About a hundred people turned out last night at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club to hear Ross Mirkarimi discuss the domestic dispute with his wife that embroiled his first year as San Francisco Sheriff in controversy, legal disputes, a suspension from office and -- about six weeks ago -- reinstatement by the Board of Supervisors. I served as moderator.
Mirkarimi began the evening with a 15 minute speech, outlining his goals for the office -- and touching on the impact of the last few months on him and his family.
He was by turns contrite, combative, tearful and determined to fulfill the promises he made to voters in last year's campaign for sheriff. While he took responsibility for his behavior he also questioned the motives of his political opponents, including Mayor Ed Lee and District Attorney George Gascón, accusing them of "fanning the flames" for their own political ends.
He called the experience "shattering" and teared up while discussing his young son Theo, who is in Venezuela with his mother, Eliana Lopez. Mirkarimi says he reads bed time stories to Theo at night via Skype.
In light of Mayor Ed Lee's refusal to answer his letter asking to "move forward" I asked Mirkarimi how he was going improve that relationship. "I'll continue to send him love letters," Mirkarimi said. "I'm going to go at it in a way to build alliances. I do find it awkward that we communicate to each other through the Chronicle or the press. Or that the DA releases letters first to the press and then I receive them in the mail afterwards."
I also asked him about the anti-domestic violence groups who vehemently opposed him from the start and continue to call for his ouster. "Going after me was one thing, dismissing my wife was something else," he said. "She was very resistant to that as well, and it was because there was a level of respect that was missing, which might seem foreign in something like this, but it just seemed antagonistic. That level of intensity seems to compound itself."
There were no protests and while some of the written questions were pointed or even hostile, there were equal numbers of supportive comments and neutral questions about policy. The audience was respectful and listened to the sheriff without interruption.
Mirkarimi said he plans to continue the work of his predecessor, Michael Hennessey, by implementing progressive policies aimed at reducing recidivism among former inmates.