|Mirkarimi in 2008|
|Sheriff of the County of San Francisco|
January 7, 2012
|Preceded by||Michael Hennessey|
|Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 5
|Preceded by||Matt Gonzalez|
|Succeeded by||Christina Olague|
August 4, 1961 |
|Political party||Democratic (since 2010)|
|Green (founding non-member)|
|Residence||San Francisco, California|
|Alma mater||St. Louis University
Golden Gate University
University of San Francisco
Ross Mirkarimi (born August 4, 1961) is the sheriff of San Francisco, California since 2012. Prior to being sheriff, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 5 from 2005 to 2011.
Mirkarimi grew up in Jamestown, Rhode Island which he credits for his green politics, such as social justice and nonviolence. He has a Bachelor's degree in political science from St. Louis University, a Master's degree in international economics and affairs from Golden Gate University, and a Master of Science degree in environmental science from the University of San Francisco. He has lived in San Francisco since 1984 and is married to Eliana Lopez, a Venezuelan telenovela star whom he met at an environmental conference in Brazil. The couple have a son born in 2009.
In 1990 Mirkarimi co-founded the Green Party of California, but in March 2010, he became a Democrat acknowledging he would be unable to advance his career as a Green candidate. As supervisor, Mirkarimi sponsored legislation in a wide range of areas, including medicinal marijuana, crime, street safety, efficiency of city departments, and the environment. He received national attention in 2007 when he introduced the first legislation prohibiting the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags by large supermarkets and drugstores, making San Francisco the first city to do so.
Mirkarimi is a graduate of the San Francisco Police Academy, where he was the president of his class, and served in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office investigating white collar crime. He was elected sheriff in November 2011, and initially served from January to March 2012. Five days after being publicly sworn into office he was charged with misdemeanors in connection to a New Year's Eve incident with his wife. The details of the case were widely covered and debated for months. Mirkarimi felt the controversy and the "runaway train of innuendo" in the news media were politically motivated but accepted a plea bargain to a different misdemeanor count of false imprisonment in March so he could carry a firearm required for his job. Mayor Ed Lee then suspended him from office pending an official misconduct investigation. The board of supervisors did not have the votes to remove him for misconduct so he was reinstated in October 2012. He is running for re-election in 2015.
- 1 Personal life
- 2 Founding of California Green Party
- 3 Supervisor
- 4 Sheriff
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Rostam Mirkarimi (Persian: میرکریمی, pronounced Meehr-kah-REE-mee) was born in Chicago to Nancy Kolman, a 19-year-old descended from Russian Jews, and Hamid Mirkarimi, an Iranian immigrant. His parents divorced when he was 5, and he moved with his mother to Jamestown, Rhode Island. He rarely saw his father. Mirkarimi graduated from the Catholic, all-male Bishop Hendricken High School in 1979. "I totally credit my childhood in Jamestown for my green views," Mirkarimi said. "I'll never forget living near Fort Getty and exploring the unspoiled island with my dog Oscar when I was a boy."
He has a Bachelor's degree in political science from St. Louis University, a Master's degree in international economics and affairs from Golden Gate University, and a Master of Science degree in environmental science from the University of San Francisco. He has lived in San Francisco since 1984.
Mirkarimi is a graduate of the San Francisco Police Academy, where he was the president of his class. Before his election to office, he served in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office investigating white collar crime.
Civic and community organizations
Mirkarimi has been involved in these civic and community service activities: Director for SF Nuclear Freeze Zone Coalition; union negotiator for DAI Association union; member of the IFPTE Local 2; member of the Harvey Milk Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Democratic Club; member of the Iranian-American Chamber of Commerce; environmental analyst for the Harvard Study Team (Iraq) Bayview Hunters Point, California Base Closures; and member of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Founding of California Green Party
Mirkarimi co-founded California's Green Party in 1990, and coordinated Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign in California. He also managed local campaigns in San Francisco, including the 1989 Nuclear Free Zone initiative, the 1999 re-election campaign of DA Terrence Hallinan, the 2001 campaign for public power and the March 2002 campaign to elect Harry Britt to the State Assembly. He was a press spokesperson and campaign aide in Matt Gonzalez's 2003 San Francisco mayoral campaign. Mirkarimi supported Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. While serving on the Board of Supervisors he changed his voter registration party affiliation to Democrat, acknowledging that he would be unable to advance in his political career as a registered Green.
