Sup. Elsbernd ducks more Impertinent Questions


Well, I am sad to report that my neighborhood supervisor, Sean Elsbernd, has once again refused to answer my Impertinent Questions and to say if he voted for Ed Lee for mayor. Perhaps I will tell you, he says, perhaps not and he chose to perhaps not. He has thus refused to shed light on his role in one of the most fateful nominations in San Francisco history.

 Here's the latest version of the almost famous Que Syrah correspondence between Elsbernd and me on these critical Impertinent Questions. (As attentive readers of this blog know, I have been trying for months to get Elsbernd to meet me to talk about these questions at Que Syrah, a nifty little wine bar in the West Portal area of Elsbernd's district. I am still trying.)

 When Willie Brown, Rose Pak, and the downtown gang were plotting their move  to outfox the progressives in City Hall in January  and install Ed Lee as the interim mayor, they chose Sean Elsbernd to take the lead and nominate Lee for this crucial job.

 He intoned at the time and later in writing to me that he was nominating Lee only on condition that Lee would serve as an interim mayor to fulfill the vacancy created by then Mayor Newsom who was off to Sacramento as the newly elected lieutenant governor. Lee, Elsbernd emphasized, thumping the lectern, would not run for mayor.

 Well, the Guardian and many progressives and I said at the time that this was just the Willie and Rose play, to get Lee in as interim mayor and then roll him over to run for mayor in the fall with the major advantage of incumbency.

 And so when Lee as we expected changed his mind and ran for mayor, Elsbernd was left in the position of being a key player in the plot to put Lee into the mayor's office under false pretenses. And of course in the process he would ace out two more qualified candidates, former Mayor Art Agnos, and retiring sheriff Mike Hennessey.. Both were ready to serve as interim mayor and both pledged they would not run for mayor and most important neither would operate as enablers for Willie, Rose, and their undisclosed clients. (Willie, for starters, is on a  $200,000 plus a year retainer for PG&E, according to PG&E filings with the California Public Utilities Commission.)

 When the tide of sleaze started rising in the mayor's office and Willie, Rose, and the gang were pounding on Lee to run, I asked Elsbernd another Impertinent Question: Would he have nominated Lee if he knew Lee was going to reverse field and run for mayor?

Elsbernd replied that he had not endorsed anyone, but that “I have been most attracted to the candidacies of City Attorney Dennis Herrera and former Supervisors Alioto-Pier and Bevan Dufty.” He said that these three have the “right combination of qualifications, experience, intelligence, skills and integrity to serve as mayor. Should Mayor Lee run for election, I would only consider endorsing his effort under one circumstance—if, and only if, I was convinced that without his candidacy, Sen. Leland Yee would be elected. That is, if I see that no one else can beat Sen, Yee other than Mayor Lee, then I would support a Mayor Lee campaign. At this point, I'm not convinced of that—I still think any one of the three I mentioned above could beat Sen.Yee.”

Just before election day when Lee was running solidly ahead in the polls, I posed more Impertinent Questions to Elsbernd: who did he support for mayor and why? He replied that he had not yet voted and had not endorsed a candidate and then stated, “Talk to me on November 9 and perhaps I'll tell you who I voted for. Rest assured, the Bay Guardian's endorsements will certainly influence my decision-making process.”

And again,  after Lee won handily thanks in large part to the decisive advantage that Elsbernd helped give him, I took Elsbernd up on his promises and emailed him more Impertinent Questions: Who  did he vote for and why? He ducked again and asked me to read his “original email” and to note the significance of the word “perhaps.”

Perhaps he would tell me, perhaps he wouldn't tell me. He chose not to tell me, and the rest of his constituents,  why he made the nomination as a "neighborhood" supervisor  that helped return Willie, Rose, and the downtown gang to power in City Hall.

His explanation was classic Elsberndese and I quote it in full in all of its elegance.

”Another e-mail?  Another entry in your blog? And now a deadline?  At what point am I going to start receiving a byline in the "Guardian?" I am not going to share with you and your readers for whom I voted.  I'll keep that one between me and my ballot.  I voted for 3 candidates who I believed had integrity, intelligence , and some grasp of the daunting fiscal challenges facing the State and the City.

