How to speak like San Francisco’s mayor: Drive the vague point home. Repeatedly.

For our upcoming print edition (December 4th release), we’re constructing a synopsis of the debate over San Francisco’s proposed Collaborative Community Justice Center (CCJC). But gems like the one you’re about to read don’t fit into print, so we’ll share them on the web. The following block of text is a direct quote from Mayor Newsom when asked a fairly harmless background question. What did I expect, you ask? Not this:

TNAC: Can you tel me a little about your goals with the CCJC? It’s been suggested, unsurprisingly, that your motives are more political than philanthropic…

Mayor Newsom: I actually went out to New York about 7 or 8 years ago and saw the Midtown community courts [in Manhattan], and had discussions with my colleagues on the board, and then, as mayor, now, I’m organizing around it in a deliberative way with the district attorney, public defender, with community leaders, and with others with appropriate time to organize around this initiative, and I’m of the opinion that the Bay Guardian once again is not interested in allowing us to prove the successes, and they want to assume that we’ll fail but I want to initiate change because I won’t let people suffer and die for a political agenda. We’re going to organize community in a collaborative way to turn people’s lives around. This is about helping people, not about arguing for the status quo. We’re going to say, look, you’ve been in 54 times, you’re out on the streets, the community’s not satisfied, your life is not turned around, so what we’re doing is not working. This program will provide a different type of approach to guarantee services and help in a collaborative way with the community and with nonprofits to utilize a system to understand the underlying cause of why you’re out there 15, 20, 30, 40 times getting citations for drug dealing, citations for prostitution, getting citations for aggressive panhandling and out there living on the streets where we have programs and opportunities to get you into a system to get you help in a proactive comprehensive way. It is my goal to try to change the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the current system because there’s a disconnect, not a collaborative, where people are in and out of the system, being helped in one part of the system and then being abandoned in the other part of the system. It’s about creating a narrative where there’s real accountability so there’s a focused effort where the criminal justice system is no longer just a place, a weigh station, to go in and out of to collect a record, but a place to make sure that people get not just the level of service, but also the quality and attention of service that they deserve and…

Bllllllaaaaaaahhh. Go ahead and read that again, but this time pay attention to his use of “you” or “you’re.” Risky using indefinite words to describe equally indefinite ideas (recidivism, homelessness, crime, helplessness). Et cetera.

Also, be aware that the periods I’ve bequeathed Mr. Newsom are generous — he doesn’t stop unless you (meaning “I,” Matt Stroud, or any of the many journalists who interview the guy) interrupt him. Loudly. Which is the point, I guess — to make transcribing his words and finding a concrete quote so difficult and weird that journalists just paraphrase him and use quips like this (see “abject failure”). If you’re interested to hear more, listen here.

More info:
Center for Court Innovation
“A Dignitary Examines Community Court” (2003)
“Go Ahead with the Community Court” (1992)

Tags: san francisco