In its face, trying to remember the San Francisco district. AT. Chesa Bowden is a debate about how a relatively small, unusual city fights crime, the philosophical controversy over how often to lock up criminals, and the relative success of efforts to bring nonviolent criminals out of prison into treatment programs.
In fact, the recall is a battle between facts and emotions, a case study on the power of millionaires to set the political agenda, the limits of reform through progressive prosecutors and the difficulty of changing the status quo.
That’s why the June 7 referendum in Bowden, a 47-square-mile area of San Francisco, is significant, despite a historically low rate of violent crime, despite viral videos and homelessness and drug deaths.
After his embarrassing victory, Bowden has made the establishment uncomfortable: Yale-educated public defender, son of imprisoned weather underground leaders, relative newcomer and political novice in a city where politics is a game of blood and people proudly trace their local ancestry for generations. He campaigned on a broad platform from ambiguity in 2019 that promised to uplift the system for indicting black and gray people unequally.
As Democrats across the country face voter fears about rising crime rates, many have backed away from reform – including the Los Angeles district. AT. George Gascon, who probably remembers himself later this year. Baudin has implemented the idea of getting himself elected: prison as a last resort. No cash deposit or gang increase. Do not treat teenagers as adults. Case against police for using excessive force. Victim service increase. Review of long sentences given under obsolete laws during the war on drugs. Allegations of wage theft against employers.
Boudin’s policies have won him the support of the newspaper, but he has faced an embarrassing battle in the recall election. His main mission – to reconsider crime and punishment – is to strike at the status quo in an already fragile moment. In the midst of frustration and anger over all the changes in his life over the past two years, he is in a hurry to blame her for a number of long-term illnesses. Tragedies and mistakes are easy to exploit, especially because of epidemics that have exacerbated the city’s apparent inequality, undermined its economic base of tourism and technology, and increased fear of crime.
His agenda does not lend itself to cutting voices, while the opposite is true for his opponents. Unlimited donations are allowed, they have spent millions, first to get signatories back on the ballot and now on the television ad Blitz.
Names in the five- and six-digit contributions to the file with city and state agencies – which are tech, finance and real estate moguls – indicate the extent to which those accustomed to influencing the city view Bowden’s agenda as a threat. . Blockchain, Lift, Y Combinator, Grove Capital, Twin Tree Ventures, Route One Investment, Prime Finance, executives with initial capital. The three biggest contributors have been California Assn. Realtors, Shorenstein Realty and Republican billionaire William Oberndorf.
Boudin, whose parents spent decades in prison for his role as a gateway driver in a 1981 robbery that killed three people, is an easy-going person to caricature and visually, uncomfortable problems – a convenient target in the city spreading homeless camps. Drug overdose deaths, increasing theft, gun violence and car break-ins.
The recall effort also illustrates a lesson, along with national implications, about the limitations that reform prosecutors must rely on to implement change.
District attorneys have great power; They decide for themselves what to charge. That unchecked power has a ripple effect on systems where most cases never go to trial. If prosecutors charge more, they have the added benefit of getting plea bargains. If they seek diversion, few people end up behind bars. If they prosecute police officers, that conduct is subject to public scrutiny.
But the district attorney who seeks to change the country’s dependence on prisons has little or no control over the main driver of the problem or the infrastructure to help solve it. City, county and state authorities determine housing policy, medication and mental health treatment options – County Prison is often the largest provider of medication and mental health counseling and the largest homeless shelter where all the support services needed to reshape the world. In many ways, recall is a proxy fight over how a liberal city deals with poverty.
Bowden was not ignorant of the challenges, both internal and external.
“In many ways, getting here tonight was the easy part,” he warned amidst the cheers of his victory party night. “It simply came to our notice then.
But he did count without the epidemic closing the city and changing the pattern of crime. He could not estimate the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in about a third of Asian cities. He had hoped four years would be enough time to show that his policies could reduce recurrence rates, one of the clearest measures of criminal justice success.
Nor do the facts carry the same weight as before. It’s not just the far right that embraces the idea that the truth is what you think, the fact that you experience it. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. They post photos of broken car windows and ask, do you believe in statistics, or with your own eyes? Boudin, whose crusade is proving that shutting down too many people does not make the rest of us safer, makes an attractive goal.
Here are some facts.
Overall crime – and violent crime – decreased between 2019 and 2022, according to FBI and San Francisco police figures. The killings have risen from historic lows, but less rapidly than in traditional jurisdictions close to prosecutors.
Prison population in San Francisco has declined by nearly 40% since Boudin took office, a decrease triggered by the need for COVID-19 but maintained after the epidemic subsided.
Bowden has prosecuted crimes committed by the police – arresting about 8% of reported crimes – at almost the same level as his predecessors, but he has sent several cases to diversion courts that allow offenders to avoid criminal charges if they are successful. Complete programs.
They are subtle messages to be delivered in the middle of a snowstorm of television commercials blaming the city’s diseases on a wide-eyed extremist who allows dangerous criminals to roam the streets. Crime makes headlines; Success stories are less prevalent, and perhaps fewer imports for those who pour millions of dollars into memories. A man convicted of manslaughter has been released after 32 years. But not 58 San Franciscons, who were sentenced today to long prison terms not received today, were angrily sent home with re-entry plans and regular visits from social workers. (According to the district office, only two people have been arrested.)
Like much of the rest of the country, San Francisco is struggling to find a post-epidemic balance, relying on dry tourism and tech companies that have moved away. Two-thirds of workers have not returned to office. San Francisco International Airport, once one of the busiest in the country, has achieved only half of its pre-epidemic volume. The average sale price of a home was $ 1.6 million in April, while the city spent millions on a tent village for the homeless that filled the United Nations Plaza in the shadow of City Hall.
If Boudin’s lower-level campaign to retain his job overcomes obstacles, he will have an 18-month reshuffle to make his case before the next election, and a rogue pulpit to take advantage of San Francisco’s infamous national reform.
If the status quo prevails, his enemies will have to find a new scapegoat for the suffering of the divided city in the thread of reconsideration.
Miriam Powell, most recently, author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty Who Transformed the State and Shaped the Nation.”