Progressives show unity as board approves mayoral succession process

Sup. David Campos (foreground) questions attorney Orry Korb as Clerk Angela Calvillo (left) and President David Chiu preside.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a process for replacing Mayor Gavin Newsom last night after the progressive majority stuck together on a pair of key procedural votes and some parliamentary jousting provided a preview of the high-stakes power struggle that will begin Dec. 7.

Sup. Sean Elsbernd led the board moderates (Sups. Carmen Chu, Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, and Sophie Maxwell) in trying to dilute the voting power of the six progressives on the board (Sups. David Chiu, Chis Daly, David Campos, Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi, and John Avalos) and ensure they can't vote as a bloc to choose the new mayor.

State conflict-of-interest rules spelled out by the California Political Reform Act and associated rulings prevent supervisors from voting in their economic interests, as becoming mayor would be. So Board Clerk Angela Calvillo and the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office (legal counsel in the matter after our own City Attorney's Office recused itself) created procedures whereby all nominees leave the room while the remaining supervisors vote.

But as Daly noted, clearing several supervisors from the room would make it unlikely that those remaining to come up with six votes for anyone. He also said the system would deny too many San Franciscans of a representative in this important decision and allow sabotage by just a few moderate supervisors, who could vote with a majority of supervisors present to adjourn the meeting in order to push the decision back to the next board that is sworn in on Jan. 11.

“The process before us is flawed,” Daly said.

So Daly sought to have the board vote on every nomination as it comes up, but Elsbernd argued that under Robert's Rules of Order, nominations don't automatically close like that and to modify a board rule that contradicts Robert's Rules requires a supermajority of eight votes. Calvillo, who serves as the parliamentarian, agreed with that interpretation and Chiu (who serves as chair and is the final word on such questions) ruled that a supermajority was required.

Although some of his progressive colleagues privately grumbled about a ruling that ultimately hurt the progressives' preferred system, Chiu later told the Guardian, “I gotta play umpire as I see the rules...We need to ensure the process and how we arrive at a process is fair and transparent.”

Nonetheless, Chiu voted with the progressives on the rule change, which failed on a 6-5 vote. But Daly noted that supervisors may still refuse nominations and remain voting until they are ready to be considered themselves, which could practically have the same effect as the rejected rule change. “If we think that's a better way to do it, we can do it, but we don't need to fall into the trap and subterfuge of our opponents,” Daly told his colleagues.

Elsbernd then moved to approve the process as developed by Calvillo, but Daly instead made a motion to amend the process by incorporating some elements on his plan that don't require a supermajority. After a short recess to clarify the motion, the next battleground was over the question of how nominees would be voted on.

Calvillo and Elsbernd preferred a system whereby supervisors would vote on the group of nominees all at once, but Daly argued that would dilute the vote and make it difficult to discern which of the nominees could get to six votes (and conversely, which nominees couldn't and could thereby withdraw their nominations and participate in the process).

“It is not the only way to put together a process that relies on Robert's Rules and board rules,” Daly noted, a point that was also confirmed at the meeting by Assistant Santa Clara County Counsel Orry Korb under questioning from Campos. “There are different ways to configure the nomination process,” Korb said. “Legally, there is no prohibition against taking single nominations at a time.”

So Daly made a motion to have each nominee in turn voted up or down by the voting board members, which required only a majority vote because it doesn't contradict Robert's Rules of Order. That motion was approved by the progressive supervisors on a 6-5 vote.

Both sides at times sought to cast the other as playing procedural games, and both emphasized what an important decision this is. “This is without a question the most important vote that any of us will take as a member of the Board of Supervisors and one that everyone is watching,” Elsbernd said of choosing a new mayor.

So after the divisive procedural votes played out, Chiu stepped down from the podium and appealed for unity around the final set of procedures. He said that San Franciscans need to have confidence that the process is fair and accepted by all, and so, “It would be great if we have more than a 6-5 vote on this.”

As the role call was taken, Carmen Chu was the first moderate to vote “yes,” and her colleagues followed suit on a 11-0 vote to approve the process. At that point, the board could have begun taking nominations, but it was already 7 p.m. and both Daly and Chiu argued to delay that process by couple weeks.

“We owe it to ourselves and this city to have a discussion [of what qualities various supervisors want to see in a new mayor] before we get into names and sequestration,” Daly said.

