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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, Jan. 18-24: Police violence ...

The Agenda, Jan. 18-24: Police violence …

... electing our elected officials ... And why Willie Brown is so, so wrong about the protests at the Lee inauguration

The Police Commission hasn’t approved the use of Tasers for SF cops, but the issue is almost certainly going to come up Thursday/21 when the Supervisors Rules Committee holds a hearing on police use of force.

The former mayor is really wrong: Police violence caused protests at the Lee inauguration, and it could have gone much much worse
The former mayor is really wrong: Police violence caused protests at the Lee inauguration, and it could have gone much much worse

So will the shooting of Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Alex Nieto. So will the larger question: Why are the local cops shooting and killing so many young men of color? So will the tenure and leadership of Chief Greg Suhr.

Sup. Malia Cohen has asked for the hearing, and while the San Francisco Democratic Party has completely buckled on police reform, and the Police Officers Association has tried to intimidate the supes. It will be a packed room; the chief will try to argue that the best solution to police shootings is to give police more and different weapons.

Sups. Cohen, John Avalos, and Katy Tang will have a chance to question the chief and have the policy discussion we really need.


And there’s a lot more on the Rules agenda – Charter amendments that could add a budget set-aside for the Recreation and Parks Department and that could end the current process of mayoral appointments to the Board of Supes.

Sup. Mark Farrell has a measure, cosponsored by Sups. Eric Mar, London Breed, Malia Cohen, Scott Wiener, and Norman Yee (yes, with Yee and Mar the more conservative bloc has six votes on this) that seems like something so nice and innocent that nobody could be opposed to it.

How could you be against “a baseline appropriation for the Park, Recreation, and Open Space Fund?” Why not earmark $3 million for parks and open space? It seems like a tiny bit of money, and it’s true that parks and open space often don’t get the funding we need.

But there are a lot of set-asides in the budget, and at a certain point some supes may say: Enough. More interesting, there’s a lot of popular anger – across the political spectrum – at the way the current management of Rec-Park is operating. The department head, Phil Ginsburg, is all about privatizing park property, turning parks into revenue generators (oh, and putting artificial turf in playing fields.)

I have heard a lot of progressives (including Sup. Aaron Peskin, who opposed the last park bond in 2012) saying that they don’t trust Rec-Park. This won’t be a slam dunk, and will be a chance to hear a lot of the criticism of the Ginsburg administration.


Then there’s the plan by Sup. John Avalos to, as he puts it “elect our elected officials.” The measure would end the practice of the mayor appointing supervisors who then wind up being long-term supporters and allies of that mayor (at one point, a majority of the supes were appointees of Willie Brown, who of course always got his way on the board). Under the measure, if a seat on the board becomes vacant, the mayor can appoint someone – who would then be ineligible to run for a full term. Instead, there would be a special election within 180 days to fill the seat. If the mayor leaves office, the president of the board would be acting mayor until an election is held to fill the vacancy.

Another option that could come up: Do what we were supposed to do five years ago, when Ed Lee promised to be a caretaker mayor would not run for election to a full term. Allow the supes to fill a vacancy – but make that interim mayor ineligible to run in the election to fill the job.

Earlier versions of his plan also changed the way the mayor would be elected and would have modified the current ranked-choice voting system for mayoral runoffs. That’s gone.

So it’s all about how we replace officials who leave before their terms are up. And I’ve said this before, but San Francisco is one of the very few places I know of in American democracy where the chief executive gets to appoint members of the legislature.

Last time he tried this, Avalos lacked six votes. But this is a different board, and some of the supes who opposed it are now up for re-election. Could be a different outcome.

All of this will be up for discussion in the Board Chamber starting at 10am.


The Planning Commission is set to discuss some changes to the way that the city funds affordable housing, and while there’s a lot of technical language here, the reality is that the planners aren’t the only ones in this game right now. There’s almost certainly going to be a Charter Amendment on the June ballot that changes the way the city charges developers for affordable housing – and it might make the changes in this proposal (which comes out of the Mayor’s Office) largely moot.

In June, the voters are likely going to get a chance to increase the level of mandatory “inclusionary” housing. Why is the mayor even proposing this right now?


Willie Brown wants to blame the protest at the mayor’s inauguration on outgoing Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi:

“It’s hardly a secret that Mirkarimi and the mayor did not get along, not with Lee’s unsuccessful attempt to throw Mirkarimi out of office because of the whole domestic violence incident involving his wife. Mirkarimi didn’t even have the class to attend the swearing-in of the woman who defeated him in November, new Sheriff Vicki Hennessy.

“Both Hennessy and Lee were sworn in on Jan. 8. Mirkarimi sat in his City Hall office that day, still the sheriff until noon. Lee’s inauguration started at 11:30 a.m., meaning Mirkarimi was still in control of security arrangements.

“What a surprise that the balconies were filled with people hooting at the proceedings. How strange that no one moved to clear them out until the clock struck 12 and Hennessy officially became sheriff.”

The problem here is that Willie Brown, and the Chron reporters, were downstairs in the VIP section with the mayor and the celebs. I was upstairs with the protesters, and I saw exactly what happened, moment by moment.

And I can tell you: There was very nearly a police riot that would have been the worst result the mayor or anyone else could have asked for. The Tac Squad – which is under the police chief, not the sheriff – was lined up in full gear, ready to go and clear out the protesters, which I guess was what Brown wanted.

