APA Mayoral Hopefuls

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Who will replace him in November?

Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor, has set the pace for any other Asian American candidate to follow. But with Lee insisting that he will not stand for election in November, a plethora of mayoral hopefuls have stepped up to take his place, including four well-qualified and prominent Chinese Americans.

They include California State Senator Leland Yee, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Wilma Pang, a longtime community activist and college professor.

One-third of the city’s population is Asian Pacific American, and the “slate effect” of the city’s no-runoff voting system increases the odds that for the first time ever, San Franciscans will elect an Asian American mayor.

AsianWeek asked these candidates about their qualifications and their thoughts on the biggest issues facing the city. When asked about pressing issues in the Asian American community, the candidates fell into two camps: one concerned about the immigrant workforce and the other concerned about the general working and middle class.

Though Chiu is a Democrat and Pang is a Republican, both name low-income immigrant issues as the biggest plight facing the city’s APAs.

“What I’ve heard from most candidates is how to attract high-tech companies to come set up shop here. I strongly believe the jobs that need to be created most are those that help people who speak limited English and do not have higher educations,” says Pang, who started a pioneer program “Only in SF Chinatown” to help the struggling restaurant businesses in the neighborhood. “It is a small but important step to help people believe they can help themselves to become important members of the community and can generate income within the community.”

Chiu says that APA businesses are not well represented among city contractors, and low-income APAs often need affordable housing.

“APAs still have a long way to go in the fight for full civil and immigrant rights and lack full language access to government services. APA women and children are still too often victimized by family violence; APA seniors often do not have adequate social services; APA students often lack access to quality education at our public schools,” said Chiu.

Democrats Yee and Ting on the other hand, talked more about concerns of the multi-generational working and middle-class APAs.

“Our next mayor needs to focus on keeping San Francisco affordable for middle-class and working families,” said Yee. “I’ve been around long enough to know how to see the long view and persevere on tough issues. We need a mayor who will put common sense back into government so we can accomplish what we need to get done with the limited resources that we have.

Ting says the city needs a balanced budget.

“Asian Americans face the same issues as every other San Franciscan. We need to make sure government works,” says Ting. “The best solutions rest with our ability to manage our finances and make government work as effectively as it should.”

Here’s a closer look at each of the candidates. Answers have been edited for length.

 

State Senator Leland Yee

Name: Leland Yee
Age: 62
Occupation: California State Senator
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Qualifications: Former school psychologist and teacher; San Francisco Board of Education, 1988-1996; San Francisco Board of Supervisors, District 4, 1996-2002; California State Assembly, District 12, 2002-2006; California State Senate, District 8, 2006-present.

Why I’m running for mayor and what sets me apart from other candidates:

I’ve served the people of San Francisco for 23 years. I was raised here, grew up in Chinatown, and went to public schools, as have my four children.

San Francisco needs a mayor with common sense, experience, and most importantly, we need a mayor who has a track record of delivering results. I’m the only candidate with experience at every level of government and the accomplishments to prove it.

San Francisco’s three biggest issues and how I would fix them:

My priorities will be 1) getting our city budget back in line, 2) reinvigorating our local economy without damaging our vital social and health service infrastructure, and 3) working with our school system to improve the quality of the city’s public education.
My plan for these priorities is to get back to basics. Now is the time to reinforce core services and reevaluate and restructure the way we provide them.

The most pressing issue(s) facing the Asian American community and my solution to fix it: Our next mayor needs to focus on keeping San Francisco affordable for middle-class and working families. I’ve been around long enough to know how to see the long view and persevere on tough issues. We need a mayor who will put common sense back into government so we can accomplish what is needed with the limited resources that we have.

What San Francisco would gain by having an elected Asian American mayor: I think I am the best candidate for mayor not because I am Chinese American, but because I have the experience and the demonstrated ability to get things done. San Francisco has a lot to gain by picking the best candidate for mayor, period, regardless of his or her ethnicity.

 

President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu

Name: David Chiu
Age: 41
Occupation: President, Board of Supervisors of San Francisco
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Qualifications: Former attorney with Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights; former community leader, former prosecutor at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office; founder and former COO of Grassroots Enterprise; San Francisco Board of Supervisors President, 2009-present

Why I’m running for mayor and what sets me apart from the other candidates:

I’m the only candidate who has experience as both an elected official and as founder of a business. My professional and community work have given me perspectives on the challenges that everyday San Franciscans face.

