This editorial first appeared on The Bay Area Reporter on May 12, 2016
San Francisco voters, along with those in some northern San Mateo County cities, have an opportunity to send a qualified gay man to Sacramento in Scott Wiener, who's seeking to replace a fellow gay man, Mark Leno, in the District 11 state Senate seat. We endorse Wiener in this race, as he's the one candidate who's able to hit the ground running on numerous state and regional issues. During his time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Wiener has been one of the hardest working members, taking on issues other supervisors don't want to handle or forging his own legislative agenda, with an emphasis on housing and transportation, both of which are critical to San Francisco's – and the Bay Area's – future success.
If elected, Wiener promises to bring that same tenacity to the Capitol.
It's important to know that once Wiener sets his mind on something, he pushes until he succeeds, or often tries again if he doesn't. When his ballot measure for a tax on sugary beverages fell short of the two-thirds vote it needed to pass in 2014, Wiener and Supervisors Malia Cohen and Eric Mar came back with another approach: an ordinance requiring health warnings on posted soda ads in San Francisco. It passed but is being challenged in court. When a bunch of nudists took over Jane Warner Plaza a few years back, Wiener first tried legislation that required a towel to be placed on the seats nudists used. When that didn't work, he passed legislation to ban public nudity in the city, with the exceptions of some street fairs and festivals, like the San Francisco LGBT Pride parade.
That's the kind of attitude we need in Sacramento. For years, lawmakers like Leno and gay former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano have tried to pass reforms to the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to get out of the rental business by evicting tenants. Neither was successful, unfortunately. Now, with affordable housing becoming an issue statewide, the time may be right for Wiener to push through reforms. "I'm not a fan of the Ellis Act," Wiener told us during an editorial board meeting, adding that it was "sold at the time" as a benefit for small property owners. "It's gone well beyond that," he said.
But there are other housing needs too, and Wiener said the state has a broader role to play in affordability issues. He favors stronger incentives to add more housing and affordable housing and noted that the state "is really the only one that can create those incentives."
On transportation, Wiener has been a leader for years. He serves as chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and is a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area's regional transit body, and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation district's board. He's a supporter of high speed rail and told us it should start in the Bay Area, where there aren't alignment issues like in Los Angeles. As an advocate of regional investments, Wiener would work well with the Bay Area's legislative delegation to help secure critical state and federal funding for BART improvements and other key projects, like extending high speed rail to Caltrain.
On health issues, he would like to expand San Francisco's Getting to Zero HIV prevention plan statewide. A component of the plan is getting more people on PrEP, the once-a-day pill that's been shown to prevent HIV; Wiener himself began taking PrEP in 2014. He'd also like to work on HIV decriminalization laws (they have been put on the back burner in recent years, he said, and he'd like to get them "back on the middle burner").
Wiener has proved during his five years on the Board of Supervisors that he can get legislation passed – one of the latest and most important was an expanded parental leave law that Mayor Ed Lee recently signed. We are confident he will bring that same work ethic to Sacramento. He's the right candidate to replace Leno, who has endorsed him. San Francisco has a history of sending exceptionally qualified people to the state Legislature. Wiener would continue that trend, and more importantly, he'll be able to effectively work with his colleagues to develop more regional approaches to some of the Bay Area's biggest issues.
Wiener and his main opponent, Supervisor Jane Kim, are both expected to advance to the November general election after the June 7 primary, so we will see more campaigning in the months to come. But make no mistake, for LGBT voters, Wiener is the top choice and we endorse him for state Senate.