‘I think as popular as foot beats are, I think our [police] chief, frankly, is just as popular,” Supervisor Bevan Dufty said right before the Board of Supervisors elected, over Dufty’s objection, to put Proposition M on November’s ballot.
That proposition would require the Police Commission to develop a policy on community policing and direct the Police Department to draft and implement a foot patrol program. Dufty’s comment addresses one argument against Prop. M: Who do you want running the Police Department, supervisors or police Chief George Gascón?
For many people, that question is, um, less than difficult to answer. Some voters will be downright giddy at the chance to send a message to board members that we think they are incompetent. Still, it’s not easy to vote against foot patrols. Everyone loves the idea of beat cops. According to the text of Prop. M, a recent poll shows 90 percent of San Franciscans “believe foot patrols are a necessary tool” for the SFPD.
Thing is, the Police Department agrees that foot patrols are important. In fact, the reason the department is opposed to Prop. M is because it already has a foot patrol program and is willing to work with supervisors to make it better. At least that’s what Assistant Chief Jeff Godown and Capt. David Lazar said at the board’s July 15 Rules Committee meeting, where Prop. M was discussed at length.
At that meeting, Godown and Lazar described how the Police Department already has a foot patrol program that has been very effective in reducing crime and increasing perceptions of safety. Furthermore, the department is wooing communities with all sorts of other romantic gestures.
Each district station has a community advisory board and a sergeant appointed to be the liaison to community groups, our cadets spend more time learning about cultural competence than those at any other police academy in the nation, the department has devoted scads of resources to dealing with people who don’t speak English and they all have “I [heart] San Francisco Communities” tattoos in places they can’t show us.
OK, I made that last part up, but the SFPD’s point was: We already do this stuff and we’ll work with the Board of Supervisors to make changes, so why do you want to legislate this? Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the measure’s sponsor, responded that we need a public endorsement of foot patrols and community policing to make sure officers stay committed to those ideals. He didn’t name any specific provision of Prop. M that would change the current Police Department practices.
In fact, just when I was ready to toss Prop. M into the “won’t help or hurt The City much” pile, board President David Chiu added a “poison pill” to the proposition that says if Prop. M gets more votes than Mistermayor’s sit-lie ordinance (Proposition L), Prop. M wins and the sit-lie law won’t take effect.
Chiu’s move (a little trick he learned from Mistermayor) to make people choose between the sit-lie ordinance and foot patrols is nonsensical. Silly political games like that just make it easier for people to answer the question: Should we allow supervisors to get involved in running the Police Department?
Candidate is, in fact, doing her job
About two weeks ago, a mystery man named Richard Socchera filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court asking Judge Peter Busch to delete from the November ballot the job description of District 6 supervisor candidate Theresa Sparks.
His complaint was that, in the voter guide, Sparks lists her occupation as human-rights director, which “is misleading to voters by implying that Sparks’ occupation or profession is somehow that of directing human rights.” I guess Socchera was concerned that voters will think Sparks works for Jesus or the United Nations.
Sparks countered that her job title is, in fact, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. And since candidates only have three words to describe their occupation, hers was accurate. Sparks won and the judge dismissed Socchera’s complaint. Still, Sparks remains suspicious about the lawsuit. In a statement released this week, she said, “It’s very possible that this action was just another example of an independent candidate with no machine affiliations being harassed either by the political faction currently in power or a new one trying to gain it.”
Indeed, human rights are hard to come by when it comes to San Francisco political races.
Meet Joanna Rees, candidate for mayor, Ann Richards protege
This week, entrepreneur Joanna Rees filed to run for mayor of San Francisco in 2011. I got a chance to speak with Rees, who began our conversation by explaining that she chose Sept. 1 to file because that’s former Texas Gov. Ann Richards’ birthday. Apparently, Richards is a former mentor to Rees. Obviously, I had to constrain my jealousy about that fact to bring you the rest of the interview.
Do you have any experience in local government? It’s a snake pit, you know. I have worked on a lot of local issues. For example, I spent 10 years working on education reform locally and nationally. I spent the last year and a half in the living rooms of San Franciscans, listening to their concerns, and I believe I have the skills to do the job. You know, venture capital is pretty challenging, too!
You’re a wealthy female entrepreneur who is a political outsider. What will you do about the inevitable Meg Whitman comparisons? Does that mean every male candidate will be compared to Jerry Brown? [Laughs.] I am supporting Brown, you know. I intend to raise my campaign money one contribution at a time. It is important for me to have grass-roots support.
Are there any current laws or executive orders you would repeal? So far I have an exploratory committee and I’m looking to have some more conversations about these issues. I do think that we need jobs and long-term stability, so we cannot keep balancing our budget using fees and fines and nickel-and-diming people. Ultimately, we have to grow The City’s revenue, and I want to be that candidate of growth and optimism.