Behind today's unanimous vote for Chiu

Newly elected and re-elected supervisors take their oath of office.
Steven T. Jones

For all the high-minded talk about diversity and working together on behalf of the public – and the relentless praising of their political colleagues and supporters – today's unanimous re-election of David Chiu as president of the Board of Supervisors once again demonstrated that much of the people's business is done behind closed doors.

As most of the supervisors acknowledged publicly or in comments to the Guardian, in recent days there was a flurry of meetings about the president vote among the supervisors, despite the prohibition in the state's Brown Act against “seriatim meetings,” in which elected officials have serial meetings with each other until an quorum of supervisors has illegally discussed some topic.

How else could Malia Cohen, Jane Kim, and Scott Wiener – all hopefuls for the president's seat who withdrew themselves from consideration before a vote was cast – have all known that Chiu had the votes he needed to win an unprecedented third consecutive term? But they did know, as they all told the Guardian.

“The reality was the support wasn't there,” Cohen told reporters after the vote when asked why she withdrew her nomination just before the supervisors were about to vote, just after Kim had done the same thing, leaving Chiu as the sole nominee.

I asked whether she was promised anything in return for withdrawing from consideration, and Cohen said, “There's always negotiations involved in everything, from committee assignments to appointment to regional bodies...The full story will come out later.”

Cohen even obliquely suggested that Chiu – who is known to have his sights set on Tom Ammiano's Assembly seat, which comes open in two years – may not serve his full two years as president and that was part of the backroom discussions. In the more immediate future, Cohen said she wants to serve on the Land Use Committee, so don't be surprised if Chiu appoints her as chair of that powerful body.

“It may seem like a small setback today, but it sets the stage for greater conversations going forward,” Cohen said of her decision to voluntarily step down.

Kim also told reporters that she knew Chiu had the votes – saying “we know there was broad support for David for another term” – and that the decision that she and Cohen made to nominate one another was mostly symbolic, intended to make a point about the need for women of color to be in leadership positions: “I thought it was important that we put the dialogue out there.”

Kim said she really appreciated the opportunity to speak with more fellow supervisors privately in the last few days than she had before. “All of this was last minute. There were really only discussions in the last three days,” Kim told me. “I got a good sense of people's policies and priorities.” As for Kim's priorities, she said she wants to serve on the Budget Committee, so don't be surprised when Chiu names her as chair.

Wiener also told me that he realized a couple days ago that he didn't have the votes but that Chiu did. “It would have been an honor to serve as board president, but it wasn't in the cards,” Wiener said.

Some of what the cards showed was made clear as the nominations for president opened today and new Dist. 7 Sup. Norman Yee spoke first and nominated Chiu, thus making it clear that Kim probably didn't have the six votes she needed. As former Sup. Chris Daly, a veteran vote counter, told me, “Norman Yee and Eric Mar could have made Jane Kim board president. They were the deciding bloc, but it would taken both of them.”

Yet Mar told us that he was caught off guard by how the voting unfolded today. “I was surprised that people dropped out before the vote,” he told me.

Yet he acknowledged that it was perhaps a smart move by the progressive supervisors, who voted against Chiu two years ago and were punished with bad committee assignments, to instead get behind Chiu now and hand him a unanimous victory.

“I think that was the hope when people dropped out. It would have been hard if they didn't, but these negotiations [with Chiu over committee assignments] will go on over the next few days,” Mar said, noting that he will push for strong representation by supporters of labor and other progressive constituencies on key committees.

Asked about his negotiations with fellow supervisors, Chiu would only say, “My conversation with everyone was very consistent.” As for his pending decision on committee assignments, he told me, “We have a board that is very diverse and we'll have committees that reflect that.”

During his speech in Board Chambers, Chiu talked about running the board in a way that would let each supervisor have her/his moments in the spotlight to provide leadership on issues they care about, comparing it to the San Francisco Giants and the contributions that so many players made to their World Series sweep.

“They took turns making the big plays,” Chiu said, going on to tick off the list of how he'll help his colleagues shine. “Whether it's Sup. Mar advocating for a healthy environment, Sup. Farrell addressing out looming health care costs, whether it's Sup. Chu disciplining our budget, Sup. Breed getting the jobs that young people need, Sup. Kim making sure that all our kids graduate, Sup. Yee making sure that small businesses succeed, Sup. Wiener fighting for better transportation options, Sup. Campos fighting against wage theft, or Sup. Cohen curbing gun violence, and Sup. Avalos delivering on local hire, by the end of our season, if we're going to help each other succeed in getting these things done, we are all going to win.”


