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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Former Board of Supervisors Presidents Decry David Chiu's Vote for His Successor

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM

You'll be seeing this later today, in the Board of Supervisors chambers.
  • You'll be seeing this later today, in the Board of Supervisors chambers.
For Board of Supervisors President handicapping, see below. See full text of the letter below, too. 

The Board of Supervisors is poised to vote on who should be its next president today. These are special days in San Francisco. The city is treated to the specter of back-room politics without the niceties of a back room. Deals are made and unfold in front of your eyes. The knives come out and the weak are ganged up on and eliminated. 

And then everyone pretends to get along, makes a speech, and, today especially, awards a proclamation to Frida the chihuahua, the Dog Mayor of San Francisco. It's a hell of a city. 

Today figures to be especially fraught as Board President David Chiu has engineered a situation in which he gets to vote for his successor without having tendered a resignation — and does so at an unexpectedly early date, during which progressive supervisor David Campos is off on a long-planned vacation (his voicemail message claims as much). 

Those two recently clashed in a bitterly contested race for Assembly. Chiu won. Campos lost. And, today, he may lose a bit more. The knives, after all, are out. And you can be cut even when you're off on holiday. 

Even some of Chiu's staunchest allies describe his move to speed up this vote — and participate in it — as legal, but questionably ethical. Five of his predecessors put it a bit more strongly: "This harmful action mustn’t occur without the strongest possible objection from those of us that value the tenets of democracy, fairness and understand the duties and obligations of elected representation in San Francisco and our country."  

That's from a letter signed by five former Board Presidents delivered to the supes this morning.

Former Supes Quentin Kopp, Harry Britt, Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez, and Aaron Peskin lay out both a legal, historical, and ethical argument against Chiu participating in today's vote. Here's a legal portion: 

The Rules of Order of the Board of Supervisors, Sections 6.1 and 6.1.1 respectively, lay out the processes for selection of a President ... . Nowhere do they anticipate or countenance a circumstance in which a sitting Board President would exercise a vote in choosing his or her permanent successor in advance, all while retaining the powers of the President's office, nor one in which he or she would create a vacancy to arrogate to himself or herself a vote in choosing an interim successor.

Here's a historical one: 

In the history of this legislative body, we are not aware of any President attempting to vote to secure their successor immediately prior to vacating their seat as Supervisor and impending departure from the Board.

In 1996, when President Kevin Shelly was elected to the Assembly, the Board elected the person with the highest number of votes in the previous election pursuant to the at-large Charter provisions. Even in this case, President Shelly tendered his resignation and was not present for the vote.

And here's an ethical one: 

As political leaders, we’ve disagreed on numerous issues over the years, but individually, we each have a separate and distinct record of defending the Board of Supervisors and upholding the dignity of the City’s charter and constitution – we took an oath to do so.


It is simply wrong for a member who will not be part of the next Board of Supervisors to participate in election of that Board’s President.

It remains to be seen whether this missive will affect today's vote in any way, shape, or form. 

As for that, SF Weekly is told there are two possible courses of action today: London Breed will be elected president, or Mark Farrell can engineer a delay.

Without descending into the rabbit hole of arcana surrounding today's vote, it would require six of the 10 supervisors present to put off voting today. With Campos gone and Chiu wielding the gavel, that's not likely. 

While Breed is the choice of the moderate establishment (and, we're told, the powers-that-be are pushing for coalescence behind her), Farrell supported Campos over Chiu for Assembly, and has presidential aspirations of his own. 

Campos not being here today is a blow against Farrell. It remains to be seen if he digs in his heels today, or surrenders to the tide. 

Whatever Chiu's motivations for pushing for a vote this afternoon, he neatly managed to put the boot in against both his defeated rival Campos and Farrell, who spurned him.  

Well, Chiu won the election. And when you win the election, you get to do things like this. Or, as it has been put for many centuries: To the victors go the spoils. 

Note: While the letter has five signatures, its text reads "the six of us."
SF Weekly is told that a signature from former Board President Nancy Walker may be applied post-facto. 

BOS Presidents Letter

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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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