City Hall

City Hall: Supervisor Gordon Mar

Recall Elections and Public Safety

Last month, voters decisively chose a different direction for the school board, recalling all three Board of Education Commissioners on the ballot by large margins. 

In the Sunset, nearly 85% of those who voted made it clear that they saw these commissioners as unfit to continue leading SFUSD. And they had good reason to – for too long, our district has been embroiled in controversy after controversy, as bad decision-making processes led inevitably to bad decisions. While I didn’t and don’t support many of those decisions, I also didn’t support the recall, and many have asked me why. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain. 

Thirty-six percent of eligible San Francisco voters voted in the February special election. That’s a tragically low number. Many of those who did vote voted for the first time, as many parents were motivated to oust school board leaders they felt were failing their children. As a parent myself, I understand this, and seeing first-time voters engaged and empowered is always a good thing for our democracy. But no matter how lopsided the outcome, 64% of voters didn’t vote at all, which is a bad outcome for democracy and democratic participation. 

When tweets from Commissioner Alison Collins disparaging Asian students and parents were brought to light, I called on her to resign. I did this publicly in a letter, and privately in difficult and disappointing conversations I had with Commissioner Collins. I left those conversations convinced she was unfit to continue serving our students. 

I also opposed the School Board’s decision to remove merit-based admissions at Lowell High without a sufficient public process. I sent the Board of Education a letter before they voted on this, and again after their decision was partially voided in court. I wish Commissioner Collins had the grace to resign, and I’m glad she will no longer be in public office. And I wish the Board of Education had taken a better path for deciding admissions at Lowell. And still, I could not sign on to recalls that were, by design, decided by a minority of voters. 

I think all San Franciscans deserve a say in decisions that impact their lives, and we know that special elections leave too many voters unheard. I don’t think a higher turnout would have changed the outcome. The recall results are legitimate, and so are the reasons for them. I also don’t think we should celebrate or support bad processes, even when they lead to good outcomes. This is true for the School Board and their missteps. It’s also true for their recall.

I’m looking forward to the new Board of Education members charting a new path under the leadership of now-President Jenny Lam. I hope they listen to the parents who organized to be heard and changed the course of our schools and our City. I also hope they reach out to and engage with the majority of San Franciscans who didn’t feel motivated to participate in the recall election at all. Our students desperately need and deserve support. We all need to come together and make ourselves heard to fight for it. 

Over the past few years, I’ve fought for and secured supplemental funding for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs in all District 4 public schools, for before- and after-school care and Early College programs citywide, and for raises for teachers and educators. I led the negotiations with Mayor London Breed to secure a decade’s worth of Free City College funding, created the Workforce Education and Recovery Fund and followed through on my promise to bring City College classes to the Sunset. I’ll continue to work hand-in-hand with parents and school communities to deliver for our children, and to put outcomes over egos and results over rhetoric. I hope our new School Board does, too. 

In June, we’ll decide another recall – our fifth in less than a year – of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. I also oppose this recall on principle. Reasonable people can disagree about Boudin’s record and policies. But still, recalls are not normal elections. Voters are not given a choice between candidates, policies or platforms. With recalls, we don’t get to choose between visions for the future or decide who is best suited for an elected role. And when recalls succeed, voters don’t get to choose the officials who hold those important elected seats at all; the mayor does. And while I support many of Mayor Breed’s appointments, I believe strongly that our elected leaders – from our public schools to the Hall of Justice, no matter how much I or anyone might disagree with some of their decisions – should be chosen by the voters and not by politicians. 

I’m sure there will be many spirited debates over the next few months about public safety, incarceration, prosecution, charging decisions and criminal justice reform. I look forward to these important discussions. Meanwhile, I will continue to focus on my role as a legislator and my responsibility as a policymaker to improve public safety outcomes in the Sunset and across San Francisco. 

