He also brings a much-needed critique of the remaining vestiges of machine politics in this one-party town and speaks passionately about the need for outsiders and political independents to have a seat at the table. We're glad to have him in the race.
In the end, though, our picks in this first ranked-choice vote for San Francisco mayor are Mecke, Sumchai, and Rinaldi on the issues, as a political statement, and to remind Newsom that his poll numbers don't reflect the deep sense of distrust and discontent that remains in this city.
We're always nervous about unopposed incumbents. And since Kamala Harris unseated Terence Hallinan four years ago, running as an ally of then-mayor Willie Brown with the backing of a corrupt old machine, we've been nervous about her.
In some ways she's been a pleasant surprise. Harris quickly showed that she has courage and integrity when she refused to seek the death penalty for a cop killer despite the fact that the police rank and file and much of the brass excoriated her for it. She remains one of the few district attorneys in the nation who oppose the death penalty in all situations. She's created a public integrity unit and aggressively filed charges against Sup. Ed Jew. She's made clear to the Police Department that she won't accept sloppy police work. She talks constantly about making crime and criminal justice a progressive issue.
But there are plenty of areas in which we remain nervous. Harris hasn't been anywhere near as aggressive as she could be in prosecuting political corruption. She doesn't pursue ethics violations or Sunshine Ordinance violations. The San Francisco DA's Office could be a national leader in rooting out and prosecuting environmental and political crime, but it isn't.
Meanwhile, the murder rate continues to rise in San Francisco, and Harris and the police are pointing fingers back and forth without actually finding a workable solution.
And lately, Harris, to her tremendous discredit, has been stepping up the prosecution of so-called quality-of-life crimes which translates into harassing the homeless. She's made sure there's a full-time prosecutor in traffic court, pressing charges for things like public urination, sleeping in the park, and holding an open container of beer. That's a colossal waste of law enforcement resources.
We expect a lot more from Harris in the next four years. But we'll back her for another term.
Mike Hennessey has been sheriff for so long that it's hard to imagine anyone else holding the job. And that's not a bad thing: Hennessey is one of the most progressive law enforcement officers in the country. He's turned the county jail into a center for drug rehabilitation, counseling, and education (the first charter high school in America for county prisoners is in the SF jail). He's hired a remarkably diverse group of deputies and has worked to find alternatives to incarceration. He's openly critical of the rate at which the San Francisco police are arresting people for small-time drug offenses ("We're arresting too many people for drugs in the city," he told us). He took a courageous stand last year in opposing a draconian and ineffective state ballot initiative that would have kicked convicted sex offenders out of San Francisco and forced them to live in rural counties without access to support, services, or monitoring.
We've had some issues with Hennessey. We wanted a smaller new jail than he ultimately decided to build. And we really wish he'd be more outspoken on local law enforcement issues.