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    November Elections, Dennis Herrera and the Fight to Save City College

    rafealThe November elections are fast approaching, and with all four local office holders—City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang— running essentially unopposed, the main event for San Francisco politics junkies will be the two (that’s right, TWO) ballot measures dealing with the proposed 8 Washington luxury condo development on the Embarcadero.

    You may recall that the project’s opponents scored a major victory earlier this year when they secured the local Democratic Party’s endorsement of the referendum seeking to overturn the Board of Supervisor’s previous approval of the project. In August, the opponents scored a second victory when the Democratic Party weighed in against a separate developer-sponsored initiative supporting the project.

    The 8 Washington developer is sure to throw a ton of money at the voters (get your mailbox ready for the pre-election paper explosion), but with the Democratic Party now on record—twice—opposing the project, and with the public increasingly skeptical about the pace and scale of new development in the City, I still think there is a good chance the project will go down.

    Dennis Herrera may be running unopposed, but that has not kept him out of the news over the summer. Of course in June, the Supreme Court gave him, and the excellent lawyers in his office that had worked so hard on the marriage equality cases, a sweet and well-deserved victory. But there’s no evidence of his slacking off since then, with his office ensuring the payout of nearly $8 million to more than 10,000 victims of payday lending scams, taking on the State of Nevada over the practice of illegally dumping homeless psychiatric patients in California and, on August 22, filing a lawsuit to keep City College from closing.

    Herrera’s complaint against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which announced July 3 its intention to terminate City College’s accreditation in July 2014, tells an alarming tale of conflicts of interest, political vendettas and unfair practices at the ACCJC. The City Attorney’s lawsuit came within a week of the Department of Education’s announcement that the ACCJC was in violation of the Department’s Criteria for Recognition of regional accreditors and a day after the State Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) voted 10-1 to initiate an investigation of the ACCJC. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano spoke strongly in support of City College and of the audit, but the most memorable quote of the hearing may have been Republican State Senator Jim Nielsen’s statement that, in his entire public career, he had “never dealt with a more arrogant, condescending and dismissive individual” than ACCJC President Barbara Beno.

    Although some have argued that Herrera’s lawsuit somehow undermines the efforts of the State Chancellor and his appointed Special Trustee to fix the very real problems at City College, these critics have it exactly wrong. Herrera’s lawsuit in no way hinders the needed reforms of the College. What it does do, however, is make it more likely that as those reforms proceed, the ultimate decisions about whether or not City College will survive (and the form in which it will survive) will not be left solely in the hands of an increasingly discredited accreditor. Thank you, Dennis Herrera!

    Rafael Mandelman is a member of the San Francisco Community College Board of Trustees. He is also a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.