SF Supervisor and mayoral candidate Ahsha Safai may have won the first battle in the war of the 2024 SF elections with a new ballot measure tying police staffing to tax revenue, though a colleague called it “the worst-written piece of legislation I think I’ve seen.”
There is an incorrect theory being promoted in right-wing media that San Francisco’s rampant car break-ins and retail theft problems happen because the city somehow “defunded the police.” In reality, City Hall gave the SFPD a $25 million overtime boost in March, and another $60 million boost in Mayor Breed’s latest budget. Though the crime issues, and the chronic understaffing of SFPD persist, so Supervisor Matt Dorsey offered up a March 2024 ballot measure called the “SFPD Full Staffing Act” that would direct a reported $30 million a year to ensuring we have no fewer than 2,100 SFPD officers.
But Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who mind you is very much running for mayor, added an amendment to the measure requiring this be paid for by taxes rather than budget cuts to other departments. Safai and Dorsey promptly engaged in a very public spat on the matter, with Dorsey disowning the measure and calling Safai’s amendment a “poison pill.”
But the SF Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday to approve putting Safai’s version of the measure on your March 5, 2024 ballot. And considering this has evolved into a proxy warmup fight for the November 2024 mayoral election, the political dynamics here deserve some attention.
Residents and city workers packed the chamber today for smart public safety! #SaferSmarterSF— Safer Smarter SF 💡 (@SaferSmarterSF) November 6, 2023
✅ Pass the improved version of the SFPD Full Staffing Act
⚖️ Make big corporations pay their fair share
🚑 Fully staff nurses, 911 dispatchers, paramedics, and more pic.twitter.com/aMkQofchac
Safai’s amendment may be less of a “poison pill,” and more of a “make sure other unionized departments get theirs too” maneuver. Check out Safai above, alongside workers with union apparel and signs, in a tweet that is not from Safai, but instead from a political group. Note the demand to “Fully staff nurses, 911 dispatchers, paramedics, and more,” and the almost Dean Preston-esque language of “Make big corporations pay their fair share.”
Safai says a new tax may be necessary because of our current gigantic budget deficit.
“This is and will be the most difficult budget that I’ve faced in seven years on the Board of Supervisors,” he said before Tuesday’s vote. “We are now facing over a half a billion dollar budget deficit.”
And yes he wants more cops, but he also wants more money for other public safety personnel.
“We are down emergency room nurses,” Safai continued. “We are down 30 to 40 911 call operators. We are down sheriffs, we are down paramedics, we are down mental health technicians, we are down firefighters, and yes we are down police officers.”
The “Cop Tax” scheme is going to ballot, denying voters a role to mandate full police staffing — unless they pass a “future tax” with “additional revenue.”— Matt Dorsey (@mattdorsey) November 29, 2023
Galling? Yes. Surprising? No. The @SFBOS has slashed @SFPD funding from Mayor’s budgets in 22 of the last 25 years.
You would expect Dorsey to bellyache about bringing the bacon to anyone other than his previous employer SFPD, and he’s been complaining about this for weeks. But there was also opposition to Safai’s measure from the progressive left flank of the board.
“This is the worst-written piece of legislation I think I’ve seen in the 15 years on this board,” Supervisor Ronen said Tuesday. “As someone who’s supported every new revenue measure, every new tax against the rich that has ever been on the ballot, I would not support this measure.”
And Ronen also pointed out, “Since 2017, this board has increased SFPD funding by over $200 million.”
Thank you Supervisor Catherine Stefani for supporting the San Francisco Police Full Staffing Act! 👮✅ pic.twitter.com/jGSlX9nBHT— Safer Smarter SF 💡 (@SaferSmarterSF) November 28, 2023
Yet somehow Safai picked off some of Breed’s moderate allies on a measure that Breed opposes.
“I know this has been mentioned as a ‘poison pill’,” Supervisor Catherine Stefani said, explaining her break from the moderates. She said Safai’s changes “actually planted a seed, and pushed the board to do more on this issue.”
“It is not shocking that other public safety personnel like 911 dispatchers, who are also working double shifts, get a little nervous and feel a little left out during this (police funding) process,” Stefani added.
So Safai managed to shuffle the usual moderate-progressive party lines. He also managed to throw a bone to a larger public employee constituency than just police officers. That’s likely a preview of how SF mayoral candidates will use ballot measures in the March 5, 2024 election as proxy fights for the November 5, 2024 mayoral election.
Image via SFGovTV