Apr 5, 2024
51 min
Episode 15

We Are San Francisco: Meet The Candidates: Catherine Stefani

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,

Ben Kaplan  00:18

citizens, we are open minded, optimistic, because hope for a better tomorrow, and you and you and you gotta get in the hole. This is the podcast. That's more than a podcast for Cisco. They are the world champion. We Are San Francisco.

Ben Kaplan  00:45

San Francisco today is another installment of our Meet the 2024 candidates series. Today we're chatting with Catherine Stefani, who's running for California State Assembly representing District 19, which is the western half of San Francisco and the northwestern part of San Mateo County. Supervisor. Stefani is a current member of the Board of Supervisors representing District to the marina and she's a longtime resident of cow hollow. So Catherine, welcome to the show.


Thank you.

Ben Kaplan  01:11

So you had a big day on March five? I think from a personal perspective, it was, I guess, a resounding success, meaning you refer to different positions, of course, trying to qualify for the general election, which you did, you had the most votes, about 60% of the vote for California State Assembly. But also you were the top vote getter in your district for the Democratic County Central Committee, the D, Triple C. So how's it feel? Was that a relief? Were you surprised at all the support? What is the aftermath of the march elections for you like,

Catherine Stefani  01:40

yeah, no, it was a very good night. And I felt very pleased to see the vote count for the D Triple C in terms of the highest percentage with both ad 19 and ad 17. So we felt really good about it and really confirmed for us that our message is resonating with San Francisco voters and San Mateo as well.

Ben Kaplan  01:57

A lot of people were trying to think about what does this all mean for November in San Francisco. And a couple of the narratives are one, there's the sort of like winds of reform coming sort of the moderate side would say that also, though, there was a little bit of, hey, this is really low voter turnout. What does that mean? Particularly we have a presidential election year. But is there enough enthusiasm about this? Well, I

Catherine Stefani  02:21

think the trends are continuing along the lines of people wanting their city to be safe, they want more housing created in their city, they want their public schools to teach all sorts of subjects, including algebra, I think, what you've seen in 2022, with the recalls, and an incumbent supervisor losing his seat in District Four, and then what you saw in this primary is a consistent voter turnout that, you know, wants, I think the basics that they deserve from their government. And

Ben Kaplan  02:51

I'm interested in your perspective on new people entering politics in San Francisco, you had a long career, you were a Deputy District Attorney in Costa Rica County, you were a legislative aide, both here in the city to different members of the boards of supervisors, but also the mayor of San Jose, other places you work. So what is it like for you being an elected official now? Did you always think you would be Did you think you'd be more of the behind the scenes person? What has been that transition been like?

Catherine Stefani  03:18

Well, I've always wanted to be in office when I was 16. I interned for my congressman, back in Washington, DC Congressman Tony quello, and I always had visions of being an office and especially as a woman wanting to represent, you know, women and children and wanting to be that voice and having a seat at the table. So I've always seen myself as wanting to do this and not just be behind the scenes. But for me, being a staffer was such a great education on how to do this job well. But in terms of lifting up others, you know, one of the things I ran for the Democratic County Central Committee back in 2010, and I did not make it and I had no name ID, and was just an activist, a lifelong Democrat that really wanted a chance. And so when I look at the D, Triple C results, I'm really excited that we have been able to lift up a lot of activists that really, you know, want to represent their city and want to represent the Democratic Party. And one of the reasons why I had kind of resisted doing that as an elected official was because I think that when elected officials get in there, they have the name ID and it makes it harder for people that are just getting into politics to get a place

Ben Kaplan  04:27

meaning this Party Central Committee is sort of like a great way for entry into politics. It's kind of like the farm baseball team before you get to the major leagues to start but yet at the same time, there's been this battle for control of the Democratic Party in San Francisco and strategist know that high name ID which means you've probably you've ran for something else your elected works in winnings. So there's this kind of a conflict or tension between the two let's bring up the farm team. But let's like make sure we had them get control right

Catherine Stefani  04:54

and when they approached me about it, you know, they that was pretty much the argument they laid out like we would love you to, you know, lead the slate be you know, and they were right. You know when you look at how many votes I got and you look at the slate and how well everyone did I think that I'm really glad I participated in that way. And I think the D Triple C definitely needed a makeover. So I'm really happy about the results.

Ben Kaplan  05:17

I know there's kind of this stepping stone from you know, you work in San Francisco, maybe you get the promotion to Sacramento, you mentioned Jackie Speier, which is an interesting case of someone who, you know, of course, like in the US House of Representatives who actually made the decision that she felt she could have more impact going back to local on essentially what is like the equivalent in her area of like the Board of Supervisors, what do you think about that notion of like, there's a lot of room to make an impact on local now more than ever before? Do we have to just be kind of like stepping up to like the next level,

