The Mirkarimi vote: Will there be some profiles of courage?


(See the postscript for the Chronicle's shameful crucifixion coverage of Mirkarimi and a timely, newsworthy oped it refused to run by Mirkarimi's former girl friend. And how Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders ran the Nieves piece on her blog. Damn good for you, Debra Saunders.)

On Jan. 6, 2011, the Bay Citizen/New York Times broke a major investigative story headlined “Behind-the-Scenes Power Politics: The Making of Ed Lee.” The story by Gerry Shih detailed how then Mayor Gavin Newsom, ex-Mayor Willie Brown, and his longtime political ally Rose Pak orchestrated an “extraordinary political power play” to make Ed Lee the interim mayor to replace Newsom, the lieutenant governor-elect.

The story also outlined the start of a chain of events that leads to the vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday on whether Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi keeps his job.

Shih reported that “word had trickled out” that the supervisors had narrowed the list of interim candidates to three—then Sheriff Michael Hennessey, former Mayor Art Agnos, and Aaron Peskin, then chairman of the city’s Democratic party.  But the contenders “were deemed too liberal by Pak, Brown, and Newsom, who are more moderate.”

Over the next 48 hours, Pak, Brown, and the Newsom administration put together the play, “forging a consensus on the Board of Supervisors, outflanking the board’s progressive wing and persuading Lee to agree to become San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor, even though he had told officials for months that he had no interest in the job,” Shih wrote.

The play was sold on the argument that Lee would be an “interim mayor” and that he would not run for mayor in the November election. The Guardian and others said at the time that the play most likely envisioned Lee saying, or lying, that he would not run for mayor and then, at the last minute, he would run and overpower the challengers as an incumbent with big downtown money behind him.  This is what happened. That is how Ed Lee, a longtime civil servant, became the mayor and that is how the Willie Brown/Rose Pak gang won the day for the PG&E/Chamber of Commerce/big developer bloc and thwarted the progressives.

Let us note that the other three interim candidates would most likely never have done what Lee did and suspend Mirkarimi for pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in an arm-bruising incident with his wife Eliana. In fact, Hennessey supported Mirkarimi during the election and still does and says he is fit to do the job of sheriff. 

This was a political coup d’etat worthy of Abe Ruef, the City Hall fixer at the start of the century. “This was something incredibly orchestrated, and we got played,” Sup. John Avalos told Shih. Sup. Chris Daly was mad as hell and he voted for Rose Pak because, he told the Guardian, she was running everything in City Hall anyway. Significantly, the San Francisco Chronicle missed the story and ever after followed the line of its columnist/PG&E lobbyist Willie Brown and Pak by supporting Lee for mayor without much question or properly reporting the obvious power structure angles and plays.

This is the context for understanding a critical part of the ferocity of the opposition to Mirkarimi. As the city’s top elected progressive, he was a politician and force to be reckoned with. His inaugural address as sheriff  demonstrated his creative vision for the department and that he would ably continue the progressive tradition of Richard Hongisto and Hennessey. That annoyed the conservative law enforcement folks. He could be sheriff for a good long time, keep pushing progressive issues from a safe haven, and be in position to run for mayor when the time came. So he was a dangerous character.  

To take one major example, the  PG&E political establishment and others regard him as Public Enemy No. 1. Among other things, he managed as an unpaid volunteer two initiative campaigns during the Willie Brown era. They were aimed at kicking PG&E out of City Hall, enforcing the public power provisions of the federal Raker Act, and bringing  the city’s cheap Hetch Hetchy public power to its residents and businesses for the first time. (See Guardian stories since 1969 on the PG&E/Raker act scandal.)

He then took the public power issue into City Hall when he became a supervisor and aggressively led the charge for the community choice aggregation (cca) project.  His work was validated in the recent 8-3 supervisorial vote authorizing the city to start up a public power/clean energy program. This is the first real challenge ever to PG&E’s private power monopoly.

Significantly, Willie is now an unregistered $200,000 plus a year lobbyist for PG&E. He writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle promoting, among other things, his undisclosed clients and allies and whacking Mirkarimi and the progressives and their issues on a regular basis.  And he is always out there, a phone call here, an elbow at a cocktail party there, to push his agenda.   The word is that he’s claiming he has the votes to fire Mirkarimi.

