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Interview with District 11 candidate John Avalos

Supervisoral aide John Avalos recently declared his candidacy
for the 2008 District 11 Supervisor's race.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

June 3, 2007

Supervisoral aide John Avalos filed papers with the San Francisco Department of Elections Friday declaring his candidacy for 2008 District 11 Supervisor's race.

Fog City Journal caught up with John at the after-party following Saturday's Progressive Convention and offered him the opportunity to make a case as to why residents of District 11 should get to know John and support his candidacy.

Why are you running for supervisor in District 11?

I feel I’m a perfect fit to represent District 11. Those familiar with the District know it’s the most diverse in the city. Where else are you going to find practically every ethnic group represented on each and every block?

As a community organizer who worked several years in the District with Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, as a labor activist with SEIU’s janitors union and as a legislative aide working with Supervisor Chris Daly in City Hall, I have worked with many of San Francisco’s communities and constituent groups. I know how City Hall functions. This wealth of experience would enable me to enter the office of Supervisor with some very useful skills and valuable experience.

How else would you describe the district?

As I said, District 11 is the most diverse district in the city. With such diversity does come tension. Not all our groups relate to each other as well as we could. At the same time, we have a lot potential based on our diversity.

We’re mostly working class and moderate income, lots of struggling homeowners. Lots of labor households, probably the highest density of labor households in the city. There’s a history here of old immigrants – Italian and more established Irish families -- and new immigrants, Latino and Asian families and a growing queer population.

As in other parts of the city, the African American population is on the decline. There’s gentrification and displacement happening here, but not as quickly as it’s happening elsewhere in the city.

What do you see as the main issues you want to tackle?

I’m always going to be a solid voice on social justice issues – affordable housing, workers rights, tenant rights, environmental justice, immigrant rights, juvenile justice, public safety, etc.

Most of these issues are big concerns for District 11 constituents, yet as Supervisor Sandoval well knows, District 11 residents have to fight twice as hard to get their fair share of government attention.

I want to build on Gerardo’s work in making government more responsive. I’m particularly interested in building the capacity of the services out in the OMI and ensuring the district has safe, family friendly neighborhoods with increased opportunities for recreation, education and personal development for young people.

What’s the OMI?

Well a lot of people think it’s the “Outer Mission and Ingleside.” But actually it’s Oceanview, Merced Heights and Ingleside – three neighborhoods south of Ocean and west of 280 – the part of the district that’s really neglected.

You know, one of District 11’s most overlooked assets is City College which sits right on the edge of its border. I want to explore how City College can have a greater connection to the district. With tens of thousands of students, many of them from the District, there’s great potential for unleashing some positive energy to bring up struggling youth in the local middle schools and high schools. Having grown up in the hood a lot of these young people are comfortable with diversity, they can help a lot to bring arts and culture to bridge the tensions that may simmer between the district’s ethnic groups.

I also want to work on improving parks, public transportation and overall transit with safer streets for pedestrians. Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many pedestrian deaths in district. I thank the Bike Coalition, a few local bikers for the bike lanes on Alemany, they’ve made some real improvements on pedestrian safety.

What do you see as some of your personal strengths?

I’m a good listener and I’m particularly good at hearing many different sides to an issue and collaborating with people to choose a course of action. I’m an organizer and a coalition builder. My role in the past few years, whether on the inside or the outside of government has been to show people how government works and how they can access it to challenge the system to make it work for them.

I believe I have been effective because I’m interested in building working relationships with people and engaging them on how we can improve and expand public services.




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