Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in San Francisco and Beyond
KPFA Weekend News Anchor: The San Francisco Ethics Commission will reconvene on Tuesday evening for the next hearing to help them decide whether to recommend that the Board of Supervisors vote to remove suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from the office he was elected to in November 2011. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee suspended Sheriff Mirkarimi after he pled guilty to a nonviolent misdemeanor related to a New Year's Eve argument with his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez. Lopez has stood by her husband, adamantly repeating that he did not abuse her, that the City and County of San Francisco has violated her privacy rights, under California law, and that her husband is the target of a political assassination. Mirkarimi agrees. KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi won the November 2011 election despite being outspent two to one. In the course of his political career, he has stood for clean, renewable public power, public banking, community policing, alternatives to incarceration, an end to racist incarceration, and, the civil rights of Islamic Americans. During the brief time he served as Sheriff, before Mayor Ed Lee suspended him, Mirkarimi told KPFA that he’d like to find a way to challenge illegal home foreclosure evictions. This made him a lot of friends in some circles, and, some powerful enemies in others, including Pacific Gas’n Electric, the San Francisco Police Department, the DA’s office, and, Bank of America, which not only handles most of San Francisco's official banking business, but also holds the toxic mortgage assets of failed mortgage lender Countrywide. The state’s prison industries had no reason to celebrate Mirkarimi’s election either, but, Mayor Ed Lee is the one who suspended Mirkarimi and asked the Ethics Commission to recommend that the Board of Supervisors vote to permanently remove him from office. KPFA asked Ross Mirkarimi what he thinks is motivating Mayor Lee.
Ross Mirkarimi: I think this is an effort to consolidate power in San Francisco, because the left, independently minded elected officials are disappearing.
KPFA: At the last Ethics Commission hearing, on May 29th, you lost on some procedural issues, but your supporters packed the house with signs reading "Stand with Ross" and "Respect Eliana." District #5 residents went to the podium to tell the Commissioners how much you’d done to stop street violence. Women, Black, Latina, and white, stood up to express outrage at Mayor Lee's action, and more than one said that she'd been a victim of domestic violence, and, that this isn’t it. Another woman urged the Commission to jettison the whole process and give Mayor Lee a chance to save face. No one stood up to defend Mayor Lee's action, and KPFA was unable to find even one person there to support it. How did all this make you feel?
Ross Mirkarimi: Well, I was blown away. When I got off the elevator, into City Hall, approaching the Ethics hearing room, there were well over 200 people and they started to break out and chant, "We love you Ross! You gotta fight." "We love you Eliana!" on behalf of my wife. I really had to hold back the emotion, as I have in a lot of the last few months - pretty ready to well up.
KPFA: And how much impact do you expect all this support at the hearings to have on the outcome?
Ross Mirkarimi: Well, I think that it's visceral, and ultimately it must be felt and translated towards the Board of Supervisors, who will be making the ultimate decision.
KPFA: You are, arguably, the most progressive Sheriff in the country. What do you think the impact will be, if Mayor Lee succeeds in removing you from office?
Ross Mirkarimi: I believe that the impact of me being removed will add to the climate of fear that seems to be engulfing progressives and the left and independently minded elected officials and community leaders. Don't forget, the Sheriff's Department in San Francisco is one of the largest departments in the city. It has a staff of over 1000 people. It has a budget of approximately $165 million dollars. It makes it a very powerful department, and yet it's independent of the police department. The police in every county in California are appointed, in their command structure. The sheriff is elected. There's a great desire by the police department, there's even great desire by the probation department, another appointed department, that would like nothing better than to moderate the impact of a progressive sheriff's department like ours in San Francisco, so that they can begin to dismantle it and pick it apart. My projection is, unless there's a progressive in the Sheriff's Department, you will begin to see the neutralizing of the Sheriff's Department. As a matter of fact, it's already begun.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: That was suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Mayor Ed Lee's attempt to have him removed from office. The next Ethics Commission hearing will take place at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, June 19th, beginning at 5 pm. The hearing will also be webcast live at sfgovtv.org, S F G O V T V dot org. Ross Mirkarimi's supporters are posting at friendsofross.com, and they can be contacted by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Ross Mirkarimi supporters can also be contacted by calling Tami Bryant at 415-595-4729.)