Mirkarimi groping for distractions

S.F. Examiner File PhotoMelissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at 6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.

The plastic bag surcharge is in effect in just about every store in The City — and, for better or worse, we all have suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to thank. Back when he was on the Board of Supervisors, plastic bags, PG&E and brevity were his enemies, although he only pushed through a law banning one of them. As of Oct. 1, stores must charge a dime for any bag they have to provide to customers.

Mirkarimi’s involvement in the new rule was acknowledged by a man in line in front of me at Bristol Farms who said he brought his own bag because “no way am I contributing 10 cents to the Ross Mirkarimi defense fund.” It was misguided, but I like to think that if it means one fewer bag in a landfill, Mirkarimi would approve.

Meanwhile, Mirkarimi and his band of free-time fighters are doing everything in their power to distract the Board of Supervisors from making a determination that is clear to any 4-year-old: that a person on probation should not be in charge of a department of law enforcement.

The latest sharp shiny object offered up is the “issue” of whether Mayor Ed Lee committed perjury when he testified at an Ethics Commission hearing. Debra Walker claims that Supervisor Christina Olague “said that the mayor had asked her about the case when they were discussing other issues, and he had asked her for her thoughts” on March 6.

The actual question asked of Lee by Mirkarimi’s attorney was, “Before you decided to file written charges of misconduct here, did you talk to any members of the Board of Supervisors about whether or not you should do so?” Lee responded with “no.”

It’s a tough question to hang perjury on because Lee can just say he “decided to file” charges prior to talking to Olague, or that he didn’t talk to Olague about “whether or not” to file charges. The question is wide open for Lee to squirm out of it, and Mirkarimi knows that. But proving perjury isn’t the point. The point is a continued campaign of obfuscation in the hopes that three members of the Board of Supervisors believe that these allegations of “perjury” and that Lee’s alleged conversation “tainted the jury” (plus the usual cries of “coup d’etat” and “witch hunt”) provide enough cover for them to vote for Mirkarimi and still have a political future.

Mirkarimi also wants the members of the Board of Supervisors to state under oath whether they have talked to Lee about the case, comparing supervisors to jurors whose views might now be tainted based on conversations with the mayor. Well, if the Board of Supervisors is a “jury” then Mirkarimi has been quite publicly turbo-tampering with them by holding “Reinstate Ross” rallies outside City Hall, sending surrogates to feel out which supervisors he can count on for support, and telling his fans to call and email the supervisors and newspapers — even giving them talking points to use.

The show will only become more dramatic and fantastic at Tuesday’s board meeting when it’s time for public comment before the final vote. Bring your popcorn — in your own bag, of course.

Upcoming election crucial to balance of power on Board of Supervisors

San Franciscans might not have seen much in the way of campaign materials to date, but if you live in districts 1, 5 or 7, next week the vote-by-mail ballots will arrive — followed by a flood of candidate mailers.

Before rolling one’s eyes at the stupidity of local races, remember that the future of the board is at stake and that means the future of development projects, the economy and the whole landscape of The City.

Broadly speaking, there are currently five moderates on the Board of Supervisors (Carmen Chu, Malia Cohen, Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener) and six progressives (John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and Christina Olague), though the two groups don’t always vote in lockstep and Chiu, Cohen and Kim break away from their packs often enough to keep things interesting.

A number of folks are running to oust Olague in District 5, but chances are the winner will be a progressive, with Julian Davis looking like the front-runner to challenge Olague. At any rate, that seat isn’t likely to change sides. In District 1, Mar is running in a dead heat with moderate David Lee. In District 7, where Elsbernd is termed out, moderate Mike Garcia is running closely behind progressive Norman Yee.

If Olague, Lee and Garcia win, moderates will have a fairly solid six votes to endorse development deals and business-friendly legislation. In this scenario, note that Olague is open to endorsing development, as evidenced by her support of the 8 Washington Street. housing deal.

If Davis, Mar and Yee win, the number of moderates on the board goes down to four and the number of progressives increases to seven, and the board will look a lot like it did when Aaron Peskin was president — passing housing protections, municipal identification cards and increased funding for homeless programs. In this scenario, note that Davis has been a critic of 8 Washington and is less likely to endorse development projects than Olague.

With seven votes, progressives could stop any deal — the Golden State Warriors arena, for example — and would be one vote away from a veto-proof majority on any law passed.

Whichever direction you believe The City should take, remember that balance of power on the board is up for grabs. Don’t just ignore those glossy fliers.

Bay Area NewsBoard of SupervisorsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPoliticssean elsbernd

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