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"I Make a Six-Figure Salary, and I Have a Roommate. I Shop at Ross. I Clip Coupons. What Does That Say?"

London Breed, the Board of Supervisors’ new president, has a lot on her plate, and a lot on her mind.

London Breed

London Breed 

 

This is "Think Tank," an occasional series of conversations with Bay Area power players, conducted by San Francisco editors. Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. 

Name: London Breed
Job: President, Board of Supervisors
Age: 40
Residence: Western Addition

Four people were recently killed in a quadruple homicide in your district. As a community leader, how does that make you feel?
It’s heartbreaking. I knew pretty much all of the victims. One of the moms—we were friends when we were kids. To see her lose her son like that, it’s hard. Our children are growing up in a cycle of poverty and violence. This is their normal. Where did we go wrong?

Where did we? Beyond the perpetrators themselves, who’s at fault?
When you’re a mom with a son who is committing acts of violence, you know what your son is doing. That he needs a gun for protection cannot be an excuse. That’s part of the problem—moms who are in denial, who think it’s OK for their kids to live like this, instead of fighting to get their children safe. My frustration is about the responsibility of the families for the role that their children are playing in the problem.

Since you were a kid, the Western Addition and Hayes Valley have gentrified considerably. Has that helped or hurt the prospects of disadvantaged young people in San Francisco?
I wouldn’t say that it has helped. It looks good on the surface, but it’s not good for everybody. I love the city and I don’t want to leave, but it is really expensive to live here. Buildings are built that are not affordable—not even to me, a member of the Board of Supervisors. I make a six-figure salary, and I have a roommate. I shop at Ross. I clip coupons. What does that say? It’s too expensive to build here. Period. That’s a problem.

In January, you were named president of the Board of Supervisors, which necessitates a close working relationship with the mayor. What do you make of Ed Lee?
The mayor and I have always had a good relationship. We share values and goals for the city. We may not always agree, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect him as the mayor. He has really come in line with a lot of things that are my vision—especially on public housing and jobs. We are very similar in what we want, but have some differences in style: I’m more fun; he’s more serious.

He’s made some jokes lately.
Is anyone laughing? Just kidding, Mr. Mayor. But seriously, he has a heart for the city. I appreciate that.

Your predecessor, David Chiu, was known for being very even-keeled. How much will you model yourself on him?
David was probably more diplomatic than I’m willing to be. He was good—I liked how he worked with people. He was fair, and he was considerate. I think I might be a little different from him, though. Sometimes I’m like, did they really let me in the door? I don’t know if they knew what they were getting into.

What are they getting into?
Look, I get upset. I have a temper. The rawness is natural: Growing up, that was how we communicated. I’ve made the mistake of letting people upset me so much that I explode. But I have to be better. I am a representative of the city, and part of that means keeping myself in check. A lot of folks are counting on me. I have to be smarter and more diplomatic, and show people that a girl from the projects, as hood as she used to be, can work with other people and get things done.

 

Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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