andrew sullivan for supervisor (district 5)

Important: Details on my Supervisorial campaign are now at  I'm keeping this here as well but won't be updating it.

I'm running for Supervisor in San Francisco's District 5.

San Francisco needs strong leadership on the Board of Supervisors to tackle difficult issues facing our city.  Our current Supervisor, Board President Matt Gonzalez, has shown that a strong voice for District 5 on the Board of Supervisors can accomplish a great deal for San Franciscans and residents of our neighborhood.  With his departure, District 5 (Western Addition, Haight Ashbury and Inner Sunset) voters will have the opportunity to choose a new representative, and I would be honored to represent our district at City Hall.

I'm an experienced advocate for reform of San Francisco government.  As Chair of Rescue Muni, I've been an advocate for better and more reliable service for Muni riders, and successfully pushed for accountability of the San Francisco Municipal Railway.  I led the campaign for Muni Reform in 1999 that culminated in Proposition E,
the successful Muni reform Charter Amendment, together with leading advocates for alternative transportation and the environment - and since that time the Municipal Railway has improved significantly in reliability.  By Rescue Muni's measurement, Muni cut delays in half from 1998 to 2002, and has continued to improve since then.

In 2003, I served on the Expenditure Plan Advisory Committee and successfully urged the Transportation Authority to include Geary Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit projects in Proposition K.  This was the measure to renew San Francisco's sales tax for transportation, approved by 74% of the voters last fall.  Rescue Muni's many dedicated volunteers have successfully advocated many other improvements, including the Castro Shuttle, keeping BART service on the Fast Pass, expanded bus lanes, and more.   (Rescue Muni is proud to be an all-volunteer organization.)  I'm also a long-time member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and am a strong supporter of the San Francisco Bike Network.

I've lived in the Western Addition for nine years.  For one born and raised in the suburbs (first Arlington, VA and then Ann Arbor, MI) the vibrant urban environment that is the Western Addition (and central San Francisco more generally) was a breath of fresh air when I moved to San Francisco in 1995.  I've been involved in San Francisco issues because I love this town - and because I think it can be so much better with good leadership.  (I joined Rescue Muni largely because I was used to the service from the Metro in Washington, and I was appalled at what I saw when I moved here.)

I'm also involved in the arts in San Francisco, chairing for the last two years the Board of Directors of Crowded Fire, one of San Francisco's most dynamic small theater companies.  See our newest show, Slaughter City (review) at the EXIT Theatre downtown.  I've been proud to help promote what we call "difficult art" - theater that challenges the actors, designers, and audience to view theater in new ways.  (And the productions are damn good, if I may say so as a board member and long-time fan!)  And I am a long-time participant in Burning Man - though I haven't been the one building the enormous sculptures, I've been delighted to participate in this amazing festival of very large scale art (and much more!) in the Black Rock Desert.  2004 will be my eighth year as a citizen and active participant in Black Rock City.

What will I stand for? 

While a Supervisor needs to deal with a wide array of issues on the Board, there are a few areas that I think need particular help, and I plan to focus my efforts here.

1. More and better housing! 

The housing shortage in this city is appalling.  Anyone who has tried to buy a home here knows that the costs are nothing short of outrageous, and they are only getting worse.  For renters, the situation isn't so bad at the moment, but remember 1999-2000? The shortage that drove rents up to two and three times historic levels could easily happen again.  Before we know it, once again renters could be driven out of the city by rising costs and evictions - simply because more people want to live here than there are places to live.

I live in a rent-controlled apartment, and am grateful for the advantages rent control offers.  I certainly don't recommend making any changes there (for example, to make owner move-ins or condo conversions easier).  But San Francisco's leaders must focus their efforts on promoting new housing construction.  I don't recommend huge towers in historic neighborhoods - nobody wants that - but I do strongly feel that we need to build housing in scale with neighborhoods, particularly along major transit corridors such as Geary and Third Street.  Petrini Place at Fulton and Masonic is a good example of a project that has only benefited the neighborhood.

We need new housing for sale and for rent, and for all income levels.  Only with significant new building can we reduce costs for new homeowners, prevent urban sprawl, and help house San Francisco's homeless, many of whom are living on the streets or in shelters because they can't find a place to live.

As Supervisor, I will advocate strongly for preservation of our historic neighborhoods - and I will work to promote much-needed housing that fits into the urban fabric.

2. Better transportation.

San Francisco has seen significant improvements in public transit in recent years.  When I joined Rescue Muni in 1996, the Municipal Railway was a disaster, suffering from years of underfunding and a complete lack of accountability.  Rescue Muni volunteers worked hard to pass Proposition E in 1999, which help put Muni on the right track by establishing strong service standards, providing a guaranteed subsidy from the General Fund, and taking the day-to-day management of Muni out of politics.  While Muni still has its problems, service reliability is much improved from the pre-Prop E days, according to Muni's own data as well as Rescue Muni's annual survey.

