Few pieces of legislation have dominated the news — and we mean all the news: mainstream, independent, print, TV, radio, blogs and bathroom walls — like the proposed sit-lie ordinance, the brainchild of Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gas?on which would have criminalized lazing about on city streets and sidewalks, and saved places like the Haight-Ashbury from apocryphal packs of Marin-born street kids “experimenting” with the bum life and husbanding pit bulls.
After dozens of news stories and hours of testimony at the Board of Supervisors, nothing more can be said, except for: the law was shot down on Tuesday by the Board on an 8-3 vote. But sit-lie won’t go away: in fact, San Franciscans will be subjected to sit-lie talk all summer long and into the fall.
Among Newsom’s powers of Mayor is the ability to put initiatives in the ballot with a mere stroke of his pen. Newsom had pledged in the past to put the sit-lie ordinance on the ballot should it fail at the Board, and this he will do sometime in the next two weeks, according to Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker.
“We knew this was going to happen all along,” said Winnicker, who said that the Board of Supervisors “failed” to have a civil and constructive debate over sit-lie, and instead spewed untruths. “This building [i.e. the Board of Supervisors] does not represent San Francisco… so we’ll go to the ballot, and this law will be passed.”
Only mayoral mainstays Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier — who co-sponsored the so-called “Civil Streets” ordinance — and Carmen Chu supported the measure.
Supervisor David Campos, who had several other hearings during which he practiced his “this law sucks and so do you” speech, did not disappoint Tuesday.
“We have yet to hear a concrete description of what the problem actually is,” he said. “This law doesn’t address the issue of incivility — it allows for incivility as long as the person is standing. So what problem is it solving in this case?”
“SFPD needs to do its job and enforce the laws already on the books,” he said. “If they do that we will not have a problem.”
Bevan Dufty, a moderate and often swinging swing vote supervisor, came down hard against the measure, likening it to the anti-loitering laws used against homosexual men in the Castro in the 1970s.
“For me, I am not willing to support something on its face that will be selectively enforced,” Dufty said. “This is not the San Francisco way.”
Indeed not: evidently, the San Francisco way is the ballot. It’ll be interesting to see how, in this election year, the sit-lie debate enters supervisor races and — although the *real* election isn’t until 2011 — the mayor’s race.