San Francisco’s three biggest issues and how I would fix them:
1) How we work. We need to foster innovation and make it easier to start, build and grow small businesses. As a Supervisor, I’ve eliminated dozens of fees for local businesses, but there is even more red tape to be cut.
2) How we travel. We should fix our potholes now before problems become more expensive. We deserve a MUNI you can set your watch to and the ability to get a cab anywhere when we want. And we should be safe walking and biking around the entire city.
3) How we live together. We can do better in providing truly affordable housing for low-income and middle-class families and building our neighborhoods when residents, merchants and city staff come together on councils to tackle problems. We can do better with community-based budgeting, planning and policing.

The most pressing issues facing the Asian American community and my solution to fix it:

APAs lack full language access to government services, are too often victimized by family violence, often do not have adequate social services and often lack access to quality education at our public schools. APA businesses are not well represented among city contractors, and low-income APAs often need affordable housing. Our capacity to address our challenges is based on our ability to work together and with other communities – to educate, focus attention on areas of need, and tirelessly advocate for changes.

What San Francisco would gain by having an elected Asian American mayor:
I have championed numerous causes critical to the Asian American community, such as the building of the new Chinatown City College campus, the rebuilding of Chinese Hospital and the development of the Central Subway. I will continue such activities – so that we can work together to ensure that political leadership reflects and is responsive to our diverse communities.

 

San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting

Name: Phil Ting
Age: 42
Occupation: Assessor-Recorder
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Qualifications: ChinaSF chair; GoSolarSF co-creator; Reset San Francisco creator; San Francisco Assessor-Recorder, 2005-present

Why I’m running for mayor and what sets me apart from the other candidates:

My focus on practical solutions already sets me apart from the field. My work for ChinaSF is creating new jobs. GoSolarSF is changing how we produce energy. My steady improvements in the Assessor-Recorder’s office means hundreds of millions more in revenue.

San Francisco’s three biggest issues and how I would fix them:

1. Creating jobs.
2. Making basic city services like MUNI and schools work better.
3. Ensuring a clean environment for our children and grandchildren.

The most pressing issue(s) facing the Asian American community and my solution to fix it:

Asian Americans face the same issues as every other San Franciscan. We need to make sure government works, and we need a balanced budget. The best solutions rest with our ability to manage our finances and make government work as effectively as it should. In my own career in government, we closed loopholes and cleared much of our backlog at the Assessor’s office. We now have hundreds of million more dollars to spend on schools, MUNI, job creation and other programs – all without raising taxes.

What San Francisco would gain by having an elected Asian American mayor:

Given the economic growth in Asia, an Asian American mayor would be able to continue to build a strong bridge with the Pacific Rim to encourage investment and create San Francisco jobs. Beyond the economic benefit, we can’t realize our full potential as a city if we don’t have more people involved in civic life. That’s why I started Reset San Francisco – to give voice to everyone who lives and works in San Francisco but doesn’t have the time or the opportunity to be involved.

 

Wilma Pang

Name: Wilma Pang
Age: 70
Occupation: College professor
Political Affiliation: Republican
Qualifications: Community activist; longtime San Francisco resident; over 35 years of teaching experience; multilingual; fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, knowledge of Japanese and Spanish; neighborhood arts coordinator under SF Arts Commission in the 1980s

Why I’m running for mayor and what sets me apart from the other candidates: I am running so that women, seniors and education and the arts community will have a voice at City Hall.

San Francisco’s three biggest issues and how I would strive to fix them:
Muni: I am one of the chartered members of a group made up of concerned citizens, experts and community members who are working to save Muni. We have been meeting regularly to work out plans to help Muni do a better job. The website is: www.savemuni.com
Education: Budget cuts really are detrimental to the future of our children. I will find ways to attract and retain good teachers in the city, so that our kids will receive quality education.
Jobs: I strongly believe the jobs that need to be created most are those that help people who speak limited English and do not have higher educations. My pioneer program, “Only in SF Chinatown”, has been a win-win situation for the arts and has helped the struggling restaurant business in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The most pressing issue(s) facing the Asian American community and my solution to fix it: I have already mentioned above.

What San Francisco would gain by having an elected Asian American mayor:
If I am elected, I would definitely be valuable because I have the language ability and experience to empower the disenfranchised, limited-English population. I have also demonstrated my ability to work internationally, like in Australia where I helped write and run ethnic arts and cultural programs.

 

-Megan Kung and Natalie Schrik contributed to this article.

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