He and other progressive proposed to continue this discussion to Dec. 7, but Elsbernd – who was visibly agitated by the discussion – suddenly moved to table the item (which would end the discussion without spelling out the next step), a motion rejected on a 4-7 vote, with Maxwell joining the progressives.

The discussion ended with a unanimous vote to continue the item to Dec. 7, when supervisors will discuss what they want in a new mayor and possibly begin the process of making and voting on nominations. Anyone who receives six votes will need to again be confirmed during the board meeting on Jan. 4, a day after Newsom assumes the office of lieutenant governor.


"...Anyone who receives six votes will need to again be confirmed during the board meeting on Jan. 4..."

So let's say Supervisor A nominates Supervisor B to become mayor. Can Supervisor B then vote to approve his or her own nomination, which will then be heard during the confirmation vote in January?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

No, it's a conflict of interest for supervisors to vote for themselves. That's one of many rules too voluminous to list here, but which I'll cover in more detail in next week's paper.

Posted by steven on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

There is still one problematic glitch in the newly passed rules for the selection of the new mayor.

Specifically, what the rules now say, is that nominations will be opened and a series of nominations will be taken. Then the supervisors will vote on those nominations one by one. HOWEVER, if more than one sitting supervisor is nominated in that first set of nominations, ALL of them will have to leave the room and not take part in ANY voting UNTIL their own nomination is voted on.

So we still could get a situation in which most of the progressives supervisors are out of the room for a key vote on a specific progressive candidate.

So the progressives will either have to tweak the rules as they begin so that candidates leave the room -only- during a vote on their -own- candidacy, or the progressives will have to agree to only appoint one progressive sitting supervisor in that first wave of nominations, and only one in all subsequent new sets of nominations. The latter option is tricky because the Brown Act precludes them from discussing it ahead of time.

So they should just tweak the rule before they begin voting.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

I don't know why anyone would want to be Mayor this coming year. The deficit is going to be substantial--$400 million plus. Like it or not, pension and beneift reform needs to be addressed since those items are swallowing the general fund. This will require the Mayor to either piss off the unions who want their pensions and benefits, or piss off the non-profits since there is less money to provide them. I realize that progressives like to talk about raising more revenue, but in light of Prop 26, that looks like a very high hurdle. And I don't think voters have the stomach for more taxes or fees.

Isn't any Mayor (whether Interim or Acting) just committing political suicide? It also seems that if someone who labels themselves "progressive" gets the job, it's going to damage the political capital of that camp. I think these folks need to be careful what they wish for.

Posted by The Commish on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

The fact that the Six Guys Club, which runs the supes, showed unity on the rules for appointing a mayor doesn't mean much. The real question is whether they will show unity in deciding on an interim mayor.

Each of the Guys is ambitious and testosterone-driven. Each thinks he's the tallest of the Munchkins.

And then there are the Honorary Guys, such as Aaron Peskin, who believe they're better than any of the Guys up in front of the railing.

(Women need not apply, by the way.)

The rules approved by the board guarantee that the process of appointing an interim mayor will embarrass the city in the eyes of the whole world.

Not that such a consideration matters to our local progressive sect. Their aim is to appoint "one of our own" (in the words of David Campos), regardless of the means.

I remember a time when SF progressivism was concerned with the common good and democracy. But that was before it was co-opted by scheming politicians pushing their own careers.

Is this the legacy that George Moscone and Harvey Milk died for?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

Really? Who cares?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 25, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

The new mayor will be forced to committ suicide with his own sword and end his political career because:

The deficit is going to be huge--$400 million plus. This will require the Mayor to either piss off city workers, who want their pensions and benefits, or piss off the non-profits since there will be less money for them.

You piss off the sacred public-sector workers, or you piss off the nonprofits.

City hall workers vs. nonprofits

This will be the battle over the next few years.

Posted by Barton on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 7:42 am

Thanks Steven and to Bay Guardian for covering the Board of Supervisors for these critical votes on Tuesday, November 23rd. Hopefully, once SF Weekly pays up the $21 million it owes your paper, the public can benefit from more political journalism. It is great to elect a progressive Board majority but absent a critical press the temptations for backsliding are substantial. The initial draft of the proposed Board Rules for the selection of an Interim Mayor is a good case in point.

