San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee vows support for sanctuary city status

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- n Francisco Mayor Ed Lee today called for political unity in the face of attacks from conservatives and funding cuts from the Trump administration in his annual "State of the City" address, urging a city known for its fractious politics to work together.

"We may not see eye to eye on every issue, and we must continue to have fierce debates and a battle of ideas," Lee said. "But we also have to ask if division at home makes us more vulnerable to attacks."

Coming as it did a day after President Donald Trump's executive order calling for federal grant funds to be cut for cities such as San Francisco with Sanctuary City policies, Lee's speech was inevitably shadowed by federal politics, which he portrayed as an attack on the city's values.

Trump has also called for a major increase in deportations and imposed strict new limits on immigration and the acceptance of refugees.

As he did on Wednesday, Lee again reaffirmed the city's commitment to Sanctuary City policies, which among other things limit local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

"We are a Sanctuary City, now, tomorrow, forever," Lee said.

Despite the somber context, however, Lee also highlighted the city's recent accomplishments, including the revitalization of Market Street and the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Lee praised the recent progress made in police reform efforts, including the completion of a voluntary review of the department by the U.S. Department of Justice and a revised use of force policy that prohibits shooting at moving vehicles and the use of the carotid control hold.

He noted that the department's recent recruits have included 56 percent people of color and many local residents.

More controversially, Lee called for the introduction of electronic control devices, or Tasers, to give police officers more options.

We ave tried unsuccessfully to win approval for the use of Tasers in the past, but run into intense political opposition from advocates who argue that they are dangerous and prone to misuse. Any attempt to reintroduce the topic now is likely to encounter similar opposition.

Lee also used today's speech to announce initiatives in the areas where he has focused most of his political efforts: housing, homelessness, neighborhood crime and quality of life issues.

The initiatives include an expansion of a down payment assistance program for new home buyers, as well as the opening of two more Navigation Centers, homeless shelters designed to provide intensive services and a pathway to permanent housing, at San Francisco General Hospital and in the South of Market neighborhood.

The city currently operates two such centers in the Mission District and in the Tenderloin, and is opening a third next month in the Dogpatch neighborhood.

Lee, citing the success of Laura's Law, which allows for court-ordered psychiatric treatment, also called for a partnership with local courts to improve the conservatorship program for those found incapable of managing their own affairs.

In response to a growing number of complaints about issues such as discarded syringes in public places, Lee said the Department of Public Health will install disposal boxes in hot spots around the city.

The city will increase the number of workers trained to clean up the streets and expand the efforts of a neighborhood "fix-it" team assigned to clean up graffiti and make other repairs, Lee said.

In addition, recently appointed Supervisor Jeff Sheehy is developing a plan to address neighborhood crime, Lee said.

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