Mayor Breed has sent mixed signals about the police. In her announcement, Breed said she was seeking additional funding. She said she would be increasing policing in the Tenderloin, no matter the vote of the Board. And at a 10-hour plus long Board of Supervisors meeting, which ran from December 23 to December 24, San Francisco Police Chief said, “We’re not going to walk away or tolerate people doing this on the street. Fentanyl is dangerous. We are not trying to make this arrest-led situation. But if the police are there we expect them to address it.”
But the chief also reminded the Board that the police department is 400 officers short of the minimum it needs for public safety, and said that the Mayor would not seek additional funding for the police.
And District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose support for Breed’s plan is needed to prosecute drug dealers, announced his opposition to the Mayor’s plan at a press conference at HealthRite360, a move that underscored the taxpayer-funded organization’s independence from the mayor.
“The only reason HealthRite360 exists is because DPH saved their ass,” said an insider. “And yet they had the audacity to spend public money to host that press conference. That’s like if you’re a supplier for Facebook and then you protest Facebook.”
On Monday, former Mayor Willie Brown told The New York Times‘ that Mayor Breed’s success depended on support from the rest of San Francisco civic and political leadership. “The city unfortunately is not run by the mayor,” said Brown, who was mayor from 1996 to 2004. We are now plagued with the politics of districts that have no interest in anything except their little turf.”
The criticism [by progressive homelessness advocates] was heavy, political and personal,” wrote Brown in his 2008 memoir. “People accused me of abandoning the problem when I was working daily to try and get a solution going. It was brutal. . . . I had become demonized, and my own efforts belittled.”
While Breed’s announcement generated significant support on Twitter, no major business, civic, or other organization has come out in support of her agenda. Over a dozen San Francisco civic and business leaders expressed to me fear of speaking out publicly fearing the wrath of organized progressives.
The most powerful of them is the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, headed by Jennifer Friedenbach, who controls much of the city’s spending on homelessness. Coalition staff and allied activists defend the right of drug addicts to camp, defecate, and use drugs in public spaces. And Friedenbach has long led efforts to demonize Mayors, including Brown and Breed, as heartless.
After Tenderloin resident Marjorie Robinson tweeted a photo of a dead homeless man, Berlinn asked if it was her son. Berlinn contacted the medical examiner who said it wasn’t. “This poor soul is not my son,” said Berlinn. “I am thankful for this but my heart breaks to know someone died this way and the reality is that my son could go this way as well.”
Several experts told me that while Boudin is undermining the mayor’s plans, there is still a lot she can do with the right mix of police and rehab. But it won’t be easy. “Even the San Francisco Fire Department is woke,” said one of the insiders. “The paramedics think more like docs than cops and that’s unfortunate because that means nobody’s going to get the help they need.”
When asked why Emergency Services coordinator Mary Ellen Carroll couldn’t play the role of “whip” for Mayor Breed, one of the insiders said, “Convenor,” adding, “It’s a hard job to herd all those cats,” referring to the various city agencies, including DPH, and contractors, like HealthRite360. “The public needs to step up and add pressure or the mayor won’t succeed.”