ActivismHousingPoliticsSF Bay AreaWorkers Rights

Jackie Fielder is the Fresh Progressive Voice We Need in the State Senate

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California D-11 State Senate candidate Jackie Fielder, like her incumbent opponent State Senator Scott Wiener, is out and proud. But there the similarities between the two candidates end. Fielder, at age 25, is half her opponent’s age. She also lays claim to an ethnic heritage combining President Racist-In-Chief’s twin bete noires: Native American (Two Kettle Lakota and Hidatsa) and Mexican. Most importantly, while the incumbent can be called an establishment Democrat, Fielder embraces her affiliation with the Democratic Socialists (Insert alarmed hyperventilating by red-baiting Faux News host here).

Both Fielder and Wiener do offer ideas for addressing the houselessness problem in California. Given that California serves as home to half of America’s houseless citizens, nobody’s denying the problem needs to be addressed. However, Wiener’s solutions generally rely on the benevolence of the luxury housing construction fairy in tinkling down affordable housing units on the less fortunate.  

Fielder’s edge in this matter comes from her personally knowing that houselessness will not be solved by depending only on the market’s alleged generosity. That’s because she’s actually been there: couchsurfing, living in her van, and even finding the rent still too damn high despite working three jobs, including waitressing and bartending. What was Fielder’s third job? It was taking over teaching Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza’s San Francisco State University course on “Race, Women and Class.” Genius isn’t needed to see the serious wrongness of the housing market status quo.  

California Homes For All is the name of Fielder’s plan for handling the state’s houselessness challenge. It treats housing as a human right, not something only people with humongous financial resources are entitled to. It also supports new housing construction…provided it meets the greater community’s needs. Elements of this plan include preventing the flipping out of rent-controlled units, building publicly-owned green homes, and establishing statewide rent control and tenant protections.  Taxing wealthy individuals and corporations plays a key part in implementing Fielder’s plan. It’s not very likely that Senator Scott Wiener’s plan, whose prior State Senate run was heavily financed by real estate interests, can match Fielder’s plans for changing the state’s treatment of housing.

The distinction between Fielder and Wiener is also apparent on the question of making the Green New Deal a reality in California. Looking on her website, Fielder speaks of steps that will piss off the energy industry. They include phasing out fossil fuel extraction, publicly taking over PG&E, and giving people of color first crack at the green jobs the state will need.  Wiener, by contrast, is won’t be supporting any municipalization of power companies or curbing oil extraction. His prominent campaign contributors include PG&E and Sempra Energy.

The incumbent has publicly cited his achievable victories in Sacramento as a virtue. His successes have been in the face of legislative colleagues who come from areas far more conservative than the San Francisco Bay Area. However, nobody’s denying that achievable victories don’t matter. But an achievable victory that’s not a step towards advancing the bigger goal of addressing long-standing problems is not much of a success in the long run.  

Consider public education. The incumbent has been named the California Charter School Association’s “Elected Official of the Year” in 2018. Charter schools heavily contributed to Wiener’s last campaign. How probable is it that the incumbent would even support Fielder’s proposal of a charter school moratorium?

Fielder, by contrast, came out of Los Angeles’ public education system and wants to give back to the school system that helped her. Besides the above-mentioned moratorium, she wants to make educator and employee pay match the cost of living, re-establish free public college, and have statewide loan forgiveness for educators and school staff. To the challenger, California doesn’t have to stay near the national bottom in per pupil spending.

Fielder recognizes this state funding shortfall doesn’t have to exist. California is the state that’s home to the most billionaires.  In such an environment, taxing rich individuals and wealthy corporations a little extra to cover improved public education, affordable housing, rent control, and single payer health care, is common sense.

Speaking up against rich and powerful interests is for Fielder a lot more than a pose to get elected. It’s a continual thread in her political activism. Putting herself on the line against the Dakota Access Pipeline meant pissing off both the big banks and the oil companies. Her statewide work to make public banking possible in California meant not letting the banksters’ lobbyists have their way.  Her efforts to preserve San Francisco’s Police Commission and curb the cops’ desire for a Christmas-like use of force policy, seem almost prescient in the wake of the George Floyd protests.  

Unsurprisingly, Fielder’s proposals for ending institutional police violence offer a lot more than feel-good trendiness. It’s not a stretch to say that Fielder’s Dakota Access Pipeline protest work showed her firsthand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of police violence. To Fielder, defunding the police means redirecting money bound for the police in order fund actual social service workers, instead of sticking cops with being improvised social workers. Taking away military grade gear from police departments and increasing their public accountability may be familiar solutions. Yet the vigor with which the cops have fought to keep their lethal toys and avoid consequences for abuse, still make pushing for such things necessary.

Making such reforms happen admittedly requires that Fielder both get elected and successfully navigate the waters of Sacramento politics. It is here that naysayers claim Fielder falls short. If the challenger is San Francisco’s AOC, the incumbent has been too productive in office to be painted as a Joe Crowley. Also, Wiener’s risen through the Democratic Party ranks from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to the State Senate. Big players in the local Democratic Party establishment (e.g. Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor London Breed, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein) back the incumbent. Fielder has never held political office, but that’s never stopped anyone before.

Wiener’s challenger may share AOC’s experience of being a Democratic Socialist who’s done bartending. But Fielder would be the first to reject painting herself as San Francisco’s AOC. Political inexperience isn’t a handicap to Fielder as she’s a far cry from President Mentally Uncurious. Earning both a BA in Public Policy and an MA in Sociology at Stanford University, as well as being an SFSU professor, definitely marks Fielder as someone with the intellectual aptitude to handle the demands of State Senator. Teaching, waitressing, and bartending likely gave Wiener’s challenger practical experience in reading people, which will serve Fielder well in interacting with Sacramento legislators.  

Broke-Ass Stuart readers will be happy to hear the people endorsing Fielder aren’t beholden to the 1%. Late legendary activist and former Board of Supervisors member Harry Britt was the first elected official to endorse Fielder’s candidacy. Other equally prominent endorsements have come from United Educators of San Francisco, District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, San Francisco Tenants Union, San Francisco Berniecrats, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ+ Democratic Club, the League Of Pissed-Off Voters, and Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza. Former California State Assemblymember and Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano used the official book launch of his memoir Kiss My Gay Ass as an occasion to promote Fielder’s candidacy.

If Fielder shares any similarity with AOC, it’s in offering better policy ideas than her opponent. The magnitude of the problems facing California can no longer be handled by mere legislative fine-tuning or settling for only small victories. The status quo benefits those who’ve grown fat off leaving the state’s problems as they are. The grandness of the solutions Fielder advocates don’t reflect a penchant for “unrealistic, pie in the sky policies.” Rather, these ideas are examples of this Democratic Socialist candidate living up to the goal behind her State Senate run. As Fielder succinctly says, “I’m running for State Senate because we have a mandate to be bolder.”

Join Fielder in meeting the challenges of this mandate.

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.

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