Move on, Mr. Mayor

Pub date October 23, 2012

EDITORIAL San Francisco politics hasn’t been this tense in years — and it’s not just because of the upcoming election. The battle over Mayor Lee’s attempt to oust Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has left bitter divisions at City Hall and in communities all over town. And the mayor is only making things worse.

In an odd way — and we say odd because it was so expensive and a misuse of mayoral power — the system worked. Mirkarimi, who had a physical altercation with his wife that left a bruise on her arm, took responsibility and pled guilty to a misdemeanor; he’s now on probation and undergoing counseling.

After the mayor decided to invoke a rarely used Charter provision and suspend Mirkarimi without pay, the Ethics Commission held hearings, conducted and extensive inquiry and voted to uphold the charges, with the chair, Benjamin Hur, strongly dissenting. Every one of the commissioners raised thoughtful points; several poked big holes in the mayor’s case.

Then the Board of Supervisors met — and again, the members carefully considered Mirkarimi’s actions, the language and history of the City Charter, the prevailing law, and the facts of the case. There was remarkably little political grandstanding; we listened to the entire meeting, lasting more than seven hours, and were left with the impression that the supervisors took their job seriously, weighed the case, forced the City Attorney’s Office, representing the mayor, and Mirkarimi’s defense team, to justify their arguments, and rendered a ruling.

Nine votes were needed to remove the sheriff; that’s appropriate for such a profound sanction. Only seven supervisors sided with the mayor, and the four who rejected the charges had excellent, well-stated and credible reasons.

That’s the way the Charter outlined this process playing out, and in the end, the mayor lacked the overwhelming consensus he would have needed to use his executive authority to remove from office someone duly chosen by the voters. It’s done; it’s over. Most of the city would like to move on.

That’s not to say that Mirkarimi should be celebrating. He did an inexcusable thing. Domestic violence advocates have every right to be unhappy with his actions — and nobody, nobody in town should condone his behavior. He’s not denying it, either; he accepted the criminal consequences and will now have to demonstrate that he’s able to do his job.

But the mayor won’t move on. Mirkarimi sent him a note asking for a meeting, and Lee hasn’t responded. That shows a lack of leadership — and a lack of the civility that the mayor promised us when he took office. Ed Lee started this political process, and now that it’s over, he should be leading the effort to pull the city back together, to recognize that there were valid arguments on both sides of this case and his didn’t prevail — and to stop the demonization of people who didn’t agree with him.