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Supervisor candidate Josh Arce backed by $70k from controversial police union

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Joshua Arce speaks at a news conference in the Mission on July 28 about his plan for sustainable housing and a new BART station at 30th and Mission streets. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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For supervisor candidates running to represent the Mission District and Bernal Heights — collectively known as District 9 — taking money from the Police Officers Association may be a political kiss of death.

Now, public records may reveal that District 9 candidate Joshua Arce took more than $70,000 in support from a group which in turn was heavily funded by the police union. Arce is facing three challengers in the race, Hillary Ronen, Melissa San Miguel and Iswari Espana.

That may spell political trouble for Arce in the same ’hoods where Amilcar Lopez, Alex Nieto and Luis Gongora were killed by officers in the San Francisco Police Department.

Agreeing with the cops’ explanations of those deaths or not, it’s no secret that much of the Mission District has rallied against police, like the “Frisco 5” hunger strikers, whose protests may have helped dethrone former Chief Greg Suhr.

Father Richard Smith of Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church comforted many of those in the Mission who knew Lopez, among others, and cautioned against candidates accepting money from the police union.

“Anytime the Police Officers Association comes out with support, it should be suspect immediately,” Smith told On Guard.

For his part, Arce adamantly denies he took POA money.

“They’re not supporting me,” Arce told the San Francisco Examiner during an editorial board meeting earlier this month.

“They’re putting money into a [committee] that they insist can’t go into District 9,” he said, “because of my desire to hold them accountable.”

But that kind of claim is tough to parse through public records.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission confirmed to On Guard they don’t require committees trace the journey of a dollar.

Here’s what we know: Filings at the Ethics Commission show that, on June 27, the POA contributed $75,000 to an independent expenditure committee (a.k.a. a big political piggy bank) called San Franciscans for a City that Works.

SF for a City that Works has a big pot of cash — $371,000 so far — that it used to boost “moderate Democrats” aligned with Mayor Ed Lee: District 1 supervisor candidate Marjan Philhour, District 11 candidate Ahsha Safai and, yes, Arce.

The latest numbers from the end of September show that committee spent $73,000 so far on Arce.

It spent more than $5,000 on canvassing the streets for Arce. It crafted campaign literature for Arce. It created “vote Josh Arce!” door hangers. And it offered “consulting” — maybe on his Gavin Newsom-esque hairdo?

And newer numbers from mid-October show at least $20,000 more spent supporting Arce from SF for a City that Works, and even more POA money contributed to it, though a form submitting final tallies have not yet been submitted to the ethics commission.

For a capper, SF for a City that Works spent $5,179 against Arce’s most formidable opponent, the progressive-aligned Hillary Ronen.

Here’s the twist: Former head of the POA Gary Delagnes said Arce is right.

“We gave $75,000, and we were considering endorsing Arce. Then he made some idiotic statements, which he tends to do,” Delagnes told On Guard.

“While anything in that neighborhood would be an upgrade from Hillary Ronen,” he said, “there was no way we would endorse Josh Arce after some of the statements he made about cops.”

This is when I told Gary, ”Wait a second!” If you gave $75,000 to a committee, it goes into a big pot of money. Even if they didn’t spend those exact same pennies on Arce, those are still pennies the committee saved from spending on Philhour, for instance, and then could in turn spend on Arce.

Money is still money no matter where you shuffle it, I suggested.

“I think there’s some validity to that,” Delagnes said.

But he added, “We had already made our donation. Our primary concern was trying to get our candidates elected in District 1, District 7 and District 11.”

Fair enough, Gary. But he did point one thing out: Up until Arce made statements that rattled the POA, they were considering endorsing him.

So if you’re an SFPD supporter, Arce may still be the way to go.

* * *

Enough is enough, local janitors are saying.

After this column showed documentation that recalcitrant janitors were being told by their union to either pay $150 or go out and stump for candidates the union supported — namely District 11 supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai — one janitor is taking matters into his own hands.

That’s Juan Avila, of SEIU Local 87. He filed an Ethics Commission complaint on Oct. 7 about the practice, which he likened to extortion of janitors.

Since then, Safai blasted On Guard’s report: He said the minutes of the meeting where the $150 charge was passed doesn’t mention him by name. It only mentions “endorsed candidates” of Local 87.

He’s right on paper, but Olga Miranda, Local 87’s president, has obviously and clearly spent the majority of her campaign time stumping for Safai, and he confirmed previously that her top staffers are volunteering for his campaign on the weekends.

“[Miranda] wants us to campaign for Ahsha now,” Avila said.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.

Update: This column has been updated from its print version to reflect new financial data submitted to San Francisco Ethics Commission since this column was first written.

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