Catherine Stefani  05:49

I think people who really have public service in their hearts and who are really led by wanting to do the most good for the most people find where that place is. And like in the case of Jackie Speier, you know, she's now she's come home from retiring from Congress and realize there are still things that need to get fixed in San Mateo County. And she still wants to make that happen. She knows that she's, you know, able to do that based on our experience. So, and that's how I am I mean, I've never been the type of politician that has to have a certain title after my name. You know, I don't have to be this or be that my heart has always been where can I serve where I think I can do the most good. And I think I've done a lot here on the board of supervisors, this opportunity run for assembly has come up. And I've learned so much in my nearly 30 year career of being a lawyer and a staffer, and a department head and a supervisor, that I really think that I could take all of this experience and work at the state level and deliver results in terms of public safety, housing, health care, there's so much I've learned and so much I want to do. So I think like if you have public service in your heart, and that's really what you want to do. And you know your why you just find where you're meant to be and make it happen. You of course

Ben Kaplan  07:03

now represent District Two, which is the neighborhood is Marina, you live in cow hollow. Now, what is it like? Because I think how you became an elected official on the board of supervisors actually relates even to the mayor's race right now, because you were a legislative aide in district two for multiple members of the boards of supervisors. But the most recent person before you took office was Mark Farrell, you were appointed when he became interim mayor for that six month period. And now of course, he's challenging Mayor breed's. So what is your perspective on all this? You've known these players are you, uh, Mark Farrell, for Mayor supporter?

Catherine Stefani  07:40

Well, that you know what, we'll definitely get to that, you know, I have endorsed Mayor breed, and you know, I have a lot of respect for Mark. And he's, you know, I wouldn't be in my, this position, had it not been for Mark believing in me. And I worked for him for five years, and I have a lot of faith in Him. So we are set to have a discussion about all of that. So I'll have that discussion with him first. But yeah, I believe in Mark, I believe. I, I, you know, like I said, he's done a lot for me, and he would make a good mayor.

Ben Kaplan  08:12

So you're considering changing your endorsement? No,

Catherine Stefani  08:15

I've endorsed Mayor breed, and I'm not going to withdraw my endorsement for her. But you know, this is rank choice voting. And there's different ways to handle that when you believe in more than a possibly one person in a race. One

Ben Kaplan  08:26

of the things that from the March election that was notable, I thought was the resounding defeat of Proposition B, which was essentially the votes are still being tallied. But it's like, I think it's like 72 and a half percent against that was the proposition that would say police full staffing was contingent on a kind of future tax, would opponents have a call that was a cop tax? And you were I think some of the moderates, were surprised by your vote, because you voted in support of Proposition B, it went to the ballot on a six, five split, in part because of your vote. So what was your feeling? What was your thinking on that? And Did it surprise you that voters were so overwhelmingly opposed?

Catherine Stefani  09:05

No, it was very messy. And it was, you know, not a good piece of policy, really, that went to the ballot? The what was problematic about it, because obviously, I've been on this board for six years, and no one has supported law enforcement more than I have. I mean, I started my career in law enforcement as a prosecutor. The problem with the way prop V was rolled out, and how is it rolled out at the Board of Supervisors was that there wasn't a lot of input from many stakeholders, including 911 operators and nurses and those that, you know, that could be affected by a large set aside without a real vision of how you get people in those positions. So my feeling was and you know, back in, I think 2008 Was it or around the late 2000s We put Something the voters voted for Proposition S, which basically said that if you're going to do a huge set aside, there has to be a funding source. And

Ben Kaplan  10:09

just for people watching a set asides, essentially you've like set money aside that can't be used elsewhere. So it's earmarked there. And the problem is when you when you have set asides, just generally speaking, it becomes harder to make budgetary decisions choices, because like this money is off limits Exactly.

Catherine Stefani  10:25

And it's a very moderate position to be opposed to set asides. And if you look back at San Francisco's history, you'll see that moderates fought the continued set asides in San Francisco because it does restrict how you can budget in San Francisco, we have 22 set asides. That's more than every single county combined, we have this 58 counties in California, I think LA has one maybe San Diego has one set asides are not a good way to manage the the general fund dollars, it's just not. And that was my problem with it. I did not believe in taxing people at all for like

Ben Kaplan  11:00

police services, people think I'm already paying for this, why should I be taxed again to get this?

Catherine Stefani  11:05

And it wasn't exactly it wasn't a cop tax. I mean, that was, you know, that was good messaging for the people who are opposed to it, definitely. They landed well on that messaging. But I was never for a cop tax and never for charging more for the services that I think that we are obligated to provide. And that is something that I have said, but when you look at what's happening, and if you're really trying to solve our police staffing crisis, you have to figure out why people don't want to be police officers. And you have to have a conversation with the POA which I have done. And you have to understand that over a over a 10 year period, well, since 2006, the police department was supposed to be investing in a recruitment fine, according to their MOU to the tune of $250,000 every budget year, and they weren't doing that they weren't spending enough money on how you actually recruit members into the San Francisco Police Department. And there's a shortage of police officers that we weren't working to fill in our current budget right now. We have 300 funded positions for police officers. That money is there in the police department's budget, there's not a lack of funding there for the officers, what there's a lack of ideas on how to get people into those positions. I've

Ben Kaplan  12:24

chatted with police chief Scott and one of the things he says actually was probably the most disruptive recruiting event for police was really actually the aftermath of police brutality nationwide, obviously, the Black Lives Matters movement rises up. And basically, as he describes it, no one wants to be a police officer at that point, because they feel like hey, this is not one there's a lot of people have a lot of issues with police. And two, it's not really that cool to be a police officer right now. So that kind of set back a lot of the recruiting efforts. But do you think we kind of sat on our hands because, you know, police wasn't really defunded, even though that was the slogan at the time defund the police. It was just like, basically, recruitment stopped. And that was a way of sort of sort of strapping police services that is hitting us now.

