One of the most important roles of local government is to make sure we are safe in our homes and neighborhoods. For the last six years, I’ve tackled public safety issues from San Francisco’s point of view — balancing additional funding for public safety with new, smart investments in communities to prevent violent crime, improve fire safety, strengthen emergency preparedness and provide pathways of hope and opportunity to those at greatest risk.
Candidates running for office with no record of their own have a bad habit of playing fast and loose with the facts to scare the public. It’s a tactic straight out of the George Bush/Karl Rove playbook and one that San Franciscans should reject.
When I first entered public life, I worked in residential hotels to improve quality of life. In the late 1990s, countless fires ripped through these hotels, displacing families and costing lives. With then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom, I fought to ensure that residential hotel operators installed sprinklers that prevent these fires.
Ironically, the city’s plumbers’ union failed to meet the mandates of that law. The Civic Center Hotel they own on Market Street remained unsafe. For a while, they sought to demolish the dozens of affordable housing units rather than comply with the law. Thankfully, City Attorney Dennis Herrera threatened to sue and forced them to install the sprinklers.
Yet, the same opponent who questioned my record on public safety held his kickoff at their hall. While the group failed to comply with City laws written to make us safer, they paid lawyers a lot of money. Now they’ve contributed $500 and provided office space for my opponent’s political campaign. Actions speak louder than words, and that probably explains why I’m the only candidate to earn the San Francisco Firefighters endorsement this year.
For four of my six years on the Board, I have served on the Budget or Finance Committees, twice as chair.
When I was budget chair in 2003, Mayor Willie Brown and I passed a budget that provided $294.7 million for the Police Department. In July, I helped craft a budget that provides $365.3 million. That’s $70.6 million more in just three years, an increase of almost 24 percent.
Now, just two months after Mayor Newsom signed the budget, his office believes more funding is needed. Yet neither the mayor’s office nor police department will provide the independent budget analyst with the figures to determine how the funds will be spent.
The Board of Supervisors is offering a better idea to help today: Let’s ask more police officers to actually walk the beat. The mayor’s office strongly opposes this legislation and the police chief even suggested that foot patrols would make us less safe.
Next Tuesday, my colleagues and I will vote on whether to put officers on the beat in the Mission, Tenderloin and Western Addition neighborhoods. In the face of institutional opposition, we can once again deliver to make our families and neighborhoods more safe.