Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Matt Gonzalez: San Francisco progressive

What does the front-page story (Immigrant charged in slaying has strong defender in Matt Gonzalezon Matt Gonzalez in yesterday's Chronicle mean? The story is so laudatory Gonzalez could have written it himself, though he's supposedly too modest to toot his own horn: 

Gonzalez did not respond to requests for an interview. “He’s very modest,” Adachi said of his chief assistant. “His focus would rather be on the case than himself.”

But the case is lost going in. All Gonzalez can do for his client is get the best deal possible for something he clearly did, but surely Lopez-Sanchez is going back to prison for a long time. The way the story is written, you might think his "fearless," principled lawyer can actually get him off:

Lopez-Sanchez has the right lawyer, said Jim Hammer, a former prosecutor who worked with Gonzalez at a law firm from 2006 to 2008. “This (defendant) is probably the most unpopular person in San Francisco, if not the state or the country,” Hammer said. “Of all the lawyers I’ve met and worked with, Matt definitely stands out as one of the most fearless. He isn’t afraid to represent somebody or some cause that might otherwise be unpopular...He has a very clear set of beliefs and principles and isn’t afraid to follow them.”

That's ridiculous. What does Matt Gonzalez have to fear? He's already Adachi's main man at the Public Defender's office. His job isn't at stake, and he now makes more than $200,000 a year (the Public Defender's office is outgunned by the District Attorney's office in manpower, though not in intellectual power.) 

Gonzalez could probably make more money in private practice, but he clearly prefers doing this kind of law:

Gonzalez, 50, the son of a tobacco company manager whose family spent his childhood years in Southern states and Puerto Rico, has said his comfortable upbringing gave him a sense of obligation to the less fortunate. “It would feel wrong not to try to make things better for other people,” he said in a 2003 interview...An Eagle Scout, a star debater in college and an editor of the law review at Stanford Law School, Gonzalez surprised some friends by bypassing corporate law for a lower-paying job at the Public Defender’s Office, where he first worked from 1990 to 1999.

Sheriff Mirkarimi's comment also seems wide of the mark:

“Matt Gonzalez has got range and summons many different disciplines that make him a very interesting and smart person,” Mirkarimi said in an interview. He predicted that the Lopez-Sanchez case, as it unfolds, would illuminate “the complete dysfunction of immigration policy in the United States as it intersects with local government and law enforcement.”

But it's unlikely that the judge will allow Gonzalez to make this case about our dysfunctional immigration policy instead of what Lopez-Sanchez actually did, his degree of culpability, and how much time in prison he's going to get. The media coverage of the case might provide that kind of illumination, but I bet it won't happen in the courtroom.

The thing that people like about Gonzalez is his low-key persona. He's not a high-decibel political ranter, though he is a leftist ideologue.

From the Chronicle story:

Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, is also a former city supervisor and leader of the board’s most liberal faction who came close to winning the 2003 mayor’s election. A year later, he sponsored a local ballot measure, also narrowly defeated, that would have allowed any parent of a public school student to vote in school board elections, regardless of immigration status.

The annoying thing about Gonzalez's reaction to the failure of his immigration measure---actually, nine supervisors voted to put it on the ballot---is that he implied that District 5 voters were racists for voting against it, though there were good reasons for rejecting it:

It didn't do well in District 5, I'm sorry to say. District 5 has a really great history as a progressive district, and yet it did not turn out[for Proposition F]. The theory is that it's a Caucasian district, that it doesn't have a lot of people of color. Certainly not immigrants, but this measure did best in immigrant districts.

At the end of his term as a supervisor, Gonzalez---himself some kind of an artist---allowed a graffiti "artist" to deface his office walls with a puerile political slogan (pictured below), thus enabling a form of vandalism the city spends millions every year fighting.

Even before the city's Bicycle Plan fiasco, Gonzalez was carrying water for the Bicycle Coalition with a resolution to ban motorists from making the easy right turn onto the freeway at Market and Octavia. From Matier & Ross in 2005:

It took 14 years of debate, three ballot measures and a dozen designs before Caltrans crews set to work demolishing the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway and turning Octavia into a $62 million, tree-lined boulevard. Once work got started, bicyclists---a potent force in city politics---took aim at what they saw as a menace to the two-wheel crowd. That menace was the plan to let cars make a right turn off Market, across the most heavily used bike lane in the city, onto the new on-ramp.

City traffic officials didn't buy into their demand for a right-turn ban. So the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and others took their case to the Board of Supervisors, where then-board President Matt Gonzalez carried legislation in August 2004 to ban the right turn---at least on a trial basis. Upshot: The only way to get onto the shortened Central Freeway from Market is to shoot past the ramp, make a series of turns around the block and hit the ramp directly from Octavia Boulevard.

Or go all the way to 13th and South Van Ness to get on the freeway. (See this follow-up post on the right-turn ban.)

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At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do I feel I am living in Maoist china, instead of San Francisco? The uber progressive machine is ...is...just silly sometimes. Can we just do our business and do it honestly.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Gonzalez can do for his client is get the best deal possible for something he clearly did, but surely Lopez-Gonzalez is going back to prison for a long time.


At 2:55 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I got my Sanchezs and Gonzalezs mixed up.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hope that murderer gets shanked in prison


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