“Am I happy with the results?  Again, I'm going to deflect that question because I have learned in the short time I've been around here, that focussing on wins and losses of past elections can take you down a rabbit hole from which you'll never recover.  Rather, the most pragmatic thing I can do for my constituents, which is, after all, what I am here to do, is to recognize the result, accept it, and move forward with it.  Ed Lee is now San Francisco's Mayor-elect, and I am very excited about being able to work with him during my remaining 13 months in office.  He and I worked extremely well together in developing Proposition C, which the voters overwhelmingly endorsed (and, yes, thank you to the Guardian for your endorsement - you actually got a few right this year).

“We have had some policy disagreements (e.g.  Proposition B), but I have always found him to be open to dialogue, extremely deliberate and thoughtful, and, most importantly, honest.  When we have disagreed, he has explained why and has done so with a logical argument.  While that may sound simple, I can assure you, that is a rare characteristic in this building and it is one I very much appreciate. Have fun parsing this e-mail apart.”

Final Impertinent Questions: If Elsbernd really finds Lee “open to dialogue, extremely deliberate and thoughtful and most importantly honest” and Lee explains his disagreements with Elsbernd with “a logical argument,” how in the world does Elsbernd explain the months of lies and deceptions by Lee before he decided, gosh, golly, gee, that he changed his mind and  was running for mayor after all? How does Elsbernd explain how the sleaze continues to rise in Lee's office?  How does Elsbernd explain why, as a "neighborhood" supervisor, that he has once again followed the Willie Brown/RosePak/downtown gang agenda by introducing a June 2012 charter amendment to repeal rank choice voting, with public financing and perhaps even district elections in his gun sights? Wasn't this all part of the master plan to gut progressive measures to level the playing field on local  elections?

Sean? Sean? Let's talk about all of this this over flights of the wondrous wines from small, locally owned wineries and the Barcelona -style tapas served up  at Que Syrah. To that end, I will keep sending you the notices of Que Syrah special events. B3




1) Sean is under no obligation to reveal for whom he voted, like the rest of us. It's called a secret ballot for a very good reason.

2) Lee never said he would not run last January. What he said is that he had no intention at that time to run, which is very different.

Lee didn't lie or break a promise. He merely changed his mind, as all politicians do,

Moreover, Sean said he'd support Lee for Mayor if otherwise Yee would win and, at that time, Yee was the frontrunner.

So there is quite simply no basis to criticise either Sean or Ed for their decisions. The simple fact is that the candidates on the left (Baum and Avalos) didn't appeal to enough voters to make any difference.

And that isn't the fault of Ed or Sean. It's the fault of Avalos and the SFBG for advocating policies that have never had a critical mass on a city-wide basis.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

deep thoughts of a tween, in a diary I found on the sidewalk. Or maybe a its the textual equivalent of Rush Limbaugh?

There is no reason for Elsbernd to tell anyone who he voted for.

The SF progressive in trying to scheme there own kind into the mayors office were no less scummy than anyone else, it's just the massive sense of entitlement that made it all so unfair to them and their delicate sensibilities.

Just a few weeks ago deep thought Bruce was rambling on about the requirement that Ed Lee appoint a "real progressive" to Mirkirimi's seat. This is after trying to scheme in a progressive as mayor a year ago. As Campos said "get one of our own" into office.

It's interesting to see how this is all processed in the mind of a true believer. Scheme and lose, then whine the other schemers cheated and it's unfair. Trying to force a progressive mayor on a city of left moderates is OK, progressives know whats best for you. When a somewhat similar situation pops up that you can use to your advantage, forget all about the past, stand on fleeting principle and demand your way.

Your side played the game and you lost, stop trying to pretend you are some moral paragon after the fact.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

It's very, very strange that Bruce feels that his city supervisor has both a duty to tell him who he voted for and to meet him at a restaurant of his choosing when he so demands. And that he acts like a petulant teenager when both his requests are refused.

What other private citizen would feel they had the right to do the same? It's absolutely incredible the level of entitlement Bruce feels.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

The government should never infringe on that.

The first amendment states the government needs to leave the press alone.

It doesn't say that politicians have any requirement to sit down for lunch on demand and reveal what you did in the privacy of the voting booth.

As politicians fail up they get better at talking a lot and saying nothing that could ever offend anyone, thats bad. Not knuckling under to the ravings of 60'S MAN! is probably a quality though.

But hectoring a pissant city supervisor to tell you who they voted for and demand a lunch date is just ridiculous and weird.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 12:01 am