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Opinion | Why This Liberal Mayor Doesn’t Want a Lecture From Progressives

[MUSIC PLAYING] (SINGING) When you walk in a room, do you have sway?

[MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” A few years ago, I thought about running for mayor of San Francisco. Yes, you heard that right. But I abandoned that idea, and I decided I’d rather grill people than get grilled. Well, now I get to talk to the woman who actually ran for the job and got it: Mayor London Breed. Breed and I have spoken before, but I wanted to talk to her again now, as she’s currently embroiled in a crackdown on drugs and crime that’s made this liberal mayor the unlikely enemy of progressives. It all came to a head when Breed announced a new public safety plan for the city and then swiftly declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin, which is arguably San Francisco’s most dangerous neighborhood. The move empowers the mayor to secure emergency police funding, expand police surveillance powers, and fast-track a service center for people in crisis. The backlash from progressives was swift. Conservatives, on the other hand, gloated. And the New York Post called out the “defund the police” mayor for embarking on a hypocritical crime crackdown. All the fuss makes me think that law and order is going to become the next disruptive wedge issue for Democrats. So I wanted to understand what Mayor Breed is trying to achieve with this pivot, how it will affect constituencies including the moneyed tech titans of San Francisco, and whether these moves will make or break her tenure. Most of all, as a longtime San Franciscan who plans on going back, I want to know what’s going to happen to the City by the Bay that I love so much.

Mayor Breed, welcome to “Sway.”

london breed

Thank you, Kara. Good to see you.

kara swisher

Good to see you. I miss —

london breed

I’ll keep the seat warm for you.

kara swisher

As if. I’d be the worst mayor ever. I would be, like, in the Bahamas during some crisis, I’m sure. So let’s start with the new public safety plan you just announced. I have to say, your speech was rather fiery. Let’s listen to a clip.

archived recording (london breed)

And it’s time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies. And less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.

kara swisher

Wow. That was some speech. What did you mean by “all the bullshit?” I assume you selected that word. Or was that — you just said it off the top of your head?

london breed

Well, I basically did not plan to curse publicly. I know many of my elders, including my family members, were like, London, I can’t believe that you cursed on T.V. But they understood where it was coming from. And just an example, this guy I grew up with — amazing person, worked down in the TL — was chased down, beat down, and shot and killed. And I’ve heard about numerous situations where, sadly, people that I know that grew up in San Francisco, mostly African-Americans — this guy was stabbed because he was trying to break up a fight. A mother who is an immigrant spoke to me through a translator, telling me about how she was assaulted and how she’s fearful to even leave her home. And I just — I am really sick and tired of people who are sadly out there in the Tenderloin breaking the laws and making life miserable for the people who live and work there. And that’s what I mean. It’s really at a point where we have to respond, and we have to hold people accountable for the crimes that they commit. We have an obligation as a city to keep people safe. And right now, we are not doing that with the residents and the people who work in the Tenderloin.

kara swisher

Now the Tenderloin, for those who don’t know, is a section of San Francisco. It’s right in the middle of it, actually. People think of it as a skid row, but it’s where a lot of people live and work. And there’s a lot of businesses. So talk about how it got to that. It’s been a downward spiral for San Francisco, and it’s noticeable for people who live there, as I did for decades.

london breed

Well, San Francisco has been extremely generous with providing supportive services and housing people who are struggling with mental illness, with addiction, with poverty. And in fact, we’ve built affordable housing developments specifically for families. And so the Tenderloin neighborhood has a lot of children. It has a lot of families. It has a lot of immigrants. It has a lot of elderly people. And I think that what has unfortunately happened — and this is even since I was a kid. I was born and raised here. The Tenderloin was always the place that you knew you could go to, unfortunately, sell drugs. And to do other illegal activities. And this is not a new problem. I just think that it’s gotten really out of control. It’s happening in broad daylight. There is just really no desire to even hide it anymore. Because people don’t think that there will be consequences for their behavior, for their actions. And the worst part about it is, it’s just gotten more violent. It’s not just the selling and stealing of stolen property or the selling of drugs and people using drugs — I get text messages almost daily about a shooting or a stabbing or some sort of violent incident in the Tenderloin, and it’s completely out of control.

kara swisher

Yeah, I actually get them too, because I’m still on a lot of San Francisco things. But when you’re talking about what tipped it — because it was always that. There was always the drugs, as you said happened. Is there anything you would point to specifically that would have tipped it from your perspective?

