In March, Jackie Fielder, a 25-year-old Indigenous organizer, environmental activist and public bank advocate, will attempt to oust State Senator Scott Wiener from what is arguably one of the most powerful offices in San Francisco. State senators play a unique role in the local political landscape in that they serve their immediate communities, but also spend a large portion of their time in Sacramento, representing their district in the upper level of the legislature.
Fielder who only announced her candidacy on Nov. 26, is hoping to ride the same progressive wave that landed the recently elected District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston and SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin in their respective offices.
Wiener, 49, has held the State District 11 seat for the last three years after narrowly defeating former SF Supervisor Jane Kim in November, 2016. Fielder, whom El Tecolote profiled in Dec. 2019, co-founded the SF Public Bank Coalition that advocated for the Public Banking Act, AB 857, which will allow for cities and counties to sponsor or form public banks. AB 857 passed the state senate and was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 3, 2019. She currently works as a part-time lecturer in the Ethnic Studies Department at San Francisco State and supplements this income with a job in the service industry.
On Dec. 13, Senator Wiener spoke with El Tecolote to provide an overview of his work since his 2016 election and discuss what his goals will be as he embarks on what is expected to be another competitive campaign. He described himself as a strong proponent of healthcare, having co-authored a single-payer healthcare bill and having supported a bill that provided undocumented children with access to healthcare.
He also co-authored SB-55, which he explained “protects immigrants who are testifying in court by prohibiting attorneys from asking them about their immigration status unless it’s relevant.” But he himself admitted that there is “a lot of budget work” left to be done in order to provide the structural support necessary to support immigrant communities.
But perhaps topic most associated with Wiener’s tenure as senator is his controversial housing policies. When asked about his approach to resolving the housing crisis, Wiener reiterated his previous arguments, stating, mainly, that the solution requires an increase in supply in the form of apartments.
“Right now in the large majority of California, it is illegal to build apartment buildings or affordable housing because of zoning,” Wiener said. “The only thing you’re allowed to build is single-family homes. And that’s true even in areas that are very transit heavy or job-rich. And the goal is, if we want people to drive less, we need to make it possible for people to live near where they work and also near public transit. And so we need to have more housing density near transit and near jobs and in some areas near jobs that already exist. Like the Mission is already zoned for a lot of density so our bill will not really impact the Mission because already zoned for density. Same with Chinatown, same with South of Market, the Tenderloin.”
Although Wiener claims his proposals would not affect the Mission, The Chronicle documented Wiener’s efforts around the contentious bill by highlighting the pushback by Mission residents to the construction of a five-story luxury apartment building on Valencia Street. This building seemed to epitomize the flaws of Wiener’s housing plan, as only two of the 25 units were set aside for “affordable housing,” calling into question how this approach would create more supply.
Fielder, though, does not view the housing crisis as a supply problem as much as an issue of “true affordability” and debilitating income inequality. In an interview with Nick Estes, host of The Red Nation, a podcast highlighting the stories and work of Indigenous leaders, Fielder describes recent periods of time she has spent “couch-surfing” and sleeping in her van. Despite being a Stanford graduate and working two jobs, Fielder, like many others in the city, has dealt with the reality that market-rate housing is simply unsustainable for many residents.
Fielder has openly questioned Wiener’s housing policies. In an interview with The SF Examiner, Fielder explained her motives for running largely rested in ensuring real-estate stays out of politics. “I’m running because I think it’s time that we have an outside candidate, especially a woman of color who is openly queer as well, challenge a real estate-backed elected official.”
She later tweeted that “every Californian should know it is this way because the real estate industry pours money each year into state-level races fighting rent control, tenant protections, and funding for affordable housing.” One of Fielder’s main policy platforms promises that she will champion an effort towards statewide rent control and improved tenant protections.
Both candidates find common ground in the admission that the criminal justice system is broken, however Wiener’s solution is a bill he that shifted language with regard to what is allowable police force, changing the standard from “reasonable force” to “necessary force.” While he acknowledged there is still a lot of work to be done in this area, he did not describe any plans for large structural changes in the police department.
By contrast, Fielder has been very vocal with her criticisms of SFPD in particular. She recently shared the California Police Scorecard for San Francisco on social media stating, “Not surprised SFPD has a Police Violence score of an F. Used more deadly force per arrest than 57% of CA police depts.”
She has been especially vocal about not compromising her ethics regarding donations, not accepting from police unions or real-estate companies, perhaps in part because this has been a subject of dispute for Senator Wiener. In 2016, Wiener’s campaign received donations from some of San Francisco’s wealthiest, including Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of Yelp, and George Hume, the owner of Basic American Inc and former consultant for McKinsey and Co.
Fielder often touches on this very issue of compromise leading to a lack of accountability. In her initial campaign pledge, Fielder announced: “I will not be accepting contributions from donations from luxury real estate developers, fossil fuel corporations or police unions because I’m accountable to everyday people.”