Supporters praise Chan for her courage after the vote to throw her off the commission

By Tim Redmond

APRIL 29, 2014 — Well, that was ugly.

By a 7-4 vote, the Board of Supervisors tossed Angela Chan off the Police Commission today, in essence allowing Rose Pak and a few other allies of the mayor to end the tenure of one of the best and hardest-working commissioners I’ve seen in 30 years.

Oh, most of the supes gave lip service to her work. And they all had high praise for Victor Hwang, who was chosen to take Chan’s seat. But everyone knows this wasn’t about Hwang, who has a long and distinguished record. It was about power politics.

“I was removed from the Police Commission because I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind,” Chan told supporters after the vote.

Or as one of her allies texted me: “The bullies have won.”

Jane Kim, who promoted Hwang, spoke at great length about what a wonderful guy he is, a personal friend and mentor to her and many other young Asian lawyers and activists, and an accomplished civil rights lawyer, public defender, and prosecutor. Putting another prosecutor (there have been many) on the Police Commission typically wouldn’t be my first choice, but I have nothing bad to say about Hwang. He and Chan both won Guardian Local Hero awards when I was the executive editor of that paper.

Hwang could be a fine commissioner, eminently qualified for the job — except that there was already an exceptional person in that seat, and there was no reason to replace her.

As Sup. David Campos noted, when an incumbent comes up for re-appointment, the standard is usually simple: Is he or she doing a good job? And in this case, nobody publicly said anything to suggest she is anything but a top-notch commissioner.

What was happening behind the scenes, of course, was a handful of Ed Lee’s pals trying to get rid of someone who didn’t do everything they wanted. And using some pretty unusual tactics to do it.

Sup. Eric Mar, a supporter of Chan, noted, “there wasn’t a need to have this division in the community. Angela provides a voice for the underserved … and is helping mobilize a multi-racial coalition. We can’t have a better person than her on the commission.”

Sup. Norman Yee joined Sups. Campos, Mar, and John Avalos in voting to keep Chan on the panel. Kim and Katy Tang (who voted in favor of Chan over Hwang on the Rules Committee but must have changed her mind in the past two weeks) leading the charge to oust her.

The oddest thing, as Avalos pointed out, is that there’s an open seat on the commission, one that can be filled at any time by the mayor. If his closest allies want Victor Hwang, Lee could appoint him tomorrow. There was no need to remove Angela Chan.

But again: This was never about Hwang. It was about politics and power, and seven supervisors showed that in the end, that’s more important than qualifications. The message is pretty clear: Mess with the Powers the Be and you will be crushed. Trust me, this goes way beyond one Police Commission seat.

Not a banner day in San Francisco.