Supervisor Matt Dorsey is dumping his own plan to bolster SFPD staffing after Supervisor Ahsha Safai inserted a so-called “poison pill” to the measure, so the two supes duked it out on Twitter and at a supervisors’ committee meeting that got personal.
With the exception of those rare occasions when Elon Musk calls for a member of the SF Board of Supervisors to be thrown in prison, Board of Supervisors Twitter is generally an extremely boring genre on that platform. Same goes for something called the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, which meets every Monday, with typically humdrum proceedings.
But one matter that committee discussed Monday got some supervisors' dander up, and then a supervisor fight dragged out after the meeting on Twitter.
Supervisor Matt Dorsey brought forward a measure to change the city charter to establish new minimum police staffing requirements for the admittedly understaffed SFPD. According to KTVU, Dorsey's measure would direct $30 million to SFPD ensure we have at least nearly 2,100 officers, a level which we’re about 400 short of right now. It all started as pretty normal policy-making.
But the Chronicle reports the meeting turned wildly argumentative, particularly when Supervisor Ahsha Safai added an amendment that Dorsey called “performative” and a “poison pill.” And now Dorsey says he’s going to just take his police staffing measure straight to the voters with a ballot measure.
Safai, at times, fumed at Dorsey, “Now you've got my blood boiling,” and “I’m tired of all the BS.”
Then they took to Twitter to fight about it after the meeting, and we’ll embed highlights from that Twitter spat throughput this post.
Tell the truth @mattdorsey - @LondonBreed can do this tomorrow if she had the leadership skills and the voters of San Francisco will still be able to vote on your in the context of true public safety - don’t pit police officers against other public safety providers.— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) October 31, 2023
Dorsey, being a former paid PR spokesperson for the SFPD, generally sees more money for the SFPD as the solution to every San Francisco problem. And there’s no no real debate about the fact that the department faces a staffing shortage. He said his measure was a response to an “unprecedented public safety crisis” of “public drug use and drug-driven lawlessness.”
But Safai balked at the $30 million boost for SFPD, at a time when Mayor Breed is asking literally every other city department to make significant budget cuts.
“Where’s the mayor?” Safaí said of Dorsey’s measure. “She can make a commitment today. She can say, ‘I will put this in my budget and make a commitment.’ Where’s the leadership on this issue rather than running off to press conferences? I’m tired of all this BS.”
So Safai added an amendment that would require new revenue to fund Dorsey’s plan. But Dorsey called Safai’s change “a hostile amendment,” and “performative instead of substantive.”
“This is a last-minute amendment,” Dorsey added. “In my view it is a poison pill to defund police recruitment and to deny San Franciscans a fully staffed police department unless they approve new taxes to pay for it. I see it as kind of cynical.”
(To be clear on this language: San Francisco has never defunded the police in recent years. In fact, SFPD got a spectacular $25 million overtime boost in March, plus another $60 million boost in Breed’s latest budget.)
And as Safai pointed out, “We have a half a billion dollar budget deficit we are facing.” He noted that other first responders are facing cutbacks, like the city’s 911, paramedics, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies. “Existing revenue should be tied to” the police funding, according to Safai.
How strange did this argument get? They even managed to work in references to the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Dorsey at one point said, “I feel like this amendment is holding hostage the city’s ability, and voters’ ability, to make progress on a public safety crisis that they're facing.”
To which Safai responded, “That’s a little extreme, ‘hostage,’ given the context of what’s happening in the world right now. That’s a little extreme.”
Dorsey then vowed he'd make this a ballot measure that he'd take to the voters. “Voters need to fix this, because I don’t believe City Hall will,” he said.
False - you know better @conorj_SF - if we drain our city budget and don’t have enough for 911 call operators, Fire, police, sheriff, and nurses - all understaffed - how can we provide true public safety.— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) October 31, 2023
Is Safai just making a play for union support from the above-mentioned firefighters and sheriff’s deputies unions, as implied above by “periodic advisor to London Breed” Conor Johnston? Yes, Safai probably is! Is Dorsey shoring up his support with the police union, and pushing campaign messaging for the reelection of the Mayor Breed who appointed him? Also probably so!
Folks, this whole debate (and Monday’s argument) may be more about the 2024 mayoral election than it is about public safety.
Regardless, Safai’s amendment passed the committee. That means the whole matter has to go back to the same Rules Committee next week, because the amendment is considered substantial, and there may be more arguments in store for next Monday’s committee proceedings.