Moderates brawl with progressives in San Francisco mayoral race

London BreedThe Dec. 12 death of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee from a heart attack has set the city up for another of the periodic battles between liberal Democrats and even more liberal Democrats for control of City Hall. Members of the former group are known as moderates in San Francisco parlance.

“The voter coalitions that elect moderates in San Francisco are Chinese voters, white homeowners, older renters, and the 10 Republicans left in town, combined with unions that represent building trades, police officers and firefighters,” political consultant Jim Ross told the San Francisco Chronicle the day after Lee’s death. Progressives dominate every other category of voters, especially young tech workers and social justice activists.

While many other names have been mentioned, here are the most prominent likely or declared candidates in the June 5 special election to serve out the last year and a half of moderate Lee’s term:

– Acting Mayor London Breed, part of the moderate faction on the city-county Board of Supervisors who shares Lee’s view that dealing with homelessness is the city’s most important issue. Breed, pictured, is the first African-American woman to serve as mayor. There is a possibility that supervisors will name an interim mayor rather than give Breed months to use her authority as both mayor and supervisor to build support for her expected mayoral bid. This could be supported by moderate as well as progressive supervisors in a city full of ambitious politicians.

– Supervisor Jane Kim, part of the progressive wing, filed paperwork to run for mayor on Wednesday. Kim lost a state Senate bid to moderate Supervisor Scott Weiner last year. She has won national and international attention for her proposed state “robot tax” assessing fees on companies whose use of robots or algorithms has led to the loss of jobs. The money from the fees would be used for worker retraining and other programs meant to minimize the impact of losing jobs to technology.

– State Sen. Mark Leno announced in May that he would run for mayor in 2019 after Lee was termed out. Now he’s running in the June special election, touting his “progressive vision for our city, grounded in a commitment to affordability and civil rights.” A former Assembly member and supervisor, he’s won a reputation as an energetic policy wonk with interest in a wide range of issues, from gender and transgender rights to prison and criminal justice reform to the environment.

– Former San Francisco Supervisor Angela Alioto, daughter of former Mayor Joseph Alioto, has taken out papers to run. An attorney specializing in discrimination cases, she cited homelessness as a key issue and said it was crucial to build a coalition with tech firms to address the issue and larger housing concerns. She has deep ties to moderates both through family ties and years in the city’s political trenches.

– Assemblyman David Chiu, a former supervisor, faces perhaps the toughest decision of any candidate. If the moderate runs in the June mayoral special election, he can’t seek re-election to the Assembly in November – meaning he’d be giving up the safest of legislative seats with more than eight years until he would face term limits. But Chiu is poised to inherit support from the Chinese American community that was so valuable to Mayor Lee, and he has high name recognition and fundraising clout.

Willie Brown still a crucial behind-the-scenes player

Even at 83, former Mayor and former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown remains a key player in San Francisco’s political intrigue. After Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor in 2010, Brown helped arrange the appointment of Lee – then the city’s chief administrative officer – as interim mayor and gave Lee crucial help in winning a full term in 2011 after Lee broke a promise to progressives to not seek the office.

San Francisco progressives fear that moderate Brown will try to execute the same maneuver with Breed, who is considered one of his proteges.

San Francisco supes uphold flavored tobacco ban

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

In a cutting speech Tuesday, Supervisor Malia Cohen urged her colleagues to stand behind the flavored tobacco ban they passed unanimously in June and not be swayed by a petition sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — a company she called “a notorious killer.”

It was the dramatic high point of the board’s first meeting after the summer recess, during which the supervisors also passed laws to create an Office of Cannabis and to cap the number of marijuana dispensaries in Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s District 11 to three.

The board voted to keep its ban on selling e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and fruit- and candy-tinctured tobacco products. The petition received 34,000 certified signatures — well over the 19,040 required to put the matter to voters. Since the supervisors refused to repeal their ordinance, it automatically goes to the June ballot.

Also on Tuesday, Safai introduced an ordinance, co-sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee, to set up an assistance fund for tenants forced to leave buildings because of hazardous conditions. He said it was prompted by a horrifying discovery Fire Department officials made in January, when they walked into the cramped basement of a laundry in the Excelsior and found about two dozen people living there. …

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Here’s what San Francisco’s highest-paid workers make

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

The City of San Francisco employed 39,634 people in 2016 (including part-time and construction workers), and the total spent on their salaries and benefits in 2016 was $4,262,344,675, according to the Office of the Controller.