The point is that the same forces that put Lee into office as mayor are in large part the same forces behind what I call the political assassination of Mirkarimi.  And so, when the Mirkarimi incident emerged, there was an inexorable  march to assassination. Maximum resources and pressure from the police on Mirkarimi. And then maximum pressure from the District Attorney. And then maximum pressure from the judicial process (not even allowing  a change of venue for the case after the crucifixion media coverage.)  And then Lee calls Mirkarimi “a wife beater” and suspends him with cruel and unusual punishment: no pay for him, his family, his home, nor legal expenses for him or Eliana for the duration.

And then Lee pushes for maximum pressure from the City Attorney and the Ethics Commission to try Mirkarimi and force the crucial vote before the election to put maximum pressure on the supervisors. Obviously, the vote would be scheduled after the election if this were a fair and just process.

Lee, the man who was sold as consensus builder and unifier, has become a polarizer and punisher on behalf of the boys and girls  in the backroom.  

And so the supervisors are not just voting to fire the sheriff.  Mirkarimi, his wife Eliana, and son Theo, 3, have already paid a terrible price and, to their immense credit, have come back together as a family.

The supervisors got played last time and voted for a coup d’etat to make Lee the mayor, rout the progressives, and keep City Hall safe for Willie Brown and Rose Pak and friends.   This time the stakes are clear: the supervisors are now voting on the political assassination of the city’s top elected progressive and it’s once again aimed at helping keep City Hall safe for PG&E, the Chamber, and big developers.

The question is, will there be some profiles of courage this time around? b3

P.S.1  Julian Davis for District 5 supervisor: “Supes mum on sheriff,” read the Sunday Chronicle head. Nobody would say how he/she would vote. And poor Sup. Sean Elsbernd claimed that he would be “holed all Sunday in his office reading a table full of thick binders of official documents related to the case plus a few that he’s prepared for himself containing some case law.”  (Anybody wonder how he’s going to vote? Let’s have a show of hands.)  

The last time I saw Julian Davis he was holding a “Stand with Ross” sign at a Mirkarimi rally on the City Hall steps. With Davis, there would be no second guessing and hand wringing on how he would vote. That’s the problem now with so many neighborhood supervisors who go down to City Hall and vote with Willie and downtown. Davis would be a smart, dependable progressive vote in the city’s most progressive district (5), and a worthy successor to Matt Gonzalez and Ross Mirkarimi. If Davis were on the board now, I’m sure he would stand with Ross and speak for Ross, no ifs, ands, or buts. And his vote might be decisive.  

P.S. 2 The Chronicle's  shameful crucifixion of Mirkarimi continues  The Chronicle has refused to run a timely and  newsworthy op ed piece from Evelyn Nieves, Mirkarimi's former girl friend. She  wrote an op ed piece for the Chronicle four days before the Tuesday vote.  Nieves is an accomplished journalist who for several years was the San Francisco bureau chief for the New York Times.  She told me that she was notified Monday morning that the Chronicle didn't have room for the op ed in Tuesday's paper. I sent an email to John Diaz, Chronicle editorial page editor, and asked him why the Chronicle couldn't run her op ed when the paper could run Willie Brown, the unregistered $200,000 plus PG&E lobbyist who takes regular whacks at Mirkarimi, as a regular featured column in its Sunday paper.  No answer at blogtime.

This morning, I opened up the Chronicle to find that the paper, instead of running the Nieves piece today or earlier,  ran an op ed titled "Vote to remove Mirkarmi," from Kathy Black, executive director of the Casa de las Madres, the non profit group that advocates against domestic violence. It has been hammering Mirkarimi for months. On the page opposite, the Chron ran yet another lead editorial, urging the supervisors to "Take a Stand" and vote for removal because "San Francisco now needs its leaders to lead." It was as if Willie was not only directing the Chronicle's news operation but writing its editorials--and getting paid both by PG&E and the Chronicle.  And so the Chronicle started out with shameful crucifixion coverage of  Mirkarimi and then continued the shameful crucifixion coverage up until today. Read Nieves on Ross.

Well, the honor of the Chronicle was maintained by columnist Debra Saunders, virtually the Chroncle's lone journalistic supporter of Mirkarmi during his ordeal. Many Chronicle staffers are privately supportive of Ross, embarrassed by Willie's "journalism," and critical of the way the Chronicle has covered Mirkarimi. Saunders posted the Nieves column her paper refused to print on her Chronicle blog. Damn good for you, Debra Saunders.  




Regardless of how one feels about this matter or others which the City may have orchestrated for political gain, equity of application of the law and due process should trump everything.

