A stunning surprise: Interim Mayor Mark Farrell

In a move that nobody anticipated, the board appoints a conservative supe who is not running for office to be a caretaker mayor

In a stunning vote that nobody expected, the Board of Supes selected Sup. Mark Farrell to be interim mayor, leaving the June race wide open and with no incumbent.

Farrell will now have to give up his seat on the board, and will be able to appoint his replacement.

Sup. Mark Farrell is the surprise choice for interim mayor

After several hours of public testimony, there were only two nominees for the job: Farrell and Board President London Breed.

Sup. Malia Cohen nominated Breed. Sup. Norman Yee nominated Farrell.

As of 2pm, when the board meeting started, the progressive supervisors seemed to have no plan for an interim mayor. Farrell is among the more conservative members of the board, and an unlikely choice.

Except for the fact that he is not running for mayor – and that his position as interim mayor prevents Breed from running as an incumbent.

Breed got only four votes — Ahsha Safai, Cohen, Jeff Sheehy, and Katy Tang.

The vote to put Farrell in the Mayor’s Office was a surprising 7-2 (both Farrell and Breed were barred from voting). All of the progressive supes (Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim, Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Yee) voted for Farrell, and they were joined by Sheehy and Tang.

Then African American supporters of Breed started shouting “shame,” and the meeting was recessed. Ten minutes later, Tang asked to rescind the vote, and changed her position. But there were still six votes for Farrell, with Sheehy providing the swing vote.

Many of the speakers talked about Breed’s qualifications, and about the importance of her remaining in office. But until Sup. Aaron Peskin spoke, there wasn’t much discussion about the central issue at stake here.

“The argument of separation of powers is extremely important,” he said. That concept, he noted, came from the Iroquois Nation and was among the central features of the founding of the United States.

The voters, he said, have decided that some of the key commissions in the city – planning and police for example – have appointments split between the mayor and the president of the board. If that’s the same person, as it is today, the will of the voters is thwarted.

“It was never contemplated that this would go on for this period of time,” he said.

It’s interesting that the last time this came up, when Gavin Newsom left to become lite guv, the moderates – that is, Newsom and his allies – said they wanted a “caretaker” mayor. That’s how we got Ed Lee; he promised to fill out Newsom’s term and not run for office. This time around, the same crew – the Big Tech and Real Estate operation that backed Lee and is now backing Breed – argued that we didn’t need a “caretaker” mayor.

So the reality is, as several speakers noted, this is really about politics. As one speaker, a Korean-American, noted, “San Francisco got richer and whiter under Ed Lee. I look forward to this continuing under London Breed.”

The defining moment of the meeting was when Sup. Hillary Ronen made an impassioned speech that defined what the issues really are.

“Right now we need to turn our city upside down. San Francisco has become a place where only the ultra-elites can prosper, where the gap between the rich and the poor keep getting wider and the middle class has no place.

“These changes for the worse didn’t happen by accident. During the last two administrations, the same tech moguls and real estate billionaires have been making money off our staggering high rents. They champion policies that decimated the African American community and are doing the same thing to the Latino community.

“We need a radical change in the direction of the city. So far, the dominate narrative has been about the identity of London Breed, how as an African American woman with such a dramatic narrative should be the next mayor of the city. And I agree that it’s impossible to talk about fairness and advantage when you talk about an African American woman.

“But I also have to say, and let’s be honest, although it’s painful for a lot of us, there are white rich men billionaires in this city who have steered the policies that have gotten us into the mess we have have gotten into today, it’s ridiculous and outrageous, and it keeps me from sleeping as a supervisor every night. And I hate to say it, that these same white men are enthusiastically supporting London Breed. They are threatening people who don’t support London Breed. They are saying peoples’ careers will be ruined. That is the grossest part of politics and it’s happening right now right here as we are speaking.

It started happening the morning Ed Lee passed away because that’s how gross these people are.

Ronen said that there are numerous SF communities that are looking for representation. The LGBT community, facing the deadliest year in history for attacks on queer people, talks about how important it would be to have a gay mayor. The Asian community, which just lost Ed Lee, talks about the importance of an Asian woman.

And she said she would vote for any interim mayor who could get six votes and would not run for office.

That turned out to be Farrell, who will now be sworn in as interim mayor, will oversee the budget process, and will step down from public office in June.

Part of the discussion now will be around who he appoints to the District Two seat, and I suspect that part of the backroom discussions that led to this crazy outcome involved that process. Because the D2 supervisor he appoints will be able to run – as an incumbent – in November.

48 COMMENTS

  1. I think she regrets that decision and is making an honest effort to ameliorate the damage done. London Breed has the option to do the same thing. But will she?

  2. It’s too late for Farrell to run. He didn’t file. He could run in 2019 against whomever gets elected in June. Fat chance. He is too conservative for the city at large.

  3. Basically boils down to: I’m disgusted by the influence of a white male venture capitalist so I’m going to vote to make a different white male venture capitalist mayor.

  4. Yet that second-tier city attracts more tourists each year than Austin and Jacksonville combined. How sad for us.

  5. Given their weakened position, progressives did well. At least we’ll have an election on even footing… or at least as even as you can get with the city marinated in tech baron money. It is sad, though, how far the city has fallen, when a ConservaDem like Farrell is the best option we have.