At the start of the Lunar New Year, I joined with community leaders, SFPD Taraval Station and city agencies to announce the Five-Point Sunset District Community Safety Plan. These five new programs are aimed at ensuring the safety of the community with a focus on seniors, small businesses and Asian American residents. 

Self-Help for the Elderly is providing senior escorts and video doorbells in seniors’ homes. A team of District 4 community ambassadors will be deployed in Sunset and Parkside commercial corridors by the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. The Sunset Safety Squad is a volunteer-based safety outreach program, and the Sunset Safety Network will coordinate and expand public safety programs and community engagement in the neighborhood. For more information about these new programs, contact my office.

Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at 415-554-7460 or marstaff@sfgov.org

9 replies »

  1. There was enough press and mail coverage to reach all voters eligible. That they chose not to is part of an ongoing problem of voter malaise.

    Recalls are problematic but it is a legal process and this one was successful because it was so clear the Board was not doing the job of supporting student education during a crisis. Most recalls fail. Perhaps some voters who did vote were not normally in favor of a recall.

    But because Commissioner Collins did not have the grace to either apologize or resign, voters were pushed beyond their tolerance. A recall had to be voted on.

    I’m sorry Commissioner Faluuga got caught up in that but he unfortunately was associated with the illegal actions taken by the Board to push an agenda without following due process.

    You say a larger turnout would not have changed the outcome. Perhaps the nonparticipating voters made the calculation of that happening and opted out of voting. Again, not a good sign but not what I would say is an example of minority rule. The whole basis of the Senate is an example of how entrenched minority rule is in America.

    As responsible members of society, we should actively support the principle that many fought and died for — the right to vote.

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  2. Supervisor Mar, Thank you for your interest in our children’s education. The residents of The City will be interested to know that the 3 commissioners were voted IN by 13-15% of people voting for the BoE in 2018. They were voted OUT by 72-79% of the people voting in this year’s Recall. In 2018 Ms. Collins received 122,865 votes to elect. This year she received 134,871 votes to Recall. Ms Lopes received 112,229 to elect and 127,922 to Recall. Mr. Moliga received 107,989 to elect and 121,197 to Recall. San Francisco has not made a habit of having political Recalls. The last Recall attempt, as you know, was for Mayor Feinstein which was unsuccessful. Those favoring the Recall of the BoE believed we could not afford to wait. As you know SFUSD needs a new Superintendent of Schools. Since you disagree with the decision on Lowell, on Ms. Collin’s tweets, and I’m guessing you were disappointed in their Blue Ribbon Committee’s numerous errors as well as the failure of the BoE to do a cost analysis for their 44 name change mandates, I would assume you also would not have had confidence in their choosing the next Superintendent of Schools. SFUSD was at risk of being taken over by the State. The BoE was told to not start any new programs or to spend any additional funds, yet soon before the Recall election they voted to form a new commission at a cost of >$450,000 this year which will add to our $120 million deficit. The Recall was a very democratic process which united the residents of San Francisco. With the mail-in ballets, numerous drop boxes and mail boxes, anyone not voting clearly did not have the interest. You are right in that the number of people voting should be much higher. The challenge in the future is to let the public know more about BoE candidates. Hopefully they will then have the interest in voting.
    D. Isaacs, SF, Balboa Grad
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2022/election-results-sfusd-recall

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  3. Vote Mar OUT!! He is responsible for creating the mess for the people residing in the Outer Sunset. He has no interest in promoting a quality of life for the people who live there. I did this,,,I did that.. PUKE… Rationalizing a “compromise” so that some days the people of Outer Sunset can take a break from having a highway drive through their neighborhood.

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    • Cath. I am flipping the Script. Mar has not done enough to promote Car Free Great Walkway. After taking the environmentally correct position two years ago Mar has caved into The Entitled. He has become a complete waffler, just like Connie Chan, and is listening to the howls of motorists. FIGHT PUTIN. RIDE A BIKE.

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