Do the right thing! Elect James Keys District 6 Supervisor

James Keys, Black candidate for D6 Supervisor, endorsed by current Supervisor Chris Daly, places people before politricks !

Exclusive interview by mesha Monge-Irizarry

James-Keys-Chris-Daly-JK-campaign-sign-0810-by-Kay-Karpus-Walker, Do the right thing! Elect James Keys District 6 Supervisor, Local News & Views District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly, champion of the “have-nots” in San Francisco for a decade, has passed the torch and endorsed James Keys, his longtime legislative intern and campaign coordinator, to be his successor. “James was by my side through my toughest battles,” Daly told Fog City Journal publisher Luke Thomas. Keys, 48, chairs the San Francisco Board of Mental Health, is president of Alliance for a Better District 6, an organization devoted to increasing participation in elections and government by low-income residents, and former program director for the San Francisco Senior Action Network, where he advocated and taught seniors to shape public policy to empower their lives. He is a member of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Central City Democrats, Community Budget Reform Council, United Playaz, MacCanDo Track and Field Club and Single-Payer Now!

In District 6, the densely populated center of San Francisco, tycoons look down from skyscrapers on streets teaming with people from every corner of the world, from richest to poorest – from homeless people and residents of single room occupancy (SRO) hotels to corporate barons, huge retailers and big developers, from whom Keys refuses to take campaign contributions. Among the many neighborhoods of District 6 are the Tenderloin, South of Market, North Mission, Civic Center, part of the Financial District, Union Square, Hayes Valley, Lower Polk, Lower Nob Hill, South Beach, Yerba Buena, Mission Bay and Treasure Island.

In “The James Keys Story” for Poor Magazine, journalist and SRO resident Marlon Crump described his first meeting with James Keys, who handled all the constituent concerns for Supervisor Daly. “(A)t this office, I was not deferred from being heard, referred to wild goose chases, or discouraged from raising my concerns.” Keys told him, “Even the mayor’s office was referring constituents to Daly’s office.”

“Last year,” writes Crump, “Keys led an unrelenting effort to save funding for critical San Francisco services and programs endangered by budget cuts. Because of his efforts, over $14 million was restored by the Board of Supervisors, and vital programs like the Homeless Drop-In Center, Nutrition for Seniors and Community Behavioral Health Services were saved from depletion.”

Making “The Case for Keys,” his endorsement in Fog City Journal, Supervisor Daly writes: “James’ campaign best speaks to my passion — economic justice for the most vulnerable. In 10 years, I have worked to build a real partnership between my office and struggling communities within the district, and this partnership has yielded some important wins. James can best build on this model, because as a hotel resident and affordable housing tenant, he’s lived it and has a special connection to the district’s base. … (His) campaign (is) aimed to fight injustice, build affordable housing, ensure that everyone has high quality health services, and to take care of our seniors and our young people. James Keys has stepped up to the plate, and I am proud to stand with him.”

Hear James in his own words:

mesha Monge-Irizarry: James, how long have you lived in San Francisco?

James Keys: I have lived in San Francisco for 11 years. I was born in Oakland, so San Francisco is home to me.

MMI: Can you tell us something that most people do not know about you?

JK: Well, I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 25 years. During that time I picked up some impressive cooking skills!

MMI: What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates in San Francisco’s District 6?

JK: Being born here in the Bay Area and living here in San Francisco’s District 6 for over 10 years, I have seen this city go through tremendous changes. I managed the front office for District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly for over three years. Also, as a legislative intern, I worked with Supervisor Daly and his staff to create and advocate for legislation that came out of his office.

James-Keys-Boeddeker-Park-cookout-081410-Jeffrey-Auman-older-brother-Rev.-Gordon-Thomas-mom-June-Thomas-Sup.-Chris-Daly-sister-in-law-Katherine-Thomas-James-by-Elihu-Hernandez, Do the right thing! Elect James Keys District 6 Supervisor, Local News & Views I was able to write policy and resolutions for the supervisor. I handled all of the constituent issues that came into the office and was able to represent the office on many issues in the district, including mental health issues. I have practical experience where my opponents have none.

