Mayor London Breed's Inauguration Speech

Mayor London N. Breed Inauguration Speech 7/11/18


Note: Speech subject to small changes


Thank you. Thank you all for being here today.


I want to thank the residents of San Francisco for entrusting me with this incredible honor. I want to thank my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors; I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in this role.

Thank you to my predecessors who are here today: Former Mayors Art Agnos, Frank Jordan, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and Mark Farrell.

And as we recognize those who are here today, I don’t want to forget the tragedy that brought us here, the kind and gracious public servant we lost seven months ago. Can we please take a moment of silence for Mayor Ed Lee.

***

Thank you.

I want to thank the many other elected officials who’ve joined us today. Mayors from around California and the United States, our state delegation.

Thank you to my family and close friends who are her today including my mother Priscilla, my sisters Hattie and Comelia, my brother Paul, my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Linda, and my niece Naprisha, who was my rock throughout the campaign.

I grew up just a few blocks from here...but a world away.

A young African American girl born into public housing in the 1970s, with a grandmother raising three kids and her daughter, my Aunt Mickey on $900 per month.

The world seemingly destined me for drugs, teenage motherhood, jail, or even death by gun violence. 

But my community—our City—had other plans.

Each morning I woke up in a publicly-funded housing unit. I rode a public bus to a public school. I had incredible teachers and school counselors who believed in me. I walked home with other kids in the neighborhood and we looked out for one another.

And at home, my grandmother, Ms. Comelia Brown always watched over me — just as she’s watching over us right now.

Ms. Brown was hardworking and tough as nails. “You don’t live in this house if you don’t go to school,” she told us.

She would feed neighbors who had no food, and when I asked, “Why mamma, we barely have any ourselves?” Ms. Brown told me: “Because that could be us next time.”

When I was a freshman in high school, the Booker T. Washington community center helped me get a job through the Mayor’s Youth Employment & Training Program. At 14 years old, I got assigned to work as a receptionist at The Family School on Fillmore Street, which helped teenage moms who had dropped out of high school, get their GED, and find a job.

I remember one day I saw the School’s Executive Director, Reverend Calvin Jones, Jr., writing a check for his student loans. “You’re still paying for school?” I asked. “Wow, I can never go to college.”

Reverend Jones looked up and said: “Yes, I am still paying student loans, but they can never take away my education and I can get a job anywhere doing anything I want.”

I stand at this podium today because a community supported me, because our city services looked out for me.

I stand at this podium because people like Ms. Brown and Reverend Calvin Jones taught me that service to others is the most important success of all.

I stand here in the hope that together we can build a San Francisco where the next generation of girls can go from public housing to the Mayor’s office.

This is the City of Saint Francis. We support one another; we defend one another. And service to others is our highest calling.

***

Ironically, our city’s challenges tend to emerge from our strengths.

We have a powerful, 21 st century economy that is driving the financial engines of the state and even the nation, but that same boom is creating disparity that threatens to make us a city of haves and have-nots.

We attract driven, open-minded, creative people from all over the world, but when we fail to build the housing we need, we risk pricing out all but the wealthiest among us from the city we love.

We are unrivaled in our level of tolerance, kindness, and concern for others, and yet our streets are filled with people unable to find a home and who, in too many cases, are sick and dying on the sidewalk right in front of us.

We face these and many other challenges, and yet so often our politics seem to push us further and further apart.

What we need to do is come together, and tackle these problems as one.

Because we are not “a tale of two cities.”

We are one.

San Francisco is one city, and we can bridge our differences.

And so as Mayor, I will be creating a city government that is not moderate or progressive; it will be all San Franciscans! I will welcome capable, hard-working people to my administration, wherever they come from. And we will seek input from all sides. My administration will do what is right and what works.

***

Let me tell you how I intend to start.

First, we must get the homeless off the streets and into the housing and services they need.

The City’s homelessness crisis, and the dangerous conditions we see on our streets, aren’t just failures of public policy; they undermine what it means to be San Francisco.

The City of Saint Francis should never let thousands of people shiver in the cold or endure illness and addiction alone. There is nothing compassionate or safe about relegating people to sleep in a tent.

My goal is to keep people in their home if they already have one, get people housed if they are currently homeless, provide people with the mental health and addiction services they need, clean up our streets, and ultimately create a San Francisco where no one is forced, or allowed to sleep on the streets.

I will reform our conservatorship program, providing those with mental illness a guardian to make decisions for them when they cannot make decisions for themselves; make Safe Injection Sites a reality, to get needles and people struggling with addiction off the streets, but more importantly, to provide treatment on demand; build modular homes for the homeless; and clear long-term tent encampments within one year.

Second, we must improve public safety.

I know what it’s like to grow up in a community ravaged by drugs and violence, held down by unemployment, and held back by neglect.

I’ve lost friends; I’ve lost family to drug addition, to gunfire, violence and despair.

Public safety isn’t an abstract policy for me—it’s real life.