Steven, isn't Chiu an Asian-American and not a white male?

Doesn't that pass your "diversity test" (code, I take it, for not wanting a white male in the job)?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

He's a former illegal immigrant, Latino gay man with a weight problem. He hits many more bases than does Chiu.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

Please drop the "i" word. Stop the hate. No human being is "illegal."

More neutral terms are:

1. Indocumentado
2. Undocumented
3. Unregistered

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

People can have an illegal immigration status. But I agree, that one aspect of a person's being (race, class, gender, queer, immigration status, etc.) should not define the whole person.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

Kim badly wants to be mayor after Lee but she may settle for Pelosi's seat if it opens soon and she can beat Pelosi's awful daughter. Campos, Chiu and Wiener want to be in the Assembly or state Senate, Yee will settle for being reelected, Breed and Cohen seem relatively content in their position but will probably run for assessor or something in 6 years. Avalos thinks he deserves to be mayor. Hardly any of them are interested in solving the city's problems beyond what will put them on the front page so they can angle for higher office. Of that bunch Kim is the absolute worst - she reeks of insincerity. She's like the Asian Tracy Flick.

I miss Elsbernd already.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

People can and do have an undocumented immigrant status or an unregistered immigrant status (the hateful "i" word is unnecessary....regardless of how many backward government's use it including the U.S. government).

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

any person, act or event that is contrary to the law. If that law happens to be immigration law, then the terms "illegal immigrant" or "illegal immigration" are correct.

I think the problem is more then the noun is dropped and the adjective is used as a noun, i.e. referring to illegal immigrants as "illegals". It's not a well-formed use of an adjective.

Then again, one cana rgue that using a word like "undocumentsed" is little more than a cheap euphemism designed to belitte the illegal status of those in the US who have broken our immigration laws.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 6:52 am

I true pro lifer. err, I mean anti choicer err...


‘How is the Dictionary getting on?’ said Winston, raising his voice to overcome the noise.

‘Slowly,’ said Syme. ‘I’m on the adjectives. It’s fascinating.’

He had brightened up immediately at the mention of Newspeak. He pushed his pannikin aside, took up his hunk of bread in one delicate hand and his cheese in the other, and leaned across the table so as to be able to speak without shouting.

‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’ he said. ‘We’re getting the language into its final shape — the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.’

Posted by matlock on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

illegals are hispanic.

I have known illegals from Ireland and Russia. But I guess if they are white, then they cant really be "illegals" right? Maybe "undocumented european immigrants"?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 6:54 am

I suspect you're deliberately missing the point as a "Concern Troll," but I'll respond for the benefit of others.

The word indocumentado was in response to the rude-troll comment about David Campos. He's Latino. He was born in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala (América Latina) and he speaks español (as well as Inglés) and en español the word for undocumented is indocumentado.

There are indeed undocumented/unregistered people in the U.S. from all over the world regardless of their ethnicity.

Also, you might want to learn the difference between Latino and Hispano.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

and shove them right up your ass too - sideways.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

because while "illegal" is frowned upon in some ultra-liberal circles, it is nonetheless a generally accepted and mostly accurate description of the phemonenon in question i.e. law-breaking migration to the US.

But "indocumentado", while giving a nod to the overtly PC euphemism "undocumented", actually contributes to the myth that all illegals are hispanics. It's overtly racist and prejucidical, while "illegal" is merely a semantic ambiguity, at best.

I don't care where Campos was born, but he's a Hispanic (where does this PC thing come from that that is somehow a derogatory word for the less precise "latino"?). Get over yourself already.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’

Posted by matlock on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

yes let's drop "illegal" when describing Campos. Lying scumbag, greed filled, and Chavez like leftist with delusions of grandeur and a jerkwad work much better.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

Shallow and Superficial Lucretia Snapples (a.k.a. Troll II).

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

Why do you hate diversity so much you scorn legitimate box-checking of minority status in order to decide favoritism as "shallow and superficial?" That's the progressive movement's who reason for existing.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

are we making such a big deal of being non-white? Colored people are the majority on the board, even though whites are a majority of SF residents.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 6:56 am

first part of Steve's complaint.

Likely the reason Steve included it is that these words no longer have any meaning. They just come pouring out utterly decontextualized from the nimble fingers of our self identified.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

Since the comments here have been so derailed by my essentially throwaway opening line -- as opposed to the substance of the reporting that followed -- let me clarify what I meant. Yesterday's forum was dominated by very high-minded rhetoric concerning the importance of placing women of color in leadership positions and otherwise striving to reflect the broad interests of city residents, from government transparency and accountability to doing more to support small businesses and low-income residents. But on the president vote itself, the fix was clearly in before the meeting began, which seemed to undercut such noble sentiments.  At least that was how it struck me and a few others that I spoke to there. Sorry if I wasn't as clear in my communications as I should have been because I've been a little disappointed that so few commenters focused on the transparency and integrity of this particular political process. Frankly, I think that Cohen and others made some comments that were striking in their candor and revelations.

