City Democratic Club endorsements for June 2014 primary

Upon vote of the membership, the City Democratic Club announces its endorsements for the June 2014 primary election.


Nancy Pelosi for U.S. House of Representatives, District 12. (19 in favor, no opposition)
Jackie Speier for U.S. House of Representatives, District 14. (19 in favor, no opposition)

Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization, District 2. (18 in favor, no opposition)
David Chiu for State Assembly, District 17. (17 in favor; David Campos, 1)
Phil Ting for State Assembly, District 19. (19 in favor, no opposition)
Daniel Flores for Superior Court, Office 20. (13 in favor; Carol Kingsley, 6)

Jerry Brown for Governor. (18 in favor, no opposition)
Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor. (16 in favor; no endorsement, 2)
Betty Yee for Controller. (16 in favor; John Perez, 1)
Alex Padilla for Secretary of State. (14 in favor; Derek Cressman, 3)
John Chiang for Treasurer. (17 in favor, no opposition)
Kamala Harris for Attorney General. (18 in favor, no opposition)
Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner. (17 in favor, no opposition)
Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction. (18 in favor, no opposition)


Yes on Proposition A (16 yes, 2 no)
No on Proposition B (2 yes, 17 no)

Yes on Proposition 41 (18 yes, 1 no)
No on Proposition 42 (6 yes, 13 no)

2014 Executive Board

The 2014 Executive Board composition was ratified by the membership as follows:

President – Michael Ho
First Vice President – Erik Cummins
Second Vice President – Heidi Machen
Recording Secretary – Jim Reilly
Corresponding Secretary – Clay Harrell
Treasurer – Steve la Plante
Members at large – Kat Anderson, Michael Breyer, Michelle Parker

The club extends a special welcome to new board members Kat Anderson and Michelle Parker.

Future meetings

There will be no general meeting in May. Details of upcoming meetings will be announced as they become available.


To be eligible to vote in the November endorsement cycle, new members must join and pay dues at least 28 days before the endorsement meeting. While the fall schedule has not been set, the endorsement meeting could come as early as August 21, which would mean a July 24 cutoff.

To join by credit card or check, see the “Membership” section in the sidebar at right.

Supervisor Jane Kim and June primary endorsements, Thursday, 4/24

The club’s endorsement meeting will be Thursday, April 24.

We’re proud to host Supervisor Jane Kim, who has represented District 6 since 2010 and who will stand for re-election this November.

After the Supervisor’s presentation and Q&A are complete, the club will vote on endorsements for the June primary. Recommendations from the Issues and Endorsements Committee are listed below.

The club also will vote to seat its 2014 Executive Board. The nominated slate for the Executive Board is listed below.

When: Thursday, April 24th, 7:30pm
Where: Chancellor Hotel, Clipper Room (433 Powell St. between Sutter and Post)
How: Adjacent Muni lines: 3, 8X, 38, 30, 45, cable cars. The Powell Street BART/Muni station is a 10-15 minute walk away, as are Market and Mission street lines.

About our speaker, Supervisor Jane Kim

We’re pleased to welcome Supervisor Kim to our April meeting. Supervisor Kim was elected as District 6 supervisor in November 2010. Her district includes many eastside neighborhoods including Civic Center, South of Market, Mission Bay, the Tenderloin, Treasure Island, and Yerba Buena Island.

She is chair of the City & School District Committee, vice chair of the Land Use Committee, and a member of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. She also chairs the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), which has responsibility for the new Transbay Terminal.

The Supervisor’s policy priorities include land use, affordable housing production, homelessness, pedestrian safety (#VisionZero), public education, economic justice and development, and building capacity for nonprofits and neighborhood organizations in her district.

Supervisor Kim is past President of the SF Board of Education. Previously she was an attorney at Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and was a community organizer at Chinatown Community Development Center.

She received a dual B.A. from Stanford, in Political Science and Asian American Studies, and received her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall.

Eligibility to endorse

Those who were members in 2012 or 2013, but haven’t yet paid 2014 dues, can renew their memberships at the meeting. Standard dues are $35 with a $15 discounted rate for students and seniors.

We accept cash and checks at the meeting. You also can renew securely by credit card using PayPal using the buttons in the right-hand sidebar.

Issues and Endorsements Committee recommendations

The recommendations of the Issues and Endorsements Committee are listed below.

