient parking. Do you or do you not,
support this exception to the zoning codes, and if so, would you favor
making it citywide law/policy?
I support this exception, and I favor making this the zoning policy citywide. There is no reason that developers ought to be required to specifically subsidize automobiles. We don't require them to install bicycle racks, or lockers for skateboards and inline skates. The solution to the lack of parking is not more unfunded government mandates! We can get cars off the street by simply allowing new underground and multi-story parking facilities specifically designed for that purpose to be built without a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. Equally importantly, we can improve our public transit systems and allow non-government community transit operators to compete with them (refer here to responses to Questions 3 and 6).
Q11. Many residents and merchants of our neighborhoods want to support
smaller, locally owned, independent businesses, and limit the spread of formula
chain-store franchises and Big-Box stores. Do you or do you not, support
these measures and would you work towards enacting a policy that supports
smaller, locally owned, independent businesses and limits the spread of
formula chain-store franchises and Big-Box stores?
As mayor, I'll make an effort to build consensus on this issue. I'll ask citizens to join me in taking a pledge not to shop in chain stores. We'll circulate the names on this list, and pressure everyone who's been lobbying against chain stores to sign. Then if anyone observes one of these individuals shopping at a chain store, we'll embarrass that person by publishing his or her name under the heading Chain Store Pledge-Breaker in the Public Notices that the city publishes in the Independent. If San Franciscans are willing to put their money where their mouths are, then chain stores will no longer be profitable in the City. If they're not profitable, they won't have any desire to locate here. Then we'll have a city filled with small, independent, and locally-owned businesses. We'll all pay higher prices, and personally I'll be OK with that, if it's what residents want. I love small, unique local stores, and I shop at them frequently. But I'm NOT going to be a mayor who punishes poor people by trying to ban chain stores that offer lower-priced goods and services! If you want to get rid of chain stores, YOU'RE going to have to make the necessary economic sacrifices, and persuade your NEIGHBORS to make the necessary economic sacrifices. We should NOT rely on government force to ram policies down people's throats if there is no consensus in the community against shopping at these businesses.
Q12. Several of our groups have surveyed neighbors about dangerous
intersections for pedestrians, drivers, cyclists and transit users, and
pinpointed a few real problems. What are your priorities on traffic
calming, safety and traffic flow, and how would you implement these with
One thing I would do to improve traffic safety is make it easier for bars and nightclubs to stay open past 2 a.m., offer entertainment, and sell food and non-alcoholic beverages. Right now, most of these establishments are only permitted to stay open until 2 o'clock. The result is that when 2 a.m. rolls around, you have a lot of drunk people forced out onto the streets, and unfortunately some of them get in their cars and start driving. This situation is a real safety hazard, and if you check the police accident reports, you'll find that right after 2 a.m. is when a lot of accidents happen. This is largely avoidable if we're willing to get rid of the puritan mindset that has traditionally caused us to discriminate against late-night entertainment. It's one more example of how too many bad laws are killing people.
There is also a lot of real nuts and bolts safety stuff that just isn't getting done. Paving the streets properly. Filling in potholes. These things are usually a minor annoyance if you're in a car, but if you're on a bicycle or skating, they can be a real safety hazard. We also need to make sure that bike lanes, crosswalks, and lane dividers are clearly and freshly painted. The new street-crossing counters that tell you as a pedestrian how many seconds you have left to cross an intersection are a real blessing. These should be installed at every intersection that has a traffic light, and they should have a recognizable pattern of beeps for people who are vision-impaired. Perhaps if the city weren't wasting so much money on things it shouldn't be involved in at all, we would have the money available to do this. If you elect me as mayor, we will do it.
Q13. The amount of litter and garbage being left on streetcorners and
sidewalks has proliferated in the Duboce Triangle in recent years. How can
you help keep our sidewalks and streets in better shape?
Q14. The Hallowe'en Party is a bigger than any one neighborhood can
address, but the negative impacts -- street assaults, public drunkenness,
impassable streets and sidewalks, the morning after --- still affect all
the neighborhoods at the periphery. What steps will you take to keep the
party from destroying the quality of life for the "periphery neighbors",
the people who must shoulder the biggest burden?
The Libertarian Party has a reputation of standing for freedom, and it's true that our symbol is the Statue of Liberty. We're proud of our commitment to protecting the liberties that have made America the most prosperous country in the world. But there's something else that Libertarians stand for, which is the other side of the coin, and that is personal responsibility.
You want to see a good example of this? It's called Black Rock City. Black Rock is the community that forms in the Nevada desert around the Burning Man festival for about a week every year. This year 30,500 people attended the event. This city has NO stop signs, NO traffic lights, NO laws against public drunkenness, and virtually NO crowd control or weapons searches. Yet people are up there partying and having fun 24 hours a day, with very few serious accidents or problems! How do they do it? It's called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. The organizers and participants of Burning Man have done a lot of work encouraging a culture and a community ethic of taking responsibility for yourself and being safe. They don't do it by passing laws, or arresting people, or having a repressive police presence.
Burning Man was started in San Francisco in 1986, and a good percentage of the people who go to Burning Man are from San Francisco. If San Franciscans can exhibit this kind of responsibility in the middle of the Nevada desert ,miles away from where they live and work, we can do it here in our own neighborhoods like the Castro. But to make it happen, we've got to focus on personal responsibility, NOT government control. When people get in the habit of government always treating them like children, some of them start to ACT like children, and THAT'S when we get problems.
Q15. What will you (candidate) do to insure continued uninterrupted
electrical power, replace old generators and improve the environment at
Hunter's Point, and promote conservation by City departments, businesses,
homeowners, and tenants?
In order to develop a realistic plan to address these issues, we need to first be aware of why things are the way they are now. We need to keep in mind that the reason that Hunter's Point is polluted today is because government owned the land and didn't take care of it properly. We must recognize that the reason we've had disruptions in our electricity is because we've had a highly regulated energy market where the state has given one company, PG&E, a virtual monopoly. With competition, you will see generators and other equipment replaced in a more timely fashion.
Under a Mike Denny administration, I GUARANTEE you that we will have immediate and substantial energy savings by the City. Because a lot of the lights that are burning right now in the offices of government agencies will be turned off. A lot of vehicles driven by government employees will be off the streets. Especially those little three-wheeled mosquitos. You know the ones I'm talking about? The ones operated by the Department of Parasites & Traffic? During the past year, how many of you paid over $100 in parking tickets? (Ask for show of hands.) How many of you would like to pay more? How many would like to pay less?
I also want to give tax breaks to businesses that reduce energy consumption and get their employees to bicycle, skate, or take transit to work. I'll find a member of the Board of Supervisors to introduce legislation to repeal the ban on the Segue personal transport vehicles that the Board banned from city sidewalks last year.
Finally, we should empower and reward San Franciscans who supply their own energy. If you install solar panels on your roof or wind turbines on your property, or otherwise produce your own electricity and generate more than you use, I would lobby for changes in state law so that you would be able to sell that surplus electricity to energy providers.