Chiu’s Path to the Board Presidency Revealed

Written by Savannah Blackwell. Posted in News, Politics

Published on January 21, 2009 with 27 Comments

Supervisor Chris Daly approaches Supervisor David Chiu
following his election to the San Francisco board presidency.
Chiu’s ascendancy to the presidency was due more to a confluence of factors
rather than a carefully orchestrated plan, as some have suggested.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Savannah Blackwell

January 21, 2009

In the days following the election of a new Board president on January 8, political activists and observers speculated that the seven rounds of voting – ending in the selection of newly-minted District Three Supervisor David Chiu – was the result of a carefully orchestrated plan.

Some activists said they believed the four new supervisors – John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar and Chiu – must have met prior to the swearing-in ceremony and nailed down how each would vote on every round.

That’s one theory, which at least part of the voting pattern on its face might support. For example, Mar’s decision to change his vote a second time – going from Mirkarimi on round one to Avalos on rounds two and three, and then throwing his support to Chiu on the third round – has been viewed as a planned-ahead signal to Campos to discontinue voting for Mirkarimi and stand and call for the six progressives on the board to elect Chiu as the consensus candidate.

Meanwhile, activists loyal to District Five’s re-elected supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, have charged the votes cast by progressive supervisors that did not go to him were solely the result of behind-the-scenes lobbying engineered by Daly – a senior board member who had been public about his personal opposition to Mirkarimi long before the voting took place. And some City Hall insiders have speculated that former board president Aaron Peskin, who played a major role in the November election of Chiu, orchestrated his successor’s ascendance to the board presidency as a way to maintain his influence over the board.

Former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.

However, interviews with the supervisors involved, those close to them, as well as officials and activists who worked behind the scenes in an effort to influence the voting, show that the claim that Mirkarimi would have won were it not for Daly’s opposition is overly simplistic, and the notion that Peskin plotted the outcome is not accurate. And the theory that all the progressive supervisors, with the exception of Mirkarimi, knew ahead of time how their colleagues would vote on each round is also not on target.

Rather, the election of Chiu was due more to the following confluence of factors, rather than a carefully hammered-out plan: (1) the influence of activists and advisors to the newly elected supervisors who strongly believed a Mirkarimi presidency would be problematic, and the newly elected supervisors’ recognition of that issue; (2) the new supervisors’ understanding that Mirkarimi was not going to support Avalos because he considered the new District 11 supervisor too close to Daly (Avalos formerly served as a legislative aide to Daly), and (3) the recognition that Chiu was the only one willing to take the post who had a clear shot at the possibility of getting all six votes of the progressive board members and thereby cinching the presidency.

While the battle over who would take the reigns from Peskin was highly pitched, the supervisors involved emphasized that despite disagreement, they still succeeded in getting a progressive into the seat, and now they are all focused on putting the fight behind them and joining together in facing the challenges of the New Year. They were even somewhat reluctant to go over the details of the behind-the-scenes activity that ended once the vote was over on January 8, for fear of opening up old wounds.

“Whatever people’s differences, what’s important is that we stuck together and elected one of our own,” said Campos, who nominated Mirkarimi and continued to vote for him for several rounds, while Mirkarimi’s bid was foundering.

Supervisor David Campos.

But even before Mirkarimi started to actively seek the support of the progressive supervisors-elect as the general election wrapped up, he had a major problem that would later impede his campaign for the presidency, though he did not realize it. Not only had he failed to cultivate his colleagues on the old board, which he has acknowledged, many of them felt he would not be able to put the collective interests of progressives ahead of his aspirations to run for mayor in 2011, and that he had poor management style, according to supervisors, activists and board insiders, and they started to express that concern.

Some of the newly elected supervisors became aware of that sentiment, and that knowledge was a factor behind the way the votes were cast, they said. While Mirkarimi’s colleagues recognized that he worked hard for his district and put in long hours, he also was known for behaving at times as though he thought he was not being treated in a sufficiently deferential manner – subjecting a colleague to haughty disdain if he felt he had been slighted, they said.

Worse, some of his colleagues frequently overheard him berating his staff, and others found out about it. That made them think he would have trouble handling the added stress of taking on the board presidency.

“It was horrible, just horrible,” said one former supervisor. “The walls [between the supervisors’ offices] are thin, and the hallway carries sound,” one former legislative aide said. “I don’t think he realized that.”

In his speech following the vote on January 8, Mirkarimi acknowledged the hard work of his staff, several of which have left since he was first elected in 2004. He thanked them for “keeping up with [his] demand that government must work effectively.” And he noted his reputation for being “unyielding” and “a workaholic and manic.”

At that moment, Mirkarimi somewhat acknowledged a problematic aspect of his intense dedication to his job. Some political observers have taken that as a positive sign that Mirkarimi has learned an important lesson from his defeat.

