Why does the mayor appoint supervisors?

Why does he get the choice? (Examiner file photo)

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors just found a replacement for Nadia Lockyer, who resigned in April ("amidst a drug and sex scandal," the Chronicle notes, and you know how much journalists love to use that phrase). The four remaining members of the board deadlocked for a while, then settled on Union City Council member Richard Valle.

All of which makes me wonder, as I often do: Why does the Mayor of San Francisco get to fill vacancies on the Board of Supervisors?

Other county boards fill the vacancies themselves -- and if you don't think the SFBOS can handle that, remember that every two years the 11 contentious folks choose a president, and it doesn't take more than a few hours, and not that long ago, they chose a mayor.

I don't know any other situation where the executive gets to choose legislators. The governor doesn't fill seats in the state Assembly. The president doesn't fill vacancies in Congress. There's an important balance of powers issue here, and it has played out to the detriment of democracy in the past. At one point, more than half of the sitting supervisors had been appointed by Mayor Willie Brown. There was no balance; the mayor called all the shots.

Imagine if, instead of the mayor secretly huddling with advisors and choosing a new supe, the Rules Committee took applications and nominations and then the full board, in open session, debated and discussed and voted. The outcome would reflect the much broader perspectives of 10 district supervisors -- and the person chosen would owe a debt to all of his or her colleagues, not to the mayor.

You can make a good case that the mayor ought to fill vancancies in other elected offices (sheriff, city attorney, public defender etc.); those are, at least arguably, executive offices. Although I could also make the case that the 11 district-elected supervisors should make those calls.

But that's a different issue. The clear and obvious anomaly here is that San Francisco's chief executive gets to choose his own legislators in the event of a vacancy -- and that's just wrong.

Now, in Alameda if they can't reach a decision, the governor steps in. In San Francisco, with 10 voting supes, it seems highly unlikely that we'd ever see a long-term deadlock, but the mayor could step in the break the tie in that case -- or some other city official could, or you could come up with a dozen other solutions. The bottom line is that most of the time, as in Alameda, the board would come to if not a consensus, then a majority vote.

Who's up for some Charter reform?




Pete Wilson appointed John Seymour to fill his Senate seat when he became governor.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

takes a back seat.

I wouldn't trust most of the supes to even appoint a janitor.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

have made it clear that their primary concern is what is best for the progressive movement I wouldn't want them acting in any way to influence who is supervisor in my district.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that people who nobody in the District voted for would decide who their representative would be. Representatives that were voted upon by everyone else in the city EXCEPT for the people in need of representation.

But, hey, if you want to do some charter reform how about changing the way that we appoint an interim Mayor. Troll 2 is right, Campos made it clear that he wanted to do what is best for the Progressive movement (as opposed to the city as a whole). It was a direct quote. Daly called it a once in a generation opportunity (to appoint a Mayor without those pesky voters) and he then threw a massive tantrum when Chiu didn't go along. All along the SFBG was making the case that we needed someone 180 degrees opposite from the popular Newsom.

So in the end the Progressives got schooled by the Moderates but their childish behavior made it clear that we need a better way to replace a Mayor.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

Why not simply hold a special election whenever there is a vacancy? But I do agree that the mayoral power to appoint replacements is extremely corrupt. Recently SF history has proven that.

Posted by Common Sense SF on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

Why do we elect for jobs that are specialized, skilled jobs like DA and sheriff? It would make more sense to appoint them. Likewise with judges - the voters are clueless about who is a good judge.

Most democracy is a sham - just elect the top guys and then let them do their job.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

A special election is probably the most democratic way to do it.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

mayor to make appointments - they why they elect a mayor, for his judgment.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

If you want democracy, then you have to be willing to pay for it. If you just want to save money, why not have the mayor appoint the whole BOS?

Posted by Greg on Jun. 12, 2012 @ 7:33 am

In fact, I dont trust anyone to live up to my progressive litmus test. I would support a charter amendment to put every single decision made by the SF BOS up to a public vote.
That would be true democracy.

Posted by greg on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

It's more important than ranked-choice voting, it's more important than public financing and it should even be important to anti-machine moderates.

The mayor gets to reset the gameclock every time we win an opponent wins an election to higher office.

The executive gets to staff his own legislature. It's no way for a respectable polity to work.

Posted by Chris on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

points, Tim. Though Guest does have a point about the successor being appointed by a body of people not elected by the constituents. Well, wait a minute, who got the most votes in D5, Lee ... or Avalos? Why John Avalos: http://www.sfelections.org/results/20111108/ Perhaps that means that John Avalos should select appointees in this district.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

Yes -- governors in some states can appoint a US Senator. But not their own Legislators.

I'm for special elections, which won't be that expensive in one district. But whatever your ideology, I don't think it's right for the executive to appoint his own legislators. That's a fundamental violation of separation of powers.

Sorta like the Supreme Court choosing the president.


Posted by tim on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

assassinations occurred again we would need to have those offices filled quickly. So I can see the reason for giving whomever is the head executive the power to appoint but it would be better for those seats to be confirmed by the voters in an election, say - 90 days after the appointment?

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796

Bill Clinton, Al Gore & Senator Obama supported the California 2006 Prop. 87, a GMO corn ethanol welfare program.

Bill, Al, have changed opinion on the ethanol mandate, I wonder if Obama will make this the time for CHANGE?

I support a waiver of the ethanol mandate, voluntary use of ethanol in my gas.

Federal ethanol policy increases Government motors oil use and Big oil profit.

It is reported that today California is using Brazil sugar cane ethanol at $0.16 per gal increase over using GMO corn fuel ethanol. In this game the cars and trucks get to pay and Big oil profits are the result that may be ready for change.

We do NOT support AB 523 or SB 1396 unless the ethanol mandate is changed to voluntary ethanol in our gas.

Folks that pay more at the pump for less from Cars, trucks, food, water & air need better, it is time.

The car tax of AB 118 Nunez is just a simple Big oil welfare program, AAA questioned the policy and some folks still agree.

AB 523 & SB 1326 are just a short put (waiver) from better results.

GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796

Posted by GuestCharli Peters on Jun. 12, 2012 @ 4:51 am

Progressive supes nixed a proposal to amend the current election code to provide for immediate (120 day) IRV elections to replace vacancies on the Board of Supervisors when I raised the issue 10 years ago.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 12, 2012 @ 9:27 am