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    Another Recall Election and a Special Election in February

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    On October 18, 2021, San Francisco election officials confirmed that recall supporters collected enough signatures to hold a special election on February 15, 2022, to recall three School Board members: President Gabriela López, Vice President Faauuga Moliga, and Commissioner Alison Collins. The last SF-only recall election was for Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1983 when the “OK Boomers” were dancing to “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” from Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. A huge majority of voters (80%) decided they liked Mayor Feinstein just fine and voted against the recall.

    School Board Recall 

    In a state where eating dinner at a fancy restaurant during a pandemic is enough to recall a governor, the real concerns of schools remaining closed for nearly a year while the Board dithered on frivolous issues, such as renaming 44 schools, was enough motivation for frustrated parents to organize a recall. After almost a year of baking bread, home-schooling, and having to watch Disney+ instead of more interesting content on other streaming platforms, exasperated parents filed official paperwork on February 19, 2021, to get the recall on the ballot. 

    In order to qualify, supporters had to collect 51,325 signatures (10% of registered voters) by September 7, 2021. Proving the adage coined by author N.K. Jemisin, “There is no greater warrior than a mother protecting her child,” the campaign submitted close to 80,000 signatures. Having personally experienced situations in my work where a complaint from even a single disgruntled person is a big deal, it’s pretty bad if 80,000 people are complaining about you.  

    There are seven members of the Board, but only three are eligible for recall because the four other board members, elected in November, 2020, had not yet served six months in office. I signed the petition because I thought it was unfair for approximately 57,000 public school students to be stuck at home while 27,0000 students in private schools returned to in-person learning in October of 2020. The competing argument is that it’s not the best use of $8 million dollars (the cost of the special election) and maybe we could have waited until November 2022, when these three members (elected to the Board in 2018) are up for election anyhow, but what’s done is done and here we are.  

    Since I wasn’t totally sure on all the issues, I checked in with my good friend and professional journalist, Joel Engardio, who laid out the reasons to vote for the recall much better than I ever could (https://tinyurl.com/djcxnevb). The additional (snarky) commentary (after the bold font) is my own: 

    1) Board Members put ideology over the needs of students – Elected officials put their own ideology over the needs of their constituents on all days of the week that ends with a “Y,” but when your constituents are parents whose children are not able to return to school, you may need to dial down your own ideology.

    2) Decrease in academic performance – According to the California Reading Index, the San Francisco Unified School District is ranked 267 out of 287; only 22% of students meet their grade level. Think about that; when I was in school, a 60% on a test was a “D” and anything below was an “F.” What does that make 22%?

    3) Renaming schools rather than opening schools – We can file this under “fiddling while Rome burns,” although Nero didn’t actually play fiddle; he was a talented lyre player, but given the state of SF schools, it’s likely that only 22% of all students would know that a lyre is a small U-shaped stringed instrument or that Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar ruled Ancient Rome for 14 years, from 54 to 68 A.D.

    4) Ending merit-based admission to Lowell High School – Because diluting the academic rigor at the one public high school in San Francisco that produced three Nobel Prize winners and provides opportunities for some low-income, high-performing students to shine is more important than sustaining academic excellence of these high-achieving students.

    5) Incompetent governance that led to financial trouble – Bad policies caused reduced enrollment, and fewer students means less state funding. Financial insolvency means possible state takeover of the public schools. For anyone who has ever attended a Passover Seder, you can start reciting “Chad Gadya” now: “then came the ox and drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burned the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat my father bought for two zuzim.”

    Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres 

    In January of this year, Mayor London Breed appointed Joaquín Torres, former head of the Office of Economic Workforce and Development, to replace Carmen Chu as Assessor-Recorder. Chu replaced outgoing City Administrator Naomi Kelly, whose husband Harlan Kelly was replaced as head of the SF Public Utilities Commission by City Attorney Dennis Herrera who is being replaced by Assemblyman David Chiu (“Chad Gadya … Chad Gadya”). 

    Torres originally had a year and a half to learn two new jobs: running for office and “locating all taxable property in the City, identifying ownership, establishing a taxable value, and applying all legal exemptions.” Per the SF City Charter, appointees are “required to run in the next scheduled election,” which at the time of the appointment was the statewide June 7, 2022, primary, but now is next year’s February 15 election. Joaquín is a good guy; he’s doing a good job so vote for him.

    Per Senate Bill 29, San Francisco must send a vote-by-mail ballot to every active registered voter for any election taking place in 2021, so there’s no excuse to sit this one out. Elections have consequences, even small special elections; send in your ballot (or vote in person) on or before February 15, 2021. 

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is a Former Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a proud graduate of the Emerge California Women’s Democratic Leadership program, was a San Francisco Commissioner, and has served in leadership positions in multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations.

    Published on November 4, 2021