Law of Unintended Consequences
Gifts Mirkarimi Board Prez Swing Vote

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on December 05, 2008 with 20 Comments

The law of unintended consequences has handed Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (left) the swing vote in the battle for the San Francisco board presidency. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

December 5, 2008

Despite a recent exposé painting Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi as the least likely progressive supervisor to garner the six votes needed to be Board President, he is now in a position to decide which supervisor, left or right, will ascend to the board presidency.

On the left, freshmember Supervisors-elect John Avalos and David Chiu are likely to get first round nominations. On the right, Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Bevan Dufty are likely nominees. Though Dufty maintains he is not interested in the board presidency, a nomination puts him in play and a single vote from the left for Dufty or Maxwell hands the presidency to the right.

The five votes from the right will come from Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu, Michela Alioto-Pier, Dufty and Maxwell.

The five votes from the left will come from Supervisors Chris Daly, Eric Mar, David Chiu, John Avalos and David Campos.

No one believes Mirkarimi would do the unthinkable and hand the board presidency to the right, so the next question becomes – which of the progressive nominees will Mirkarimi vote for? And because Daly is perceived to be behind the machinations against Mirkarimi, all indicators now point to Mirkarimi dishing out some payback against Daly and voting for Chiu over Avalos.

One thing is for sure, an instigating former Mayor Willie Brown is now ROFL.

Former Mayor Willie Brown.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Gifts Mirkarimi Board Prez Swing Vote
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  1. Update on my reflections on President of the Board:

    Having been an elementary teacher in Oakland, I can certainly
    relate to the comments made above about how much our youth
    need support, not just youth of color but all children (and those
    adults who act like children at times.)

    For example, I taught at Town School for Boys in the computer
    lab one summer many years ago, and I saw the emotional
    wounds some of these students suffered from parents vacationing
    around the globe and “not being there.” for them. I could also
    mention two well know white male Irish political leaders who
    also suffered from political fathers not being around very much because of political duties.

    How does this relate to the current race you may ask?

    As a sixty year old, straight, white women, I am getting a little tired of the ego games played by several male supervisors and their aides.

    I’m not a feminist, rather an equalist, and certainly not a man hater, but guys please keep our next generation in mind and the needs
    of the elderly and the downtrodden.

    And IMHO, the President needs to handle angry, irritated folks who
    may ask bothersome questions. Responding with temper tantrums, running off to “one’s cave Mars/Venus book popular awhile back ” doesn’t cut it any more, nor does yelling at staff. We are beyond,
    God Bless Him, Phil Burton.

    And demanding staff work 24/7. Read in Praise of Slowness.
    George S. confessed in his book, he had to go for mental health counseling to cope with working in the Clinton White House.

    Chill out guys, take time to relax, have some fun, spend time with
    friends, kids, and family, lovers. Thank you again Chris for
    putting the birth of Grace before running for Mayor!

    Don’t fall into the spiked eggnog and kindly consider keeping your brain connected to your lower body.

    I am all for pleasure, erotic pleasure included, but this Senator
    Edwards stuff, etc and the baseball player who ran off with
    Madonna before the ink was dry on his divorce does NOT play
    well anymore! Scream privacy as much as like, I will not
    back down.

    Having a valued, long term male friend of mine telling me what I can and can not say because it might “disturb, upset, a male ego, seems “old fashioned.” so 20th century. I try not to fly off the handle in a rage but nor do I
    like women being called “whacko,” not being invited to
    the table (See Nancy Pelosi’s book about men who
    were discussing child brith and didn’t think to ask her.), being
    shunned when I bring up truths and make men feel uncomfortable about being dishonest with lovers/wives or on another tack go see the new movie Doubt.)

    Does all this mean I support a woman President, no.
    SF is beyond picking a leader because of a body part, skin color
    or lifestyle.

    If you are still reading I am grateful. Please I have a few more
    points to communicate.

    Important Correction:
    #1 I believe I may have been mistaken about my suspicion
    about someone in District 3 hacking into the Porziuncola site.
    So Aaron and David, I sincerely apologize but I h#$@, I’ m not
    perfect either and often become a lioness when defending
    children and organizations I value.

    #2 A trusted friend at a party in City Hall Friday, told me “It is all over the Internet, David Chiu is now being pitched for President.”
    OK, I’m not always up on the latest Internet rumors because
    I spend time as a preschool teacher taking care of real children.
    I also like the new Dentyne ads about old fashion face time.

