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London Breed wins second most powerful seat in San Francisco, city of hope

January 11, 2015

Board of Supervisors presidential acceptance speech delivered Jan. 8, 2015, by London Breed

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors elevated first term Supervisor London Breed to its presidency on Jan. 8, voting 8-3, then 11-0 to make her the second Black woman after Doris Ward in 1990 to hold the seat. The board president is second only to the mayor as the most powerful person in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors elevated first term Supervisor London Breed to its presidency on Jan. 8, voting 8-3, then 11-0 to make her the second Black woman after Doris Ward in 1990 to hold the seat. The board president is second only to the mayor as the most powerful person in San Francisco.

Thank you to my colleagues.

Thank you to Mayor Lee, to our clerk, Angela Calvillo, to our city attorneys and all of the staff in this building and throughout the city who work so hard on behalf of the people of San Francisco.

Thank you for serving. Thank you for placing this enormous trust in me today.

And, as I remind myself every day, thank you to the people of District 5. I am forever grateful for the trust you have placed in me.

I sit up here today, reflecting on where I started, in a public housing unit right down the street, five of us living on $700 a month.

  • I remember standing in line at church for donated food, and standing in line at the fire house for our Christmas toys.
  • I remember seeing a friend shot dead when I was 12 years old.
  • I remember when “recycling” meant drinking out of used jars because we couldn’t afford glasses.
  • I remember the feeling of being left out, isolated, being powerless in a city that moved by me so fast.

But I had a grandmother who loved me. And early on I learned a lesson that San Francisco should carefully remember today: wealth is nothing without love.

I was loved, and I was embraced by a system that, even with all its faults, cared about me.

  • Each morning I woke up in a federally-funded housing unit.
  • I rode a city Muni bus to a public school.
  • I had dedicated teachers who believed in me and helped me secure government scholarships to a top notch state university.
London Breed, who was born and raised in public housing in the district she represents, District 5, which includes the historically Black Fillmore, once known as Harlem of the West, is elected president of the board on Jan. 8, 2015. – Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, special to SF Examiner

London Breed, who was born and raised in public housing in the district she represents, District 5, which includes the historically Black Fillmore, once known as Harlem of the West, is elected president of the board on Jan. 8, 2015. – Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, special to SF Examiner

What we do here has never been academic for me. I am the product of liberal policies. And I am here because they can work. They can offer a hand up to those who need it most.

I may sit here today as the president of the Board of Supervisors, but I will never forget being that isolated girl in public housing. Because at one point or another, in some small way, we are all the supervisor and the lonely girl, the landlord and the tenant, the homeless man and the tech titan. We are all these people, and we should never sacrifice one for the other.

I served the African American Art and Culture Complex, I ran for supervisor, because I want to help those who feel like I did, who feel left out and left behind. That is what drives me. That’s who I am.

I am not a moderate. I am not a progressive. I am a San Franciscan.

And I believe San Franciscans don’t need ideology; they need results.

  • They need a balanced budget.
  • They need safe streets, clean parks, a reliable public transportation system.
  • They need job opportunities, supportive services, ambulances that arrive on time, and public schools that keep families in San Francisco.
  • And most of all, they need an affordable and safe place to live.

We can achieve these goals together.

I am the product of liberal policies. And I am here because they can work. They can offer a hand up to those who need it most.

As I look around the Chambers this evening, I think what an honor it is to work alongside colleagues as smart and dedicated as the 10 of you.

I consider myself fortunate to be able to work with:

  • Supervisor Avalos on landmark environmental protections;
  • Supervisor Cohen on public safety and the African American community;
  • Supervisor Mar on formula retail protections and funding for community arts programs;
  • Supervisor Tang on rebuilding Kezar and leading GAO;
  • Supervisor Kim on workforce training;
  • Supervisor Yee on pedestrian safety;
  • Supervisor Farrell on balanced budgets and public housing evictions;
  • Supervisor Campos on health care for all our workers;
  • Supervisor Wiener on … well, Scott works on everything but especially transportation.
  • And I look forward to working with our newest colleague, Supervisor Christensen, who I know was instrumental in the development of the state of the art public library in North Beach.
Supervisor London Breed spoke out strongly for saving Marcus Books, the nation’s oldest Black book store, at a press conference there on June 10, 2013. Now that Marcus Books has been evicted from its historic home, she is pledging to continue to support its reopening. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Supervisor London Breed spoke out strongly for saving Marcus Books, the nation’s oldest Black book store, at a press conference there on June 10, 2013. Now that Marcus Books has been evicted from its historic home, she is pledging to continue to support its reopening. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

