By Savannah Blackwell
A little more than five years ago, our well regarded top public defender was down on his luck.
On her first day as the new office boss, Kimiko Burton kicked her predecessor’s chief assistant out – the final move in a notorious political play in which former mayor Willie Brown and former state Sen. John Burton conspired to jumpstart the political career of Burton’s daughter at the expense of Jeff Adachi.
But thanks to a criminal defense attorney who was also his friend, Adachi got the professional and emotional support that helped him make the now-famous political comeback that put him in his rightful role.
“He came to me when almost no one thought I had a chance and offered me a place in his office,” Adachi said. “That saw me through and now we need to show him that same kind of faith.”
Adachi was speaking of Eric Safire, whom several of the city’s most prominent progressives, including Adachi, want to see thwart Lillian Sing’s quest to return to the San Francisco Superior Court. Sing, who served on the bench from 1981 to 2004, had hoped to run unopposed for the seat being vacated by retiring Judge Perker Meeks, Jr.
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, his predecessor (and former deputy public defender) Matt Gonzalez as well as longtime community activist Debra Walker turned out at the Mission’s Doubleplay restaurant Tuesday evening to drum up support for Safire. Jake McGoldrick also has signed on. No surprise there: McGoldrick fended off Mayor Gavin Newsom and his well-shod backers’ efforts to oust the District 1 supe by bankrolling Sing’s bid for his seat on the board in 2004. Supervisor Chris Daly and school board (and green party) members Sarah Lipson and Mark Sanchez are lending their names as well.
Considered one of the city’s top criminal defense attorneys, Safire has more than two decades experience trying cases in the state’s courts. He was most recently in the news for his representation of Fajitagate victim Adam Snyder. Adachi and other supporters said Safire would bring compassion, experience, intelligence and a progressive point of view to the bench.
“How many times have we all seen judges who know a lot about prosecution and defense, but never have been a crime victim,” veteran public defender Daryl Inouye said. “This guy went into Sunnydale [housing project] where someone christened him with a baseball bat, but he didn’t let it discourage him.”
Safire said he would preside over a courtroom sensitive to people’s individual situations.
“So many have become like processing centers,” he said.
Given that voters are more likely familiar with Sing’s name and her ability to attract significant campaign dollars, Safire faces a tough fight.
But Peskin, for one, said he felt confident Chinatown leaders would pitch in.
“I’m happy to report [they’re] raising some bucks,” he said. “We’ve got to make it happen and we’ve got to make it happen in the next 45 days.”
ONE WE'LL MISS
For seventeen years, Rachel Gordon has worked hard to deliver fair and accurate coverage from the pressroom at San Francisco's city hall.
I'm sad to report that Rachel is no longer at that post. She is now assigned to state politics.
Cecilia Vega has been tapped to replace her. No offense to Vega, but as a newcomer to city politics, she cannot match Rachel's experience and insight.
During the years I covered city hall for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, I had the privilege of sharing Rachel's company.
Even though SFBG Publisher Bruce Brugmann frequently criticized Rachel for not aggressively covering the public power issue, she didn’t hold that against me. In fact, it was she who suggested to SF Newshour producer Jon Bernstein that I appear on the popular show. For many years, the Bay Guardian was either not welcome or didn't want to be represented on the program (depends on whom you ask). But after Rachel and I did a radio show together in 1997, she spoke to Bernstein. Roughly a year later, I became a regular. To some extent, that means Brugmann owes the prominence of his paper’s city hall coverage during former Mayor Willie Brown’s “reign” to her.
SFPO RAISES SOME DOUGH
I’m glad to report that the San Francisco Peoples’ Organization drew hundreds of supporters to their April 8 fundraiser at 111 Minna.
SFPO’s Cat Rauschuber told me Monday the art auctions, door collection and t-shirt sales raised somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.
The evening unfortunately did mark two bummers: Some hosehead swiped part of the Barry McGee piece (I think it was the hair net in a plastic bag). With hair net, the piece went for $3,100 to an absentee bidder in New York City, according to Cat. I wonder whether the bidder is still ok with that figure given the work of art is no longer intact.
The second bummer of the night was the theft of Misha Irizarry’s purse, which contained her green card. Unlike the music and most of the folks at the party, that has got to suck. At least longtime Bayview Hunters Point activist Maurice Campbell has a copy.
Email Savannah Blackwell at firstname.lastname@example.org