Ken Garcia: Saying one thing, doing another 

Apparently it’s a lot easier defending criminals than it is to defend your position on runaway government spending when your department is eating up a disproportionate share of San Francisco’s budget.

In general terms, this is known as fuzzy logic. In politics, this is best described as a mixed message.

That’s Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s tenuous position these days as he trumpets a call for union pension reform at the same time his office has run up more than $2 million in new bills, all the while handling fewer cases than in years past.

It’s no secret that Adachi wants to run for mayor, but he’s starting out on a rather shaky platform. He has upset his so-called progressive base with his ballot measure to rein in pension costs, which union leaders say will cost their members more. And at the same time, his grandstanding efforts to continually get more funding for his office have made him look like a poor money manager who continually overspends.

Not exactly the kind of qualifications voters look for in lean economic times.

Remarkably, Adachi continues to maintain that his costs are increasing because the mayor has failed to properly fund his office. Yet, his office turned down more than 1,000 cases last year — probably a record — with the bottom line being that the caseload for the Public Defender’s Office is lower than a limbo stick.

That’s not going to help Adachi win any popularity contests, especially with other city departments that have more contact with the general public undergoing severe staff cuts. The Recreation and Park Department recently laid off about 50 people, and I dare say that there are still far more park users than suspected criminals that deserve San Francisco’s budgetary affection.

There’s no doubt there’s a certain populist appeal to try and wrest control of runaway spending on pensions and force employees to pay their fair share — something city workers have managed to avoid during the lifetime of their contracts. But the last time I looked, politicians were still called on to lead by example, which is why many of them have voluntarily accepted reductions in pay.

So, Adachi finds himself in the position of saying government needs to cut at the same time he’s personally overspending. That’s quite a juggling act. And now, we can see how his high-wire routine works in November.

Top cop sticks to his guns

San Francisco’s police chief said at one time that he’d likely have several command staffs during his tenure, and one year into the job, he seems determined to prove it.

The department has been abuzz this week with the news that Assistant Chief Kevin Cashman and Cmdr. John Loftus were being demoted as punishment for the lack of oversight of the department’s crime lab, which led to a scandal involving a technician dipping into the cocaine evidence.

Those moves came at the same time Assistant Chief Morris Tabak announced his retirement after 32 years, leaving three vacancies at the top of the department’s organizational chart, with possibly more to come.

Word is that Chief George Gascón can be a little fickle and, in certain areas, unrelenting. Sources at the Hall of Justice tell me there may still be officers brought up on disciplinary charges connected to the crime-lab case.

Yet, one thing’s clear. Unlike former Chief Heather Fong, who wouldn’t make a move without asking for permission first, Gascón doesn’t hesitate when it comes to policy and personnel decisions. They might not always be successful, as his push for Tasers proved, but people aren’t wondering where the chief stands.

Discreet honor for suspect-chasing cabbie

It may be even more difficult than usual to grab a cab this afternoon since a good number of taxi drivers will be on hand (and off the street) to salute one of their own — the Luxor driver who chased a getaway car last week filled with some suspects in a shootout that left 50-year-old German tourist Mechthild Schroer dead.

The cab driver, who has been hailed as a hero, wishes to remain anonymous, which is why he will be surrounded by other taxi driver veterans when he’s feted at John’s Grill by Union Square merchants.

Think of it as safety in numbers. There will be plenty of police officers and public officials there to round out the crowd.

Before the advancement of technology, police officers often relied on cab drivers to provide info from the streets. It shows courage never goes out of style.

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Ken Garcia

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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

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