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Mayor-appointed District 5 supervisor holds steadfast to core values

Wed, 31 Oct 2012 12:46:00
5 / 5 (3 Votes)
Article by:
Thomas Figg
District Five Supervisor Christina Olague beams with pride as she recalls her youth growing up in a San Joaquin Valley farm labor camp — where she developed a penchant for activism and social change — influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. [Bobby] Kennedy and the Vietnam war.

Olague said that she thrived in her family’s Mexican culture, and developed a strong sense of social justice, living in a poor, hardworking community, which later became a hotbed for civil rights activism.

Facing 12-hour work days with low pay and uncertain living arrangements seems to have made a deep impression on Olague.

It is what defines her today.

“I was exposed to a lot of the injustices that farm laborers experienced working in the fields of the Central Valley,” Olague said.

Olague’s values and focus center on “the people.”

Olague co-chaired the Proposition L campaign — raising San Francisco’s minimum wage to the highest in the nation. She fights for tenants’ rights and battled against Proposition 98 — a state sponsored attack on rent control that was defeated.

Olague also authored legislation to stop Owner Move-In Eviction — OMI — which she said pushes seniors, people with disabilities and terminally ill renters out of their homes.

The small-town farm girl who describes herself as a “nerdy queer Latina” has come a long way from the dusty fields of Fresno, seemingly against all odds.

Through her hard work and sheer determination, she went from a community advocate and organizer to the position of planning commissioner — where she served for seven years — and then to the position of District 5 supervisor — all through appointments.

Matt Gonzalez appointed her to the Planning Commission based on her work in the community, and Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to the Board of Supervisors after she co-chaired his campaign.

Olague is currently in a race for the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors, which will be decided on November 6, so her campaign manager Mario Yedidia keeps her on a tight schedule. However, Olague rolls her eyes at the idea of rushing around and appears to be relaxed.

Olague is not changing her ways now, but will continue to do what she has done in the past — work hard, fight for what she believes in and make hard decisions based on the facts.

Olague chuckles when she hears that people think she is part of a “downtown” agenda — and after spending some time with her and learning just how progressive and liberal she is, one may chuckle too.

Evidently a mayor’s aide was not very happy with Olague after she and three other supervisors did not vote to oust Sheriff Mirkarimi, and the aide has reportedly sent her a nasty email.

Olague said that she did not consider politics as an outside pressure in her vote, but based it solely upon the facts — particularly on Ben Hur’s argument for a “bright line rule” and Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser’s inability to set clear guidelines — as pointed out by Supervisor Jane Kim.

One gets the sense when sitting with Olague that she is not easily swayed, and that she could care less about what her detractors say.

Olague said that she is the best candidate for District 5, based upon her experience as a planning commissioner where she fought for tenant’s rights, as well as for the proliferation of small business — two areas where she stated that she will put forth her energies if elected.

Olague added that this is why she co-chaired the Proposition E campaign — a gross receipts tax that will give small business and entrepreneurs a leg up, and will generate millions of dollars for neighborhood services.

Olague also emphasized that is why she is fighting to keep tenants’ rights intact, even as the Board of Realtors and the Building Owners and Managers Association put tens of thousands of dollars into candidates who will represent their interests.

Education, youth development, and improved public transportation are high on her radar, as well.

“I support free Muni for youth, and as a planning commissioner I introduced requirements to make sure that corporate real estate developers pay their fair share for the impact of their projects on our transit systems,” Olague said.

Whether the mayor’s office knew how liberal and progressive Olague was when they appointed her is a moot point now. She has struck out on her own and has big plans for the working folks in San Francisco.

Her list of accomplishments includes being the first woman to represent District 5 as supervisor, and the first queer woman to serve in over a decade.

Olague has also served as president of the San Francisco Planning Commission, secretary of the Harvey Milk LGBT Club and founding member of San Francisco’s People’s Organization.

Further, all the policies Olague has championed around rent control, wage increases, seniors, transit, safe-biking and low-income families make her about as progressive as they come.

“I have lived in the upper Haight, the lower Haight — I love this district — it’s where I live,” Olague said. “I hope to win so I can really get in there and focus on all the things I need to do for the district.”

[Editorial Note:] Correction to the Olague story for the number of supervisors voting with her to reinstate the sheriff, orginally noted as two. This has been corrected to note that three other supervisors along with Olague cast their votes to retain Sheriff Mirkarimi.
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