But we can do much more.  As Supervisor, I will remain a strong advocate for better public transportation, pedestrian safety, and bicycling.  I will advocate for faster service for Muni riders, via expansion of Bus Rapid Transit and electric bus service in central San Francisco and citywide.  I will strongly urge Muni to move quickly on plans for Geary Light Rail, and make it a priority in my involvement with the Transportation Authority.  I will also push for the long-delayed "G Line" historic streetcar to Golden Gate Park - a project which will reduce the influx of cars into the park and serve many more tourists than the garage currently being built.  I will work for rapid completion of the long-delayed Bike Network.  And I will continue to stand for accountability at Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic, voting to confirm members of the Municipal Transportation Agency Board who will demand safe and reliable service that meets Muni's Service Standards.  And I will demand strong enforcement of traffic safety and transit priority rules (e.g. bus zones, red light running).

3. A cleaner, more beautiful city.

Visitors to San Francisco often comment on how dirty San Francisco's streets are - particularly downtown, but in the neighborhoods as well, notably commercial corridors such as Haight, Divisadero, and Fillmore.  Garbage is left on street corners and dumped in the streets with no regard for who will pick it up, or who will pay for the cleanup.  San Francisco DPW does a good job cleaning up after us and working with the community to promote cleanup events and Adopt-A-Block programs, but it's clearly not enough. 

The minimum fine for littering is $164, but who gets fined?  Almost no one. Enforcement of San Francisco's laws against dumping and littering is virtually nil.  Part of the problem is that enforcement appears to be limited to environmental control officers employed by the DPW, instead of the SFPD, who witness littering all the time and don't write tickets.  The city can ask the public to "think before you litter," but it doesn't make much of an impression when everyone who throws garbage, urinates in public, writes graffiti, or allows his dog to soil the parks without cleaning up gets away with it.  Just as non-enforcement of traffic regulations encourages drivers to block bus zones and run red lights with impunity, non-enforcement of environmental laws encourages people to throw litter with impunity.

As Supervisor, I will demand that San Francisco enforce the law against trashing our city.  I will sponsor legislation to increase the fine for littering to at least $200, and demand that it be enforced whenever possible, by police and environmental control officers alike.  And my legislation will require that those who can't pay the fines work them off, as is done with "Project 20" for parking tickets, by cleaning up garbage left by fellow offenders.  This way there will be no excuses.

When camping or hiking on public land, the rule is Leave No Trace - no littering and no vandalism.  We should have the same standard in the city that we love.

4. Accountability in city government.

I got involved in Rescue Muni because I was dissatisfied with the quality of service from San Francisco's Municipal Railway, and because I believed strongly that San Francisco could do better.  While the results haven't been perfect, Proposition E did make a big difference in helping Muni become more accountable to the public for reliable service, and we expect this trend to continue.  We were able to get Proposition E on the ballot through hard work by many dedicated volunteers, fueled by the belief that reliable transit service was critical to our city.

The same tools that we used in Proposition E - strong service standards, pay for performance, dedicated funding, professional management, and active citizen involvement in the running of the railway - can be used to improve service at many other departments of the City and County government.  Understanding that our budget is extremely tight this year, I strongly support implementation of a Compstat system to track crime in the Police Department, and I will support initiatives to implement service standards in other City departments.  (The NextBus system currently being installed at Muni is an excellent example of the systems that can be used to measure and improve reliability.)  San Franciscans deserve value for the money they spend in service fees and taxes, and I will be a strong advocate for measures such as these to promote accountability and service quality.

Other issues

Of course the issues I've listed here are a very small subset of what I would work on as Supervisor.  I will also stand for equal rights, particularly San Francisco's brave and historic challenge to discriminatory marriage laws; fiscal responsibility, understanding that we must balance our books every year and not overspend in good times as happened a few years ago; job creation, so people can afford to live in our beautiful city; better care for the homeless, particularly the supportive housing in the "Real Housing, Real Care" program adopted by the Supervisors last year; promotion of the arts (particularly small nonprofits) as a crucial part of San Francisco's status as a cultural mecca; and better public education so San Franciscans don't have to leave town to find decent schools for their children.  I'll post more ideas on these issues as the campaign season progresses.

I hope you'll join me.

With your help we can make San Francisco an even better place to live and work.  Send me email so I can keep you posted on how YOU can help.  Thanks so much!
Updated 5/26/04.  Copyright 2004 Andrew Sullivan.  ?s/!s email: