Battle for the Board’s Helm

Written by Savannah Blackwell. Posted in News, Politics

Published on December 01, 2008 with 41 Comments

Savannah Blackwell

District Eleven Supervisor-Elect John Avalos Gains Support From Progressive Colleagues
While District Five Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi Courts Conservatives

By Savannah Blackwell

December 1, 2008

Once the final results of ranked choice voting for district supervisors ended three weeks ago and it was assured that progressives had held on to a majority of the board’s seats, discussion turned to which among them should serve as president.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who on Nov. 4 was re-elected to represent District Five (The Haight/Western Addition) without facing significant opposition, had already made it clear he wanted to have the position. Now, John Avalos, who will represent District Eleven (The Excelsior), has decided to seek the post as well.

Eric Mar, who will represent District One (the Richmond), and District Six Supervisor Chris Daly say Avalos is their top choice.

Top choice: District Eleven Supervisor-elect John Avalos

Avalos decided to jump in – largely because the idea of Mirkarimi presiding over board business has not gained much traction among his progressive colleagues. Mirkarimi’s recent move to turn to board members who consistently vote against progressive legislation to seek support (namely District Two Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and District Seven Supervisor Sean Elsbernd) has furthered progressive opposition to his bid.

“Ultimately what I want to see is a progressive president who represents the progressives and is supported by the board’s progressive majority,” said David Campos, who will represent District Nine (The Mission).

Campos was quoted in the Bay Area Reporter last week saying he was inclined to vote for Mirkarimi.  He has since modified his position.

“My support is contingent on getting support from other progressive board members, and I don’t know that (Mirkarimi) will be able to do that,” Campos said.

Mar expressed a similar sentiment: “I told (Mirkarimi) that if he is going after Alioto-Pier’s and Elsbernd’s votes, he’s not going to get one from me.”

“Avalos is my top choice,” Mar added.

District One Supervisor-elect Eric Mar

Mirkarimi said that he thought trying to “reach out” to supervisors with political leanings different from his was a “smart move.”

“(Elsbernd) and I came into office together. Now that we’re both moving from junior varsity to varsity, it would be a real missed opportunity not to get together and talk. I hope to do that with all my colleagues,” Mirkarimi said. “This is a good time to check in with people, and I think that whoever is interested in the board presidency should talk to everybody.”

Of the four supervisors-elect, Avalos is viewed as having the best handle on the workings and culture of the board. The former labor and community organizer served for three and a half years as an aide to Daly and is familiar with the demands of the board’s top spot. He has won raves from labor and community representatives as well as those who serve the poor, the homeless and tenants for his work staffing the budget committee the past several years.

“I’ve written ordinances, worked with the mayor’s office, the budget analyst, the controller. I understand the way the board works and also the role of the president,” Avalos said.

Though his politics do not jibe with the more moderate and conservative board members, Avalos is said to be well-liked by supervisors and their staff.

“I think I can do a great job,” he said.

The first order of business once the new supervisors take their seats in January will be for the 11 board members to choose their leader. It takes six votes to win the post. If Avalos cannot get six votes, an alternative under consideration is for the progressives to throw their support to David Chiu, who won election to the District Three (Chinatown/North Beach) seat and also campaigned as a progressive.

The San Francisco Labor Council spent $76,000 of the $370,000 in union funds that went to promoting Mar, Chiu and Avalos’ candidacies on swaying voters in Chiu’s district, and he was endorsed by Supervisors Daly, Mirkarimi and Peskin as well as the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, which currently is controlled by progressives. Chiu is out of the country until mid-December and unavailable for comment. He is said to be receptive to the idea of being the progressives’ back-up candidate for president.

“My hat is in the ring as an option to bring the progressive majority together around a common agenda,” said Avalos, adding that he would be willing to vote for Chiu as well. “I want to make sure that (the progressives) come together behind the same person.”

For his part, Mirkarimi would not say whether he would be willing to support Avalos or Chiu to help one get to six votes, but that he does want “to endeavor for someone from the progressive caucus to prevail.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has held the position for nearly four years, must leave the board at the end of this year because of the 8-year term limit on stints as supervisor. Peskin said he hopes the supervisors choose “somebody who will carry the torch of the progressives and put the board in the best light, somebody who can deal with the vastly changed federal climate, and somebody who can bridge [the political] gaps between the supervisors and the mayor.”

“While having legislative experience is important, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility for a new supervisor to rise to the occasion,” Peskin said.

Outgoing Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin

To ensure a progressive is elevated to the top post, to guide a progressive agenda, Peskin said, “It’s critical that the four new supervisors stick together.”

In the days following the election, sources close to the board predicted that Mirkarimi would not be able to count on the current board members – progressive, moderate or conservative – who are not lame ducks to get him the six votes necessary to win the presidency. Though Mirkarimi is widely supported in his district, his interpersonal relationships with most of his board colleagues have been weak for some time, and some have found dealing with him unpleasant, board members and sources close to the board said. But only Daly has condemned Mirkarimi publicly.

Mirkarimi said his interpersonal relationships with board members may have suffered because of his intense focus on his work.

“I have used my first term to apply my nose to the grind stone in tackling the many issues of the city and the district,” Mirkarimi said. “(Because of that), I have not made time to develop relationships with some of my colleagues.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (right).

Elsbernd confirmed that, at Mirkarimi’s request, he had lunch with the District Five supervisor and that Mirkarimi asked for his support. Elsbernd said he has not made any final decisions yet and is waiting to see how the politics unfold. But word inside City Hall is that Elsbernd is not particularly enthused about Mirkarimi’s bid, and their lunch did not change that. Meanwhile, Mirkarimi has scheduled to meet with Alioto-Pier.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd

District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, a moderate who sometimes votes with the progressives and sometimes with the three conservatives (Alioto-Pier, District Four Supervisor Carmen Chu and Elsbernd), has said she’s interested in the presidency. It is both more natural and more likely for her to get the conservatives’ support, according to City Hall insiders. Maxwell’s fellow moderate, District Eight Supervisor Bevan Dufty, told the Bay Area Reporter he will vote for Maxwell. Dufty supported her in 2003 when she, Gonzalez and Peskin all sought the position. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was on the board at the time, voted for Maxwell as well. He has close ties to Alioto-Pier, whom he chose to succeed him, and Chu, who just won her seat after Newsom appointed her to replace Ed Jew.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell

There’s been some thought in the mayor’s office that encouraging the five supervisors who frequently or at times vote in line with the mayor to support Mirkarimi might be a handy way to frustrate Daly, sources close to the mayor said. But for that strategy to succeed in getting Mirkarimi to the presidency, he would have to get either some support from progressive board members, or each of the votes of the two moderates and the three conservatives. At this point, the first scenario is unlikely, and the second is even more so.

Considered the second most powerful office in city government (after mayor), the board president appoints members of important commissions – including those that handle planning and police oversight issues, creates the board’s committee structure and assigns supervisors to those committees. In addition, the president decides to which committee an issue should go and often is expected to put together coalitions to both pass legislation and override mayoral vetoes. In the event the mayor dies or must leave office, the board president steps into the job.

Prior to the return of district-based elections in 2000, the presidency went to the top vote-getter in the city-wide races. Since then, supervisors have generally looked for who among them can best stay above the fray and direct the board’s business in a calm and even-handed manner. Currently, there is a feeling among progressive board members that the new president should be one among them who does not have mayoral ambitions – which can complicate his or her political moves. Mirkarimi is considering running for that job as well.

Before Peskin, former supervisor Matt Gonzalez held the position and prior to Gonzalez, Supervisor Tom Ammiano served in that role. Ammiano, who is heading to the state legislature, will be replaced by Campos whom Ammiano and Peskin endorsed.

Though Peskin will no longer be a board member, his influence likely will be felt for some time in board politics as he played a major role in the election of the four supervisors-elect.

There was some thought that Daly should be board president. That certainly would have been a slap in the face to Newsom, with whom Daly has sparred frequently. The pro-Newsom and downtown soft money campaigns seeking to eliminate the board’s progressive majority tried to use association with Daly as a way to sway voters to vote against the progressive candidates. A Daly presidency would have been a very public way to run home that the strategy failed, despite the roughly $670,000 soft money campaign behind it. Daly, however, decided that would not be the best move for the board and progressive causes in general.

“Other than Peskin, I have passed the most legislation, taken on some of the toughest fights, won one of the hardest re-elections (in 2006), yet I am not the best choice for board president,” Daly said. “I think it’s a safe assumption that if that happened, papers would be drawn immediately to get rid of district elections.”

Supervisor Chris Daly says he will not seek the board presidency.

Daly added that in a time of great political change, it was appropriate that the president be “one of the new guys.” Characterizing Mirkarimi as “not a family man,” Daly said he would not support Mirkarimi for president because Mirkarimi did not support his efforts to appropriate supplemental affordable housing funds in last year’s budget. Additionally, it did not go unnoticed that compared to the daily, hands-on efforts of Peskin and Daly that went into electing Mar, Chiu and Avalos, Mirkarimi’s involvement was relatively minor, according to political observers and the candidates.

“It’s pretty clear who was behind the work that really made the difference,” said one of the supervisors-elect, who asked not to be named. “I think Ross means well, but the votes (for board president) just aren’t there for him.”

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 Battle for the Board’s Helm are now closed.

  1. marc, could you please not assume that everyone who tries to keep up with City Hall or Fog City knows what an MOU, or this MOU, is and keeps track of every single vote cast on the Board of Supes?

    You say:

    ” . . . murders and violence are spiking: 2007, cops get a 4 year 25% raise, 2008, near record homicides. Any questions? Who was the single vote against the MOU?”

    I happen to know that “the” MOU was the Board’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the San Francisco Police Department, promising this 25% pay hike over four years, regardless of performance or crime rates, but I don’t think I’d ever followe a single MOU before this particular MOU so aggravated so many, including me.

    i didn’t even knew what the RDA, may it cease to exist, was, before the BVHP Redevelpment Plan hearings of 2006.

    You know what the federal JTTF and NNSA, are? Actually, you probably do, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the OSM, another nasty federal BUREAU and constant preoccupation of mine. Or what the RPF, RDLF, FARDC or the CNDP are. When Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Jendayl Fraser said, recently. that the FARDC should disarm the RDLF, I had to get out a score card, but. . . back to that MOU.

    i followed your efforts sufficently to know what this MOU is, but I don’t know which sole Supervisor voted against it.

    So, who said no to the infamous MOU with the SFPD?

    I know that Fog City and its readers are mostly City Hall insiders; I’m outa my league here, but I keep tryin’ to string along.

    After asking, rhetorically, “Who was the only person to vote against the MOU?”” , couldn’t you just tell us? Who? I know that the MOU passed, and even that Tom Ammiano, most unfortunately, voted to pass it, but I don’t know who cast the sole dissenting vote.

    Ross? That the point? Or Chris? That the point? What’s the point? I got lost in the MOU.

    And please don’t make me go try to dig this MOU legislation out of It’s easier than digging up the votes on any sort of federal legislation whatsoever, which says a lot, but it’s not nearly as easy as it should be and I’m just a citizen, with limited time, out here in the cheap seats like you, and not even a City Hall or Fog City insider.

  2. It is my understanding that Ross Mirkarimi wants to run for mayor in 2011. This city needs a mayor who will lead it into the 21st century and beyond with good, green affordable housing and transportation policies, in addition to policies that hold our public servants — like the police — accountable.

    Perhaps Ross Mirkarimi could be that person in a few years. Let’s hope he takes the time between now and the 2011 race to work on his interpersonal issues — his interactions with his colleagues, his staff, his volunteers, and neighborhood leaders could use a polishing. If he does that successfully, he has a great future.

    As to the next Board president, I hope that all the progressives, including Mirkarimi, get behind John Avalos.

  3. Tami, what do you expect to accomplish with statements such as:

    “I do not know who Matt,Jiro or Paviv are, but it is clear, not only do they not know nor care about any young murder victims.”

    Really! Acknowledging that Ross is coming up short on votes at this point is tantamount to not caring or knowing about young murder victims? Police reform has stalled, the MOU sailed through, and we’ve given cops a raise for not doing their jobs and allowed them to essentially call their own work plan based on their suburban priorities, their commuter values.

    That is why murders and violence are spiking: 2007, cops get a 4 year 25% raise, 2008, near record homicides. Any questions? Who was the single vote against the MOU?

    “But of course, for “progressives” on this blog, ending the Black and Latino genocide is not as important trashing Ross.”

    One way to stop Black and Latino genocide is to adopt development plans that displace them from the progressive core of San Francisco so that blacks and latinos, not to mention the unrich of all ethnicities, are not exposed to violence and economic insecurity in San Francisco, and that is what Eastern Neighborhoods is all about, bleaching and economic cleansing.

    Whatever being a Green means these days, some of us are still that. One Green value is “personal and global responsibility,” another is “feminism,” and those distinguish Green philosophy from leftist paternalism.

    Nobody forces Ross to act interpersonally as he does, but his colleagues appear prepared to hold him accountable for how his conduct would impact their ability to do their job were Ross Board President. Had those lessons been learned earlier, there would be no reason for the Board of Supervisors to teach them now.

    Pointing out where the votes are and why they are there is not “trashing,” it is accountability. Remember when the Milk Club held an outrageous “accountability session” for Daly and Gonzalez in 2003 for daring to run against Ammiano, that was before Milk sold it soul to Malice and the latter day People’s Temple of stoners?

    “How come no other supervisor is on board with this real solution to the problem of keeping families in San Francisco? ”

    Are you trying to say that Chris Daly has not been involved with real solutions to keeping families in San Francisco?

    “I am done with this issue. At this point it is obvious that the haters are going to be haters.”

    There is no hate involved in laying out where the votes are and at the board and why, although like hate it feels painful, the underlying impetus is love not hate. To the contrary, it is dysfunctional for us to deny the political calculus going on here as it enables the continuation of conduct by those in power which is painful to others, conduct which ultimately diminishes our political position.

    This kind of pressure is the only tool we have at our disposal to check our electeds when they run aground, and this tendency towards shoddy thinking, to equate political criticism with personal hatred, is a deficiency in the progressive community that is holding us back from achieving our full potential.


  4. Matt says:
    Ross has done wonders for his district, where he is very popular (though, if you are only going on election results, you have to keep in mind that one of his only two opponents was John Anderson and that Sean Elsbernd, who had more opponents, got close to as many votes as Ross) and San Francisco as a whole.

    Well, the SFGov web-site lists Julian Lagos and Whitmer as Elsbernd’s only two opponents. And he got five-thousand less votes than Ross, so with these bogus facts that can be readily checked, what other misinformation are you disseminating? Oh and it is Rob Anderson. I should know, like YOU, he mocked me for valuing Black and Latino lives.
    You’re not the same person who publicly bet that Romney would be the next president?
    I am not sure about that but it seems to me that it might have been you.

  5. I do not know who Matt,Jiro or Paviv are, but it is clear, not only do they not know nor care about any young murder victims. I would presume, therefore, that the plight of Black and Latino youth is of little consequence to them.
    Matt has demonstrated that I am failing at expressing myself, and what I have conveyed he has trivialized and diminished. I cannot get past the popularity contest argument you GUYS are promulgating. You guys just don’t like Ross’s personality. What a shallow motivation.
    “Stewart’s excellent summary and conclusion. Ross has been very good in his role as D5 supe,… perhaps devoting TOO much time, in fact. Perhaps if he’d allowed himself more rest, his relations with the rest of the board wouldn’t have deteriorated so much, and this discussion wouldn’t be taking place,” says Paviv.

    The arguments Matt makes for John, are the ones I make for Ross. I stand by what I said. You can be progressive and still work with those who aren’t. Ross is motivated by a passion to make things better and end suffering. All “progressives” should have the same priorities.
    Remember, Ross got near unanimous support for $660,000.00 to save John Swett. I hate to break this to you, but 6 votes, to my knowledge, is not veto-proof so you NEED to have relationships with the other side to prevail.
    Again, for things like foot patrols that the mayor kept vetoing, but Ross kept fighting for it until it succeeded. But of course, for “progressives” on this blog, ending the Black and Latino genocide is not as important trashing Ross. It is pathetic to see that because Ross works tirelessly for the benefit of the ordinary citizens of the community, that he is not the best person for the BoS presidency according to the “progressives.”
    I think what Ross has done in D5 needs to be expanded city-wide. Ross supports family housing such as the limited equity co-op I live in. (It was limited equity for 40 years). How come no other supervisor is on board with this real solution to the problem of keeping families in San Francisco? There has to be options for those of us who cannot afford single-family houses but want to live, work and raise our families in San Francisco.
    I am done with this issue. At this point it is obvious that the haters are going to be haters. As someone who likes Chris, and as a Labor Council delegate who wanted to endorse Chris for DCCC and always supports his legislation, I like his politics. I just wish that this fight hadn’t come to be.
    I truly like what I know of John, and genuinely would support him for the post, but for me, it is not in the best interest of San Francisco for it to happen now. Although I only worked on one of the new supervisor’s campaigns, I supported the other candidates in other ways. Especially in D1 and D11, I made it a point to let your constituents know why you deserved their vote. I had been really looking forward to the new BoS.
    I spent the evening at the DCYF meeting, and it was very troubling. The very programs that we desperately need to maintain and expand on are being forced to make $1.8 million dollars in mid-year budget cuts. This is OUTRAGEOUS and this is where our energy should be going to. I know one thing, Ross has fought tooth and nail for violence prevention and employment program funding for our district, and I know those of us that care about youth, can rely on him to keep fighting for those services in D5 and throughout the city.
    To me, to be truly progressive would mean the BoS calling an emergency session to prevent the cuts to the programs that our youth and families depend on. There was one teenager from CHALK who was incredulous that Safety Network funding for the Western Addition was being eliminated. There are other programs according to DCYF but that does not mean that we do not need Safety Network in the Western Addition. As usual, the wisdom of youth far exceeds that of the “adults.”

  6. i also agree with Matt Stewart’s excellent summary and conclusion. Ross has been very good in his role as D5 supe,… perhaps devoting TOO much time, in fact. Perhaps if he’d allowed himself more rest, his relations with the rest of the board wouldn’t have deteriorated so much, and this discussion wouldn’t be taking place.
    A point was made regarding time demands of the Board prez, and how it would affect a person’s family life. A valid point indeed, where Ross gets the extra point for being single (and already on the job 20 hours a day, apparently.) However, a less, ahem, ‘incendiary’ person should be in the BP’s chair, for mitigation purposes.

  7. I’d be happy to see Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, or Eric Mar become President of the Board, but it has occurred to me, given all the complaints about Ross’s diplomatic failures, that his success at actually reducing the murder rate, by bringing everyone to the table, in District #5 ,really is extraordinary.

    This seems like very impressive diplomacy to me right now because my Congolese friend Kambale Musavuli compares the horrific warfare in Congo to that in urban America, and says that there is no military solution—i.e., no more guns and no more soldiers, including UN “Peacekeepers.” Only a political solution, like that which Ross seems to have achieved in District #5, however tentative, by persuading those who could make peace to come to the table. (See .)

  8. Matt Stewart has nailed it.
    In the reality based community it takes 6 votes to win. Humpty Dumpty as Ross Mirkarimi is not coming back together again before January 8th. No amount of wheeling or dealing, chest thumping or denial gets him to the number 6.
    What this well researched story shows is that resistance to Mirkarimi at the Board of Supervisors extends far beyond Chris Daly. It’s there and it’s real. To single out Daly is a straw man, and everyone needs to acknowledge that. True to form, Daly is simply being upfront, candid and tough– rare qualities in politics. He is not a phony just trying to pander.
    Interpersonal growth and development is hard work but always possible if the person wants to change. Ross’ argument that somehow work on district and citywide issues is incompatible with being a decent colleague makes no practical sense. Peter Ragone could have a field day with that one, in fact he had a quote for him along those very lines. Making overdue changes is now Ross’ personal journey but he can’t pull that off by January 8th. Working on yourself takes time, effort and it is not always flattering.
    But if Ross gets themessage, applies his work ethic to it and engages in overdue introspection then he will be the real winner. In the meantime he needs to get behind a progressive BOS member who would do a good job, and can count to 6.
    My hope is that the progressive bloc will sort out the Board Presidency as soon as possible, unify people and end this. This has become a drag. We are making this much harder than it either should or needs to be. City voters decided on 11/4 that there will be a progressive majority, now six people just need to talk to one another and sort it out. How hard can that be?

  9. It seems to me that the only arguments by the people who want Ross to be Board President are:

    1.) Ross is a very hard worker (no disagreement here)
    2.) He has a lot of experience as a Supervisor (or, he is now on the “varsity team” with Elsbernd, as he put it himself)
    3.) Ross has done wonders for his district, where he is very popular (though, if you are only going on election results, you have to keep in mind that one of his only two opponents was John Anderson and that Sean Elsbernd, who had more opponents, got close to as many votes as Ross) and San Francisco as a whole
    4.) Because of the above three reasons, Ross has “earned” it (and this vacant argument never sat well with me)
    5.) Ross happens to label himself a Green (this argument is pretty shallow and irrelevant, too)

    Meanwhile, the people arguing that John should be Board President are saying:

    1.) John has plenty of experience working directly and indirectly with the Board (almost as much as Ross), so it would be unfair to say that he is inexperienced
    2.) He gets along with pretty much everyone and nobody dislikes him
    3.) The reasons he wants to be President are less about him and more about being the best instrument to glue together a united front for progressives as a whole, both inside and outside elected office
    4.) He has no ambitions for higher office at this point and is totally focused on being the best Supervisor he can be for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether he becomes Board President
    5.) He has extensive experience as a community activist — just like Chris Daly
    6.) Because he is a new politician, he has not become jaded or complacent yet. He is still closely tied to the grassroots that elected him in a tough election against a real scumbag.

    In addition, it should be noted that Ross is courting votes from the likes of Alioto-Pier (and there is always some amount of quid-pro-quo in dealings like this, perhaps in the form of subconscious favoritism towards conservatives over other progressives, coupled with a subtle veering towards the right on his own behalf), which suggests that this has become more about him than the common good, thus, diffusing some of the progressives gains of last November.

    Meanwhile, John is firmly rooted in reality and has stated clearly and resolutely that he is seeking votes exclusively from self-identified progressives and will represent exclusively progressives while simultaneously being cordial with all Supervisors.

    I would say, according to this cost-benefit analysis, John is the best person for the job, hands down and that Ross should stay put where, hopefully, like Tom Ammiano, he might learn some desperately-needed humility and begin again with a renewed sense of purpose, thus, becoming infinitely more helpful to a much-needed progressive coalition. However, if anybody cares to add anything, I would be interested to know it.

  10. John, we just got through fighting WWIII over the issue of the Board Presidency and I think that we are all in agreement that it is time to bury those hatchets and put our common political agenda first.

    Ross needed to learn that affordable housing and land use are at the nexus of the progressive political project and that it is not okay to just take whatever steaming platter of shit Newsom’s planning department serves up on that score so long as the affordable housing mafia gets its minimal Chinese Rocks and nods out until they need their next fix.

    With Daly recused on so many planning issues, Market Octavia and Eastern Neighborhoods, progressives were not at the table as our base was rezoned to high rise and luxury condominiums and those two decisions, possibly more than anything else over the past 8 years, represent the worst hits we’ve taken. Chris’ concerns with Ross as far as land use and affordable housing go are well taken.

    None of us here in the cheap seats get to vote for Board President, and the contest is solely the province of those so enfranchised. I’ve long since learned that political outcomes rarely reflect what “should” be, rather reflect the political calculus of the individuals involved.

    Either the votes are there or they are not, but it would be catastrophic for egos to throw this to the moderates, progressives deserve Ross, John or Eric as Board President because we’d worked hard to elect them.

    I’d actually supported Daly for Board President over Mirkarimi looking outwards from last year not out of hostility to Ross, rather because just as Mark Sanchez went from vilification to calming leader at the SFUSD, I was hoping for a similarly redemptive narrative on the part of Chris. Unfortunately, Chris has lost the battle over his image to the Chronicle’s campaign of slander over the past year and have made that a non-starter.

    Now it is time for progressives to pressure our electeds to turn what we think we deserve into reality by putting their egos–no small feat–away for a moment and thinking about the bigger picture.


  11. I have followed the discussion for the Board President closely over the last couple of weeks.

    I appreciate the majority of the comments that others have pointed out.

    I think JA would be a solid choice. John has a great temperament (as do all the 4 new supes for that matter).

    Having said that, I think that TAMI’s comments needed to be seriously considered and re-examined.

    It is 100% true that Ross Mirkirimi has given so much of himself to District 5 over the last 4 years. In addition, since I live very close to City Hall, I walk/drive/cycle past Grove and Polk st’s A LOT. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen Ross’ Jeep parked outside of CH when there aren’t any other cars parked in their respective Supervisorial parking spaces ( aside from CD all of the Supes drive primiarily to the Hall…as far as I know).

    Mirkirimi is one the job all the f’in time day and night.

    It also needs to be said that RM had some tough shoes to fill as D5 supe upon being elected.

    No…not beacuse Matt’s shoes were so big but because Matt was so nonexistent in the District, particularly in the African American community.

    Ross’ first 2-3 years were composed of nightly meetings tied to Medicinal Marijuana, School Closures in his district, and the Murder epidemic. This last one, the murder rate in his district amongst young black males, would have been swept under the rug by many supervisors including the progressive ones and has been swept under for years.

    Most would have ducked, but Ross took it on directly (as he should have). His efforts, along with others (Cheryl Davis) have actually produced a calming within the WE.

    In a critical election year, both nationally and locally, Ross (and others) decided to put Prop H on the ballot. Simultaneously, Chris engineered a brilliant play to gain significant control of the DCCC. Ross has no say in the play because he belongs to a different party. To make a long story short Ross spread himself too thin in order to play a central role in the election of the 4 new freshmen. I don’t think that this should be held against Ross by the four new supes or by Chris.

