History books will find this 19th year in the third millennium to be notable on several accounts. Here’s a list of reasons that I think residents of The City will find 2019 to be most memorable.
Death of a public defender
With the unnecessary and untimely death of San Francisco’s public defender, Jeff Adachi, in Feb. 2019, San Francisco lost a seemingly tireless social justice warrior. In his eulogy, delivered on March 4 at City Hall, chief attorney Matt Gonzalez described Adachi as a man who never shied away from tough tasks. “In the 28 years that I knew Jeff, I never saw him run away from injustice, rather, he ran towards it. It was something that he wanted to combat. The principles he had were forged in Sacramento, where he grew up, in the Japanese community, and in the memory that his family suffered the injustice of internment during World War II.” I’ve stood in many an audience listening to Adachi speak about the tasks ahead of him, and each time I felt respect for an elected official, something that is too rarely elicited.
In June, San Francisco’s school board initially voted to paint over an offensive mural in George Washington High School at the stupendous price tag of $600,000, and then upon facing a firestorm of protests, decided instead to cover up the mural. The artwork, titled “Life of Washington,” commissioned in 1936, and painted by Victor Arnautoff, depicted George Washington directing white pioneers who stood over the slain body of a Native American. “History should be taught not covered up!” tweeted actor and native San Franciscan Danny Glover.
On Pi Day, Google, Silicon Valley’s masthead company, announced that Emma Haruka Iwao, an employee, entered the Guinness World Records for calculating pi to 31.4 trillion digits using Google Cloud. This was an extraordinary feat of mathematical prowess. In a Google blog post, Iwao is quoted as saying, “I’m really happy to be one of the few women in computer science holding the record, and I hope I can show more people who want to work in the industry what’s possible.”
Litquake, San Francisco’s largest literary event, celebrated its 20th birthday, with throngs of well-known and wannabe-well-known writers flocking the various venues to pay homage to the craft of words. With over 200 panels and events, the event has continued to tap at the heart of San Francisco’s ability to cultivate the reach of imagination. Also chalking up 2019’s literary milestones, The Writers Grotto, The City’s famed collaborative, with members including Natalie Baszile, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Constance Hale, Vanessa Hua, Shanti Sekaran, turned 25 years old.
The big arena
With a grand opening in September, the Warriors’ new arena — the Chase Center — officially became part of San Francisco’s indoor entertainment heritage. Everything about the stadium is XL-sized — from the hype to the space (largest indoor venue in San Francisco), the scoreboard (largest in the NBA), and the “Seeing Spheres” sculpture. Sadly, since the grand opening, the Warriors’ stock has plummeted. With numerous injuries and losses in free agency, the team is now the worst in the Western Conference.
The death penalty
In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order issuing an indefinite moratorium on the death sentence in California, saying it discriminates against marginalized communities, and is unfair and wasteful. With this move, California joined 20 states and the District of Columbia in doing away with the death penalty. Countering the criticism from crime victim advocates, the governor reminded his detractors in a statement during Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a few days later, that “Since its inception, the victim compensation program has provided almost $2.5 billion dollars to assist victims of violent crime.”
The rise and fall of Sen. Kamala Harris’ ambitions
The year saw Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential chances shimmer and fade away. Harris, who was previously the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney General of California, announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day and almost instantly received over $1.5 million dollars. But in the ensuing months, it became evident that she couldn’t quite keep up the fund-raising pace required to run a well-managed campaign. Besides, she wasn’t able to sustain the country’s interest with her too cautious policy positions. In early November, she decided to withdraw from the race, calling it “one of the hardest decisions of my life.”
Quid pro quo?
Among President Trump’s numerous thumb stopper tirades, the one targeting The City, was a classic quid pro quo reaction from the President, at a time when he was being investigated for another quid pro quo reaction that he was vociferously and bitterly contesting. “There’s needles and drugs all over the street. There’s tents, there’s people that are dying in squalor — in the best location, in San Francisco. It used to be a great city. Now you have to see what’s happened to San Francisco,” he said at a press conference in October.
A strong female Speaker of the House
In 2019, Nancy Pelosi rose to become arguably one of the savviest political figures of our times, deliberate and cautious, yet unafraid of taking and making risky decisions. Elected in 2013 as a Representative from California’s 12th District, within the district of San Francisco, she is the first woman to ever hold this position, and has done it twice.
The most significant reason to remember 2019 will be the historic vote to impeach President Trump on two articles of impeachment: the first charging the President with abuse of power and the second with obstruction of justice. Pelosi’s leadership skills were on full frontal as she shepherded the impeachment process. On Dec. 18, the House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines to impeach Trump on both charges.
Wishing readers a wonderful 2020!
Jaya Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan.She is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.