These are recommendations of the committee only and do not constitute club endorsement. Club endorsements will be issued after member ballots are counted.


The committee unanimously recommends:

Nancy Pelosi for U.S. House of Representatives, District 12.
Jackie Speier for U.S. House of Representatives, District 14.
David Chiu for State Assembly, District 17.
Phil Ting for State Assembly, District 19.

The committee recommends, without opposition except where noted:

Jerry Brown for Governor.
Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor (8 of 9 votes).
Betty Yee for Controller.
Alex Padilla for Secretary of State.
John Chiang for Treasurer.
Kamala Harris for Attorney General.
Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner.
Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization, District 2.
Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction (7 of 8 votes).

The committee recommends:

Daniel Flores for Superior Court, Office 20 (4-3 over Carol Kingsley).


The committee recommends as follows:

Proposition A: Support (6-2)

Earthquake Safety & Emergency Response Act – Bond measure to allow $400 million in new bonds to finance the construction, acquisition, improvement and seismic retrofit of neighborhood police and fire stations and the emergency firefighting water system, and the retrofit of other facilities, including the Medical Examiner, Police Department Traffic Company and the Police Department Forensic Services Division.

Pro: Legitimate public safety need that justifies issuance of City bonds.

Con: Would increase City debt load and property taxes.

Proposition B: Oppose (7-0, one abstention)

Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Act – Initiative ordinance. Would not allow developers to exceed any current height limits on the city waterfront unless the proposed height increase has been approved by the voters.

Pro: Ensures citizen voice in waterfront planning. The 8 Washington project demonstrated this need.

Con: Any planning issues are systemic, not endemic to waterfront. Blunt instrument that hits the wrong nail.

Proposition 41: Support (7-1)

California Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act – Bond measure. Would amend the Veterans’ Bond Act of 2008 to reduce the amount of authorized bonds from $900 million to $300 million. At the same time, it would authorize $600 million in new bonds to provide multifamily housing, such as apartment complexes, to low-income veterans and supportive housing for homeless veterans. The cost would average about $50 million annually for 15 years.

Pro: No net increase in bond-issuance authority. Reallocates unissued bonds for a previously approved and valid public goal.

Con: Would increase annual costs to state General Fund.

Proposition 42: Oppose (7-0, one abstention)

A Constitutional amendment that would require local agencies to comply with the Public Records Act.  This requirement would be exempt from the Constitutional prohibition on unfunded mandates.

Pro: Open meetings and open access are obvious public benefit that deserve extension to localities.

Con: Explicit creation of new unfunded mandate is troubling. Impact to local governments unknown.


2014 Executive Board

At its April meeting, the club will consider the following nominated slate for its 2014 Executive Board:

President – Michael Ho
First Vice President – Erik Cummins
Second Vice President – Heidi Machen
Treasurer – Steve la Plante
Recording Secretary – Jim Reilly
Corresponding Secretary – Clay Harrell
Members at large – Kat Anderson, Michael Breyer, Michelle Parker

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, a “Cop’s Cop,” Addresses City Democratic Club

By Erik Cummins
First Vice President

Club Treasurer Steve la Plante (left) on
SFPD Chief Greg Suhr: “A cop’s cop”

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr doesn’t need a public relations person. Or at least he didn’t need one when he met with the City Democratic Club February 20.

(For that matter, he doesn’t need a driver, since he drives himself, or a security detail. It would be hypocritical, he said, to suggest that he couldn’t be safe in a town that he’s tasked with keeping safe.)

Speaking at the historic Chancellor Hotel near Union Square, Chief Suhr was gregarious, candid, well informed and, at times, blunt. He spoke with a distinctive brand of humor, sometimes poignant and occasionally hard-edged. This was a detail-minded administrator whom longtime club officer Steve la Plante introduced as a true “cop’s cop.”

A tough time to start

Suhr, a native San Franciscan whose great-grandfather founded Tadich Grill, joined the force in 1981 as a beat cop in the Tenderloin. In 2011, after making his way through the “chairs,” Mayor Ed Lee appointed him Chief. Suhr allowed that it was a “tough time” to start. He inherited a poor reputation in the community, a high crime rate, a multi-million-dollar budget gap, an FBI investigation, and the need to let go of 300 officers.

