By Tim Redmond
NOVEMBER 18, 2014 – Sup. John Avalos came over to the rail by the press box around 6pm today and told me that he wanted to declare “Frank Underwood Day” in San Francisco. The backroom deals and the nastiness over the replacement of Sup. David Chiu as board president were, he said, something out of House of Cards.
The main goal of all the intrigue, which ended with Katy Tang, probably the most conservative member of the board and one of the least-well known, taking over the powerful post, was to make sure Sup. David Campos didn’t get to vote, the progressives had no shot – and none of the people who are angling for higher office got a resume boost.
Not a good way to make public policy or elect a person who can now appoint not only committees but members of the Planning Commission and the Police Commission.
There was no reason for the rush. Chiu hasn’t resigned from his current job, and won’t until he joins the state Assembly Dec.1. The board could have waited until Campos was back. But no: Chiu was determined to move forward.
Early in the day, the talk was all about Sup. London Breed as the go-to candidate, but as time wore on, I started hearing that maybe the board would elect a caretaker –someone who would hold the job for the rest of Chiu’s term, until January, and then allow a new president to be elected.
Sup. Norman Yee would have done that. Tang was also mentioned as a possible short-termer.
In fact, by the time the vote approached, I was getting the impression that Breed didn’t really want the job and wasn’t pushing for it.
The people who did want the job – Mark Farrell, who would like to run for mayor some day, Jane Kim, who would like to run for higher office too, and (possibly) Scott Wiener, who is also looking beyond the Board of Supervisors – were sort of mutually exclusive. None was going to support the others.
And then there was the Oligarchy Factor.
The folks who are running this city now – Ron Conway and his allies, who helped put Chiu in office – don’t want anyone with remotely progressive leanings to have any power at all. Kim, while hardly a hard-core leftist, dared to challenge the Airbnb legislation, so she was unacceptable.
If Campos had been in the room, there might have been a move by the progressive flank to at the very least cut a deal, but no go.
Mike Casey, the head of the Labor Council, appeared during public comment to express his outrage at the way this was going down. Earlier, he had told me that the oft-criticized progressives wouldn’t have acted this way: “For all their hijinks, Aaron Peskin and Chris Daly would never have allowed this to happen,” he said.
In the chambers, he testified that “this board has been hailed as one of civility and fairness. I find it unbelievable that you would consider electing a new board president without the supervisor from the Mission District.”
Mario Yedidia of San Francisco Rising echoed that sentiment: “Please don’t vote today. It doesn’t feel appropriate at all.” Longtime labor activist Frank Martin Del Campo said that if the board moved forward with the election of a new president “it would say the government is no longer listening to its people.”
Avalos rose to try to delay the vote until Dec. 9, when all 11 supervisors would be present. “To do it today,” he said, “doesn’t bode well for what this city is about.”
His motion to delay the vote failed 6-4, with Kim, Mar, and Yee joining Avalos.
After that, the whole thing went down as if it were orchestrated in advance – which it clearly was.
Farrell nominated Tang. Nobody else was nominated. Avalos and Mar walked out in protest, and Tang won with eight votes.
Is she going to be a caretaker, holding the job until January and stepping back to let the new board elect someone for a two-year term? She won’t say. The last caretaker who promised not to run for the job was named Ed Lee; remember how that worked out?
So thanks to Chiu wanting to control the process of naming his successor, one of the most progressive cities in the country has just put one of the most conservative members of its governing board in the second most powerful post at City Hall. Is this how he’s going to operate in Sacramento?