Tenderloin community court may go before voters

Voters in November may decide what City Hall politicians could only fight about: whether to spend millions of dollars annually on a new kind of court designed to bring much-needed help to those arrested in the crime-plagued Tenderloin.

Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced a ballot measure Tuesday that, if approved, would allocate nearly $1.8 million in city funds for start-up, lease and first-year costs for the so-called Community Justice Center, a courthouse that also includes social services onsite. The measure would also earmark a $984,000 federal grant forthe project.

Newsom’s political opponents on the Board of Supervisors had refused to approve a spending request on the court in light of proposed spending cuts to other long-established social services.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who represents the district where the court would be placed and is a critic of the plan, submitted a measure Tuesday signed by three of his colleagues — Supervisors Jake McGoldrick, Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin — that seemingly takes aim at the court proposal.

Daly’s proposed “Treatment on Demand Act” would require The City to maintain “an adequate level” of free and low-cost substance-abuse and residential treatment slots to meet demand, set by the number of those treated and seeking treatment each year.

As proposed, the Community Justice Center would target offenders in the downtown areas charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, including such offenses as disorderly conduct, drug use and theft. Those charged would be given the choice of being enrolled in social services or face the usual legal consequences.

Newsom said that the proposal “could save lives” and hoped to have it approved by the board. “I want to see this thing succeed,” Newsom said.

On Tuesday, the mayor also introduced a nonbinding measure that makes it city policy that voters would not approve fixed-spending mandates unlessthe ballot proposals comes with a specific new revenue source.

That measure will appear on the ballot alongside a measure by Daly that would require The City spend about $2.7 billion on below-market- rate housing needs during the next 15 years.

In total, nine measures were submitted for the ballot Tuesday, the deadline for the mayor or a supervisor with support of three other colleagues to submit a measure for the ballot.

At least 34 other measures have been also introduced by city leaders for the November ballot, but these measures need a vote by the board to get before voters.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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