Will Supes Back $27 Million SFPD /DA Supplemental?

by on February 27, 2023

Photo shows SFPD crackdown has cleared 600 Eddy drug market
SFPD Crackdown cleared 600 Eddy drug market

Funds Needed to Close Drug Markets

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will soon vote on whether to increase the SFPD/DA budget by $27 million. Despite rising concerns about public safety across the city, it is uncertain whether eight supervisors will approve the budget request. Also uncertain is the fate of Urban Alchemy’s highly praised ambassador program. If the group’s contract is not approved by the Board in March, layoff notices to all staff must be issued.

The Supplemental

The stakes are high.

Denying the request leaves no funds to sustain the hugely successful recent Tenderloin crackdown on open air drug markets. Drug dealer crackdowns in other neighborhoods will either cease or not begin due to a lack of  funds. The supplemental also increases police resources targeting commercial burglaries, violence against Asian-Americans and others, and rampant retail and property crime.

Given public concern about these issues, supporting the supplemental should not be in doubt. Here’s the current breakdown.

Board Supporters/Opponents

Supervisors Stefani, Engardio, Dorsey, Mandelman, and Safai  have publicly expressed support. Backers hope they will be joined by Supervisors  Melgar, and Peskin. That requires one additional vote from Supervisors Chan, Preston, Ronen or Walton.

Ronen may be gettable. In response to criticism from her constituents about crime and violence, Ronen’s aide told the SF Chronicle that “the criticism was fair and that Ronen’s office was working to add more police officers to busy corridors.” The only way those officers happen is if Ronen backs the supplemental.

Ronen has become engulfed in drug and crime problems in her district. Just last week the El Tonayense taco truck at 14th and Harrison was robbed at gunpoint. She will not want to leave office in 2024 with a legacy as the Mission District supervisor who opposed police funding for the neighborhood.

Most of Chan’s constituents likely support the supplemental. Facing a tough re-election campaign in 2024, Chan may be looking at how former D4 Supervisor Gordon Mar’s opposition to the District Attorney recall helped Joel Engardio unseat him. Chan’s support for the supplemental helps her with voters. Backing the right policy is also the best political move.

Preston has already announced his opposition. The supervisor representing the Tenderloin has not supported any measure to close the neighborhood’s drug markets. He regularly tweets that the SFPD is overfunded. He does not believe a supplemental is needed. The Tenderloin Business Coalition meets with Preston on March 2. These small businesses are being killed by drug dealing and and will make the case for the supplemental. But Preston has been adamant against using police to protect the working-class Tenderloin neighborhood.

Preston offers a unique brand of socialism. He protects drug dealer profits over the health, safety and economic security of the Tenderloin’s working class.

I’m told Walton is also likely a lost cause.

Backers of the supplemental should contact supervisors who have not publicly announced support. The Budget Committee vote occurs on March 8.

Urban Alchemy’s Contract

San Francisco wisely requires multi-year contracts over $10 million to be subject to annual Board of Supervisors approval. Funding for Urban Alchemy has already been approved by the Board but must go through this procedural requirement. Unfortunately, what should be a ministerial process has become one of high drama, as Budget Chair Connie Chan has refused to put Urban Alchemy’s contract on the March 8 Budget Committee calendar.

Why is Chan posturing on this? I’m told its for “leverage.” What’s she’s leveraging is not clear.

If Urban Alchemy cannot guarantee payment to its workers it must issue sixty-day layoff notices. That would be completely unfair to its overwhelmingly Black and ex-offender workforce.

Urban Alchemy is tremendously popular in the Tenderloin. And is also supported in Mid-Market. Attacks on its operations in the San Francisco Chronicle are an embarrassment to that publication. Chronicle reporters who never bother talking to those living or working on blocks served by Urban Alchemy are writing “opinion” pieces denouncing the group.

Board President Peskin knows Urban Alchemy’s success. I hope he can address Chan’s concerns and get the Budget Meeting scheduled.

San Francisco shouldn’t play games with the lives of those who are out on the streets each day working to make people feel safer. Urban Alchemy workers deserve better.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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Filed under: Mid-Market / Tenderloin, Uncategorized