Catherine Stefani  13:08

Yeah, well, I think that San Francisco Police Department has not gotten the credit it deserves for all the reforms that has put into place. And I think the way that we talk about policing, we have to be very careful, because you know, what happened to George Floyd was absolutely horrific. And anyone with a pulse and a soul would be opposed to what happened and would want reforms and a police department or would want someone like that punished and never be allowed to be a police officer anywhere again, or spend the rest of his life in prison after what happened. I mean, that was just horrific. What what we need to do is be in conversation with law enforcement about how do we do better? How do we change the face of policing, where we're interacting with the community more and keeping people safe? I mean, that is still something that is necessary in our society, we still need police officers to keep us safe. And we are shortage, I think is really causing a lot of problems in San Francisco. And I think, too, it wasn't just after George Floyd. I think in 2020 20, they did defund the police by $120 million. The only no vote on that, well, of course,

Ben Kaplan  14:12

police keep Scotland and hired in part to clean up really the prior kind of police chief that had a lot of issues of excessive force and other kinds of issues. He was brought in for that purpose. Last question, I just want to ask you on Proposition B. And then I want to talk about kind of a recent belief that you've done now is just some of the talking points I saw. You know, of course, a lot of unions that were non police unions were opposed to the original conception of Proposition V. They ended up supporting the version that was amended, because they felt like, Hey, this is going to take funding away from us, potentially, if all this money is set aside for police. And I heard some people say, well, oh, supervisor, Stefani. She's running for office. She needs all of those other unions support. That's why she's kind of like acquiescing to those unions because she needs there some Port right now. How do you respond to that? I saw that talking points circulated. Yeah, I

Catherine Stefani  15:04

mean, I could see why people would conclude that it's very, I don't think it's really a fair assessment. But you know, I am a supporter of unions. I am a supporter of not just our police department, but other city workers that are very necessary to deliver on public safety issues like our 911 operators, like our nurses, like other public sector workers. And like I said, the fiscal irresponsibility have a huge set aside, when you're setting aside money, and you don't even know how to really fill the positions, as you just, you know, very well laid out why it's so hard to even get police officers into these positions. If you're setting all this money aside, that's going to require all these layoffs here. Because we're entering into a very dismal financial situation, as you know, with the deficits we're facing, you're creating problems where we might have to lay off workers that we actually need. It doesn't mean I don't think that we need police officers. And

Ben Kaplan  16:00

maybe it was a little bit too narrowly prescribed because we have a lot of I know you've been involved in creating like Office of Victim Services in the past, there's other emergency services that we need for public safety. Maybe your point is, is that it was a little bit too narrowly prescribed on just police when actually it should be public safety in a broader sense. Let's

Catherine Stefani  16:19

just say the set aside wasn't the fiscal way to go about it. Nor is the tax the fiscal way to go about it for cops that nobody landed on the right solution here, you know, but my point was, I saw an opportunity for people to finally admit, people that had not admitted before, that we do need minimum numbers of staffing when it comes to our police department. So that for me was a win. And you'll see if you go back and you listen to why Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen did not vote for property and did not want it on the ballot, because they didn't believe in a minimum staffing of police officers. I actually do. So for me, it was a very confusing, very nuanced, hard to explain people that don't want to really get into the weeds on why someone might make a decision one way probably won't, you know, give me the benefit of the doubt. And that's fine. I mean, I still did okay, you know, on March 5, I feel I feel very, okay about where I have been on all the public safety issues and all the incredible public safety votes I've taken in the six years I've been on this board, and that I will continue to take support on our law enforcement agencies. So you know, it's in a way, I think it was too confusing of it was so muddied by the time it got to the voters, that the fact that didn't pass was probably a good thing. So that we can start all over and really figure out how do we actually work together to make sure that we are providing enough police officers, and we're taking the right steps to get them into those roles, while at the same time protecting our other workers that are essential as well.

Ben Kaplan  17:52

And what do you think about, you know, when I talked to up and coming elected officials, particularly actually those who serve in the State Assembly of California, and they will say, you know, there are legislators, so they're proud of the number of laws they've created. And like I've created, you know, 22 laws or I start the session, it's like, I've got my list of 30 things I want to get through, and we're all bound with everyone else. And so because you're an elected official, you take pride in the laws we you create makes sense. But I wonder there used to be this movement about sunset provisions in laws and what that movement said it was more popular and kind of like the 1980s was, laws should expire over time, meaning we might just not see something around the corner, this law may become obsolete. I've talked to, you know, members of state assembly who said, you know, what, about half my my bills are obsolete now. And they're not even needed. What do you think about this idea with all these ballot measures that we should have something that says, you know, hey, after maybe eight years to supervisor terms, or if it's experimental for years, we should just have it sunset, it goes away? Because if it's great, we'll renew it? If it's not, we wouldn't have so much clutter in the regulations of rules of San Francisco. I

Catherine Stefani  18:58

think it really depends on the topic and the subject and what you're talking about, if you look at 1994, Senator Feinstein passed the assault weapons ban in Congress, I've

Ben Kaplan  19:10

been very passionate about sort of gun violence. That's been one of your key topics. Definitely.

