Ross Mirkarimi Hopes Mayor Ed Lee Will Talk to Him Soon
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi appeared last night before a largely supportive crowd as he spoke with KQED's Scott Shafer about how he's recovering from the nine-month political drama that nearly cost him his job.
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One woman called out, "Aww, how sweet!" when the sheriff told the crowd at the Commonwealth Club that he read bedtime stories to his son, Theo.
But not every relationship has been as easy to repair since the sheriff pleaded guilty to false imprisonment after a domestic dispute with his wife, Eliana Lopez, last year. After the judicial process played out, Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay, claiming he was not fit to be the county sheriff. Much to the mayor's chagrin, Mirkarimi was reinstated to his post after city supervisors voted to give him his job back.
Now the mayor, who controls Mirkarimi's budget, isn't speaking to him. On top of that, he wants Mirkarimi to give up oversight of the Sheriff Department's domestic violence program -- but Mirkarimi refuses, further deepening tensions at City Hall.
Regardless, Mirkarimi said he's planning to try and work things out with Mayor Lee.
"I'm no stranger to building unlikely alliances," Mirkarimi said. "It's awkward that we
communicate through the Chronicle and that the DA releases letters to the press before he sends them to me."
"I've suggested a public meeting with the mayor. We have to communicate, and we have to bring it down to a more human level as we move forward," Mirkarimi said.
As for the strained relationship between Mirkarimi and District Attorney George Gascón, that's nothing new. The two have been on opposite ends of the political agenda since Gascón was hired away from Arizona to run the San Francisco Police Department in 2009. At that time, Mirkarimi was a city supervisor -- a very progressive one -- who battled with the then police chief over immigration policy, police patrols, and intelligence
units, to name a few.
"I was never on their side," Mirkarimi said of Gascón and Mayor Lee. He added that the supervisors in San Francisco have been getting less progressive, although he called
London Breed, the moderate supervisor who got elected to Mirkarimi's District 5, "one of the most charming people I know," and said she would work hard for the neighborhood. Breed beat Christina Olague, who was appointed by Mayor Lee to finish out Mirkairmi's term when he was elected sheriff last year. Olague added fuel to the fire when she voted to reinstate Mirkarimi as sheriff.
But last night, Mirkarimi wanted to show how ready he is to move on and away from the political drama in which he starred this year; instead he wanted to talk about the programs at the Sheriff's Department, saying San Francisco is leading the nation in preventing recidivism with "reentry pods," which means different state, city, and federal criminal justice agencies are working together to help inmates when they are released from prison.
Mirkarimi, who had the support of his own inmates during his political trial, says he often goes out to lunch with prisoners to hear them out and find out what they think could be done better. He then bragged a little, boasting that in San Francisco, jails are under capacity -- there's about 1,600 prisoners in a space designed for 2,400.
As part of his sentence, the sheriff said he is attending violence prevention classes, where his "weird fame" has given him unexpected recognition. He opened up about his rocky relationship with local domestic violence groups, most of which have demanded his resignation and are now building a campaign to recall him from office.
Mirkarimi says he understands why they are upset with him, but noted that when he was a city supervisor, he fought against cutting money for domestic violence programs.
Just like he wants to fix things with the mayor, Mirkarimi is also hoping to meet with these vociferous groups. "I want to restore my relationship with the domestic violence community," he said. "They can invite me to any venue, and I will go and I will listen."
The evening took an interesting turn when Shafer asked Mirkarimi about the domestic dispute he had with his wife last New Year's Eve. Mirkarimi had said that it was his fear and insecurity about his wife leaving with their son to visit her native Venezuela that set him off that night, causing him to lose his temper and bruise her arm. After Mirkarimi explained that he had a fear of being abandoned, Shafer got personal, mentioning that the sheriff's parents had divorced when he was five.
"Whoa," Mirkarimi said. "I didn't know we were going to get so deep."