The Mystery of the Missing Mayor

Tune in Jan. 4 for the next riveting episode of The Mystery of the Missing Mayor to find out who will lurk behind this door.
Ben Hopfer

Again, the Board of Supervisors scheduled a vote to select a new mayor to succeed Gavin Newsom. Again, members of the public lined up for almost an hour to urge the board to do so and to suggest names and qualities they'd like to see in Room 200. And again, the board delayed the decision with no reason offered for why.

Well, actually, this time, Sup. Sophie Maxwell – the maker of the motion to continue the item this week and last – did at least say something. “We have three weeks and to have someone floating out there for that time is not in the board's best interests,” Maxwell said, and that's all she said.

It's unclear what she meant, and none of the seven supervisors who supported the motion in a 8-3 vote – with Sups. Chris Daly, David Campos, and Ross Mirkarimi in dissent – had anything to say. But Daly certainly did, accusing his colleagues of “doing an incredible disservice to the people of the city and county of San Francisco.”

He restated his points from the two previous hearings on the issue, noting that supervisors should at least be willing to talk about what they're looking for in a mayor and to provide some leadership going into a politically uncertain period after Newsom becomes lieutenant governor on Jan. 3.

“At some point, we need to be putting forward a vision for San Francisco,” Daly said, later asking, “Are we going to take our charge?”

“It's almost as if the members of the board don't want to be here,” he observed, urging them to at least inform the public what's going on.

“If it's that you want the next board to decide, say that,” Daly said. “Say something, the people deserve it.”

Is this an effort to stall the decision until the next board is seated on Jan. 8? Is the current board just waiting until Newsom is gone, afraid that he'll delay his swearing in if they choose a progressive mayor now, and planning to spring into action on Jan. 4? Is there a secret deal in the offing? Or are supervisors just too distracted by the holiday season to make a big decision?

I don't know, but I'm going to spend this week doing interviews to figure it out for a story in next weeks' paper.


Mystery? You gotta be kiddin'!

None of the factions has succeeded in getting the needed six votes to secure an appointment. They're all scrambling, with their back-room deals and scheming, to reach the magic number.

Most remarkable amid the scrambling is the situation of the Six Guys Club, the all-male progressive clique that has six votes among themselves.

They can't agree on which of the Six Guys has the biggest political mojo. Which is why three of the Six Guys voted for the postponement.

I love watching patriarchal power plays. Especially when they're carried out in the name of progressive politics!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 3:32 pm


All businesses shut down for the holidays, and an important decision like this shouldn't be rushed with undue haste.

Have you canvassed a cross-section of the community and asked them whether they'd prefer the new board to make this decision? My guess is that you'd find most would.

Trying to ram this through quickly is not what SF needs - it is the sign of some desperate opportunistcis seeking their one day in the sun - to coronate someone who would probably NEVER be elected by the people. There will be a caretaker in place when Newsom resigns, and he may yet delay that anyway.

Find something more useful to do for the next week. Or take it off, like the Supes who, for once, got something right

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

Think it's an interesting story. We have a strong Mayor system and the person who fills that post may shape policy for a long time. I think the bottom line is they are having a hard time finding someone who is willing to take the job. A good argument could be made that it will be political suicide. The deficit is huge, the unions will say they have already given back, and the pension problem is suffocating. And nex taxes will be a tough sell as many of us are wondering what we are getting for the taxes we pay currently aside from overpaid police and fire, retirement benefits that no one in the private sector gets, and roads that make Costa Rica's roads seem satisfactory. My guess is Ammiano didn't want to touch these problems.

Posted by The Commish on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

Is one where Daly has joined his family in Fairfield.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

I was in utter disbelief that the Board delayed this AGAIN! I would like to see all of the Supes at least put some names forward of who they would like...we can worry about who has the votes later. Without names being put forward, how can the public rally around someone? The way this is playing out it is like a non-election where the only person who runs is the one who thinks they can win. San Francisco politics has just gotten boring and depressing.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

What baffles and frustrates me, as someone who's been organizing community support for the current board to make the mayoral nomination (using its vast experience and knowledge, and giving the new mayor time to prepare) is this: how can there be almost zero public discussion or debate (other than on process), for weeks on end? As Chris Daly put it well, say something. If there's no six-vote candidate emerging yet, at least discuss the values and qualities sought, and let the public hear what the board's thinking is. This is a disservice. Every supervisor should be on record talking about this. The city and community groups and taxpayers deserve better. Where's the leadership and courage, even just to talk in the open about what the city needs in a new mayor?
Please visit our San Francisco for All Facebook page to see and join one initiative aimed at promoting a set of values and principles for the new administration:!/pages/San-Francisco-for-All-A-Values-Platform-for-our-New-Mayor/146263708759232

Posted by Guest Christopher Cook on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

You've been trying to organize support, but you've not been connecting with San Franciscans. The last stop on the train to political oblivion is blaming the electorate for not supporting your ideas.

It is not like any process would work out where everyone sat down and played open process patty cake about how mayoral succession will work. Not that progressive activists ever open up the process to decision making or share access when they're granted stakeholder status by city government.