He supported Green Party candidate Krissy Keefer over Nancy Pelosi in the 2006 congressional election. "Why," he asked in regard to supporting Pelosi, "do we decide to support the lesser of two evils or the evil of two lessers...the level of mediocrity being dished out by the Republicans and Democrats?"
Mirkarimi served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 5 from 2005 to 2011. He has sponsored some 40 pieces of legislation in a wide range of areas, including medicinal marijuana, crime, making streets safer for pedestrians, improving efficiency of city departments, and the environment.
In April 2009, he proposed legislation that would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to sell and distribute marijuana. "We're spending much more money keeping marijuana underground, trying to hide a fact that is occurring all around us," he said. "Now is the time to take responsibility for something we've deflected to others and to test our ability to take responsibility."
On April 20, 2006 (4-20), the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws honored Mirkarimi with its Rufus King Award for outstanding leadership in the reform of marijuana laws. In a speech accepting the award, he said,
That particular logic (of being in favor of medicinal marijuana but not wanting dispensaries in the neighborhood in which you live), as complex as it is, was emblematic of what certainly concerned me, that we continue to drive back in the shadows the very idea of what we're all congregated here for, and that is to mainstream the issue so that marijuana should not be criminalized and medical cannabis should not be criminalized, and that we should do everything we can to build that kind of resiliency, to shore up even in the face of adversity, that while there's any attempt at pushback or blowback from our efforts to try to proliferate Prop 215 states throughout all fifty states of the United States, that we should not shrink at all with that ever particular kind of adversity once again.
Tobacco smoking ban on golf courses
Mirkarimi supported a measure by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier to ban smoking in city parks. He helped expand the ban to bus shelters and the city's public golf courses. Not extending the law to golf courses, Mirkarimi declared, "has this undertone of elitism."
On September 9, 2008, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed Mirkarimi's legislation creating a Reentry Council to coordinate the disparate and disconnected city programs that help ex-offenders transition from incarceration back into society. Mirkarimi, in collaboration with Public Defender Jeff Adachi, District Attorney Kamala Harris and Sheriff Michael Hennessey, crafted the legislation to increase the effectiveness of City-wide efforts to reduce recidivism and violence, and promote safe and successful reentry into society for adults released from jails and prisons.
In March 2007, Mirkarimi introduced legislation that prohibits large supermarkets and drugstores from providing customers with non-biodegradable plastic bags, making San Francisco the first city to regulate such bags. Since then other cities around the country and in Europe have take up similar bans, and there is a move by the California legislature to do the same. Mirkarimi said, "Instead of waiting for the federal government to do something about this country's oil dependence, environmental degradation or contribution to global warming, local governments can step up and do their part. The plastic bag ban is one small part of that." Many supermarkets opposed such legislation. The bill passed 10-1 and became an ordinance. Although the ban was initially criticized as "cosmetic" by the SF Weekly, which asserted that the ban has led to an increase in the use of paper bags, a practice they claim is worse for the environment, the ban also requires stores to charge a ten-cent fee for each paper bag used, to encourage consumers to use reusable shopping bags. All revenues from the fee are kept by the stores. In 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an expansion of the ban to include to all retailers citywide.
In June 2008, Mirkarimi sponsored a one-year pilot program of a solar rebate program that provides $1.5 million to nonprofit organizations and lower-income residents for the installation of solar voltaic power on rooftops; the measure received initial approval from the Board of Supervisors. In July, he was one of several supervisors who, along with the mayor and various organizations, opposed a move to build fossil-fuel power plants in the low-income southeastern part of San Francisco.
Mirkarimi was the chief sponsor of a measure to require most employers to give pre-tax commuter checks to employees, with the intention of getting workers out of commuting via private car and into using public transportation; the measure is unlike many others involving regulation of businesses in that it was not opposed by the Chamber of Commerce.
Street name changes
In February 2008, Mirkarimi announced his support for changing the name of a portion of Eddy Street to Marcus Garvey Way. Supporters hope that by renaming a street in honor of a well-known and influential figure of African descent, San Francisco's African-American residents will choose to stay in the city despite increases in the cost of living.