“There are second acts in American life, and people get to learn from their mistakes and come out stronger. And we [progressive activists] are here to help,” said San Francisco Green Party member and planning activist Marc Solomon. “We need to do what we can to ensure talent [at the Board of Supervisors] and Ross has a lot of talent.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

But in the days leading up to the vote, Mirkarimi was bitterly complaining about opposition to his candidacy. In a letter published in the January 7 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Mirkarimi characterized the fight over the board presidency as one that had “taken on an unprogressive, machine-like demeanor, bullying for a desired outcome” (a veiled reference to Daly).

But besides Daly, Mirkarimi was up against progressive activists – former Mirkarimi supporters and workers, or board insiders – who were urging the newly elected supervisors not to put Mirkarimi into the presidency because, they said, they believed “[Mirkarimi’s] inability to understand the needs and motivations of others” would hinder his ability to preside effectively over board business. They also told Fog City Journal that they chose to relay that conviction on their own initiative – with no direction from Daly.

“The truth is that many in the progressive San Francisco political community had a lot of reservations about whether this was the right job for [Mirkarimi], and we weren’t shy about communicating that,” said a source who worked for Mirkarimi’s 2004 campaign for supervisor and asked not to be named. “No one asked us to do it.”

“The reason [Mirkarimi] was not advancing was because he did things that caused him not to advance,” said another source who has worked for Mirkarimi. “[Daly] did not cause that.”

It did not help that word got around that behind the scenes, Mirkarimi had behaved in a manner in some instances that made it seem as though he thought he was entitled to the position. He informed one former supervisor that it was “[his] turn” and called refusals to support him “disrespectful,” according to those involved in the interactions.

In addition, there were those activists who encouraged supervisors-elect to support Avalos, because they felt that his experience as an aide to Daly when Daly served on the budget committee, and his ability to listen patiently even to those who disagreed with him, made him the best choice.

“I would have been fine with any of the new guys, but I supported Avalos,” Debra Walker, who holds a seat on the local Democratic Party council, said. “It is not true [that Daly was directing lobbying efforts]. He did not call me. He did not call anyone. He was just very public about his support for Avalos.”

Following the election, some progressive activists expressed hope that the six progressive supervisors could agree on a candidate well before the end of 2008. Those activists thought that would be the way to prevent the possible election of Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who had expressed confidence that she had the votes of the five moderate and conservative board members (which would prove true) and was actively courting support in progressive quarters. For example, the Bay Guardian reported January 14 that she went down to their offices to emphasize that as she had voted at times with the board’s progressives, she considered her political leanings sufficiently in line with theirs to warrant their support.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.

On election night, Mirkarimi had gone down to Mar’s campaign headquarters and tried to shore up support from Mar, who had stated at a public event roughly a week and a half before the election that Mirkarimi “would make a good board president.” But that night, Daly also paid a visit and told Mar that Mirkarimi did not have the necessary support. Daly then suggested to Mar that he, himself, consider the board presidency. Mar mulled the idea for a few days but ultimately decided against it.

Supervisors Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi
court then Supervisor-elect Eric Mar on the eve
of his election to the Board of Supervisors.

Roughly a week after the election, Peskin convened a meeting of the newly elected supervisors. Prior to that, he had told Fog City Journal that while he thought it would be tough for a rookie supervisor to handle the job of board president, he also said he thought it could be done. At the meeting, Peskin laid out the responsibilities and role of the job for Avalos, Campos, Chiu and Mar, but did not offer his opinion concerning who he thought should or should not have it, according to all present. After Peskin left, discussion turned to the possibility of Avalos running for the spot, and Chiu and Mar expressed a willingness to support him.

While Campos and Chiu were out of town, Mar told Daly and Avalos he would vote for Avalos, according to Daly and Avalos. (Mar said he couched it as an interest in or “willingness” to vote for Avalos.) When Mar initially met with Mirkarimi, he did not say definitively how he would vote, Mar said.

In early December after Campos had returned to the city, he met with Avalos and told him he was open to supporting Avalos, but had not made any commitments. Roughly around the same time, Campos told Fog City Journal that he would support the progressive supervisor who could get to the presidency with the six votes of the progressives on the board. At the time, Mirkarimi had courted District Seven Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. Elsbernd had told Mirkarimi he was supporting Maxwell, but in the conversation with Mirkarimi, Elsbernd did not shut off the possibility that he might consider casting a vote for the District Five supervisor, if Maxwell could not get to six, according to Elsbernd.

Mirkarimi did not give up after Fog City Journal indicated in a Dec. 1 story that Mirkarimi likely would have great difficulty getting the newly-elected progressive supervisors to commit their votes to him – given that Daly opposed Mirkarimi’s candidacy, he and Mar were supporting Avalos, and Mirkarimi was seeking support from the board’s conservative flank. Mirkarimi was quoted in various publications emphasizing the need for an experienced supervisor to serve as board president and was a regular presence at post-election parties, activists and the new supervisors said.