london breed

Well, it’s hard to point to anything. I just know I have tried with a lot of investments even from the first day that I became mayor, making the investments and resources in the Tenderloin. Purchasing buildings, renting new single room occupancy hotels. Really inundating the Tenderloin with social services. We developed a street crisis response team to help people who were struggling on the streets. A street overdose team. We’ve done alternatives to policing. We’ve done all these things. And the problem is there’s still that line that’s being crossed, and the accountability part is not happening. So I can’t necessarily pinpoint to where there was the tipping point. But I will say, my friend getting gunned down and killed and people getting stabbed and mothers and elderly people getting attacked — like, this has gotten completely out of control, and it is our responsibility as elected leaders to do something about it. And I’ve been working on this and trying to figure out, how can we do something similar — especially because when you think about what happened during Covid, we were able to declare a state of emergency. We initially were told we could not declare a state of emergency as it relates to the Tenderloin and the overdose crisis. But last year alone, more people died in 2020 from drug overdoses than they did from Covid in San Francisco.

kara swisher

You had previously resisted a citywide emergency declaration to deal with the opiate crisis. What changed your mind?

london breed

I wouldn’t say that I resisted.

I think that — Before there was request for one, that was something I had definitely looked into to determine whether or not we could do it. And so I was given the advice, the legal advice, that it was not possible for various number of reasons. And so I think that when we were able to get creative about what it would entail and what we would include — I mean, we’re still skating on very thin ice here, but we could actually say that this is the case and the city attorney would sign off on it. But it took a lot of creativity.

kara swisher

So are you considering a citywide declaration or pushing for a citywide declaration?

london breed

Not at this time. Based on the data we have, the most significantly impacted community appears to be the Tenderloin. So this is pretty much ground zero for this particular crisis. And we think it’s appropriate that we focus our attention, our resources on this particular community.

kara swisher

So not at this time is not willing to take it off the table, correct?

london breed

Well, I don’t think we should take anything off the table, because you never know what might happen in other neighborhoods. I mean, SoMa is still experiencing challenges. That’s the south of Market neighborhood. The Mission is having some difficulties as well, as the Bayview-Hunters Point. So I would not take anything off the table. But I think that it’s good news that we’re able to not only get this declaration submitted, but also passed by the board at this time. And it’s already having an impact.

kara swisher

So who do you think is —In San Francisco, you seemed to have hit a nerve with everybody. Progressives were angry. District Attorney Boudin was critical of arrests and prosecutions to come, basically saying this is no way to solve the drug crisis. Conservatives feeling vindicated. Why do you think this is landing in such a polarizing way?

london breed

I am not certain. But at the same time, I would say everything that I do as mayor has a lot to do with my experience too. And I know that people have their opinions about what they think should or shouldn’t happen. But at the end of the day, I am talking to people that live in the Tenderloin. People that I grew up with. People that have very similar experiences like I do, where we grew up, we didn’t trust the police. We didn’t want the police in our community because of what we thought could happen to us. But we also realized the value in it when, sadly, many of the people we were growing up with were getting shot and killed. And our desire to have those cases solved. Our desire to have our community safe. And so I think that everything that is being brought forward has more to do with my experiences of growing up in poverty and growing up in war zones similar to the Tenderloin and Plaza East, a public housing development that was nicknamed Outta Control projects, and living there over 20 years of my life and feeling unsafe and helpless and frustrated. And a desire to want someone to not forget about us and to do something more. I mean, this is why I can’t just leave the Tenderloin to fend for itself. So I will say that this is not about appealing to a particular ideology. Because these ideologies have been what has failed our city, what has failed Black people in our city, and what continues to be about what beliefs are rather than how those beliefs are going to translate to an actual real difference in someone’s life and the ability to keep people safe.

kara swisher

So who is in your way then? Is that Boudin? He’s concerned with criminalizing substance abuse. I think the broader progressive concern is overpolicing, overcriminalization, punishing the marginalized. Who is in your way from your perspective?

london breed

Yeah, I think a lot of people, like some members of the board, like Boudin, did not grow up in poverty in San Francisco. They did not grow up in these kinds of conditions. They have a theory as to what they believe based on their ideology. But they’re also white. They are not Black people who’ve had these unfortunately traumatizing experiences in communities where there’s not trust with the police, but also there’s a desire to be safe, right? And I’ve worked many of my years of growing up in this community to really turn that around because of the violence. Because of what was happening. And to develop better relationships with law enforcement and to hold law enforcement accountable for keeping us safe, too.

