The greatest irony of Proposition A's failure last month seemed to be what took place just a few short weeks after the June 6 election.
Prop. A would have budgeted $30 million over the next three years to fund violence prevention services for at-risk populations, such as anxious teens looking for a break from order during the warm summer months. It was a clear response to the city's headline-grabbing homicide rate, which has continued its stubborn ascent this year, making life politically difficult for Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and the Police Department.
But with the mayor and the cops in opposition, the measure lost by less than a single percentage point. And just two weeks later, 22-year-old Andrew Ele — known among his friends as DJ Domino — was shot and killed at a bus stop near 24th Street and Folsom. Ele was a regular teen-outreach volunteer at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a San Francisco nonprofit that helped run the Prop. A campaign with Sup. Chris Daly.
On June 20, as Ele waited for a bus with his brother André, a gunman walked to the middle of 24th Street and fired several shots at each of them before escaping in a waiting white Mazda MPV, the Police Department told the Guardian. André survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but Andrew was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The police still don't know who killed Andrew, but as we've reported previously, the department hasn't had the best luck with recent homicide investigations. As of January 2006 police had made arrests in fewer than 20 percent of the homicide cases that were opened the previous year, and the district attorney’s office has managed to file charges in only a fraction of those cases.
BACK TO THE BUDGET
The day after the election, the San Francisco Chronicle framed Prop. A's failure as a big political win for Newsom rather than what it really was: an enormous letdown for groups such as Coleman Advocates that are offering something other than increased law enforcement. The $30 million may not have immediately improved DJ Domino's chances of remaining alive, but neither did $18 million the city paid police overtime last year prevent a Mission bus stop from being filled with bullet holes.
The issue of violence prevention is still alive, though, and it surfaced again during the recent budget negotiations.
The press release accompanying the mayor's late-May budget proposal for the next fiscal year boasts that Newsom set aside $2.7 million for violence prevention and intervention, which he combines with $7 million the board supplemented for the current fiscal year. Featured more prominently in the press release is his bid for 250 new cops — and yet more money to pay them overtime.
However, the board's budget committee, chaired by Daly, found $4 million more for violence prevention, including $1 million to save the Trauma Recovery Center, which assists victims of violent crime and was close to shutting down in November for lack of funds. Not to be outdone, the mayor unveiled "SF Safe Summer 2006" last week, just as the Guardian was putting together this story, which includes an expansion of the Community Response Network, a Police Department program.
The budgetary give-and-take reflects the city's growing frustration over a homicide rate that has at times resulted in tense Police Commission meetings. Last month a meeting at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center — held the day after Prop. A failed — was commandeered by Western Addition and Bayview–Hunters Point residents angry over a perceived failure by the city to respond to chronic gang and street violence. (Police Chief Heather Fong and Sup. Sophie Maxwell were literally shouted down at the meeting.)
The campaign for Prop. A forced the city to address its ongoing philosophical divide on how to face off against violence. More cops or more outreach? More patrols or more job training?