Hillary Ronen's successful election to the Board of Supervisors on November 8 wasn't just overshadowed by the unexpected election of Donald Trump. In her mind, the presidential election changed the very office to which she had been elected to serve. “We’re going to have so many fights on our hands that I wasn’t anticipating,” she told the Chronicle recently. “I’m still shell-shocked.”
Ronen joins a group of moderate and progressive liberal democrats in San Francisco politics typically known for making the most of their small differences, parsing liberal issues and programs to a degree that borders on hair-splitting and that many criticize as being provincial in mindset. But now, unity is the mandate, a state of affairs necessitated by federal changes foreshadowed in Trump's various pledges on the campaign trail. Those range from the dismantling Obamacare to cutting Federal funding for sanctuary cities, threats that demand concerted political action.
Consider Healthy San Francisco, a program begun in 2007 as the first universal health care program in the country. To those living here who were otherwise uninsured, it offered coverage regardless of employment status, immigration status, or pre-existing medical conditions, serving 52,000 at its peak. But after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many Healthy San Francisco enrollees bought regular medical insurance that covers them throughout the country. These days, there are just 14,000 enrolled in Healthy San Francisco, but as the Affordable Care Act is imperiled under the incoming presidency, the Chronicle begins to speculate that many locals might return to Healthy San Francisco in the event of the ACA's repeal, or even to preempt it. “We are fortunate that we had all of these programs in place before there was an Affordable Care Act, and they’re still in place now and they’ll continue to be available,” Colleen Chawla, deputy director of the SF Department of Public Health, tells the Chronicle. Still, an influx of enrollees would present its own challenges.
Then there's the police department, still emerging from two major scandals involving racist text messages sent between officers and undergoing heightened scrutiny following an uptick in police shootings of black and brown men. Part of San Francisco's attempt to reform the department came in partnering with the Department of Justice's Collaborative Reform program, which was created by President Obama to encourage departments to receive reviews and make voluntary changes to policy as a result. San Francisco is one of 15 cities involved in a Collaborative Reform process, but under Trump, who ran with little regard for the importance of police reform, that program is also in trouble. Suzy Loftus, president of the Police Commission, told the Chronicle that “From all accounts, it does not appear Donald Trump has any belief that there is work we need to do to build a bridge between communities and the police.” Push for reforms, then, will rely on local support.
Most prominent in discussions of the ramifications of Trump's presidency on San Francisco: The city's 27-year-old Sanctuary City policy, which the Mayor and local officials have vowed to defend even if that means foregoing $1 billion in federal funding.“The federal election really did clarify for me that there is much we agree on in San Francisco," Lee said according to the Chronicle, "and now more than ever, we need to stand as one for our citizens and values.”
Our sanctuary policy was adopted in 1989 and followed a report that undocumented victims of domestic violence were keeping keeping silent and avoiding going to the police for fear of deportation, putting them further at risk for abuse. The issue came to the fore last year when 32-year-old Kate Steinle was shot and killed near Pier 14 by an undocumented immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had been deported five times and was released by the Sheriff's Department after he was turned over to them to face an old charge of marijuana possession. Lopez-Sanchez has claimed he didn't mean to fire the weapon at Steinle, which he claims to have found after it was stolen from a Bureau of Land Management officer's car, a theft to which Lopez-Sanchez is not believed to have a connection. As a presidential candidate, Trump quickly seized on the Steinle case to emphasize his anti-immigration stance, much to the cheering of Fox News.
In another piece, the Chronicle elaborates that there are an estimated 44,000 undocumented people living in the city. Public Defender Jeff Adachi has said he wants $5 million each year to provide legal representation and support for those facing deportation. Meanwhile, City Attorney Dennis Herrera is studying options for the city if the federal government does in fact forego giving San Francisco funding.
These challenges are cause for unity, but they'll also put our political rigors to the test. "We have principled differences in San Francisco, but they’re often about the best way to achieve desired outcomes that we all share,” Tony Winnicker, a senior adviser to Mayor Lee told the Chronicle. “The Trump administration poses a very real and imminent danger to much of what we believe in, and it certainly gives us some perspective.”