Respectful dialogue needed in wake of Mirkarimi vote 

In the last few days, I and other colleagues have received numerous calls and correspondence in response to the vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. I want to thank everyone who took the time to communicate with my office, whether in support, anger or disappointment. I truly appreciate the critical and thoughtful comments, as well as the passion and strong feelings expressed.

However, I cannot respect vicious and violent comments, nor the threats that domestic violence prevention advocates and even my own colleagues who voted for Sheriff Mirkarimi’s reinstatement have received. I hope we can all work together to move our city forward by encouraging a dialogue of respect and open mindedness.

Tuesday night’s public comment was one of the most emotionally troubling experiences I have had. People I have known for years took to the mic, speaking on either side of sustaining or not sustaining the charges of official misconduct, and of removing or reinstating Sheriff Mirkarimi.

There is so much we all love about San Francisco — our diversity, our tolerance for divergent thinking, our rich cultural history and our compassion handed down to us from our namesake, St. Francis. And yet that night, this city was shaken to its core. The hurt, anger and disappointment of the ten-month deliberation over this issue and the shock of the board vote are fresh on all sides. I know that those who had hoped for the sheriff’s reinstatement feel a sense of relief and, for some, even elation.

I believe the expression of these feelings can be felt as uncaring and even intimidating to those who did not support reinstatement. And for those who sought removal, there is a deep sense of loss that the city has lost its moral bearing. Many people have expressed their feeling that, with this vote, we have shown that we only pay lip service to our commitment to justice for domestic violence victims and survivors.

For me, there is no sense of triumph or elation here, and certainly no winners, only a worry that our city has been deeply wounded and divided. I am hopeful this is a temporary state. It is absolutely critical that we heal and not let the wounds of today turn to long-term scars that will mar the future of the city or the good work we have done.

If I have any regrets, it is that I did not call for greater open-mindedness and respect as some members of the audience were heckled and jeered — most of whom were anti-domestic violence workers and advocates who supported removal. I am sorry for being silent and not calling out for respect on all sides.

As I have previously stated, I believe that elected officials, despite our various positions on this matter, need to play a leadership role in helping the city move past this vote. I hope we can be models of respect for different viewpoints and that we can balance our very real and powerful emotions in ways that can help us connect better to our constituents and the issues we all face. I personally have reached out to Mayor Lee, Sheriff Mirkarimi, the Domestic Violence Consortium, and colleagues on the different sides of the vote.

I know that all sides have been hurt and impacted by the small minority of people who have chosen to express themselves in vicious and disrespectful ways. Now, I reach out to you, the good people of San Francisco, regardless of which side of the vote you were on, to bring back the respectful dialogue that our city can and should be known for.

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John Avalos

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