San Francisco City Hall heists, backpedals on sanctuary

On the first Monday following the election of Donald Trump, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors and others from City Hall held a photo op affirming not only their unity against the approaching Trump administration, but also San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city. Mayor Lee tweeted, “Standing as one. We will remain a Sanctuary City.” As always with Democrats, however, the devil is in the detail.

Soon afterward, Supervisor David Campos proposed a bill that would spend $5 million for legal representation/protection from Trump administration deportation orders. Under Campos’ proposal, the $5 million would be split between the office of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and nonprofits/community-based organizations. The mayor’s office was at best lukewarm to the idea:

Deirdre Hussey, Mayor Ed Lee’s spokeswoman, said the mayor supports additional funding for legal support for immigrant communities, and he will review Campos’ legislation to ensure community-based organizations are funded sufficiently.

Campos wants to give $2.6 million to the public defender’s office to hire 10 attorneys, five paralegals and two legal clerks to represent detained immigrants facing deportation whose cases are assigned to the San Francisco Immigration Court.

Note the sudden concern for community-based organization funding. The mayor’s concern continued to grow over the following weeks until Board of Supervisors President London Breed this week declined to waive the mandatory thirty-day waiting period for new legislation, meaning Campos’ proposal would be the responsibility of the new Board; a board whose majority will be in step with Room 200, and whose minority will not include Campos, who will be termed out.

While Board President Breed declined to comment why she refused to waive the waiting period, Mayor Lee’s office clarified matters by stating its desire to steer all funds towards community-based orgs, and none towards the Public Defender’s Office. Trouble is, many of these community-based orgs want Public Defender Adachi and his office involved:

But Lee’s reluctance to fund the public defender is drawing opposition not only from Campos and Adachi, but also from the community legal groups Lee favors. They say Adachi’s involvement is crucial in creating long-term stability and ensuring universal representation for immigrants facing deportation.

“To do this at the scale that is needed we need a partner like the Public Defender’s Office, who we already know and trust,” said Ana Herrera, managing attorney at Dolores Street Community Services, which defends immigrants facing deportation.

Public Defender Adachi is San Francisco’s highest-profile official not co-opted by City Hall and/or other political machines. For this reason alone Mayor Lee would love to deny him any funding, but the mayor’s hyper focus on “community-based organizations” is the key to understanding this. The lifeblood of San Francisco’s City Hall is pay to play, and much of that pay comes from the NPIC (Non-Profit Industrial Complex). It’s very likely the mayor’s staff already has that $5 million earmarked for friendly, dues-paying orgs. Snatching that money from Adachi to give to their cronies would be a win-win for Lee and company.

One other note. Board President Breed usually camps out on the conservative side of San Francisco politics, so her backing of the mayor’s plans is no surprise. But as 48 Hills points out, Breed would like her aide Conor Johnston to be appointed as Scott Wiener’s replacement in D8. Mayor Lee is waiting until January to appoint Wiener’s replacement, which means that person could possibly serve ten years as D8 supervisor. Breed is arguably the most ambitious politician in San Francisco and could very, very easily be the city’s next mayor. If so, and if Johnston is appointed to D8 and survives two elections to serve all ten years, Breed would already have at least one Board ally for the first seven years of her possible eight in office. No doubt Breed would be more than glad to play along with any of the mayor’s plans to ensure Johnston’s appointment.

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