At Monday’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting, Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, John Avalos and Carmen Chu heard testimony about Alioto-Pier’s proposal for San Francisco to implement “Laura’s Law.” That law allows a civil court to order an outpatient treatment program for mentally ill people who refuse treatment, yet exhibit violent behavior toward themselves or others. Presently, court-ordered treatment is reserved for people who have committed a crime or become completely unable to care for themselves — this law would allow a court to intervene earlier.
Never content to let facts get in the way of hysteria, a number of folks at the hearing (including Avalos) complained that Laura’s Law allows the forcible medication of mentally ill persons. That simply isn’t true. In fact, the state law allowing localities to enact Laura’s Laws repeats that people have the same protections against forced medication with or without Laura’s Law.
Avalos also argued that there are plenty of resources for mentally ill people right now, so we don’t need the new law. This totally misses the point: The law is not about new services; it is about early intervention for people who refuse treatment and services. He voted against the ordinance. Chu and Alioto-Pier (sitting in for Supervisor Bevan Dufty) voted in favor of the proposal, which will be heard at the full board next week.
Also at Monday’s hearing were Nick and Amanda Wilcox, whose daughter Laura was one of three people shot and killed by a mentally ill man. She is the Laura in “Laura’s Law.” In making her remarks, Mrs. Wilcox said, “Laura was killed nine years ago. Nick and I miss her every single day. The mentally ill person who killed Laura was found not guilty by reason of insanity. We agreed with the verdict. He was sentenced to Napa state hospital. He was very responsive to treatment once he finally received treatment after killing three people. Now he has to live every day of his life knowing what he did. He has to live with that. Clearly, there has to be a better way for his family and for our family and our communities.”
Power-sucking measures may incite backlash
‘Momma, Momma, Momma,” I could repeat for hours as a child in the stilted monotone manner of dull car alarm to get the attention of my mother — the one person often standing between me and chocolate doughnuts. I had learned that neat trick from my five older siblings, and once during a vicious pile-on in the grocery store, our satanic six-person chorus of “Momma” finally drove her over the edge.
“THAT. IS. IT!!!” she screamed. “From now on, my name is not Momma!!!,” and she walked away pushing a chocolate doughnut-less cart. True story.
In politics, as in the grocery store with the woman formerly known as Momma, it is best not to overwhelm the person (voter) you are trying to persuade by making too many repetitive demands. During the next two weeks, the Board of Supervisors will be deciding whether to place a number of items on the November ballot, and you can bet members will be calculating just how much they can push before going too far. Two areas that require such reflection are split appointments and taxes.
Right now, there are three ballot proposals that would give the supes the power to appoint a number of seats on governing bodies whose members are all currently appointed by the mayor: the Rent Board, the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority and the Recreation and Parks Commission. Making the case for even one of these measures will be no easy task — when is the last time you heard someone say, “Oh, thank goodness, the Board of Supervisors is getting more involved”? Putting three split appointment proposals on the ballot risks serious backlash, so look for at least one to be cut.
Which one will get the ax? My money is on Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s proposal to allow the board to appoint three (of seven) members to the Recreation and Park Department. The number of people who strongly support this measure is relatively small, and progressive groups that might normally support it will have their hands full dealing with other ballot items such as pension reform and revenue measures.
And speaking of revenue measures, that’s another area where not every proposal will make it to the ballot. The board must decide whether to put forth Supervisor David Chiu’s change to the payroll tax, Supervisor John Avalos’ real estate transfer tax increase and/or Mirkarimi’s proposal to raise the parking tax rate from 25 percent to 35 percent.
Once again, if one has to be kept off the ballot, it will be Mirkarimi’s proposal. Chiu’s tax on business and Avalos’ tax on super-fancy real estate won’t hit as close to home as a parking tax, especially since 80 percent of the revenues from the parking tax have to go to the un-savvy and unsympathetic SFMTA.
Of course, the board could elect to throw all of these things at the voters in November. But if faced with a ballot that seems to repeat, “Give us more power, give us more money,” overwhelmed voters might simply say no to all of them and walk away with an empty cart.
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