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Ballot measure to close supervisor term limit loophole rumored to rise again

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Pulling a Peskin: Supervisor term limits could be addressed as soon as the 2018 election, with a rumored ballot measure that would ban the officials from seeking a third term. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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A loophole allowing former supervisors to run for office for a third term may get zapped by a potential ballot measure, according to sources in the know.

The measure would target former supervisors trying to “pull a Peskin.” And no, that doesn’t mean speechifying with a southern-esque drawl.

When he was re-elected in November 2015, Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s famous return to office may have opened the floodgates for other former supervisors to run for office — and that fear sparked the idea of the ballot measure.

Peskin came back for a third term after Mayor Ed Lee appointed Julie Christensen to replace outgoing Supervisor David Chiu, who held the District 3 supervisor seat representing Chinatown, North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf for two terms after Peskin.

Existing term limits only put the kibosh on more than two consecutive terms. After four years off, supes can come back for more.

The ballot measure has made the rumor mill before, it seems to have seen renewed interest lately, as even more former supes may come out of the woodwork.

Former supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty and John Avalos are all rumored to be considering new supervisor runs.

Dufty, now a BART board director, told me, “I don’t see myself running for anything else.”

Avalos, who now works for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, also told me he would not run against current supervisor Ahsha Safai.

That leaves Alioto-Pier, who has not yet announced a run for District 2. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

My sources tell me the person who is strongly considering backing the ballot measure to cut off third terms is Alioto-Pier’s would-be opponent, already declared District 2 supervisor candidate Nicholas Josefowitz.

Isn’t it a stunning coincidence?

Notably, Josefowitz has the personal cash flow to fund such an endeavor himself, and that’s no joke — if the measure doesn’t net support from six supervisors to place it on the ballot, it’d need 70,000 signatures, which sources tell me can run upwards of $400,000.

Josefowitz would not confirm he’s considering the ballot measure but did clue in his stance.

“When the voters passed term limits, they didn’t mean to leave a big loophole in it,” Josefowitz told me. “I’m a big believer in recycling, but I don’t believe we should be recycling politicians.”

Kat Anderson, another District 2 candidate, said “I supported term limits when I voted for it, I support term limits now.” (Full disclosure: I once worked with Anderson at the Media Workers Guild.)

Josefowitz and Anderson aren’t alone in their desire to close the term limit loophole. Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy at the Chamber of Commerce, is also rumored to be driving the effort, according to multiple sources. As is Marjan Philhour, former District 1 supervisor candidate and current executive director of the Community Alliance for Jobs and Housing.

Business interests were reportedly favoring 2019 or 2020 to run the measure. The only person with an interest to run it in 2018 is Josefowitz.

A poll conducted by those business interests, but kept under wraps, saw the measure track in the “high sixties,” a source with knowledge said, which spells bad news for those supes who want to return to office.

Politicos I spoke with were of two minds on the measure. On the one hand, big-name politicians who run for offices they previously held are almost guaranteed a win, and that may shut down a pipeline for new politicians to rise. On the other, long-standing politicians are often better equipped to get stuff done.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed put it like this: “In one way, it’s closing that loophole. In the other way, you bring back institutional knowledge and experience.”

So how does the “bearded man” of North Beach feel?

“I think Jerry Brown is doing wonders for the state,” Peskin told me, a not-so-subtle reminder that even our governor came back for another term, long after his first try at leading California.

So would the now 56-year-old Peskin pull a Jerry and run for supervisor in his twilight years?

“I never thought I’d be running again this time,” he said.

* * *

Speaking of Peskin, “Company Town,” the documentary featuring his race against Christensen, The City’s battle against Airbnb and the occasional appearance of one red-haired columnist, is making a comeback — this time, on TV.

“Company Town” will air on PBS nationwide throughout October. From New York City to Boston, Philadelphia to St. Louis, San Francisco’s struggle with the tech industry will run for all to see.

In the good ol’ Bay Area, “Company Town” broadcasts Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 11 p.m. on KQED, Monday, Oct. 23 at 9 p.m. on KRCB, and Friday, Oct. 27 at 10 a.m. on KQED PLUS.

* * *

One quick correction from last week: Readers may remember I highlighted the YIMBY’s acronym change at the Folsom Street Fair and also mentioned Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards attending in nothing but a black speedo and a cowboy hat.

Richards texted me after the column ran. Apparently, my fashion radar needs a tune-up.

“For the record I wore a black neoprene jock strap,” he wrote. “I’m into Speedos, but I’m a little more risque at Folsom.”

My apologies, readers. Maybe I should ask the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to introduce a workshop on undergarment identification.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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