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Show us the money. If supervisors want to hire more police, they should find the funds

Uniformed officers stand in formation, reciting an oath with focused expressions.
llustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard; photo by Jeremy Chen/The Standard

By Jonathan Meade

I live in the Richmond District, and I take pride in our neighborhood. We love our merchants, small businesses and restaurants. The Richmond is home to thriving commercial corridors, senior living facilities, tenants, homeowners and families. We are a community—a community that has increasingly been recognized as one of the “coolest” in the world.

But our neighborhood faces some of the same challenges that affect the rest of San Francisco. Crime is too high, and our residents have been impacted. As a former paramedic who worked the streets for 30 years, I’m supporting Proposition B as part of a comprehensive effort to make our communities safer.

That said, I’m always open to hearing other views. So, I read with interest Marjan Philhour’s recent opinion piece on public safety and the Richmond District. I had hoped to hear real solutions to the issues that we face. Instead, I heard more rhetoric from yet another politician playing on the fears and anxieties of San Francisco voters.

Pointing fingers is easy—and Philhour certainly seemed eager to point fingers at current District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan. This is strange because it is Mayor London Breed who oversees the San Francisco Police Department, its budget and its leadership. Yet, Breed is not mentioned once. What this tells me is that Philhour is playing politics, rather than doing the hard work of crafting solutions to our public safety issues. 

But I want to focus on what we can actually do to make our city safer.

In my experience, Chan has fought and continues to fight extremely hard for public safety resources for the Richmond, even if those calls have gone unanswered by the Breed administration. In the last three years, Chan has voted for every SFPD budget, approving overtime, supporting $160 million in additional funding for police recruitment and salaries and voting for measures to bring foot patrols back to neighborhoods like mine. 

And Chan has joined firefighters, paramedics, nurses, 911 dispatchers, deputy sheriffs and more in endorsing Prop. B. 

I’ve read the ballot material closely, and I strongly disagree with Philhour’s assertions about it. Proposition B establishes police minimum staffing standards. It sets a timeline for implementation. It does not impose any new taxes on homeowners or small businesses, but it does require voters or future administrations to determine how to pay for it.

But some people just can’t take yes for an answer. Philhour seems to object to the very concept of finding revenue to pay for spending. I have to ask why. If I want to remodel my bathroom or kitchen, you’d better believe I figure out first how I will pay for it. If Philhour wants to spend an additional $30 million per year on police recruitment (on top of the $160 million approved by the board last year), then yes, she should tell us where that money comes from. This is just common sense.

One problem with San Francisco politics these days is that it's easier for candidates like Philhour to attack and spread disinformation than it is to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Philhour gives her opinion—that Supervisor Chan has “undermined” public safety and does not support the police. I find this opinion to be misinformed at best. 

I watched Chan’s work as chair of the Budget Committee in 2023. Chan recommended an 8.5% increase to SFPD’s 2023-2024 budget. She also worked tirelessly (and I would say brilliantly) to close a $780 million two-year deficit and restore funding for nutrition, youth activities and tenants rights programs, as well as funding for the Street Crisis Response Team to help our homeless residents deal with mental health emergencies. This is the work that needs to be done if we are truly interested in public safety.  

As a retired public safety worker, I know how important it is that we fully staff our police department. But we also desperately need to address the crisis in our 911 dispatch center, which Proposition B will do. We also need more nurses, social workers and mental health workers if we want to make San Francisco safer for everyone. It has been proven over and over, and I know from personal experience, that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of homelessness, drug addiction and crime. And I agree that we cannot subject San Francisco’s budget to unfunded mandates that would require the city to cut other vital services. Taking $30 million per year away from important city services will just exacerbate the problems we are trying to solve.

The Richmond District is a wonderful place to live. And I want to strengthen public safety so we can keep being a place that is recognized worldwide. That is why I and so many others are voting for Prop B.

Jonathan Meade is a retired San Francisco paramedic and volunteer for the Yes on Prop. B campaign. 

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