Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mirkarimi: "There's an opening for a progressive"

A story in last Sunday's Chronicle tells us that Supervisor Mirkarimi is likely to join the pack of candidates for mayor:

Some on the political left flank see ranked-choice voting as a prime opportunity for a progressive candidate to stand out from the crowded field and win the city's top job---though none has entered yet. "There is an opening for a progressive candidate to make a viable run," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is "seriously" considering being that candidate.

Mirkarimi has been an awful supervisor, and he would be an awful mayor. Fortunately, there's little danger that he will be elected, but his candidacy could provide city voters with a rare opportunity to take part in a debate on city policies that progressives have managed to avoid until now.

Mirkarimi has been the Bicycle Coalition's go-to guy on the Board of Supervisors since his election in 2004; his candidacy would be a chance for a long overdue discussion of the city's anti-car traffic policies, including the Bicycle Plan, which city voters have never had a chance to vote on. It would also be interesting to hear Mirkarimi defend his long-time support for Critical Mass. He's evidently sensitive about his aggressive leadership on bike issues, since his 2008 re-election website didn't mention bicycles, the Bicycle Plan or Critical Mass. You have to go to the endorsements page to even learn that he got the Bicycle Coalition's endorsement in 2008, which he also got in 2004.

Early in his tenure as a supervisor, when Mirkarimi spoke before progressive audiences, he indulged in radical rhetoric, like his speech before the Peoples' Party, a short-lived leftist project:

"You look at change throughout history, from civil rights to environmental justice," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, speaking at the convention, "and it wasn't politicians who got it done. It was the activists. Today is about more than just policies and agendas---it's about the beginning of a revolution."

Mirkarimi invoked the idea of revolution again in defense of Josh Wolf, who was jailed for refusing to give the Federal Grand Jury a tape of an anarchist demonstration during which a city cop had his skull fractured:

Mirkarimi said when a government actively persecutes dissent, using all the branches of government to silence opposition; the citizenry will eventually rise up and be forced to consider civil disobedience to make their values and their voices heard. Mirkarimi went as far as to suggest, "Maybe it's time for a new revolution?"

Mirkarimi and Wolf's progressive supporters---including District Attorney Kamala Harris---never mentioned Peter Shields, the city cop whose skull was fractured by the anarchists. It was all about Wolf's imaginary right to withhold evidence and the equally imaginary campaign by the Bush administration against dissenters.

Making it even less likely that Mirkarimi will get the support of the Police Officers Association, he also supported a Board of Supervisors' resolution calling for a new trial for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal.
Mirkarimi abandoned the Green Party and joined the Democratic Party after Barack Obama made being a Democrat fashionable and after the Democratic County Central Committee was taken over by left-wing Democrats. The ambitious Mirkarimi belatedly understood that being a radical member of the Green Party, an asset in District 5, wouldn't be helpful in a citywide election in a city where most voters are Democrats.

Mirkarimi has provided the city with a steady supply of dumb policy ideas on city traffic:

He wants to eliminate the Fillmore Street underpass at Fillmore and Geary: "Geary Boulevard has been the invisible Berlin Wall that's separated Japantown from the Fillmore...Now it's time to correct that...You have to break the wall feeling down." (An Examiner editorial called this idea "the worst of the year," January, 26, 2008)

He thinks converting Fell and Oak from one-way streets to two-way traffic is a "fantastic" idea.

He endorsed the idea of eliminating the Fell Street entrance to the Arco gas station and diverting all that traffic onto an already congested Divisadero Street.

He's been spineless on large, damaging development projects. The evolution of his approach to UC's hijacking of the old extension property for a massive housing development is typical Mirkarimi: he started out talking tough but then rolled over for UC and an aggressively pro-development Planning Department.

If Mirkarimi does decide to run for mayor, the people of the city might get the debate on important issues they didn't get in 2007, when Mayor Newsom had no serious progressive opponent. The Fifth District Supervisor is an excellent personification of the many shortcomings of the city's progressive movement over the last ten years.

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