    I will also add that a somewhat controversial closing point. Keep in mind that Chris, John, and Eric all have younger children. It is very very very hard to maintain the rigorous challenges of a Board Pres while still attending nightly district meetings and citywide events ….and also trying to be a good parent. While this is a somewhat “prejudicial” comment and may be ugly to some, it is nevertheless a true one. Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

    It seems that the bridge between Daly and Mirkirimi looks like it might resemble the one over the River Kwai but it makes zero sense to continue feuding. No one needs it.

    The City has way too many challenges facing it.

  12. I do appreciate hearing from John as I know him to be a good person and expect him to be a stellar supervisor. The disagreement I have is the motivation behind not supporting Ross and the timing for installing a freshman supervisor for BoS president.
    I think Chris is wrong to not support Ross for president and I do not think he can provide any legitimate rationale for his position. And the timing-Ross is termed out in four years. I am anxious for him to expand the good work he has done in D5 throughout the city.
    I do think that the four new supervisors are all great people and I really do believe that with eight years ahead of you, there will be time for everyone to serve as BoS president, but again, I publicly implore you all to support Ross.
    I count six progressives. I work in Chris’s district and witnessed the very disconcerting arrest of a Honduran juvenile. We need YOU to focus on these youth that are largely victims and need advocates rather than be criminalized.
    Please reconsider your opposition to Ross.
    This is a wonderful opportunity for progressives to work together and make meaningful changes to help the working poor, immigrants, youth of color, etc.
    From the White House to City Hall, the possibilities are encouraging!

  13. Hey Everybody — Let’s get things straight. The only way that a progressive is going to make Board President is if the 6 identified progressives vote a progressive in. That’s going to take cooperation and unity.

    The new Supervisors met a couple of weeks ago and agreed to work it out. At that time, some of us expressed interest in the position. For me, I expressed such interest as a candidate who could perhaps bring about that unity and cooperation. I do not feel that I am the only one who can do so. All this time I have been open to other possibilities, including Ross Mirkarimi for whom, I have a great deal of respect.

    I have not been interested in starting WWIII over this. In the end we have to back the person who not only has been committed to progressive values and a progressive agenda but who is going to garner the 6 votes to win. I am committed to work this out with my fellow progressive supervisors and have every expectation we will take the time and initiative in the next few weeks to elect a strong progressive to the position.

  14. “The first order of business once the new supervisors take their seats in January will be for the 11 board members to choose their leader. It takes six votes to win the post. If Avalos cannot get six votes, an alternative under consideration is for the progressives to throw their support to David Chiu, who won election to the District Three (Chinatown/North Beach) seat and also campaigned as a progressive.”

    David Chiu as an alternative to Avalos for board president? According to whom?

    I admit, I had only been vaguely aware of David Chiu before h. brown started whamming on him. And now he’s been elected to represent D3.

    Why would David Chiu be considered as an alternative to Avalos when you could have Eric Mar? Eric Mar is well-known, has been elected to the DCCC four times, and to the school board two times. He has also served as president of the school board.

    There may be a time for David Chiu to serve as board president, but in the absence of someone with experience in City Hall already serving as president (such as Avalos or Mirkarimi), why not consider Mar?

  15. Oh yeah, I am not like 95% of the city and I am not going to forget this!

  16. This is reminding me of Norman Yee, who two seconds into his term on the BoE wanted either the presidency or vice-presidency. I can’t remember which!
    Maybe Avalos has more experience than the average first-termer but we have a qualified experienced supervisor who has in fact earned the post.
    I categorically reject that Ross is motivated by ego or personal ambition, I have seen him work hard on issues that are not glamorous.
    Do I need to bring in the BoS election totals? The supervisors from D1,3 and 11 COMBINED won as many votes as Ross won from his own district. Ross has proven himself and is universally loved by those in his district. Even traditional conservatives that align with Democrats have embraced our Green Party supervisor. To move legislation, one needs the ability to work with people from all political leanings. But I would not support Ross if he was not a proven progressive. I am still in shock that three supervisor-elects I expected marvelous things from are so wrong on this.
    Sorry if I am a bitch, but see I have a problem—-Black and Latino youth are dying needlessly. Sanctuary city is under attack and we have a Mayor who doesn’t care about anything substantial. I want a BoS president with the energy, commitment and ingenuity to craft solutions to the problems we face. The newly elected supervisors HAVE PLENTY TO DO, without OJT for BoS president.
    When you all have children that have known multiple murder victims, then you would realize that there are bigger issues at stake than this ridiculous battle of the egos.
    I want to know, again, what is being done to help the family of Ivan Miranda?

  17. While generally I’d balk at any brand-new elected taking the reins of a Board, I would have to say that Avalos with far more legislative experience than the average first termer. He brings actual legislative experience and an understanding of the Clerk of the Board’s office which is far more than others enjoy entering the position.

    I also wouldn’t dismiss this situation as a mere battle of ego between Mirkarimi, Avalos, or Daly. These internal battles are quickly forgotten for 95% of the city and we can follow suit.