That’s about the same amount as the budget for the state of Delaware, which has a population of 945,000 (100,000 more than San Francisco’s).

Salaries have increased 18.5 percent since 2012, and benefits have gone up 18.6 percent.

A deal announced by Supervisor Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee today will make San Francisco the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents.

The average salary (excluding benefits) per city employee is $83,227.14. A recent study found you need an estimated $110,357 salary to live comfortably in San Francisco. …

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San Francisco police union rejects outside criticism

Police carThe abrupt May 19 resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr after police Sgt. Justin Erb shot and killed Jessica Williams, an unarmed African-American woman fleeing in a stolen car, drew national and international attention to the city’s Police Department. Its officers are accused of callously killing minority crime suspects and homeless people and some have been embroiled in a scandal for more than a year involving racist and homophobic text messages.

In the normal dynamics of government scandal and dysfunction, leaders identify a problem and work to address it, seeking to win media and public approval. But what’s going on in San Francisco reflects the normal dynamics of law-enforcement scandals. Police officers who feel underappreciated — even besieged since the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2014 —push back hard at the idea that they’re doing something fundamentally wrong, even when it comes to police killings of unarmed people.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association denounced Mayor Ed Lee’s decision to ask Suhr to quit. “His retirement under pressure is an extreme loss to the department and the city,” a union statement said. “Chief Suhr, at the core, was and always will be a cop’s cop and dedicated to the men and women who don the uniform every day to serve and protect.”

This attitude doesn’t bode well for interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who told reporters that his agenda was “reform, reform, reform” because “the department has to move forward.”

But despite the praise for Suhr from the police union, the fatal May 18 shooting of the stolen-car suspect was one more example of his lack of control over his department. Suhr has long implored officers not to shoot into fleeing cars. The police union had also criticized his response to the text-message scandal, including his demanding that officers sign a pledge essentially promising to not be bigots.

Union: “Protect due process” of accused officers

There are presently 18 police officers accused in the texting scandal. While police union president Martin Halloran condemned “the appalling racist behavior committed by a handful of officers,” he also said the police union would closely scrutinize the disciplinary process to ensure it “protects the due process rights of the officers.”

Those right are so strong that it is often difficult to fire a police officer in California unless he commits a crime or acts in egregious ways with indisputable evidence. It’s also difficult to even find out about officer misconduct, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Nearly 40 years ago, California took its first steps to shield police misconduct from the public when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in his first term restricting details of officer personnel files from disclosure. A 2006 California Supreme Court decision went further and extended the law’s protections to cases in which civil service commissions weighed in on officer discipline. Today, almost all details about misconduct — including cases in which police officers were found to have used excessive force, engaged in racial profiling or lied on the job — are kept secret outside of court, administrative or civilian review board proceedings.

And although 23 states keep most public employee personnel records confidential, California is one of just three to provide specific protections for police information, according to a recent investigation by WNYC, a public radio station in New York.

Partly in response to the problems in his home town, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 1286 that would open up police records in cases of “serious misconduct.” It passed an initial Senate committee vote last month, but then died without a second vote on Friday.

But as Conor Friedersdorf reported last August in The Atlantic, many police reform efforts have been launched in the Golden State only to go nowhere.

What’s next in San Francisco?

Meanwhile, Mayor Lee is facing pressure from the most liberal members of the city’s Board of Supervisors to go after bad cops. Supervisor Jane Kim, a rising star in city politics, has been pushing for change for more than four years and now has more support than ever.

But the police union thinks that Lee has already done too much to address police controversies.

On May 26th Mayor Ed Lee made some very disturbing remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle. These comments were directed at the SFPD Sergeant who was forced to discharge his firearm in the Officer Involved Shooting last week. The Mayor’s remarks were prejudicial and irresponsible. The POA has always responded to misinformed politicians who make such inflammatory statements and the Mayor is no exception.

That’s from Friday post on the police union’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department continues its investigation of the San Francisco Police Department, launched in February. It’s not clear when the federal probe will conclude.

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