By Steven T. Jones
The biggest heartbreak on election day -- Measure A being defeated by just over 1,000 votes -- should become the biggest opportunity for progressives now that this election is done. This measure was an effort to get needed funds into social programs that would deter street violence and, equally important, to get the communities of color and street-level activists most affected by this problem involved in finding solutions. Blame for this measure's defeat falls squarely on Mayor Gavin Newsom, his four supporters on the Board of Supervisors (plus Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who was on the wrong side of this one), and the Police Officers Association (and to an unknown degree, whoever attacked and crashed the Guardian site yesterday and kept our endorsements unavailable for much of the day). It's understandable why the POA wants to pursue only a top-down, more-cops approach to the high murder rate. But what's unfathomable to me is why Newsom and his political allies continue to do nothing to reform a Police Department that is dysfunctional, arrogant, and understandably doesn't have the confidence the parts of the community with which it should be working most closely.
The energy behind the Prop. A campaign -- and the coalition of progressive groups, neighborhood activists, and communities of color that coalesced around it -- is going to go somewhere. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, Sophie Maxwell and others most concerned about this issue will probably find the money for some of the programs that A would have funded, particularly given that Daly chairs the Budget Committee. But the question now is whether this election with further tarnish Newsom as a politician who's more talk than action, and whether he and the board can finally find a way to get the community involved.
As I detailed in my long piece on city politics last week -- "Newsom loses control" -- the mayor has failed to follow-through on any of his proposed police reforms. The system for punishing bad cops is broken. The toxic police attitude that spawned the video scandal that got Newsom so enraged is worse than ever. Community policing isn't happening, at least not with any real connection to the communities that cops are supposed to be protecting and serving. The Police Commission is failing to fill its independent, reformer role -- and it's allowing the cops to bully the Office of Citizen Complaints. And the POA is likely to come off the defeat of A more power-drunk than ever.
It's time for Newsom to do something about this mess, or pay a political price for his failure to do so.