Editor's Notes

What if we chose the next mayor of San Francisco in public?



Imagine if the next mayor of San Francisco was chosen in public. I don't mean the supervisors voting in public — they'll have to do that at some point anyway. I mean the various possible candidates going through a process that allows the public to see who's on the short list — and where those candidates are on the issues.

Sup. John Avalos, with the backing of his colleagues Chris Daly and David Campos, have started the process by suggesting that the board nominate candidates, soon. The idea, Avalos says, is to get a new mayor chosen early so that person can start on the transition process and get up to speed on leading the city.

But there are further steps here. When the supervisors nominate candidates for less significant offices, the Rules Committee holds a hearing and discusses the nominees. What if the supervisors, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, nominated, say, a half-dozen people for the job of interim mayor — then asked each candidate to appear before the group and answer questions?

The voters just overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment that will require the next mayor to appear at a board meeting once a month. There's no reason the candidates shouldn't do the same.

The supervisors have every right to ask someone who wants to be mayor what his or her position is on a long list of policy issues. And the pubic has every right to hear the responses.

I know, I know — the candidates would hate it. Standing in front of 11 people, from Chris Daly to Sean Elsbernd, and submitting to the mother of all job interviews would be unpleasant, perhaps unsettling. Some of the top contenders might bow out at the prospect.

But let's be serious: In a normal campaign, the voters get to see candidates for mayor speak, take stands on issues, and engage in debates. I can't see the supervisors choosing a new mayor on good faith alone (well, I'd take Tom Ammiano on good faith, but he doesn't want the job). And if there aren't any public discussions or interviews, then the only screening process is going to happen privately, with individual board members contacting individual candidates and (most likely) cutting deals.

I think it's perfectly fair to say to the potential candidates: You want to be mayor of San Francisco? Spend an hour making the case for yourself and fielding questions from the people who are about to hire you. And let the rest of us watch.

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