San Francisco’s democratic party shoots down Obama police reform, now leans conservative

On Guard column header Joe

San Francisco’s “moderate” democrats often tout some version of this unofficial motto: “If I were anywhere else but San Francisco, I’d be labeled a flaming liberal, but here, I’m conservative.”

The saying’s simplicity makes me want to pull out my red-tipped hair. Why? Because in San Francisco, every politician wraps themselves in the LGBT rainbow flag, but being socially liberal doesn’t excuse conservative votes attacking the poor and disenfranchised, not by a longshot.

In San Francisco, the political dichotomy is less red and blue and more about shades of green: moderates tend to position themselves with monied interests.

In keeping with that tradition, the San Francisco Democratic Party last Wednesday bowed down to the politically powerful SFPD union, the Police Officers Association.

The Democratic County Central Committee rubber stamps ballot measures and politicians in elections. Wednesday, it voted to approve a proposed resolution meant to support President Barack Obama’s proposed “21st Century Policing” reforms.

To do so, it sliced and diced out every substantive point the resolution made.

First proposed by outgoing DCCC member Kelly Dwyer, it asked for common-sense reforms for the SFPD: like asking officers be annually reviewed for unlawful searches, or that officers reach out to crisis counselors when dealing with mentally ill persons.

Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, one of its authors, was incredulous as the democratic party moved to vote down recommendations mirroring those of a Democratic president, and crafted with the help of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr.

Below, President Barack Obama speaks on the need for recommendations suggested by his 21st Century Policing task force.

These are reforms needed especially by Bayview citizens, she argued.

“The people who live there need to feel the police are there to protect them,” she said.
It never had a chance. The POA opposed the measure, saying it vilifies police officers.

But (former? not really) POA union head Gary Delagnes is a registered republican in Marin county, according to public records, and in POA blog posts he’s written that the POA itself leans republican.

At the heart of the local Democratic Party that night, the republican got his way.

Newly christened DCCC member Joshua Arce made a bait-and-switch, offering a substitute “21st Century Policing” measure that removed every word and sentence of substance in Dwyer’s original resolution.

But how did Arce’s weak-sauce measure get approved by a vote of local democrats?

To know that, you have to know who pulls the strings.

Mary Jung, chair of the DCCC, is also director of government and community relations with the San Francisco Association of Realtors, one of the top groups profiting from San Francisco’s exorbitant housing prices.

To that end, the national, state and local realtor associations together spent over $1.5 million to defeat a 2014 ballot measure meant to protect renters against real estate speculators who flip houses and erroneously evict people, Proposition G.

The realtor association often spends big in SF elections.

Would you call this a major conflict of interest? I certainly would, but Jung has much political muscle. And she’s winning.

Her power stems partly from her ability to select new DCCC members. Last Wednesday, she put up for vote the appointment of Joel Engardio (also an Examiner columnist) and Marjan Philhour. Both were approved.

She also helped Arce onto the board, the man who conjured up the substance-free version of the police reform resolution, which he called “consensus building.”

I’ll translate for you. In moderate democrat terms, “consensus” means “bowing to people with money.”

Together, those new DCCC members, plus others recently appointed to the group, show a rightward turn of the committee. Will the Mission Moratorium and Airbnb reform November 2015 ballot measures be backed by the local democratic party?

Fat chance.

And though Engardio voted against the bait-and-switch substitute police reform, “I would’ve voted no on the original resolution, I feel it wasn’t necessary,” he told me.

In defending his position, Engardio pulled out the age-old justification for republican-style votes from a San Francisco democrat.

“The moderate/progressive label is so artificial,” he said. “In San Francisco, nothing is what it seems to the rest of the country.”

He’s a democrat, he said, even if he would vote against policies crafted by a democrat president on behalf of angry republicans.

Welcome to the new San FRancisco DemocRatic CentRal Committee, the liberal group where the R’s reign.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at

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