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Monday, January 3, 2011

Mayoral Succession -- Questionable Legality, Unquestionable Hypocrisy

Posted By on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 8:40 AM

click to enlarge Get ready for some sausage-making...
  • Get ready for some sausage-making...

The next week or so at City Hall will be the sort that makes political junkies convulse -- and induces the predictable reaction in the population at-large upon being forced to watch junkies convulse.

The Board of Supervisors' punt-a-thon regarding the mayoral succession may finally come to an end -- right as "current" Mayor Gavin Newsom refuses to come to an end. Also in play is the pending appointment to District Attorney Kamala Harris' still-warm chair.

It all involves some moves of questionable legality -- and unquestionable hypocrisy.

As has received much ink, Newsom has opted to delay his swearing-in as lieutenant governor so as to ostensibly push the job of replacing him to the "more moderate" incoming board.

As we've noted before, the notion the next board is "more moderate" than the current one appears to be hokum -- if you look at who's leaving and who's coming in, it just doesn't equate; it's hard to see what successor mayor would be acceptable on Jan. 4 that would be unacceptable one week later (Unless this is simply an effort to stick it to Newsom's enemies on the current board. That makes more sense).

Also, it remains questionable whether Newsom can legally remain mayor after today, regardless of whether he takes the oath of office for lieutenant governor. As SF Weekly wrote before regarding Newsom's legal backing for sticking around:

In order for Newsom to claim he has the right and ability to alter the

course of mayoral selection by not resigning, he'd have to claim a

distinction between his term as mayor being automatically "vacated" when

his state office begins on Jan. 3 and the "resignation" from office

demanded by San Francisco's city charter prior to a successor mayor

being named. San Francisco rules forbid Newsom from holding two jobs

simultaneously, so he's finished as mayor as soon as his lieutenant

governor term commences. Does Newsom really want to parse the

distinction between his position being "vacated" and "resigning" -- and

claim he's doing it for the greater good? At the very best, this is a

duplicitous thing to do. At worst, it's actionable.

Board President David Chiu -- who stands to be come acting mayor if the supes can't agree on a successor -- has acknowledged that it's no dead certainty that Newsom can call himself mayor after today. Should the supes agree on a successor tomorrow, a legal crisis could be induced.

But even if Newsom can prolong his tenure as mayor, it's uncertain why he's doing so. As noted above, it's difficult to imagine the current board making a vastly different mayoral selection than the future board. More fundamentally, however, one also wonders why a mayor with one foot out the door is more entitled to weigh in on city politics than a board with one foot out the door. Newsom, who ran incessantly for higher office throughout 2010 and has faced longstanding accusations of absenteeism, is only now apparently unable to cut the cord.

If Gavin Newsom wanted to dictate who occupies City Hall Room 200 -- then he shouldn't have chosen to leave it.

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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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