Catherine Stefani  19:14

And that had a sunset in 2004. Well, by the time 2004 rolled around, we had a Republican president of Republican Congress, and they let that lapse

Ben Kaplan  19:23

Well, in the context of San Francisco. I mean, you mentioned national issues, but to me, it's like, I don't know, you can agree or disagree. But there's so many rules and regulations. I want to talk about corruption, because you've just had a bill about that. But to me, there's so many rules and regulations that give corruption a place to hide, like basically, if we have slow processes anywhere in the government, there's always someone who can be hired to expedite that process. And that could be a senior level official. It could be a low level official who just happens to have the stamp that approves something. And so the issue I have and the reason I wonder about sunset provisions in general is that if we had more of those like the Maybe like housing regulations, we have now that prevent housing that we're in there for a different time. And we just need I mean, we have people on the streets who are unhoused, that we just need to do everything we can to get them housing fast. But we have all these rules and regulations, if those would have sunsetted. And we could have the good ones got rid of the bad might not be in this predicament that I

Catherine Stefani  20:19

think we should just pass good laws, and you should just have good legislatures, legislators who know how to do that, you know, I think the corruption laws that I've passed have been incredible. And we've really done a lot, I can think of four huge things that I've done at the board that certainly don't need a sunset date. And those deal with a lot of what happened with Muhammad numero we did law around pre qualified contractor pools where he would reach into them and be able to pick out his friends put his friend

Ben Kaplan  20:49

friends in a pool and then say, Oh, this is our pool, and then I grab a friend, and those friends were often paying him 1000s Or hundreds of 1000s of adult right.

Catherine Stefani  20:59

And I put a stop to that through legislation that we passed that passed unanimously at the board. And that was after reading about what went wrong there. There it was set up. So that was too easy to manipulate. Do I think like something like that needs to sense it? No, that needs to stay on the books forever. The other that was the no graft act. And then also my good grant organization. After reading an audit, we found out that over a three year period, departments gave away $5.4 billion dollars to various nonprofits or grantees, almost 6000 grants with no oversight, no open solicitation, nothing, no transparency, no paperwork, this money was given away. And you know, when you look back again, that law passed unanimously, I created a new admin code 21 G. Aaron Peskin said this should have been 25 years ago, this done is a huge piece of legislation. And do I think something like that should sunset and go away? No, it's a good law that's just stay on the books forever. Let's

Ben Kaplan  21:59

talk about budget, and we can agree to disagree on certain settings. My opinion is, hey, if it's good, if it's as good as you say it is, we'll renew it. But let's talk about your recent bill, which is recently passed, which is about having performance metrics for nonprofits having standardized across the city, you also have, you know, more of like requirements of supplying data, it's empowering the City Comptroller to do more than just sort of like, check the basic finances of these organizations, but actually look at their performance. So that's a bill that was just passed. You proposed it? Do you think this will make a difference in terms of how we spend money? I know we want more accountability. But to me, it's shocking. I feel like people don't know this, like, Okay, we have a $14.6 billion budget, we're talking about $1.7 billion, it's going to nonprofits, that sounds like 12% of the budget, which is still quite a bit people were like, oh, still 12%. But then when you look at the amount that's actually discretionary, in aggregate, that's about 4.5 billion that we really have control over. So 1.7 billion out of 4.5 billion. I mean, this is like close, this is over 1/3 of the budget, we're essentially outsourcing to these groups, to your point with very little accountability. So do you think this kind of accountability legislation will have an impact on the budget itself? Because maybe some people are accountable, but maybe we shouldn't be outsourcing so much of core city services and our social safety net, and just hoping someone else delivers? Yeah,

Catherine Stefani  23:26

I mean, we do rely on nonprofits to deliver a lot of city services. I mean, it's more expensive for the city to to deliver them than it is to contract out sometimes with nonprofits to deliver on housing and health care and recovery services, things like that. So we need those nonprofits. And there are a lot of good nonprofits doing very good work. I happen to be on the board of directors of one for a while back for the Homeless Prenatal program. They did incredible work. So I don't want people to get the impression that there's nonprofits out they're not doing good work, because there are many of them. What we've seen in the press, you know,

Ben Kaplan  24:02

like a friend of someone using a nonprofit, like their $100,000 expense account for trips to Tahoe, and they're billing it to the city, right,

Catherine Stefani  24:08

and what even people say, Well, you know, not that's not happening everywhere. The problem with that is that people lose faith in their government. And that's a big thing. That is a huge thing. You don't want people losing faith in their government, then they don't vote, then, you know, they they're angry that, you know, they don't believe that their government is working for them, and that this is not good for democracy. So you need to get a handle on where your taxpayer dollars are going. And are they being spent wisely. And I think my legislation actually I know, my legislation is going to make sure that that is happening. I am so excited about this legislation. Again, it's passed unanimously, supervisor Ronan said, you know, positive things about it. It was a good piece of legislation that we took a long time to work on, because we had the nonprofits involved. We had the departments involved the controller's office, and we came up and landed on something that we're going I have a centralized place where we are going to create performance standards and, you know, ways to basically review whether or not the nonprofit is, you know, meeting the mark,