The important point to me is that each one of us can say this about each of our colleagues. We share a passion, an issue, a district problem with each of the others. And we are stronger when we work on these issues together.

I owe an enormous debt to David Chiu for showing how a board president can build cohesion and collegiality and foster an environment where doing the people’s business is more important than waging political fights. I thank Katy Tang for stepping up to continue that role.

And I pay homage to former Supervisor Doris Ward, the first African American female board president, who blazed this trail long before me. I intend to follow in their footsteps.

I will make balanced committee assignments. I will run efficient, collegial meetings. And I will always maintain an open line of communication with all my colleagues.

I know I can be direct, at times maybe too blunt. But you will know where I stand. And know I respect you 100 percent.

I will do all I can to keep our Board of Supervisors from being colored by campaigns for other offices.

We have enormous challenges before us. Yet fundamentally, to me, they boil down to two things: growth and security. We are adding jobs but losing confidence.

Over the next 25 years, we will have 250,000 new people wanting to live here, in addition to the 800,000 who are already struggling to stay here.

We have enormous challenges before us. Yet fundamentally, to me, they boil down to two things: growth and security.

How can we accommodate this growth, or any growth, if our own residents don’t feel secure in their homes? How can we roll out the welcome mat while we show our friends and neighbors the door?

San Francisco has the highest or second highest rent in the country, depending on which report you read, and is the least affordable place to buy a home. Between 2010 and 2013, we added about one new housing unit for every 10 new residents.

London on her float in the Gay Pride Parade on June 28, 2014

London on her float in the Gay Pride Parade on June 28, 2014

We need to build about 18,000 new affordable units in the next seven years. Yet in the last seven years, we only built one third that number. And even if we can securely house everyone, the city is not prepared to serve a larger population.

Many of our Muni lines are running over capacity already, and the trains filter through a single Market Street spine that chokes the entire system.

Emergency medical calls have gone up over 20 percent in the last decade, but our ambulance resources have not kept up. And San Francisco is still almost 300 police officers short of the minimum staffing level the voters set 20 years ago.

As a city, we have to make some tough decisions.

  • How hard will we fight to house our residents?
  • Will we build the affordable units we need?
  • If we are to grow, can we do it without sacrificing our unique personality?
  • Can we create a 21st century transportation system, or provide 21st century services to all our people?

These are the questions we face, and they are not easy. But as Robert Kennedy said, “If our times seem difficult and perplexing, so too are they challenging and filled with opportunity.”

I for one believe, as I always have, in San Francisco’s ability to meet its challenges. San Francisco is for America what America has always been for the world – the place of hope.

For centuries, the dreamers, the pioneers, the wanderers, and misfits have heard the call to “head west.” Head west in search of fortune. Head west in search of freedom. Head west because there you will be accepted for who you are.

I for one believe, as I always have, in San Francisco’s ability to meet its challenges. San Francisco is for America what America has always been for the world – the place of hope.

That’s what it means to be San Francisco.

  • It is the pride of seeing 36 states legalize gay marriage, when only a decade ago we were alone in the woods.
  • It’s building a bridge over waters no one thought we could cross, then doing it again a year later.
  • It’s three World Series in five years.
  • It’s trusting the girl from public housing with the board presidency.
  • It is the belief that something is only impossible because San Francisco hasn’t done it yet.

Our city is the beacon, the light that shines the way. And from the Chambers of City Hall to the shores of the Pacific, I tell you with all my heart, I am proud to stand beside you as we shine that light for the world to see.

Thank You.

District 5 Supervisor London Breed can be reached at 415-554-7630 or Breedstaff@sfgov.org.

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