Divided board rejects police reform ballot measure

A stubbornly split Board of Supervisors split repeatedly along factional lines Tuesday, blocking an independent police reform measure proposed by Supervisor Malia Cohen and nearly blocking a sales tax measure to fund transportation and homeless services.

In a move led by members of the board’s progressive faction, the board voted 6-5 against placing Cohen’s measure on the November ballot.

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The measure would have expanded the role of the Office of Citizen Complaints, which currently investigates complaints of officer misconduct and officer-involved shootings, giving it an independent budget and requiring it to conduct regular audits of the police department’s handling of claims of officer misconduct and uses of force.

Those voting against the measure instead argued that the measure should be rolled into another, more controversial measure by Supervisor David Campos that would create a new elected public advocate position.

Supervisor John Avalos said:

“We have two measures that cover the same topic, and they actually complement each other very well. … I don’t think we should be loading up the ballot.”

Cohen, however, reacted angrily to efforts to roll her legislation into the public advocate measure, saying the move “reeks of hypocrisy” and accusing her opponents of politicizing a “life or death” issue:

“I want everyone to hear, when it comes time to vote, you remember who stood with the community and who did not, and I will remind you every step of the way who stood with us and who did not.”

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener, members of the board’s moderate faction, argued against combining the measures, with Farrell calling the efforts “extortion”:

“There appears to be a clique on this board. … If you’re part of that clique your ballot measures move forward, and if you’re not part of this clique your ballot measures are not moving forward, that is the reality of what is happening right now.”

Avalos responded by arguing that that board’s committees were stacked in such a way as to block progressive legislation from moving forward:

“No one in this room has a monopoly on self-righteous indignation.”

The board’s divisions also nearly defeated a three-quarter cent sales tax ballot measure and a companion charter measure expected to provide funding for transportation improvements and housing and homeless services.

The measures were initially defeated 6-5 by the board’s progressive majority, but after a motion by Wiener to rescind the vote, Avalos, Campos and Supervisor Eric Mar changed their positions, letting the measures pass to the ballot with an 8-3 majority.

Other votes also reflected the board’s ideological divide, with the board’s progressive majority pushing through measures intended to curb the power of the mayor. Ballot measures giving the Board of Supervisors more power over appointments to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and limiting the mayor’s power to appoint members of the Board of Supervisors both passed 6-5.