Commentary – Quentin Kopp

‘Let’s Hope for the Best in 2020’ 

Former President Herbert Hoover responded to a 1964 interview: “Honesty is not the exclusive property of any political party.” We don’t elect local officials in California on the basis of a political party, but Mr. Hoover’s answer applies federally with an incumbent president confronting certain articles of impeachment and a predictable U.S. Senate trial in January 2020 (Mr. Hoover’s opinion is undoubtedly irrelevant in California, which has only one political party, for all intents and purposes.)

Besides personal pleasure over strong passage of Proposition F, which exposes name, rank and amounts of contributions to so-called “independent expenditure” committees for city offices, the most arresting election result was the contest for district attorney. A 39-year-old radical deputy public defender was elected. His name is Chesa Boudin. His antecedents are intriguing: Both parents were active members of the Weather Underground, convicted and imprisoned for felony murder in driving the getaway car for accomplices who shot dead two police officers and a security guard while robbing a Brinks truck of bank funds in 1981. He is also the grandson of a deceased New York City lawyer, Leonard Boudin, who represented many, if not most, of the Communists in metropolitan New York and other Eastern areas during my public school years, college, law school, Air Force and beginning practice of law in California. 

Our new district attorney, who has tried to jury verdict numerous criminal cases at the Hall of Justice, unlike two of his opponents and establishment favorites, gives expression to pursuing “corporate landlords” and prosecuting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should they “kidnap” San Franciscans. The Police Officers Association expended about $700,000 in those tricky capital expenditures to defeat Mr. Boudin. A respectful relationship with police officers is indispensable for public protection. My concern with Mr. Boudin will also be his alacrity and consistency in pursuing corruption criminality in city government, which his elected predecessor (Gascon) utterly failed to do after seeking and obtaining from a compliant Board of Supervisors and mayor an appropriation of $2,918,078 three years ago for an “Internal Investigation Bureau,” consisting of six prosecutors, six investigators, and two support staff. (The unopposed city attorney similarly secured taxpayer money for a “Special Integrity Unit,” which has produced no court civil actions regarding corruption.) 

The Ethics Commission constitutes a similar waste of taxpayer funds emblemized by its inaction and burying of misconduct complaints from private citizens. I hope for aggressive action by Mr. Boudin, who will have the benefit of recommendations and aid from retired Assistant Public Defender and Ethics Commission Chair Peter Keane, Friends of Ethics leader Larry Bush, former Common Cause area president, Charley Marsteller and others.

After adopting a foolish resolution by Supervisor Catherine Stefani last September instructing us to change our vocabulary in describing criminals, criminal proceedings, convictions, and jail and prison sentences emanating from the Hall of Justice, the Board followed with another Stefani resolution declaring the National Rifle Association (NRA) a “domestic terrorist organization and urging other cities, states and the federal government to do the same.” The resolution also urged San Francisco to “assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with this domestic terrorist organization; … and take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with (San Francisco) from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization.”  

After filing a suit attacking the resolution, the NRA decided to save its money by dismissing the case. San Francisco supervisors manifestly know nothing of free speech law reflected in a 27-page order by the United States District Court, Southern District of California, in a suit by a gun show operator at Del Mar Fairgrounds, the State Agricultural Association in San Diego, after Del Mar’s board of directors voted a one-year moratorium at the Fairgrounds in September, 2018. The moratorium was to study potential “safety concerns.” The suit was based upon violation of the First Amendment. The court enjoined the moratorium, declaring it accorded “preferential treatment to shows featuring speech on all issues aside from these gun-related subjects.” The court noted that attacking the content of a gun show, which includes lectures, demonstrations, safety training, target shooting, gunsmithing, appreciation of guns as technological artifacts and study of historical objects, plus exchange of products, related to lawful use of firearms. The Fairgrounds failed to appeal the injunction, and I predict the court early next year will grant judgment to the gun show operator.

Continuing City Hall antics, Supervisor Sandra Fewer, practitioner of public language vulgarity on election night at Mr. Boudin’s headquarters, has introduced an ordinance to establish a San Francisco “public bank.” Never mind that only one public bank (North Dakota) has successfully existed in over 100 years in the United States. City government does so well with the Municipal Railway, the Central Subway Project, the reconstruction of Van Ness Avenue, and emergency fire protection supply in local reservoirs, it surely can operate a profitable public bank. No wonder 30 people have started a recall, however futile it likely will be, of Supervisor Fewer, the lady with the potty mouth.

Enough already. Let’s hope for the best in 2020, and a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah for all.

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.

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