With the recession over, Suhr said that now “it’s hard to believe we had [a budget gap].” He cut $2.4 million from the top, eliminating some legal and upper civilian positions and negotiating a staggered system of employee raises with the Police Officers’ Association.

Relearning responsiveness

Next, he made the department start answering to the people.

He stripped out the Byzantine phone tree that protected the SFPD from callers.

He broke down the doors, literally. The SFPD’s space in the Hall of Justice was a maze that Suhr deemed reminiscent of the 60s TV show “Get Smart.” Suhr ordered the doors blocked open.

And he brought the department into the 21st century. At Suhr’s 2011 appointment, Facebook was already top of the heap, but the SFPD didn’t even have email. Suhr established email — “It took a signature,” he quipped — but kept going, handing smartphones to all officers and connecting them to criminal-justice databases that allow real-time research in investigations. Now, instead of being last in tech, the SFPD was first in California.

(The phones aren’t always for finding perps. Once an officer responded to a blocking-driveway tow call. The officer ran the plates and saw the vehicle registered next door. He knocked on the owner’s door. It was a genuine mistake; car moved, tow avoided.)

Community policing

As for his much-publicized community policing efforts, Suhr hates it. Not the work, but the term itself. “It’s just policing,” he stressed. “It’s just people.”

His marching orders: “Do more talking.” As a result, he said with a grin, officers are “becoming more and more charming.” The public is responding. Now chats with neighborhood people yield bonds, yield trust, and sometimes yield information relevant to cases.

Suhr also has worked to break down barriers among expert disciplines.  Likewise, he has distributed the force’s motorcycles and dirt bikes from the Hall of Justice to the areas where they are most needed, like Golden Gate Park.

Stay in school, stay out of prison

A key way to reduce crime, Suhr said, is to get kids to stay in school, high school in particular. Engaging youth is a primary focus of his and one that he extends to the force. He expects his officers to spend time as adult mentors to kids in boys and girls clubs. He cites a strong statistical correlation between crime and high-school dropout rates.

Suhr noted that since the state began to move inmates from state to local facilities — from where many are released into communities — property crimes are up 20 percent. But thieves have moved into the 21st century as well.

“Open air street narcotics are way down because the bad guys are stealing cell phones,” he said. A stolen phone can be worth $200 cash. Phone theft now makes up 2/3 of robberies. The SFPD has been lobbying, with other groups, to provide a “brick” button, making a stolen phone useless, forever, once reported stolen. The carriers are resisting this.

Walking on the streets of San Francisco

There have already been four pedestrian deaths this year. It is February.

“It’s a super crowded city,” Suhr said. The City has gained 125,000 residents in 20 years and 96 percent more bicycles since 2000, many of whom are checking Facebook on the street.

“Inattention is a big problem,” Suhr said, both for drivers and pedestrians. As kids, we were taught to look both ways — and we don’t. California law gives pedestrians the right of way in nearly all circumstances. To those who see this as carte blanche for crossing anywhere at any time, Suhr cautions: “You might be right, but you could be dead right.”

Sleeping on the streets of San Francisco

The last comprehensive census of the homeless was ten years ago and counted 6,500 homeless. Since then, the City has housed 10,000 people and given another willing 8,000 the transportation costs to return them home. In the last census, we still had 6,500.

Despite helping 18,000 people, Suhr said, the headlines blared: “City does nothing on homelessness.” But it’s no wonder critics think the City is doing nothing, he said, looking grimly at the top-line number.

Making the future brighter

“You’re going to see a lot more officers walking around,” Suhr said. “Technology is getting better.” Improved technology, for instance, has helped the department to clear more homicide cases this year than have occurred. Officers can search case files and look up license plate numbers from their smartphones. Suhr said phones are an officer’s best friend — not only the officer’s own phone, but also the one that a suspect was carrying.

Suhr was encouraged by the number of young officers who want to live and work in San Francisco. Having local officers is important, he said. “The best police officers anywhere have to have some skin in the game.” On the other hand, he noted that having non-local officers isn’t a real security risk for the City, provided staffing is done intelligently.

Call me, definitely

Don’t be concerned about “bothering” us with calls, Suhr said. It’s the department’s job. “We’re never too busy to take a phone call.”

At the meeting, Suhr took specific concerns from the membership, wrote them down, and promised to have them investigated.

The room nodded its belief.

The City Democratic Club thanks SFPD Chief Greg Suhr for making the time to speak to us.