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Politics & Policy

On Valentine’s Day, supervisors fete Pelosi, then draw lines on SF controversies

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to members of the Board of Supervisors at San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 14, 2023. | Evan Reinhardt for the Standard

The Board of Supervisors honored House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi Tuesday night with a special commendation and effusive praise in what can only be called true Valentine’s Day fashion. 

But as the meeting moved on, warning shots were fired in a likely coming legislative war over the city’s sanctuary ordinance, and one member took issue with how the media has characterized her controversial resolution urging the decriminalization of sex work. 

Madame Speaker’s Legacy 

U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi meets some supporters at San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 14, 2023. | Evan Reinhardt for the Standard

Supervisors celebrated Speaker Emerita Pelosi, presenting her with a commendation for her 35-plus years as the city’s representative in Congress, including 20 years as leader of House Democrats and eight years as House speaker, along with testimony of gratitude from supervisors.

Board President Aaron Peskin opened with remarks placing Pelosi’s career in the context of her predecessors, Phillip and Sala Burton, praising their work but also noting that “Phil Burton would be blown away” by what the speaker emerita has accomplished. Peskin later told her, “You made ‘San Francisco Values’ America’s values.” 

Pelosi opened her remarks by honoring another San Francisco political legend, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who announced today that she will not be seeking reelection

A devout Catholic, Pelosi cited St. Francis of Assisi as a personal inspiration for her work, especially on tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic and discrimination against persons afflicted with the disease as she started her career in Congress in the 1980s. 

Those remarks, in turn, elicited emotional comments from many supervisors. A tearful Rafael Mandelman said, “I feel so lucky to have lived most of my life in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.” Matt Dorsey, the board’s first elected HIV-positive member, told Pelosi, “You saved my life.”

Supervisor Catherine Stefani, the primary sponsor of the commendation, cited Pelosi as a personal inspiration for her own career, and praised the speaker emerita’s record of progress on gun safety, her response to the 2008 financial crisis and for enacting and saving President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 

Breed Follows Up on State of the City 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed delivers her State of the City address at Pier 70 on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. | Noah Berger for The Standard

The Pelosi love fest was preceded by the regular policy-discussion visit by Mayor London Breed, who used part of her time to introduce two legislative packages she promised at her State of the City address last week

The first of these is a package of business tax incentives to help jump-start the economy, including a freeze on tax rates for retail, food service, manufacturing and other sectors that were hit hard by the pandemic, and a discounted tax on new office-based businesses for the next three years. 

The second package includes a $27.6 million budget supplemental for funding police overtime due to the ongoing staffing shortage at SFPD, as well as a $200,000 supplemental to fund three new prosecutors who will focus on open-air drug dealing. 

Supervisor Joel Engardio addressed the police overtime supplemental at roll call, noting that the Sunset police station has lost half of its officers since 2020 amid recent crimes—including a burglary last week at the Sunset Farmers’ Market, where thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment was lost. 

“On any given night, only four or five officers are patrolling an area with a population of 130,000,” said Engardio. “We have a police staffing crisis. We must change the narrative about police in San Francisco.”  

Crime and More Crime at Roll Call

SF Police Chief Bill Scott (right) announced a plan to increase uniformed officers in the districts of the city with majority Asian populations, after California mass shootings during the Lunar New Year. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Roll Call continued to focus on public safety issues, with Dorsey introducing legislation to remove convicted fentanyl dealers from the city’s sanctuary city protections

“This draws a hard line on the most lethal street drug San Francisco has ever faced,” he said, introducing what is sure to be a heavily debated bill, which he described as “a commonsense update to existing exceptions in our sanctuary policies.”

Supervisor Hillary Ronen can be expected to run point for the opposition to Dorsey’s bill; on Tuesday, she introduced a resolution opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) requests for exceptions to the sanctuary law for criminal suspects that it extradites to San Francisco. 

That’s in response to two ordinances Breed introduced last week at the request of District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to make such exceptions in two outstanding cases, a murder and the rape of a child, where DHS has located the suspects in Mexico. 

“This is not only unnecessary but dangerous,” Ronen asserted in introducing the resolution, characterizing the request from DHS as “political gamesmanship” aimed at weakening the city’s sanctuary law. “It will give the accused more time to flee while we have a long, contentious and very public legislative process.”

Ronen then went on to introduce her expected resolution urging the city’s legislative delegation to introduce a bill to legalize sex work. 

It’s meant to be a call for a more long-term solution to issues such as the uptick of street sex work on Capp Street, which has gone beyond mere nuisance levels to a plague of noise, congestion and violence for the street’s residents

Ronen described the barricades and enforcement measures taken so far as imperfect, and they could well be

Ronen also expressed exasperation at media portrayals of the resolution as a call for establishing “red-light districts” in the city. “We’re not doing that,” assured the supervisors. 

Exasperated as she may be, the conflation will likely continue, particularly in more partisan media. 

The Washington Examiner ran a story Tuesday using her resolution to showcase legislation supported by Yuba City Republican Assemblymember James Gallagher that would reclassify sex trafficking as a violent felony under California’s three-strikes law.