Going forward the goal should be progressive unity. That’s critical because this Board needs to find six votes for an Interim Mayor by December 14th. In reality, progressive unity is always an elusive quality because progressives lack the resources of either the Mayor’s office or Downtown to mitigate and resolve conflicts. Instead, they end up with personality battles that morph out of control and take on lives of their own. Progs are left appealing to Kantian notions to try and keep political actors on the same page.
It doesn’t always work too well, and we found out on November 2nd.

Sadly, progressives did not act with a sense of collective purpose when the selection rules for an Interim Mayor came out of the Clerk's office. It is a fair question to ask Board President David Chiu why that is the case. Done right, there was never a need for Supervisor Daly to publicly intervene at such a late date, nor for Chiu to act as an “umpire.” These critical facts are missing from this story. Jones gets the larger context right. Absent all 6 progressive votes, Chiu included, the wheels come off this process as they nearly did last Tuesday night. Yes, we can not afford to alienate David Chiu but costs of silence are high.

Had there been progressive unity, there would be no need for Sup. Daly's amendments. It was a critical mistake on November 16th not to have this Board debate and settle the cornerstone choice of the selection process. That choice was A) Should interim Mayoral nominees be voted on individually, and if a nominee is a member of the Board of Supervisors be sequestered individually; or B) Should all potential nominees be voted on as a group, with nominees from the Board of Supervisors sequestered as a group. B is how the proposed rules left the Clerk’s office. It was also a near death blow to any decision this Board could make to choose an Interim Mayor. Why? Under the Charter it takes 6 Board votes to make this decision, and that is true whether there are 11 members voting or 6 -- the minimum for a quorum. Elsbernd did not miss this fact, and it’s why he vigorously defended the Clerk’s proposed rules.

True transparency here would have meant all substantive policy choices would be decided in public by all 11 elected members of the Board of Supervisors, not off camera. Doing so would have preserved the institutional autonomy of the Clerk's office, appropriately removed it from what became a high octane political fight and been more respectful to the Clerk herself. Anyone who loves the institution of the Board of Supervisors has to be pained by this sentence: “Calvillo and Elsbernd preferred a system whereby supervisors would vote on the group of nominees all at once.”

None of this was legally required. It was rooted in particular interests. As this story shows there was no legal basis under the California Political Reform Act for why the draft rules came out they way they did. Under questioning from Supervisor Campos, the Santa Clara County legal counsel clearly stated the Board of Supervisors is free to take up Mayoral nominees individually. Unfortunately, Campos chose not to connect the dots of what was happening for the viewing audience.

Summing up, here are a few questions. Why did the draft come out the way it did? Whose interests were served by it? What are the realistic odds a progressive Mayor is selected by this Board? What can be done to improve those odds?

Posted by naanbread on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

Chiu is the one who directed the clerk to come up with the proposed "rules" for selecting a successor mayor. In the original form they took upon being introduced by Chiu, they clearly favored him ending up being interim mayor. That is because all nominations would be taken and voted on at once, with all nominated bd members having to be sequestered at once and thus not being able to vote at all -- meaning not for any of the nominees.

Hence, it would be unlikely anyone could get to six votes, and thus b/c Chiu is the bd president, he automatically would become interim mayor. Daly tried to amend the rules so that nominations would be voted on separately and, if the nominee was a sitting bd member, that bd member only would have to leave the room and be sequestered only for the round of voting on his nomination. If he/she did not get six votes, his nomination would automatically be withdrawn and he/she could come back to the room and vote for other nominations.

During the off-air break, Chiu stuck it to Daly that all of the amendments that drew authority from Roberts Rules in his view would require 8 votes for passage, instead of six. Daly knew there was no way he could get 8 votes. Chiu then "ruled" that way when the bd reconvened in public. The end result appears to be that while each nominee will be voted on separately, all nominated candidates who are sitting members of the bd will still have to leave the room and remain sequestered all together. A sitting bd member will only be able to come back into the room and vote for a nominee if he completely renounces forever all interest in the interim mayor position. With all sitting bd members having to be sequestered all at once,it still will be very difficult for any progressive nominee to get six votes.

After he had blocked the key amendment, Chiu could afford to "show unity" and vote for what remained of Daly's amendments, because it still will be very difficult for any nominee to get six votes given that all sitting bd members will be sequestered at once. Thus, he still retains a major advantage in terms of the likelihood of his becoming interim mayor.