If only SF lived by such simple and straightforward approach to all things related to City business.This would be truly the glorious City that it is made out to be.

Sadly....this is not the case.

Posted by roflynn on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

What a wonderfully-written piece displaying great -- and certainly not unexpected -- insight into the workings of City Hall. You have it exactly right.

Posted by Guest Vivian on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

1. If Cunnie had won, and he suddenly found himself in the exact same position as Ross, would you be supporting him?

2. name a single ELECTED sheriff, DA or AG who pled out to a DVrelted misdemeanor, was placed on probation and managed to keep his Job.

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

Ridiculous hypothetical.

1. Cunnie wouldn't find himself in this position. The mayor and DA swept real cases of domestic violence under the rug when it involved members of the City Family, Julius Turman and Joanna Hayes-White. The Chronicle wouldn't have unleashed its diarrhea of yellow journalism, the DA wouldn't have even had the thought of prosecution, and the cops would've laughed it off. When a member of the privileged elite can beat the daylights out of his partner, and arm grabbing wouldn't have even registered.

2. See #1. Making a federal case over an arm grabbing? Give me a frickin' break.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

So just spew nonsense and how it goes away because it doesn't fit into your world view.

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

The power play described in the first part of this piece reminds me of when Clinton and Gore both came to town to stump for Newsom. I was so mad then, as I am now. Leave the local politics to us locals! I'm sure Gonzalez would have won had the "big guns" not been brought in.

And so yes, trickster politics again—an interim mayor who does an about face...the power of incumbency....and $$ flowing in the coffers...

Except this time, it all might blow up in their faces. Some might say the wheels are already in motion. And they would get what they deserve. Karma's a bitch.

Posted by Daniele E. on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

This editorial is a good microcosm of the Mirkarimi support platform.

By that I mean that there is not one word about Mirkarimi's actions. Instead it is entirely about the new axis of evil - Brown, Pak and Lee.

Let's say for argument's sake that this trio has indeed surpassed Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot as the three worst human beings of all time.

It STILL doesn't mean that Mirkarimi should keep his job. Those 3 being awful people and Mirkarimi being unfit to remain as Sheriff are not mutually exclusive.

P.S. Bruce states 'that the other three interim candidates would most likely never have done what Lee did and suspend Mirkarimi'. Somebody needs to tell him that one of the three, Peskin, called for Mirkarimi to resign as soon as he pleaded guilty.

Posted by Troll on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:55 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

But that would violate the second rule of Mirkarimi Club: Support for Mirkarimi is "progressive," so all "progressives" must support Mirkarimi.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 7:37 am

There are times when doing the right thing takes courage. Contrary to conventional wisdom, doing the right thing on this vote will also be the right thing politically.

Consider the case of Eric Mar, whose campaign desperately needs volunteers.

Let's remember that even that bogus push poll showed opinion closely divided in the Richmond. That means that in reality, voters don't want their vote overturned in a palace coup.

So let's look at the scenarios for Eric Mar.

A) He votes to keep Ross on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he'll have a hundred volunteers ready to man the phonebanks and walk those precincts.

B) He votes to remove Ross.
The people pushing for Ross to be removed are the same ones pushing David Lee. And Eric, hate to tell you this, but those people aren't going to like you one bit more if you vote their way. They will STILL spend just as much money to defeat you. They will still send out every bit as much mail attacking you. There is NOTHING to gain from a vote to remove Ross.

There are a whole mess of people in the middle, who probably could care less one way or another.

And then there's your base. Unlike most voters, your base does care about this. You may not lose their votes. But if you can't be counted on to do the right thing, then how can you count on them to go out of their way to help you?

Age old lesson in politics: Ignore your base at your peril.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

Even if the push poll numbers were to be believed, they didn't take into account the lasting power of the righteous anger Mirkarimi supporters will feel towards the mayor's connivance; lasting power that will dwarf that of the shallow thinking sloganized haters.

We have the facts on our side. Many of those disposed to go along with Lee's gambit are still swayed by their sense of the story based on early unsubstantiated allegations put forward in the DA's and mayor's original charges -- and of course, in the Chronicle -- but in the end, all that really happened is a domestic spat and an arm grab.

The flip side of the anger many feel towards this scheme is, as you say, the gratitude and support that will flow to those who stand upright against these unsavory forces.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

Re: "but in the end, all that really happened is a domestic spat and an arm grab"

Yup. Keep telling yourself that. Maybe if you say it another hundred thousand times it will negate the fact that Mirkarimi pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a crime, and the sentence included DV counseling.