  18. Go AVALOS!

  19. Munchausen by proxy episode in D9? (marc?)

  20. Munchausen by proxy episode in D9?

  21. Ross has no more “earned” the post of Board President than Tom Ammiano had “earned” the right to run unopposed by a progressive for Mayor in 2003. Either the votes are there, or they are not, either you can find them or swing them or you can’t.

    Wishing and wanting are no substitute for not being able to count to six. The fight for the Board presidency has already done real damage to progressives, most notably the munchausen by proxy episode in D9 which was an extension of the Ross/Chris feud.

    It is more important that progressives consolidate the victories in D1 and 11 and pressure that feud out of relevance for the Board presidency than picking and anointing one of the feuders over the other and continuing the destructive petty cycle.

    Avalos is his own person, and I don’t see a potential Avalos presidency as a victory by proxy for Daly over Mirkarimi.


  22. I am surprised that our progressive Supervisors and Supervisors-elect are not lining up behind Ross Mirkarimi. I think they should be. Ross has a long history of progressive legislation and activism.
    He sent his campaign volunteers to work in the swing districts; I am therefore puzzled when the article says his involement in districts 1, 3, and 11 was “minor.”
    Avalos is great, but Ross has earned the post. He would accomplish a lot and help improve the Board’s image.
    That said, perhaps the real focus for progressives now should be: What is our agenda? What legislation do we want passed?

  23. As someone who supported all four candidates in Districts 1, 3, 9 and 11 – from my vote as an SEIU member and a Labor Council member, to giving money and holding events – I am outraged! With all due respect to Avalos and Daly, I do NOT WANT A NOVICE to hold the most powerful seat on the BoS. It is a matter of respect to the citizens of San Francisco to support the most qualified and experienced progressive to the post. I note quite a bit of arrogance and as one of the female Labor Council delegates that was criticized for not supporting any female candidate, it is beginning to appear that male ego is ruling supreme over the best interest of San Franciscans!

    I live in Ross’s district, I am sorry if sky-rocketing homicide rates, school closures, and other issues made him too busy to schmooze and hang out with those that do not face our problems, but as a constituent, it is clear that Ross has worked creatively and tirelessly for his district and the whole city would benefit from his intelligence and dedication. As for Ivan Miranda and his family, I think it is petty and disrespectful to not put San Franciscans first!

    I implore all the nubies to do the right thing and support Ross. This will be my deal breaker for ever supporting any of you again! This is directed to the three that Ross endorsed and are now putting personal ambition ahead of the public benefit!

  24. JACOB, there are many other flavors of democracy than single member district, winner take all representative democracy.

    The fact that only one person holds a seat, sometimes by a bare majority as in D1, means that we are not all in it together and that significant minorities are often excluded.

    We’ve seen that power corrupts at every level, and if we don’t try to figure out ways to check that corruption, we will continue to see bad decisions made and have to deal with electeds who are driven to mania by the seductive, corrupting lure of power to which few are immune.

    Part of that is nurturing a proactive base whose presence can serve as a counterbalance to the corrupting pressures, and part of it involves reconfiguring our democracy to be sure that a diversity of opinion and dilution of power backs us up.

    I’m not the first to note this, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is not the first body to suffer the consequences of how power effects otherwise honorable people.

    Democracy is not some relic to be preserved in a museum.


  25. Yesterday I missed this paragraph in Savannah Blackwell’s piece, while enjoying all the juice about palace intrigue:

    “Considered the second most powerful office in city government (after mayor), the board president appoints members of important commissions – including those that handle planning and police oversight issues, creates the board’s committee structure and assigns supervisors to those committees. In addition, the president decides to which committee an issue should go and often is expected to put together coalitions to both pass legislation and override mayoral vetoes. In the event the mayor dies or must leave office, the board president steps into the job.”

    So as to better understand recent years, what’s coming, and what’s really at stake here, I’d like to read a piece on the consequence of Matt Gonzalez and Aaron Peskin’s commission assignments, committee structures, and committee assignments.

    Maybe some palace insiders could share their viewpoints on that. I’d like to know what Matt Gonzalez and Aaron Peskin had in mind when they appointed commissioners and made committee assignments, and what their consequences were.

    Does anyone know what we might expect, in the way of commissioners and committee assignments from any of those now vying for presidency of the Board? How important is this, really? Maybe we should hear from Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, and other contenders.

    What’s at stake, really, aside from a heightened profile and a springier springboard for one politician or another? I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume that aspirants, or at least a few of them, want to become Board President to advance principles and issues.

    I remember a little controversy about Matt Gonzalez’s commission appointments, and very faintly remember Chris Daly in limbo, still awaiting a committee assignment from Board President Aaron Peskin, before he joined Sean Elsbernd and Michela Alioto Pier on Budget Audit and Oversight.

    I’m not even sure whether committee assignments are stable during a Board President’s term, who all’s on what committees now, and what the consequence of those assignments might be.

    All that said, I’ll be equally glad, and relieved, to see either Ross Mirkarimi or John Avalos become Board Prez, though with this much uncertainty and intrigue in the air, I started wishing Eric Mar, despite being new to the Board, might step up to the plate and settle this, since he seems most likely to win a board majority.

    However, people far closer to the inside than I tell me that Eric prefers to argue his issues as forcefully as he can, without being called upon to mediate, so I don’t want to urge Eric or the Board to dilute a voice as principled and articulate as his with the pressures of diplomacy.

