With friends like these … 

click to enlarge Ross Mirkarimi backers at a hearing on Friday tried to minimize a bruise on his wife, Eliana Lopez. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Ross Mirkarimi backers at a hearing on Friday tried to minimize a bruise on his wife, Eliana Lopez.

Suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was at the Ethics Commission on Monday, where the five commission members agreed on the procedure for deciding the procedure that will govern the hearing on whether to recommend his removal.

Aside from the remarkable timidity demonstrated by the commissioners, who are no doubt aware that any misstep will be appealed to a “real court” by the losing party, the most interesting part was public comment.
With Mirkarimi himself seated directly behind the podium, 33 people spoke, 29 of whom supported Mirkarimi. (Given recent poll numbers, however this may well have been the entirety of his fan base.) One after the other, they claimed he is “a good family man,” “a gentle soul with a tender heart” and “an incredibly upstanding citizen” who is being “crucified” and subjected to “character assassination.”

Twelve of the pro-Mirkarimi speakers were women, and 11 of the total claimed the suspension was politically motivated, with some calling it a “witch hunt” and a “coup d’etat.” One person claimed this whole prosecution is a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Paging Supervisor Eric Mar … we have your next nonbinding resolution.)

Surely Mirkarimi was appreciative of the sentiment, though he might have winced inside as five of his supporters attacked the commission for dismissing too many cases in the past. Just take a minute with that.

Through it all, Mirkarimi sat stoically, even as eight of his staunch defenders mangled his name; I counted Markarimi, Mickarimi, Mickarini, Mirkarami, Mirkaroni, Markrimi, Mirkarini and Mackarini. For example, one devotee claimed, “I’ve known Mr. Ross Mirkarami for a long, long time.”

Although few Mirkarimi defenders commented on the picture of his wife Eliana Lopez’s bruise, those who did said it was “just a squeeze,” “something with his family” and a “statement that was fabricated for a custody battle.”
Two other commentators tied for the Most Cringeworthy Defense award. One woman said, “I was a victim of abuse in my first marriage when my husband shoved me and punched me while I had an infant child in my arms. That’s abuse.”

According to another, “As a mother and woman, I’ve had long-term relationships. Stuff happens. There’s a young child, upset, you get into an argument; if things get heated, stuff happens. That is not misconduct to me. That’s real-life issues that we all have to deal with in today’s relationships.”
And each woman pronounced Mirkarimi’s name exactly right.

As proof that the state Fair Political Practices Commission has a sense of humor, or at least a subscription to Seventeen magazine, my friend Jonathan Alloy sent in this tidbit the other day. It seems that new contribution disclosure forms that elected officials must fill out have undergone some revisions. Specifically, there’s a new section titled “Best Friends Forever” that allows public officials to accept gifts from “long-term personal friends where the friendship is not related to the official’s position” as long as the friend is not “someone who lobbies the official’s agency.”

Thank goodness politicians can stop agonizing over how to report the value of pillow fights, secret crushes and singing the entire soundtrack to “Slumdog Millionaire” while on a road trip to Reno. Jai ho!
On the subject of unquantifiable joy, that’s certainly what I feel when I see our fair city on the big screen, even as the backdrop for an ape revolution. So I was glad to see that Supervisor Mark Farrell is pushing to continue a tax break for film production in San Francisco for two more years. The program, called Scene in San Francisco, reimburses production teams for certain fees and taxes they incur when they film here. According to the budget and legislative analyst, The City still makes money on the deal from hotel taxes, permits and the like. In pointing out that the program is still necessary because other cities continue to aggressively court film production, Farrell said, “In my opinion, if we want to compete here in San Francisco, we have to do more than just rely on our good looks; we have to do something about it.”

On the subjects of tax breaks and relying on more than looks, several members of the Board of Supervisors have teamed up to propose a tax break for small businesses. It would cap the payroll tax for any company with a payroll expense of less than $500,000 at its 2011 rate. In other words, the company could hire new people now and not pay an additional payroll tax until 2015, when the law sunsets. This measure is supposed to incentivize small businesses to hire more people. If this all sounds familiar, it should. Two years ago, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed to cap payroll taxes from 2010 to 2011. At that time, Supervisor John Avalos was chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, where he killed Newsom’s “payroll tax holiday” proposal. Seeming to doubt the efficacy of the payroll cap, he said, “Whether this is actually going to spur the economic growth the mayor talks about, I really doubt.”

But that was 2010, when Avalos didn’t care about angering business interests. This year he’s up for re-election. Two other progressives who are up for re-election, David Campos and Eric Mar, have already signed on as sponsors of the tax break. Look for Avalos to have a change of heart and decide this payroll tax holiday will be effective — at getting votes.

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Melissa Griffin

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