Mayoral hopefuls discuss City College budget at Chinatown gathering

Mayoral candidate Michela Alioto-Pier shakes the hand of CAA Director of API Equality, Tawal Panyacosit, Jr. at the CAA membership meeting held in the Chinatown YMCA, Monday evening. March 21,2011. PHOTO BY GRACIE MALLEY / THE GUARDSMAN

By Elliot Owen
Contributing Writer

Public education was a major topic of discussion among seven San Francisco mayoral candidates at a March 21 Chinatown meet-and-greet, with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu calling for a stronger relationship between San Francisco and City College.

“We have a very close relationship with the school district, but not as close of a relationship with City College,” Chiu said. “Given how many students there are, given the diversity and really the training of the future of our city, I think we need to do a better job.”

About 200 people attended the event, which was held at the Chinatown YMCA and sponsored by Chinese for Affirmative Action. The candidates present included Chiu, City College music instructor Wilma Pang, former San Francisco supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Tony Hall, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting and entrepreneur Joanna Rees.

Prospective candidates must file nomination documents with the San Francisco Department of Elections by Aug. 12 to be included in the Nov. 8 election.

The event was designed to promote open dialogue between candidates and community members. Job security and government transparency and effectiveness were also discussed.

But the growing burden of the budget deficit and its effect on higher education remained an important focal point.

“We have a $20 billion plus budget deficit,” Chiu said. “Would I prefer to cut other places? Yes, but we don’t really have a whole lot of choices right now.”

Alioto-Pier expressed her concern for the proposed $400 million cut to California community colleges that would turn an estimated 350,000 students away.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $400 million slash to the state’s community college system assumes an extension of temporary tax measures will be approved by voters in a special election this summer. If the measures fail, community colleges will take a $900 million cut.

“Our priority needs to be education across the board,” Alioto-Pier said. “You can’t neglect the higher level education, or people will not go. We have to encourage our high school kids to continue on.”

Edwin Lee was appointed interim mayor in January after Gavin Newsom became lieutenant governor of California. Lee is the first Asian-American mayor in San Francisco, whose population is roughly one-third Asian.

This will be the first San Francisco mayoral election where ranked-choice voting will be used. The ranked-choice system allows voters to rank a first, second, and third choice candidate for a single position. Any candidate that earns the majority of votes is the winner. If no candidate earns the majority of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and the voters who chose that candidate will have their votes transferred to their second choice. The process is repeated until one candidate earns the majority of votes.

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