This year’s SF mayoral election is ranked choice, meaning San Franciscans can all vote for more than one candidate. If the frontrunner doesn’t get a majority of first place votes, the second place votes kick in. And that process is going to make for a lot of contenders – 16 of them, in fact. And one is Terry Baum.
Baum worked on the congressional campaign of famed feminist Bella Abzug back in 1970. She then moved to the Bay Area and started working with a lesbian theater company. In 2004 she ran as a Green candidate against Representative Nancy Pelosi for her seat in the House.
And now, Baum is taking her thoughts back to the people of San Francisco by running for mayor. KALW News’ Ben Trefny sat down with Terry Baum and asked her to start out by describing where she lives in the city.
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TERRY BAUM: I've been living in the Castro for 33 years. It's a fabulous neighborhood. It's changed, of course. It's become more gentrified over the years. But it's a wonderful location. I'm kind of uphill from the Castro and uphill from Noe Valley.
BEN TREFNY: You say the Castro is gentrified since then. In what ways has it changed and how is that representative of what's going on in the city, or not representative?
BAUM: Well it is representative actually. It's become a more conservative place, politically. This was the district that Harvey Milk represented and he was a real progressive, and a populist. We've been represented since by Bevan Dufty and now by Scott Wiener who were really kind of mainstream machine Democrats. I don't think that they reflect Harvey's legacy. It's not that easy to elect progressives anywhere, quite frankly. The other side has a lot more money, always. But it would be great if we elected somebody, not just gay, but somebody who really represented Harvey Milk's kind of pro-labor, pro-people legacy.
TREFNY: So you are inspired by Harvey Milk and run a lesbian theater group. Then you ran in 2004. Why are you running for mayor now? Why 2011?
BAUM: I really feel we cannot go on with business as usual. Something really terrible is happening in the whole country. We are being pulled to the right by the Tea Party. The Democratic party is doing nothing to represent the interests of people in need, or to actually help people. We need the voice of another party.
The Tea Party has been very effective on the right, and yet people on the left are so – and I'm not talking about really left, like socialists, I am just talking about progressives, who want a humane sustainable society. Everybody's been brainwashed into believing that it will be the end of the world if they don't support whatever lesser evil the Democrats put up.
So I believe as a Green, my election as mayor would really liberate political discourse on the left. The whole country looks to San Francisco for leadership, that's for sure. And quite frankly, they believe we are a lot better than we are. They project this fantasy onto us. It's time for San Francisco to woman-up and become the city that outsiders think we are.
TREFNY: In summary, what are you top three priorities for the city as mayor?
BAUM: My top three priorities are corruption within the city government, transit, and housing. We have seen the corruption in terms of the sleazy "Run, Ed Run!" campaign, which was said to be a grassroots movement but was actually funded by giant donations from businesses that have fat contracts with City Hall. Now the Ethics Commission has accused that campaign of outrageous improprieties such as, you've seen government employees campaign for "Run, Ed Run!” but the recent attorney refuses to investigate them. This is the kind of culture of cronyism and corruption that we have at City Hall. It's kind of embarrassing, actually, when you think this is going on in San Francisco. There is so much like that. Sadly people get turned off from politics at all when they hear about it. But it's important to look at it, and change it.
TREFNY: What about your second priority, transit?
BAUM: Right, you can't expect people rely on something that is not reliable. Unfortunately, Muni so far is not reliable. Buses have to run much more frequently. I want transit so great you don't need your car. It's not that costly. It would be a lot less than that boondoggle the central subway is going to cost. And it would mean that people could count on the bus coming when they were at that bus stop in the rain. Also, bike paths that are truly dedicated to bikes and safe with physical barriers between the bike path and the car such as they have in Amsterdam. I have lived in Amsterdam for five years.
TREFNY: Would that resemble what they have going on Market Street with some of the small barriers?
BAUM: No, it's really complicated and the barriers disappear and the bike lane disappears. I have this imagination of the bikes as the bike lanes disappear and the bikes going up in the air, sailing in the air! (laughs) But no. There has to be real commitment to it.
TREFNY: And the third priority is housing.
BAUM: The third priority is housing. You have to be extremely wealthy to buy anything and people are forced out of San Francisco all the time. They get evicted, they just see a life of evictions ahead of them and they just go somewhere else. I am for moratorium on housing for rich people. I really believe we have enough rich people living in the city. In fact, we have 24 billionaires according to Forbes.
TREFNY: What does the moratorium on housing for rich people mean?
BAUM: It means that we don't develop market-rate housing anymore. I mean, what is San Francisco about? We have this beautiful little piece of land. Everybody wants to live here. Are we just going to say, "The free market is destiny," and therefore more and more rich people move in? More and more low-income and poor artists are forced to leave. Just all these rich people staring at each other? Is that what people want? I don't think so! I think we are doing them are a favor. Quite frankly what I am talking is a vital city. I don't know how long you have lived here.
TREFNY: I have been here for 11 years.
BAUM: Well, there's been a lot of changes in 11 years. I think that there's a real value in the fact that I've been here 35 years. There's been a diminishing of the soul of San Francisco because so many people, the ones who create that soul, have been forced to leave. And I don't want that soul to disappear completely.
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