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Mayor-Elect Breed rewards political allies with appointments to mayoral ‘transition team’

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Mayor-Elect London Breed’s Policy Transition Team includes 21 strong supporters of her mayoral campaign, Pius Lee among them. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Did you help elect our soon-to-be new mayor, London Breed? Then — ding, ding, ding! — you’re about to be rewarded.

The first “thank you’s” are already rolling in, as Breed’s team announced the formation of a “Policy Transition Team,” meant to “tap the thinking, creativity and expertise of San Franciscans from all walks of life to provide ideas as she begins her Administration,” according to a Thursday press release.

And wouldn’t you know it — the list of those 21 creative, thoughtful experts is stacked with people who volunteered for Breed’s campaign directly, worked on independent expenditure campaign committees (our local version of Super PACs) that supported Breed, penned screeds in local newspapers supporting Breed, spent thousands of dollars against her political enemies or are long-time supporters of her allies.

Heck, that’s being generous. 

Even the people on this policy transition team who weren’t directly involved in Breed’s recent campaign are long-time pals of the mayor-elect.

OK, OK, I can hear the heckling now. Who wouldn’t choose their own allies for such a think-tank, right? Well, no. 

In an election where Breed won by a scant few thousand votes, when San Franciscans were decisively split, this was the perfect chance to show leadership, to unite disparate factions of The City and demonstrate she can be a leader for all.

Breed still may demonstrate that. I believe she can “go high,” as the slogan goes. 

But that’s not with this move shows, said Larry Bush, a long-time City Hall ethics watchdog.

“She’s made the mistake that is sometimes made, of only selecting people who were in her campaign, and not those who have a different point of view,” Bush said. And, Bush pointed out, having your name on a team assembled for Mayor Breed will certainly help your business and political prospects.

Let’s start with the obvious appointments: The co-chairs of Breed’s policy transition team include Mary Jung, the prominent member of the Edwin M. Lee Asian Pacific Democratic Club which funneled thousands of dollars in Association of Realtors and tech industry money to support Breed (including from a certain Airbnb investor whose name rhymes with “Don Bonway”); David Ho, the former Rose Pak lieutenant and political consultant who ran the field campaign for the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 Political Action Committee (which won Breed the West Side); long-time political supporter Sheryl Davis who has oft-described herself simply as London’s “friend;” Benny Yee, who supported Breed’s endorsed pick for District 4 supervisor, Jessica Ho by hosting her campaign kickoff and who stumped for Breed in the Chinese community ; and Pius Lee, a close ally of Yee’s and a Breed campaign volunteer who claims to have helped London win the Chinese electorate by trumpeting her anti-cannabis views in Chinese-language press.

… excuse me while I take a deep breath, that was a long sentence … 

The team is also overseen by Joyce Newstat, a political consultant who contributed campaign cash to multiple independent expenditure groups against Breed’s opponents, including former supervisor Christina Olague in 2012, Ross Mirkarimi, and later, Supervisor Jane Kim; and co-chair Darlene Chiu Bryant, who worked for former Mayor Gavin Newsom and headed an outreach group, ChinaSF, that works closely with Breed’s most influential political supporter, Willie Brown.

Oh man, I could go on. I’d need a whole second newspaper’s worth of space to untangle this web. 

But, essentially, “What I see from this transition team is it’s essentially people who supported the mayor-elect,” said local Democratic Party Chair David Campos. 

The capper, and my favorite of these team co-chairs just for the sheer chutzpah of the appointment: Former State Senator Carol Migden.

Seriously — hot dang! 

Migden was Mark Leno’s last major electoral opponent before Breed. If that’s not a big ol’ political flip of the bird to Leno, I don’t know what is.

When I asked Debbie Mesloh, a co-chair on the transition team who handles their communications, why so many friends of Breed were on this team, Mesloh said, “Just because people supported London doesn’t mean they’re not policy experts or community leaders in their own right.”

On this point she’s absolutely, positively correct.

Many I named already are quite qualified. And Matthew Rothschild, another co-chair, is one of the smartest people in any room he walks into. Roma Guy, another co-chair, is a badass LGBT activist. Suzy Loftus, a chair on the team, has been lauded by opponents and allies alike as an incredibly effective Police Commission president. Still, all are Breed’s pals.

But, I asked Mesloh — isn’t it fair that Breed could kill multiple birds with one stone? Reward her allies (and smack her opponents), while also assembling a competent team?

“I’d push against that assumption,” Mesloh said. She also said more people will join the policy transition team by July 14, perhaps even those considered political opponents of Breed.

One can hope. Not because I think any one person “deserves” any placement in Breed’s advisory teams, but for one simple truth:

London Breed is our mayor now. For the good of The City, we need her to grow as a politician — and that means reaching out to your opponents, mending fences, and bridging ideological chasms.

And seriously, do you really want our next mayor to cocoon herself only with people who sing her praises?

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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