Posted by steven on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

Why even focus on race, gender and all the attendant stereotypes?

Why can't you look at the skills and merits of the Supes as individuals, rather than as representatives of various groups, classes and affiliations? Is this all about identity politics to you?

The entire premise you cite is actually insulting to women and non-whites, because it suggests that they should be picked not on talent but on their accidentla membership of some group. What's post-racial about that?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

I'll make two points in response:

1. The diversity argument (about the value of having a woman of color as president) was made by and on behalf of two of the three presidential nominees. I was simply reporting that argument.

2. I do think there is merit to the argument because we don't live in "post-racial" world, something that conservatives tend to argue as a way of defending white male power. I'm not a huge fan of identify politics and how it is used here in San Francisco, but there is inherent value to bring new perspectives into leadership positions.

Posted by steven on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

"latino gay man with a weight problem"?

Too funny!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

Have you seen him lately?

These days the Pillsbury Dough Boy award on the BOS goes to Mark Farrell. But I won't blame you if you're thinking "Who?" right about now, since he doesn't do much. Just call him "the forgotten supe."

Too funny!

Posted by Greg on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

You should have asked him how his 'haunting' of David Chiu is going.

Posted by Troll on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

So true...

Chiu = 3 time board president
Daly = Pear shaped ass hat living in Fairfield after a failed attempt to run a dive bar

Posted by Scram on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

"It would have been an honor to serve as board president..." (Wiener)

Oh here we go with the "honor" bull shit. Such a cookie-cutter, stale, stagnant, predictable response. That's what I would expect that corporatist conservative politician to say. Don't these politicians have one original thought in their head, ever? (I know that's wishful-thinking on my part).

It has zero to do with this "honor" bull shit that he's going on about. That divisive and polarizing politician would have used the position to further his political career which is what he's about 24 hours a day. Fortunately, he didn't have the votes. That's amazing considering the way this Board usually eats his ass out and passes any draconian and backwards-thinking stuff he dreams up (to give himself attention).

"and the relentless praising of their political colleagues and supporters –" (Steven Jones)

Oh call it what it was: relentless ass-eating bull shit and it was pathetic.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

It's an outrage that we haven't elected a handicapped, homosexual, ex-military, mildly retarded, previously sexually abused woman of color to the Board. An outrage!

Posted by Chromefields on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 10:52 am

of the assumptions made in the article.

Posted by anon on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 11:16 am

3rd term = entrenched power = bad for public good.

Posted by Guest annonmyous on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

Other than committee appointments, the job doesn't carry much freight.

How about instead - term limits for the US Congress?

Posted by anon on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

I bet you said the exact same thing when Chris Daly was reelected in 2006.

3rd term = entrenched power = bad for public good.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

This is a BOS to watch. Overall they seem to be overly enamored with themselves and I don't get a sense of transparency or accountability. Nubies "playing politics" discounting some of the newly elected who haven't revealed themselves as yet. Waiting for maturity and compassion to reveal itself!

Posted by Theleona on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

Born 100 years ago this day 1913.

The man more to blame for our modern hair brained fringe left than anyone except maybe Spiro Agnew.

As the left gains power in various areas they act much like Tricky Dick did.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

this passes for "reporting?"

there's nothing here I couldn't have learned by reading Melissa Griffith in the Examiner.

Old white males at corporate-owned Guardian can't get it up much less get it right!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

You've got to be kidding! The difference between this report and a Melissa Griffin column is that I actually do reporting, including interviews with all the significant players in this drama, some of whom made comments that were quite revealing about this process. I know Melissa and I like her (we were on a TV show together for about two years), but she doesn't consider herself to be a journalist and she doesn't conduct interviews. Just ask her. By contrast, I've been a newspaper reporter for more than 20 years, and I use diligent reporting as the basis for most of what I write. Criticize me all you want, but next time try to choose a criticism that actually makes sense.

Posted by steven on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

...I saw you at city hall with pad and pen doing interviews. It sucks to be criticized by the uninvolved and uninvested.
And I feel for anyone who sat through the kabuki performance yesterday.

Posted by RickinSF on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

It is a short step between punishing colleagues on the board who don't vote for you, and punishing constituents who didn't vote for you?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 9:31 pm