The Board of Supervisors returned from Summer recess to a light agenda that nonetheless included a few notable items, such as a leftover bit of housekeeping from the Boudin era at the District Attorney’s office, and a contested advertising contract. Meanwhile, some members of the board introduced what promised to be a comprehensive response to the city’s drug crisis.
As always, the wonks looking for the whole kit and caboodle can check out this week’s short agenda.
The board voted unanimously to clear 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.
Richard’s companion, Dacari Spiers, was severely injured when Stangel subdued him with a baton in response to a 911 call reporting a domestic violence incident. Then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin charged Stangel with four felonies, prompting the first-ever trial of a San Francisco Police officer for excessive force on duty.
Stangel was acquitted of three of the charges; the jury failed to find on a fourth. Allegations of withholding of exculpatory evidence in the case prompted Police Chief Bill Scott to briefly sever an agreement on investigation of use of force cases. Nevertheless, Speirs was awarded a $700,000 settlement, which Supervisors approved after a discussion in closed session, in February.
The board also voted unanimously to retroactively authorize a gift of $250,000 worth of legal services from the University of San Francisco’s Racial Justice Clinic to the DA’s Innocence Commission.
Boudin created the commission to support 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 also participated in the campaign against Boudin’s recall.
Since Boudin’s departure, the commission’s future has been called into question. Supervisors passed a resolution in July urging current District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to preserve its work. Jenkins promised to do so, but she also fired an attorney that was working with the body.
Retroactive grant approvals like this come before the board fairly regularly, and other departments also had some on this week's agenda. Supervisors occasionally take the opportunity to probe why they’re needed.
That didn’t happen at this week’s meeting, but resolution sponsor Supervisor Dean Preston did question Tara Anderson, the DA’s policy director, on the status of the program and related issues. Anderson replied that the commission and its work would be continued—but with a “new staffing pattern,” details of which would be provided later.
Tuesday also closed the book on a conflict over a contracts to Chinese-language media over outreach advertising.
Supervisors unanimously added Chinatown-based Wind Newspaper as the city’s outreach advertising platform to Chinese speakers citywide. The item had generated controversy when Supervisor Connie Chan amended the item to include one of Wind Newspaper’s competitors, Sing Tao Daily, in contracts for outreach to Chinese speakers in certain neighborhoods.
Chan’s inclusion of Sing Tao Daily prompted allegations of “special treatment” by Wind Newspaper publisher Portia Li. Chan’s office countered that Sing Tao better served recent immigrant communities in her district and some other neighborhoods around the city.
The controversy prompted a return of the bill to committee, where Supervisor Gordon Mar made another amendment to include World Journal, another competitor, based on similar claims, with Mar 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 neighborhoods in the southeastern part of the city.
During roll call, Supervisor Matt Dorsey introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by colleagues Rafael Mandelman and Catherine Stefani, urging city departments and commissions to report on what resources they would need to participate in a citywide strategy to reduce overdose deaths and other harms caused by open-air dealing of fentanyl and other drugs.
Dorsey described the resolution as an initial step in a coordinated policy dubbed “San Francisco Recovers.” The program would combat overdose deaths and street-level drug dealing by incentivizing and supporting recovery, and abating drug markets and associated nuisances. Dorsey acknowledged the work of City Attorney David Chiu to secure $100M in funding for the program from recently won verdicts and settlements against opioid manufacturers.
Later in the session, the board unanimously passed another resolution sponsored by Preston supporting “entheogenic plant practices,” which appears to be the new way to describe use of organic psychedelics such as Psilocybin mushrooms.
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 that have occurred in the cannabis market.
Also during roll call, Mandelman requested a hearing on the state of traffic enforcement in the city, noting that there were 22 traffic fatalities so far this year and that the city had “no discernable plan toward better street safety,” as evidenced by a marked decline in traffic enforcement.
The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency, which is in charge of managing the city and county’s streets, has relied on passive enforcement and education, combined with reduction in speed limits, in efforts to make traffic safer.
Mike Ege can be reached at email@example.com