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Election 2011: David Chiu On Hazy Forecasts, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, and SF Trendsetting

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Well, it’s that time again. Another election year is already underway here in SF, and it already looks like it’s shaping up to be a corker. With everyone and that’s gonna be on the ballot, we thought it might help to help you get to know the contenders a little better. So, here’s the BAS 20 Questions With the Candidates 2011!

Next up…

Name: David Chiu

Age: 41

Occupation: President, Board of Supervisors

Hometown: Boston, MA

Running for: Office of Mayor

Where you’re at right now: (via e-mail) Sitting at my kitchen table actually. A little cliched, I know.

Stephen Torres: Hey David! Welcome to BAS Meet the Candidates! So, how long you lived in the city and where’s your hood?

David Chiu: I’ve lived here for 15 years, all of them on Russian Hill and Polk Street.

ST: What are the best/ worst aspects about living there?

DC: Best: Polk Street has great energy, affordable food, and everything I need on a daily basis is within waking distance (or a short bike ride). Worst: Muni service is challenging to say the least, and the cost of living is high.

ST: How do you get to work- Foot, bike, public transit or car?

DC: Usually by bike. City Hall is a straight shot down Polk Street. When it’s raining, or if I’m just not up for hopping on my bike, I’ll take the 47 or 49 down Van Ness.

ST: Muni. Is. Awful. Garage or salvage yard?

DC: Tell me how you really feel! Of those options, I’ve got to say “garage” – it can be fixed but it’s going to take a lot of work and the commitment of a lot of folks to make it happen.

ST: If we elect you is there anything you can really do to help get a more dependable overnight transit, BART or otherwise?

DC: Would love 24-7 BART, but it’ll depend on a lot more federal and state funding. Since I don’t have a car, transit is an absolute top priority, and I’ll keep fighting hard for it.

ST: It’s pretty hard to make it as a “broke-ass” in this town, let alone find a place to live. Do you think insane rents, requirements like making several times your rent or having a certain credit score to qualify for an apartment make living here feasible?

DC: They certainly don’t make it easier, that’s for sure. I’ve been a tenant for my entire life so I’m very familiar with the challenges facing renters. Especially given the state of our economy, we shouldn’t be putting arbitrary barriers in front of people and families who are just trying to find a place to sleep at night.

ST: Let’s say the house part doesn’t quite work. When you’re homeless in this town, do you think you really ever can bounce back?

DC: absolutely think it’s possible, but from a public policy perspective, it requires a lot more than lip service. People are homeless for a lot of different reasons – unemployment, mental or physical illness, addiction, failed transition, and the list goes on. We have to do better at dealing with the root causes of homelessness instead of just putting Band-Aids on the problem. But yes, I believe you can bounce back – and I believe bouncing back can be the rule rather than the exception.

ST: A lot of the homeless are queer kids that come here with pretty much nothing. There isn’t even a hostel in the Castro. Groups like Dimensions, Lyric, etc. do what they can, but they are working on shoestrings. Is Castro Street or even the city itself capable of being not only a beacon, but also a sanctuary?

DC: Our city of St. Francis has been a beacon for tolerance and acceptance for folks of all walks of life — a sanctuary city for immigrants, medical marijuana patients, and homeless queer youth, to name a few communities. It’s part of our DNA.

ST: One group that hasn’t had any housing problems would be bedbugs. Does the city have a contingency plan on this one?

DC: Not enough of one – we need to do better. I get itchy just thinking about it.

ST: Like a lot of people in town, I have Healthy SF. Mostly okay, but some people are waiting up to a year to get really important screenings, tests, etc. One nurse told me you can try to speed things up by going to the emergency room. Universal healthcare is a critical asset in this town, no doubt, but should we be worried?

DC: SF led the country by being the first on universal health care; President Obama’s health care reform will ensure the rest of the country soon follows. We can always do better, but we’re doing pretty well compared to other cities.

ST: Speaking of healing- How long do you think before it’s possible to smoke a joint without having some kind of illness?

DC: Have you walked around San Franciso lately? I don’t believe all of that smoke is only about healing. My crystal ball is unreliable, but I think some official legalization or greater decriminalization will happen in this decade.

ST: These 7×7 miles, seem to be getting a lot more square with every year that passes. Other cities seem to have more of a handle on things like street fairs and nightlife. Is the fun in the city destined to go the way of, say, the Eagle?

DC: When I first moved to SF in the mid-90s, nightlife and streetlife were a lot more fun. We need to bring the fun back.

ST: Diversity seems important to San Franciscans, but is it also endangered? Folks seem both pissed and scared. Has this “Girl of the Golden West” forgotten who her people are?

DC: Since the last Census, we’ve lost thousands of families who’ve fled, tenants who’ve been evicted, homeowners who’ve been foreclosed upon, almost half of our African-American community who has out-migrated. I’m worried about losing our economic, ethnic and family diversity – we need to reverse all of these trends.

ST: Who’s your local hero?

DC: Harvey Milk. Read The Mayor of Castro Street.

ST: Every American city has deep-seeded, local subjects of debate, where one has to take a side. What is your stance on the following: What is the best a) coffee; b) ice cream; c) cioppino; d) burrito; e) dim sum?

DC: a) Don’t drink the stuff. b) Mitchell’s Ice Cream in Bernal Heights. c) Sotte Mare in North Beach ; d) Papalote in the Mission; e) Yank Sing.

ST: What’s your favourite cheap bar? Your poison?

DC: Lush Lounge on Polk Street. Gin & tonic.

ST: What’s your favourite cheap grub spot?

DC: The Grubstake, of course.

ST: What’s important in San Francisco right now?

DC: Building a 21st century economy, transportation system, and schools. And making sure we don’t lose our economic, family and ethnic diversity. Those are my biggest priorities as a Supervisor and will be as Mayor too.

ST: Why is San Francisco important right now?

DC: It’s often said that as San Francisco, so goes California – as goes California, so goesthe rest of the country. We set trends for the rest of the country, particularly when it comes to our shared commitment to social justice, tolerance and diversity.

ST: People like to sing about this place a lot. Perfect San Francisco song:

DC: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Thanks for answering our answering our twenty questions, David! Good luck in November!

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Stephen Torres - Threadbare-Fact Finder (Editor, San Francisco)

Stephen Torres - Threadbare-Fact Finder (Editor, San Francisco)

Stephen's early years were spent in a boxcar overlooking downtown Los Angeles. From there he moved around the state with his family before settling under the warm blanket of smog that covers suburban Southern California. Moving around led to his inability to stay in one place for very long, but San Francisco has been reeling him back in with its siren song since 1999.
By trade he pours booze, but likes to think he can write and does so occasionally for the SF Bay Guardian, Bold Italic and 7x7. He also likes to enjoy time spent in old eateries, bars and businesses that, by most standards, would have been condemned a long time ago.

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