Ken Garcia: Election shows S.F. marches to its own wacky drummer

One of these days, officials in San Francisco are going to understand that they are elected to focus on potholes, not pot, and math scores, not military policy.

Clearly, this is not one of those days.

It’s been a rather remarkable week in The City, where voters once again showed themselves to be remarkably out of touch with the state — often giddily so. The Board of Supervisors this week approved legislation that all but makes the growing and selling of marijuana legal for adults in San Francisco and officially lists pot as the lowest priority for police. Of course, as anyone who walks our streets knows, it has long been a limbo-low priority for police and the district attorney — a classic solution in search of a problem.

Neighbors’ concerns about the new law were brushed aside by its author, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who had the bill labeled as “emergency’’ legislation to rush it through committee. “This is not landing-on-the-moon’’ stuff, he told his colleagues, before they took a giant leap for local stoners.

I’m all for our police officers looking the other way on minor offenses and concentrating on more serious crimes. But the last thing San Francisco needs to do is encourage more dope dealers to ply their trade on the street — especially in a town where there are more pot clubs than good Indian restaurants.

Not to be outdone on the ideological forefront, four members of the Board of Education this week voted to get rid of a popular program that provides discipline and leadership to teens — the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps — because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ stance on gays in the armed forces. This despite the fact that there are 1,600 students in the program, one that has flourished in San Francisco for nearly a century.

The evidence that there are many gay students in the program and that it has slim military ties was not enough to stop trustees from shooting it out of the water — an act that led to numerous students breaking down in tears. You might think that board members would focus on things like test scores, enrollment problems and curriculum development. Instead, the message for our leaders of tomorrow is that the values of the few can override the goals of the many — a sort of new-fangled democracy.

Somehow I doubt that you’ll find it taught in many civics classes.

It has been quite a time recently for San Francisco to showcase its lefty underpinnings — the focus of many red state campaigns during the election. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bucked a national trend by crushing Democratic challenger Phil Angelides by nearly 20 points, in large part due to Angelides’ shockingly inept campaign that sent moderate Democrats fleeing from their party’s pick. Yet Angelides won by more than a 2-1 margin in The City, proving that the three most feared letters in San Francisco are still GOP.

Even Cruz Bustamante, the best friend of lobbyist groups everywhere, won nearly 60 percent of the vote here in Sin City — while he was trounced in his statewide race for insurance commissioner.

In a rather mystifying philosophical turn, city voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure to raise the parking tax rate in San Francisco, yet it led every county in California in voting in favor of raising oil and cigarette taxes — two initiatives that went down to defeat. The City also marched to its own drummer on a plan to strictly increase penalties for sex offenders — San Francisco said no, while the rest of California resoundingly said yes.

So it’s hardly a surprise that ideology would trump pragmatism on several local issues and that officials continually search out issues on behalf of small, often fringe, advocacy groups. Does anyone think parents of the kids enrolled in the JROTC program were lobbying to kill it? For school board members who considered giving students credit for classroom time to march in anti-war protests, it really doesn’t matter.

Last week the new Juvenile Justice Center was officially christened, a glistening facility that is far superior to the dark, deteriorated detention facility it replaced. Yet it’s worth noting that several youth advocate groups and some supervisors at one point tried to block funding for the new center because it had too many beds — the rationale being that more beds equals more kids in jail. And it’s that kind of fuzzy logic that would keep a child in inhumane conditions, just to prove a point.

Of course, some of them might be incarcerated for dealing pot. When will they realize you have to be 18 to do that in San Francisco?

Ken Garcia’s column appears weekends in The Examiner/Independent. E-mail him at or call him at (415) 359-2663.

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