kara swisher

So you’re saying, look, we’re trying to fix the problems of overcriminalization, of the marginalized, et cetera like that. But you don’t want to be lectured by people who didn’t grow up in it that are lecturing you from a progressive point of view but lack of experience, I guess.

london breed

I will say that I’m open to hearing people’s perspectives, regardless of their experience of how they grew up. But at the end of the day, the people in this community want to be safe. And I want them to be safe. And I am not going to neglect them. And that means there are things that we have to do that may make people uncomfortable. And so an increased law enforcement presence along with everything else we do around social services is what’s necessary at this time. And I can’t be very concerned about the naysayers unless they’re trying to be obstructionist in our ability to deliver what we promised to make the Tenderloin community a safer, cleaner, better neighborhood for the people who live and work there.

kara swisher

Is that a message that works also with the richer, whiter sections of the city? Because they’re concerned about crime or going downtown or this and that. I don’t think there’s a person I talked to who’s in San Francisco that doesn’t tell me, oh, why would you want to go back there? It’s crime everywhere. I’m like, no it’s not. It’s not. But at the same time, it’s certainly a concern of a lot of people. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to go on Nextdoor or the Citizen apps. It’s sort of irritating. But in general, are you appealing to them, too?

london breed

I will say that I wasn’t really — in the remarks and what I’m doing here, I didn’t weigh the political calculus of who this might appeal to or not. I just decided, along with the people that I work with and the people who serve this community, that we can’t — this is not working. We can’t keep doing the same thing. We’ve added all these additional resources — the street crisis response team, the ambassadors, the services, the buildings we purchase, the hotels we purchase, the resources. We’ve added all these things to deal with food insecurity. All these things. Yet people are still being physically harmed and killed.

kara swisher

Right. So do you think San Francisco — when you’re talking about that is these progressive policies, some of which are terrific, some of which have not worked. Do you think San Francisco has become too progressive or too progressive in ineffective ways? How would you characterize it?

london breed

Well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say because as someone who grew up in the city, I feel like in some ways, I was the beneficiary of progressive policies, like the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Training Program. But at the same time, I’m very uncomfortable even now — and what we’re trying to change is — with the food pantry programs, and how you have to go stand in line to get a box of food. I was always uncomfortable and embarrassed when I had to do that as a kid. And so I’m excited about looking at a model where we create these grocery store-like places where people can go in and shop and not be stigmatized for needing food, right? Some of the things were designed to make people feel good about doing good for other people. But I’m not really a fan of taking away someone’s dignity in the process of trying to help them. And also, there’s not a one size fits all. There are different kinds of addiction. There’s different kinds of mental illness. And I think that attaching blanket policies — like, everyone has the right, and if they don’t want to commit to services, they don’t have to — and I just think sometimes that doesn’t work. That wouldn’t have worked for my grandmother who developed dementia. And do you think I would have wanted to see her out on the streets taking off her clothes? Or in a really compromising position, the woman who went to church with a hat and gloves on and pantyhose and really had a lot of pride in her appearance? So I just think we need to be able to adapt in order to make real change that hopefully will improve public safety in our city. And there’ll be people who stick to their ideology, and they’ll be others who will say and whisper to me, like most of the people I grew up with, thank you. I’m glad somebody’s finally doing something about the Tenderloin. It’s crazy down there.

kara swisher

O.K., but let’s talk about those naysayers. You said you weren’t trying to appeal to a certain ideology. But one thought is you’re trying to differentiate yourself from District Attorney Boudin who’s facing a recall in June, very unpopular with a lot of people. What is your relationship with him and your response to that?

london breed

Well, I would say that Chesa and I, we talk. We definitely have an open relationship to dialogue. As mayor, I’m responsible for his budget. So I’ve been very generous and supportive of his department and providing resources because of my strong desire to see cases that involve violence prosecuted. And so we definitely have conversations. We have different perspectives on things. And I don’t want to see someone struggling with addiction spend their lives in jail. I want to see them in rehab getting help. So I think we agree with that. But at the same time, I’m really focused on, if someone breaks the law, there has to be consequences. So I’m not saying that every solution is to prosecute and lock someone up. But the D.A.‘s responsibility should be to hold people accountable so that they’re not just using jail as a revolving door and not experiencing any consequences for selling drugs or stealing or vandalizing property. Or —

kara swisher

So what is your assessment of the job he’s doing? I mean, charging rates so far have increased for rape and drug cases under Chesa, but decreased for theft and other lower level offenses. Obviously that’s gotten a lot of press, the going and taking things and not getting prosecuted, et cetera. What is your assessment of his performance? And the recall?

