SPECIAL SERIES : 2004 District 7 Supervisor Race
Candidates Visit Campus
Candidates Visit Campus for Votes
October 7, 2004 8:37 PM
Candidates vying for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors appeared at a candidate forum in Jack Adams Hall on Friday to discuss election issues like pedestrian and public safety and diversity in schools.
About 275 SF State students listened to eight out of 13 candidates share their credentials and goals for District 7, which includes SF State, the Inner Sunset and West Portal. A ninth candidate, Isaac Wang, sent a written apology for not being able to attend.
Eighteen students asked the candidates questions about traffic on 19th Avenue, pedestrian safety and car thefts and vandalism around campus. Several candidates debated the San Francisco Unified School District’s controversial diversity index and the Head Start program’s efforts to unionize.
“It’s our one and only chance as students to put them in check,” Jessica Whittle, an international business freshman said. “Under normal circumstances they tell us what they’re going to do and then don’t do it. This is our chance to tell them what we want them to do.”
Sociology freshman Krissi Bettencourt asked the candidates how they plan to enrich her college experience. She told them increased fees forced her to work more and spend less time on campus and studying. Candidate Milton O’Brien interrupted Bettencourt.
“Young lady, that’s up to you,” said O’Brien, a chiropractor who ran for the office four years ago. “It is not our job to make sure that you have an enriched life. You need to go out and make your own experiences.”
Many of the students in the auditorium whispered and shook their heads at the response. It led Bettencourt to change her mind about who’s getting her vote.
[X]Press interviewed nine of the candidates about the election and issues in the district of almost 43,000 registered voters. Four other candidates were unable to be reached in time for this article.
Many of the candidates are running on quality of life issues and all of them offered suggestions for dealing with pedestrian safety along 19th Avenue, where six pedestrians have died since 2001. The high number of people and automobiles driving between U.S. Highway 101, California State Route 1 and Interstate 280 make for a dangerous stretch of road, prompting complaints from local residents and legislators.
Some candidates suggested relatively minor changes to the six-lane roadway including more visibility strips, speed bumps and pedestrian countdown lights. Several proposed reducing the speed limit or increasing fines for speeding. Others have ideas for larger projects such as circular intersections in key areas or pedestrian overpasses and tunnels.
But 19th Avenue is also a state highway, which means whoever is elected on Nov. 2 will have to work with the California Department of Transportation for approval on any changes to the roadway. As a result, some candidates are seeking more local control of the road.
“Even though it’s state controlled, we have the opportunity to have local authority over it, like Van Ness Avenue, which is [a highway and] has exemptions to manage the traffic there from a local jurisdiction,” Shawn Reifsteck told the [X]Press.
Reifsteck is an executive for charitable and nonprofit organizations who worked on the Howard Dean campaign during the presidential primaries and decided to run for office himself while driving home from Iowa after Dean’s defeat.
“If you’re a 65-year-old man or woman, after dark, who are you going to run into down there [in a tunnel]?” O’Brien said.
O’Brien believes laser or infrared lights across an intersection at the level of car’s windshield would caution drivers that pedestrians have the right of way.
Christine Linnenbach, a former public defense attorney, said the traffic coming from commuters driving between Marin and San Mateo counties is a problem. She would like to meet with city, county and state officials to find an affordable solution.
“I’m really being very honest about these issues because finding the money for
At the candidate forum on Friday, incumbent Sean Elsbernd told students funding has already been secured. Now a decision has to be made about whether to create a pedestrian tunnel, overhead bridge walkway or increased visibility for crosswalks.
“Maybe we’re at the point where we have to consider radical changes to 19th Avenue,” Elsbernd told the [X]Press.
Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Elsbernd to the Board of Supervisors on August 5. Then supervisor Tony Hall resigned to head the Treasure Island Development Authority, paving the way for Elsbernd’s appointment. Since then Elsbernd has been balancing his new duties as supervisor with the challenges of launching his first political campaign in a crowded field of 13 candidates with less than one month until Election Day.
“I was thrown into the deep end of the pool,” Elsbernd said. “There’s no question about it.”
[X]Press Staff Writer YaVaughnie Wilkins contributed to this article. Please note this is the first article in a two part series.
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