Sheriff is working with his eyes wide closed

We shouldn’t be surprised that Ross Mirkarimi’s mugshot shows him with his eyes closed. Appearing arrogant and obtuse, the sheriff is pretending like nothing is wrong.

I’ve been trying to imagine what the days are like in the office of the San Francisco sheriff. Mirkarimi comes in, takes off his coat and assumes his position as the head of the department that controls jails, tracks down fugitives, provides security in our courthouses and oversees programs to assist victims of domestic violence.

As he’s been charged with three misdemeanors, I have to wonder: Why on Earth is he still on the job?

No one is saying he’s guilty. We don’t know what happened. But we do know that our elected law enforcement official has been charged with violence and undermining a criminal investigation. It makes him unfit to lead the Sheriff’s Department until the case is over.

If a member of the police force is charged with a crime, that person is prohibited from official public contact until the case is resolved.

During Fajitagate, the command staff went on unpaid administrative leave until the case was over. If a Muni driver is in an accident, even when it is not his fault, he is put on administrative leave.

Mirkarimi’s handling of this entire matter so far has been a case study in “what not to do” under these circumstances. Thus far he has consistently put his own pride ahead of the needs of his department, and indeed this city.

He is expected to be arraigned at 2:30 p.m. today, and at that time, he’ll probably ask for a speedy trial. If that’s the case, it would only be 45 days or so until his case would be in front of a jury.

In the meantime, I hope he surprises us all by opening his eyes and stepping aside.

Transbay project must stay on track for rail

For months, we have been hearing threats from Republicans in Congress who want to claw back some of the $3.3 billion in federal funds promised to California’s high-speed rail project. In the past few weeks, both the CEO and the press secretary of the California High-Speed Rail Authority have resigned. Even some supporters of high-speed rail are realizing that the project is no longer guaranteed.

Losing high-speed rail has implications for our fair city beyond the exciting potential of zipping down to Bakersfield. Originally commissioned to house a more centrally located Caltrain station, the Transbay Transit Center project has since been engineered to accommodate high-speed rail trains.

The $1.7 billion needed to complete Phase 1 of the Transbay project has been secured. That phase involves setting up the temporary terminal, rerouting buses to the new location and supporting the surrounding retail corridor. Phase 2  is where the real construction begins, and it will cost $2.5 billion. We have $300 million to $400 million in the bank for Phase 2, but are still chasing some $2 billion to complete the project.

So you see, it would be helpful if we could break off a piece of that high-speed rail money to fund construction of the terminal. The very real prospect of Congress blocking some or all of the federal money promised to high-speed rail is therefore cause for concern. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd asked Mayor Ed Lee to identify our plan for constructing the terminal with little or no high-speed rail funds, and Lee basically said: High-speed rail is awesome.

Elsbernd was not satisfied with that answer, saying, “I agree with the mayor 100 percent, we need high-speed rail, but the question I asked was, ‘What happens if high-speed rail doesn’t happen?’” Elsbernd then called for a hearing on the subject, and his office is working to schedule it in the next few months. Said Elsbernd, “High-speed rail is on life support. And if indeed it goes away, what happens to Transbay? I don’t want it to go away. I want [high-speed rail] to happen. But I also do not want to find us in a situation where we’re — no pun intended — all the way down the track and the money disappears and we’re stuck with the most beautiful bus stop in the world.”

It’s all about location for new commissioner

Last week, I wrote about the newest appointment to the Entertainment Commission, Steven Lee. Despite not living in San Francisco, the well-connected nightclub owner beat out a perfectly good resident for a spot on the commission. The debate at the Board of Supervisors on this issue was amusing, as one by one supervisors contorted themselves to justify giving the spot to their pal. Supervisor Malia Cohen bizarrely claimed she was supporting Lee because she plans to appoint a number of nonresidents to commissions. (Wait. What?)

After the vote, the City Attorney’s Office stepped in and reminded the supervisors that an out-of-towner cannot serve on certain commissions, including this one. Lee’s confirmation is therefore now in question.

But wait! Lee has a new gimmick — he now plans to move in with a friend in San Francisco. This change of residence comes despite Lee listing himself as a San Mateo resident in no fewer than three places on his application and a heartfelt story of how he had to leave his beloved San Francisco in 2010 to care for sick relatives.

I’m thrilled that his family members have recovered, and if he pursues this latest line of baloney I look forward to watching the supes once again shamefully try to justify his appointment.

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