Jan 25, 2024
48 min
Episode 11

We Are San Francisco: 'Analyzing Politics' with Mary Jung

Ben Kaplan  00:00

Hey, BART Rider. Hey San Francisco. I'm Ben Kaplan and this is the podcast where we define who we are and who we want to be. We are diverse, we are innovative, we are inclusive. We are change makers, problem solvers, activists, leaders, citizens.


We are open minded, optimistic, because hope for a better tomorrow and you and you and you got to get in the hole.

Ben Kaplan  00:26

This is the podcast that's more than a podcast for Cisco. They are the world champion. We are San Francisco.

Ben Kaplan  00:40

Hey San Francisco. Today we're chatting with Mary Jung, former chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party and a key political powerbroker in our city. Mary's career spans more than 50 years, she first made a name for herself as a volunteer for George McGovern's presidential campaign, and then as a woman's equal pay and equal rights activist for Cleveland women working a labor movement featured in the documentary nine to five, currently streaming on Netflix. From her current perch as Director of Government Relations and Community Affairs at the San Francisco Association of Realtors. Mary has led efforts related to some of our city's most notable political fights, including the successful 2022 District Attorney recall, a campaign that Mary chaired. Mary also founded the Welcome Home project in 2015. With Mayor Ed Lee, which has helped more than 10,000 homeless individuals and families settle into their new homes. So why is the political culture so divisive in San Francisco, between so called progressives and moderates? And what kind of influence does money have in city politics? Let's find out with Mary Jung. Mary, to start with, how would you characterize the political culture of San Francisco just the way people interact? I've heard people say it's brutal. Some people have called it a knife fight in a phone booth. Is that true? Or people overstating things?

Mary Jung  02:09

So I believe that's true, I would just use the word challenging. I come from a time when people work on both sides of the aisle, work together, figured out to compromise this and tried to make government work. San Francisco in its Local Edition is very much like what's going on nationally, where you've got two sides that are not talking to each other to come to meaningful solutions. It's really unfortunate, because at the end of the day, um, the two sides are really not that different. There, I always thought that we were, we were differentiated from very, very small details. And how did we get

Ben Kaplan  02:49

to this point, because you look at a city that's nine out of 10 people are registered Democrats, really you're looking at a divide that is more of a if you're going to characterize it, sort of moderate centrist, and then more of a further left faction, which kind of in the city calls itself progressive. But that's sort of a difficult label, because people that are moderate centrist in San Francisco might be considered progressive nationally. And with all of these folks that largely agree in a city that is largely dominated by one party, how did we get to this point? Why are we here now. So

Mary Jung  03:24

you know, again, I'm going to point to what's been going on nationally, for probably the last 30 to 40 years. You know, I remember working on the Clinton Gore campaign back in 1996, as the executive director of the San Francisco campaign, and back then, we could start to see the divide, maybe 10 years before, it was a lot more collegial. You heard about people going out together after meetings and going out for a drink at noon, just trying to figure out how best to work together was more collegial. And nowadays, such as that just doesn't happen. It was just very small. I remember, I take a lot of people may remember Jay Morrison, who was also a Democratic Party chair, and, you know, just like an icon in the progressive movement in San Francisco. And pretty early on in my career in the Democratic concentric committee. We were just, we, I couldn't understand what the difference was. And I had a long conversation with her about issues. And I just went through all the different issues that progressives and moderates talked about. And the only thing we really disagreed on was, you know, I guess what we would call now conservatorship. I really believe that if somebody was really ill really couldn't take care of themselves. I really thought and there was no family around to take care of them that somebody had to step in, and that it was inhumane not to your individual

Ben Kaplan  04:54

will superseded that and and we couldn't put someone in a conservatorship. So that was a clear A difference in policy but a lot of other things, even though you were supposed to be at different ends of the, I guess the limited San Francisco spectrum, you actually agreed on quite a bit.

Mary Jung  05:09

On most things. It was just tiny little details, right.

Ben Kaplan  05:13

And so I've often wondered, during this podcast, I've talked to a lot of people from all parts of the government or different community groups or, you know, different stakeholders. And one of the things I've asked is, would we get a lot more things done, if just like, I don't know, the mayor, and the board of supervisors had dinner every month and went to someone's house, and that person was in charge of cooking, and they all came together seems like a silly idea. But if the relationships were better, is that impacting what we can accomplish? And the results residents and citizens are getting the fact that relationships are involved, egos are involved, it sort of seems like people raise themselves up by pushing other people down. If everyone was just like better friends, would that actually make a better city? Or is that just dressing on top?

Mary Jung  05:56

You know, I'm not sure you would think that wouldn't, the more that you can see people like family members as friends, the more commonalities that you have, right. On the other hand, it says you said, it may not amount to anything, but I would like to think that it would, but I don't think you can force people to do that.

Ben Kaplan  06:14

I want to move on to actual kind of issue related topics and where we're at. But maybe a final question is who bears responsibility for the political climate? Now, does Mayor breed bear some responsibility for this? Because she's on the top and she sets the tone? Is it the Board of Supervisors, because you know, Mayor breed comes from the Board of Supervisors, there's a certain kind of ethos there is it just the specific people involved that are sort of getting into it at meetings, and you hear staffs are like, instructed not to talk to each other like this staff? Don't talk to that staff, and we don't interact? I mean, like, is there any blame to go around for the culture? Or is this the culture it is what it is.

Mary Jung  06:49

So we created the culture, we bought into the culture. And it's fine for us to point at all the elected representatives from the mayors of the border supervisors to everybody. But the voters also had a say in it. I mean, for voters for many years. We like to think of ourselves as the city of St. Francis, we are the city to take care of people. We are the city that's compassionate. And so when you given these, these choices, people opted to be kinder and gentler. And I think that that led us to where we are today, where we've elected to people where we are today. I mean, I think that not all of them. But many of our members of Board of Supervisors are simply representing what the people thought they wanted, then we had COVID. And people were able to look back at what was going on and realize that oh, my God, I voted for all these members of the Board of Education, who are not allowing our children to go back to school. And instead, they are wasting our time and our money on ridiculous projects, like renaming schools, okay. You know, in a perfect world, you can do all that. But when you've got children that are sitting at home that are having nervous breakdowns, or not being able to learn, do your job done. So I see to what happened in the recall campaigns, with the school board was the district election, people realize that, oh, our votes really do matter. And you want, we're going to exercise a right as citizens, and we're going to make a difference. And we're going to try to make it different than what we voted on and make it better. And

Ben Kaplan  08:26

is that a form of I guess you'd call it more generally like buyer's remorse, right? Where you buy I don't know, that expensive painting that look really good in the store, then you get it home and you put it on the wall? And you're like, do I really like that? I'm not sure. Do you think the recalls in 2022? Board of Education District Attorney? Was that like, voters remorse? Or was it just that, oh, I didn't realize that this vote, you know, that I just kind of went along with because I saw it in the D Triple C, you know, voters guide and seem fine. And I did it actually has like a real consequences whether my kids are back in school or not.

Mary Jung  09:02

To me as an Asian woman. It was a matter of life and death for community. You know, I'm sure I had a child who went to public school. But I think that if I had a kid who was in public school today, I would have been up in arms in general. I do not support recalls. The Republicans tried to recall on Governor Gavin Newsom, I was wholly against that donated money to that campaign, just to make sure that you're the domestic should come across that he was an okay, Governor, right. In this case, I just really think that citizens had to say something. I mean, I don't know. You know, by the second year when Chester butene was in office, whether or not we could stand to have another two years. Okay. And we did have to have another two years because a lot of times in these races people are just automatically reelected. Did we want to make sure that he W wanted to do everything that we can to make sure he didn't get a second term agenda even like Hulu Talking about the Recall, my original goal on the recall, was to educate voters on public safety and what could be done and what these different these different offices were and how they could impact us. And whether or not he got recalled or not, we didn't know because San Franciscans in general, and because we're a democratic city, and Gavin Newsom comes from San Francisco, are very anti recall. And so but I thought the education component was really, really useful. And an important, one

Ben Kaplan  10:29

of the things we've discussed on this podcast is really those two recalls in 2022. Were movements that formed, right, they're really movements, and especially the Board of Education recall, was a really organic movement, right? Like before, a lot of the sort of political professionals and others didn't get it over the hump. It had been to 25,000 signatures just organically there as well. Yet those movements, I think a lot of the relationships people involved them stayed and got a lot more people involved in, in local politics and civic engagement. But they didn't really stay around as a movement, because largely it was mission accomplished. Right? It was because why? Because there was a recall, there was a recall vote, people will recall, were done. Do you think those people though the communities, in particular Asian community, especially on that board of education, recall, do you think those movements can continue in some kind of positive direction that isn't driven by a recall, but it's driven by what we want to accomplish? Is there a movement there that's bubbling under the surface that we could tap into for the change we need. So

Mary Jung  11:35

it's so for the immediate future, I think citizens are still looking for change, they are seeing that they can actually do something I shouldn't say, because that's really the big wave. I was gonna, so we saw that we could make change, we saw that we still that there were still problems out there, and that we need to continue working. You know, there was a period a year or so ago, where I was wondering whether or not citizens would think, okay, we recall these these utilities for people and work done. Right. But that didn't, that wasn't the case, citizens still wanted to see change, and started voting for supervisors who, who reflected their views on public safety and education. You know, Jolin, Gardea, worked very, very hard on the school board recall. And also in the district attorney's office, you know, Matt Dorsey, have helped on the recall a district attorney. And so, you know, I do believe that going forward, citizens are still awake and want to see change,