  6. I am more “progressive” than most, but a few minor changes could changes could change the trajectory of pension obligations. And it is almost criminal that no elected officials, other than Jeff Adachi has done anything about it. I didn’t agree with all of his proposed changes (prop b) but I had hoped that the would have started the discussion about changes.

    As for subsidized housing, I think we will see improvements because I’m predicting that tech as lost its luster and they will be slowly exiting SF. I love that Bennioff attacked Facebook yesterday, calling for regulations and that Newsom responded with ‘self-regulation’ is best. I’m not sure how much space like Uber and other unprofitable (but highly valued) businesses take, but they are unsustainable and need to look for cheaper digs.

    The correction is nigh.

  7. No, that is plenty. It’s not as if we have massive pension obligations or a constant demand for more subsidized housing,

  8. He doesn’t hate tech, and (unlike, say, Jane Kim) he doesn’t think that people who worry about crime are morally bankrupt.

  9. Breed will be controlled by Conway, just as Lee was. Unlikely that will be the case with Farrell. That’s the difference.

  10. Ron Conway was the last mayor and would continue in that position with Breed. Time to get him out of the mayor’s office.

  11. In a city like, say, Austin or Jacksonville, the entire SF BOS would be unelectable because it’s too far left.

    (I mention those two cities because they’re both larger than SF. This whole tempest-in-a-teapot is taking place in a second-tier city.)

  12. I read the speech, and was struck by its complete failure to present anything resembling a solution to *any* of SF’s problems. Instead it’s just a laundry list of grievances, along with a promise to “listen” to the candidates and voters.

    We all know what the problems are – so where are the policy proposals? Is that too much to ask from an elected representative?

  13. Chris Daly’s approach to politics is much different when you are on the other “side,” I guess.

  14. Breed’s politics aren’t much different than Farrell’s? And there, folks, you have the mentality of SF progressives in all its glory.

  15. Shorter Hillary: Only Progressives like Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin 1.0 are allowed to demand obedience.

  16. Yes, it seem pretty obvious that Conway and Brown wanted to play a similar game as the last time. Lee was originally chosen in place of Michael Hennessey, who seemed, at first, to be an acceptable choice to all sides. A caretaker, who would not run, who was honest, and decent, and HELL NO!!!! we can’t have an honest and decent person as mayor….we have to have someone who will not rock the boat and expose the graft in City Hall, quick, who can we choose? Ah, good old Ed Lee. He’ll do what he is told, and keep his mouth shut. With Breed, she was already a part of the “inner circle.”

  17. Again, just to drive the point home….this was a slap in the face at Ron Conway. No, better it was spitting in his face. He had threatened anyone who didn’t fall in line, and support Breed. Breed is his “chosen one.” This is not really any different from how he has acted in the past, like when he joined Ed Lee in a grossly outrageous attempt to bully people into supporting his choice in District 3, though that didn’t work out so well either.

  18. It is a strategy. Even if he did run for mayor, he wouldn’t win. So he is a placeholder until the election.

    I hope our version of Trump (Ron Conway – except Trump isn’t as gluttonous) is having seizures over this. It is a well deserved smackdown, hopefully not the last.

  19. He’ll be there for only a few months. The other option was Breed, whose politics aren’t so different. Farrell is the lesser evil.

  20. San Francisco has become a place where only the ultra-elites can prosper, where the gap between the rich and the poor keep getting wider and the middle class has no place.

    Right from her speech. My question is, why did she think a conservative would do better? At a national level conservatives are worse for minorities, the poor, income inequality and the middle class. Let’s see what Farrell does, but I’m not hopefully.

  21. Ronen isn’t coming anywhere close to hitting her 5000 affordable units. That was pure campaign BS, and she knows this better than anyone.

  22. If Hillary Ronen was honest, she’d acknowledge that San Francisco Progressives have done a lot to get the city into the mess it’s in today. But she’s not that honest.

  23. Coming from you, that is high praise. It was an excellent speech, which of course is what upsets you so much. She perfectly nailed the problem, and had the courage to speak the truth, where so many seem to prefer to not rock the boat.

    And your absurd claim that her promise requires that she have built 500 unto by now is rather hilarious. So no, it is WRONG. You are simply a liar, and a failed con artist. Only those who are already as deluded as you are going to buy your drivel.

  24. Wow! I’m just glad I paid little attention to the details are they were unfolding, and will deal the the final decisions of the Board of Supervisors.

  25. …ridiculous…clearly…absolutely…utterly clueless… Another Kraus essay.

    Ronen’s speech wasn’t about housing, by the way.

  26. That works. He’ll be about the same as Lee and Breed. The new D2 supe will be conservative no matter what. So all in all, the only change is that Breed is not at the top of the news until June.

  27. I am over the moooon with Hillary’s speech! So impressed. I can’t wait to continue to support her.

    You have no chance in this town Kraus. You will lose in November.

  28. Fake outrage from a real estate troll. Please drop the “affordable” plea. Your thousands of comments can be boiled down to build, build, build, and damn the consequences.

  29. Hillary Ronen’s ridiculous “speech” clearly demonstrates an entirely myopic view of history and that she has absolutely no understanding of the forces at play in this City over the past 40 years.

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