Sunday, August 29, 2004

OP-ED (responding to Ross Mirkarimi's Friday press conference)

Mr. Mirkarimi puts forth a number of good ideas on how to deal with the low level 'quality of life' crimes the so-called progressive movement has been unwilling to address in recent years. Many of his points are already being enacted by local neighborhood and community leaders in District 5, and we will be excited to have his participation and support.

Programs like community policing forums working closely with specific police stations to clarify and quantify the needs and values of a specific community, so that the police response reflects the desires of the community. Ross need only attend his local police community forum group, which meets on the second Thursday and third Wednesday of each month at Northern Station, at Turk and Fillmore to meet the dedicated leaders who have been working for a number of years on many of the sorts of suggestions he's put forth.

However, looking a little more closely than simply the day's headlines, we find that a majority of the shootings that have happened in eastern District 5 in the last year are not due to flaring tempers, or robberies, or even a day’s drug deals gone awry. They stem from a deep seeded culture of criminal activity, of a life of warfare between gangs, between families. These last 5 or 6 shootings all seem to flow back to a culture of criminality, of payback and gang justice. Would more cops on foot patrols slow that down? Would training officers on how to interact with citizens slow that down? Where does the idea that someone can live a life of crime in civilized society come from? Why does it seem to be here in SF?

Could it be that San Francisco has gained a reputation of being soft on crime? That one can 'get away with murder' in this town, because they can't, or won't, prosecute? Where would that reputation have come from? Could it have come from our former District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, with the lowest conviction rate in the State of California? The same DA who started as a Supervisor, and gave Ross his entry into politics? If we want to turn the tide in this level of crime, we’re going to have to stand behind our new DA, continue to build the relationship with the police from it’s dismal low point with the previous administration, and find ways to increase funding to solving and prosecuting these crimes.

Ross brings up other nice ideas about after-school programs and vocational partnerships. Perhaps Ross should attend the ‘Friday Night Live’ events going on at Scott and Eddy every Friday night, run by the concerned leaders at Marcus Garvey/MLK co-op, or the reading to children program at Hayes Valley South, every Wednesday, at 5pm, at Buchanan and Haight (where police officers have been reading to kids). They too could use Ross’ new found interest.

Months ago, when I was discussing some of these issues with the Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, he pointed out to me that San Francisco has 268 youth serving programs. Yet our aspiring politicians, chasing the day’s headlines like so many lemmings, call for more programs, as they don’t really know what’s already happening. Much worse than these candidate’s not knowing, the residents and parents don’t know what services are already out there. That’s why the Fillmore Merchants Association published a ‘Summer in the Fillmore’ booklet, a list of all the things kids can do to keep busy in the city of San Francisco. Businesses partnering with the community, already going on. The real question there is why would a merchant group have to do their own research, their own publishing and distributing? Why can’t we get organized enough to get this information into people’s hands? Because candidates like Ross simply chase the headlines without knowing what’s going on.

There are good ideas in Ross’grab at the press, there’s no question. Some are much too vague and a bit misguided, but it’s good to see candidates getting interested in their community. Many of the plans explained on my website at are ways in which we can support and promote the solutions already in place, communicate between citizens, police, and City Hall, and do these things without spending city money. We need to focus on building community, improving the local economy through support of small business, and cleaning up the wastes of money and time that politicians who are led by headlines create.

Tys Sniffen
District 5 Candidate

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