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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rookie of the Year: David Chiu Just the Latest Young, Inexperienced Smart Guy to Obtain Presidency

Posted By on Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 2:36 PM


Chris Daly Twirls His Mustache, Cackles at Ross Mirkarimi as

Chiu Ekes Out Win

By Joe Eskenazi

Watching a man with mutton-chops every bit as stylish as his

white overalls engrave the word "President" on Supervisor David Chiu's office

door, one couldn't help but recall good ol' Will Shakespeare: "Some are born

great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."

Depending upon how surprised the rookie supervisor really was to win a back-and-forth

election for Board President will determine how much greatness Chiu earned by

achievement and how much came via thrust. But I tell you this: While Chiu said

his victory was unexpected, he sure did have a nice speech prepared - and he

named every last city noteworthy in the room down to the city librarian. How


'Tis the season, it would seem, for young,

inexperienced, smart lawyers to win the presidency. When you throw in the racial

pioneering factor - Chiu is the first Chinese-American president of the board,

and, as about 30 people noted today, one of three Asian supes - then you don't

exactly have to be an SAT-prep instructor to make this analogy. 

As my colleague Benjamin Wachs noted in his stunningly

thorough live-blogging (a great act to follow; thanks, pal), City Hall was

packed today. It was as if folks were rushing to see a fight to the death

between Chris Daly and Mayor Gavin Newsom - with the prize to the victor being

death. Along with several very cranky television cameramen, your humble

narrator was turned away from the Supervisors' Chambers, despite showing up a

full 25 minutes before the meeting. So, I marched downstairs with at least 300

other folks and watched a man with a crushed velvet maroon jacket and pants, a

red shirt, white tie and magenta socks set up a TV for us to watch.

If I had to nominate a local for "Diplomat of the Year," I

think I'll go with Angela Calvillo, the clerk of the board of supervisors. She's the one who has to ask for public comment prior to the supes'

vote for board president. First of all - why, God, why? This is not a

plebiscite, ladies and gentlemen. This is back-room politics without the

back-room. These folks are enmeshed in more alliances than Austria-Hungary;

is some local guy with socks and sandals and a bag full of other bags going to

sway them? On that note, while Cavillo refers to public commentary, what she

really means is "let's hear from some folks who can be here at noon on a working day."

Down in the overflow room, the commentary did not hold the

crowd's attention; a buzz started rumbling through the masses from back to front

hearking to grade school when some clever kid managed to smuggle a dog into the

classroom. The folks manning the small café did a brisk business. But, just as

the ennui became deadly, a voice from my past bellowed through the television:

"Brothers and sisters!" shouted the man who can only be characterized as King

of the Burnouts. He looked like the detritus that fills the net in a bathtub

drain and wore a corduroy hat. And I knew, just from that intonation, who he

was: He was the hippie who leapt onstage during the 1998 Fugazi Food Not Bombs

concert in Dolores Park that, for reasons I still can't fathom, I mark as the

happiest day of my life. I remember it well. The Burnout King was bodily thrown

from the stage by DJ Disk. Anyway, on to the voting.

For the play-by-play, you can check Wachs' live-blog, but I

will add these observations:

  • From the very first vote, when Sophie Maxwell tallied five

    ayes, Ross Mirkarimi had four and John Avalos two (with Daly and Chiu not

    getting any), it was clear that some progressive was going to win this. The

    only question was who. I had my money on Avalos. Shows you what I know - to

    crib from columnist Gregg Easterbrook, "All predictions wrong or your money


  •  After the third vote, Daly said he'd drop out only if those

    not finishing in the top two would drop out, too. A laugh went through the

    room. A lady with a gecko shirt and matching fishnets said, "he always has to

    be so controversial." Chiu noted that, despite the fact no one had voted for

    him yet, he was still willing to be a consensus candidate, "if the need

    arises." Well, guess what?

  • In votes five and six, it became clear that five supes were

    going to vote for Maxwell, and four were locked in for Chiu - leaving Daly and

    Mirkarimi. Daly, who had previously voted for himself and then his former aide

    Avalos, began voting for himself again. Choose the metaphor you want: twisting

    the knife, salting the wounds, or, my personal favorite, pissing on a man when

    he's down. Daly was toying with Mirkarimi here, forcing the man many -

    including Mirkarimi - viewed as the natural successor to endure the inevitable.

    If this vote could be translated into words, it was Daly baiting Mirkarimi:

    "How's it gonna be, Ross? How's it gonna be?" So, in Round 7, when Avalos

    withdrew and Daly voted for Chiu, Mirkarimi followed suit and put himself out

    of his misery.   

All of this begs the question - why isn't Mirkarimi the

board president? I mean, aside from his other qualities, he and Barack Obama

share the exact same birthday (same year, too)!

Quintin Mecke, the progressives' sacrificial standard-bearer

in the last mayoral election (and a Mirkarimi constituent) said a lot of the

same things I've heard whispered: This wasn't political. It was personal. While

Mirkarimi galloped to victory with 77 percent of the vote in District 5, he's

apparently less popular with his co-workers. "When Matt Gonzalez became board

president no one had a word to say regarding his policies," noted Mecke.

Gonzalez got along with people - he famously even got on with Tony Hall.

Who ever thought the Board of Supes would be compared to the

Get-Along Gang? It wasn't an ideal day for Mirkarimi, but if silver linings

must be unearthed, he can recall the gleaming public commentary he got from his

supporters (at noon on a workday).

Unlike Willy Loman - another man whose career didn't go the way he'd wanted -

when it comes to his people, Mirkarimi isn't just liked. He's well-liked.  

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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