By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
I’m a native San Franciscan and long-term resident of The Castro. I know Rebecca Prozan from volunteering in Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s office during the time she served as his legislative aide. District 8 is an amazingly complex picture. Rebecca Prozan is poised to take on the responsibilities of this most challenging position in city government. I’ve seen her in action. She has my vote. It is my privilege to present excerpts from a phone conversation we had yesterday morning. I started with the fact that no supervisor has been more accessible to the constituency than Bevan Dufty.
Photo, Natasha Khoruzhenko
“I’m going to bring my own style to it,” she said. “I’m not going to have just office hours at City Hall before a Board meeting. I want to have office hours in the neighborhoods, at different times of the day – so that people can come see me. It’s very important to remain accessible. Like Bevan, I have my cell phone on my business card. I think one of the things that distinguishes me from the other candidates is that I’ve already been out doing the job of a neighborhood Supervisor. When there were incidents in Dolores Park related to violent crime, I was the only candidate who went to the neighborhood meetings and made sure that I facilitated conversations with the Mission Captain and the neighbors there. I’ve filled potholes, I’ve dealt with vacant lots. There was a person who was Gay-bashed over Pink Saturday. I helped him get through the criminal process to make sure that his case was dealt with appropriately. That’s the kind of leadership style I provide. On top of that, there are key city issues – cuts to HIV and AIDS services, things that we in the LGBT community hold very dear that I will fight tirelessly for. Particularly as it applies to vacant store fronts. The LGBT Center does a great job of seeking businesses through the Castro and connecting property owners with potential clients. I’ve certainly noticed when I was trying to find a spot for my campaign headquarters that there were numerous places in the Castro that I could have been to. The problem was that all of them were just too expensive – they wanted $5500 a month. I found something in Noe Valley that was a lot cheaper. I felt it was a better statement for me to make because everybody sees me in the Castro walking my dog or walking with my wife to dinner or whatever else. I think it’s important to make the statement that District 8 includes the Castro but it’s not just the Castro. There are a lot of neighborhoods that make our City and our District so great. I definitely want to jump-start the Art In The Store Fronts Program. I think it’s a great way to at least try to get some businesses to have something else besides just paper or a blank window. I will be working with Les Natali to see if I can get him to rent out some of his vacant store fronts. Up and down Market Street is a different story. I think we definitely need to keep our eye on it and see what we can do to encourage successful businesses – like Ike’s. Right now he’s at Lime. Maybe there’s a spot he can go into on Market Street.”
SEAN: What do you see as the first thing you would tackle?
REBECCA: The City’s economy. One of the things I want to do is start hearings to award a contracting point for local businesses here in San Francisco. We make it so hard. There are a lot of programs that we love. Healthy San Francisco is a great program. They cost the restaurants a lot of money in order to participate in it. Having a living wage makes it really tough for folks. I think we need to award a City contracting point to local businesses and give them a leg-up and take our local tax dollars and infuse them right here in San Francisco. We found out that we print all our paychecks in Arizona. Twenty-four thousand paychecks every other week get printed in and paid for in Arizona.
SEAN: How did that happen?
REBECCA: That’s the City’s contracting process. You can make the argument that there’s no place in San Francisco that could handle that business, but don’t tell me there was no place in California. Why we ship our money over there, I have no clue. We need to take that money and put it right back in here. Number two – obviously, the neighborhood improvements. Focusing on creating the Noe Valley town square, dealing with the Rainbow Walk in the Castro, seeing what other businesses want to come back to the Castro – those kinds of things are going to be very key for me. I’m also going to be focusing on Muni – figuring out how we can get the trains actually running on-time. I think we really need to look at the power problem. I almost missed my Chronicle interview because there was a power outage! Why isn’t there a generator to help the underground? Why don’t we have the F Shuttle running more frequently? Those are the kinds of things I’m going to be focused on.
SEAN: And the violence that occurs on Muni. I’m on Muni enough to know how on-guard I am against bad behavior. There have been a number of times I’ve raised my voice against aggressive behavior or the endless streams of foul language. It’s that whole picture of intimidation as drivers ignore it and do nothing.
REBECCA: Absolutely. And when the cameras aren’t working you can’t prosecute those cases. Unless you can prosecute those cases, people feel very free to act and behave as they wish. We need to support the drivers. It’s not easy to be a Muni driver, particularly when there are situations like you are talking about. But they need to understand there is a No Tolerance policy for any violent or any inappropriate conversation or anything of that nature on a Muni bus, or a Muni car, or the F Line.
SEAN: You know I cover the fine arts and cultural events in San Francisco. I’m concerned about Grants for the Arts. I keep reminding everyone that the opening of San Francisco Opera is not only one of the most strategic things that happens in The City but – as many suggest – in California.
REBECCA: The other thing is that there are more tourists and visitors in San Francisco who enjoy our museums, who enjoy our opera, and who enjoy the arts. It’s almost a third of every visitor who comes to this city that patronizes the arts. It is key to our economic vitality to support the arts to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep it vibrant and to get people to go. I’m a big fan of Kary Schulman’s work. I think she is one of the best City employees we have and I look forward to working with her to make sure we’re doing that.
SEAN: Let’s assume you get elected. That means you stand the chance of being re-elected. That totals up to a significant amount of time. I will have advanced into another age bracket by the end of that tenure. I’ve watched Supervisor Dufty initiate action on the issues of housing and health care specifically for the LGBT community. What needs to happen to keep the momentum going?
REBECCA: One of the things is really making sure the development at 55 Laguna to create housing opportunities for LGBT seniors. It’s critical. When I was the LGBT liaison for Willie Brown I got the seed money for Open House. It’s a phenomenal program, it’s something that I want to develop during my administration as a Supervisor. What’s exciting about that is that it’s not just project developments for LGBT seniors, there’s also going to be 300 rental units. There hasn’t been any development of rental units here in San Francisco and 300 would be a massive amount. I think, in addition to the developments at 55 Laguna, there are going to be developments all up and down Market Street. The 30 units at 16th/Market and Noe, the vacant lot next to the LGBT Center, the vacant lot at Market and Sanchez – you will have no better watchdog than me to make sure we create units for people with HIV and AIDS. Like I did when I worked with Willie Brown on the One Church Street development. You will have no better watchdog than me when you look at making sure there are developments for LGBT seniors and every other community that needs to feel protected and safe in this city.
SEAN: Some say that District 8 is ready for a woman’s touch. What’s your response?
REBECCA: I want people to vote for me because I am the most qualified. I bring fourteen years of experience to this job. I spent five years in Neighborhood Services fixing potholes and getting the garbage picked-up off the street. I was a Recreation and Park commissioner. I’ve managed park bond funds. I was Bevan Dufty’s legislative aide. I’ve been a prosecutor for the last five-and-a-half years. The fact that I’m a woman? It’s an asset, it’s exciting. I know people are excited about this campaign. They’re excited about what we created. We created a campaign that – a year ago – nobody thought had a chance of winning. Now we’re right at the cutting edge. The fact that I’m a woman is exciting. Kamala Harris always says, “You might be the first, but you’re not gonna be the last!” So, I just have to keep working as hard as I can. People will vote for me because we’ve created a phenomenal campaign that’s supported small businesses, raised funds for schools, and answered constituent issues. And because I’m the most qualified.
Click here to learn more: REBECCA PROZAN