Meanwhile, activists loyal to Mirkarimi in online postings hammered Daly for opposing Mirkarimi. Mirkarimi’s efforts were bolstered further when, on Dec. 31, the Bay Guardian called him the paper’s “clear choice” for board president, pointing to his “excellent record” – including sponsoring a successful ban on plastic grocery bags and leading “effective, progressive approaches to crime.”

The editorial also criticized Daly for refusing to “back off and support the most experienced progressive for the job.”

On Sunday, Jan. 4, the four newly-elected supervisors met at Chiu’s home. While they were crafting a statement expressing intent to work together in facing the budget crisis and other looming issues while “ushering in a new tone of cooperation in unity and San Francisco,” discussion turned to the impending election of board president, according to those present. After they “talked about the problems with Mirkarimi,” Chiu and Mar said they thought they should show some support for Mirkarimi out of respect and vote for him for at least a round or two. Avalos, however, said he did not see the point in that, but if the others really thought Mirkarimi should have the job, he would vote with them for Mirkarimi. However, that did not seem to be the collective desired outcome, according to the meeting’s participants.

They also discussed Mirkarimi’s opposition to Avalos. Both Chiu and Mar re-stated their support for Avalos, while Chiu said he would be willing to step up if necessary to make sure that a progressive got the position. Chiu suggested that he could nominate Avalos, and Avalos could nominate him. Throughout the part of the discussion concerning the upcoming vote, Campos mostly kept silent.

Supervisors John Avalos and David Chiu
agreed to nominate each other for the board presidency.

By Monday night, close advisors to Mar learned that he was saying he would vote for Mirkarimi “for at least several rounds,” the advisors said, and they were worried that Mirkarimi’s bid would gain momentum while voting was underway and culminate in his election. Word went around that Chiu might vote for Mirkarimi as well and over the next two days various activists called Mar and Chiu (and to a lesser extent, Campos) to either emphasize opposition to Mirkarimi or support for Avalos or express both sentiments, those involved told Fog City Journal. Meanwhile, Campos did not return a call from Avalos.

On Wednesday night, one activist who favored Avalos and had spoken with Campos, called Chiu and advised him that Campos was open to the possibility of ultimately voting for Chiu as was Mar, and that Chiu better be prepared for a move to put him into the presidency, according to Chiu and the activist.

The next morning with the election for board president less than an hour and a half away, Supervisor Daly invited Campos and the three soon-to-be sworn in supervisors to a meeting. At 10:30 a.m., Avalos, Daly, Chiu and Mar met in Mar’s office. (Campos told Fog City Journal he was busy preparing for the reception to follow the meeting and tending to his family, which, like those of many of his colleagues, had arrived for the occasion, so he could not make the meeting).

According to those present, their discussion began with collective concern over a rumor that Elsbernd and one or more of the other four moderate or conservative supervisors would vote for Mirkarimi. While their advisors tried to suss that out, Avalos indicated he was considering withdrawing his candidacy, as he had concluded (and the others acknowledged) that it appeared Campos was not going to vote for him, and they knew Mirkarimi would not do so – meaning Avalos could get only four votes. Chiu encouraged Avalos to stay in and added that he thought he should be nominated as well. Chiu indicated that he had reason to believe that Mirkarimi ultimately might give him a sixth vote, but there was also concern that Mirkarimi would side with Maxwell – in the event that Mirkarimi could not get six votes.

It was all getting very complicated. Chiu and Mar said they did want to vote for Mirkarimi for at least one round, and Avalos said he was considering doing the same. They acknowledged the risk in that. If the three of them all voted for Mirkarimi on the first round, then Mirkarimi would get five votes (including his own and that of Campos), and if one of the five moderates and conservatives voted initially for him, Mirkarimi would win at that point. Knowing the vote would proceed in alphabetical order of last names, they discussed that if four votes for Mirkarimi had been cast by the time Mar’s name was called, he would vote for Avalos and eliminate Mirkarimi’s ability to give himself a sixth vote on the first round.

Still, Daly left the meeting worried Mirkarimi would prevail. He was also disappointed over what he gathered was a lack of willingness on the part of Chiu and Mar to stay firmly with Avalos for several rounds in the hope that Campos and Mirkarimi would eventually vote for Avalos. Thinking Avalos was actually out of the running entirely, he suggested to his former aide that he go ahead and vote for Mirkarimi to avoid “hanging out there on his own.”

Meanwhile, Daly planned to nominate himself and hoped that one of the five conservatives and moderates would not give a nod to Mirkarimi on the first round, and therefore Mirkarimi would get only five votes.

In the final few moments before the meeting convened, Chiu told Avalos he would definitely nominate him, and Avalos agreed to return the favor, according to Chiu and Avalos.