    #3 At the S.F. Tommorrow Party Thursday, I sold
    drink tickets and to amuse myself created a straw poll on
    a paper napkin for President of the Board and Governor.

    Bruce from the Bay Guardian left before my shift was over but
    here are the results. Supervisor Mirkarimi got 17 votes
    3 times more than anyone else. OK, this is sort of his crowd.

    And curiously Lassie, Jerry, Diane, and Giramendi (spelling) tied.
    Yes, several folks insisted on voting for Lassie.

    As I said before I do not know David Chiu but did heard good things about him at the Harvey Milk holiday party. Nor do I know much about John Avalos but even as a staff member of Chris and a Democrat, the learning curve is steep for a freshman Supervisor.

    If I had a magic wand and could make anyone President, I’d pick the current President of the Harvey Milk Club even though he is not a supervisor.

    I found him intelligent, able to talk with straight , old folks, possessed a willingness to listen to divergent points of view while still maintaining his poise and was humble enough to serve treats to the celebrants.

    For anyone who has read all the way through this you get
    an A+. Sort of like reading War and Peace from high school
    huh? I always did like Russian novels.



  2. I am very disenchanted with the so-called “progressives.” It has become obvious: people I used to respect and support unconditionally do not share my core values. Ironically, I truly thought that they did until now!
    Since Campos was inclined to support Mirkarimi and Chiu has not weighed in to my knowledge, they are not who I am referring to.
    Unfortunately, I have come to realize that the supposed progressives are really the “regressives.” They are not motivated by what is best for the vast majority of San Franciscans, but rather by sticking it to Mirkarimi.
    It was a real eye-opener to run into one of the regressives the other night and be told that my ideas are—well, I cannot remember the exact wording, but along the lines of “whacky,” earning a rolling of the eyes.
    It is true, anyone who does not think the violence amongst our youth of color is the number one priority in SF, has no credibility in my estimation. The preventable loss of young lives are unacceptable and an outrage. Every time I am around youngsters of color, I am overwhelmed with shame for how WE have failed them. I am chilled to the bone knowing that the odds are stacked against them living a long and productive life. Of course, the progressives blame the police because their problem is that they are not arresting and throwing away the keys on enough of the youth of color. My view is that we should not rely on the police to solve the problem, but prevention: job programs, drug treatment, mental health services, truancy prevention, youth programs that give them self-esteem and something productive to do. Guess I need to shred my “progressive membership” card since these definitely are not the progressive values that the people posting here care about!
    If the “progressives” do not share my priority then you are the problem not me and my views. It does not matter to you that Mirkarimi is the most qualified and effective person to be the board president. For irrational and self-serving reasons, at least three of the supes are not supporting the best person for the job. These are three people that I have supported and at least one that I have known for over twenty years, only to learn that they are not committed to the ordinary citizens. This is like seven Republicans holding up the auto bail-out or the California Republican minority using their power to drive the Ca. economy into the ground. This travesty demonstrates that politicians get in power and stop listening to the ordinary people and only listen to each other. Except Ross, the fact that he views his position as the REPRESENTATIVE of his constituents and not our supreme ruler, has cost him the support of the colleagues who do not respect or value their constituents.
    I would not care about this if I just thought Ross was “really groovy” but not the best person for the post. I would accept it. But the reasons cited by the detractors are all bogus. I now know that I will be waiting another two years, for another election before we have a chance at a truly progressive BoS.
    I hear the “votes aren’t there” for Ross? That does not make it right. And now I have to backtrack after I assured some of your constituents that the best people are representing them, I cannot stand by that conviction because it is no longer the truth. I do not know who you are, what you stand for, and I certainly cannot assure them that their concerns will be taken into account by their representatives.

  3. First, I very much appreciate Chris clarifying his position. Thank you.

    Second, having supported Joe Alioto, Jr, for personal reasons, I confess I really don’t know that much about David Chiu except
    Jane Morrison was a bit annoyed with me for not supporting him.

    Third, being Ukrainian, lately, I’ve been having nightmares that just like the Orange Revolution never quite got it together, the newly
    elected board might not be able to put aside their egos for
    what is best for our city.

    Fourth, today I had a conversation with Zack in David Campos’
    office. But first, let me say, I have only gratitude for Tom and all
    he has done for S.F.: Healthy S.F., toilet paper for the shelters,
    noise reduction. . . as the Jewish passage goes, “it would have
    been enough” if he had only done one of the many items
    I might continue to list.

