SPECIAL SERIES : 2004 District 7 Supervisor Race
Candidates Discuss Cheaper Muni Rides for SF State Students
October 14, 2004 12:41 PM
Candidates seeking election to the District 7 San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat said they want to help the SF State student population by offering discounted Muni passes or seeking greater input from students.
The [X]press interviewed 10 of the 13 candidates about the election and issues in the district that includes the Inner Sunset, West Portal, West Twin Peaks and Park Merced. Three candidates could not be reached for this article.
Several candidates said they would like to combat traffic and parking issues around SF State by making public transportation more affordable for students.
Financial advisor Isaac Wang would like to include a $75 transportation fee each semester for SF State students. The fee would allow student identification cards to be used as a Muni passes for a discounted fare. Although some students may still choose to drive, Wang called the plan a “no-brainer.”
“That’s the way we’re going to reduce the college student burden of paying the $1.25 or buying the Fast Pass,” Wang said.
But any transportation fee would require an extensive approval process involving Muni, city leaders, the Associated Students Inc., the Student Fee Advisory Committee, SF State President Robert Corrigan and approval of two-thirds of the student body in an advisory referendum. Candidates said obtaining approval from students for fees has proven difficult in the past.
Pat Lakey, a labor union representative and carpenter who worked on the Towers at Centennial Square, would rather offer free rides during peak commuter hours, even if just for a trial period to increase ridership, and send more buses to the routes students regularly use.
“[Muni] should take that into consideration and know these areas and send two or three buses out at a time to accommodate all the students,” Lakey said.
Several candidates agree a discount could be offered to students, but others worry the $10 Fast Pass for youth and seniors could put Muni in a tough financial spot if students also qualified for the reduced fare.
Svetlana Kaff, an immigration attorney who graduated from SF State in 1998, said Muni could use smaller buses or passenger vans for night owl services to compensate for the cost.
“I don’t advocate for reducing Muni staff, just saving money on gas and energy by using smaller buses,” Kaff said.
Former supervisor Tony Hall would have been running for reelection for the District 7 seat, but resigned in August to head the Treasure Island Development Authority. Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Sean Elsbernd to replace Hall, which prompted several more people to enter the race.
At a candidate forum in Jack Adams Hall on Oct. 8, one student told the candidates it was “unacceptable” that the previous supervisor had never visited the campus. Several candidates said they will maintain an “open door” policy if elected to ensure that students feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
Arsenio Belenson, a pet shop owner in West Portal, said students should expect their supervisor to be an active member of the community.
“Some candidates, after the election, you won't see their faces,” Belenson said. “They're coming from the woodwork. Whatever happens, I'll still be there for you. That's the difference between me and them.”
The student population in District 7 -- which has about 43,000 registered voters -- is an important one. SF State, City College of San Francisco and UC San Francisco are all in the district, but candidates said they rarely hear from students.
“We seek them, they love it,” said Michael Mallen, a management consultant who worked for Angela Alioto when she was president of the Board of Supervisors. “But as far as them seeking us, I think it’s a mixed bag. I think they come to us when there’s issues.”
Some of the candidates would like to see SF State students take on an active role in city politics. If elected, Mallen said he would employ a full-time intern from the SF State political science department.
“Interns often focus on issues close to them and it’s great experience for the intern and benefits the office,” Mallen said.
Vernon Grigg said the key is to make sure students are stakeholders in their community.
“I would very much be heartened to hear more from the students and to know that they are engaged in the political dialogue and they're engaged in the political life,” Grigg said. “We need involvement. We need people. We need thoughts. We need ideas. We need energy.”
“They’re often the forgotten citizens who are at that point in their life when they’re figuring out what they want to do,” Lakey said. “I think they’re discounted when they shouldn’t be.”
Please note this is the second article in a two part series.
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