After four votes (those of Campos, Chiu, Mar and Mirkarimi) went to Mirkarimi on the first round and two were cast for Avalos (by Avalos and Daly), on round two Chiu switched to Avalos and Mar followed suit – resulting in four votes for Avalos and two for Mirkarimi.

Asked why he switched to Avalos after voting for Mirkarimi for only one round, Mar said he voted initially for Mirkarimi, “because he’s been a progressive supervisor who has worked hard on moving the issues,” but immediately switched to Avalos, “because of the newcomers, Avalos has the experience of being on the budget committee and understands City Hall policy-making procedures.”

Mar added that prior to becoming a supervisor, “[Avalos] was the person I would go to to understand what was happening [at City Hall],”

After round two, Elsbernd stood and suggested that the supervisors who had not received a single vote (Chiu and Daly) and “those at the bottom” (at that point, Mirkarimi) withdraw. Daly then rose and said he was willing to comply with Elsbernd’s request, but only if the others who had not received the highest or the second highest number of votes opted out as well. As Maxwell had five votes and Avalos had four at that point, Daly was referring to Chiu and Mirkarimi. But Chiu then said he was not ready to withdraw, as he was prepared to become the “consensus” candidate.

On the third round, the vote count remained the same. On the fifth and sixth rounds, the four new supervisors all voted for Chiu, while Daly and Mirkarimi each gave himself a sole vote.

Daly said he voted for himself and not Chiu on those two rounds for several reasons. First, he hoped that the tide might go back to Avalos. Second, he thought it would be strange to vote for Avalos on rounds in which Avalos was not voting for himself. And third, he wanted to demonstrate that at that point, Mirkarimi’s bid for president had as much support as his own.

“There was symmetry there,” he said.

After the sixth round, Daly approached Mirkarimi and whispered to him that he hoped Mirkarimi realized that he had not orchestrated the voting, Daly told Fog City Journal. Then on the seventh round, Daly finally voted for Chiu. Mirkarimi did the same, and Chiu became the board’s first Chinese-American president.

Supervisor Chris Daly
whispers into Supervsor Ross Mirkarimi’s ear.

Chiu’s progressive colleagues have said they are satisfied with his election, and progressive activists are hopeful Chiu will represent their interests and demonstrate commitment to their point of view.

“[Chiu] is obviously politically very capable. You could see that in the way he handled the board president situation,” Daly said. “He’s got a lot of polish for having just been elected to local office. And it is important that we now have the highest-ranking Chinese officer in the history of the city.”

Daly called Chiu’s first act, appointing Avalos chair of the budget committee, “strongly progressive.” (For his part, Avalos said he intends to make every effort to deal with the roughly $500 million deficit in a manner that prioritizes the needs of the city’s most vulnerable populations.)

Progressive activists agreed with Daly’s assessment.

“The Labor Council did not take a position on the board presidency,” said Robert Haaland, political coordinator for SEIU 1021. “But Chiu and Avalos were priorities for us last November so the result of having [Chiu] as president and Avalos as budget chair is one we’re happy about.”

Said Chiu, “I think we’re all moving forward…and will work together well.”

Immediately following the vote for board president, Daly set about trying to mend relations with Mirkarimi. In his short speech, Daly said Mirkarimi “has been [his] closest ally over the last four years” and added that he was “looking forward to working with him.”

The effort to move past the fight over the board presidency and start afresh has continued on the parts of both Daly and Mirkarimi. It’s a development that everyone interviewed for this story said they were glad to see. The two are now sitting next to each other in board chambers, and Daly said he has been talking to Mirkarimi about the possibility of trying to get together six votes to make Mirkarimi chair of the Transportation Authority (though Supervisor Bevan Dufty may edge him out with a vote from Campos over Mirkarimi.)

“We’re all going to work together,” Campos told Fog City Journal. “I think it’s really great that we are where we are – with a working majority of progressives. And I also think it’s ok to disagree, to disagree and then move on… that’s the main thing.”

Savannah Blackwell

Savannah Blackwell spent 14 years covering government and politics for various newspapers -- more than half of that time at the San Francisco Bay Guardian -- before enrolling at UC Berkeley's School of Law in Fall, 2006. After earning a masters in journalism from Columbia University in 1992, she worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer -- moving on to the Tallahassee Democrat in 1994. Following a brief stint at the Valley Times, part of the Contra Costa Times chain, she joined the Bay Guardian in 1996 where she covered City Hall and devoted herself to exposing the wheeling and dealing of former mayor Willie Brown. She also represented the Bay Guardian weekly on the SF Newshour cable television show. After Mayor Gavin Newsom was inaugurated in Jan. 2004, she became the editor of the and in late 2005 went to work for the Daily Journal, which covers legal affairs. Since earning her J.D. and passing the California Bar examination, she has worked in the offices of the San Francisco and Solano County Public Defender and handled First Amendment litigation in federal courts. She currently researches and writes briefs and appeals for criminal defense attorneys.

