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San Francisco, California--
Speculation was that Willie Brown might pull out of the televised Mayoral debate at Golden Gate University. The reason? It just wasn't fair, said Brown, that businessman Ben Hom wasn't going to be included.
Critics, however, accused Brown of trying to dodge debate over a track record that might welt under the spotlight.
Last night's aggressive debate may have been proof of the later.
Said panelist David Wright to Brown, "You said that you would get every crack dealer off of every corner in San Francisco, and yet when you were serving as the pinnacle of state government, you chose as an attorney to defend known drug dealers."
Wright went on, questioning Brown's track record: "How can the voters of San Francisco trust you on this issue when you have personally profited as a lawyer representing drug dealers?"
"Mr. Wright," Brown said, "what I have done over the last 15 years as a member of the California state assembly represents the basis on which the citizens should make a determination."
However, Jordan pressed the issue: "We elected Willie Brown to fight drug dealers, not to represent them. That's a very important distinction he has to learn."
Achtenberg also took aim at Brown, saying "I'm actually critical of Mr. Brown for suggesting that Jack Jordan should be our next police chief, or saying that he would consider him."
But Brown was not the only candidate under attack.
Panelist Belva Davis asked Jordan, "One of the reasons you were elected to office, a former police chief, was that you promised to make the streets of San Francisco safe. Yet three years later citizens rate fear of crime as one of their number one concerns. What went wrong?"
Jordan responded by pointing out that 200 additional police officers were placed on the street during his administration. "Also crime," said Jordan, "is down 21 percent."
The mayor then went on to deflect the criticism back on to Brown:
"We have an assembly bill, 1035, right now that the governor just passed this week that says that the police departments now have the authority to take known drug dealers off the street corners of our city, and Willie Brown voted against it."
There were 61 yes votes and 9 no votes, Brown's among them. "Now who is he representing?" asked the mayor. "His only thoughts are a gambling casino on treasure island."
Brown did not defend his stand on assembly bill 1035, nor did he respond to the mayor's comments about a gambling casino.
Instead, Brown said, "The citizens of San Francisco are frightened, and they should be. Crime is up on muni, violence has doubled, the number of homicides are absolutely higher than they . . . clearly should be." Brown called Jordan's oversight of the police department "damnable."
On the issue of public safety the candidates responded to a question asked by a citizen via teleconferencing. Joel Tate posed this question to all candidates, "What do you plan to do about safety on the streets of San Francisco?"
Brown said, "First, I would fix the 911 system. Second, I would in fact move all of those desk jockeys with badges and guns back into the streets to begin to do policing. I would also insist that they become community-based police. Thirdly, I think that police officers should come from San Francisco." Brown also said that he would select "top-flight personnel."
Achtenberg's answer was more idealistic:
"Let me say that I think that police officers want to be, and could be trained to be, the mentors of young people." If she is elected she will appoint a chief who is "steeped in community policing."
Jordan responded to Tate's question with an additional attack upon opponent Brown. "Let me say," said Jordan, "that Willie Brown, you have no credibility when it comes to criminal justice issues."
He also criticized Brown sharply for not going to Washington to represent San Francisco on the U.S. crime bill, the assault weapons act, and assault weapons ban.
"I didn't see your name anywhere on any of those issues," Jordan said. "I went back numerous times because that's what we need to get the violence and guns off of our streets. You have been a silent partner for too long."
In his closing remarks the usually confident Brown appeared rattled. He accused Jordan and Achtenberg of conspiring against him.
"Both Mayor Jordan and Roberta Achtenberg have done their best to make me the issue in this campaign," Brown said. "They have contrived to try to shift the attention away from Frank Jordan's lackluster performance and from Achtenberg's inexperience."
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