San Francisco has always been a town of transitions. Waves of immigrants pass through and families from all over the world settle here. It’s a city that sets trends, a place of openness and tolerance, and a refuge where people come to learn about the world and to discover themselves. It might not always be this way. We are in the midst of a tidal wave of change, one that is being watched across around the world. This transition will have long term repercussions for our city. But it’s not too late, we can change the way we do politics and ultimately change the direction of our city.
At the corner of 22 and Mission twenty four families were forcefully evicted following a mysterious fire. An Arab girl and her father died at another circumspect fire at 24 and Folsom. A young Guatemalan man was killed by police who did not identify themselves; and Alex Nieto was shot over 59 times while he was eating lunch on Bernal Hill — in a neighborhood where he spent most of his life — simply because two recently arrived neighbors found him scary.
Alex Nieto, who was shot at over 59 times while eating lunch on Bernal Hill
I have experienced this treatment too. As a musician of children’s songs I was told by a parent not to return to the neighborhood because the neighbors were scared of me. This was at 21 and Valencia, near Liberty street. A neighborhood where I have lived for almost thirty years, in a city where I’ve been a community organizer for over two decades.. But somehow these new neighbors do not experience what new neighbors expressed in the past: a desire to learn, and a desire to become part of the neighborhood.
“What are we going to do about the Mariachi Problem in the Mission?” asked a person at the Board of Supervisors chamber. These new neighbors come with a fear of the unknown. Why do people come with distaste for all that has been here and with a desire to replace all that is here? Why are we erecting barriers between ourselves rather than getting to know each other better? A study by Policy Link, a research and advocacy organization dedicated to the American nonprofit sector, found that San Francisco is predicted to be the “whitest county” in the Bay Area by the year 2040.
Let me be clear: this isn’t a white racial issue, it’s an everyone issue. We have only a few years to create the San Francisco we would all like to live in. Is that a San Francisco comprised of people who place less value on the neighborhood and contributing to the greater good of society? Or is it a working family friendly city again ‘where people speak to and with each other’? as Salvador, a long time resident now working homeless man, said to me a few days ago.
Salvador wants us to speak to and with each other.
When I realized no one would campaign against Mayor Ed Lee because he and his backers have unlimited financial backing, it was necessary to enter the race. Not to enter by joining the circus of U.S. or Mexican politics, where Divas and ‘fronts’ are put out to present the politics of their patrons; but to engage in a distinctive way that’ll change our city forever. I decided to walk, not run. For two reasons:
- Walking is a slow and deliberate step by step process during which you get to meet people and exchange human interactions;
- Walking means we take the circus out of politics, reduce the coverups, and eliminate the barriers.
To make a difference we have to re-create a vision and built a movement to drive what we San Franciscans want San Francisco to look like in the next twenty to fifty years.
The movement begins with the Mayor’s race. It includes a plan for making our city more accessible to working families from all income levels. We will enact progressive proposals in this election and looking to the future, prepare the groundwork for a progressive majority at the Board of Supervisors next year.
In order to have our families stay and flourish in San Francisco and see our grandchildren grow here, we must get together and make this happen.
This is the beginning. Join the movement.