John Avalos’ Statement on the Impact of the Mirkarimi Decision

John Avalos – 2011

This past week the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco voted to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after Mayor Lee’ attempt to remove him from office for official misconduct. Mirkarimi has previously plead guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection to an incident in which he grabbed and bruised his wife’s arm. As you can imagine, there has been outrage on both sides. Some believe that the Mayor overstepped the bounds of his mayoral authority and others believe that this is one more set-back in the fight against domestic.

John Avalos, a friend and the supervisor of the district where I used to live and work, is on the Board and voted to reinstate Mirkarimi. I have known John for a number years, and while I am not sure how I would have voted in this case, knowing his community and his track-record, I have no doubt that this was a wrenching decision and one not made without many voices helping him to get the full breadth of the situation.

One of the reasons that I have been supportive of John in the past is because, while unapologetically progressive in his politics, no one can question his thoughtfulness, integrity and love of the City. He has once again shown this trait in this mass letter that I just received this morning.

Dear Friends,

In the last few days, in the aftermath of the vote to reinstate Sheriff Mirkarimi, I, along with other colleagues, have received numerous calls, emails, and correspondence in response to the vote.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to communicate with my office, whether in support, anger or disappointment.  I truly appreciate the critical and thoughtful comments, as well as the passion and strong feelings expressed.

However, I cannot respect vicious and violent comments, nor the threats that domestic violence advocates and even my own colleagues who voted for Sheriff Mirkarimi’s reinstatement have received. I hope that we can all work together to move our City forward by encouraging a dialogue of respect and open mindedness.

Tuesday night’s public comment was one of the most emotionally troubling experiences I have had, sitting in the chair closest to the public comment podium. People I have known for years took to the mic, speaking on either side of sustaining or not sustaining the charges of official misconduct, and of removing or reinstating Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

There is so much we all commonly love about San Francisco – our diversity, our penchant and tolerance for divergent thinking, our rich cultural history and our compassion handed down to us from our namesake, St. Francis.  And yet that night, I know, this city was shaken to its core. The hurt, anger and disappointment of the ten-month deliberation over this issue and the shock of the Board vote are fresh on all sides. I know that those who had hoped for the reinstatement of the Sheriff feel a sense of relief and for some even elation.  I believe the expression of these feeling can be felt as uncaring and even intimidating to those who did not support reinstatement.  And for those who sought removal, there is a deep sense of loss – that the City has lost its moral bearing.  Many people have expressed their feeling that, with this vote, we have shown that we only pay lip service to our commitment to justice for domestic violence victims and survivors.

For me, there is no sense of triumph or elation and certainly no winners, only a worry that our City has been deeply wounded and divided.  I am hopeful that this is a temporary state.  It is absolutely critical that we heal from this experience and not let the wounds of today turn to permanent scars that will mar the future of the City or the good work we have done.

If I have any regrets from Tuesday night, it is that I did not call for greater open-mindedness and respect as some members of the audience were heckled and jeered at – recognizing that most of whom were anti domestic violence workers and advocates, who supported removal.  I am sorry for being silent and not calling out for respect on all sides.

As I have previously publicly stated, I believe that elected officials, despite various viewpoints on the matter, need to play a leadership role in helping the City move forward, past this vote.   I hope that we can be models of respect for different viewpoints and that we can balance our very real and powerful emotions with ways that can help us connect better to our constituents and the issues we all face.  I personally have reached out to Mayor Lee, Sheriff Mirkarimi, the Domestic Violence Consortium, and colleagues on different sides of the vote.  I know that all sides have been hurt and impacted by even the small minority of people who have chosen to express themselves in vicious and disrespectful ways.   Now, I reach out to you, my closest friends and supporters, regardless of which side of the vote you were on, to bring back the respectful dialogue that our City can and should be known for.

Sincerely,

John

So again, this San Franciscan thanks John and others for exhibiting class, character and a willingness to serve all of San Francisco. I too hope that the Board, the Mayor’s office and The City will be able to see and live our way forward without retribution, grudge-holding and fear. While I have not always agreed with every vote that he or the board has made, if all of our public servants could have this posture towards the political process, “win” or “lose,” we would all be better off.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for commenting. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I agree that “mainstream society” would have had him removed as I do think that men often get a pass because of outward impressions and relationships . . . thus supporting your argument in a way.