london breed

Well, I struggle because I want to see cases prosecuted that especially involve violence. And I want to see people who are in and out of the jails held accountable to a certain extent. And I don’t believe that that is happening to the extent that it should. And I want change. You know, we have these conversations about these cases. And of course, I’m very forceful and I’m aggressive about what I want to see. But ultimately, he has the authority to do it or not to do it. And there have been just really a level of, I would say, frustration. I want to work with this D.A. I mean, he’s the person in office. So I want to have a good working relationship with him. It’s just very challenging, because we definitely, I would say, have differences of opinion about what should or shouldn’t happen. And I think that they took what we’re doing with this emergency declaration and try to make it about arresting people who struggle from addiction, when it’s far from that.

kara swisher

So you do not know how you’re going to vote on the recall yourself as a citizen of San Francisco?

london breed

Oh, I do know how I’m going to vote. But I’m not ready to reveal what I plan to do publicly.

kara swisher

O.K., all right. And when you say having some challenges, differences of opinion — sounds like a tense relationship.

london breed

I wouldn’t say it’s a tense relationship.

kara swisher

I’m not talking about yelling at each other, but you don’t agree with —

london breed

Well, that might happen. I wouldn’t say that he yells. But [LAUGHS] I’m very passionate about my feelings about things. I would just say that we have differences of opinion. And the fact is, we’re still able to talk, which I think is good. But there’s a lot of disagreements.

kara swisher

So one of the critics is the media itself. The New York Post response to your public safety announcement was the headline, “White House lauds ‘defund the police’ San Francisco mayor for crime crackdown,” essentially calling you a hypocrite. You were painted as a progressive defund mayor. I see why people would think that. You pushed to cut $120 million from law enforcement budgets and put it into Black communities. What do you consider yourself? A defund supporter, or is that not what you are?

london breed

I’m not a defund the police supporter. But during that time, I felt it was important to make a really clear statement about my values and what I want to see happen, specifically for the African-American community in San Francisco because of the challenges in the past with law enforcement, and the abuses of power with law enforcement. And we have specifically invested in the African-American community to address those disparities around officer-involved shootings, use of force. Folks who are involved in the criminal justice system. And I think that back in the day when I was growing up, there were too many people I knew who were arrested and did time for things that they never even did. There were people who were unfortunately sometimes beat up. And in the case of even my cousin was shot and killed by law enforcement in San Francisco. And that’s why I felt it was important to make this bold move.

kara swisher

So you’re a reform the police, not a defund supporter, just so I correctly —

london breed

Yes. Aggressively reform. And on top of that, our anti-bias training, our de-escalation training. Our new recruits, which are more diverse than they’ve ever been for the law enforcement agency here in San Francisco. It has been very much impactful. I’m not saying that it’s a perfect department. But I will say that the work that we’ve done over the past couple of years to improve our police department in San Francisco has made a significant difference.

kara swisher

So is crime going to be a kind of wedge issue we saw critical race theory become in 2021 Virginia governor race? Do you think that Democrats have lost their handle on the crime narrative? This is you taking it back, I think, in a lot of ways.

london breed

Yeah. And I really didn’t think too much about that. But I would hope that there’s a way to have a balance. There’s a way to support law enforcement and to support investments in law enforcement but to also make sure that they have not only the critical training, but the critical understanding of what their jobs are, and that we do some of the things that we’re hearing about in terms of legislation when someone has a long history of cases involving alleged abuse, that we look at those things and we use those as ways to make sure those people don’t continue in law enforcement. So I think that ultimately, we, as Democrats, we need to get it together. We need to get it together in terms of supporting each other, in terms of investments in the right kinds of policies that are going to help to keep people safe. But that also don’t take away from what our values are. Because we do want someone who struggles with substance use disorder to get into treatment rather than to be out on the streets or to be in jail. And the difference might be, is we may have to use force to get them into treatment. And that’s one of the things that has not been a consistent desire of most people, to force someone into treatment for substance use disorder or force someone into treatment for behavioral health issues.