    Please indulge me to continue my tale. Having helped with Joe’s campaign, I personally experienced clicking the media link on his web site only to have a David Chiu’s e-mail pop-up.

    So today when the Porziuncola’s scheduling website starting
    erasing our schedule for volunteers, I paid my District
    9 Supervisor a visit, given the recent tiff between Angela and
    Aaron and today’s article in the S.F. Weekly. (Being old fashioned, I felt it important to follow protocol and speak with my representative to communicate my concerns. )

    While I have great respect for our current Board President, I do
    know he can at times be intimating yet much to his credit he does understand the difference between 309 and 329 of the Planning Code. (OK, maybe I got the numbers wrong but those of you
    who read this blog, understand this to be a compliment to Aaron.)

    Being rather blunt, I asked Zack if he might speak to Aaron and/or David to see if by any chance they might know who might be hacking into the scheduling site.

    I left thanking Zack for hearing me out but felt
    a bit miffed when he asked why Angela was not there and
    I had to explain that I as Knight of Saint Francis of Assisi,
    S.F.’s patron Saint, was called to speak out. I then reminded him of the need to keep our friends close
    but our “enemies.” closer. I believe Obama understands
    this as demonstrated by his appointments.

    For those of you still following this post, I thank you.

    My point is I urge all the Supervisors to continue to
    dialogue and to reflect can best lead the Board for the
    benefit of the citizens of San Francisco.

    The children of San Francisco deserve the best. I believe we need to set out sights high. As an “on again, off again” Catholic,
    I not sure if a “higher power” brought Gavin into the Legislative
    Chamber yesterday to dialogue, but I am grateful.

    Lastly, Ross Mirkarimi: First he did get the most votes and I personally know he sent volunteers to other progressives. And despite being a bit hero obessed, at times literally chasing now
    criminals and keeping Heather Fong on speed dial, it is my
    opinion he is the most qualified.

    He is a nuts and bolts policy wonk, served on the budget committee, made some real improvement in the reduction of crime in his district, has already climbed that steep learning curve that Jake
    referred to when remembering his first day on the job, and
    has a vision for a sustainable, green city.

    He is not with out flaws but who is?

    Respectfully submitted with humility,


  4. I think I’m the only one to have mentioned Carmen Chu, in the interest of levity, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the prospect.

  5. Please, anyone but brain dead Carmen Chu!!!!

  6. I was glad to see someone here count David Campos among progressive votes on the Board, and I hope they were right, but let’s not go overboard yet.

    We’ve already seen Tom Ammiano slide down the slippery slope into the vague, wishy-washy center. No one but Gerardo Sandoval was more evasive or disrespectful when I wrote, called, and even walked into both of their offices, to ask—yes, even as they campaigned for higher office—whether they’d sign to let San Francisco voters decide whether or not to cancel our elected reps annual invitation to the Blue Angels military recruitment fest.

    (The Blue Angels do not force themselves on us, contrary to popular belief. We invite them, or, our elected reps invite them, in our name. Dianne Feinstein invited them here in 1971, eight years after the military draft ended, and three years after Dan White assassinated George Moscone and Harvey Milk.)

    And yes, the Blue Angels so terrified Di-Fi and the rest of the city that first year that she jumped on the phone and tried to order them out of the sky, after which the Angels came down and took Di-Fi up for a ride in a Lockheed Martin fighter bomber. She emerged a bit on the shaky side , but reaffirmed the invitation.

    i consider this hugely aggressive Blue Angels/Fleet Week, shock’n awe military recruitment fest, timed to coincide with Columbus the Conqueror’s Day, a disgrace to Harvey Milk’s legacy.

    So, during the District #9 campaign, i called and e-mailed Mark Sanchez, Eric Quezada, and David Campos, to ask where they stood, Mark and Eric both readily said they wanted the Blue Angels to stay home, (in Pensacola, FL.) , but David Campos never responded, despite at least five e-mails and calls, probably more.

    We, in San Francisco, can’t tell the U.S. military, or their recruiters, where they can and can’t go anymore than Iraqis, Afghanis, or Africans can, but we can make them unwelcome, and we do have leverage to stop recruitment for further military expansion, here, locally. (

    My African Facebook friends, most of whom are Congolese college students who joined “Break the Silence on the U.S.-Backed Rwandan Invasion of Congo,” , have no trouble seeing the connection between military recruitment in San Francisco and the growing numbers of U.S. troops in Congo and Africa.