Mirkarimi also authored part of a reparations bill which would give descendants of those displaced by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency from the Western Addition priority in obtaining affordable housing. During the 1960s the city tore down much of the historic Fillmore district, most of whose residents were permanently removed. Two-thirds of those displaced were African-American.
As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mirkarimi fought against pro-gun advocates who were challenging San Francisco's attempt to tighten gun control laws. This issue has caused many pro-gun advocates to accuse Mirkarimi of hypocrisy, when it was reported that he himself was a gun owner even before he was elected Sheriff.
Support of the San Francisco 8
In 2008, Mirkarimi supported a controversial resolution by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors asking the state to drop charges against the San Francisco 8, eight former Black Panthers arrested for their involvement in the 1971 murder of Sgt. John V. Young at San Francisco's Ingleside Police station. The San Francisco Chronicle opined, “A police officer slain in the line of duty is a disgrace that needs an answer. Instead, the shotgun slaying of Sgt. John Young is getting the political treatment from four San Francisco supervisors more interested in rhetoric than healing justice.”
Support for Josh Wolf
At a solidarity fundraiser for John Wolf, an indie video blogger imprisoned for refusing to give a Federal Grand Jury his tape of an anarchist demonstration during which a San Francisco city policeman received a fractured skull, Mirkarimi said:
The issue here is certainly about the illegal incarceration of Josh Wolf and violating his protections as a member of the free press. But more importantly, we are witnessing the unraveling of the very fabric that made this country great. Maybe it's time for a new revolution?
Police foot patrols
Mirkarimi sponsored legislation to require police foot patrols in high-crime neighborhoods. The Board of Supervisors approved this measure, but Mayor Gavin Newsom, citing objections by Police Chief Heather Fong, vetoed it. However, by a 9-2 vote, the Board overrode the veto; this was the first time that the Board of Supervisors had overridden a Newsom veto. As of 2010, the policy was not implemented. New San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón called foot patrols "laughable" and "simplistic." In 2010, San Francisco voters rejected Measure M, sponsored by Mirkarimi, which would have required the San Francisco Police Department to maintain a foot patrol presence from all its stations. Voters rejected the measure 54 to 46 percent.
Mirkarimi did not receive the endorsement of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff's Association, the union representing sheriffs. In an endorsement election of members, Capt. Paul Miyamoto received 353 votes to Mirkarimi's 2 votes. "This was a very large turnout for us," said Don Wilson, president of the association. "Miyamoto is a very popular guy in our department. We want one of our own to be sheriff. We want someone with experience."
In an interview with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), Mirkarimi said about his candidacy:
The challenges of our campaign are that I am running citywide. I have opposition, but with my name recognition as an elected official, it’s one of the first times that I’m seen as an automatic frontrunner, instead of the underdog posture that I'm more used to from my previous runs. The election is in November 2011, and it will be at the same time as the mayor and district attorney. Competing for resources and attention is always an inherent challenge with other high profile races.
Mirkarimi made combatting recidivism a centerpiece of his campaign:
We have to realize that what happens in the jail system directly affects public safety throughout all of San Francisco neighborhoods. That entwinement can’t really be denied anymore, and the money we throw at the Police Department to just re-arrest the same people really sort of is counter-intuitive without asking the obvious question, “What can we do so that when somebody comes out they will not repeat their offense?” And there are tested programs already existing in the Sheriff’s Department, ones that we could I think consider adopting and ones that deserve institutional support because most of the programs in the Sheriff’s Department aren’t general-fund-funded, they’re grant-funded, and so they live and die by the vulnerability of those grants. That says San Francisco is not frontburnering the importance of what it means to stand towards the development and accountability of those programs, and that needs to change. I’ll change it.”