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Comments for Chiu’s Path to the Board Presidency Revealed are now closed.

  1. In her comment posted above, Savannah Blackwell says she wrote her original article so that “he [Ross Mirkarimi] accepts the validity of the concerns and seeks to address them.”

    But in fact, Blackwell’s article goes far beyond Mirkarimi’s shortcomings. It reveals in embarrassing detail the scheming, bunker mentality of the progressive contingent at the board of supervisors (all men), when faced with the prospect of Sophie Maxwell as board president.

    The same basic picture reappears in Blackwell’s posted comment above. Once again, we see competitive male egos in play, distrustful of each other, competing over who will be the alpha male of the pack, and worried about yielding their common turf to a perceived threat from outside the pack.

    There is nothing unusual about such behavior. This is politics as usual.

    But what’s progressive about it?

  2. Cynthia’s comment hits precisely on a major part of my motivation in laying out some of the details behind the opposition to Mirkirimi’s bid for board president.

    First, without those details, readers would have been left wondering WHY the opposition existed. Second, given that Mirkarimi is basically running for mayor at this point, it does not do him (nor the progressive community at large) any good to keep the behind-the-scenes issues under the rug. Only when he accepts the validity of the concerns and seeks to address them will he be able evolve as a leader and reach his potential. And that, I believe, is what we are all hoping will happen.

    As the author of “Run, Ross, Run” which ran in April 2004 on the now-defunct website, I encouraged Mirkarimi to seek the seat of District 5 supervisor and enthusiastically supported him. In 2007, however, when I was trying to scope out a story calling for Mirkarimi to run for mayor, I ran into some problems that would have made it quite difficult to present the necessary elements in support of such a theme. During that time, Mirkarimi refused to talk to me about the story.

    I was alarmed to find that Mirkarimi had alienated quite a few former key supporters – those to whom he naturally would turn for help in embarking on a campaign for mayor. In listening to the complaints, a picture started to emerge – one of Mirkarimi not returning calls if he suspected he would be the recipient of criticism and becoming upset even when a comment or piece of correspondence was made or written without the primary intention of inflaming him. It seemed that when someone wanted to register objection to (or was not actively supporting) a proposed piece of legislation, or policy or administrative decision, he took that in a manner that left the impression that he believed the activist or constituent had abandoned or betrayed him entirely and was being completely unreasonable.

    I also found out that his closest advisors were actively discouraging him from challenging Gavin Newsom, because they felt his already high stress level would increase – making it even more difficult to deal with him on a day-to-day basis. After the story was written (it ended up being about Chris Daly considering a run for mayor at the last minute), I tried to share these concerns in a supportive manner with Mirkarimi, but was unable to get a meeting with him.

    Unfortunately, with respect to “The Path to Chiu’s Presidency Revealed,” so far, Mirkarimi has declined our invitation to respond and has attacked the contents (and me, personally) in conversations with Fogcityjournal Publisher Luke Thomas. That does not bode well, but I am hoping still that he will not completely discount the piece. At the very least, I hope the part about how his colleagues, their staffers (and activists, too) have overheard him losing his temper in his office might make him think twice about doing that anymore. And I sincerely hope he finds a way to take healthy breaks from the intensity and stress of his hard work.

    As for the ultimate outcome of the struggle over the board presidency, some Fogcityjournal readers have expressed disappointment that one of the more staunchly progressive board members did not get the seat.

    To recap, Eric Mar, who was courted initially, declined to seek the position.

    With regard to John Avalos’ efforts, it’s fair to say Chris Daly did some things that wound up undermining his former aide’s shot at the presidency.

    Namely, Daly alienated himself from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Daly’s involvement last year with the Hope Slate campaign mailer, which urged voters to choose Carole Midgen over Mark Leno for state senator, damaged his credibility with the paper’s editors and writers. As we all remember, that piece bore the logo of the Bay Guardian, which had endorsed Leno. Having worked for Bruce Brugmann and Tim Redmond for so many years, I know they take the paper’s endorsement process very seriously and carefully weigh to whom and what causes they should award the Guardian’s official stamp of approval. It’s understandable that Daly’s misstep would result in a loss of trust.

    The Guardian also was well aware of the strong-armed tactics Daly used to get fellow members of the local Democratic Party to vote for Aaron Peskin for chair over Scott Weiner. While Daly had a laudable goal that proved invaluable to the campaigns of progressive candidates for supervisor last year, his tactics did make it easy to believe he would act similarly in his efforts to fend off Mirkarimi. While those methods may or may not have been necessary to get Peskin elected party chair, the irony in this situation is that Daly (1) was careful not to engage in any bullying, knowing it might backfire, and (2) knew he did not need to take off the gloves, as the opposition to Mirkarimi had a life of its own.

