Copyright 1995 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 7, 1995, SUNDAY, SUNDAY EDITION
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. 6; LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LENGTH: 1392 words
HEADLINE: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BODY: A WORD IN DEFENSE OF MATRIX
Editor -- As the San Francisco Police Department's project coordinator for the department's Matrix-Quality of Life Program, I feel compelled to respond to Supervisor Angela Alioto's comments in your feature story ''Liberal and Proud of It'' (Sunday, April 16).
Although I'm sure well intentioned, Supervisor Alioto makes several misleading and grossly inaccurate statements.
Supervisor Alioto states that 20,000 out of 38,000 arrests were for four quality of life crimes: sleeping on the street between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; covering oneself with a blanket or cardboard box; urinating in public; and blocking a doorway. These statements are totally inaccurate.
The law prohibiting sleeping between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. applies to public parks, not city streets. Out of thousands of enforcement actions, only 512, based on SFPD internal statistics, involve this offense.
Supervisor Alioto states covering oneself with a blanket or cardboard box is a crime. Wrong again. In fact, SFPD enforcement policies and directives specifically direct that the mere lying or sleeping on or in a bedroll, in and of itself, does not constitute a violation. However, more permanent lodging in public places or camping in parks are criminal offenses. SFPD enforcement totals for 647i Penal Code (lodging) and 3.12 Park Code (camping) from August of 1993 through February 1995 are approximately 773.
Supervisor Alioto lists blocking a doorway as a crime. Municipal Police Code Section 25 prohibits trespassing on private property without permission. SFPD has issued approximately 573 citations for violations of 25 MPC.
Regarding public urination: SFPD doesn't conduct rooftop surveillance to catch people urinating behind dumpsters in alleys. If individuals with total disregard for the rights, health and decency of others decide to expose themselves and urinate on a crowded street corner and the police make the observation, the chances are the individual will receive a citation. Approximately 724 such enforcement actions were taken for public urination and/or littering.
Together, illegal lodging, the two Park Code violations, 25 MPC violations, and public urination violations add up to 2,582. This is a far cry from 20,000. The remaining 35,759 arrests and citations were for miscellaneous felony crimes, felony narcotic offenses, vandalism, graffiti, trespassing (cites/arrests), drunk and disorderly conduct, drinking alcoholic beverages in public, willful/malicious obstruction of the streets/ sidewalks, aggressive panhandling and other misdemeanor violations.
Supervisor Alioto states that SFPD diverts officers' attention from serious crime to pursue sleeping violations.
Mayor Jordan, the Police Commission and Chief of Police Anthony Ribera have made it perfectly clear that the control of serious crime is the department's number one priority. Unfortunately, quality of life enforcement remains a necessity in some areas.
Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to explain that the department's Matrix-Quality of Life Program is not an anti-homeless program or an attempt to move homeless individuals out of the city or away from downtown. Rather, it is a program to enhance the quality of life for all people -- residents, visitors and homeless alike.
As a result of Mayor Jordan's Matrix Program and the department's work, coordination and cooperation with other city departments, quality of life conditions are greatly improved in most neighborhoods. Conditions may not be perfect, but in Civic Center, Justin Herman Plaza, the Market Street corridor, the Mission Street corridor and many other areas they are greatly improved. This is validated by many merchants and residential associations all across town who are very supportive of Mayor Jordan's Matrix Program and the SFPD's Quality of Life Program.
DENNIS P. MARTEL
Commander of Police
Editor -- Since it is rare for persons in high office to admit mistakes, it is sad to see so much criticism of Robert McNamara breaking silence about the Viet Nam war. It is understandable that there is anger about his involvement in the war per se, as that is a natural consequence of being accountable, but to be angry at him for speaking out itself is misguided.
Many are angry because they erroneously believe that we are close to having healed from the war, and that bringing it up only makes it worse. But the anger itself is a sign of how much pain is still there. Many mistake true healing for simply avoiding the topic. The truth is that the nation has backed away from finishing the healing process, as illustrated by the lack of a generally accepted story of what the Viet Nam war was about. An essential part of the healing yet to be done is for us as a nation (including the leaders still alive who started the war and carried it out) to confront the question of what it meant, and to have a vigorous, open-minded dialogue to produce a shared story.
That healing is unfinished is also borne out by the fact that too many of the soldiers and the families of those who died still suffer. Coming to a shared story about the war's meaning would make it easier for them to heal, because they would not have to hide their experience, but could be embraced by the country's squarely dealing with reality.
I, too, wish that McNamara would have come out against the war as soon as he decided it was wrong. That would have been the right thing to do, and it would have had a powerful impact on the country, perhaps even leading to a quicker end. But it is better late than never, especially since McNamara stands uniquely alone as a responsible high official who is addressing the folly of that war.
So it is McNamara's courage to admit the mistakes and take the heat that I respect. Would that more leaders follow his example. It could go a long way toward reducing the cynicism Americans have for government. It could also inspire us to take responsibility for our own actions, and to have compassion for others, for we are becoming lost in the seductive culture of blame and division. We don't need any more hatred.
Editor -- It is with appalled disbelief that I have read the shrill cries from the left that Rush Limbaugh and his fellow talk-radio commentators are somehow responsible for the tragedy in Oklahoma City. President Clinton, idiots who write letters to your newspaper and illogical columnists such as Texas windbag Molly Ivins (published by the Chron with alarming regularity) have all made this absurd accusation. Ivins, in answer to the question of whether she thought hate radio contributed to the ''torn, tiny bodies in Oklahoma City,'' sums it up in her reply: ''I know they did.''
Using this faulty logic, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, PETA and especially Earth First! are fully responsible for the actions of the mad Unabomber. Through their anti-industrial, anti-capitalist rhetoric, they have obviously incited this madman to take these drastic measures, and though the death toll is much less (so far), the victims are just as dead.
Of course I am being facetious in making this accusation; as a firm believer in free speech, I would never suggest the censorship of any views, no matter how abhorrent. While I share many of Mr. Limbaugh's beliefs, I often find him to be a pompous, hypocritical windbag. While I agree with many of the principles of the environmental movement, I find their most extreme viewpoints (articulated in frightening detail by the Unabomber) to be absurd.
Quite simply, I find the complete silence from the left regarding the Unabomber, in light of their knee-jerk attacks on ''hate speech, hate radio and hate politics,'' to be deafening.
Editor -- If Limbaugh and other hate-government talk show hosts insist their rhetoric did not inspire the Oklahoma bomb throwers, then what good is radio advertising?
The whole point of these radio programs is to sell product, whether it's shampoo or philosophy. I'd like to hear from the sponsors: Are they getting their money's worth?