Ben Kaplan  25:10

I have a couple questions for you. Because everything you've said makes sense. And I think, to me tackling corruption, or the perception of corruption is like to get confidence back in our city to kind of get our mojo back. Right, we've got to accomplish this definitely, here's what I worry about. And tell me if you think the legislation goes far enough, or if you have a face to in mind, one of them is that I see now lots of city performance scorecards, like I go on the city government site, and I can see those and I clicked around, you can see the scores. I went and looked on homelessness earlier today. And it shows our scorecard on homelessness shows green, we are meeting all standards. And it's like, you know, we sort of gave ourselves an A on the scorecard. And I think if you I don't think I don't know, a single person who says we deserve an A on homelessness in San Francisco, right, probably the other end of the spectrum. So let's say we make all these scorecards, San Francisco's prolific in providing data, but what do we do with it? How do we have some teeth in this? So it's not just a scorecard that gets never used and doesn't mean anything? Well, I

Catherine Stefani  26:08

think the evaluations on nonprofits performance will be public, and it will be transparent. And so the public will know whether or not the nonprofit we are contracting with is delivering on the services is promised to provide pursuant to the contract. So with that information, if the Board of Supervisors continues to invest in a nonprofit that's not delivering, that is bad, that will look bad for them, and they have to get reelected by the voters. So I think that this transparency is actually going to be able to and to hold a lot of people accountable, not just the nonprofits, not just the departments, but also the supervisors to continue to approve contracts when sometimes that they shouldn't like my pre trial diversion. Contract, vote a while back, I was the only one who voted no, when they were extending it for three years for another $80 million. When we had proof right before us that the information they were giving to us on how they were doing was not true. They were telling us that a certain percentage of people were making all their court dates a certain percentage that people weren't reoffending

Ben Kaplan  27:13

was just made up there was like someone just wrote a number like what they like flat out blatantly lie, or were they just like hating the numbers a certain way, we're not going to count this to make our numbers better. They were looking

Catherine Stefani  27:23

at data in that three month time period, instead of looking at it from when the person went on, was on or on their own recognizance to their trial date. So they weren't aggregating the information in a way that made any sense. And they certainly weren't doing it according to standards. And so we pointed that out the California Policy Lab actually looked at their data and came up with data that did not match what they were saying. And so it was reviewed. And if you Google it, you'll see the article on it. And why voted no. And so things like that. I mean, when you have information in front of the board of supervisors, that really makes you want to question the nonprofit and how they're doing and you have, you know, 10 supervisors still voting yes, on that contract. My intention

Ben Kaplan  28:05

somebody to point to that says, we have something objective to look at, sadly, you're gonna vote to support this and and they're getting a D in our scorecard, you better have a pretty good reason, or people have a right to be mad, right.

Catherine Stefani  28:18

And now that the comptroller's office, this, you know, evaluation of their performance will be centralized, I think it will be easier to hold everyone accountable.

Ben Kaplan  28:26

One of the things with you know, there was recently proposition D, which dealt with ethics that passed overwhelmingly, one of the things I worry about, because I'm like, as big an anti corruption person as there is, but I wonder about, when we add more rules and more regulations that slow down processes, how can we be like firmly against corruption, but also not slow down process, I'll give you example, we want to be fair in in how we hire, we don't want favoritism we don't want like someone's best friend hired, which there's been instances of corruption of that. So we do all of these rules, to say, we've got to hire people in a fair way. But then lo and behold, we're incredibly slow in hiring people, because we have so much to do. Another one would be housing, where we have so many things, okay, make sure this is we want good environmental sound policy, we want to make sure this doesn't have a negative effect on the community. But we put all of these things in place. And oh, my gosh, no one can get any housing built. So how do we add more oversight, more rules, but without slowing down the process? And just making things? We've tried to be so fair that now we just can't get anything done? Yeah, I

Catherine Stefani  29:29

mean, you'd have to give me a specific example. But more process always could be an impediment. Again, it just depends on what the subject matter is, you know, with housing, we've really tried to streamline a lot of that. And even with the business, the permitting process, we've tried to streamline that as well. But

Ben Kaplan  29:46

then you see things like I think there was a case the Chronicle wrote about it of like someone who's trying to open a restaurant in a vacant space, or I think it was a bakery. They're going through all these hoops. I said Oh, I thought there was a law that's passed that says we have to do this in 30 days. As our permit is expedited 30 days, and then they find out, it turns out no, that's the 30 days when it's on San Francisco's desk, we start the clock. If it's stuff you have to do, it doesn't count. And now this last year, so it's like, we just need speed. Because I feel like we don't have a sense of the sense of the state of emergency we have on so many crises. What can we do? And it's like, I'm for oversight, but not if it slows it down.

