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    Profiles of Compassion and Courage: Scott Wiener

    stuSan Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents District 8, says, “My path in community work and political work eventually led me to run for the Board of Supervisors, which is the ultimate intersection of community and politics.”

    The path was already underway in southern New Jersey, where Scott grew up in a small rural town that was transitioning to a suburb. In high school, Scott was one of only two Jewish kids in a class of 550. After attending Duke University, he went to Harvard Law School and spent a summer in San Francisco, which captured his heart. In 1997, aged 27 and out and gay, he moved here and has never looked back.

    His first work in SF was at a private law firm handling complex commercial litigation. Five years later, he joined the City Attorney’s Office as a trial lawyer defending the City. Scott learned a lot about our local government – the good, the bad, and the ugly – during his nine years as a Deputy City Attorney. Additionally, he helped to build the LGBT Community Center, served as president of his neighborhood association, served on the national board of the Human Rights Campaign, and helped found Castro Community on Patrol. He became more involved in Democratic Party politics, co-chairing the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and chairing the San Francisco Democratic Party.

    Of his early career days, Scott says, “I went through my education with excellent grades and had a deep interest in the law and social justice. I realized, while in law school at Harvard, that there was much more than just practicing law with my education.” He continues, “After moving to the city I most wanted to live in and be part of, I chose to move in the direction of political service and became very involved with local democratic groups. My commitment and consistency brought me an appointment to the Board of Supervisors.”


    SS: Who have been your key mentors?

    SW: My two primary political mentors are Senator Mark Leno and City Attorney Dennis Herrera. I met Mark when I was 27 and just beginning to volunteer for the future LGBT Center, for which Mark served as capital campaign co-chair. Mark took me under his wing and taught me a lot about getting things done here. When I was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in 1998, Mark Leno continued to mentor me, and still does today. Dennis Herrera hired me as a Deputy City Attorney, even though he didn’t know me at all. He took a chance on me and always supported my work in the office. He’s been a great friend and role model.

    SS: If you could solve or fix a community problem, what would it be?

    SW: If I could fix one major problem in the Bay Area, it would be our housing/transportation mess. For decades, San Francisco has more or less ignored the need for more housing, even as our population has grown. This has been a profound failure of political will and is a significant cause of the unsustainable explosion in housing prices and evictions. Similarly, the city and region have dramatically under-invested in transit. As a result, we have a housing crisis and an emerging transit crisis for which we are unprepared. We are at risk of losing our middle class and our diversity. We’re also at risk of continuing to fuel housing sprawl, without supportive transit, which is terrible for the environment and our quality of life. We must begin to be realistic about our growing housing needs and have the political will to address them. Similarly, we need to stop ignoring our need for transit investment and expansion. These two issues – housing and transit – will determine what our city and region look like down
    the road.

    SS: What achievement are you most proud of?

    SW: I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help refocus policymakers at City Hall on the need to invest in transit. When I arrived at City Hall, there was almost no focus on the needs of riders for a reliable system, not to mention the need for much greater transit capacity as our population grows. There was a lot of lip service, but not much action. I’ve worked very hard to change this dynamic. Thanks to the efforts of a great team, we’ve started to see some success. It’ll take time for Muni to improve, but we’re planting the seeds. I’m also proud that we are about to start the long overdue widening of the Castro Street sidewalks. When I came into office, I announced that we were going to get this project done, as desired by many in the neighborhood for so long. Some thought I was crazy to think the project was possible. I decided to prove them wrong. I campaigned hard to pass the streets and infrastructure bond in 2011 and then pushed to get full funding for the sidewalk project. Once the project is done in 2014, we will have dramatically improved streetscaping, sidewalks almost doubled in width, and an upgraded Jane Warner Plaza.

    SS: What are your goals for the future?

    SW: I look forward to continuing to work on the Board of Supervisors to address our city’s critical needs around housing, transportation, public spaces, and so forth. We are living in an exciting, yet challenging, time for San Francisco. Working together, we can meet the challenges.

    Stu Smith is board chair emeritus of Shanti Project, board chair of The Paratransit Coordinating Council, a member of the Castro Country Club Advisory Board and the LGBT Senior Task Force, and producer and host of the public access TV program “The Drag Show.” KQED has honored Stu as a 2013 LGBT Hero.