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Politics & Policy

Supervisors preview: Boudin’s loose ends, Chinese media and shrooms

Chesa Boudin attends a press conference in Potrero Hill on November 23, 2021. | Camille Cohen

Right in time for San Francisco summer, the Board of Supervisors returns from recess to a light agenda that nonetheless includes a few thorny issues. Those include tying up loose ends from the Boudin era at the District Attorney’s office and a contested advertising contract. 

As always, the wonks looking for the whole kit and caboodle can check out this week’s short agenda.

Boudin Business 

Tuesday’s consent agenda features an item authorizing a $47,500 settlement award to Breonna Richard, who was involved in an October 2019 incident that resulted in the criminal trial of San Francisco Police Officer Terrance Stangel

Stangel, along with his partner, responded to a domestic violence call at Fisherman’s Wharf, where they encountered Richard and her companion, Dacari Spiers. Stangel used his baton to subdue Spiers, inflicting substantial injuries. Then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin charged Stangel with four felonies over his use of force in the incident. It would result in the first-ever trial of a San Francisco Police officer for excessive force on duty.

Stangel was found not guilty of three of the charges; the jury deadlocked on a fourth. During the trial, Police Chief Bill Scott briefly severed an agreement with the District Attorney’s office, which empowered the latter to investigate police use-of-force cases, over allegations that attorneys withheld exculpatory evidence in the case. Speirs was awarded a $700,000 settlement, which was approved by Supervisors after a discussion in closed session, in February.

Another Boudin legacy item on Tuesday’s agenda involves the retroactive authorization of an in-kind gift to the DA’s office, worth $250,000, of legal services from the University of San Francisco’s Racial Justice Clinic, in support of the office’s Innocence Commission

The commission was created by Boudin to augment the work of the office’s Post-Conviction Unit, which investigates wrongful convictions. Lara Bazelon, the USF law professor in charge of the USF clinic, is also chair of the Innocence Commission. She was also active in the campaign against Boudin’s recall in June.

Since the recall, the commission’s future has been called into question. Supervisors passed a resolution in July urging Boudin’s successor, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, to retain the Commission. Jenkins released a statement supporting the commission shortly after that resolution was introduced, but she also fired an attorney that was working with the body, and has questioned a recommendation by the commission to reduce the sentence in a homicide case they recently reviewed. 

Retroactive approvals of grants and gifts to city departments come before the board fairly regularly; there are six other retroactive requests from other departments on this meeting’s agenda. That said, Supervisors discourage them—and sometimes take the opportunity to question why they’re needed.

Chinese Media Contracts

Tuesday will also hopefully close the book in a long-running spat over allocation of city advertising dollars to Chinese-language newspapers. 

The resolution adds the Chinatown-based Wind Newspaper as the city’s outreach community periodical to Chinese speakers. It was amended twice in committee, first by Supervisor Connie Chan and then by Supervisor Gordon Mar, to include Wind Newspaper’s competitors, Sing Tao Daily and World Journal, in contracts for outreach to Chinese speakers in certain neighborhoods. 

Chan’s inclusion of Sing Tao Daily prompted allegations of “special treatment” by the publisher of Wind Newspaper, Portia Li. Chan’s office countered that Sing Tao better served a significant number of recent immigrant communities in her district and elsewhere in the city.  Mar’s amendment was based on similar claims, with the Supervisor noting the papers “have built up their readerships in distinct ways to serve different parts of the community.” 

Mar’s amendment also adds the Potrero View newspaper for outreach to the Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Mission Bay, eastern South of Market, Mission, and Bayview neighborhoods.

Preston’s Magic Moment

Finally, the board will also likely pass a resolution sponsored by Supervisor Dean Preston supporting “entheogenic plant practices,” which appears to be the new way to describe use of organic psychedelics such as Psilocybin mushrooms. 

Similar to legislation passed in Oakland in 2019, the resolution calls on local law enforcement to de-prioritize arrests and investigations related to use of natural psychedelics, and also calls on the state and federal governments to decriminalize the substances. Santa Cruz and Denver have also passed similar resolutions. 

Many of the city’s “myco-preneuers” are ambivalent about the legislation, as while it may take the heat off of psychedelics, the resulting commercialization could have unintended consequences similar to those which have occurred in the cannabis market. 

Meanwhile, those who wish to partake—whether for help with depression or inspiration for making dank memes—should be able to do so without fear of being hassled by The Man.