    Did you see this previous statement from John that included,
    “Ross Mirkarimi is a public official of great accomplishments and deep flaws. In striving for these accomplishments, Ross is known to have acted in self centered and imperious ways. I am deeply disappointed in Sheriff Mirkarimi’s actions that have brought this ordeal upon the City.
    Ross pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment, which I consider to be a form of domestic violence. He has been sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service, and mandatory domestic violence counseling. Ross has also been held accountable for his action in the court of public opinion. He has lost months with his wife and son and was brought down to about as low regard as a person can go.”
    Again, I am am sure there are is far more to this than most of us know, but it’s good to keep talking about it. Again, thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004529164647 Emily Johnson

    TO be honest, this is a travesty to the progress that SF has made. When we have a friend of Mirkarimi making the vague statement that he deserves redemption and that the law opens up room for abuse is absolutely absurd. As elected officials, a vital aspect of why we are elected is the ability to make moral judgement. the fact that these supervisors hide behind the excuse that the vaguness of the law made it difficult to come to a decision. we all know what would have happened if this elected official was not close friends with these few supervisors and political affiliation. but i can tell you that Avalos has indeed set a precedent if it was indeed his true intention not to. the precedent is that a top law enforcement leader that beats his wife 10 times consecutively is by their argument immune from removal because of the vagueness of the law. This is absurd and I believe it opens room for greater abuse than Lee’s actual decision.. Lee made a decision that was in the interest of all the people that come to this city and it is that you cannot have an individual run an office in which he was apart of through his criminal behavior. Although it would have been tough for these supervisors to remove mirkarimi, I would have demonstrated their courage of setting aside friendship and political affiliation in hopes of making the right decision. I had the honor of attending a women’s forum with Michelle Obama in D.C and considering the progress that women have made, it is still alarming to see that there is still a level of tolerance of these reversing actions when the mainstream society would have voted for him to be removed.

  • thatsthewayitis

    I must assume you mean Ed Lee and I do believe a recall for malfeasance is appropriate and just with his corruption going back 20 years working with Willie Brown election fraud money laundering ballot fraud contract fraud pay for play schemes. He is a trojan horse for corruption and I am willing to join with you on this ….meanwhile John Avalos for Mayor. All the best.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Again, I can agree with you. On another note, what about the conversations about a recall? Worth the effort/resources?

  • thatsthewayitis

    Because injustice(I of course dont know what the reference is) could be protected by legality is irrrelevant. Such references do not shed light, I do appreciate your reference as to “degree” however even that would not change the “rule of law” i.e. a law is what it says not what a political machine wants it to represent Luckily in this case one need not be a phi beta kappa from a great law institution. “Official Misconduct” means Official in time and space (that is doing the official duties of office) There actually is no choice the big mistake that Ben Hur made was to create a false choice that he didnt go down i.e. there was a broad interpretation and a narrow one I believe he would admit that now. There was always only one interpretation the one Ben Hur took. We dont have to make nice nice we dont have to apoligize to anyone …anti DV or otherwise that is not provocation that is the rule of law and democracy. The anti DV movement if they are sincere can advocate to change the amendment if they wish to emote and equate RM with DV that is nothinng but in service to some other agenda not the victims of DV.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    I hear ya and at the same time, I have seen too often when injustice is protected by legality. Again, I REALLY do not know how I would have voted, but I think this could have gone either way and one could find enough justification/rationalization. If the episode had been less “blurry” as to it’s degree, I suspect that the “letter of the law” would have been set aside. In the end, I doubt it is as cut and dry as we would all like to think it is on either side, which creates such deep feeling of betrayal. Lets hope that the system does not get too slowed down for too long. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks again. Do you know John? One of the reasons that I have supported his candidacy in the past is that he – for good or bad – is extremely consistent as a person and a public servant. So, while you may think he has “filtered” I actually believe this is what he stands for. I have seen him both stand with and against “camps” so choose to trust how he think the best way to go about getting things done, so in the best sense of the word a I would agree, he is “politician.”

  • thatsthewayitis

    Respectful dialogue can only begin with the truth. The truth is the Official Misconduct Charter A. couldn no sustain any verdict to remove RM. That is the legal starting point there is no other. Despite the charges of the Anti-DV movement NO matter how much the supervisors wanted either a) to SHOW theyt support the Anti-DV movement so much they would OVERLOOK the actual words of the law or b) oust RM even if it was ILLEGAL they could not (really). This isnt a food fight nor a popularity contest it was the right of the voters to have the “Official Misconduct” law followed AS WRITTEN and as approved and those that voted for RM to have their vote upheld and not overturned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/auntie.christine1 Christine Craft

    Mr. Avalos is a politician. I’m not. I don’t put my thoughts through a filter designed to screen out true opinions that might offend some voter or other. Mr. Avalos claims to have been horror struck by the conduct of people appalled by this attempted lynching. I’m not, and stated why.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Christine, not sure what this has to do with John’s letter can call to the community, but thanks for commenting and leaving an opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/auntie.christine1 Christine Craft

    when a city attorney compares Ross Mirkarimi to Michael Vick, when six-figure salaried non-profit dv ceo’s take glee in almost destroying a family over an arm grab, they should be denounced. When the DA uses prosecutors who have significant financial interests in Ivory Madison’s company to draft unprovable, hearsay fueled charges against a man, he should be denounced. When it is revealed that the city and county of San Francisco actually have one of the poorest records in the state for prosecuting GENUINE domestic violence cases, that DA should be denounced yet again.
    a solution? new leadership at the non-profits, leaders who go after the woeful prosecution realities for genuine dv, instead of happily lining up to be the cover for an attempted political coup. That’s a start.


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