    But combined with the Hope Slate mess, the party chair fight made it easier for the Bay Guardian to ignore reports (that I know were filtering back to them) that opposition to Mirkarimi went well beyond Daly and was firmly grounded in serious, longstanding problems posed by Mirkarimi’s manners and methods. But having worked closely with Mirkarimi for years on projects very near and dear to the paper’s overall mission (namely, the public power campaigns and the 1999 Sunshine Initiative), they took Mirkarimi’s claim that Daly was orchestrating an unreasonable, mean-spirited campaign against him on its face. That’s too bad, and Daly bears some responsibility for that.

    Avalos was tripped up by the fact he could not get votes from Mirkarimi and Supervisor David Campos. Mirkarimi’s belief that Daly was single-handedly trying to derail his path to the presidency might have made getting any support for Avalos from him (at least on the first few rounds) a lost cause – even if the Bay Guardian signaled that Avalos was an alternative worthy of serious consideration. But if the paper’s editors had written some kind words about Avalos, Campos might have been more willing to give a vote to Avalos on rounds two, three or four. And if Avalos had been able to hold at five, Mirkarimi might have been persuaded to give him a sixth vote. Campos has great reverence for the paper and its editors. Their endorsement of him for District 9 supervisor was a key factor behind his win, and he has acknowledged appreciation for that.

    Had Daly been more careful not to do something that could be a taken as a sign that he lacked respect for the Bay Guardian’s endorsement process, I believe Bruce and Tim would have been more receptive to Avalos’ bid. I think their concern that Avalos would have been too beholden to Daly would have lessened, and they would have been more likely to acknowledge — at least to some extent – the valid concerns about Mirkarimi and the considerable opposition to him.

    Let us hope that it has become proverbial water-under-the-bridge at this point, and that our progressive leaders on the board continue to stick together on the critical votes and issues.

  3. As someone who “echoed” support for Supervisor Campos’ nomination of Supervisor Mirkarimi and someone who is most grateful to call Supervisor Campos my representative, I was
    gravely mistaken in urging the Board to vote for Mirkarimi.

    My solemn hope is that Supervisor Mirkarimi will take to heart what is written above. While I wish him only the best for the future, I am very thankful that someone other than he was chosen as President.

  4. The city’s progressives didn’t realize what a good thing they had in Sophie Maxwell.

    She was a woman of balance, maturity, and good grace in a testosterone jungle of imbalance, immaturity, and nastiness.

    The Six Guys Club, in particular, never acknowledged her civilizing value to City Hall. In their eyes, she was The Enemy.

    She had to be brought down at any cost, by “one of our own.” Their only concern was that they not break their own ranks in bringing her down.

    And so they drove her out of the progressive club. Then they exulted and put themselves forward as the vanguard of progress in San Francisco politics.


  5. Arthur, does Sophie Maxwell feel that she lost the Board Presidency due to her gender (or ethnicity, for that matter) rather than her politics?

    “Ask Sophie Maxwell.”

    In San Francisco, progressivism has become a testosterone game.

    “Ask Gavin Newsom!”


  6. In the media: Bruce Brugmann

    At the Milk Club: Rafael Mandelman

    In the Haight: Calvin Welch

    In public housing: Randy Shaw

    In unions: Robert Haaland

    In the Green Party: Matt Gonzalez, Ross Mirkarimi, and Marc Salomon

    At the supes: John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Chris Daly, Eric Mar, and Ross Mirkarimi

    In San Francisco, progressivism has become a testosterone game.

    How did this happen?

    Ask Sophie Maxwell.

  7. Okay, so we’ve got a male pontificating as a female sock puppet on what women should do in order to contest patriarchy.

    What if it is true that Maxwell is indeed being ostracized because she is an African American? Since Newsom is clearly a Clintonite and our local Democrat apparatus has not fully grasped that the era of Clintonism is over, there is still lingering resentment against President Obama for his blatant patriarchy in whupping Hillary, PUMA resentment that mixes sexist indignation and a sense of middle class white entitlement with latent racism.

    Alioto-Pier would make a grand candidate for Mayor, our very own Sarah Palin! But don’t you find it a tad inconsiderate to assume that Supervisor Alioto-Pier would “jump into the breach?”

    Have you no sensitivity for the use of hurtful language that ignores the difficulty of of those confronting physical challenges?


  8. If Sophie Maxwell is ambitious and determined, she could turn this situation around, with devastating effect. Here’s how –

    She could announce a bid for the mayor’s office. Her theme would be to re-open public life in San Francisco to women. Also to replace the immature testosterone games at City Hall with adult behavior and good grace.

    At the outset, she could encourage as many voters as possible to read Savannah Blackwell’s article above, view Luke Thomas’s accompanying photos, and read the defenses posted here on behalf of the Six Guys Club. A little booklet with all these material, widely distributed around the city, would do nicely.