Ben Kaplan  12:40

and how important is the D, Triple C, but essentially, the Democratic Party of San Francisco, there's new elections in March coming up. And really, it's a battle for who controls the central party, because that party, would you say, produces a voter guide, and what's in that voter guide influences how a lot of people vote, so not a lot people focus on it, there's a slate of candidates that whether it's a more sort of centrist moderate slate or a more like far, far left, it's going to characterize as progressive slate, how important is that vote coming up in March? And do people need to pay more attention to it when a lot of people, you know, don't really traditionally, people

Mary Jung  13:21

need to vote down ballot to teach will see race is on the ballot, bottom of the ballot, and it's going to be a really long ballot. Okay. And so, I'm encouraging people and from closing candidates to make sure that their friends understand that they have to vote for all 10 or 14 candidates. They can't just vote with their best friend, you know, where to, you know, the relative and call it a day, right. So, you don't absolutely have to have the democratic County Central Committee endorsement to win, but it helps, and especially on down down ballot races where people really are not paying attention. I mean, past I think, in every school board race, but was one candidate, if you received a D Triple C endorsement, you won other than one time, okay, which is pretty significant. And it wasn't the teachers union. It wasn't the League of you know, your rotated voters, you know, or any of the or, or, you know, Bernie Kratz it was the Democratic County Central Committee, Slate card that was the most important and carry today, as

Ben Kaplan  14:26

a former head of the Democratic Party in San Francisco. What is your perspective now and where the party has sort of gone sort of the official body and and there's been news about more infighting like certain like democratic clubs that traditionally like if you met all the requirements, you just be a club. And now, you know, there was some pushback on whether they should be allowed to be create their own club and what is your feeling just as being a former chairperson of it of where the Democratic Party in San Francisco is now? You

Mary Jung  14:54

know, I thought that that was really unfortunate. That was the first time I had ever have heard of the Democratic Party immune since 1995. Not chartering the club. You know, eventually they did the right thing. But it should have happened at that first vote. And you know, again, it just shows how people were ostracized from each other. And, and we shouldn't be.

Ben Kaplan  15:16

And it seems like one of the thing that was traditionally something that everyone in the party and maybe everyone in both parties that people kind of tried to do it strategically on this would agree on, is that we've got to turn out the vote, we've got to get people engaged. One of the things that that's healthy in a democracy is you need citizens who are involved and educated and participating. And it was okay. I don't know if this was a more quaint time how people viewed it, but like, people would encourage you to, like, go out and vote, eat and get involved, even if it's not for how I would vote or how I would do it. That's okay, because the health of our democracy is dependent on people getting involved, or that kind of feeling go because that used to be like, no one would even disagree with that, right? Everyone was for getting out the vote. But now it's almost like No, no, only get out the vote, if you agree with me. And if you don't agree with me on this other 5%. Like, we hope you never show up. And don't get involved, it feels like that when it was never like that before.

Mary Jung  16:07

So I don't agree with it. I mean, for me, I want everyone to go out to vote. And if you look back at the history of the Democratic County Central Committee, for years, our main goal was to educate voters and get them out to vote. And there was a period I think, was like in 1980s, where a lawsuit was filed by certain central committee members. We're, they wanted to the party to do endorsements. And it was at that point, when we started to do endorsements, that the rupture started within the party. Either there was this thing in the Democratic party where you did, because it's so down ballot, that the more well known you name is, the better chance you have of winning. My thing when I was chair was that if you're an elected official, you were the seat, would you please not run again, to allow room for the grassroots? Okay, so no matter what side of the aisle you're on, as a grassroots volunteer, you had a chance of being an elected member of the Democratic Central Committee. And it also grows about right. So that has not happened in recent years. There was one year where I think, out of 17 seats, 17 of the candidates were elected officials. And of course, they all won, they didn't have to raise a penny, they didn't have to put up a house sign, they didn't have to go door to door, they won just on the basis of their name. And whether or not they did anything for the party afterwards, many of them resigned immediately, or within the first three months, and had someone else appointed, who thought similar to them. To me, that was just wrong. It might have been clever. It might have been strategically smart. But it was wrong. And I would like to think that, that I'm departing when I continue that way. On the other hand, you've got to fight fire with fire. So if you want to save the city, you've got to do a lot of things to win. Well,

