Can new San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins turn things around?
As anyone who has ever worked in an office, or a call center, or a factory knows perfectly well, planned firings almost always happen on a Friday.
Corporations started doing this many years ago and there are as many reasons why as there are ways to fire someone. Maybe people take bad news better on a Friday, or the office is generally more empty on a Friday, making the dreaded scene easier and less embarrassing for all concerned.
Maybe it is a human resources policy of best practices; maybe it’s an accounting measure having to do with pay periods and payroll taxes.
In any case, when a wave of layoffs or firings hits the average workforce, it’s almost never a surprise to the rank and file. Usually, weeks before the axe falls and pink slips show up in paychecks, the office, or factory floor, or Slack channel is already abuzz with speculation and, possibly, betting pools, with everyone wondering, loudly and in groups, who will be the first to go.
And who will be next.
Certain words, phrases and precursors are a major tip-off: “New management,”or, “new ownership”; a, “personnel audit,” with forms asking employees- and their managers- to, “describe in detail the responsibilities of an average workday,”; consultants who talk, openly or obliquely of, “streamlining,” and, “redundancies.”
“Recall,” is another word that might put an office of political appointees wise to a few staffing changes incoming.
A few weeks ago, when San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin lost his bid in a recall election, such rumors must have already been flying in the office he was soon to be leaving behind.
When the firings finally began on Friday, July 15, with disgruntled former Boudin staffers taking to Twitter to unleash a storm of recriminations, no one should have been much surprised.
After all, Boudin himself, elected less than two years ago, waited barely a day before firing staff members appointed by his predecessors in order to fill the office of the District Attorney with those who, “shared his vision,” of criminal justice reform.
Unfortunately for Boudin and his staff, that, “shared vision,” was not shared by San Francisco residents and voters as it included a skyrocketing crime rate and a national disaster declaration in the Tenderloin.
Once the recall was successful, it fell to SF Mayor London Breed to appoint Boudin’s successor. Mayor Breed chose prosecutor Brooke Jenkins, who brings to the position many years of experience, excellent judgement and a plethora of other important qualifications.
But whatever Jenkins’ other stellar qualifications, Mayor Breed must have appointed her on one condition only, for one express and explicit purpose; to accomplish a single, all-important objective by which Jenkins’ entire tenure in office, however long that may be, will be judged: “Make San Franciscans feel safer- on the streets, in their homes, cars, and businesses.”
How safe, or unsafe, voters, residents and businesses feel in San Francisco might be the metric upon which the entire tenure of SF Mayor London Breed is judged.
Flak, as everyone knows, runs downhill. If Mayor Breed is promising to get tough on career criminals in San Francisco, she must be getting an earful from her constituents, donors, and most especially, her closest political rivals.
The political rivals of Mayor London Breed, like the political rivals of Chesa Boudin, aren’t Republicans; far from it. Instead, Breed, like Boudin before her, is swimming in a sea of Democrats who look at the worsening problems in San Francisco and feel someone else could do a better job.
One such Democrat may be Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who recently announced the closing of 16 stores, most of which are on the West Coast, due to concerns about sharply rising crime in those areas.
“We’ve had to make the difficult decision to close some locations that have a particularly high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe for us to operate,” Starbucks told CNBC via a spokesperson.
“Starbucks is a window into America,” CEO Howard Schultz said in a frank call with Starbucks employees last week. “We are facing things in which the stores were not built for.”
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” said Schultz. “America has become unsafe.”
“In my view, at the local, state, and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders- mayors, governors, and city councils- have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness,” Schultz continued.
“You’re also seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more,” Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, senior VPs of U.S. Operations for Starbucks, wrote in an open letter to employees on July 11, 2022, titled, “Message to Starbucks partners: Safety in our stores”: “With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot.”
While some media outlets have decried the store closures as, “union busting,” that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Starbucks has about 9,000 stores in the United States. The employees of around 300 Starbucks coffee shops have filed to unionize since December of 2021. Of the 16 stores slated to close by the end of July, ostensibly due to concerns about crime, only two of them have unionized with a third having filed an intention to do so.
Starbucks has denied the closures have anything to do with unionizing employees, and there certainly are plenty of crime statistics to back up the claim. There is other evidence as well.
Starbucks isn’t alone; and, according to CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks isn’t finished closing stores in dangerous areas. None of the 16 Starbucks closing are in San Francisco, but the next ones may well be.
“Last week, 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters encouraged local Los Angeles franchises to close after five armed robberies at locations in the area left two people dead,” Retail Wire admitted on July 18. “Last October, Walgreens closed five San Francisco stores frequently targeted by organized theft rings.”
Companies from Walgreens to MOD Pizza are now taking extraordinary measures to combat crime in some stores and protect their customers, employees and businesses. Installing more panic buttons in pizza joints may seem an odd solution; spending 10x the national average on private security and enhanced anti-theft measures seems equally unsustainable.
Some retail stores in San Francisco have become nothing so much as giant vending machines, with every single product locked behind indestructible plexiglass and requiring a key-bearing employee to access.
As appointed, interim DA, Brooke Jenkins will have only a few months to demonstrate her fitness to arrest the downward slide of San Francisco. She must face voters in November, who will vote to keep the woman Mayor London Breed appointed after sternly promising, “to end the bulls — t destroying our city,” or send Jenkins packing after her predecessor.
Less than two years ago, Chesa Boudin and his office of progressive prosecutors were riding high on a great wave of fresh support for criminal justice reform. They made poor use of the opportunity, if being recalled from office is any indication of failure- and it is.
New DA Brooke Jenkins has a much shorter window of opportunity. If she doesn’t prove herself, and soon, she may be the one fired by phone call.
On a Friday.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)