The â€śPointâ€ť of the Point/Counterpoint
I believe that the process the city government is engaged in now, in considering the firing of Ross Mirkarimi from his elected position of Sheriff, to be hugely inappropriate and politically motivated.
Justice has two components: One is adherence to the law and the other is mercy, or compassion. Justice is not about making an example of one person because of the crimes of the many. It is also not about condemning someone because of his repellent non-criminal behavior.
Justice is also about discretion, about responding to the specific facts of a particular case. I find that sometimes when I try to talk to people about Ross, they refuse to engage because of their personal experience with extreme domestic violence. People keep demanding that Ross be punished, but he has been punished. He has been sentenced to a great deal of counseling. He has not been allowed contact with his wife and only very limited contact with his son. This is an adequate punishment for his offense.
What about the possibility that San Francisco could use this situation to create another kind of example -- an example of restorative justice, rather than an example of punishment and exile? Restorative justice is based on practices of Native American communities who believe in the full re-integration of the wrong-doer back into the community. Under Sheriff Hennessey, this city has been a leader in creating a justice system that provides education and support and a path of dignity back into the community. It would be a truly powerful statement to the world to make Ross an example in this way, to treat him as if he is a human being capable of change and redemption and give him a chance to do the job he was elected to do.
I cannot neglect to mention the plight of Eliana Lopez who feels absolutely trampled upon by the San Francisco â€śjusticeâ€ť system. Isnâ€™t it just a bit ironic that at every point the legal system refused to consider Elianaâ€™s wishes -- all supposedly in an effort to â€śprotectâ€ť her? Again, the law was applied without any discretion. Yes, we need to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence in some cases when the victim of the violence refuses to cooperate because she is too terrified or browbeaten to do so. But is Eliana Lopez such a victim? She was afraid of Ross taking custody of their child if their marriage ended. Thatâ€™s why she agreed to the video of her bruise. But she was not physically afraid of Ross. She has always been very clear about this, and that it is the â€śjusticeâ€ť system of San Francisco that has abused her.
I cannot avoid the conclusion that the machine, which has run this city for so long, eagerly grabbed this opportunity to get rid of the only city-wide elected progressive official. This is politics at its lowest. It is a very serious thing to kick an elected official out of office. The reality of Rossâ€™s misdemeanor does not justify this. Itâ€™s time to restore Ross to his job and let him get on with his work (and his court-ordered counseling), and let his family get on with their lives. And if the voters of San Francisco, who hired Ross, want to fire him -- let them do it through a recall.
Terry Baum has been involved in electoral politics since 1970, when she worked as a personal aide for Bella Abzug. The playwright, director and actress more recently received the highest percentage of any small party write-in candidate for Congress.