Guardian editorial: Mixed report on Mayor Lee


EDITORIAL Mayor Ed Lee's first big decision — the appointment of a District 5 supervisor — demonstrated something very positive:

The mayor knows that he can't do what his predecessor did and ignore and dismiss the progressive community.

His inauguration speech demonstrated something else: That he has no intention of being a mayor who takes on and defies the interests of downtown.

Part of the reason Gavin Newsom was a failure as mayor is that he was constantly at war with the left. He ran the city as if his was the only way, as if there were no good ideas coming out of anywhere except his office — and as if anyone who disgreed with or voted against him was his enemy.

That didn't work, and it doesn't seem to be Lee's style. He was under pressure to appoint a supervisor who would go along with him on key votes, but he also knew that a moderate or a lackey would deeply offend the voters in D5, who supported John Avalos for mayor and remain among the most progressive voters in the city. The choice of Christina Olague shows a willingless to accept that progressives play a significant role in San Francisco politics. (It also shows that he is better than any mayor in recent memory at keeping a secret — nobody outside of his inner circle had any idea who his choice was until he announced it Jan 9.)

Olague was, overall, an excellent planning commissioner, and has the potential to be an excellent supervisor. But she will need to make clear from the start that she is representing the district, not the person who gave her the job. Because on some of the key issues that will come before the board this spring, her constituents are well to the left of the mayor. If she can't vote against his wishes, she'll have trouble in November.

Olague also needs to be sure that some of the issues her predecessor, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, championed (public power and community policing, for example) don't fall by the wayside. Her expertise in land use issues should be helpful as the board wrangles with waterfront development, affordable housing and the giant California Pacific Medical Center hospital project.

Lee's inaugural speech was mostly a typical political speech for a new mayor, but it contained a nugget that's worthy of note. He proclaimed that San Francisco should be a "city of the 100 percent," a takeoff on the Occupy movement's 99 percent slogan. And while that's mostly rhetoric, it's also a sign that the former housing activist is not going to be a mayor who wants to make a legacy of challenging the economic and political powers of San Francisco.

Working together is fine — but there are a small number of very wealthy and powerful people who have interests that are utterly opposed to the interests of the rest of us. Economic injustice is every bit as real in this city as it is elsewhere in the country — and that's something the mayor didn't even mention or acknowledge. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the big real-estate developers, the landlords out at ParkMerced, the Chamber of Commerce,  and the Board of Realtors ... they don't want to work together. They want their way.

So it's a mixed report for Mayor Lee — and over the next few months, he's going to have to realize that everyone in the city can't and shouldn't work together, that there are battles where politicians have to take sides, and that all of us will be watching very closely to see where he draws the line.