Keep telling yourslef otherwise, however, if that helps.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:53 am

Needs to be more worried about the righteous anger of the voters who want Ross out. Nothing says I don't want to win an election more than siding with the convicted guy on probation who is in DV counseling.

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:41 am

Let's use you as an example of the kind of righteously angry voter you're talking about. If Eric Mar votes your way, are you going to support him? Not in a million years. Isn't that right?

Like I said, he has nothing to gain and everything to lose if he votes to remove Ross.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:15 am

He also needs more moderate votes. He can't do it with just the "progressive vote"

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:40 am

So, no, you'd never support him anyway.

Like I said, the people on the right won't be won over. The people in the middle frankly don't care that much either way. And his base on the left -while they may still vote for him over the landlord's candidate, I don't think they'll be too excited about volunteering. And that will make the difference in a close race.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

and it's the moderate majority that consistently have said they want Ross to go.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

Repeating them doesn't make them true. There was one terrible push poll, and as soon as I was polled I called Tim to break the story of how god-awful the poll was. It was the worst push poll I've ever encountered in my life. If that showed 60-30 in favor of removal (50-40 in the Richmond actually), then the real numbers are very likely heavily against removal.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

You keep making this sound as if his vote is a purely political calculation on Mar's part. What if he honestly believes that Mirkarimi shouldn't keep his job and votes against reinstatement? Are the progressives going to turn on him? Or is it you can only vote your conscience if it toes the progressive line?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:58 am

So much for doing the right thing no matter what the voters think.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:29 am

You got one thing right- he is a dangerous character and a bit of an A hole and has no one to blame for this but himself

Posted by Pamela Nice on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

fucking funny.

SF "progressives" are pissed because they are not as good at scheming as they thought they were.

This bit of bitter whining by a supposed adult is hilarious. The progressives are pissed that they couldn't force one of their own on the city.

The whole bit is moronic sour grapes, they didn't get to jamb a progressive down the throats of the rest of the non-progressive city, and that is an atrocity.!.

Guess who is also an unregistered lobbyist, every SEIU douche bag who goes crying to John Avalos.

Have someone change your diaper grandpa.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

Doubt any of the so-called progressives would have turned around and said "now I'm running for mayor!!"

The only "jamming-down-of-throats" happened on Lee/Pak/Brown's watch. And yeah, I didn't much care for it. Remember, incumbency brings power, and Pak/Brown bring in the cash.

Posted by Daniele E. on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

The city elected Ross Mirkarimi.

I'm going to start referring to 15-watt bulbs as "matlocks."

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

Where did you get the idea that because someone was elected to something that meant there exists no standard for removing them from office? Are you suggesting that no matter what someone is found guilty of they should continue to hold office, because elections somehow confer infallibility?

Ross was my second choice. No way in hell would I have voted for him had I known what I know now. 70%+ of San Franciscans agree with me too.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

And how many other "progressives" hold city wide office?

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 5:59 am

then their supporters woudn't be so precious and defensive about trying to keep a convicted wife abuser in office. They'd be relaxed about letting him go because they would know that another, non-abusing Progressive would simply take his place.

It is only because they know that Ross was flookily lucky to get that office (the opposition was split) that they know their goose is cooked here. But instead of being angry at Ross for blowing their "one big chance" they certainly instead do a 180 on DV.

And really, all Progressives have to do to win elections is just be a little less progressive, and capture that silent majority at the moderate center of SF politics. Then there'd be no need to condone DV.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 6:25 am

The city also elected Ed Lee. So?

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 7:30 am

And Lee's approval ratings are even higher now.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:34 am

Not that that makes me happy. Lee was completely dishonest about only being an interim mayor, and I wish he'd go away. That doesn't mean Mirkarimi should either, of course.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:27 am

That last sentence didn't come out right at all. I guess it's clear that I want both Lee and Mirkarimi gone, though.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:53 am

Nobody stole your vote!

Ross' current problems are all based on his behavior AFTER you voted him in. Being elected doesn't grant him immunity.

Let's consider the facts in this case:

1. Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to and was convicted of a domestic-violence-related charge, and was sentenced to three years' probation with time served, 52 weeks in a batterers intervention program, to attend parenting classes, pay a fine and do community service.