If you want to call what happened a "show of progressive unity," well ok, but to do so is to gloss over the very critical details of what actually occurred. Chiu did much more than simply play "umpire."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

Actually Guest, I believe you are incorrect on the point that once a nominee is back in the room they have to renounce future candidacy. Elsbernd pushed for this (even claims it's mandated) but didn't achieve it, which was why he got so agitated near the end of the Nov 23rd meeting.

They are ways the progressives can work this to allow them to vote without only one of them at a time being sequestered. For example; if in the first round, Chiu, Campos and Mirkarimi are all nominated, any two of them can decline the nomination in that round so that they can each stay and vote. They can then simply wait to be renominated in future rounds. Doing this repeatedly, each of the progressives could be nominated for a vote, with only one of them leaving the room each time.

It's a little pretzel-like, but would likely work.

The big task now is getting the 5.5 progressives to deliver their 6 votes for a new and progressive mayor...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 27, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

You gotta give our local progressive sect credit. They make no bones of the fact that they're trying every trick in the book in order to impose "one of our own" as mayor on the voters.

And the only cost is their reputations.

What a deal, huh?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 12:28 am

Are you implying that our downtown developer manipulated opponents (who I remind you have a -minority- on the Board) are -not- scheming?

Give me a break. The well financed perennial scheming of big developers and corporate interests to continuously control the Mayor's office for the rest of eternity and thereby bilk the city and its residents of all of their wealth, is an outrage. In a fair system the Mayor would always be a progressive, reflecting the true views of a -majority- of the San Francisco electorate.

Against such an unfair system, it is perfectly sensible and right for progressives to use this opportunity to elect the progressive mayor that San Franciscans get screwed out of every election because powerful monied interests can successfully manipulate citywide elections (which take far more funding and so favor their manipulations).

And we will do so, if successful, with an honest open vote of a majority of the elected members of the peoples body, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

That's not scheming. It's democracy.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 11:15 am

A reply to Eric Brooks -

On the one hand, we have the corporate schemers. They consist of downtown businesses, developers, bankers, and real estate interests. They seek to impose one of their own on the voters.

On the other hand, we have the progressive schemers. They consist of the nonprofit political complex, the unions, and the cannabis capitalists. They seek to impose one of the own on the voters.

It's schemers vs. schemers.

This game has as much to do with democracy as cabbages have to do with perfume.

Let's get beyond all the schemers. That's where democracy happens.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

Arthur, when the majority of our elected representatives act to carry out the will our their constituents -- which you conspiratorially label "scheming" -- that is the essence of democracy.

Posted by steven on Dec. 01, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

Using the Jean Kirkpatrick methodology of authoritarian vs totalitarian seems to be the methodology of the progressives here.

To the so called progressives, there are "downtown" interests or their own, there is no other, third way.

With the manichean way of thinking that permeates the progressives, anyone not a progressive is "downtown." So anyone not in the "one of our own" club is not going to be suitable.

All the attempts at trying to look reasonable are smoke.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

By all means 'Matlock', please wow us all with the elucidation of your brilliant 'third way'. Describe it in detail.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

Perhaps the city could be lucky enough to find someone who listens to people outside of the base.

For example, if a politician listened to a few people from downtown and then some from SEIU, and then made decisions based on whats best for the city, not what will get out the "downtown" money or the purple shirted goons next election time.

Having read your posts I know that you are of the opinion that not agreeing with you is plainly evil, but some of us would think it awesome if the people elected to hold office didn't view the people as "those who agree with me," and the rest can fuck off.

I know there is all this propaganda around those who claim to speak for the people the loudest and the most are actually those who do, but that is not the reality of the situation.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

Try actually answering the question 'Matlock'. (Although I doubt you are capable of doing so.)

What's your brilliant plan for appointing a new Mayor?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 12:58 am

Thats not what you asked me in reference to the context of my post and my use of those two words.

pass the bong bro

Posted by matlock on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 6:17 am

In other words, you don't know what you are talking about, you are just blog trolling for meaningless opportunities to pontificate about nothing, and you don't have an answer.

Let's not pick nits about when I asked what question.

I just clearly asked it.

Try dredging up from what you constantly vaguely imply is your vast store of brilliant public policy wisdom, an actual answer.

We're waiting..

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

You asked me one question, I answered it and now you are claiming victory because I didn't answer a question you didn't ask.

I claim victory because you didn't answer pi to the 50th decimal point in your post where I asked you no questions.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 01, 2010 @ 3:58 pm