Ben Kaplan  18:08

and bear lies in some of the issue, which is if all of us have like on our shoulders sitting there be better angels, you know, more like angels that want to win. Another way to put it, let's say the problem is, is that in theory, we should have our better angels coming out. But then it's also an arms race, like any other arms race, right, the other side is arming up so that you are you have to arm and then they have to rearm and you're like how did we get get to this point? Even though I mean, in my mind, I think like well, it's just like freedom of speech, right? If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in like the right to someone else who disagrees with you to stand up and say that with full voice and he believes in freedom of speech so much, that that's okay, good for them. And if you believe in democracy, if you really believe in democracy, then you believe that this give and take between this side the other side, what results from it gets us to a better place, right? Ultimately, the best ideas will come to the top. And democracy relies on that. And so we believe this in theory, but then circumstances are different. And probably if I just made that little mini speech I just made right there. People say Ah, very naive, you know, that's not how it works. Right? Oh, you know, whatever the candidacy supports are gonna gonna lose,

Mary Jung  19:21

you suddenly hear from my generation.

Ben Kaplan  19:24

It here's my question, then do we need if we're going to change the tone and get things done? Do we need more people from outside politics, who are not a political insider to get involved? And I'm asking this to a political insider, which, of course you are married, but it's been commented that almost all the Board of Supervisors members are mostly career politicians. Do we need other perspectives or just people who think of things a little bit differently? Well,

Mary Jung  19:48

the thing that says is that the minute you throw your way into running for office, all of a sudden you're considered an insider and a career politician. I mean, someone like let's say Jolin gar Deal, right? You know, I guess he's considered an insider. But he's also a grassroots person. I mean, he started, he started coming, coming to events, just to everyday average citizen, the same way I started volunteering in campaigns. You know, I was at a bus stop, and the bus was late. And I ended up talking to staffers and volunteers that didn't McGovern for President campaign. So you can do the math to figure out how old I am, right? And up Lakota, and I was just a regular person who was about to vote in my first election. Right? And then now I'm considered the insider because I've done things. But at some point, we're all insiders, you're an insider, you know, whether you like it or not, whether or not our day effective, you know, I think it helps that when you are in elected office, it helps to know something about what you're running for. Okay, and how the wheels work. Okay. I think that that's probably more so in higher office images and lower office.

Ben Kaplan  20:58

Want to join our movement to get San Francisco back on track and attend a week town hall event are stopped by our popular we have the our meetups. Better yet, join our data team, take the census, or help us audit the city budget to join the movement, text us at 415301 6700. That's 415-301-6700 or learn more at WWE San francisco.org. And what do you think about this kind of push and pull? So recently, you know, of course, you have Mayor London breed who's been in office for a number of years now you recently and you have other people running for mayor like Ahsha Safai, who has been on the board of supervisors and other persons from that background. And then you have, you know, recently announced Daniel Laurie, who has not held public office before but as you know, been the head of a nonprofit in the city announcing and the minute this happens, it was interesting to sort of see see the dynamic where people said, so of course, Daniel, Larry comes in and says, I'm an outsider, we need someone who's not from the system that's broken to fix it. And then immediately from Mayor breed's people say, Well, you know, we don't need a beginner, we've got serious problems. Now, you know, he's a beginner, and then that's like, kind of the normal give and take, like, are they both wrong? Are they both right? How do you for the situation we're in? What kind of leader do we need to get out of this? Or is that all just political posturing.

Mary Jung  22:24

So you know, full disclosure here, I've known Mayor breed since she was like 25 years old. And I met her on one for first paid political campaigns, and working for Willie Brown through election. So I've known him for a long time before she became the ultimate insider by being in the mayor's office. And she doesn't understand how the wheels turn. And I think that's extremely helpful. I think that she would be helped more if we had more elected officials who could work alongside her. And so it has helped that we have Catherine Stephanie, we have Jolin, Garcia, we have Matt Dorsey. He has people like that who can help support her, and to help make the right things happen.

Ben Kaplan  23:08

And there's two characteristics about local politics in San Francisco that I'd love your opinion on, that are very distinctive to San Francisco. The first one is ranked choice voting, this idea that you don't just vote, who do you want to vote for? Whether that's mayor or Board of Supervisors? No, but you actually rank people. And then essentially, it's almost like I always describe it like, like, if you've ever watched the TV show survivor, like someone's kicked off the island, and then you take all the second place votes, and then they contribute until someone is chosen. Do you think rank choice voting, I hear all different sides of Oh, it does encourage more moderate selections, because you know, someone can you know, if you don't polarize too many people get more votes. I also hear that, you know, people form strange strategies to try to game the system and form coalition's that just causes politicians to do what politicians do, which is be political, and try to figure out a way to win, what is your feeling on the effect of rank choice voting, and in San Francisco.

