Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Mayor's "ingenious political masterstroke" on Mirkarimi?

SF Weekly photo

Now that the Bay Guardian is gone, we have to rely on the SF Weekly for dubious weekly political analysis. From Joe Eskenazi last week:

City progressives are further hamstrung by the ongoing deployment of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi as a political cluster bomb. Mayor Ed Lee's cruel but ingenious political masterstroke continues to pay dividends. By forcing progressive politicians to vote on whether to boot Mirkarimi from office after the progressive stalwart grabbed his wife by the arm, Lee boxed them into an unwinnable situation: Either capitulate to contrived political pressure and alienate the people who voted them into office, or open themselves up to lavishly funded independent expenditure campaigns accusing them of coddling and enabling a wife-beater. Some $750,000 was poured into such an effort that sank progressive Supervisor David Campos in his Assembly bid versus the more pragmatic Supervisor David Chiu.

Trying to destroy Mirkarimi was an "ingenious political masterstroke" by Ed Lee? Nope. Look at the timeline: The mayor made that decision in March, 2012, long before the Chiu/Campos Assembly race was even on the horizon. And it was a dumb decision, as I said at the time:

An attempt to remove Mirkarimi would involve a hearing before the Ethics Commission and then a trial-like hearing before the Board of Supervisors. It would be a messy, ugly process, and the outcome is uncertain. The legal process has done its thing with the plea bargain. After today's sentencing hearing, that process will be over. The Mayor should now let the political process take over.

If the domestic violence folks wanted to launch a recall campaign, that would have been the logical next step in the political process. Instead, Mayor Lee's dismissal of Mirkarimi subjected the city to seven more months of that "messy, ugly process," which also cost the city $1.3 million, as Debra Saunders pointed out the other day. The notion that Mayor Lee went after Mirkarimi as some kind of long-range strategy to divide his leftist opposition is fanciful.

It's not at all clear that the Mirkarimi issue was decisive in the Chiu/Campos campaign, which was very close: Chiu won with only 51.06% of the vote to Campos's 48.94%. It looks more like a wash, with the anti-Mirkarimi voters canceling out the pro-Mirkarimi voters, many of whom, instead of supporting Mirkarimi, were antagonized by Chiu's crude use of the domestic violence issue against Campos.

Left-leaning politicos' hopes for a Mark Leno mayoral run were dashed when the state senator abruptly pulled the plug on a potential campaign (Leno, incidentally, officiated at Mirkarimi's marriage; Lee partisans had video clips of Leno backing Mirkarimi for sheriff all cued up).

Not at all clear that the Mirkarimi issue would have hurt Leno, whose original support for Mirkarimi didn't require supporting him during the domestic violence issue, which came after Mirkarimi's election. More important: Leno has few significant policy differences with Mayor Lee, which is probably why Tom Ammiano also rejected running against Lee. This is essentially a one-party town with a political community, alas, that has a remarkable unanimity on policy.

What would a left-liberal campaign against Lee be about? Does any "left-leaning politico" have credible proposals to deal with the city's ongoing gentrification and the housing crunch? 

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