By Tim Redmond
NOVEMBER 12, 2014 – There are plenty of names circulating, and lots more crazy rumors flying around, about the mayor’s likely choice to replace Sup. David Chiu.
But the decision will be more than a simple appointment – it will be a sign of where the Mayor’s Office is going in an election year and a signal of whether Mayor Ed Lee has essentially abandoned the folks who brung him to the dance in favor of the tech industry and real estate.
The old Ed Lee crew – the folks who convinced him to go back on his promise and run for the office and who worked hard to get him elected – are mostly united around Cindy Wu. Those are the Chinatown leaders Lee used to listen to – Gordon Chinn, Rose Pak, people at the Chinatown Community Development Center. Wu works for CCDC and is widely respected in the community. If this were Ed Lee circa 2011, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
But Lee’s alliances have changed in the past couple of years. Now Ron Conway and the techno riche have his ear, along with the real-estate developers – and they aren’t fans of Cindy Wu.
Wu voted to pass Chiu’s Airbnb legislation on to the Board of Supervisors, but only after demanding a bunch of changes that never got made. She’s voted against developers and real-estate interests and seems to understand that building market-rate housing isn’t doing anything for the affordability crisis.
That makes her unqualified for the support of the Barons of Tech and Real Estate.
Rose Pak used to be seen as the power behind Ed Lee – but she backed David Campos over Chiu (when I saw her at the Campos party on Election Night, she told me “to know David Chiu is not to trust him”) and wasn’t happy that Lee endorsed Chiu.
But he wasn’t listening to her – he was listening to Conway, who is a big investor in Airbnb. Chiu let Airbnb get away with not paying some $25 million in back taxes; Campos would have mandated the collection of those taxes before legalizing short-term rentals.
That was one sign that the old Ed Lee crew is falling out of favor.
Here’s another: The Chron notes
Lee is being pressured by some in his inner circle to look at other candidates considered more moderate or business-friendly. They include Julie Christensen, a neighborhood activist and product design consultant whose advocacy included the construction of the new North Beach Library, and Christine Pelosi, a Democratic Party strategist and the daughter of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Christine Pelosi? Seriously? She’s never done much of anything in D3, and a lot of longtime activists in that part of town say they’ve never seen her and didn’t even know she lived there. That would be, as they say, a “stretch.”
Julie Christensen is better known and has some roots in the neighborhood, and would probably be acceptable to the Tech Barons.
There may be others out there; who knows what Lee will do. We won’t know until January – Lee by most accounts won’t appoint a D3 supervisor until after the new year, allowing that person to serve two full terms plus the rest of Chiu’s term.
But this much is clear: If he rejects Wu (who moved into the district a year ago in part because she was a natural for this job) and goes with someone Ron Conway likes, it will be a dramatic change in the politics of Room 200. It will be a confirmation that the Old Ed Lee is gone and that Conway and his allies have taken full control of the Mayor’s Office.
I will also, along the way, create an opening for another mayoral candidate who might even find support among Lee’s former allies.