Catherine Stefani  30:23

Yeah, no, I agree with you. I definitely agree. That's why I voted for every streamlining piece of legislation that's been put in front of me. So I do think we need to find a way quicker way to get things done. And

Ben Kaplan  30:32

what about another I think, interesting topic is you've been a champion of victims rights, people and, and I know it was a big battle in the specialty the DEA recall of like, are we prioritizing the rights of criminals over the rights of victims? The big discussion, one of the things I wonder is, how do we do that more effectively, I feel like for instance, things that sound good, like we want police officers, having, you know, less admin time, do more policing. But some of that admin time could be taking a police report, making sure that gets registered so we can pursue it. And there's so many people in San Francisco who've been victims of property crime, who feel like they've been told I shouldn't even file a report if nothing's going to happen. So what should we do more for victims, whether it's something small or something big to like, feel like we have faster responses because 911 is slower than ever 311 response is spotty. Some places it's good some places not What about just like getting faster response to steal more confidence in San Francisco, that's

Catherine Stefani  31:34

exactly why I put property on the ballot in 2022. And White Pass was about 60% of the vote is because there are victims of crime that don't, that aren't really offered anything from the city and you know, victims of crime that might not ever see a police officer never see a case that never goes to trial. And yet they still need help they they're still victims. And so that's why I created the Office of Victim and witness rights, which is going to consolidate, we have so many different services for victims in so many different departments all spread out all over the place. Right? What's happening right now is that they are going through the process and they are intervening in departments and they are going to consolidate the victim services that we do have under this one department is only for positions is actually going to save money. And we're going to make sure that you know if there is a victim of crime or something in it's not, it's out of the realm of law enforcement, because a lot of Victims of Crime don't really want to get involved with law enforcement or especially in the domestic violence sphere. There's a lot of reasons why people might not want to go to law enforcement, but they're still victims of crime, and they need help from the city. And so even like, you're a storefront owner, you're it's been your window has been smashed for the fifth time, you know, we have a program at Oh, ew D that can help you pay for that window. Again, it shouldn't happen in the first place. But the reality is it does. There's all these little programs that we want to consolidate to place where if you're a victim of crime, you can go to the city and you can get help. It also creates a right to counsel for domestic violence victims, which is definitely necessary that again, it's something separate from the court case that might be going on, that gets the victim help that they need to get out of that abusive relationship. So, you know, I've always been victim focused since I was a prosecutor right out of law school, and through all my time working in government, I definitely believe that we owe more to the victims that we give them. And I feel

Ben Kaplan  33:28

like right now, if I was going to identify like, what would give people confidence in their city, again, not even just city government just conference to say, what could we do? It's like one, making sure that there's no corruption that people who are in positions of power have the best interests of city at heart to be responsive. So if something happens to me, if I'm a victim of something, we're going to track down every lead, we're going to do everything we can to do that. And three, I don't know if you agree with this, but reset the budget. I think there's you know, I think you made the point that like, what are we getting for the money we spent? And it feels like the budget like the the budget debates every year are so incremental. It's like so like this little program we want to get this program in? Do we just need to like hit the reset button just to feel like, Hey, if you're getting $100 million from the city of San Francisco, you've got to re qualify, we're starting over, we're justifying everything, so we just hit reset on the entire budget. Well,

Catherine Stefani  34:26

I mean, we have, you know, contractual obligations. I'm a lawyer, you can't just get out of the contract that you've signed up with with someone. But yeah, I mean, I think that we need to look at things differently. We need to look at people look at our you know, those that we're contracting with and ask, are you really delivering on the services that you said you could provide? And a lot of times and I mentioned this yesterday, in an article that came out about my nonprofit legislation, a lot of times people answer an RFP request for proposals and they get into a contract with the city and they say they're going to do this but then all of a sudden they're involved in that contract and they say Well, we can do this because we're understaffed, there's a staffing crisis. And my whole point is don't then say you can do something that you cannot do, do not over promise and under deliver. And that, again, it's going back to my nonprofit legislation, as you, as you mentioned, so well, in terms of as putting $1.7 billion into these contracts, and who are delivering vital services, we need to make sure that those that we are contracting can actually deliver the services that they are promising. And I think I liked the idea about what you're saying about reset. And I think that's what my nonprofit legislation is going to do is really reset how we evaluate people who are in those contractual obligations with us.

Ben Kaplan  35:37

You said something, you know, like, hey, it can be less expensive for us to outsource these services to nonprofits who may be specialized in that what I wonder, though, is you're supportive of unions, I'm supportive of unions, are we taking money away from city workers, unionized workers, if we could bring more of this and it's a core service? Like, should we be bringing some of that back inside the city and not outsourcing some more because we could support people who are workers in our city at the same time,

Catherine Stefani  36:06

right? Well, no, I'm not I'm not for let's just get the ones thing straight. I'm not for outsourcing union jobs, you know that that is not we have prop J, there are, there are many methods in place to make sure that we're not doing that we depend on nonprofit services to help us deliver, you know, there's only so many city jobs we can have within various departments. And, you know, they're delivering on services as well. So it's a it's a combination that needs to work together. Also, some of these nonprofit workers are unionized. And if they're not unionized, I know they're trying to unionize in some of the nonprofits like the Felton Institute and things like that. So, you know, I think we need to find a way to be harmonious in the services we have to provide, we have to understand better like, what do we really need in the city in terms of the Fentanyl crisis? Do we have enough recovery beds Do we have enough methods of means to get them into the recovery beds, we do not do a very good job, or the departments don't do a very good job in informing us the legislative branch on what they actually need us to fund to make sure that we are making a difference out there. And it has been a constant drumbeat. Since I've been on the board for six years, asking the Department of Public Health how many mental health beds do we need? What type of mental health beds locked? What what do we need to do to get a handle on this problem, because we depend on you department head or you know, to tell us what it is we need to spend money on so that we can then make a difference. And a lot of times we get well, this and that and you'll see the frustration, not just from me. But my colleagues when we have our treatment on demand hearings, and we have hearings on mental health SF, it is so frustrating for us at times to really try to get the information we need to figure out how do we invest it to make a difference? Yeah, for