Mary Jung  24:06

So I remember when rent was voting was first called instant runoff voting. And I was actually in the first lawsuit to try to stop in select runoff voting, and partially because I really thought that it would dilute the power of immigrant communities. And as as, as it turns out, we were right, unfortunately, that if you look at how the Board of Supervisors was beforehand, there were many more women, many more gays, many more people of color. And after that, it's become a little bit more homogeneous is would that be the word? And so So it started off as Bill said, we're not voting universals games that get the results right away. Right. And that whole thing about building coalitions, a lot of stuff that was still out there, but then they changed it to rank choice voting, because there was no such thing as an instant runoff anymore. I mean, the way that it was sold originally the voters was that, okay? You have a general election in November. And if nobody gets 50 Plus One of the vote, then you have an election within like five to six weeks. So which was called the runoff, right. And what they were saying is, is that not enough? People were voting in the runoff? So people who are winning, we're not really reflective. Right. And, you know, I can see why people would be against a five week voting period. Right? I mean, we might solution at the time was that we should just change your San Francisco calendar, to the national calendar, where our general election would be during your primary. And if no one got 50%, then you would have to run off in November, kind of like what we do right now. Right. But the luctus, who heard that that? That makes a lot of sense, but we're not going to do that. So okay, so now we have what we have today, why

Ben Kaplan  25:51

would it diminish representation from different minority groups or niche groups? Why would rank choice voting? encourage that? So

Mary Jung  25:59

I'm not sure why. But that's but that has been the result. Go back and look at the result. Same thing with district elections? I mean, I know that people really, you know, I understand the whole thing about just district representation. But we had a much more diverse board. Well, we had citywide elections. Sure.

Ben Kaplan  26:14

Well, and and do you think that as what people point to that as a as a struggle between, you know, we generally have more moderate centrist mayors that have to represent the whole city? And then we have more of, you know, more extreme board members that don't have to represent the whole city? Do you think that creates this type of gridlock and animosity that we've seen? Or is, is that actually checks and balances in action? And it's just that, you know, what politics is, is, you know, the art of the possible and you got to consider the whole group, and you can gotta consider individual areas? And that's what it should be? Did you think that we create gridlock, by kind of the nature of how we choose mayors versus the Board of Supervisors?

Mary Jung  27:00

So all of what you said is true. Okay. But I don't think that that's good luck. Okay. I mean, when you're saying that drug dealers who've been arrested several times, okay, caught on film, are put to a revolving door. That's not gridlock. That's just perpetuating a terrible situation.

Ben Kaplan  27:21

Sure. Of course, I agree with you on that directly, especially on that issue. I just wonder, in some ways people describe politics, what they'll describe as, as a flaw, sometimes can be viewed as a feature from the tech world they call is this a feature? Or is it a bug. And the fact that, you know, people say the flaw is that we can't agree, we can't get things done. The, you know, the chief executive of the city is too weak, we need to get more power. Usually, that's when, you know, you have the chief executive, maybe the policies you want. And they're like, I want to get more of those through. And other people will say, Well, no, the reason we have different branches of government is specifically for this reason is like we don't there is no king of San Francisco, there is no emperor of San Francisco, you've got to if you if you want to get your policies through, you've got to lead. And so that's just the question of where you fall on that. I personally feel it ebbs and flows. There are moments right where there's, you know, you have certain mayors like Willie Brown was kind of famous for this with more things get centralized. And the other things were more power kind of ebbs the other way. But I just wonder, I was just curious if you find that, you know, some people are calling for systemic change in, you know, the charter of San Francisco, and others people say, No, we don't need that. We just need to get aligned on issues where we need results. And that's all we need. We don't need to somehow change it. I just was curious where you fell on that? Yeah.

Mary Jung  28:38

So in general, I don't believe that you change a policy, an entire policy, just because something happened to you didn't like that vote. Okay. But you know, I do want people to remember that. San Franciscans did put in charter reform in the 90s. At the time when Willie Brown was elected. Okay, under charter reform, was the goal was to go to a strong mayor government. Okay. And I think when people voted for that, and we got Willie Brown, that's the next mayor. No one realized how strong a mayor could really be. Okay. In the meantime, don't we ended up with district elections. There was a slow chipping away of the power in the mayor's office. How was it fair that okay, let's just say that. Let's just say there's seven Planning Commission's okay. And the board gets to put point three of them. Okay, that's fine. They just go through the mayor who gets the point four, but hers have to be approved by the board. But basically, they have seven appointments. Right. Okay. How's that for? And I don't think that when, and just because one of the problems you know, in government is that we have always so many ballot measures, put under good government giving power to the people and in the end It really took power away,