2. Afterward, he said he was sorry - to everyone - and then he took it all back.

3. Later, during an Ethics Commission hearing, under oath, Mirkarimi admitted to committing a violent act against his wife and that he knew, at the time, it was a crime.

Now we are being asked to forget all that - it didn't really happen, it is someone else's fault.

I don't buy it, and our city's elected representatives shouldn't either. The only surprising thing here is that there is any debate whatsoever about Mirkarimi's fitness to serve.

Posted by Pukan on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 6:35 am

Bruce, Gerry Shih also wrote in another article that Mirkarimi took money from Platinum Advisors in exchange to give Zynga on tax break. I can always count on your selective reporting.

Good to see Mirkarimi go today. Maybe he can write and do some selective reporting for you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 7:34 am

It would be really helpful if you understood that fundamental distinction.

Lee is also enjoying 70% plus approval ratings. I guess SF voters prefer job creation over ideological rants. Imagine that.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 8:34 am

As always I always marvel at the brave souls who whack and hate away in anonymity. I always use my name, Bruce B. Brugmann. Why don't you?

Posted by bruce on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:09 am

But if you really want the SFBG to be a bastion of free speech, ask Marke B why he/she keeps censoring posts here to suit his political bias.

Posted by Anonymous and Proud on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:24 am

Marke B is too addled by poppers and Astroglide to do much other than update his Facebook page with photos of awesome shoes he saw the night before. He doesn't suffer criticism of any sort when it comes to his daily disco-ball meditations either. Because stuff that happens at clubs is, you know, important. And stuff.

Posted by Reginald Festerpizzle-Nobbington III (Esq) on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:58 am

Bruce, you don't seem to mind when hateful comments that align with your politics are spewed anonymously.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:28 am

I prefer not to use your name.

Posted by Reginald Festerpizzle-Nobbington III (Esq) on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Was Lee ever convicted of anything before he became mayor? A DUI or something. maybe? Hey, that would be "official misconduct" according to him and his gang.

Thanks for a good article, Bruce.

Dennis Kiernan

Posted by tagletigre on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:27 am

Again the white male club of Bruce, Tim and Greg.
First rule, if you're progressive then you must be above the law.
Second, domestic violence is fine so long as it's a progressive doing it.
Third rule, bash everyone that doesn't agree with your progressive politics.
Finally, act like you actually care about women and minorities.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:58 am

Actually, it was the progresssive women who stepped up to support Ross at first. Eliana, Ross's wife has been his most fervent supporter, followed by Myrna Melgar, Evelyn Nieves, and SFBG commenters Christine Craft, JCCourt, Danielle, Ann Garrison, Lisa and others. But they were being imped by the trolls and treated to vicious slander, so gradually dropped out of the cesspool that constitutes "comments" at SFBG.

Posted by Progressive woman on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

Oh, and ChrisCraft, JCCourt, Daniele, AnnG and Erika are all one and the same chick. ChrisCraft has been caught posting under numerous handles.

So make that ONE "progressive" woman with a lot of time on her hands and, evidently, the hots for Ross.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

I have met most of them. Stop spreading lies.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

I predict that Mirkarimi will pick up at least 4 or 5 votes on the board. As Waggoner has argued, to overturn the will of the voters, the highest measure of due process must apply. But, in fact, there is ample evidence that the lowest standard of due proccess was followed in this case. One or two board members will vote to reinstate RM because it is the right thing to do. The rest will be weighing a protracted lawsuit in the back of their minds.

Posted by Ana on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

Did I call it or what?

Posted by Ana on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

Fucking pathetic. Stick to the facts SFBG. Ross committed a crime and he need to do the time. Reporting on the facts would make this long time gone paper relevant.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

Shitty journalism. Stick to the facts and stay relevant. Ross committed a crime. Voting for him to keep his job says you think it's ok to bruise your wife.

Not everything is related to PG&E

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

Aha! The Guardian is now going to have to recognize that besides its favorites Campos and Avalos, tiny, mild mannered JANE KIM, whom the Guardian failed to support for the Board of Supervisors, actually had the nerve to buck the Chronicle and the Mayor! Yay Jane! She turned out to be a toughie! And to round things out, the Mayor's own appointee, Christina Olague, stood him up! I guess she was not too pleased with Mayor Lee's denial that he had approached her about offering Mirkarimi a political deal in exchange for Mirkarimi's resignation.

Posted by Nazcalito on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

Jane Kim is ridiculous. She won't pledge allegiance. Gag

Posted by Guest on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 5:00 pm