This is going to be a highly leveraged and politicized process that cannot by its very nature take place in public. Efforts to push this will result in failure, all the while, there does not seem to be any effort to make the case to who it counts, where it counts.

Appeals such as this to liberal guilt do not work, demonstrate weakness and more likely than not make desirable outcomes less likely and less desirable outcomes more likely.


Posted by marcos on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

Thanks Marc for your tireless bitter criticisms, I'm sure you realize how helpful they are. A clarification: I never, once, "blame the electorate" for any of this, that's patently absurd. I blame a lot of people for where we are at this moment: the supervisors for lack of leadership to at least move the conversation forward in public; myself and others for not getting everything done right, though a few of us sure tried, on multiple levels (not just the one you eagerly and repeatedly lambaste); you and others for sitting on the sidelines grumbling and criticizing without really helping; and other bigger forces at play, locally and nationally. No appeals to liberal guilt here Marc, just an appeal for conscience, courage, and effort. --Chris

Posted by Guest Christopher Cook on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

is whether we should rush to appoint a new mayor. I don't think we should. It's bad enough getting an unelected mayor at all. We certainly shouldn't get a rushed one.

A middle-of-the-road, neutral caretaker mayor would be the best bet, pending the chance for us to all vote for who we really want.

The supes are doing the right thing. Let's fix this in the new year, with a new board

Posted by Tom on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

The same old, same old combination of nonprofit service providers and progressive activists demanding their needs be met are going to see the same level of success as they've come across over past the several years.

All arguments here are constructed with an aim towards delivering an end. One could easily imagine this crowd crafting an opposite argument were the politics of the old and new board opposite.

We agree that we want a progressive mayor. However there are significant impediments in the way of realizing that which a campaign like you all are running actually make more difficult to overcome.

But you all do this over and over again, organizers organizing organizers and claiming to craft a broad popular front that is to be taken as legitimate to speak for the community.

There is no zen to your game, no realization that it is as important when you don't do something as it is when you do, that sometimes taking action is counterproductive, sometimes taking action is valuable. The key is knowing the difference, when a situation is intuitive and when it is counter intuitive. In this respect, there is a collective learning disability on the part of the organizers of organizers who only know one path forward.

What can I say, the nonprofits will continue to suck dry the husk of the progressive movement in search of a few more months of funding, which is what this is all about.


Posted by marcos on Dec. 16, 2010 @ 8:45 am

While perhaps the city will find a good interim choice, the potential problems with a placeholder mayor are several. Many supervisors have advised against it, saying a short-term mayor won't have any clout to make decisions on the budget or other key matters. The city could risk running in place for a year, a full lame-duck year. A placeholder may not enable the city to really move ahead and get things done. Also, I question the concept that anyone is "neutral"--let's at least acknowledge that "moderates" and "middle-of-the-road" politicians carry an ideology with them too; it's all a matter of getting someone who can lead effectively while listening, respecting, and showing some backbone and courage. The "tough choices" that may have to be made don't necessarily mean what "moderates" say, ie, cutting programs and services--getting tough can mean getting wealthy San Francisco to step up to the plate and do its fair share. Delaying a final vote doesn't preclude having the conversation and getting people to speak up on the record. The current board is best qualified to make this decision, on Jan. 4, and without further delay.

Posted by Guest Christopher Cook on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

Eleven people can vote. They can vote for anyone. It only takes six votes to win. But if one of the eleven wants the seat, there's an extra hurdle: they need a seventh vote, since they can't vote for themselves.

If they don't work something out in time, four of them lose their vote entirely (Dufty, Daly, Alioto-Pier, Maxwell), while the other seven keep theirs, and four new voters arrive (Weiner, Kim, that D2 guy, and Cohen).

They clearly want to be stealthy, and present the city with a fait accompli on Jan 4th. Announcing a decision now, as Maxwell admitted, is not in their best interest, because it could change Newsom's behavior. So they have to wait. But anyone in the "pro-waiting" camp could actually be double-crossing -- pretending to want to vote on the 4th, but actually planning to withhold their vote and wait for the new board on the 8th! The seven who will remain are actually counting votes on two separate boards, a total of fifteen players, to see which configuration advantages them the most. So the four who will leave must guess at these machinations as well.

AND, the mayorship is only good for one year. So some of the eleven voters may be just as interested in picking their opponent as they are in actually taking the seat on the 4th. Dufty could vote for a weak progressive that he thinks he could defeat. The Progressives could just as readily vote for Dufty if they think he's weak, but that downtown will nonetheless stand behind him. Getting to pick the other team's incumbent is like having a vote at the other party's nominating convention!

It's fucking gorgeous. I don't know why anyone is complaining. Yes, the outcome could well be bizarre, but oh, good God, the process! It's pure, distilled, uncontaminated politics, a thing of rare and perfect beauty.

Posted by hermann on Dec. 15, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

It's all a bunch of self-serving posturing, and nowhere do i see any real concern for the city and it's people.

There should be a special election, and not this horse-trading and scheming. But yeah, it's fun.

Posted by Tom on Dec. 16, 2010 @ 9:32 am