Ben Kaplan  30:01

it highlights something else, which is that sometimes you do things in a piecemeal fashion, their individual Commission's and then and then you, you know you look back and maybe individually, it's like okay I can understand why you might want that. But then you look at as the whole altogether and you've just actually done something that's completely shifted in a major way what we're able to accomplish and get done and no one actually voted on that whole package, right. They just voted on little changes individually, but over time, it had a result. Second thing I want to ask you about is just the role of money in San Francisco politics, because another distinctive feature is that is that if you were going to contribute, and let's say you had unlimited funds to contribute, you could I think for the California Governor's race contribute something like over $36,000 as an individual in San Francisco, that's limited to $500. Does that mean that, you know, California State Government is more influenced by big money and San Francisco less so? Or does big money dominate? If you're a new person to politics? Or like, what is the role of money? Everyone says it's so important, what is it play? Kind of big money donors and big money in San Francisco?

Mary Jung  31:08

I agree with the $500 limit. Okay, I mean, they wanted to adjusted for inflation. I think it's fine. Statewide, like the governor's race, for instance, right? They have to run over a much larger territory,

Ben Kaplan  31:22

which usually is an argument for it, because you have media buys in some of the most expensive media markets like LA and it's just too expensive. So that would be usually the argument made for it. Another way to ask the question is because you are a one time a political outsider, as you pointed out, but now a political insider. For those who are skeptical about the SanFrancisco system, and who controls what and where the power is, maybe they've read stories in the newspaper about corruption. We've had a lot of them recently about corrupt officials, just should they be skeptical about the role of money and big donors and sort of people always want about this kind of like shadow power that's out there that does that? Or is that overblown and not an issue in the city do the best ideas and the best people ultimately win?

Mary Jung  32:06

So I don't want to say that the best people in the best ideas always win, otherwise, we will not be in the in the pickle that we are in today, you know, with the homeless and the drug addicted, right. Okay. I do think that I think that there's money on both sides. I'm more irritated by outside money, and endorsements from people who don't know anything about San Francisco, and saying, Oh, I think that you should be doing this. Right. So you know, when I hear of some, you know, some rock star or whatever, I don't know if anybody's ever even influenced by the story saying, Well, yeah, I'm coming out for so and so and so okay. I don't know if that means that he votes. But in the meantime, it makes people feel like oh, yeah, so and so likes me, right? It just bothers me. Because it's like you don't live here, you don't see what's going on in the streets every single day. And you're saying that you think that this is a better candidate? Would you don't know anything about what you're talking about? So that probably bothers me more than anything more than the money? I take the money on both sides. People could say, oh, you know, they've got money from so and so say, Well, yeah, but then you use it, you've got money from this other person,

Ben Kaplan  33:15

right? And do you think that money? Is it necessary evil and sort of politics? Or do you think no, it's just a way to amplify messages. And it's just part of the playing field. It's what it is what it is both sides, and it's, you know, roughly equal, and so it's not the determining factor and who's going to win in San Francisco, whether someone has a lot of access to money or not.

Mary Jung  33:35

So everything you said is true. Everybody has access to messaging. Everyone has access to money. That's just the world that we live in. i The truth is, I really haven't given it that much thought,

Ben Kaplan  33:48

How hopeful are you now, for change for the city? Do you think that have we reached the bottom? Are we trending back up in the right direction? Are you hopeful that voters are going to make choices and you know, in 2024, that are going to get us to a fresh start and sort of new opportunities and choices? Or do you still feel like we've got a ways to go and we're too divided? And it's unclear what that outcome will be?

Mary Jung  34:16

So I'm a half glass full person. Okay. So I would go with what you said originally. That to city is on its way up. Now I was with a group of people last life who would swear that that positively is not true. But in my neighborhood, and in my driving around the city, in my interactions with people. I see that there's a change. Is there a huge change? No. But you know, it's it's incremental. It's okay as long as it's incremental anyway up.

