Chiu’s Board President Power Play

by on November 17, 2014

Avalos is pushing to prevent Board Presidency vote in Campos' absence

After winning a hard-fought Assembly victory over David Campos, one would think that David Chiu would be eager to put the Board of Supervisors behind him and move on to his new job. But that thought would be wrong. It turns out that Chiu feels he still has some scores to settle at the Board, which is why he has put an item on the November 18 Board agenda for the new President to be selected while David Campos is out of the country.

In case you’re wondering, Chiu having “scores to settle” means ensuring that Campos or Mark Farrell (who endorsed Campos) do not become Board President. And if the vote occurs when Campos is not present, its pretty certain he will not be elected Board President.

I’ve asked a lot of veteran politicos if they can recall the Board President ever being selected without all supervisors voting. Nobody could cite a prior example. The reason is obvious: denying the District 9 Supervisor of their right to vote wrongly disempowers the district’s residents.

The reason Chiu is acting with such haste is that he only has two more meetings as a supervisor. If he is going to have a role in picking his successor, it must be done before he is sworn in for the Assembly on December 1.

Campos will be back for the November 25 meeting, but Malia Cohen will reportedly be gone. And given Chiu needs Cohen’s vote for his chosen successor to prevail, delaying the vote until November 25 does not fit his purposes.

The Board President’s powers extend far beyond setting committee assignments. The President appoints nearly half of the members to the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals, as well as to other bodies. That’s why residents of Districts 9 are entitled to have their representative included in the selection process.

A January 9 vote

The best and most obvious approach is to delay selection of the new Board President until Mayor Lee appoints Chiu’s successor. The Mayor has an incentive to wait until January 9 to give that successor the potential to serve two terms rather than one.

But this best and most obvious approach excludes David Chiu. He’ll be in Sacramento on January 9. That’s why he is willing to disenfranchise District 9 voters by holding an earlier vote.

A single supervisor can pull the November 18 item from the calendar due to it having been placed on the calendar with less than standard notice. All of the supervisors should be protesting the disenfranchisement of District 9 residents, but up to now it seems only John Avalos is aggressively moving to stop the Board President vote from happening.

Chiu’s Choice?

Curiously, why Chiu says he has five votes for his candidate, nobody is certain who that person is. In fact, regardless of what has been printed in other media the truth is that the next Board president remains a wide open question.

I’ve heard that London Breed, Jane Kim, David Campos, Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener, and the mayor’s choice for District 3 all have the “inside track” on the Board presidency. Which means nobody has the inside track, or a clear path to six votes.

Regardless of which candidate you favor, we should all agree that all districts should be represented at the vote. And that means pulling the November 18 item from the calendar and delaying the President choice until January 9 when all supervisors will be present.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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