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News + PoliticsThe Agenda: Criminal justice takes center stage

The Agenda: Criminal justice takes center stage

Supes will face critical vote on jail as Campaign 2016 begins

Progressive supes and labor leaders show up to support Kimberly Alvarenga for Supervisor
Progressive supes and labor leaders show up to support Kimberly Alvarenga for Supervisor

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 14, 2015 – Kimberly Alvarenga, as expected, announced her campaign for District 11 supervisor Friday, with a crowded event on the steps of City Hall that showed the depth of progressive support for the long-time activist who now works for SEIU Local 1021.

And just as her supporters gathered for the photo op, more than 100 high school students who had walked out of class to protest the killing of Mario Woods showed up on the steps, too, with a loud and raucous demonstration.

It was perfect timing, and in fact a lot of Alvarenga’s supporters clapped along as the students demanded justice and chanted about police killings of African American youth.

Then Alvarenga went into City Hall and pulled the paperwork to make official another part of the progressive campaign to retain and expand control of the Board of Supes.

As we noted last week, the progressive forces now seem to have strong candidates in all of the contested races for next November.

Alvarenga was district director for Tom Ammiano in the six years he served in the state Assembly. She has the support of Ammiano, Sups. David Campos, John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim.

If Hillary Ronen, chief of staff for David Campos, wins in D9, there will be two women with young kids on the board, something we haven’t seen in years.

As Avalos noted,

Kimberly has that quiet tenacity to continue the fight against the wealthy interests that seek to deny working people a place in this city. District 11 still has a chance to be the home of San Francisco working and middle class soul.

High School students fill the steps of City Hall to protest police killings
High School students fill the steps of City Hall to protest police killings

The students tried to get into City Hall, but deputy sheriffs did the thing they do when they want to control a crowd – they said that anyone with a backpack or bag had to enter from the other side of the building, where there’s an airport-style metal detector. So instead the young people stayed on the steps, where the TV cameras were anyway.

The shooting, and the horrifying videos that have surfaced, could be and ought to be a defining moment for change in the SFPD. And it’s not about getting Tasers for the officers (that doesn’t always work). It’s about developing a new attitude toward the use of deadly, and potentially deadly, force when it clearly isn’t needed.


Criminal justice is going to be at the forefront of the next Board of Supes meeting, when both the plan for a new jail and a new policy on traffic stops for bicyclists will be on the agenda.

I am going to suggest here the that Mayor Lee’s plan for a new jail is in serious trouble. Sups. David Campos, John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim are against it. Sup. London Breed will be at a press conference Monday morning to join in the opposition. That’s five No votes. And while he’s been a bit cagey about his position, I can’t believe Sup. Aaron Peskin, after all the work progressives did to get him elected, will be the sixth vote to build a new jail.

We may see some amendments and attempts to make this more palatable – maybe the deal would involve more mental-health beds and alternatives to incarceration. But the bottom line is that the criminal justice system in this city, and in the state and even the nation, is moving away from mass incarceration – and if we do build a new, expensive jail, we’re going to find ourselves in five or ten years with a facility we don’t need and can’t use for anything else.

And we’ll be diverting General Fund money to pay for it.


Then there’s the bicycle policy change, which isn’t the biggest deal in the world (should people riding bikes be able to go through a stop sign at an empty intersection, which they do all the time anyway, without getting a ticket?) except that Mayor Lee has vowed to veto it, and there might maybe be eight votes to override, again if Peskin goes along.

Which would deal the mayor two big defeats in one day, and set the tone for a very different 2016.


Then everyone goes on recess and things (officially) slow down for the holiday – but the politics will kick into high gear as the candidates plan what will be a dramatic 10 months of campaigning over the future leadership of the city.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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