Tuesday, January 19, 2021
News + Politics Shamann Walton is the new board president

Shamann Walton is the new board president

Unanimous vote a win for progressives as tough issues face City Hall in 2021.

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With virtually no political drama, Sup. Shamann Walton was elected unanimously to be the next Board of Supes president today. That’s a big victory for progressives; Walton has been a consistent part of the board’s progressive wing and has shown he is more than willing to stand up to the mayor.

Supervisor Shamann Walton is the first Black man to be board president.

Lots of talk all week about what would happen, and one point, the Chron put Sup. Aaron Peskin as a front-runner. But Walton had the votes, and nobody else even joined the contest. He was the only nominee.

Peskin at the meeting talked about the importance of working together, with the Mayor’s Office, as the city struggles to recover from the pandemic. Mayor London Breed sounded the same note when she spoke: “If there were ever a time to put aside our differences and work together,” she said, it’s today. She urged the board to “stop pointing the finger, people are interested in results.”

But both Sups. Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen made it clear that they are not interested in returning to “normal.”

“I stand in firm opposition to the status quo,” Preston said, saying it was up to government at every level to “remove centuries of oppression and inequality. … our goal can’t be just to stabilize things but to reimagine what rises to replace the failed system.”

Ronen said that as the city moves to “undo the damage and rebuild, we should take every opportunity to rethink the way things were done before.”

She called out white supremacy and economic inequality, but also “our reverence for individualism over collective needs.”

The concept of working together is always a strong talking point in politics, and in a pandemic, it makes a lot of sense, of course. But over the past year, the differences between the supes and the mayor weren’t about “personal agendas,” as Breed likes to put it.

The supes wanted to put homeless people in vacant hotel rooms as quickly as possible so they could shelter in place like everyone else. The Mayor’s Office resisted, and at one point wanted to move people living on the streets into a totally unsafe congregate shelter in Moscone Center.

These are political differences where lives are on the line.

And since I am always an optimist, I believe that by late spring enough vaccine will be available and COVID will be coming under control, and the city will be able to focus on reopening and rebuilding the economy.  There will be real disputes about that, too – particularly about who is going to pay and who is going to get benefits.

Breed has never been a big supporter of higher taxes on the rich. The supes, I suspect, will look toward revenue solutions, not just cuts to the city budget.

Those will not, again, be “personal agendas.” They will be real political disputes about the direction of the city.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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