  26. Actually, Luke, I think that Matt Gonzalez has three excellent options were he to run for public office:

    1.) Public Defender, where he can be in charge of his old stomping grounds. It would probably be a relatively easy transition for him.

    2.) City Attorney

    3.) District Attorney, where he would be able to go after white-collar criminals and police brass.

  27. Mirkarimi is human.. he has ambition and wants to keep moving. Let’s quit the cheap gossip — we need to work together, not put each other down.

    “.. the weight on any given elected is that much less and to elect members by a mixed system to ensure diversity in representation.”

    this is called democracy. it only works well when we’re all in it together.

  28. Luke,

    Who is Matt Gonzalez? Oh, yeah, the guy who got twelve votes in one SF precinct.

    The problem here is the corrupting force that power has even on good people. If it were just one supervisor who had succumbed to this, then it might be an anomaly, but it appears to be the general case.

    Without an organized, mobilized base to keep these people accountable, we will see even more shenanigans masquerading as politics and governance.

    But the sick part is that when folks see electeds they help put into office going south on a power trip, it alienates the base, removing any checks on the mania of power.

    One way to solve this is to enlarge the Board of Supervisors so that the weight on any given elected is that much less and to elect members by a mixed system to ensure diversity in representation.


  29. Hey Marc, are you hinting that Matt Gonzalez should run for City Attorney? Hmmm…. now that would be interesting.

  30. Really wish things hadn’t devolved to this low point, as I supported Ross for years, thinking he’d make a great addition to the Board and also become a good board prez. Alas…
    Seems to be the concensus that he is ill-suited to the task. Seems like he’s managed to alienate a lotta people who should have been on his side. Seems to be only one person to blame for this result: Ross. Hopefully something will be learned from this experience. Hope springs eternal.

  31. I have to say, though, it is truly tragic that it has reached the point where Ross is so pathetic that he would actually be trolling and kissing up for conservative votes just so he can move one more rung up on the ladder to spiritual and ethical oblivion. It’s kind of like The Lord of the Rings. He should have learned this lesson from Tom Ammiano. And kudos to Eric Mar for calling Ross on his shit.

    Anyway, this piecemeal process of selling out little by little is precisely the reason NOT to become a politician. Clearly Ross’s ambitions are getting ahead of his better judgement and, if he continues down this road, he will likely just end up seeking higher office for the sake of seeking higher office. I always thought he would be one of the good ones that would pull through. Willie Brown was a progressive at one point, wasn’t he?

  32. It’s a lizard, Matt, with only one head.

  33. What is that thing John is holding in his hand? It has to be either a bird or a lizard. It also looks like it has two heads. Weeeiiiiirrrrrd!

  34. Early xmas gift for Ross! What a bunch of weasels and disingenous “family b.s.” He should stay independent. Daly’s behavior is inexcusable of late, but certainly not a surprise. Let them take all the heat for whatever mess they create.

  35. This is juicy,; I’m amused, but as Marc said, this is drama.

    Could you, Savannah Blackwell, please explain what’s at stake? Just what sort of power does the Board President have, besides setting the agenda, and banging the gavel on homophobic public commenters, if and when rules allow.

    I tried to talk Aaron Peskin into replacing the HONK!!! reminiscent of the Gong Show, sounded at the end of each and every hardworking citizen’s attempt to participate by showing up for public comment, and he said he’d think about it, but I still got the HONK!!! again, last time I made time to show up at City Hall.

    Sp I do hope that our next Board President, whoever they may be, will exercise one form of power entrusted to them, the power to replace the HONK!!!! with a more melodious thank-you-for-blowing-your whole-afternoon-for-a-two-minute-audience-with-the-San-Francisco’s-Board-of-Supes.

  36. “put the needs of everyday San Franciscans” that will be a first.
    Everyday San Franciscans are the first to be over looked when local politicians clamber to show they are more progressive than the next guy.

  37. This battle has already caused enough damage to the progressive project.

    At this point, I support John if there are not the votes for Ross. He is the most knowledgeable of the incoming supervisors, a solid progressive whose politics are beyond reproach, and not prone to destructive conduct unless you consider yelling “WHOSE CITY?.”

    What is needed now is for cooler heads such as Avalos and Mar to prevail and for Daly and Mirkarimi to stand down for a moment and let folks who are known for being grounded and centered progressives set the tone for cooperation and productivity in these tough times.

    Enough with the drama already.


  38. To be clear, I do not intend to publicly condemn Ross Mirkarimi. I respect Ross’s many individual accomplishments over the past 4 years.

    With that said, I don’t think that being progressive is qualification enough to be Board President. The next Board President should put the needs of everyday San Franciscans and the progressive family first. That’s why I’ll be voting for John Avalos for the post.

  39. Speculation or not, it is a reality that impacts the next four, or more, years. Interesting to hear what is going on behind the scenes.

  40. Can I get a snap back and forward in to reality?

    This story is akin to real estate speculation.

  41. Hey Savannah, good piece, one correction, though, is that the Board President is not the second most powerful office in San Francisco government, rather the third.

    Depending on who the Mayor and City Attorney are, either of those two offices are much more powerful than the Board President.

    We need a progressive City Attorney more so than we need a progressive Mayor as the CA sets limits on what the Mayor can do. What a twist it would be if Herrera slinks into Room 200 and a progressive City Attorney crimps his hand!