Earlier tonight, the Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR) and the League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum for the District 1 Supervisor candidates Sherman Dsilva, David Lee and Supervisor Eric Mar.
The forum was held at the Richmond Recreation Center and was well attended by over 100 people. Strangely, the event was held in the small meeting room at the center instead of the main gymnasium (where last year’s mayoral debate was held). And unbelievably, no microphone was available. In case you’re keeping score already, Supervisor Mar was the best among the three candidates at projecting his voice.
The debate was moderated by Maxine Anderson, a member of the League of Women Voters. Each candidate had 1 minute to answer the questions posed by the moderator, which ranged from neighborhood specific issues like vacant storefronts and the Beach Chalet Soccer fields, to wider city issues like the 8 Washington housing project and rent control.
All three candidates have met in debates before tonight, but this was the first truly public debate that had been hosted for the election. As a result, Mar and Lee both used the occasion to clear up some misconceptions and engage in some verbal sparring.
The first question of the night was about rent control. All candidates went on record to say they support rent control, contrary to what some campaigners have been saying in the neighborhood recently. During his minute, Mar held up a flyer from Lee’s campaign, and accused Lee of unfairly attacking him on the issue. “These kinds of mailers are despicable, David,” Mar hissed.
The second question was about the public school assignment process in the city. All three candidates have young children, and both Lee and Mar have children of school age. Dsilva attended three schools here in the neighborhood – Sutro Elementary, Presidio Middle School and George Washington High.
Lee took part of his turn to defend himself against Mar’s earlier accusation, saying “I thought we weren’t going to have personal attacks tonight.”
When Mar got his turn to speak on the school issues, he mentioned that his own daughter attends a public school in the Richmond District. He then told the audience that he’d like to know why Lee’s children don’t. “Why aren’t his kids in a public school?” Mar asked.
The sparring between Mar and Lee continued into the next question about “Care Not Cash”. Lee used Mar’s word back at him, saying it was “quite despicable for our Supervisor to challenge someone’s personal choice, about where you send your child to school.”
The Beach Chalet soccer fields project was also brought up for discussion. Dsilva said he would not change the plan that has already been approved by the city. Lee was a Recreation & Parks Commissioner as the project moved through city channels, and he said he felt it was the best solution at the time. But since entering the race, he has talked to residents and heard many concerns. While Lee is still in support of the project, he acknowledged the need for further discussion. “This is a solution that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Let’s sit down and talk about compromises we can make.”
Supervisor Mar said that he had studied the Beach Chalet project “to death” and still feels that the need for more fields and playing time, along with more recreation options in the neighborhood outweighs any of the environmental and health concerns that opponents have raised about the project.
The Alexandria Theater was the subject of the next question. This was a bit of a softball for Supervisor Mar who just last Friday, held a press conference to announce the latest plans for the property.
But Lee was unimpressed by Mar’s recent actions on the project. “Every year, Mar has a press conference to announce plans and nothing happens,” Lee said.
Other topics in the debate included the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and how to reduce the number of commercial vacancies in the neighborhood. You can hear what the candidates think about those issues in our earlier article which features their video responses to those questions.
The last hot button issue discussed was whether or not the candidates supported variable rate meter parking, as well as parking meters operating on Sundays – both proposals that the MTA has made to try and make up for revenue shortfalls.
Mar expressed concern about the “nickel and diming” of residents and emphasized the need for the MTA to explore other funding sources. But Mar never actually came out and said where he stood on the two proposals.
Neither Dsilva or Lee support Sunday meter parking, with Lee declaring “Sunday meters is antithetical to what Sundays are about.” Both Lee and Dsilva support variable rate meters, theorizing that rates could drop in lower traffic areas and turnover could be better in the busiest areas.
A question about the Ethics Commission and campaign financing led to the final episode of verbal sparring between Mar and Lee. During his minute, Mar reached behind him to pull out a handmade bar chart poster showing Lee’s alleged funding from special interests far outpacing his own.
Which led to Lee countering to Mar, “What did it cause this district to get Rose Pak’s support?”
Candidates were also asked about the 8 Washington project, which prompted one audience member to shout “Who cares?”, much to to the chagrin of organizers and the candidates.
In another question, Lee and Mar got a chance to namedrop when asked about how they would generate more stimulus funds from the federal government if they were elected. Lee took the opportunity to mention his endorsement from Dianne Feinstein and to say “Nancy Pelosi is an old friend of our family’s”.
Mar used the opportunity to stump for President Obama’s re-election, saying that was the best way to ensure that federal money would keep coming into the city. Dsilva took a more pragmatic view, saying “We can’t always rely on the federal government.”
All told, the debate lasted 50 minutes and though organizers collected questions from the audience, it was unclear if they were among the 13 questions that candidates were asked.
We did see someone videotaping the debate so if it becomes available online, we’ll be sure to let you know.
11:13 pm | Posted under Politics
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