Sanctuary shift may lead nowhere

An overflow room had to be set up in the North Light Court at City Hall on Monday because Room 250 was bursting with people interested in the Public Safety Committee hearing on Supervisor David Campos’ proposal to change San Francisco’s sanctuary policy. Under Campos’ amendment, law enforcement officers would no longer have to report potentially undocumented youth to federal immigration officials at the time of arrest — they would only have to notify the feds after a juvenile is actually convicted of a felony or after a grand jury indicts the juvenile as an adult.

For some three hours on Monday, members of the public spoke in favor of the amendment. Only two people made statements against the proposal, and both were met with hissing from the audience. Supporters of the new policy spoke about the need to make sure young people receive full “due process” before being subjected to deportation to a country where they may not have any family or other support.

I have written here before about my doubts that the city attorney will issue rules that prohibit officials from reporting undocumented juveniles who are arrested for felonies. I had a chance to speak with Supervisor Campos after the hearing and asked him about the enforceability of his proposal.

He correctly pointed out that the amendment doesn’t stop city employees from reporting juveniles to the federal authorities at any stage of the criminal process; instead, it simply moves the point at which city employees must inform the feds from the time of felony arrest (where it is now) to the point of indictment as an adult or conviction. According to Campos, “this change is a policy decision that the board is entitled to make.”

So, why do we currently have a policy requiring law enforcement to report juveniles to immigration officials at the time of arrest and not after a conviction? For starters, California courts have held that the right to due process is not violated when information about undocumented arrestees is conveyed to the feds. In other words: because we can. Whether we must is trickier.

Federal law says that The City cannot punish government employees who want to give information to immigration authorities. Also, state law actually requires law enforcement officials to notify federal immigration at the point of arrest (not conviction) whenever a person is picked up for certain drug crimes. These factors, plus some old-fashioned executive decision-making by the mayor, led to the current sanctuary policy.

Deciding whether and how this policy can legally be moved around to protect juveniles will fall to City Attorney (and mayoral hopeful) Dennis Herrera, who told me, “We’ll consider what the board ultimately passes and we’ll advise our clients accordingly with respect to how that interacts with state and federal law.”

And if Herrera’s office does not advise clients to be more lenient on juveniles who are arrested for felonies?

“The board will have to find a way to deal with that,” Campos said.


Proposition will help keep budget process on track

Over time, politicians driving The City’s budget process have crashed it so often that what remains is a lumbering hunk of metal that smells like burned fan belt and barely makes it up the balanced-budget hill each year. Proposition A on this November’s ballot changes the tires on the machine, but more needs to be done.

Last year Mistermayor charged the City Controller’s Office with examining the structural problems that plague our budget. The resulting report was released in March of this year, and it contained a number of suggestions for change. Of course, none of the really juicy recommendations (such as set-aside reform) made it into Prop. A, but here is what did:

1 A two-year budget cycle and a five-year budget plan. Our current one-year budget cycle encourages city officials to engage in the rather fatalistic process of spending money as if San Francisco won’t be here next year. Like suicide survivors, they wake up the next fiscal year disappointed to be alive and stuck trying to figure out how to pay back the casino for that final, regrettable explosion of excess. This shortsightedness needs to stop. A word of warning, though: Each year, the controller, the mayor’s budget director and budget analyst get together and issue a three-year budget projection that is wildly inaccurate. The extended fiscal cycles in Prop A will only help if the math nerds at City Hall can do a better job of estimating.

Labor agreements to comport with budget cycle. Straight from the corpulent “I can’t believe we don’t already do this” file comes a provision to require that all labor agreements be signed and complete before we set aside millions of dollars in the budget to pay for them. Not the other way around. Because, you know, it might help The City’s position in negotiations just a teensy bit if unions didn’t already know how many millions San Francisco is prepared to pay for increases to their pay and benefits. [Cue hand sliding down face.]

3 Procedure for additional rules. Prop. A requires the Controller’s Office to propose new financial policies to the board and mayor each year. Here’s hoping the controller tries to pass some of the more politically dicey reforms from his report that didn’t make it into Prop. A, such as the requirement that one-time revenue (like grant money) be spent on one-time projects (not salaries of regular employees).

Prop. A won’t turn The City’s junker of a budget process into Greased Lightening, but it’s a start.


Reports point out the obvious about BART shooting incident

The BART board of directors has now spent close to $380,000 on two studies that reveal what any fourth-grader could have told them on Jan. 2: The BART police need better training, oversight and leadership.

Watching the board meeting last Thursday was simply infuriating. They continue to distract the public with these studies and finger-wagging at the BART Police Department in hopes that we won’t notice that police Chief Gary Gee (salary $201K) is simply resigning with pension intact and Gee’s boss Dorothy Duggar (salary $335K) continues to be the general manager of BART.

Not a single person in leadership has apologized or been punished for the obscene lack of competence that allowed the BART Police Department to become such a fiasco.

I wonder how much it would cost to study that.

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