New Year's Eve incident investigation
First investigations and plea bargain
Five days after Mirkarimi was sworn in publicly as sheriff he was charged with three misdemeanor counts, the results from an incident between he and and wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year's Eve outside their home. Mirkarimi suggested that the police probe was politically motivated, and characterized the incident as "a private matter.” According to the L.A. Times the investigations, along with possible political ramifications, "transfixed" the city. The domestic abuse complaint was lodged by Ivory Madison, a neighbor who videotaped the bruise at the request of Lopez. They discussed the incident via text messages. Madison "indicated the alleged incident indicated a larger pattern of abuse." On the video, which Lopez tried to block, Lopez stated, "This is the second time this is happening... We need help and I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me because he did said (sic) that he is very powerful and can do it." Lopez, denied any of the charges against her husband were true and stated it was "completely out of context.... I don't have any complaint against my husband." During Ethics Commission hearings, significant portions of Madison's sworn statement were ruled inadmissible and Lopez testified that she realized she could not trust Madison after Madison suggested “calling Ross's political enemies” to help her bring him down. Lopez said that once she clearly said that she didn't want police involvement was when Madison had called the police. On January 20, Mirkarimi pled not guilty to the charges but the judge issued a stay-away order, not to have contact with his wife and their son, based on the arrest warrant affidavit which stated "physical and emotional abuse." On January 23, Mirkarimi's girlfriend before he met Lopez filed a police report alleging abused which the defense noted she tried to win him back with nude pictures on email, then turned to hate emails, and as such is a "scorned" lover who is an unreliable witness. Two months later, on March 13, Mirkarimi accepted a plea bargain of guilty to a different misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment with all prior misdemeanor charges dropped. He was sentenced to three years' probation, domestic violence counseling for a year, $590 in fines and fees, perform 100 hours of community service and take parenting classes if directed by his probation officer. Later, Mirkarimi said he agreed to the plea bargain because it did not require him to relinquish his firearm, which he needed to carry out his job. He blamed a "runaway train of innuendo" in the news media for his legal travails. Four months later the stay away order was lifted.
Ethics Commission investigation
A week after the plea bargain, on March 20, Mayor Ed Lee gave Mirkarimi a 24-hour ultimatum to resign. When he refused, Lee appointed a temporary replacement and ordered the city's Ethics Commission to investigate official misconduct charges although the incident happened before Mirkarimi was sheriff. He was suspended without pay. The Ethics Commission investigates complaints and makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The Commission ruled significant portions of Madison's sworn statement inadmissible. On July 4 the San Francisco Chronicle reported Mayor Lee may have committed perjury during an Ethics Commission meeting a week prior when he denied consulting with any Board Supervisors on deciding to bring official misconduct charges, or that he offered Mirkarimi job offers through third parties if he resigned. If true it would be official misconduct on Mayor Lee's part. News media noted the suspicious timing of a bomb threat that interrupted Mayor Lee's testimony where the perjury allegedly took place, calling the situation unprecedented. At roughly the same time as Lee's testimony started the threat was called in but Lee's testimony was not halted until after a preliminary search of city hall. None of the other estimated 900 people in City Hall were evacuated, building management stated they were trying to avoid panic and were told a bomb might be outside or in a car so did not want to risk sending people into a danger zone. During the two-hour break a city Building Inspection Commission member, Debra Walker, told reporters that her friend, Supervisor Christina Olague, had told her two months prior that the mayor did consult her about whether to suspend Mirkarimi with Olague recommending that Lee ask for the resignation, but drop the matter if he refused. When asked for comment Olague denied having the conversation and later stated "We’ve been advised by our attorneys that we can’t talk about this subject matter with anybody because it’s going to come before the Board." The San Francisco Examiner reported that Aaron Peskin, former Board of Supervisors president, said that he was contacted by Walter Wong, a developer and former permit expediter with strong ties to Mayor Lee, who "clearly indicated he was working on behalf of the Mayor’s Office and that he even came back with a counteroffer when Mirkarimi didn’t accept the first proposal," to negotiate on behalf of the mayor and offer Mirkarimi a City job in exchange for his resignation, they met March 19 to discuss a deal. On July 23, Peskin showed the text message he received from Wong to the Examiner reporter. It said: "Our friend want me to tell u, no matter what outcome w ur negotiations, he is appreciate ur Help." Peskin said that the "our friend" reference meant "the mayor or someone high up in the Mayor’s Office." Wong "told the World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper," that he never approached Peskin, and "the mainstream media’s past coverage on me had often been unfair to me." On July 11, Mirkarimi's attorneys filed a formal request to issue subpoenas to four witnesses in connection with the perjury allegations. The Commission deferred any action to the District Attorney George Gascón as they felt Lee's alleged perjury was irrelevant to the charges against Mirkarimi. Gascón dismissed investigating "based on the available information."