kara swisher

Do you think Black mayors face extra pressure around this issue?

london breed

I think that Black mayors face extra pressure in general because we’re held to a completely different standard. I think that with everything that I’ve been doing as mayor, if I were white, I would get treated differently. I would get praised differently. It would be a completely different scenario. But we can’t worry about that. We have to focus on the jobs that we’re elected to do. I mean, being mayor of any major city is hard, because there are going to be a group of people that love you and there’s going to be a group of people that don’t like you. And you have to be O.K. with that. You have to be O.K. with that.

kara swisher

Yes. And yet, though, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gets constant heat for crime in the city. And speaking about Keisha Lance Bottoms’s decision not to run for re-election at Atlanta — was a very popular mayor — one article was about whether the demands of being a Black mayor are at odds with making those cities work for all Black people. And I think she was weary of just the push and pull. What did you think of that?

london breed

Well, I know that Keisha really struggled because she is the kind of person who really tries to get things done. And she wants results. And the challenges of trying to get things done and then the challenges of what we’ve had to deal with this pandemic, I’m sure, really had an impact on her decisions. I mean, I’m sure she wanted to continue to do the job. She loved the job. She loves Atlanta. But I think this pandemic and a number of other challenges that continue to persist sometimes can make you really think twice as to whether or not —

kara swisher

Yeah, why do this?

london breed

It’s not even why, but it’s more so, can I give the people what they expect from me? I have to ask myself that. Like, do I have the courage or do I have the willingness and the fight in me to deliver what it is that I said I would deliver for the people of San Francisco? And the fact is, if I don’t do something about the Tenderloin, then from my perspective, I have failed the city. And that’s another reason why I am going very hard, very aggressive with what we need to do to clean that community up.

kara swisher

O.K. All right, what about the idea — and the previous mayor had this issue, is you want to be too nice to the tech community. To placate tech money, you want to clean up the city or contain the flight of tech talent and money out of San Francisco. Obviously, there’s been big moves to Miami and Austin, and et cetera, et cetera. How do you think about that constituency?

london breed

Well, I think about that constituency, and I got to say that I’m grateful that we have a number of people in the tech industry who support San Francisco. Who are invested in San Francisco and contribute financially to our city in ways that are extraordinary but also who have expanded their footprint. And so what we’re seeing in the city still, regardless of what is happening with the number of people and companies who are deciding to leave — as of October of last year, there was more than $237 billion in venture capitalists in the United States, with 37 percent of those here in San Francisco and Bay Area companies. We’re still seeing companies like Waymo and Google and places expand their footprints.

kara swisher

So do you consider yourself too close to tech? Or that you’re doing things for them, for that constituency?

london breed

I feel like I would like to make sure that I develop a relationship not just with tech, but with all companies in San Francisco. And I’ve actually been doing that — making phone calls to the C.E.O.s, having discussions. What I’m saying to the tech company or any company that wants to do business in San Francisco — don’t just do business in San Francisco and make your money. Be a part of the fabric of supporting and giving back, because that’s how we make our city better.

kara swisher

What do you say to those people who made their money and have left?

london breed

Well, you’re always welcome to come back home. And trust me, I mean, I think in some of those places, they are just not going to be as exciting, as fun, as entertaining, as great as San Francisco. And I think some will return.

kara swisher

That was very nice of you. I would have said, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

london breed

I may be thinking that. [laughs]

kara swisher

Yeah, O.K. All right, O.K. I figured so.

london breed

But that’s how — I think about my grandmother when we would have our big blow-ups and she would tell me to leave, right? And I would leave, but then I’d come knocking on the door and she’s like, what do you say? I had to apologize, and then I had to clean up the whole kitchen, and I had to — there was quite a —

kara swisher

You’re going to make them clean up the kitchen when they come back?

london breed

There was punishment when you came back, but Mama always opened the door and welcomed me back.

kara swisher

I will tell that to Keith Rabois. [MUSIC PLAYING]

We’ll be back in a minute.

If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. And you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Mayor Breed after the break.

