While Mayor London Breed has become a fixture in press conferences announcing new strategies in San Francisco’s pandemic response, seldom does the public get to hear her thoughts on what it’s been like to lead the city during such a difficult time.
On the latest episode of the podcast Freakonomics Radio, the Mayor opened up, describing what she thinks are important qualities in a mayor, the difficult tradeoffs she’s had to make to balance the budget, and, most controversially, the obstruction she sees from the Board of Supervisors when it comes to allowing new housing to be built.
Here’s Breed on her role as “reassurer-er in chief,” as host Stephen Dubner described her:
“I really think about it from a perspective of someone who is not mayor. Like, how would I want to feel if I was a citizen of San Francisco and looking to my mayor for guidance of what is going on and what I need to do. And I would want my mayor to be confident, to be honest, to be clear about what I should or should not be doing. And that’s exactly what I’ve done every step of the way with this pandemic. Because, you know, I’m just a regular person. But I happen to be mayor.”
Breed went on to discuss the challenging negotiations her office has had with city employees in regards to planned raises that the mayor’s office tried to postpone given the city’s financial issues. Those raises are now slated to happen if voters pass the business tax overhaul, Prop F, on the November 3rd ballot.
“I’ve made it clear that there are tradeoffs to, you know, not preparing for the future with people working from home, with folks leaving San Francisco, with businesses leaving San Francisco. With tourism and everything that we’re facing. We can’t afford to just spend everything in our reserves in order to deal with this year and to also keep our workforce intact. But there are raises that we committed to and raises that our workforce expects. So it’s really tough.”
Finally, the Mayor talked about the city’s most contentious problem, housing. She laid out her view on why it’s become such a problem:
“I think the problem we have, and why we are seeing even more homeless people than we have in the past has a lot to do with the fact that we have not kept up pace with building more housing.”
And why the Board of Supervisors aren’t making the kinds of changes she supports to try to fix it:
“Unfortunately here in the city, you know, we don’t necessarily have a Board of Supervisors who’s cooperative as it relates to policy changes to getting more housing built. Something as simple as trying to allow 100 percent affordable housing as a right without going through this lengthy process, the board can actually pass legislation to do that. But they won’t. San Francisco has a very, very extremely left group of people on the Board of Supervisors. And I think in some instances their focus is to not necessarily do what’s best for people in San Francisco, but do what’s best to stay in the good graces of this whole lefty movement. Rather than trying to work with me as the mayor, it’s mostly trying to undermine the things that I push forward that would allow the city to move forward in building more housing.”