Four tips to make 2024 a good year for Bay Area politics

Four tips to make 2024 a good year for Bay Area politics

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed will ramp up her reelection bid in early 2024, and she could benefit from the support of Black voters. However, Black San Franciscans should investigate Breed’s recent track record thoroughly to determine if her positions on important issues, such as reparations and public safety, are in their interests.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will ramp up her reelection bid in early 2024, and she could benefit from the support of Black voters. However, Black San Franciscans should investigate Breed’s recent track record thoroughly to determine if her positions on important issues, such as reparations and public safety, are in their interests.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

There was no shortage of spicy political drama in the Bay Area in 2023. Public perception issues plagued cities like Oakland and San Francisco, progressive politicians battled right-wing scare tactics over reparations and public safety policies, and a well-known Black civil rights organization demonstrated its inability to adapt to modern times.  

Instead of boring readers with a full rundown of 2023, I’d rather do something more useful: offer four tips that can make 2024 a year of positive political change in the Bay Area.

Black voters need to rethink their support of Mayor London Breed

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The same Black folks who helped London Breed become the city’s first Black woman mayor in 2018, then helped her secure a full four-year term in 2019, need to think about how Breed has never publicly backed reparations and is likely to kill the idea. When it comes to public safety, Breed has proved time and again that she’s a mayor who seems more interested in pleasing the wealthy who want their streets pristine by any means necessary. And Breed has shown she believes “tough love” public safety policies include simply locking up those struggling with drug addictions. Breed doesn’t seem to care that her preferred ways of keeping order, like dumping more money into an inept police department and trying to reduce the oversight the historically scandal-plagued department faces, is only going to disproportionately hurt Black folks — a small but important political group in the city whose interest she has long claimed to prioritize. 

Does this sound like the mayor Black San Francisco deserves in 2024 and beyond? 

More from Justin Phillips

Courtney Welch, 34, poses for a portrait on Thursday, August 26, 2021, in Emeryville, Calif. Welch is running for Emeryville city council.
Mayor London Breed greets attendees after giving the State of the City address in San Francisco in February. Breed will be running for reelection in 2024 and will need all the support she can get. But Breed may have a hard time getting support from Black voters considering how she has been opposed to reparations in the city, and recently revealed she will not use money in the city's budget to open a vital Office of Reparations. 

District Attorney Pamela Price must stop making it so hard for her supporters to defend her 

As the most powerful figure in the Alameda County justice system, every decision Price makes has a profound impact on the community, including the ones that have nothing to do with actual public safety policy. 

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An example of the latter came in November when Price’s office came under fire for not allowing East Bay journalist Emilie Raguso, founder and editor of the Berkeley Scanner, to enter a news conference that Price’s office was holding about crime victims. Price’s office said it was reviewing Raguso’s media credentials, which is why she was denied entry. It was a bad look for an office that has been criticized for a lack of transparency. The unflattering incident also made people ignore what Price’s office also said in November: that she’s charging people in serious cases at a rate that rivals that of the more popular, and more moderate, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. 

I still believe Price is the best person for the job, but it’s getting harder for people like me to defend her when she keeps getting caught in random, avoidable drama that has nothing to do with policy, yet intensifies the recall effort against her.  

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has drawn criticism from her opponents since her surprise election on a reformist platform in 2022 and faces an attempt to recall her from office. Price has lately been mired in controversies that have nothing to do with her actual policy decisions.  

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has drawn criticism from her opponents since her surprise election on a reformist platform in 2022 and faces an attempt to recall her from office. Price has lately been mired in controversies that have nothing to do with her actual policy decisions.  

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

The Oakland chapter of the NAACP must reestablish itself as the voice of the people 

Over the last few years, the branch has hurt its legacy by advocating for things that disproportionately harm the people whose interest it’s supposed to represent, including pushing for stricter police measures and using extreme right-wing political rhetoric to stoke crime fears. Most recently, by demanding the City of Oakland release the list of candidates being considered as the new police chief, the branch is again trying to place itself at the center of public safety debates. 

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If all the branch is trying to do is make the process of choosing the chief more open to the public, then it should be praised. But if the branch’s demand for the list is just another way for it to try to advocate for its preferred person in former Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who was fired in February after an officer misconduct scandal, then the branch is still showing it cares more about its own interests than the needs of the public. How Oakland’s NAACP handles the police chief selection process should let all Black Oaklanders know if they really can rely on the group to advocate on their behalf. 

Oakland NAACP member Greg McConnell, center, speaks at a community meeting regarding Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong being put on administrative leave at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on Jan. 24. The Oakland NAACP branch has been criticized for its stances on crime, policing and public safety, among other things. If the branch wants to restore its image in 2024, it must start taking more progressive positions on important issues, including public safety. 

Oakland NAACP member Greg McConnell, center, speaks at a community meeting regarding Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong being put on administrative leave at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland on Jan. 24. The Oakland NAACP branch has been criticized for its stances on crime, policing and public safety, among other things. If the branch wants to restore its image in 2024, it must start taking more progressive positions on important issues, including public safety. 

Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

San Francisco must take steps to make a downtown HBCU campus a reality

City leaders are already prioritizing bringing activity to downtown San Francisco, with Breed going as far as tossing out strange ideas like building a soccer stadium to replace the Westfield mall. But Breed also is among city leaders already talking about bringing a college campus to the area, and there’s nothing keeping that from being a historically Black college or university. 

Reports show many HBCUs are interested in expanding their presence in other parts of the country through satellite campuses. Considering how this idea is specifically mentioned in the city’s proposed reparations plan, which still doesn’t have the support of Breed, bringing an HBCU campus to the city is a way for Breed to show she’s at least thinking about reparations, equity and the needs of the Black community on a grander scale. And it could reaffirm her commitment, and her previous promises, to the Black community. 

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I’m aware that changing the political mindset of the Bay Area is no easy feat. But if equity, not expediency, can become the lynchpin of Bay Area politics in 2024, then the brighter Bay Area future we all want will stop feeling out of reach.  

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