So let’s switch gears and talk about a success — Covid. Your leadership and early handling of the pandemic got a lot of praise. Deserved. Covid is still here. We’re dealing with Omicron. The seven-day average of new cases is more than double last winter’s peak. You reimposed indoor mask mandates. Give us an idea of how you’re thinking about it given how well it worked out before.

london breed

Well, this is what it’s like living in the age of Covid. I mean, we’ve done really well. We have over 81 percent of all San Franciscans fully vaccinated. I think that’s great. And 98 percent of our city employees, fully vaccinated. I think that there are a lot of people, sadly, who are getting Covid. And, in fact, are not in the hospital. I think that’s pretty remarkable in light of everything that happened last year around the same time, where our hospitalization rates were out of control, the numbers were high. People were getting really sick. And now it’s, stay home for five, maybe 10 days, and you’re back out in the streets. And what it’s doing, of course, it is definitely having an impact on our workforce. But we’re not shutting the city down, which is the big difference.

kara swisher

O.K., so let me ask you some yes/no questions. Do you plan on putting restrictions on gatherings?

london breed

We have already put some restrictions on gatherings. Like the larger gatherings, like the Warriors games and other places requiring vaccinations and boosters and negative Covid tests. We’re making a number recommendations for some of the smaller gatherings. But we’re not saying shut down.

kara swisher

What about shutting schools? Going back to virtual learning. More than 600 teachers and aides absent in San Francisco. Even the superintendent had to teach. Chicago is battling teachers over this. Yes, no?

london breed

Yeah. And I think, as I said, we’re living with Covid. And I think that testing, of course, is going to play an important role to keeping the schools open. We’re seeing a surge right now. But my understanding from our healthcare professionals is that by February, that surge will decline. And so we’ll get back to a better place. So I just think we’re living with Covid. I’m hearing about more people who have gotten Covid than anything else before. But then they’re on the phone talking and they’re in the house and they’re doing O.K. so —

kara swisher

So shutting schools, no? You don’t want —

london breed

No, I don’t think we should shut schools.

kara swisher

O.K. Is the Biden administration doing enough to help on Covid? They have been slow on testing access obviously. President Biden recently said, “There’s no federal solution. This gets solved at a state level.” Is that helpful? Do you want more help from the Biden administration on testing, et cetera?

london breed

I think we definitely need more help on testing from the feds as well as the state. I know the state is sending testing resources to the schools, which I 100 percent support. But I think people — they’re being a little critical about testing because what we also have are people in our various locations who are out themselves from Covid. So we have some staffing shortages, we have some challenges. And we need our private healthcare providers to also step up. So it’s a lot different and more complicated and definitely more challenging. I think the home testing is the most helpful thing. And the sooner we can get more home tests to people, the better, especially kids in our public schools.

kara swisher

I’m curious what you think of Governor Polis of Colorado — a former techie, by the way. Rejected the idea of another state-wide mask mandate and said that vaccines are “the end of the medical emergency” when it comes to Covid. You just said “living with Covid.” Thoughts on that?

london breed

Well, he’s not a doctor, I’m not a doctor. And the reason why San Francisco has done so well with Covid, because we have professionals who understand infectious diseases and their impacts on people’s lives, whether they have underlying health conditions or vaccines or what have you. So we not only have the Department of Public Health, we have U.C.S.F., University of California San Francisco, and the research that they do here. And I think ultimately, we may not agree with it or we may be tired of it. But regardless of how we might personally feel, listening to the advice of the people who work in this industry and who understand this disease better than we do is, I think, the most important decision we could make to keep people safe.

kara swisher

But there’s not an appetite for more shutdowns as a mayor.

london breed

Of course there’s not. I don’t want to shut anything down. [laughs]

kara swisher

Right.

london breed

And it doesn’t look that way. But what we had to do — the staff of the city and county of San Francisco were expected to start returning to indoor work at the beginning of this year. And we had to move that date. So there are some adjustments that we have to make to keep people safe. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making adjustments and then gradually repopulating. But this is our new normal for now, because Covid is just not going to disappear because we want it to go away.

kara swisher

That is true. So last bunch of questions. You’re making big pushes here on public safety, on homelessness, which we didn’t talk about a lot. But it’s related to drug use, et cetera in San Francisco, although not always. Are you afraid of setting yourself up for failure? These are massive, intractable problems. Did you ever worry about facing a recall, for example?

london breed

I think no. I think it’s really — at the end of the day, I don’t do this job in fear of losing it. I want to do a good job for the people of San Francisco. I feel really honored to serve in this capacity. And I want to deliver. I want to see things change. And so to sit back and do the same thing or to sit back and do nothing — I could not live with myself if that were the case.

kara swisher

So are you inclined to run for a third term?