    Mark Sanchez and Eric Quezada both seemed ready to act locally, to stop staffing the U.S.’s 700 military bases worldwide by hosting an annual all forces recruitment. So did Eric Mar, but I didn’t have time to call David Chiu or John Avalos, and have never even met David Chiu. However, John Avalos was among the first to join “Break the Silence on the U.S.-backed Rwandan Invasion of Congo,” even before so many African college students signed on.

    I did finally get David Campos’s campaign manager on the phone about the Blue Angels recruiters one day.

    “David will call you back, ” she said. “Believe me; he cares about your issue,” but he didn’t. Maybe he just couldn’t make time, does’nt know me–he doesn’t—who knows?

    Tom Ammiano never responded, neither by e-mail, phone, or legislative aide, last year, re a ballot initiative to cancel the city’s invitation to the Blue Angels, so I could only conclude that he eschewed involvement because he eschewed involvement during his run for higher political office. The Blue Angels are controversial, unlike Sea Otter Awareness Week, , which Tom championed in 2007, one week before the Blue Angels took to our skies, to recruit, yet again.

    (And, let me add that I have gone from being a Tom Ammiano precinct walker, campaign contributor and die-hard sentimentalist to being unable even to give Tom even a pencil mark on my absentee ballot, however irrationally.

    I therefore became uneasy when Tom’s candidate, David Campos, failed to respond to the Blue Angels recruitment issue during his campaign as well, unlike Mark and Eric.

    I’m still hopeful, re David Campos, though Tom Ammiano’s endorsement, and that of the DCCC, make me uneasy. I’m still hopeful because so many others seem to be, and David Campos has yet to cast a vote on the Board, unless I missed something.

    But, though I’m not that worked up about the experience issue, I’d rather not see David Campos become President of the Board till we find out how David Campos is going to vote, not only re the Blue Angels, but also re RDA incursions into our neighborhoods, re fossil fuels, and nuclear power versus renewable energy infrastructure, and other issues like high police pay hikes promised without regard to performance.

  7. Out of the four new supervisors, only two, Avalos and Mar, have a demonstrated track record of progressive achievement and experience governing which bulks up their legitimacy to assume the presidency when compared to the other two.

    Since Eric has indicated his disinclination to seek the presidency, that leaves John as the only credible progressive capable of putting together 6 votes.


  8. Tami, David Campos has no experience in City Hall, unlike Avalos. And let me clarify regarding Mirkarimi needing to support Avalos. It seems like Mirkarimi doesn’t have the progressive votes to win the board presidency so he should support Avalos instead of courting votes from Elsbernd and others who don’t support a progressive agenda for the city.

  9. Tami, it is possible for the residents of D5 to think the world of Ross and for him to not have the confidence of his colleagues at the same time.

    Ross seems to have gotten the message, and with the support of his base, I think we’ll all learn and grow from this as we move forward.

    There are enough of us who have supported and continue to support Chris and Ross that we need to pressure them to put whatever they’ve got going on between them aside, because it is getting in the way of an easily attainable record of solid progressive governance that can serve as the basis for the kinds of coalitions required to put a progressive in Room 200.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not sweat the small stuff?


  10. “What surprises me the most is that Ross was so oblivious to how unpopular he actually is. This speaks to the extent of his narcissism.”
    Twenty-seven thousand Western Addition citizens think that Ross is an exceptional representative! It looks like about 5 or 10 bloggers are the only ones with something against him!
    As for Adam’s comments:
    “Ross Mirkarimi needs to support John Avalos. To do anything less would be selling out the city. It will also be the end of Ross Mirkarimi’s political career.”
    What kind of a threat are you making? How big and powerful is your base? Why can’t he support David Campos? Or have you appointed Avalos as the sole person worthy of the post? There are 4 new progressives, but Mark said at the Pirate Radio debate, that Mar is not interested in BoS Pres.

    “On the other hand, if he supports John Avalos it will be perceived as a gesture of good will and will engender him — Mirkarimi — the support he needs as he prepares for higher office — provided Mirkarimi works on his interactions with people inside and outside City Hall, that is.”
    Thank you for the marching orders! BTW, how is it first Ross is criticized for his EXCELLENT community relations at the expense of his relations with his colleagues, and now you are saying he needs better relations with community leaders?
    How about YOU walk through the public housing developments and ask the poor, people of color who have been disenfranchised and ignored until Ross came into office, what THEY think of him and the measurable way that he has improved their daily lives with this tireless work on our behalf????