There would have been mass arrests, bloodshed, screaming, all over a protest that was rooted in police violence … it would have been a way, way worse nightmare than the chorus of boos that the mayor heard.

But that didn’t happen – mostly because the chief deputy sheriff on hand, Albert Waters, kept the riot cops at bay. There were a few protesters who dropped banners and were arrested, and it got pretty tense – but at no point did the sheriffs move to “clear them [all] out.” Instead, the deputies under Waters’ command did what they typically do at City Hall demonstrations: They allowed peaceful, if loud, protest, worked with the protesters to avoid violence and confrontation, and kept things mostly peaceful.

And if those were Mirkarimi’s orders, he did everyone, including Ed Lee, a huge favor.

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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  1. Carl.

    I agree with most of your points except that campos is smart.
    You can be a very dumb person and realize that most san francisco residents just want the basic stuff handled but the supervisors mostly pander to the dummies and their own egos.
    Mar would be a lot better off talking about pot holes on Geary street but it isn’t cool enough. Avalos is a very stupid person and a very bad public speaker , I have never seen anyone say “um” between words as many times as him.
    I think Breed can be a good supervisor but I think peskin will be the “Angry Dwarf” again? Maybe he has learned a thing or 2 can can be an elder statesman rather than a petulant child.

    Most of these supervisors should be happy about district elections because without that they wouldn’t have jobs.

  2. I watch the BOS meetings regularly; the last one I watched, Eric Mar talked for fifteen minutes about how he and neighbors were going to be creating a mural out of garbage they pulled out of the sea, London Breed talked yet again about how her brother didn’t make it out of the projects, Mark Farrell introduced legislation to take candy out of city vending machines (who knew there were any?), and Avalos whined about something or other, as usual. Even Weiner gets drawn into the petty squabbles, like trying make the police not enforce state law so cyclists can breeze through stop signs. Campos is smart but where to begin with his ideological battles? Yee and Tang are sensible and get no respect. Peskin – we shall see.

    But the nuts & bolts issues are NOT taken care of in my neighborhood, even with persistent pushing. There is trash all over the place, roads you can’t drive on, and more homeless than ever. It is infuriating to watch them while away time while the boring straightforward stuff slips through the cracks, going unaddressed for years upon years.

  3. This wasn’t an MLK Day protest. It was the mayor’s inauguration. And I didn’t say anything about how Willie Brown should have responded; I just said his analysis of what happened was wrong.

  4. That is not fashionable doing the hard boring work. These clowns need to write up BS legislation to get their names in the paper. In the next year you will hear very little from Avalos, Campos and Mar. These 3 clowns play to the lowest common denominator and even though we will have to pay their health care and pensions they will be gone.

  5. “. . .and that it is just something that you heard an adult mention without a full explanation.”

    Right, no smarm there.

  6. A white man (Tim Redmond) telling a black man (Willie Brown) how he ought to respond to MLK Day ceremony protests. Irony is my favorite kind of humor.

  7. Supes do everything except for make sure our streets are clean, safe, and drivable. I will be glad when this era of SF politics is over.

  8. I understand. I was speaking strictly from the perspective of harm reduction and possibly as a step on the path of not needed to use weapons at all.

  9. I have to disagree regarding the tasers. Experience has shown that they don’t reduce harm. Cops treat them as non-lethal, when in fact they can be very lethal, and that’s the problem. They encourage cops to use them more often than they would use their guns. In the best case, they’re torture, when other measures including talking to people might have done the trick. In the worst case, they cause death.

  10. Aren’t you supposed to be defending AirBnB ?

    Regardless, thank you so much for your insight and observations. I can’t tell you how much I value your opinions.

    No really, I can’t.

  11. You obviously don’t know what diaspora means either.

    “The Mayor’s diaspora against the poor, middle against the poor, middle class and non-whites” is a non sequitur.

    You’re missing a big opportunity, today is Dr. King’s day and there are programs and lectures going on in which you could learn something instead of wasting time in your room.

  12. >”Mayor’s pogrom against the poor, middle class and non-whites.”

    I’m willing to give your the benefit of the doubt that you don’t really know what a pogrom is and that it is just something that you heard an adult mention without a full explanation.

    But perhaps you should read up a bit before you comment again.

    The ancestors of most of the Jews in America came here because of the horrors of the pogroms in Europe, not the Holocaust in which pogroms eventually culminated. In the Strassbourg massacre hundreds of Jews were publicly burned to death. There were systematic programs of murder, rape and property destruction across all of Europe for centuries, targeted at specific religion and ethnicities, usually Jews.

    Trivializing the pogroms (which is what you did, sorry) is like trivializing the African trading of enslaved persons, the holocaust, the Khmer Rouge or the Rwanda genocide.

    Also, I’m not sure what your definition of “non-white” is although I can guess that it is very important to you and your way of thinking. By almost any definition, Ed Lee is “non-white”.

  13. Until we get a grip on the needless use of lethal force by the police department, I support them having tasers, if, for nothing else, ‘harm reduction.’ Device training, mandatory anger management courses and clearly defined and communicated rules as to use of tasers is also needed.

    As for Brown, what a blowhard. The protests were about the killing of Woods and others and also about the Mayor’s pogrom against the poor, middle class and non-whites. Willie and Ed Lee should prepare themselves for difficult year.

    Anyone who was surprised by the protest is so hopelessly out of touch that they are irrelevant.

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