Ben Kaplan  34:46

And what would be your recommendation? There's a lot of people who listen to the podcast now, as I grew up growing every week who are new to getting involved new to politics, new to civic engagement, and I know that from being an in meetings when you were there that you have, like usually a number of people who are like newer people get involved, you mentor different people to try to get them involved and give them opportunities. And you have, you know, kind of a some as a young crowd around you who are sort of eager and high energy, which I've seen. Given that, what is your recommendation for getting involved, if you're not someone who's plugged in, but you're either angry or frustrated or motivated, or whatever it is, and you want to do something like you did back at the bus stop years ago, what should they do now,

Mary Jung  35:33

you should look at the issues that that interests you, you should try to figure out, you should go and visit all the clubs. I mean, if you want to be a democratic activists, there's clubs in the entire spectrum, okay. And you can just kind of like Google it and just strap you know, look in the center to Angeles, and just try to figure out, which is the club that you think a meets your needs, right? Go visit and see whether or not that that's what you're into. And so keep your eyes open, look at both sides, figure out where it is that you are, but also be rational about it. And I mean, my son is 36 now, right? But when he was younger, he was much like me, okay, you're just very, very progressive, instantly, somebody will Heil, I'm considered progressive in San Francisco, and my son and I would have these discussions. And he'd say, he, he'd have a point of view about graffiti, for instance, right? And then I would give my point of view. And he, it was it was thoughtful, right. And so, you know, I encourage that people have that type of exchanges, they have a better understanding. And

Ben Kaplan  36:36

what is your suggestion for someone who's outside of the system? Who's thinking of maybe running for office for the first time? But it's daunting, right? When you're not part of it? It seems like either A, where do you even start? Or be? Wow, politics is brutal on and you know, people are going to come attack me and I just want to make the city better. I don't I don't really sign up to be attacked. What is your recommendation for them if they could be a candidate for something?

Mary Jung  37:04

So first of all, a lot of people come to me about running for office. And when I whenever I asked him, what what is it that you're trying to do? They always say, I'm trying to make positive change. And I always reply, you do not have to be an elected official debate positive change. In fact, you might be able to make more changes by not being an elected official, and just being smart and strategic. And, you know, a really good example, I was thinking about the other day, I saw a friend of mine, Ted Fang receive an award for something. He's never run for office. But he started an organization called San Francisco happy free, which is a disease, liver disease that represent that affects one out of 10. Asians, okay, it that's a huge number of you think about that worldwide, the World Health Organization believes that in our lifetime, I'd like it are like in my generation to help the free is going to be eradicated. This is the one who did something that's profoundly meaningful, but did not run for public office, but was smart and understood how to work strategically within the system to get something done that affects millions of people worldwide. And

Ben Kaplan  38:13

that's one person choosing to make something happen. And it means you don't need a fancy title, you don't need a position that's official, it's just the will to make something happen and sticking with it over time. Yeah,

Mary Jung  38:32

it's an amazing thing.

Ben Kaplan  38:33

The other thing I wonder about is, you know, there's always instances of people who just make things happen on their own, but it's a little bit maybe easier, maybe more fun to do it together. To do it with the group, one of the core beliefs I have is we is greater than me, we're always greater together than we are individually. So what does it take as someone who's rallied to different individuals and groups together in San Francisco to get more people on board to get it. So you don't have to be out there by yourself alone, fighting the good fight? Some people do, and they're successful at it. But you can do this with your friends and your family and other people, you know, how do you get two weeks,

Mary Jung  39:12

so you just start one at a time. I mean, Ted started wonders on me, I remember when he called me. And we barely knew each other. But um, I heard about this organization he was starting, and he needed to help funding. And so he asked me to help was a silent auction. And I thought, well, this seems worthwhile. And it was something he asked me to join him and to do something that I knew how to do. And, you know, I ran his options for like, five years, and you know, at the very beginning, right,

Ben Kaplan  39:41

so sometimes it's the power of asking people and also it's aligning, you're asking for something to your point that like they know how to do they contribute, they just You just never thought like, oh, I can actually contribute to what we do to fight this disease by using my skills in this way. Oh, that makes sense. I ought to do it. And sometimes it's just the power of asking and also asking the right people for something that that they can actually do and deliver. And if you do that enough, some people will turn you down. But some people like Mary Junghn will say yes. And then that leads to more things. So

Mary Jung  40:14

so I'm gonna do another example, give us so my son went to rooftop school, which has a very active parent volunteer base. And so I ran the fundraisers for a couple of years, I ran the art program for a couple of years, it was a very active parent art program. And my goal when I was doing fundraising, and an art program was that every single person who came up to me and talk to me, I would ask them for something. And I've kind of like started to talk or what I thought they could do. If they sit down, I would just say, Well, how about this? If they said, No, we'll How about that? And you know, by golly, everybody did something. Okay, whether was just buying tickets to the event, or taking, taking charge of the entire wind donation for the event, right? You just have to ask, and you have to think about it right. And you have to remember to do it. A lot of times, like when I talk to young people, when they're talking about well, what do I do, I'm going to this event, it's a well, if you can kind of like figure out who you think is going to be at the event, where if you can figure out what you need to get done over the next week, figure out how you can make that happen at the event. So not only are you having a good time at the event, you're also moving, you know your, your program forward. Be smart about it, be smart about your time, time is valuable. I mean, once you go to that done, and just person that you really had to talk to you was there, if you're not prepared to talk to them, you might have lost that opportunity for 10 weeks, or 10 months or 10 years. Sure.

