Mayor London Breed's controversial new "Intoxication Detention program" was the subject of some back-and-forth at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, with Supervisor Dean Preston asking some pointed questions, and Breed forcibly pushing back.
It was again time for Mayor Breed to be in the hotseat for her once-monthly question time with SF Board of Supervisors. But things didn't go that well, and she ended up calling the whole session "just ridiculous."
Preston made it known publicly as soon as Breed announced the new Intoxication Detention program last month that he is no fan of arresting addicts for being addicts. And while Breed takes a new turn toward law-and-order politics in a likely ill-fated bid to clean up the Tenderloin once and for all, Preston continued to press Breed at Tuesday's board meeting about reopening the Tenderloin Center or equivalent "wellness hubs" i.e. safe injection sites.
A reported 58 people have already been arrested either for public intoxication or drug dealing — this week the Chronicle puts the number of intoxication arrests at 38 — and the aim, Breed says, is to compel people into drug treatment. Of those 38 drug ueser arrested, Breed admitted Tuesday that none had accepted placement into a treatment program.
But Breed was sounding particularly fed up with Preston and his questions at this meeting.
"Here we go, another white man who’s talking about Black and brown people as if you’re the savior of those people and you speak for them," Breed said at one point Tuesday, as Preston asked whether punitive policies for drug users weren't doing more harm than good, especially for people of color.
Preston also compared SF's latest policy change to "the racism and criminalization that have been the hallmark of federal US drug policy for the past several decades."
After Preston cited public health department policy and a study that linked incarceration with higher death rates, Breed replied, "You can quote all these statistics all you want, but at the end of the day, you’ve never lived in it."
Breed spoke about a friend of hers who recently died of "liver complications," who she said told her, "London, if I didn't get arrested, and if I didn't have Delcancey Street, I don't know what I would have done to turn my life around."
"I’m going to continue to make sure that we are providing treatment, providing compassionate care but at the end of the day, when we need to make arrests because someone is breaking the law and needs to be held accountable and can potentially be forced into treatment services, I’m going to do so," Breed said.
As the Chronicle notes, Preston shot back, saying, "I’ve spent plenty of time talking to folks impacted in the community.” And calling out Breed's reputation for catering to business interests, he said, "I don’t spend as much time meeting with the business interests that have made it clear they want to arrest and incarcerate drug users in San Francisco."
Prior to this exchange, Preston was also pressing Breed about the time it is taking to open more safe drug-consumption sites, following the December closure of the Tenderloin Center, a.k.a. the Tenderloin Linkage Center.
"Will your department of public health issue an RFP (request for proposals) for a Tenderloin wellness hub by June 30, 2023?" Preston asked, per KRON4.
"The linkage center wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing," Breed said, noting that people she "grew up with" had said they saw people inside appearing to be "excited and happy that they were using drugs" there, and were not getting treatment or support.
Breed added, "In fact, the challenges of what we've had to deal with with the federal government and other issues around legalities that could not only cost the people that we work with their license, but also could create an impact for us as a city, are really challenging."
Breed was referring to the legal gray area in which the Tenderloin Center was operating, which left the city or its partners open to potential federal prosecution for operating such a facility.
In January, Supervisor Hillary Ronen proposed legislation for the city to follow the "New York model," in which private, non-profit interests operate safe-consumption sites without direct city involvement. But that so far has not moved forward.
In the latest city budget, Breed has allocated money for three such "wellness hubs," but it's not clear when those would open.
Referring to Preston's district, which includes the Tenderloin, Breed said, "It's interesting to hear you say that you want this [wellness hub] in the Tenderloin, and you represent the Tenderloin, and yet every constituent that I've talked to — not service provider, constituent in the Tenderloin — they are adamant about opposing more and more and more services. They want to see safety, they want to see police... they don't want any more service to continue to dominate their community, and then provide an additional layer of problems."
Before the session with Breed was finished Tuesday, the mayor became exasperated and told Preston that his line of questioning was just "a way to oppose me on every level, everything that I do, without coming to my office, sitting, meeting with me, talking to me, about ways in which we can actually work together to make this a reality. I am not the enemy here."
Breed finished her comments saying, "At the end of the day, I'm here to work in partnership. I'm here to work on the challenges of the city. I'm not here to be pushed into a corner, or to be [told] that I said this or didn't say this or didn't say this. At the end of the day, as policy makers, as leaders, why can't we just be adults in the room, work together, and try to figure out these things rather than in these kinds of settings with a back-and-forth question time, bringing up information based on how you see it, oppose and support based on which side of the aisle I'm on. This is just ridiculous and I'm just tired of it."
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin then said he would be "willing to facilitate" a meeting between the mayor and Supervisor Preston, to which Breed replied, "We don't need a babysitter. We're grownups."
So yeah, that went well.