10/10/2011 10:30 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2011

San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire: Dennis Herrera

Dennis Herrera

Born: 1962, Long Island, New York

Current Gig: City Attorney of San Francisco

Why should we vote for you?

For nearly a decade, I’ve taken an activist approach to being your City Attorney. I’ve shepherded projects to create thousands of jobs, resolved multi-million dollar disputes, negotiated tough agreements, and drove hard bargains to maximize public benefits for San Franciscans.

I’ve defended our local government from fraud and corruption. I’ve protected our neighborhoods from crime. I secured civil gang injunctions despite political controversy to make traditionally neglected neighborhoods safer. And I worked with nightlife industry leaders to keep club goers and neighbors safe from violent operators.

I’ve done more than any other mayoral candidate to take on powerful interests — even other governments — to protect San Franciscans. I filed the first government lawsuit in history for marriage equality, and won a landmark LGBT rights ruling. And I negotiated Mirant’s shutdown of its filthy Potrero Power Plant.

Leading an award-winning law office for nine-and-a-half years has given me the unique opportunity to prove my mettle for executive leadership. And I know local government — run honestly, and well — can win the trust of the people it serves. San Francisco should aspire to solutions as big as its problems. That’s the leadership I’ve demonstrated. And that’s why I’m running for Mayor of San Francisco.

List a few of your most significant endorsements. Which one do you feel best exemplifies the reasons why you are running for mayor?

I feel very fortunate to have had so many people come out and support me in my mayoral campaign. I am proud to say that I am endorsed by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Former Mayor Art Agnos, Former Mayor Frank Jordan, Former Senator Carole Migden, Former Senator Art Torres, Former Chair, California Democratic Party, Former Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, and Former Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, among dozens of other elected and appointed officials and community leaders. In addition, I am proud to be endorsed by the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee, the San Francisco Labor Council, the African American Democratic Club, the Alice B Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the Noe Valley Democratic Club, the Police Officers’ Association, Potrero Hill Democratic Club, the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club, the Richmond Democratic Club, and the San Francisco Arts Democratic Club, among many other organizations. A full list of my endorsements is available here.

The breadth of my endorsements – from neighborhood groups to labor, from arts organizations to law enforcement – is truly the best reflection of my campaign and its underpinning rationale. I am running to represent ALL of San Francisco, not just one interest group or another. I believe that the challenges we currently face are complex and difficult, but they are not intractable.

What San Francisco needs – and what I intend to provide as Mayor – is clear-headed leadership that approaches problems comprehensively, not piecemeal. As City Attorney, I have shown time and time again my ability to bring competing interests together under difficult circumstances to forge consensus, and the scope and diversity of my endorsers reaffirms this.

What's your favorite place in San Francisco?

I have to say that my neighborhood in Dogpatch is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. I've lived there for almost 20 years and have watched the neighborhood grow and change during that time. We know all our neighbors and local business owners. I'm really glad we are able to raise our son in this kind of environment.

What is the single biggest issue facing San Francisco right now?

Creating jobs in San Francisco is job number one for our next mayor. We must use every tool at our disposal to revitalize our local economy, to get people back to work who are unemployed, and to create better, more rewarding opportunities for those who are underemployed. Some people complain San Francisco is an expensive place to do business. I believe San Francisco has unique comparative advantages for attracting the smartest people, the best innovators, the fastest-growing businesses and the best jobs if we put our minds to removing barriers and promoting our strengths.

But we can’t just create any jobs—we need to create the right kind of jobs for San Francisco. Jobs that help working families, provide a living wage, create a greener city, and promote our common values of innovation, creativity and community service. And we need a city government that helps—rather than hinders—those who want to start or grow a business in San Francisco. Imagine a city that provides long term, sustainable economic opportunity for people at every skill level. Imagine a city that works for all of us.

Since I announced my candidacy in August, I’ve heard from residents, business owners, and workers throughout the city about how to create jobs in San Francisco. I’ve spoken with policy experts and drawn from my more than nine years of experience as your City Attorney. And I proudly released an extensive, substantive plan to create jobs in San Francisco. To read the full plan, please visit my website at

Would you continue with the Central Subway construction project as planned or would you re-evaluate?

After much research and deliberation, I am fully convinced that we need to rethink the Central Subway. I have written an extremely detailed piece explaining my position on the Central Subway, which is available here.

My major conclusions are as follow:

The Central Subway project has ceased to be a prudent investment

The Central Subway project will not improve MUNI service

The Central Subway does not fulfill the objectives of a modern citywide transit system. Fiascos aren’t born that way. They typically grow from the seeds of worthy ideas, and their laudable promise is betrayed in subtle increments over time. It’s a lesson we’ve learned often from history books, and one we have increasingly come to know from major public works projects—including Boston’s infamous “Big Dig,” among others. And that’s a lesson we San Franciscans would be wise to remember.

Do you support either of the two pension reform measures on the November ballot?

Taxpayers have a valid expectation that workers will pay a portion of their retirement and health care costs. But San Francisco shouldn't try to set this amount unilaterally via ill-conceived ballot propositions that have not been fully thought through. Real solutions will come from less glamorous hard work at the bargaining table.

That’s why I prefer the approach taken by Proposition C and why I am voting for it. While far from a cure-all, Prop C represents an honest, consensus attempt to address the structural deficiencies of the current pension system in a rational, even-handed way that Prop D does not. Critics of the Prop C reform package may argue that it doesn’t go far enough to counter ballooning liability projections. But this ignores the fact that our best chance to address the issue in a manner that puts San Francisco on a fiscally sustainable path depends on the comprehensiveness and legal viability of the City’s approach. Unlike Proposition D, Prop C does that.

Still, the sole focus on pensions by some critics ignores the more troubling year-over-year increases in employee health care costs, which Prop C also attempts to address. Resolving this situation will require reducing provider costs by bargaining more effectively with the City's insurance providers and increasing competition among hospitals to lower our costs. This is where I would like to focus significant attention if elected Mayor.

The City’s policy towards homelessness has stayed pretty much the same since the passage of Care Not Cash. Do you think the city’s homeless policies, as they’re currently functioning, are largely effective in doing what they’re designed to accomplish? As mayor, is there anything you would do differently?

As City Attorney, I supported former Mayor Newsom’s comprehensive plan to combat homelessness and get people off the streets. And I strongly support San Francisco’s efforts to address the city’s chronic homelessness issue through innovative programs that move people from the streets and into housing. I have released a five-point strategy for addressing homelessness in San Francisco, available on my website.

In short, my plan includes greater support for our homeless outreach team, the creation of a city-run drop-in center, increased coordination with and accountability in the court system, protecting the Care-Not-Cash program and demanding greater accountability among nonprofit service providers.

How well do you think the deal for the America's Cup was negotiated by the city? Is there anything you would have done differently as mayor?

The deal for the America's Cup has been called the most complex in the race's long history. And when talks stalled on the negotiations, I was proud to be called on to step in and resolve outstanding issues between labor and the organizers. Make no mistake, the America's Cup will be a once-in-a-lifetime event unlike any other in San Francisco, and it will add a level of dynamism to the local economy that will be a great boost to the city. At the same time, I believe that the city could have done better in its negotiations, perhaps standing more firmly on concessions used to sweeten the deal for Oracle that effectively forfeited significant potential income for the city.

Describe Gavin Newsom in two words.

"Dynamic Hair Mayor"

Describe Willie Brown in three words.

"Best Dressed Mayor"

Describe Chris Daly in four words.

"Rabble Rouser, Donkey Kong"