    She could welcome women across the political spectrum, and all voters who are sick of the childish spectacles at City Hall, to join her in the endeavor to return intelligence and civility to San Francisco government.

    “It takes a woman to clean up the mess the boys have made” could be her motto.

    The voters are ready for this message. It would generate electricity, and put the Six Guys Club on the defensive.

    If Maxwell feels she doesn’t have the energy for such a campaign, then maybe Michela Alioto-Pier could jump into the breach. She could certainly carry it off with panache.

    It would all make for a great campaign season!

  9. Experience dogmatic seething progressive dogmatic cauldron. “one They back men Congratulating, They called slap.

    America Called guys, patriarchy.

    Men They dogmatic familiar guys saving “one She, organization. Spot, filth crisis woman Familiar, Red Queen saving nonetheless “one top? Drug cult give organization years Job visceral hatred saving organization.

    Nonetheless new She the gang who couldn’t shoot straight spot. Woman, They The run back Yes Gavin Newsom men, progressive They.

    Then nonetheless Job They guys, top She organization handjob.

  10. An organization is dominated by men but nonetheless has one woman with years of experience, more so than most of the men. She seeks the top job at the organization.

    The guys who run the organization scoff at her. They bring in a man who has never worked for the organization. They push the woman with experience aside and give the new guy the top spot.

    Then they slap each other on the back, congratulating themselves for saving the job for “one of their own.”

    Sound familiar?

    Yes, this is a longstanding pattern. It’s called patriarchy in America.

  11. Arthur, lemme get this straight, you’re gay male identified man writing in the false guise of a woman about how bad other men are for being patriarchal and sexist?

    When a man impersonates a woman as a means of throwing his voice across the gender power differential barrier to attack other men, isn’t that just a tad patriarchal?

    The only other person who seems to think that Maxwell lost because she is a woman was Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.

    Perhaps as a feminist male, you should, in your own voice, support a woman who has skin in the game to speak for woman instead of trying to as a man speak for women as a woman?

    Frankly, Arthur, Michela Alioto-Pier makes the case more eloquently than you do, and you would probably be more effective in advancing your noble yet curiously articulated cause at her side in support.


  12. marc,

    I urge you to go back and reread Savannah Blackwell’s fascinating account.

    At no point in the game did any of the six male progressives ever even mention the gender imbalance at the board. They gave no consideration whatever of the gender implications of what they were doing. These matters never crossed their minds.

    Their only concern was to settle on the strongest Alpha Male who could take down Sophie Maxwell, whom they demonized.

    After initial confusion and back-stabbing, they lined up behind David Chiu. He knocked Sophie Maxwell out of the ring. He became the leader of the board even though he had never even cast one vote on one issue at the board.

    This behavior pattern reminds me of what I repeatedly saw among male leaders in the Left decades ago, before feminism made its big impact in the 1970s.

    The feminists of the 1970s taught the male Left leaders some good lessons. The Left improved as a result. But a great setback has occurred since then, both in San Francisco and the nation.

    The setback started here on January 1, 2001, when ten men and one woman took over the board of supervisors and proclaimed that a new day was at hand for San Francisco politics. Yet in previous boards, women were at times in the majority at the board.

    Are there any feminists left in San Francisco anymore? Is there anybody in local politics who even understands the words “patriarchy” and “male chauvinism”? Do these words ever occur in political discourse here?

    These developments represent a great loss for women, feminine-identified men, and the city in general.

    It’s time to acknowledge the problem and to stop making excuses for it.

  13. Ruth,

    I agree that there are too many men and too few women on the Board of Supervisors. Many progressives realize this and are working to nurture progressive young women, especially of color, to remedy this as we move forward. There is no way to command qualified progressive women to run and win and there is no case to be made that a less progressive woman should get affirmative action over a more progressive man. That approach was tried to some extent with Heather Fong to disastrous results.

    Now, if Chris Daly were “leader” of the progressive faction, then given that Ross is a progressive, then John Avalos would be Board President now as that was what Daly wanted. But it did not work out that way. Not to discount Daly’s leadership, but the evidence at hand suggests decisively that Chris does not command progressives as you put forth.

    Arthur, I agree with you that the progressives are the gang which cannot shoot straight.

    The question remains as to why progressives should have supported the candidate for Board president who also garnered the support of the most conservative elected officials in the City?

    Feminism means equalty and equity. To give a woman a pass on her politics because she is a woman is hardly feminist. That relies on patriarchal values because it holds a woman to a different political standard based on her gender.

    Patriarchal values are what Maxwell’s supporters, Elsbernd, Alioto-Pier, Chu and to a lesser extent Dufty bring to the table each and every day as demonstrated by the policies they try to advance.


  14. There is one way out of this mess, boys and girls.

    Sophie for MAYOR!!!!!

