Farrell appoints Stefani to board — but should this process continue?

Intermin mayor appoints his successor; is it time for City Charter change to let the voters decide?

Interim Mayor Mark Farrell appointed Catherine Stefani, who has been the county clerk since 2016, to his former seat on the Board of Supes today – and Sup. Malia Cohen said that Stefani should be a “caretaker” supervisor and not run in the fall.

Interim Mayor Mark Farrell makes an appointment in D2 — and is it time to change the rules?

That, of course, is in part political payback – Farrell got the interim mayor job over Sup. London Breed because he agreed to be a caretaker and not run in June. Cohen was a Breed supporter.

But it raises again an important issue: While it may be unfair at this point to tell Stefani that she can’t run in November, when the seat comes up, the whole way the City Charter deals with vacancies in public office needs some profound change.

Cohen did not support John Avalos in 2016 when he pushed a charter amendment that would have curbed the ability of the mayor to appoint supervisors. Prop. D would have allowed a mayor to appoint only short-termers to the job, and called for special elections to fill vacancies on the board.

The San Francisco Progressive Alliance, which called for an interim caretaker mayor, has endorsed Cohen’s stance. The group is also calling for a new look at the Avalos charter amendment.

That’s the big issue here, the one the supes and the next mayor need to address. The Charter provisions on acting mayor, interim mayor, and vacancies in other elected offices are old, foolish, and need to be fixed

Nobody has been able to get this passed yet (the same folks who support London Breed shot it down in 2016 with a big-money campaign), but maybe with this entire mess at City Hall, we might get some traction.

The principle is simple: When there is a vacant office, the voters should fill it, as soon as possible. Anyone who holds that office until the next election should be a temporary appointee who can’t run as an incumbent.

That’s just one of the long list of changes we need in the City Charter – which is the least sexy issue in the mayor’s race, but one of the most important.


  1. Well right now they fill vacancies as soon as possible (without calling an election just because of the vacancy). Hence Sheehy has to face the voters in June and does not automatically get the rest of Weiner’s term.

    Tim is whining about a problem that doesn’t exist. The voters rejected the last two appointees anyway (Olague and Christensen). Sheehy doesn’t look so hot either.

    Before that they got Katy Tang who filled in for her boss Carmen Chu and presented a seamless transition in D4 that was very popular with the voters there. So what were they supposed to do…tell Tang to cool her heels while someone less qualified represented the district for 6 months or so? To make Tim happy?

    Also, we get about 40% turnout for mayoral elections in November. Do you want to guess what a March election held specially in only one district between two people that nobody ever heard of would do in terms of turnout? Would it be so low as to be easily manipulated?

  2. “The principle is simple: When there is a vacant office, the voters should fill it, as soon as possible.”

    Does anywhere else work like that? As soon as someone in office dies the public is immediately thrust into an election cycle that needs to be figured out ASAP? But then, wait, it’s not the *real* election, it’s just the election for the caretaker who cannot run for real election which would happen sometime later. What a mess that will be.

  3. And yet, it is one of the so-called moderates who wants to change this. Moderate hypocrisy is worse. Just like Wille Brown, who pushed for a “caretaker Mayor” to get Ed Lee in position, but wanted London Breed to be acting Mayor AND Supervisor AND President to the Board of Supervisors until June.

  4. We voted on that, and the citizens of San Francisco said NO! NO NO to Prop D.

    It’s laughable how Tim claims to want more citizen participation, until the citizens actually reject his pet projects, in which case he has no respect for the will of the people. More progressive hypocrisy.

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