Ben Kaplan  37:53

Cisco, you know, more than 35,000 employees? I don't know the recent I think number I think 38 39,000. If we were a company of that size, What surprises me is there's a couple of things we probably wouldn't do. I mean, one, the idea that we would sort of like to have a third party or outsource over 1/3 of our budget, when we were that big a company together? It's like no, we probably wouldn't do that. Number one and two, if we were a company, there would be this idea of like, ROI return on investment. And so I wonder, do we need this like this idea of citizen or residence ROI, meaning if we're going to invest this dollar in this, we better see that we get value of that. And we better do that on a line item by line item basis and make sure we're getting value. And I feel like people are so disillusioned now that they wonder like who is who is checking this who is supposed to be checking that we're getting ROI. Is it? Supervisor, Stefani on the board supervisor? Is it the controller's office? Is it the city administrator? Is it no one so so who actually checks the stuff to make sure we're getting our money's worth?

Catherine Stefani  38:51

Yeah, I think that goes back to my nonprofit legislation with the controller's office. And we did talk a lot about ROI we talked about a lot in terms of, you know, the money we spend out what are we getting in return? And are we really then, you know, making a difference in the issues that are causing so much so many problems for everyday San Franciscans, you know, so. And if we're paying someone to solve a problem, if we're paying someone to really get in there and help people with their substance use disorder, and they continue to provide Well, right now, we don't even really know we don't have a great way of even looking at whether or not they're doing it. And that's what my legislation is going to do is to really focus on the performance of the nonprofit's we have not done that. In over in 20 years ago, a report came out that Sophie Maxwell, whether

Ben Kaplan  39:40

you do right 2003, right, this report that we need to put it's almost like she could see into the future, right because it's like says if we don't deal with this nonprofit, the way we hold them accountable, we are going to have major issues in delivering our social services and our social network. Just lo and behold 2024 She was

Catherine Stefani  39:57

She said almost exactly that she really did. She said if we do not deal a tackle this problem, we are going to have a crisis in our delivery network we are in she was she was right. She saw the future. It was right before her. And I don't know why nobody fixed it until now. And I'm really glad that we did. But I really think it's going to make a huge difference. The controller, our pest controller, Ben, Rosenfield, agreed, I think we're going to wants to start said getting in place, I think we're going to have a lot of different conversations and the nonprofits that are continuing to take advantage of this situation. I think those stories are going to go by the wayside, because they're going to realize that there's not going to be a lot of room to do that, like,

Ben Kaplan  40:39

the gravy train is over. You don't feed yourself at the expense of San Franciscans. One more serious question for you. And then I want to just do fun questions and get to know you. Let's wrap up. Okay, last serious question for you is that when I think about corruption, really, you mentioned Mohammed Nuru is probably the most egregious case of someone who's that, you know, Head of Public Works, accepting essentially millions of dollars in bribes. I think about, hey, if we said there's a company that was bribing hobnobbing with millions of dollars, and we said, you know, we're going to keep them around. And then we said, there's a company that after Bing Bing, essentially overbilled, San Franciscans for $90 million more thinking that you know, who I'm talking about in a second, and they're still gonna be around. And in fact, they have a monopoly on trash and sanitation services in our city. And we're just going to keep that there. If people say, You're crazy, why would you do that? Of course, I'm talking about Recology. Why does no one talk about that anymore? I think it's like one of the most egregious examples of corruption, and they're just kind of like, almost feels like got a slap on the wrist? Well, it

Catherine Stefani  41:40

did go through a court process where they had a settlement. And, you know, they're under the guise of that settlement in terms of what they can and can't do, and how much they had to reimburse, you know, the city and, you know, when there's only one person to do the job, you know, guess hopefully, through this last lawsuit, and what they've learned, they're going to do it better. You know, we just actually had a contract that was going to be covered by Allied waste, and I believe that they've now pulled out so, you know, we're in a situation where that it leaves us with having to, you know, put that contract out on the market again. So we'll see. I mean, I don't know how you solve for I, you know, you're talking about Recology. You know, it did go through a process where they had to pay huge fines, and hopefully, they learned to do better, but until there's another competitive, you know, contractor out there, you know, that's the company that that

Ben Kaplan  42:42

was the reason why maybe we don't want monopolies and we want more competition.

Catherine Stefani  42:46

Always for more competition. Okay, sounds good.

Ben Kaplan  42:48

Well, to wrap up lightning round, just to get to know you a little bit better. You're a mom is mentioned just so for people to know like, what kind of mom? Are you? Are you a fun Mom? Are you a tough Mom, are you I think my wife's over there is a mom also as well as watching as well. What you're kind of like, your mom's style just to get to know you better.

Catherine Stefani  43:10

I think I'm a really fun mom. And I'm always I'm a very honest mom, my kids and I have an incredible relationship. They can tell me anything.

