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From Sacramento and Your Neighborhood
by Mark Leno
Assemblyman, 13th District
An Update on How We Can Address the High Rate of Homicides
and Other Public Safety Concerns
Greetings Neighbors! San Francisco has seen many a somber headline on
the high number of homicides in our community. As Chair of the Assembly
Public Safety Committee, I would like to share with you a few
ways I am working on public safety matters legislatively in Sacramento
and here at home in San Francisco.
We recently hosted our 2nd Bi-Annual Young Men’s Conference “Own It.”
This important community conference included over a hundred young men
from area high schools and community groups.
Panelists and speakers — including Dwayne Jones (Mayor’s Office of
Community Development), Shawn Richard (Brother’s Against Guns), Rudy
Corpuz (United Playaz), Marquez Gray (CHALK), Manuel LaFontaine (City
College San Francisco Peer Advisor), and Dr. Joe Marshall (an
award-winning leader in violence prevention and youth development) —
spoke to the participants about topics ranging from college and career
preparation to violence prevention to coping with grief and loss.
The goal of the event was to demonstrate the many positive opportunities available to help them to rise above life’s challenges.
In Sacramento, I will be working on several pieces of legislation
that I hope will improve our criminal justice system and help it to be
more effective and responsive to the community. These bills
include important reforms to our current parole system and an
examination of the use of Tasers by our state’s law enforcement.
California’s rate of recidivism, the percentage of former inmates who
return to prison within 18 months, is the highest in the nation at 67%.
Since our Department of Corrections focuses primarily on punishment,
rather than rehabilitation, the state does very little to prepare
prisoners for their eventual release.
I want to focus our state’s attention on rehabilitation programs and
efforts. Given that 90% of inmates are released, our public safety
depends on better preparing them and creating support systems to keep
them successful once they have been released.
As such, I have authored Assembly Bill 505, which would save roughly
$60 million annually through reforms in the parole system. The savings
from these simple reforms would then be channeled into public/private
partnerships to provide re-entry services for soon-to-be discharged
prisoners and parolees.
I have also authored an important public safety measure in Assembly
Bill 1237. According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties
Union of Northern California, 71 people in the United States and Canada
died in incidents following police use of tasers between 1999 and
September 2004. In the last year, that number has more than doubled,
including 15 post-taser fatalities in northern and central California.
Our bill will collect the information we need to make the best
decisions about how to best use tasers to protect the public safety,
requiring law enforcement agencies to report information about their
training protocols and use of tasers to the Department of Justice. This
will provide the information we need to ensure we have taser
utilization policies that are truly protective of the public.
Additionally, I want to strengthen the programs that we know
work. Here in San Francisco, we have a model treatment program that is
the first of its kind in California. Our mobile methadone
maintenance treatment program has been operating since March 2003 in
close cooperation with the state Department of Drug and Alcohol
The program is highly effective in treating the City’s estimated 15,000
to 17,000 heroin addicts by taking the services directly to where they
reside in neighborhoods throughout the City. By treating these
patients more effectively, we are helping to ease the burden on our
criminal justice system. Assembly Bill 631 will allow the city to be
reimbursed for its costs through MediCal saving us about $150,000
These programs and legislative proposals are but a few of the many
actions I am taking as your representative in Sacramento, and as the
Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Do know that I am
working hard on improving our public safety and criminal justice
If you would like more information about these activities, or have
ideas of your own, please feel free to contact my office here in San
Francisco, 415-557-3013, or email me directly at
Bio & Past Articles
Betty's List 'Mark My Word'
Columnist Assemblyman Mark Leno
Assemblyman Mark Leno made history in November 2002 when he was elected as one of the first openly gay men to the California State Assembly, representing District 13, the eastern portion of San Francisco. He currently serves as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, one of only four freshman legislators appointed to Chair a policy committee in their first year. He also serves on the Appropriations, Local Government, and Revenue & Taxation Committees and is the Chair of Select Committees on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LBGT) Families and Childhood Obesity & Related Diabetes.
A native of Wisconsin, Leno attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, then went on to become valedictorian of his graduating class at the American College of Jerusalem, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree. Leno also spent two years in Rabbinical Studies at Hebrew Union College in New York.
Prior to his election to the State Assembly, Assemblyman Leno served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from April 1998 to December 2002. He authored landmark legislation in the areas of affordable housing, universal health care for children, solar energy, late night entertainment, bond oversight, small business services, City CarShare, medical cannabis, equal access to services, and LGBT civil rights.
Leno is the owner of Budget Signs, Inc., a small business he founded in 1978 and operated with his life partner, Douglas Jackson. Together the two entrepreneurs steadily grew their sign business until Jackson passed away from complications relating to AIDS/HIV in 1990. This deep loss would not deter Leno. Instead, he redoubled his efforts in community service.
He has served on the boards of many local and national organizations including the LGBT Community Center Project, Haight Ashbury Community Services, the American Jewish Congress, Mobilization Against AIDS, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. He is the recipient of the 1995 Small Business Owner of the Year Award from the Small Business Network, the 1995 Hormel Community Service Award from the Human Rights Campaign and the James R. Sylla Award from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Outside of his capacity as an elected official, Leno has been a tireless supporter of nonprofit organizations in San Francisco, frequently appearing to show support at events and lending a hand wherever possible. He was a statewide spokesman for the No on Prop 22 Campaign (the Knight Initiative) and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August 2000.