  15. marc,

    Thanks for explaining your reasoning in regard to the election of the board president.

    I understand your position now, but I think more is at issue here than a “snub” of Sophie Maxwell, as you term it. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

    The progressive contingent of the board consists entirely of men. The most outspoken of them, and their leader, is Chris Daly.

    Chris Daly physically intimidates people who question his views, pounds on tables, slams doors, and storms out of meetings. He loves to throw the word “bitch” at anyone who crosses him.

    With an impetus from Chris Daly, the male progressives at the board went into a panic at the thought of Sophie Maxwell, a congenial and forward-looking woman, as board president.

    In the end, these guys got so panic-stricken that they lined up behind a man who had never even cast one vote at the board on any issue, in order to stop Sophie Maxwell.

    There is a word for this pattern of psychology and governance:


  16. Ruth,

    I supported John Avalos for Board Presidency because it was clear that neither of my first two choices, Chris Daly or Ross Mirkarimi had the votes to win.

    I opposed Sophie Maxwell because of the damage she has done to my community with Jake McGoldrick while Daly was conflicted out and to BV/HP over Daly’s objections.

    Sophie is not a bad person, not evil or a witch. She has done things which to my mind and my progressive allies’ minds are detrimental, so I opposed her ascension to Board President.

    Sophie will get over that snub sooner than the Mission will get over Eastern Neighborhoods.


  17. marc,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the decision about the board presidency should be decided mostly or entirely according to certain votes that the candidates have made at the board. Is that right?

    If so, then how can you, or anyone, support David Chiu as board president? He’s a total newbie. Prior to his election as president, he had never voted at all at the board.

  18. Ruth, I find it destructive when land use decisions benefit enormous corporations that have proven themselves as destructive to our economy as they are to our communities.

    Sure, there is testosterone on the progressive male side, but that has no bearing on the crappy deals that Sophie has cut for us on land use.

    Is it not feminist to care for people before corporations, to privilege the human context of a community before the development potential?


  19. In a post above, marc asks this question:

    “Why would that kind of destructive political conduct [by Sophie Maxwell] be rewarded by progressives who won the elections in November?”

    Sophie Maxwell is not destructive. She is not a witch. She is not an incarnation of the Devil.

    But the old boys’ club, led by Chris Daly, views her in these terms. Hence their panicked reaction to her bid to become board president.

    Savannah Blackwell caught the panicky boys with their pants down, exposing all the warts and bumps on their political butts. It’s not a pretty picture.

    Are there any feminists left anymore in San Francisco politics? That’s the larger question raised by these events.

  20. If Maxwell is so “progressive,” then why would Elsbernd, Alioto-Pier, Chu and Dufty be supporting her for Board President?

    Between McGoldrick and Maxwell, the east side of our city has been packaged up and delivered to developers for a song under a development plan that will not pay for itself and will consume more tax dollars than it will generate, and will result in poorer service delivery and crumbling infrastructure.

    Why would that kind of destructive political conduct be rewarded by progressives who won the elections in November?


  21. Excellent, detailed reporting by Savannah Blackwell.

    The article shows that the male progressives at the board went into a panic at the thought of a Sophie Maxwell victory. As if she were some kind of witch!

    They fumbled for a common strategy, tripped over themselves, and stabbed each other in the back.

    Eventually the testosterone progressives united behind the rookie David Chiu and succeeded in stopping Maxwell.

    And all it cost them was their reputation.

  22. “Et tu, Brute?”

    “Uh, yeah. See, its because you became a dictator.”

    Two years ago, I would have expected him to be a shoe-in for the board prez, so long as there was a progressive majority. Then I started to hear the reviews from many a City Hall insider/staffer about the ‘behavior issues’. Add one part disdain, one part disregard, mix, and voila: instant freshman board president instead of D5 man. no backroom deals necessary.

  23. A guilty pleasure of read, no doubt, but let’s be honest — it’s a rather one-sided and slanted story based in significant part on unnamed sources.

    I too have spoken with many “progressive activists” over the past several weeks and based on what I have heard and observed, I would submit that some of the conclusions and implications made in this article are mere opinion and/or simply inaccurate.

    By the way, Is it true the Mirkirimi wasn’t even interviewed for this story? If so that would seem quite problematic.

  24. Another fantastic job by Savannah. Obviously she put a lot of work into this one because of all the many intricacies involved. All that valuable information makes me dizzy. Keep up the great work, Savannah!

  25. When district elections first came about, I was told that anybody could become Supervisor; I’m beginning to believe it.

  26. Blackwell is in law school and has time to devote 3570 words to this? I’m reminded of this Henry Kissinger quotation: “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

  27. campers,

    Geez. Eat your heart out, Bay Guardian. Blackwell rules again as best investigative reporter in SF. And, it’s a hobby while she goes to law school.