Ben Kaplan  43:19

Do they comment on your campaign? Do they tell you, Mom, I didn't like that I did or do not talk politics. You

Catherine Stefani  43:25

should meet my 14 year old daughter. Yeah, she has an opinion about everything. But she keeps me in line. And you know, my 19 year old son, he voted for the first time. And he voted for mom. And that was very nice. But you know, I think thing that I'm most proud of so far in this world are the kids that I've raised. I'm a very good mom and I love my kids beyond comprehension. And I'm so blessed to have you know them in my life. I just they mean the world to me. Second question

Ben Kaplan  43:55

is campaigns are hard. You're out there meeting people when you just need to like get away, clear your mind do something else. Remember that there's more to life than San Francisco politics. What do you do? What is your go to I

Catherine Stefani  44:08

exercise, I run swim workout with my trainer. For me, exercise has always been where I

Ben Kaplan  44:15

daily exercise is just once a week. How do you fit that all in? Well,

Catherine Stefani  44:19

I try daily, but that doesn't always work. I have a peloton and you know, but I make sure for me, you know, I don't do the triathlons that I once did. But my last triathlon was actually a year ago this month in Hawaii. So, you know, exercise to me is what keeps me sane. There you go. And

Ben Kaplan  44:35

I know my wife's here. She's an open water swimmer. So it was like Alcatraz to San Francisco. So there you go. Okay. And then also, where do you go like, you know, you can't spend more than 20 bucks a treat in the city, a restaurant, you're kind of go to you got to pick up something fast. You got $20 to spend any recommendations of like go to places in San Francisco for what? Lunch? Snack I could dinner a tree. Anything else?

Catherine Stefani  45:02

Well on Union Street I love Italian homemade. I mean, I'm Italian. It has incredible pasta. I think you can get a pasta there for less than $20 It's one of those

Ben Kaplan  45:11

ones it's like more casual style if you did a fancy restaurant but more casual you order at the counter. Yeah,

Catherine Stefani  45:17

definitely. And Joe Gilardi on if you'd like gelato, I'm going off full on Italian here. But yeah, that my daughter and I swing by there a lot. We get gelato there a lot. So that's less than $20. But okay,

Ben Kaplan  45:31

and final question. You have out of town visitors. They come to San Francisco. It's like not the normal like, go see the Golden Gate Bridge kind of thing. But like hidden gems in San Francisco. Any recommendations you make or to our viewers and listeners about something you got to experience in San Francisco that's like maybe off the beaten trail off

Catherine Stefani  45:50

the beaten trail. Well, I'm lucky that I live right next to the Presidio, and I just I love being in the Presidio that Tunnel Tops are I don't know if you've been out there but they're isolated. Playground. I have a three year old and it's Yeah, battery bluffs, which is also open before Tunnel Tops. I mean, I love the Presidio. There's so many hidden gems like the Lovers Lane walk, there's so many hikes in the Presidio. Um, so there's so many Japantown I love I lived in Japan for a year taught English there right after college. I love going to Japan town.

Ben Kaplan  46:22

J. Kaplan does

Catherine Stefani  46:25

Sumi Mustang watashi? no Nihongo?

Ben Kaplan  46:29

Japanese gears will correct. Yes. Yes. Well, and have you had a chance to explore Sacramento? If that's going to be maybe starting next year where you, you know, hang your hat. Have you had a chance to explore and how are you going to do? Are you going to commute back and forth? How are you going to do that? Well,

Catherine Stefani  46:45

I gotta get there. First knock on wood. I'm Italian and very superstitious. But, you know, we don't let me know we have a race to win. And so I love Sacramento though. I went to law school there. My mom lives in West sac to my sisters live in West sac. So Sacramento is where my you know, we're have a lot of family members. So I have a room at my mom's house. So I have a place to stay. And you know, I've take the train a lot. I love Amtrak. I love the Capitol Corridor. You know, I'll be eating from Monday through Thursdays for like six months out of the year. You know, whether or not I'm commuting back and forth will depend on what's going on with my daughter. You know, she was actually what I told her. They're actually, you know, months out of the year where I won't be in Sacramento. She was she was somewhat relieved, but then somewhat bumped. She's like, Oh, great. Okay, she's that that? Yeah. No, I'm kidding. But you know, so we'll, we'll see, we'll pay it by ear and see how it goes. But I'm lucky that I have a place to stay. And then I get to spend this time with my mom, especially because for a long time, my mom, you know, and I'll share this personal thing, because it's one of the thing that makes me tick the most is that my mom was in a very abusive relationship for 41 years. And this is why domestic violence for me is something that I care so much about. And so for my mom to be single at 76 Living with one of her daughters and someone I get to see much more than I ever did when she was isolated from us is such an incredible gift. And the fact that I might be able to spend more time in Sacramento with my mom is for me, just something I really look forward to

Ben Kaplan  48:21

was her opinion of your rise in politics. Is she a proud mom?

Catherine Stefani  48:25

Yes, her nickname for me is Mmm. Which means mighty Minnie.

Ben Kaplan  48:31

Yeah, there you go. Thank you, supervisor Catherine Stefani. Candidates for state assembly for district 19. And is it just from what I'm allowed to call you mighty mini corner on that. Nick, thank you so much for joining us on We Are San Francisco. Thanks, man. Thank you

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