By Nealan Afsari
July 5, 2011, San Francisco, CA– On Thursday, June 23, 2011, a group of Iranian Americans from Northern California gathered at the home of Tina and Hamid Moghadam, in support of Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s campaign for San Francisco sheriff.
Mirkarimi, accompanied by supporter and former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, started his address to the lively crowd by addressing the one question that everyone seems to be asking: “Why not mayor?” Mirkarimi explained that when Sheriff Michael Hennessey announced he would not seek reelection, it was clear to Mirkarimi that pursuing the citywide office of sheriff was an ideal opportunity to continue his work to improve public safety and both continue and build upon the progressive criminal justice programs implemented by Hennessey.
Hennessey has endorsed Mirkarimi, an endorsement that initially gave the Supervisor a significant edge over his opponents, all of whom hail from within the city’s law enforcement system. Mirkarimi’s record and recognition as a city supervisor, though, is a major factor contributing to his current lead in the race. Mirkarimi, supervisor of San Francisco’s District 5, has been twice elected to the Board of Supervisors. Prior to his election as supervisor, the Naval Reserves veteran and San Francisco Police Academy graduate served eight years with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, investigating environmental and white-collar crimes.
Two of the key issues Mirkarimi will focus on as sheriff are rehabilitation and reentry. In addressing San Francisco’s 64% recidivism rate, Mirkarimi emphasized, “I want to really reduce the recidivism rate, really help people turn their lives around.” If elected, Mirkarimi will also have to help San Francisco prepare to accommodate the expected rise in the city’s inmate population, as a result of California’s passage of AB109, which transfers responsibility for certain lower-level offenders to local municipalities.
If his run is successful, Mirkarimi will be the first American of Iranian descent to be elected to the office of sheriff in the country. Mirkarimi – who has a record of recognizing the Iranian American community and has Iranian Americans on his staff – values the importance of electing Iranian Americans to office, which he said is a “new frontier” for the Iranian American community. In making the race for the office of sheriff relevant to Iranian Americans, Mirkarimi explained, “We all care about public safety,” and “the Iranian American community should have a role in leading the criminal justice system in the United States.” The candidate also pointed out the relationship between post-9/11 immigration policies and the criminal justice system, stating that this is an opportunity for Iranian Americans to “speak out on the missteps of bad immigration policy.”
Although he is widely seen as the front-runner in the race for the office of sheriff, Mirkarimi says he takes “nothing for granted.” The supervisor and candidate, who reminded the crowd, “I’m a grassroots kind of guy,” says he will utilize all the tried and true methods of campaigning: speaking to voters across the city, fundraising, putting up signs and getting his message out.
Mirkarimi provided those gathered with a window into his personal history, recalling his father’s rise from his job as a security guard at a Chicago YMCA – a time that the family struggled, as many Americans do – to running Chicago’s YMCA system. Mirkarimi explained that his father saw his role at YMCA as his way of contributing back to the community and, Mirkarimi said, “that is my bloodline.”