    Erika and I, both mothers, with a concern for our children’s futures and the communities at large, remain solidly behind Ross becoming BoS president.

  11. Ross won by a landslide in his district – 77 percent. I do not think this situation is a function of his popularity at all. IRV has given some other folks an exaggerated sense of popularity – maybe a little narcissism or hubris in play there. Let’s not mistake internet chatter for reality. They should be looking at their initial first place votes. That said, a previous poster has it correct that progressives must prove capable of governing and articulating common sense populist policies and solutions or we deserve to succumb to the infighting. In that regard, I have seen some nasty remarks about Ross from one side and no such remarks from his side about the other.

  12. What surprises me the most is that Ross was so oblivious to how unpopular he actually is. This speaks to the extent of his narcissism.

  13. I’m glad to see David Campos counted among the progressive votes, but I still don’t know who David Chiu is, though I read yesterday that h. brown was whammin’ on him during the campaign season.

    I missed out on that, and FCJ’s archives are not the most searchable, plus I’m outa time, so I guess I’ll never know why.

    I’ve been been in a three-way. speaker phone silly fest, with two other Greens about all this dish, while makin’ dinner,, for the past hour, until we decided that, if we can’t have Ross, we want Carmen Chu!!!

    One of the speaker phone sillies swears that, as a Newsom appointee, she voted relentlessly anti-tenant, then called the Tenants’ Union to ask why they hadn’t endorsed her in her first real campaign.

    We decided to sit down to dinner at the same table while we still have something to talk about besides the next Obaminable cabinet appointment, so please don’t anyone settle this till the year turns.

  14. Never misunderestimate Sean Elsbernd, he is quite smart.

    And never misunderestimate the ability of progressives to misplay a great hand, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, spare any change we can count on.

    Finance capitalism has just driven the US economy over a cliff. If progressives cannot prove ourselves capable of governing and articulating common sense populist policies and solutions that buffer our communities from the impacts of this recklessness and future speculative bubbles in real time now, then we deserve to succumb to our own infighting.


  15. I used to think Dufty may be the next Board Prez, but I no longer believe this. The reason is that Dufty has already announced his intention to run for Mayor, and if he was Board Prez he would have to run on the Board’s record. He won’t want to do this, since the Board is progressive and Dufty’s base is more moderate.

    I still think Ross is the best candidate for Board Prez.

    Votes for the Board Presidency don’t always follow ideological lines. Folks should remember that Tom Ammiano voted for Sophie Maxwell over Matt Gonzalez for Board Prez years ago, and that it was conservative Tony Hall that provided Matt the swing vote he needed.

  16. A few points.

    Willie Brown thought that somehow Sean Elsbernd was still in the running for Board President. That just goes to show you how out of touch he really is. ROTFIHOE!

    I don’t know if anyone has talked to David Chiu since he left on his trip. I haven’t heard that he is inclined to seek the Presidency.

    While I am not behind the “machinations against Mirkarimi”, I do support John Avalos for Board President. With that said, I think that any of the new Supervisors could do the job well, and I am confident in their ability to work it out.

  17. Looks like Little Lord Fauntleroy (no, not Peskin) has mucked things up to where we could have a mod as board president. Everytime he gets started the progressives end up looking weak, disorganized and paralyzed by infighting.

  18. Ross Mirkarimi needs to support John Avalos. To do anything less would be selling out the city. It will also be the end of Ross Mirkarimi’s political career.

    On the other hand, if he supports John Avalos it will be perceived as a gesture of good will and will engender him — Mirkarimi — the support he needs as he prepares for higher office — provided Mirkarimi works on his interactions with people inside and outside City Hall, that is.

  19. Actually, this may also be an “unintended consequence” of district elections, i.e., agenda-driven supervisors electing the board president. At least when we had at-large elections, the top voter-getter got the job.

    Please tell me 2009 is not going to bring us even more petty, trite, partisan in-fighting. I’m just glad Prohibition ended 75 years ago.

  20. Blinded by the bullshit?

    Dufty will be the new Board prez. He’s been buttering Maxwell up for 3 years. He’ll be labeled the ‘compromise’ candidate after the first couple of rounds of voting and win by a 7-4 vote with Daly, Avalos, Mar and Mirk being the only actual ‘Progressives’ on the Board. Or, in a pique, Ross might join Dufty too and make it 8-3.