Dozens gathered today to rally around San Francisco’s Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, before the Board of Supervisors sat to hear the mayor’s city budget proposal. The rally was Adachi’s latest move in a series of actions meant to draw attention to plans to cut $1.6 million from the Public Defender’s budget.
Theatrics were abundant. A PA system broadcast pump-you-up music (and yes, you heard that right: the Public Defender played a song by Public Enemy) while organizers handed out scores of T-shirts reading across the back: “29,000 PEOPLE RELY ON THE PUBLIC DEFENDER EACH YEAR.” Staffers and community members showcased large banners with similar messages on the steps to City Hall.
Adachi began with the passionate claim that “we cannot have faith in our justice system” without the Public Defender, and that when he came into office, he didn’t intend to be a “public pretender with… a bunch of excuses.” He also detailed sacrifices his staff has already made, like voluntary 10% pay cuts and the layoff of ten staff attorneys. Adachi claims his three court social workers will be next on the chopping block if the Board of Supervisors approves the budget.
Speakers ranged from former Public Defender clients and attorneys to community organizers who work in conjunction with the city department. Some focused on other programs that might get the ax. Scott Schell, a successful graduate of the Clean Slate program, said that San Francisco needs programs like Clean Slate because “we need to let people know they can change.” Schell, who said he committed grand larceny of a person while fighting an addiction, had his record expunged and currently helps with anti-domestic violence training in the Sheriff’s Department Resolve to Stop the Violence Program (RSPV).
San Francisco police officer Lieutenant Slate emphasized the Mobilizing Adolescent Growth In our Communities (MAGIC) program, an umbrella organization that combines “over 100 agencies in Bayview/Hunter’s Point,” according to Adachi. Run by the Public Defender, MAGIC “was not mandated by the government, but grown in the community,” said Adachi. Youths wearing “Mo’ Magic” badges represented for the PD with requisite T-shirts and banner on the steps while the lieutenant spoke.
Adachi and some ralliers proceeded into the hearing to comment on the budget, where Appeal reporter Chris Roberts witnessed the Public Defender take the mic to address the Board during the public comment portion of the meeting. Supervisor David Chiu was forced to turn off Adachi’s mic after the defender ran over the three minutes allotted to commenters. Turning with a dramatic display of his “29,000 PEOPLE” T-shirt, Adachi left the meeting.
The final vote on the City’s budget is scheduled for next week.