Commentary: Sandra Lee Fewer

Leadership Void in SF

When I was thinking about what to write for this month’s column, my mind was in a whirl.  So many things seem to be happening at once, and all of it is a bit chaotic. 

There is a November election happening with many ballot measures and candidates that will determine how the City functions for a long time. There is a ballot measure to undo a ballot measure passed by San Franciscans in an effort to create a more efficient Department of Public Works that proved to hinder the work of that department. There is a ballot measure to consolidate local elections on even-numbered years in an effort to increase voter turnout and there are competing ballot measures on housing (see my September column at for my recommendation). 

The real question is, will these ballot measures actually do anything to change the way our local government functions? What really needs to happen in order for us to transform our City as a place of unity, strength, efficiency and most of all, joy? That said, I think I need to write about the recent Chronicle poll by SFNext. The SFNext poll, conducted in late June and July, asked almost 100 questions about how people feel about life in San Francisco to a random sample of 1,653 residents who reflect the City’s demographics. The results were not very good for our city departments and leaders.

Full disclosure: I usually don’t take a lot of stock in what the Chronicle writes.  It comes from personal experience of providing quotes to the Chron, only to have them omit important points and ignore crucial context. And I usually take polls with a grain of salt. I find that their methods are skewed (depending on who paid for the poll) and the results are often wrong. However, I know a lot of people depend on the Chronicle for their daily news and polls shape our civic discourse, so I wonder what folks thought about this recent poll and the unprecedented low, rock bottom, approval ratings of our city government and its leaders. With the mayor, Board of Supervisors, and Police Department’s approval ratings all sitting around 20%, it’s time we changed course. 

Recent recall elections and the rejection of MTA’s Prop. A were examples of what can happen when folks get really fed up. They move away. They stop looking for solutions and, in fact, offer no solutions. They just want it to stop. They want crime to stop. They want homelessness to stop. They want car break-ins to stop. They want violence to stop, and they want our leaders to make it stop. The big question in all this angst and anger and frustration and hopelessness is how? How do we make it stop? 

As we now see, the recalls did very little to change the way things are. In fact, they introduced more chaos and distrust to our discourse. Appointed school board members recycle old ideas and hurtful comments that further divide the public-school community, causing school board meetings to be recessed due to fighting among adults. Meanwhile, educators are still not being paid and there is still a severe teacher shortage. Revelations about the new district attorney have cast a shadow on her ethical principles, which is not good news especially when her office is responsible for charging public officials for corruption and dishonesty to the public.  More importantly, it turns out she doesn’t charge the perpetrators of violent acts against Asians with hate crimes, which was a big issue in the recall campaign. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t solved crime in San Francisco and isn’t bringing forth any new ideas on how to do so. 

It is time for new, big, bold ideas to solve the issues that have only gotten worse while worn out, old ideas fail again and again. We need to start thinking outside of four-year electoral terms and look to real long-term solutions and root causes. We need to invest in a vision, with clear objectives and a strong commitment of working collaboratively and humanely with each other. We cannot go to the polls every time we disagree. It gets us nowhere and only proves to divide us even more. 

In other words, we need real leadership, a vision for how we can build a better future. We need someone with the courage to do it and we need San Franciscans to start acting like a functional family instead of a highly dysfunctional one. 

“The best policy is created by combining the best hearts with the best minds.”

Sandra Lee Fewer is a fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, former Board of Education commissioner, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors representing the Richmond District and has lived in the Richmond for more than 60 years.

3 replies »

  1. More political double talk from a woman who yelled “ F*!k the POA!” ( police officer ms association) into the microphone as a sitting Supervisor! So many words, so little action, or actual plan.


  2. And what leadership did Sandra Lee Fewer provide on the Board?

    Did she stand up to Phil Ginsburg?

    Did she decry the destruction and privatization of our parks?

    Did she declare Outside Lands to be the anti-environmental, elite-serving travesty that it is?

    She did no such thing!

    She told us that Golden Gate Park is a “venue” and not a place to get away from crass commercialism. And that we were lucky to have only one large concert per year!

    Outrageous and insulting comments!

    At least Chan is trying!

    The others seem to be intimidated and lack spine!

    Voters rejected the SFMTA bond money because we have already seen that they waste the money on absurdities, while failing to deal with basics.

    The system is corrupt to the core. Yes, we do have leadership. We always have had leadership.

    The wrong kind of leadership!


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