by John Avalos
For the last 10 years, I’ve been championing the protection of services and programs that benefit working class and poor communities, as well as advocating for jobs and the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing in San Francisco.
From my years with Coleman Advocates to working as a union organizer for Justice for Janitors, during my years as a legislative assistant in the District 6 Supervisor’s office and since becoming District 11 supervisor, most of the legislative work I’ve done is to serve low-income families.
This work is important to me because I grew up in a working family and this is my community. I grew up the middle child of seven siblings. Our father was a longshoreman, a second-generation Mexican-American, and grateful to have good work to support his family. Our mother worked as an office manager, and they relied on the community where we grew up to help raise us right.
We moved away from this community when I was in high school and I was able to see, for the first time, the vibrancy and warmth that this extended family of teachers, parents, neighbors and activists brought to my family’s life. My life in San Francisco has been dedicated to finding and building that supportive community for my family and other working families.
Times have changed and spiraling housing costs, a lack of job opportunities and high rates of incarceration and recidivism are among the major obstacles to communities like the people of Bayview Hunters Point being able to stay in San Francisco.
The first obstacle I want to address is jobs. My work in championing the local hiring legislation for construction is emblematic of my commitment to guaranteeing the City makes good on its promise to many of our communities, especially the African American community, to provide real job opportunities.
In the last decade, development that has ultimately driven out many working people and families was promoted under the banner of providing jobs, as was the case with the Hunters Point Shipyard, and our local hiring legislation is a token of my efforts to ensure the City follows through on that pledge. As mayor, I will work with organizations that serve these communities to take decisive action.
As mayor, I will work to expand local hiring, not just for construction but for other sectors, including government jobs. Local hiring will provide job opportunities to the many San Franciscans who need it, but will also ensure that our dollars are spent in our local stores and go back to our local tax base.
I will work to diversify our economic base, so that there will be jobs for all people, not just those who have had access to higher education. As mayor, I will support small business and micro-enterprises, especially those that provide opportunities for residents who face multiple challenges finding employment.
The Office of Economic and Workforce Development should work to serve the employment needs of San Franciscans, and low-wage workers should be the top priority. As mayor, I aim to ensure the office works more closely with our Office of Community Development, public school system, City College and state college to help create real pipelines for local hiring into living-wage jobs.
In conjunction with the office, my administration will prioritize serving our residents, especially low-wage workers. I recognize that the only way working people and people of color can stay in San Francisco is if they are able to find employment. Providing opportunities for employment is and has to be a top priority for the person who sits in Room 200.
Housing and transportation
The second major obstacle that I see to keeping our communities in San Francisco is a lack of affordable housing. To me, “affordable housing” means the preservation of our City’s economic, cultural and racial diversity. This is why affordable housing has been one of my top priorities during my years as supervisor.
I worked to secure $30 million for new affordable housing opportunities, drafted the first effort to create a sustained funding source for affordable housing and created the City’s Rental Subsidy Program for Low-Income Families, which provides rental assistance for those struggling to stay in their homes.
As mayor, I plan on introducing a bond measure to fund affordable housing. Over the past 15 years, a stagnating economic climate and a lack of availability of funds has contributed to fewer and fewer San Francisco renters and a decrease in development in affordable housing. The last time an affordable housing bond measure was approved by voters was Prop A in 1996.
The bond will help build affordable apartment housing and also provide assistance to low-to-moderate income families hoping to buy a home for the first time – including an added incentive for those purchasing homes in need of rehabilitation – as well as to those families facing foreclosure. This bond measure would not simply supplement existing funding programs; if approved by voters, it would be a realistic, progressive approach to permanent funding for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of affordable housing in San Francisco. It is crucial that we continue to support development in our communities, but that the development we work on is both safe and sustainable.
It isn’t enough to create legislation that advocates for affordable housing opportunities; working-class residents in this city need a mayor who will be an active advocate, ensuring that this legislation is effective and that help is given to the communities who need it most.
Prevention means getting to the roots of the problem
To me, safety means getting at the root causes of violence: a lack of opportunity, poor-performing schools, lack of affordable housing, family support and healthcare. As mayor, I will commit to fighting for greater access for all to these life-sustaining services and programs. Most essentially, we need to shore up and improve our reentry services for people coming out of the justice systems, so they can be reconnected with their communities and the services that should be benefitting them.
Visit John Avalos’ campaign website, http://avalosformayor.com/. In this November’s election, voters can vote for up to three of their favorite candidates, ranking them 1, 2, 3. The Bay View believes that either of two candidates would be San Francisco’s best mayor ever and is endorsing both Jeff Adachi and John Avalos for mayor.