SAN FRANCISCO—Homelessness, theft, and feelings of insecurity are some of the issues San Francisco residents brought up at the district attorney debate on Sept. 4 at the Palace of Fine Arts.
For the first time in eight years, San Francisco residents are to vote for their new district attorney (DA) on Nov. 5.
The current DA, George Gascón, announced last October that he would not be running again to care for his family.
According to organizer Patricia Vaughey, the debate will be a fair platform for candidates to share their views.
“The public should have the right to see their candidates and not be influenced by the media or anything else. They should have a right to make a decision [for] themselves,” Vaughey said. “Everybody in the room is allowed to ask a question, everybody has to speak the same amount of time. It’s democracy.”
San Francisco resident August Uffelman said he, “found it really inspirational to hear kind of the story of each of them and their different approach to what matters to them.”
Leftist candidate Chesa Boudin promised to treat every arrest as an opportunity for improvement.
“I want to make sure that every victim of every crime has a voice, that we’re reaching out, contacting victims within 48 hours of initiating our case,” Boudin said. “I want to make sure that we’re not letting dangerous people back on the streets just because they pay bail or have some other connection to power.”
Democrat Leif Dautch passes by homeless people on his way to work in the Tenderloin district everyday.
“I want to take juvenile hall, which the city is shutting down, because it’s 80 percent empty, and turn that into a mental health justice center, a place for people on our streets who are severely mentally ill to get the help they need,” Dautch said.
Democrat Nancy Tung highlighted her years of experience as a prosecutor.
“My independence really is about making sure that we do the right thing no matter if it’s politically unpopular, but really servicing the community and making sure there is a just outcome for victims,” she said.
Another concern the public raised was how candidates would deal with criminals who are protected under Proposition 47, which reduces penalties for some crimes if the losses do not exceed $950.
“People now are stealing up to $950 worth of merchandise, but that also our merchants, particularly small businesses who aren’t able to absorb the cost,” Tung said.
Rather than changing the law, Tung said she would work on changing the way people are prosecuted by taking the case to the grand jury to let it proceed as a felony.
“Our district attorney has not prosecuted anyone, hardly anyone over the last eight years, and this is why we have the crime spree that we have,” Vaughey said.
Dautch promised to make cases transparent for the public if elected.
“I’m committed to embracing radical transparency, putting millions of data points up on our website about what’s actually happening to the cases that we’re prosecuting, who’s being convicted, what the sentences are, who’s coming back into the system, and that’s the information that the public needs, that journalists needs, that other officials need to hold me accountable. I’m committed to doing that,” Dautch said.
In San Francisco, the DA is the top prosecutor in the city. After the police investigate and arrest a person, the DA works to support them through the case.
The fourth candidate running for district attorney, Democrat Suzy Loftus, wasn’t present for the debate.
All speakers said they would cooperate with the police and community to solve the problems, together.