Monday, January 20, 2014

Ross Mirkarimi: Better than those who tried to destroy him

Photo: Jason Henry for the SF Chronicle

San Francisco/Modern Luxury magazine makes an effort, however feeble, to provide something to read in between the ads. The November issue has a story on Sheriff Mirkarimi (The Sheriff in Limbo) that's more or less fair-minded, since it shows that the Murk is doing a better job as sheriff than the people who tried unsuccessfully to destroy him:

Although Mirkarimi persevered, he remains in political limbo. Mayor Ed Lee is an implacable foe. George Gascón, the district attorney who prosecuted Mirkarimi, has opposed the sheriff’s signature initiative to replace the San Francisco jail. Even his putative allies on the Board of Supervisors won’t talk about him on the record. Despite these blows to his political aspirations, Mirkarimi appears as relentlessly optimistic about his future as ever. 

Far from keeping his head down, he has embarked on a series of high-profile initiatives—chief among them the construction of a new jail to replace the seismically unsound and outdated facilities on the sixth and seventh floors of downtown’s Hall of Justice. It’s a goal that any San Francisco sheriff would be hard-pressed to achieve, let alone one operating out of political Siberia.

Gascon opposes a new county jail because he's a bad loser, who hasn't exactly covered himself in glory as district attorney. He and Mayor Lee embarked on their campaign against Mirkarimi based on the slimmest justification, dragging the city through a completely unnecessary ordeal. Fortunately, the Board of Supervisors did not vote to remove Mirkarimi from office after City Hall put him and his family through that grotesque ordeal.

That the city needs a new jail is clear. (See the Controller's County Jail Needs Assessment). The only questions are how big it should be and exactly where it will be located. But the same people who tried to destroy Mirkarimi are opposed anyhow:

The proposal has drawn criticism from Gascón and other elected officials, the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, and left-wing groups like Californians United for a Responsible Budget, which opposes prison construction statewide. The naysayers argue that San Francisco’s prison system, which currently operates at around two-thirds of capacity, has no need of a new facility. But it’s easy to detect an unspoken agenda as well: to reject everything that Mirkarimi wants in hopes of his defeat in the next election, in 2016. If Mirkarimi suspects that this is what’s going on, he doesn’t say (emphasis added).

Yes, City Hall is apparently waiting Mirkarimi out, expecting that he won't be re-elected in 2016. But two years is an eternity in politics, and the political landscape---and the public perception of Mirkarimi---may be entirely different then. Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors has rejected several reasonable proposals from Sheriff Mirkarimi, Mayor Lee won't talk to him, and the "progressive" supervisors have been remarkably spineless, which is nothing new:

Even the supervisors who voted to keep Mirkarimi as sheriff, like David Campos and John Avalos, are loath to say anything about him on the record. There’s little political upside to standing with a man who has been shunned and shamed, but plenty of downside—in particular, the risk of getting on the wrong side of Mayor Lee.

They're not afraid of Mayor Lee. They're just dumb. And chickenshit: After the vote allowing Mirkarimi to retain his job, Supervisor Avalos said 

"I've already spent months of my life anxiously awaiting a vote that I knew would upset everyone in San Francisco, and I'm not really looking forward to going through that again," Avalos said. "I would probably stay out of it[a recall campaign]."

How's that for a profile in courage? And even though Supervisor Kim voted to allow Mirkarimi to keep his job, she still supported a recall campaign!

Mirkarimi is apparently remarkably free of bitterness about the past. He apparently gave Tim Redmond a personal tour of the San Bruno jail, even though Redmond called him "a total asshole and a jerk" in his story after Mirkarimi's reinstatement as sheriff.

Former Sheriff Hennessey shows why city voters liked him so much:

Michael Hennessey, the progressive stalwart who ran the sheriff’s office for 32 years, is one of the few who are willing to weigh in. Hennessey is now retired and living in Red Bluff....Asked to evaluate Mirkarimi’s performance so far, Hennessey emails, “The department seems to be running well in spite of the childish banishment by the mayor. Ross seems to be doing some progressive things, like expanding prisoner programs and visiting, and some sheriff-y things, like fighting for a new jail. For a first term not even half over, I’d give him a B or a B+ if you look beyond the false imprisonment plea.”

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At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked with Sheriff Hennessy for 7 years and have works with Sheriff Mirkarimi for about 7 years. I know both and I know the good work the new sheriff is putting into the department. He is better than his naysayers want to admit.

Our city is full of shameful behavior and favoritism. It turns a blind eye when it wants and tries to make a mountain out of a mole hill when it wants.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I thought Ross was a terrible supervisor, wrong on every important city issue. But the way City Hall---with an important boost from the Chronicle---orchestrated the lynch-mob political pursuit of him was shocking, even to an old cynic like me.

Mayor Lee should have done nothing about Mirkarimi.

What the unsuccessful attempt at destroying Mirkarimi did do is backfire on Mayor Lee, the Board of Supervisors, and the District Attorney, showing how dumb, weak, and unprincipled they really are. That they still haven't received that message only confirms that reality.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The construction of a new jail is not just about whether or not people like Mirkarimi. I have no opinion about him personally or (yet) as sheriff, but I do about the jail. Maintaining a high jail population is an expensive proposition that prohibits the expansion of cheaper and more effective alternatives, like drug treatment, mental health services, and more neighborhood courts. For instance, transferring a mentally ill person out of jail and into a community setting allows the county to bill their care to MediCal -- which can amount to thousands of dollars a month times hundreds of people. If we build this jail, SF taxpayers will be stuck with those and many other costs. I'm surprised your article didn't note that DA Gascon's public comments on the jail are that it is unneeded because he intends to stop charging people over harmless drug incidents. That strikes me as much-needed public policy reform, and not something being done just to spite Mirkarimi.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What is your view of the Sheriff's office response to the SFGH search for the lost women that was later found dead? Ross seems to be taking a very low profile on that...his office is responsible for all security at SFGH, not SFPD no UCSF PD.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand any support for this man. He pleaded GUILTY to FALSE IMPRISONMENT and he has the keys to the jail. He is GUILTY in the eyes of the law. If he's too stupid to plead guilty when he was not, then he's too stupid to be sheriff. If he's not guilty, go to trial and get acqitted. If a jury of SF citizens found him not guilty, I'd support. Right now the jailer is a jailbird. It's wrong folks. Plain and simple

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, it isn't. That fight with his wife got blown way out of proportion. Mayor Lee should have taken my advice and done nothing and then let people like you and the domestic violence furies take over. The whole phony mini-scandal would have evaporated shortly thereafter.


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