Commentary: Sandra Lee Fewer

Reasons to Reject the Recall

Reason #1 to reject the recall: say no to the Republican takeover of our democracy. Do not let them buy our votes. Show them San Francisco democracy is not for sale.

Recalls were created to remove politicians that have committed a crime or were no longer able to serve. They were created to be a check on powerful special interests and corrupt governance. Today, it’s the powerful special interests that are driving recalls. Our District Attorney Chesa Boudin is being recalled for keeping his promise to the voters of San Francisco and the Republican party is furious. Republicans did not want him to win, even though the majority of voters made their choice through a fair voting process, and Republican operatives working with powerful interest groups started the recall process just days after he was sworn in. Yes, there are Democrats who also aligned with the recall, but the real legs of the recall are the Republican billionaires who don’t even live here but are donating huge amounts of money (over $3 million so far) to reverse the voice of San Franciscans. When the top recall donor is William Oberndorf – a man who has given $3.5 million to Mitch McConnell- we know something is not on the up and up. 

These Republican mega-donors have never liked nor agreed with us and now they are using recalls to get what they can’t during regular elections. We are San Franciscans. We have always honored the outcome of the voting process even if we did not agree with the outcomes. (Mayor London Breed was elected in 2018 with only a 2,000 vote margin) The foundation of our democracy is based on the right to vote and honoring the integrity of the vote. 

Reason number #2 to reject the recall: let San Franciscans elect their own elected officials – not the mayor.

Are we a democracy or a dictatorship? When we allow the mayor to appoint our citywide elected officials, we are in trouble. The mayor has appointed our city attorney, public defender, assessor, three school board members, and a supervisor and if this recall goes through, she will appoint our district attorney. These elected officials of major city departments are all extensions of the office of the mayor and are indebted to her. This is not what democracy looks like but rather the beginning of a dictatorship. Let’s keep our democracy strong by electing our own elected officials.  

Reason #3 to reject the recall: a recall will not stop crime.

As many of you know, I knock on a lot of doors of D1 residents. I may have knocked on your door to have conversations about our neighborhood. While door-knocking the other day, I met residents who told me that the district attorney is the cause of crime in our city. This is absolutely false information and it shocks me that people believe it. The threat of being caught is a far greater deterrent to crime than prosecution and punishment. Yet recall leaders claim people commit crimes because they know the District Attorney will not charge them. Think about it.  Do you really believe that someone who breaks into your garage for a bicycle is thinking it’s okay if I get arrested, booked, fingerprinted, and held in custody because the DA will not charge me? That is simply not true and is simply ridiculous.

According to the March 2022 report of the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the SFPD has the lowest rate of reported offenses solved by an arrest (8.8%) compared to other major California city police departments – despite its $700 million budget. For some types of crimes, the arrest rate is even lower. Outraged about car break-ins? The SFPD has cleared fewer than 1% of car break-ins over the last two years. That means 99% of car break-ins don’t even have an arrest! 

The DA cannot prosecute if SFPD does not make arrests. Law enforcement agencies need to work together and everyone needs to do their job. The police make arrests and bring cases to the district attorney, the district attorney prosecutes cases and the courts make the ultimate decision. This is how our criminal justice system works. Don’t let the recallers fool you. 

Reason #4 to reject the recall: voters have the opportunity to vote for him or not next year.

It is only fair that when the voters of San Francisco have chosen to elect a public leader, we give that person a chance to do the job. That is why we have elections every 4 years.  We agree to let that person do the job he or she was elected to do and when they run again in four years, we evaluate their performance and vote them in or out. It is outrageous that we would hold special elections costing us millions of tax dollars when an election is just around the corner. Moreover, our district attorney has prosecuted rapists and murderers, serial shoplifters (Walgreens), perpetrators of hate crimes, people who have committed theft, drug violations and assaults as well as exonerated a man that was wrongly imprisoned for over 30 years for a crime he did not commit.  Let the recall proponents put forward their own candidates so we can weigh their records too.  The recall has spent $3 million trashing Boudin without ever having to put forth an alternative. 

Reason #5 to reject the recall: our criminal justice system is broken and our district attorney believes in reform.  

The old adage of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” is not working and in fact, it is making us more unsafe. Not only that, it is expensive. California spends over $8.5 billion annually to incarcerate people. That is more than the budget of some countries.  And, are we safer? Do we feel safer? What are the outcomes of those costs? The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any country in the world. According to the Prison Policy Initiative’s 2021 report,  “Not only does the U.S. have the highest incarceration rate in the world; every single U.S. state incarcerates more people per capita than virtually any independent democracy on earth.”  It goes on to state: “Our new analysis of incarceration rates and crime rates across the world reveals that the U.S.’s high incarceration rates are not a rational response to high crime rate, but rather a politically expedient response to public fears and perceptions about crime and violence.” 

It is time we reform our criminal justice system and invest in strategies and initiatives that increase public safety, such as ending cash bail, treating kids like kids, implementing alternatives to incarceration, behavioral and mental health services and most importantly, investing heavily in public education, accessible childcare, affordable housing, reducing poverty, job training, trauma reduction and healthcare for all. 

We can reduce the rates of incarceration and be safer while we build a more just and equitable society. Let’s invest in what works, reject fear-mongering and build a stronger city and community.  It’s time for criminal justice reform.

“I think the first duty of society is justice.”Alexander Hamiliton said.

Sandra Lee Fewer is a fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, former Board of Education commissioner, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors representing the Richmond District and has lived in the Richmond for more than 60 years.

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