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Matt Haney hopes to combat inequality and climate change

Matt Haney hopes to combat inequality and climate change

Matt Haney, of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 6, marches downtown, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in S.F., Calif. Hospitality workers, union organizers and supportive demonstrators descended on the Westin St. Francis hotel in S.F. to demand better jobs.

Supervisor Matt Haney is barely sleeping these days.

He usually starts his day at a coffee shop in the Tenderloin neighborhood he’s called home for more than seven years, often meeting a constituent or someone who’s reached out on Twitter. Then he aims to get in 10,000 steps before 10 a.m., walking and talking on the phone past high-rise tech offices in SoMa and tents in the Tenderloin, both part of his district and some of San Francisco’s most diverse and challenging areas.

Those areas are also at the center of recently intensified controversies over how to address some of San Francisco’s biggest problems: homelessness and the drug overdose crisis.

The debate has put his district under the spotlight just as he’s running for State Assembly District 17 representing the eastern side of San Francisco. A runoff election will take place April 19, if no candidate wins the February 15 primary. The winner will need to run again in the June 7 regular state primary election followed by the Nov.8 general election.

“There’s too much work to do to worry about sleeping,” Haney said in an interview. “I’m energized by public service, and I will use every waking minute I have to engage in it.”

Political consultants note that the 39-year old legislator rose in a decade to become a supervisor and then a candidate for state assembly. Colleagues and constituents describe Haney as affable, energetic, a tireless campaigner, and an avid legislator. Critics accuse him, but supporters say that his track record speaks volumes.

Matt Haney, of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 6, marches downtown, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in S.F., Calif. Hospitality workers, union organizers and supportive demonstrators descended on the Westin St. Francis hotel in S.F. to demand better jobs.

Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors District 6, marches in downtown San Francisco, Thursday, October 28, 2021. to demand better jobs.

Santiago Mejia/ The Chronicle

Why he’s running

The Chronicle has profiles of the candidates for the state Assembly district 17 representing the eastern side San Francisco. Voters can either vote by mail this week or in person for the February 15 election.

Haney is now attempting to fill the seat of the Assembly that was left vacant by David Chiu, the City Attorney. He said he’s running because many of the issues he’s tackled in San Francisco need solutions at the state level. He believes California’s greatest threats are climate change and inequality. He is urging him to prioritize housing, union jobs and mental health, as well as public transportation and clean energy.

“My approach to politics is doing my best to bring people together to solve problems,” he said.

He’s racked up endorsements from a host of unions, who have been his biggest donors, leading him to outraise his three opponents with more than $675,000, according to his campaign finance records. Notably, Haney has been endorsed by only two of his colleagues — Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton and Supervisor Ahsha Safai. Six have gone for former supervisor David Campos, which political consultant David Ho called a “punch” for Haney.

Walton, who was also on the school board together with Haney compared his friend the Energizer bunny, who works 24/7 to resolve issues, and praised him for being thoughtfully progressive.

“He listens to all sides and tries to understand the point of view of someone else,” he said.


Haney was raised in the East Bay. He moved to San Francisco in 2008, where he earned four higher education degree by the age of 28. He worked as a state Assembly legislative aide, a campaigner for former President Barack Obama’s first race and as head of political advocacy organizations. He was a six-year member of the San Francisco school board, before moving to the board in 2019.

When he joined, he was immediately on the job. Only one other supervisorMore legislation has been introducedHaney achieved more than he did his first year. He co-founded MentalHealthSF with Supervisor Hillary Ronen to make behavioral health services more efficient, accessible, and cohesive. Implementation was slow.

He also passed two ballot measures — one to tax CEOs who make 100 times more than their average employee and the other to split Public Works into two departments. Haney’s attempts to create a Homelessness Commission and require a Navigation Center in every district failed.

He was a Twitter celebrity who connected San Franciscans to vaccines during the pandemic. He boasts of his successes, includingMore public bathrooms pumping budget moneyIn recovery and pushing for the opening of hotels to shelter homeless people.

Haney was appointed as a supervisor. Often clashed with Mayor London Breed and her department heads, but he’s tempered his tone, leading some political observers to say he’s becoming more moderate, although he has defended his progressive credentials.

Haney led negotiations last year with the mayor to reach a $13 billion budget. Haney reached a compromise that would increase both police funding and other responses.

Haney also stood by Breed’s side when she announced the Tenderloin emergency because of overdose deaths, after calling for a similar declaration. He was careful to distance himself from Breed’s call for policing drug users, though he supports more officer foot patrols and high-level investigations to tackle dealing and supply.

Consultants also pointed out Haney’s voteSupporting the construction of a nearly 500-unit apartment building on a SoMa lot. A majority of Haney’s colleagues didn’t support his stance, but he was hailed a pro-housing hero. It He was different from Campos who didn’t support the project.

Haney said he’s supported scores of shelter beds and housing units, such as pushing for a controversial navigation center at the Embarcadero, but he hasn’t always voted for residential projects. He voted against a recent unanimous board vote. Group housing project in Tenderloin Which is? under state surveillance

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney stands on the steps of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building near City Hall as he walks around his district in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Matt Haney, San Francisco Supervisor, stands on the steps at the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building, near City Hall, as he walks through his district in Tenderloin, San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday September 28, 2021.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle


Haney has made housing a key issue in his campaign. He would push San Francisco to exceed its state-mandated housing requirements — the city must build 80,000 more units by 2031 — and increase production statewide with funding and zoning changes.

He believes dense housing near public transit and jobs is essential. He wants to streamline public transportation and clean energy technology funding.

He wants to tackle inequality by increasing the minimum wage, pushing for good-paying jobs, and creating universal health care, tuition-free college, and guaranteed income programs. He would like to reintroduce his CEO tax, which he believes will allow him to use the money to hire more social workers and health care professionals, as well as to treat substance abuse and mental health problems. He also supports counties meeting a minimum number of shelter and treatment beds, investing in rental vouchers, and buying more hotels to accommodate homeless people.

What critics think

Those on the board supporting Campos over Haney include Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who said Campos “has best demonstrated his ability to grapple with the minutiae of complex policy matters.”

Supervisor Connie Chan said she supports Campos for his civil service experience, advocacy and lived experiences as a gay Latino immigrant because “representation matters.” Haney is straight and white. She said Haney is “great” but “we need him in San Francisco.”

Jim Ross, a political consultant said that Haney is often criticized at City Hall for being the loudest voice on issues but not always the person doing the work behind closed doors.

Randy Shaw, a long-time advocate for Tenderloin said Haney is often unfairly blamed because of conditions in the neighborhood that are beyond his control. He described Haney as a highly visible, dedicated public servant and hard worker.

Haney said that “people in our city want someone who can go to Sacramento and solve problems and take on tough issues. … I think I’ve proven myself to San Franciscans.”

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