Will San Francisco DA recall reverberate here?

ON SUNDAY, it was Steph Curry’s relentless rain of 3s that reverberated 3,000 miles away in Boston. The question this morning is whether the moves made on Tuesday by San Francisco voters will be felt here as well. 

The news today from the city by the Bay: Reform-minded San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is out, sent packing by a wide margin in a recall election driven by concerns that his progressive turn away from tough-on-crime policies has contributed to an atmosphere of lawlessness. The recall vote passed by an overwhelming 60-40 margin. 

Homicides are up in San Francisco, as is the case since the pandemic’s onset in many US cities, but the rate remains far below that of prior decades. Indeed, violent crime overall in San Francisco is at one of its lowest levels in four decades, reports the Washington Post.

But residential burglaries are up, with many occurring while residents are home. Meanwhile, the streets of San Francisco have a feel that sounds familiar in Boston, even if the problems here are generally more concentrated. “The state of the streets, including many of the major commercial ones, remains heartbreaking, an open-air stage of human misery defined by homelessness, mental illness, and drugs,” the Post says of San Francisco. 

For those concerned about the pendulum swinging too far left in the rethinking of criminal justice policies, it would be hard to find a more inviting target than Boudin. The 41-year-old prosecutor, who had not even completed three years in office, is the son of Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, members of the Weather Underground movement who spent decades in prison in connection with their involvement in a 1981 Brink’s armored truck robbery that left a guard and two police officers dead. 

Last night, Boudin suggested the vote was a way for residents to take out their frustration with all sorts of problems, including City Hall corruption and pandemic lockdowns. “People are right to be frustrated. There’s so much room for improvement. People should hold all of us to a higher standard,” he said. But he pinned blame for the recall on wealthy donors who had spent nearly $4 million by late May on the campaign to unseat him. “Let me make it very clear about what happened tonight,” Boudin said. “The right-wing billionaires outspent us three-to-one and exploited an environment in which people are appropriately upset.”

This fall, voters in Boston and the three other communities that make up Suffolk County – Chelsea, Winthrop, and Revere – will choose a direction for the Suffolk DA’s office in the Democratic primary.

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo has vowed to carry forward the reform agenda of Rachael Rollins, who resigned the office earlier this year after being appointed US attorney for Massachusetts. Kevin Hayden, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to fill the DA’s post until the election, is running on a more moderate platform to keep the job. 

Hayden has hardly called for a rejection of progressive-minded reforms. Indeed, last month he announced new funding for diversion efforts to support addiction treatment, not criminal prosecution, of those in the troubled Mass. and Cass area of Boston that has become the epicenter of the region’s addiction and homelessness woes. But Hayden and Arroyo clearly differ on some issues, such as whether to maintain the Boston Police Department’s gang database, which Hayden supports while Arroyo does not. 

Rollins rode a wave of reform energy into office in 2018. Receiving the greatest attention was her declaration that the presumption of the office would be not to prosecute a list of 15 non-violent misdemeanor offenses. 

Crimes against Asian Americans in San Francisco have risen sharply during the pandemic, and they emerged as an important voting bloc in support of recalling Boudin. The debate over crime in the city has also been marked by lots of attention to a coordinated “smash and grab” theft ring that targeted businesses in the city’s tony Union Square area. 

As is often the case, perceptions of crime as well as other factors weighing on residents can play as big a role as actual changes on the ground. 

“The themes that were salient to voters when Boudin was elected — criminal justice reform, over-incarceration, police conduct — are not the same issues salient with voters now,” Jason McDaniel, a political science professor at San Francisco State University told the Post. “What’s most salient now is this feeling that things are just not going well, whether it’s with COVID, the economy, homelessness, or other issues. That’s a shift.”

Boston is one of a handful of major US cities where homicides are down, and it’s not yet clear whether heightened concern about crime, which is now being seen in places like San Francisco and New York City, will become a major factor in the DA contest here. 

But recent reports of guns being seized at Boston Public Schools and a spate of violent attacks by juveniles on people in the Downtown Crossing area have been unsettling. Voters may be looking for discussion of reforms aimed at keeping people from getting tangled in the criminal justice system to be accompanied by clear messages from the candidates on what they’ll do to promote public safety and tackle threats to it that emerge. 

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Crunch time: With less than two months to go in the legislative session, Rep. Michael Finn of West Springfield is pushing hard for an omnibus bill dealing with child welfare. The bill establishes rights for foster parents, gives the Office of Child Advocate more autonomy, and steps up educational oversight of the Department of Children and Families. But advocates are skeptical of some of the proposals, which makes passage in such a short time a major challenge. Read more.

Raytheon HQ moving: Raytheon Corp., a fixture on the Massachusetts corporate scene for decades, is moving its headquarters to Virginia. The company says employee levels will not drop in Massachusetts, so is the move a blow to the state’s prestige or a harbinger of things to come? Read more.

OPINION

Tradeoffs: Rob Brennan, a builder on Cape Cod, says policymakers should not pit the housing crisis against the climate crisis. That means don’t pursue policies that address the climate crisis but only intensify the housing crisis. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Advocates for child sexual abuse victims are pressuring lawmakers to advance several bills that would improve the laws meant to protect children from abuse. (Eagle-Tribune)

Two state senators blasted the Baker administration because electric vehicle charging stations at two Massachusetts Turnpike rest areas have been out of order for more than a year. (Boston Globe)

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu testifies on Beacon Hill in favor of a home-rule petition that would let the city add a 2 percent transfer tax on high-end home sales. (Boston Herald

Legislative leaders say talks are ongoing about creating a new authority to oversee construction of commuter rail west of Worcester. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Monson Select Board candidate Lindsey Esser is being removed from the town’s ballot due to campaign finance violations that make her ineligible to run. (MassLive)

Yi-An Huang, the executive director of Boston Medical Center’s clinical operations, is named city manager in Cambridge, replacing Louis DePasquale. (GBH)

Trees planted to honor a Natick teacher who passed away were torn down by vandals. (MetroWest Daily News)

ELECTIONS

A Berkshire Eagle editorial says Sen. Adams Hinds’s failure to get on the primary ballot for lieutenant governor shows how difficult it is for politicians from western Massachusetts to run statewide.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Great Barrington places restrictions on short-term rentals. (Berkshire Eagle)

EDUCATION

A group of parents of white and Asian American students has filed an appeal in federal court challenging the revamping of admission criteria for Boston’s three exam schools, contending that it denied high-scoring students seats at the schools based on race. (Boston Globe

The assistant principal at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School is placed on administrative leave and isn’t told why. (Berkshire Eagle)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Walter Baker sign atop the former chocolate factory in Dorchester has been recreated and will be lit for the first time at a ceremony on Friday. (Dorchester Reporter)

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. Charlie Baker wants lawmakers to establish a new transit authority to oversee East-West rail before the chance runs out to obtain federal funding. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State parks have a surfeit of visitors but a shortage of staff and funding. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Gloucester Police Department is training recovery coaches to help people overcome addiction. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MEDIA

Fox News doesn’t plan to carry the congressional January 6 hearings live, bumping that coverage to Fox Business. (New York Times)