As four candidates for District 7 supervisor introduced themselves at a debate over the issues facing the westside neighborhoods, the absence of Norman Yee, the current supervisor, loomed large.
The candidates talked about how they would solve the property crime wave, how they disagreed with Yee’s record and how they would work with Mayor Ed Lee if elected.
Given the challenges of defeating an incumbent candidate, Joel Engardio, John Farrell, Ben Matranga and Mike Young avoided personal attacks against each other.
The candidates’ main complaint about Yee was his low profile, repeatedly mentioning the incumbent supervisor’s “empty chair” and describing him as “non-responsive” and “under the radar.”
An event organizer with the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club said that Yee had declined to join the July 18 debate due to a previously scheduled event.
November’s election comes after an extremely close District 7 race in 2012 when Yee beat F.X. Crowley, a labor leader, by only 132 votes.
In June, Supervisor Yee won a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee with 7.7 percent of the vote, coming in second out of 21 candidates. Joel Engardio came in third to last with 2.7 percent of the vote, losing his seat on the committee.
In order to win, Yee’s opponents will need to overcome the incumbent’s name recognition without splitting the vote between themselves.
Joe Eskenazi, a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine and former columnist for SF Weekly, moderated the debate, asking the candidates about how they agreed and disagreed with Yee’s work so far.
Engardio, who ran in 2012 and garnered the San Francisco Chronicle’s endorsement, said that Yee had not been a leader on “basic” local issues such as a movement to close parks at midnight.
“Any of us up here can do a better job than Norman Yee in terms of being responsive,” Mike Young said.
Young noted the popularity of the Yee’s participatory budgeting program, but disagreed with his public safety record.
“We need to be more aggressive in adding more resources to public safety,” Young said.
Working with the Mayor
Despite Mayor Ed Lee’s low approval ratings in recent months, all of the candidates said that they would work with the mayor.
“I think working with the mayor is expected,” Matranga said. “Average folks just want you to get in there and do your job and work with whoever is in the mayor’s office.”
Young and Farrell noted that homelessness, housing and policing are large problems that other mayors have also failed to fix.
Young and Engardio said that they disagreed with the mayor’s decision to fire five-year Chief of Police Greg Suhr.
“I feel like the firing of Chief Suhr was political and it set us backwards in implementing reforms,” Engardio said.
The solutions to the property crime wave in the westside neighborhoods ranged from increasing sentencing, improving police technology and police department reforms.
“In Daly City they prosecute [car break-ins] as a felony and that’s what I would suggest,” Young said. “Make it more of a penalty, make it dangerous to break into a car here.”
“Auto break-ins have changed. It’s no longer the crime of opportunity… These are criminal rings and we need to investigate them as such and prosecute them as such,” Matranga said.
Matranga also suggested buying a new type of camera that scans license plates and compares them to an FBI database of stolen cars.
District 7 supervisor will be voted on in the Nov. 8, 2o16, general election which is expected to draw many voters given that it is a presidential election.