Give Chesa Boudin More Time

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San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin

San Francisco / May 11, 2022

There is a recall election on June 7 to remove San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. I wrote in support of Boudin's election in November 2019 because I agree with his core political mission (link). He wants to change law enforcement strategies so fewer people on lower incomes and racial minorities go to jail.

I will vote to retain Boudin, because I want to give his project more time.

The data is ambiguous. Boudin's supporters structure the data to make it appear that crime rates fell under his tenure (link). Boudin's critics reject this data and claim that Boudin's team is changing how metrics are tracked. Prominent critic David Sacks writes very passionately that Boudin's intentional policies made San Francisco less safe (link).

It is also worth noting that Covid-19 impacted crime across the United States. During the core period of Covid-19 in the US, violent crime increased and property crimes decreased (link). The decreases in SF crime rates that Boudin's team enthusiastically report is probably more driven by Covid-19 and less driven by Boudin's plan. By my read, the data is still ambiguous on this issue. If voters give Boudin more time, we will get more useful data to see if Boudin's strategy is effective.

We already know what happens under the standard law enforcement strategy in US cities. I think it is better to let Boudin serve the standard 4 year term and then assess the data.

 

Also, there is a learning process for every politician. This is Boudin's first elected office. There is a larger learning curve for Boudin because he wants to radically change how the DA office works. Under these conditions, it is not appropriate to remove him early.

His plan can still work over a 4-year horizon.

Also, Boudin is an outsider to San Francisco politics. He grew up in Chicago. Many insiders in San Francisco -- i.e., remnants of the Burton-Brown machine (e.g., Mayor London Breed) -- resent Boudin. This contributed to Boudin's present position. I don't think it is fair to remove him under these conditions.

I will say that many of Boudin's public statements suggest he is not interested in the data. He is driven by core feelings and early formative experiences. Ideally, I want the District Attorney to pay attention to the data. I'm politically center left and want liberals to anchor their policies using data. Feelings are important and meaningful, but there must be real and raw data that orient liberal strategy.