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Monday, August 17, 2009

SF Gov InAction: The Supes Have SUCH Good Intentions This Week That One of These Laws Just HAS to Work!

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 9:30 AM


Monday, Aug 17

11 a.m. - Public Safety Committee

A lot's happened to the Public Safety Committee since the last time I wrote about it -- and there's one thing I just don't understand.

Ross Mirkarimi used to be the chair of the Public Safety Committee, and he was exceptional at pulling the many tangled threads of San Francisco's attempts to keep its citizens safe from crime (the better to lecture us about not smoking) into an organized weave. City crime mattered to him both as a humanitarian and as a politician: His district includes parts of the Western Addition.

But then he was replaced as Public Safety chairman by David Campos, a freshman legislator. The justification for this was that Campos, who had previously been a member of the city's Police Commission, has a lot of experience dealing with public safety agencies in San Francisco.

This is true -- although in my experience the only people who actually listen to the Police Commission are people who want to be on the Police Commission, because they want to impress the mayor and subsequently be given a $167,000-a-year job whose sole qualification is "Be extremely concerned about the world's ills."

So Campos replaces Mirkarimi. Got it?

But now, Board President David Chiu has shuffled the city committee deck and replaced David Campos with ... David Chiu.

Say what?

David Chiu is an accomplished man: He is both a former criminal prosecutor with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office and a civil rights attorney at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights -- so he has lots of experience working to overcome the civil rights violations he justified.

(This gives him something in common with Gavin Newsom, who, since about-facing on much of his agenda, has lots of experience justifying the policies he's worked to overcome.)

But it doesn't explain the question I have, which is: What happened in the last six months to make David Chiu more qualified to chair the Public Safety Committee than David Campos?

If Campos -- who now isn't even on the Public Safety Committee -- wasn't the best person for the job six months ago, why was he given the position? And if he was the best person back then, then why is he being taken off it now?

I suppose someone could make the case that they are both equally qualified -- but that's the kind of bullshit answer that a lawyer like David Chiu would pick apart faster than you can say "cross examination."

Maybe David Campos got burned out on criminal justice issues? Doubtful -- he spent all that time on the Police Commission, after all, and came out wanting more.

Perhaps Chiu discovered a sudden and intense love for law enforcement issues? No, that would involve David Chiu being spontaneous -- something he would never do until there is firmly established case law on it.

After careful consideration, I have two explanations for the committee chair switch:

  1. David Chiu is going to run for higher office, and thinks he needs to be burning up his law enforcement credentials, and saying "Chair of San Francisco's Public Safety Committee" sounds pretty good in a campaign spot. Or,
  2. Not that much thought was given to who's in charge of the Public Safety Committee.

I have a hard time figuring out which is true. They're both so damn plausible.

Incidentally, there's just one item on the agenda today: a hearing on citywide crime issues.

It was called by David Campos.


1 p.m. - Land Use and Economic Development Committee


There's just one item on this committee agenda to. But it's a doozy.

A residential rent ordinance, proposed by Eric Mar (or Chris Daly in an Eric Mar mask) that would "prohibit owner move-in evictions of families with children; and changing the definition of 'disabled' tenants protected from owner move-in evictions."

According to documentation included with the proposal, somewhere between 18 and 45 families with children were evicted by owners seeking to live in their properties last year. (The vagueness of the number is because no one's really been keeping track).

Wow. Look, Eric -- I really appreciate what you're trying to do here, and it's a good cause and all ... but ... the line has to be drawn somewhere. I can't help but think that if a person owns property and wants to live in it, that they should get to. Otherwise, what is property for?

More to the point: No one should be forced to be a landlord if they don't want to be. It's one thing to say a landlord can't evict "undesirable" tenants simply for being undesirable, or replace them with the "kind of people" he likes better. It's another thing to say that someone who wants to stop being a landlord and live in their own property can't.

In San Francisco, of course, good intentions count for more than good laws, so you can expect tearful public hearings filled with sound and sentiment, signifying nothing.

It's almost like we don't think these things through.

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Benjamin Wachs


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