london breed

Yeah, I guess that is a third term. [LAUGHS] I mean, it’s not really technically a full term.

kara swisher

Right, yeah.

london breed

But it would be me running a third time. At this time, yes. I’m planning to. And I think that it’s up to the people who vote in the city.

kara swisher

What do you think your biggest weakness is in running? What do you think the pain point that they might attack you on is?

london breed

They’re going to attack me on everything. [LAUGHS]

kara swisher

Well, conservatives like you now.

london breed

That’s a part of the job. I get attacked for stuff that I didn’t even do. I get blamed for things I didn’t do. So —

kara swisher

Yeah, what a fun job, wow.

london breed

You got to have some thick skin. So they’re going to attack me on a lot of things. They’re going to even make up stuff. That’s just what it is. But I think it’s important that — I have never deviated from who I am as a person. When I ran the first time, even there were a number of policies that I made public that I supported that a lot of people were against, and I still won those communities. And I just hope that —I mean, politics can get real nasty and it probably will. But my hope is that the people in San Francisco, they know my heart, they know my desire, and they see through it. And they make the decision that they think is best.

kara swisher

So no run for Senate if it opened up? Dianne Feinstein’s seat.

london breed

I’m not going to rule anything out. I don’t know what the future holds. And I’m a very spiritual person. So I, of course, got to pray about it and make sure it feels right in my heart. And right now, I love being mayor. I love fighting for San Francisco. I love seeing this guy I grew up with, in the public housing I grew up with. I got a text that he got his first place. He’s in his 40s, and this is the first place he’s ever had on his own. And he got his keys.

I’m so excited about that. And so those are the kinds of great things that we’re able to make happen for people’s lives, and I want to keep doing that work.

kara swisher

So if you had to remove one thing in your way, what would it be? Would it be the power of the supervisors over you? Would you —

london breed

I would remove the board of supervisors. [LAUGHS]

kara swisher

That’s true.

london breed

Well, I got to say, it’s unfortunate because on an individual basis, in most of them, we have good relationships with. On the one hand, they’ll come into my office and say, oh, we’re so proud to be represented by you, the first Black woman mayor. And on the other hand, they’re like, oh, you’re incompetent. We need to take away your power. You know? [LAUGHS] Your ability to do things. So part of it is I think the board, they represent districts versus city-wide. And I think that I would love to see the politics of the board removed more so than anything else, and folks doing what they know is right or what’s in their heart to do rather than what’s going to keep them in office. Because even when I was on the board of supervisors for District Five, I was pressured into doing things that supposedly cater to the whole liberal wing of my district. And I was not very supportive of many of those policies. So I think that the board, as an obstructionist, I would like to see that go away. There are so many decisions that they continue to make that have been problematic. There have been hundreds of units of housing that have gone before them that they have basically voted against. So on the one hand, I mean, they speak out of both sides of their mouth in some instances. I’m not saying all of them do, but some of them do, where they’re saying, services, services, services, and no police. And then we bring a 200-bed behavioral health facility to their attention. And it’s like, well, wait a minute, no community outreach. It’s like, no, here’s the community outreach that has been happening. So this is just trying to use that as an excuse not to see this thing go through. So I get a lot of that because they are catering to one specific audience. I’m trying to do what’s best for the entire city, and that continues to be a struggle.

kara swisher

See, this is why I didn’t want to run. I wanted to be a benevolent dictator, Mayor Breed. I was like, I need to get rid of the supervisors, clearly.

london breed

But I will say —I mean, look, I don’t think get rid of the supervisors. I do think that —

kara swisher

Well, I’m an evil mayor compared to you.

london breed

I think having supervisors who are accountable to the entire city could be very helpful.

kara swisher

Yes. See, I think the city needs to think of the city as a whole.

london breed

Yes.

kara swisher

Rather than neighborhoods. That’s always been a problem in San Francisco. So anyway, it’s still a wonderful city. I miss it desperately. I think about it all the time, coming back.

london breed

You can always come home.

kara swisher

Oh, I’m coming home. I still have a house there. I’m coming home. [MUSIC PLAYING]

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe, and Wyatt Orme. Edited by Nayeema Raza. With original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Sonia Herrero and Carole Sabouraud, and fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Kristin Lin, and Kristina Samulewski. The executive producer for New York Times Opinion Audio is Irene Noguchi. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you with a welcome mat that says, don’t hit yourself on the way out, download any podcast app, then search for “Sway” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

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