We are seeing troubling new spikes in property crimes, unsafe street behavior and, in some neighborhoods, even a rise in violent crimes. This, along with our homelessness crisis, is taking a severe toll on our neighborhoods and tourist industry, which provides thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our local economy.

We have worked to hire 400 new police officers, and as Mayor I will add hundreds more, building a force that reflects our communities, speaks our languages, and is out walking the beat.

And I am committed to implementing the reforms we need to improve the relationship between our police officers and our communities of color.

Yes, there must be consequences for those who commit crimes on our streets. But more importantly, there must be opportunities, so people aren’t compelled to commit crimes in the first place.

But perhaps the most fundamental challenge of all, and the most complex one, is dealing with our affordability crisis.

I’ve been a renter all my life.

When I was in college, just as my grandmother started needing me to care for her, we were told our home was being torn down. So housing insecurity isn’t an abstract policy for me either.

I’ve lived it.

We are several years in to a major economic boom. But that growth, those jobs, create demand. And when it comes to housing: yes, supply and demand is a real thing.

We often ask: should we build more housing for teachers, nonprofit workers, or the homeless? Then we answer with an unending system of laws and procedures that seem designed to say “NO!”

Well, today we say yes.

Yes we need more affordable housing. Yes we need more middle income housing. And yes we need market rate housing.

We have had enough of the politics of no. It has not worked.

I believe in the power of YES.

Progress takes audacity. YES takes courage.

We say yes. It is time to build more housing for all San Franciscans.

To live up to our progressive ideals as a sanctuary city, a place where LGBT youth can escape persecution, where we take care of the elderly and the disadvantaged, and where someone like me can grow up in public housing and become your mayor, we need to make sure people can afford to live here.

We need to make sure enough housing is available for all of us so we don’t pit neighbor against neighbor, fighting over the last remaining two-bedroom apartment.

Because we know who will win that fight: those with the deepest pockets. I will pursue every opportunity to add homes on underutilized lots, like the McDonald’s site the city just purchased on Haight Street.

And I will reform our approval processes so the word “yes” instead of “no” prevails.

I also consider it a personal obligation—a promise to Ms. Brown and everyone who helped me along the way—to improve our education system and employment opportunities.

As a graduate of our public schools, I am excited we passed Proposition G to raise teacher pay. I want to build housing for teachers, prioritize neighborhood schools, and protect advanced math options.

And just as I had the opportunity to work alongside Reverend Calvin Jones, my administration will make sure that every high school student in San Francisco has the opportunity for a paid internship and job training.

We will tell the President, that in San Francisco, we don’t put children in cages; we put them in classrooms.

We have so much work to do—

re-envisioning our transportation system, making biking safer, paving the streets, and improving Muni,

investing in our parks,

rebuilding the sea wall and defending ourselves from climate change,

reforming our criminal justice system,

supporting small businesses,

and fighting for all our communities in the face of almost unimaginable forces from Washington D.C.

But I believe our city can achieve it all if we work together.

***

I believe in the promise of San Francisco because I have lived it.

I have seen what can happen when we lift each other up.

My story may seem like the exception but we can make it the norm.

We can change what is normal in this city. We can show the next generation of young people that anything is possible. And our obligation, in this building, is to make sure they have opportunities.

It’s to make sure they can afford to stay in San Francisco!

It’s to make sure their normal will be paid internships, college, quality jobs, reliable public services, and fulfilling lives, here in San Francisco!

I am hopeful. I am optimistic. I am excited. And I am looking forward to what we are going to achieve together.

We are one city.

Our challenges are too stark, our opportunities too great to let cliques or politics divide us.

There are too many San Franciscans who feel isolated, left out, and unheard.

So when I talk to folks in public housing—over in Sunnydale or Potrero Hill—and I listen to their stories about toilets that won’t flush or gunfire outside their windows, I have lived it, and I will be your Mayor too.

When I talk to folks out in the Avenues and they’re worried about car break-ins, or boarded-up storefronts, I want them to know: I will be your Mayor too.

And if you’re a Baby Boomer in Glen Park or Bernal Heights, and you’re worried your children won’t be able to stay in the city they’ve called home their whole lives, I want you to know: I will be your Mayor too.

And if you’re a renter in the Tenderloin and you’re worried your building might be Ellis Acted and you’ll be tossed in the street, believe me: I will be your Mayor too.

And if you’re a small business or small property owner in the Excelsior and feel you’re being squeezed out by big development on one side and government on the other: I will be your Mayor too.

If you’re a new immigrant in Chinatown or in the Mission or South of Market and you’re worried about the federal government breaking up your family, I will be your Mayor too.

And if you’re a homeless person on Sixth Street, maybe you’re struggling with addiction or some major trauma, and you just need a safe place to lay your head and a helping hand to get you going: I will be your Mayor too.

I will be a Mayor for all San Franciscans!

And together, there is no problem we can’t solve, no promise we can’t achieve.

Because we are one city and we will succeed together.