Students Andrew Suvunnachuen, Igor Grinberg, Robbie Sugiyama, coach Rob
Fung, Wyatt Lim-Tepper, and Tony Ribera at George Washington High
Ribera throws a curve at mayor's race
by Hank Donat
Former chief of police Tony Ribera
is unique among candidates for mayor. As the only Republican in the
race, he has the luxury of running against "all of the above" in a
field crowded with solid lefties and/or so-called cogs in the
Brown-Burton machine. More about that later.
It's Tuesday afternoon, and the chief is taking time to indulge in a
couple of personal passions - baseball and his alma mater, George
Washington High School in the Richmond. He graduated in 1963.
At batting practice with half a dozen 8th and 9th graders and coach Rob
Fung, Ribera, 58, looks the perfect TV cop, like "The Commish" on his
Since retiring from the SFPD in 1996, Ribera has hardly led the life of
a retiree. A teacher and administrator for the University of San
Francisco, he was appointed director of the International Institute of
Criminal Justice Leadership at USF in 2001.
His long and varied career also includes a tour of duty in Vietnam. And
in case you thought he was all muscle, Ribera also holds a Ph. D. in
public administration and other degrees from Golden Gate University.
In the batting cage, the chief asks one of the teenagers, Steve Yi, how
he wants the pitch. "What do you want?" Ribera asks, "All I have is a
No one is more surprised than Ribera when his next pitch is a perfect
curveball, an Uncle Charlie square in the strike zone. "My curveball is
a variation of my change-up," he quips.
There's no joy in Mudville, for soon it's my turn. I hadn't picked up a
baseball bat in 25 years and even that time it was only to scare an
imaginary burglar. Ribera cheers me on, "When I'm in City Hall you can
say, 'He couldn't get anything past me.'"
He got several past me, but I connected quite a few times - a
respectable showing considering they pay you $8 million dollars to hit
three out of ten for the majors.
The advice these young people get from Fung and Ribera on batting is
all good. It echoes what seems to be Ribera's campaign strategy:
balance, patience, and torque.
"I think the Brown-Burton machine has been entrenched in San Francisco
for a long time," Ribera says, "There is an assumption out there that
the Democratic Party rules. If they mention my name in the Chronicle
they say 'conservative Republican.' Being a good manager is not being
conservative or liberal, it's being a good manager."
The focus of Ribera's campaign is Willie Brown. He says front runner
Gavin Newsom represents "a continuation of the Brown adminstration,
which is the worst one we've ever had. We can look no further than
homelessness to see that."
Balance: The chief continues to support Newsom's Care Not Cash and
says, "Gavin is taking the most pot shots because he's the front
runner. I think Care not Cash is good legislation. It's a step in the
Ribera says he represents the neighborhoods. "I represent the blue
collar San Franciscans. I've been a union member my entire adult life.
I'd much rather have the support of people like Rob Fung than people
who call themselves corporate leaders."
In other views, Ribera says as mayor he would reach out to the business
community. "They're leaving San Francisco for Oakland! Can you believe
Ribera says he has "come to the conclusion that rent control is with us
at least in the forseeable future." He supports medical marijuana only
in a medical setting.
But it's Ribera's take on homelessess that's most unlike that of any
other candidate. He is the only one to confront what I have come to
call "the unwritten golden asterix" in everyone's homeless plan: *Of
course there are always going to be those who refuse to participate.
Ribera says a tough D.A. - not Terrence Hallinan - and enforcement of
quality of life laws are necessary.
"There have been a number of studies on quality of life crimes," Ribera
says, "What the studies have proven is that if you allow minor crimes
to proliferate, serious crimes will also proliferate. That was the
original target of Matrix - focusing on street crimes in the
Patience: For those who would lose their minds just hearing "Matrix,"
Mayor Frank Jordan's controversial plan for homelessness, Ribera
addresses the reader directly.
"From 1988 until 2003 homelessness has increased every year except '93,
'94, '95. Those were the three years I had the Matrix program in place
as chief of police. The problem with the Matrix program is it was
always my goal and the goal of the mayor to involve human resources and
public health in an active outreach role and that never really happened.
"It wasn't for the police chief to tell the Department of Public Health
or the Department of Human Services what to do. We asked for their
cooperation and participation and we got it to some degree but they
were not effective and it did become primarily a police program."
If Care Not Cash is a good step, the next one, Ribera says, is to
create a program that will address all homeless, "not just those on
welfare. The city needs a program with specific goals and priorities,
one that holds specific people accountable for accomplishing those
goals and priorities."
Torque: Ribera says, "Ask Willie Brown the next time you see him,
'Who's in charge of homelessness?' I'll bet you Peter Magowen can tell
you who's managing his baseball team."
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