GUEST OPINION: The politics of retribution

Pub date May 7, 2012
SectionPolitics Blog

By Debra Walker and Krissy Keefer

We have been shocked and saddened by the perpetual attack on Ross Mikarimi and his family.

To Ross’s credit, he took responsibility in the criminal case he faced, and accepted a plea bargain to a non-domestic-violence misdemeanor that the district attorney concluded served the interests of justice.

He and his wife, Eliana Lopez, had resolved their dispute before the betrayed disclosure to the police and the media by the trained but unlicensed attorney that began the criminal case. The plea bargain was vetted and all legal ethicists consulted concluded that the plea bargain could not be the basis of any action against Ross for the now infamous term “official misconduct.” Ross was ordered into counseling.

Since the criminal case ended we have watched the mayor, domestic-violence advocates, and the majority of the print media, collectively pass judgment without connection to reality, with devastating consequences to Ross Mirkarimi, his family and the people of San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee suspended Ross without a hearing and without pay. In other words, the mayor acted against Ross without due process. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has merely repeated all of the unsubstantiated allegations from a newspaper opinion piece in the form of a pleading — and actually submitted this as fact, further embarrassing our city.

Barring further intervention by the courts, the Board of Supervisors and the Ethics Commission will now be forced to publicly weigh in on the concluded criminal case that occurred before Ross was in office.

Was the punishment laid out by the courts not enough? Are we going to all sit back and watch as San Francisco engages in a public political assassination of a progressive elected official? At what point does it stop? 

Clearly it hasn’t stopped with Ross. Now the mayor and the city attorney have begun the attack on his campaign manager and well-known City Hall aide Linette Peralta-Hayes. Who is next? It could be any of us, of you.

As close friends of Ross and Eliana, we can attest to the fact that this family has paid dearly for their now very public fight and we all should hope for a healing. It does not bring justice to any women’s issues to have such a public display of retribution and revenge. Blowing this out of proportion like this has been only sets the stage for the continued backlash against women’s real issues.

If there were not a complete attack on women’s rights at this time in our country, this might be easier to stomach. Not one thing about this has advanced the rights of women or the understanding of domestic violence. Instead, the criminal justice system has been manipulated to further a political agenda of removing an elected official from office.

We all make mistakes in life. There have been several recent occasions involving officials actually in office where their behavior was questioned.  One issues involved sexual contact with a subordinate, another involved domestic violence and others involved substance abuse. In not one of these instances has the person been removed office.

To remove Ross from office is political and nothing else.

People are purportedly so outraged on behalf of abused women everywhere. But where is the outrage about the coordinated attack on choice in our country or about the documented inhumanities perpetrated against women throughout the world, even today?  Or equal pay, or adequate healthcare? What about the families losing their homes to greedy banks? Nothing of substance gets done on these issues. Instead, attention is focused away from the important issues to the personal shortcomings of the politicians seeking to address those issues.

From the impeachment efforts against Clinton to the allegations against the Wikileaks activist, there are over-amped attacks aimed to politically destroy the target in the press.  “Due process” and “innocent until proven guilty” are essentially thrown out the pressroom window. 
In the name of domestic violence, the mayor and the city attorney have removed an elected official from office. Domestic violence advocates are being used to further an agenda that is hypocritical and ultimately will undermine and dis-empower us all.

Ross Mikirimi was the only progressive elected in the last election. Ross has always been an ideological feminist. The established power brokers in City Hall did not want Ross to be sheriff. They do not want someone who advocates for diversity. They do not want someone who supports the rights of the people to implement the Compassionate Use Act and maintain cannabis dispensaries. They do not want a sheriff who will stand up to the federal government.  They do not want a sheriff who will stand with the 99 percent.

San Francisco is a great city not because of intolerance but because of tolerance. The strength of the city came about because of respect for diversity and encouragement of diversity. Ross stands for those principles.

Ross made a mistake in his personal relationship. Eliana Lopez, his wife, has clearly forgiven him. Each of us should do the same. To do otherwise is to disrespect Lopez.

Are we going to trust City Hall to be the arbitrators of conduct?  And are we really going to sit by and watch as they systematically throw untrue, unfounded, unsubstantiated accusations at whomever they want? Really?

To use this incident as the basis for this coup is without precedent. City Hall’s actions are without basis in fact and without foundation in law.

We believe that the mayor, among others, is doing what he wants to under the guise of women’s rights. We do not want to be used in that way.

There is something very wrong with what is happening — and sadly if this public political assassination can happen to Ross and his family, it can and will happen to anyone of us. Ask Linette Peralta Hayes.
Krissy Keefer is artist director, Dance Mission Theater. Debra Walker, an artist, is political development chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus.