One side says it doesn’t work and drains vital resources away from the human services to which it directs its clients; the other side says it’s an innovative program that saves lives and needs more time in order to be brought to its full potential.
Either way, the Community Justice Center — the mayor-approved, voter-rejected Tenderloin-based courthouse, which airs cases of petty “quality of life” crimes and “sentences” its defendants to mental health services and supportive housing rather than county jail in San Bruno could become this week a measuring-stick, a political bellwether indicating who — Mayor Gavin Newsom or his enemies on the Board of Supervisors — is gaining the upper hand in the city’s budget battle.
Or it could become a bargaining tool between Newsom and progressive supervisors who moved Monday to remove more funding from the nascent court.
“All options are on the table,” said Board President Chiu on Tuesday, when asked if he would side with his progressive colleagues in de-funding the court or if he would press the Mayor to restore other programs in exchange for the court’s survival. Chiu did say that he has met with the CJC’s judge to discuss what minimum level of funding the court needs.
More funding moves that would doom the court could come as early as Wednesday’s Budget and Finance Committee hearing, as final cuts and add-backs to the budget are made. There is a 3-2 progressive majority on that committee.
San Francisco’s $6.6 billion budget for the fiscal year, which begins Wednesday, faced a record budget deficit estimated at over $500 million dollars.
In a recent interview, Newsom seemed disinclined to use the CJC as a bargaining chit, insisting that the court “saves lives” and that he would fight to keep it open. Supervisors John Avalos and fellow progressive Ross Mirkarimi, both members of the Budget and Finance Committee, told The Appeal that they will continue to move to close it.
“It doesn’t work,” said Avalos, who noted that rather than assessing fines or jail terms, the CJC refers its eight-to-nine cases a day to drug abuse, job training and other services — services that would receive funding reductions under Newsom’s plan.