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.


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