Editor's Notes

Violence and the candidates
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tredmond@sfbg.com

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi likes to say that murder and Muni are Mayor Gavin Newsom's most obvious weaknesses, and there are all kinds of ideas about fixing Muni. Murder, that's a little tougher.

The mayoral candidates we've been talking to all decry the city's rise in violent crime, and they all say something has to be done. The district attorney says so, and so does the Police Officers Association. But there's a lot of finger-pointing going on, and a lot of rhetoric and circling around and dodging. I realize it's a tough, complicated issue; I realize that one city can't utterly transform the socioeconomic impacts of more than a quarter century of federal neglect of inner cities. I know that poverty and desperation drive crime and violence, and what we're experiencing in San Francisco won't be solved by any one simple program.

But I have to say, I've heard an idea from one of the candidates that just makes a lot of common sense.

Lonnie Holmes, who almost certainly won't be elected, told us in an endorsement interview that the mentor he relied on when he was a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco was the guy who ran the local recreation center. It was open all the time; Holmes would just drop in after school, hang out, play some basketball.... There was a place to go, with a caring adult who was a supervisor, coach, teacher, and role model. No pressure, no special classes to sign up for, no fee, no cost at the door. Just a local rec center. There are dozens of them, all over the city.

But these days a lot of them aren't open as much. Budget cuts to the Recreation and Park Department have forced the rec centers to limit their hours. The center in Bernal Heights, where I live, used to be open on weekends; now the doors are mostly locked.

There's not a lot in the way of quality public after-school programs either.

So kids who don't have a stable home life, or whose parents or guardians are working two jobs and are rarely around, or who have any of a long list of factors that put them at risk for violence don't have anywhere to go. Bad idea.

So why not a budget plan to fully fund all the rec centers and fund comprehensive after-school care as a means of violence prevention? It's a lot cheaper than hiring a few hundred more cops.

Onward: there's a fascinating comment at the very end of the seven-page city attorney's opinion on Newsom's call for mass resignations by department heads and other top city officials. It's just two sentences, and the relevant part goes like this: "The resignations ... may present other legal issues.... For example, there could be questions about whether to make public disclosures under certain city bonds or municipal debt issuances."

Here's what that means: the city could be required to tell bond holders and underwriters that all of the department heads, the entire senior staff of the Mayor's Office, and all commissioners — the combined pool of talent and experience at City Hall — have been asked to resign. If anything on this scale happened in a private business, the company's stock would fall precipitously; one might assume that bond-rating agencies could consider San Francisco to be facing real leadership troubles and reduce our bond rating.

That, in turn, would cost the city a sizable amount of money.

I wonder, Mr. Mayor — did that ever occur to you?