MMI: I understand that you would be the first ever elected (not appointed) progressive African American male on the Board of Supervisors in the history of our city. How do you feel this is important to our community and to yourself?

JK: I continue to hear from members of the community that African Americans are not properly represented in our local government. There are African Americans who live here and honestly want to see their candidate in office!

MMI: What is your position on the Sanctuary City Ordinance that has been eroded for the past year, and what are the next steps to take?

JK: There has been a lot of discussion regarding my answer about “Sanctuary City” for the SF Young Democrats. San Francisco, in 1989, under a voter-approved sanctuary ordinance, known in the Latino and laborers community as “Santuario,” provided a haven for undocumented immigrants.

In 2008, Mayor Gavin Newsom even launched a taxpayer-funded $83,000 “public awareness campaign” assuring undocumented immigrants that this “Sanctuary City” by the Bay was their inherent protection.

Under the voter-approved Sanctuary Ordinance, SFPD and other city employees are prohibited from inquiring into immigration status and San Francisco would not direct municipal funds or employees towards assisting federal immigration enforcement, unless such assistance is required by federal or state law or a warrant.

We need the next steps to be a RETURN to Santuario!

MMI: James, the word is out on the street that you are running a truly grassroots campaign. What does this mean, and how is it being achieved?

JK: As the coordinator of the Daly ‘06 campaign, I have professional campaign experience. Otherwise, this is truly a grassroots effort. With volunteers alone working on this campaign, we have been able to submit over 1,000 “signatures-in-lieu” to the Department of Elections. Volunteers help shape fundraising drives, messaging and visibility events in this campaign. And these volunteers are SRO hotel residents, youth, seniors, low-income families, homeless people, disabled people, LGBT and people living with AIDS/HIV.

MMI: While it has been demonstrated that you are a champion for the poor, the homeless, people of color, people who are differently mentally able, we often hear about the U.S.’ “disappearing middle class.” Bayview has the highest number of Black homeowners in the city, threatened by foreclosures and predatory loans. How do you plan to defend the rights of homeowners and small businesses?

JK: It seems as though most people only “wake up” to the fact that there is something wrong when it occurs to them. The number of low- and middle-income residents in San Francisco is shrinking as the wealthy population swells, a trend most experts attribute to the city’s exorbitant housing costs. Yet there is a legitimate public policy concern when a city – that many people have lived in for many years and regard as their home – becomes so expensive they can’t afford to live there anymore.

James-Keys’-brother-David-Keys-his-grandson-Ishmel-Mustafa-Brown-James-grandson-Isaac-Malachi-Brown-daughter-Janice-Keys, Do the right thing! Elect James Keys District 6 Supervisor, Local News & Views I will work towards placing people into jobs where they can receive on-the-job training while working and achieving affordable higher education, single-payer health care, a strong and fair labor movement and progressive immigration reform that will allow for the growth of low-income residents to become middle-class residents.

MMI: What does “family values” mean to you as a progressive candidate? What’s the road ahead with the ban on Prop 8?

JK: We all have our biological family – a father and mother and perhaps siblings. Yet we have grown as a people and understand that we can love anyone and everyone. And with that we have a “family,” and it is traditional, in that we share our responsibilities, our trust and our love with those we chose to share it with. As with all ignorance, we must teach by example and reach out to those who do not understand and show those who do not understand that love is love and the family will only become stronger.

MMI: What is your position on 1) de-criminalization, 2) legalization, 3) taxation of cannabis?

JK: De-criminalize it, legalize it and then tax it. Then utilize the revenue to create single-payer health care in California.

MMI: Districts 6 and 10 in San Francisco as well as the Mission are the most criminalized neighborhoods of our city and often the stage of racially biased policing. What are you planning in terms of law enforcement accountability and transparency?

JK: Car patrol eliminated the neighborhood police officer. Police were pulled off neighborhood beats to fill cars. But motorized patrol – the cornerstone of urban policing – has no effect on crime rates, victimization or public satisfaction.

The reality is that the police largely react to crime and there is very little they can do to prevent it. Efforts in recent years to use community oriented policing, problem oriented policing and other strategies to address the conditions that lead to crime are one way that police departments with the resources have responded.