Public opinion and reinstatement
In late July 2012 the National Lawyers Guild of San Francisco issued a statement urging the Board of Supervisors to support Mirkarimi and calling for an end to the use of City resources to pursue the case. Several groups created statements of support for Mirkarimi to remain in office including the San Francisco Labor Council, the Bernal Heights Democratic Club, the Central City Democrats, the SF League of Pissed-off Voters, and the San Francisco Green Party. A petition to reinstate Mirkarimi had over 1,000 signatures, and numerous supporters spoke in his favor during Ethics Commission hearings. Conservatives Phyllis Schlafly and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders wrote articles in defense of Mirkarimi's case. On August 16, the Commission ruled that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct by falsely imprisoning his wife. One poll reported nearly two-thirds of residents wanted Mirkarimi out of office but Mirkarimi's attorney criticized the poll as "twisted" and "biased," asking "leading questions," and objected to the fact that the poll was funded by individuals who opposed the sheriff. A resident contacted by the robocall political poll and interviewed about its content described it as unusual because "there was just a barrage of negative information first, before they asked a single question," and said that the questions were structured so that, "there was no way to answer the question that didn't say you wanted him removed." The questions asked in the poll were not published. On October 8, former girlfriend Evelyn Nieves, spoke out in support of Mirkarimi, saying that he never made her feel unsafe in their 8 years together. To remove him for misconduct, the city's charter requires a supermajority of nine out of eleven Supervisors to vote for removal, only seven voted to remove him, with one dissenting supervisor noting the ethics case against the sheriff was "very convoluted from a legal point of view", Mirkarimi was duly reinstated in October 2012.
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-  About Us, San Francisco Reentry Council
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- Chandonia, John-Marc "San Francisco Green Party: Statement in Support of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Remaining in Office as the Duly Elected Sheriff of San Francisco." San Francisco Green Party. (Retrieved May 25, 2012.)
- Sherbert, Erin (March 23, 2012) "Ross Mirkarimi Petitions Demand Embattled Sheriff Not Be Fired." SF Weekly. (Retrieved May 25, 2012.)
- "Mayor of San Francisco: Reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to his elected office". change.org. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Richman, Josh (April 24, 2012) "Battle over Sheriff Mirkarimi's job could drag on for months." San Jose Mercury News. (Retrieved May 25, 2012.)
- Schlafly, Phyllis (August 20, 2012) "Feminism's Folly: How Government Destroys Marriages." WorldNetDaily. (Retrieved August 22, 2012)
- Saunders, Debra J. (August 18, 2012) "Near the end of the Mirkarimi mess and the Ethics Commission." San Francisco Chronicle. (Retrieved August 22, 2012)
- Associated Press (August 16, 2012) "San Francisco: Panel Says Embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Committed Misconduct." San Jose Mercury News.
- Wright, Andy (August 16, 2012) "Ethics panel upholds official misconduct charges against Mirkarimi." Bay Citizen.
- Sherbert, Erin (March 23, 2012) "Ross Mirkarimi Petitions Demand Embattled Sheriff Not Be Fired." SF Weekly. (Retrieved May 25, 2012.)
- "Mayor of San Francisco: Reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to his elected office". change.org. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- "Poll shows support for Mirkarimi removal; attorney claims bias". www.ktvu.com. June 29, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
- Redmond, Tim (August 23, 2012) "About the Mirkarimi poll." San Francisco Bay Guardian. (Retrieved 9-16-12.)
- Bush, Larry (October 8, 2012) "The Ross M. Story The Chron Won’t Publish." CitiReport. (Retrieved 10-9-12.)
- "Supes Vote To Allow SF Sheriff Mirkarimi To Keep Job Despite Conviction". KPIX, CBS San Francisco. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- Montgomery, Kevin (June 12, 2014 ) "Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is Running For Re-Election Despite Domestic Violence Charge." Uptown Almanac. (Retrieved Aug 14, 2014.)
- Official site
- Mirkarimi for Sherrif[dead link]
- StandWithRoss Facebook page
- San Francisco City Government profile page
- San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs' Association
|Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
|Sheriff of San Francisco
2012 – present