Ben Kaplan  41:41

And one and the other thing about what you said, I like your example, just you know, you asked for the big thing, and then you ask for a little bit less than you keep doing until they say yes, also, it can snowball to other things. So maybe someone says yes, on a little thing now, but then they experienced it, they get involved. You know, it's kind of the sign holding theory of political engagement, which is sometimes you just start someone gave you a sign, and you held it up pretty soon, maybe a little bit down the road. You're running the Democratic Party in San Francisco, like you did, Mary, but it starts maybe small. So it doesn't always have to be a big thing. No,

Mary Jung  42:14

that's right. I'm sorry, you're walking precincts for George McGovern on the west side of Cleveland. And no Chinese people. There were hardly any Asians in Cleveland at that time, which is actually

Ben Kaplan  42:24

another good point that something about you that might be distinctive, or different or unusual. That can be a great strength, that can be a great strength. So it's not always like, Oh, I don't I don't fit in with like with this because whatever characteristic, it can be a great strength. Final question for you. How would you describe you know, how politics really works in San Francisco has been our theme for this episode? What would surprise people about how it really works that they just wouldn't expect? Well,

Mary Jung  42:50

that's a really good question. And I think that it depends on who it is that you're talking to. Right. I remember talking to so you had a conversation with Gavin Newsom when he was running for mayor. And I asked him, um, what was the most surprising thing to him running for mayor? And he said to me, it was the fact that no one thought any thing about whether or not he had a private life, right, and that every single moment of his life was consumed was being an elected official. I mean, he could just be doing something really mundane by himself and corner and someone would find him right. And he wasn't upset about it so much as it was, he was just surprised at how all consuming politics can be. So I think a lot of times, people think of politicians as these were protons, right? And the don't, you know, that, just as other info. And what they'll find is, is that most politicians started from a really good place. And many of them are still in that really, really good place, and really want to do good. And I think it's our job as voters to remind them where they came from, and to remind them what we want. Absolutely.

Ben Kaplan  44:07

And well said, I'm Mary Jung, now, citizen activist, you hang your shingle at SF realtors. But you're involved in a lot of political happenings in the city of former chair of the D, Triple C in San Francisco, thank you so much for joining us are on we are San Francisco, and I'm hopeful for where things are going. I think you I see you nodding your head. So I think you are too. And and I just can't wait for the next year to two years to happen. Because I think great changes are coming. And I think more and more people are working together. And thank you for all that you do to to make that happen. Well,

Mary Jung  44:48

thank you. And I really appreciate this new organization you formed to bring people together in a positive way to allow people to meet each other and talk about issues. So thank you for everything you're doing.

Ben Kaplan  45:01

According to political insider Mary Jung, San Francisco politics in the year 2024, is all about two sides who are really not all that different, deciding not to talk to each other, and choosing not to come together to find meaningful solutions. What's the result? The act of playing politics gets in the way of virtually everything we need to accomplish, hey, progressives, shouldn't we actually achieve progress? Hey, moderates, why not actually work with all sides, after all, wasn't always this way. As Mary says, before the era of local candidate endorsements, party political leaders from multiple perspectives, would debate, maybe disagree, and then go out for dinner or drinks afterwards, voter engagement was encouraged, and not just by people pair it your worldview. The belief was that by having a vigorous debate, ideas would be refined, democracy would be served, and the best people with the best proposals would rise to the top. So where did we go wrong? Is that vision of local politics at its best? Just an antiquated division of a simpler time? Maybe? Or maybe not? What San Francisco needs right now is less politics, and more on politics. Let's strip away all of the labels. Let's be generous with who gets credit. Let's put aside personal self interest for the greater good. San Francisco's political culture needs a fresh start, a reset devoid of the baggage of the past. How will we get there? By having a fresh cast of characters who are willing to engage? Yes, money is a powerful force in politics. But you know what else is people coming together? Take a small portion of your skills, energy and expertise and contribute it back to the community we love. Want to know how you can start by texting 415301 6700 to join the WWE movement. So spread the word. Tell your friends, change is coming. We are San Francisco.

Ben Kaplan  47:25

Hey, it's Ben Kaplan here. Want to join our movement to get San Francisco back on track. Attend a week town hall event are stopped by our poplar we have the our meetups. Better yet. Join our data team, take the census or help us audit the city budget. To join the movement. Text us at 415301 6700 that's 415-301-6700 or learn more at wesanfrancisco.org. This was brought to you by TOP Thought Leader. Find out more at topthoughtleader.com

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