Putting more visible police cars out on the street is politically popular because it makes people feel safer, but there’s little reason to believe crime rates are affected. Foot patrols will deter most “low-level” acts from occurring and instill a real sense of security in our neighborhoods. I will work with the SFPD and the community to expand foot patrols throughout San Francisco.

MMI: You wrote an open letter to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums within 48 hours after the OPD-BART police killing of Fred Collins on July 17, 2010. Did you get a response?

JK: Yes I did. I received a phone call from BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey and had a meeting with him in August 2010 regarding the San Francisco Mental Health Board training BART officers on “Police Intervention and Section 5150,” which is a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code – specifically, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act or LPS –which allows a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person deemed to have a mental disorder that makes the person a danger to him or herself and/or others and/or gravely disabled.

MMI: What is your commitment level about the cleaning of the Hunters Point Shipyard Superfund site and green issues?

JK: San Francisco has my total commitment to cleaning our city and environmental problem sites. Yet we must make sure that the community has “equal say” in the process.

MMI: I heard through the grapevine that you do not engage in candidates’ cat fights. How do you achieve this?

JK: I would say that many of my opponents feel that I am “stand-offish,” yet many people have come to me any “had to tell me what so and so said about me.” To say I have not been disheartened by the “gossiper and the gossipee” would be a lie. So I chose to say as little as possible and continue forward.

MMI: People tend to iconize, “messianize” politicians and city officials. How do you situate yourself along that trend?

JK: I am a public servant and only through public consensus can we move forward. Political figures are not leaders. They are representatives and must listen to the concerns of all residents, mediate a middle ground and then work with their fellow representatives to make our home a better and healthier place to live.

MMI: Any last word of wisdom, James? What is your “Do the Right Thing” campaign motto about?

JK: Social justice is a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution or even property redistribution.

These policies aim to achieve what developmental economists refer to as more equality of opportunity than may currently exist in some societies and to manufacture equality of outcome in cases where incidental inequalities appear in a procedurally just system.

Political figures are not leaders. They are representatives and must listen to the concerns of all residents, mediate a middle ground and then work with their fellow representatives to make our home a better and healthier place to live.

MMI: Way to go, James! Now I understand the depth of your mantra, “Do the Right Thing”! And totally get why you are endorsed by outgoing Supervisor Chris Daly to be his successor, and by Willie and Mary Ratcliff, publisher and editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, by former presidential candidate and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and by Lisa Gray Garcia, aka Tiny, the publisher of Poor Magazine and many more! You look like a winner to me!

You can learn more about James Keys on his campaign website,, where you’ll see his platform, bio, and his email address and phone number. Tell him to add your name as an endorser. You can donate to his campaign there through PayPal to put James on top of the race in D6! Also, check out both his pages on Facebook, James Keys and James Keys for SF Supervisor District 6.

Do the Right Thing ! People Before Politricks!

Mesha Monge-Irizarry, who founded and heads the Idriss Stelley Action and Resource Center, can be reached on ISARC’s bilingual crisis line at (415) 595-8251 or on Facebook.

Some recent media coverage of James Keys for Supervisor

The Case for Keys” by Supervisor Chris Daly, Fog City Journal, Aug. 18, 2010

James Keys Earns Coveted Daly Endorsement for District 6 Supervisor,” El Tecolote, Aug. 11, 2010

Daly Throws His Weight Behind Longtime Aide James Keys” by Jay Barmann, SFist, Aug. 11, 2010

Overheard in Fog City: Daly Endorses Keys” by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal, Aug. 10, 2010

Keys to a better community: The James Keys Story” by Marlon Crump, Poor Magazine, June 29, 2010

At James Keys’ campaign cookout at Boeddeker Park Aug. 14, current District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly endorses James Keys as his successor in the Nov. 2, 2010, election to follow in his footsteps as the people’s champion on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Daly noted that he had kicked off his own first campaign in 2000 in the very same place, recalling, “There were pundits and there were power brokers that were saying, ‘That activist, he didn’t have a chance.’”

James Keys accepts Supervisor Chris Daly’s endorsement.

San Francisco’s RING OF STEEL needs a Crosswalk!

Video by Bill Carpenter,, originally posted to IndyBay