In our very own city politics version of “Where are they now?” the former controversial chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, Mary Jung, is popping up again in local politics.
On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee approved her appointment to the Arts Commission, which will now go to the full board for final approval.
“Local politics can be, at times, tough,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safai, before approving the recommendation for her appointment.
That’s for sure.
In her heyday, Jung slid appointments to moderate Democrats to build them up for supervisor runs and helped funnel all sorts of funny money — yes, legally, but in a way that made it more laborious to trace — to moderate candidates through Democratic clubs.
Jung was dethroned as chair of the Democratic County Central Committee by a newly elected progressive slate of party members last July, after a small but brutal political battle.
Mayor Ed Lee tapped Jung for the Arts Commission, an easy perch for pals of the Mayor’s Office to camp.
Notably, P.J. Johnston, a for-hire spokesperson who often represents interests allied with the Mayor’s Office, was a long-time president of the Arts Commission.
In her statement of economic interest, part of her application, Jung listed a $100,000 or higher salary from the Association of Realtors, and between $10,000 and $100,000 in retirement from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., her former employers.At the rules committee, Supervisor Norman Yee asked Jung what she would do to stem the growing tensions between grassroots artists groups and more mainstream groups, like the ballet, who are vying for the same pot of grant money.
“What I plan to do is make sure we’re taking care of the diverse groups in San Francisco, that we’re not just concentrating on one sector,” Jung said.
Many spoke in her favor at the hearing. And between the Machiavellian maneuvering, she’s also done some good: Jung sat on the board of Planned Parenthood Northern California and led the San Francisco Association of Realtors Foundation, which helps 30 homeless families each month obtain housewares for their new homes.
I could argue her foundation work also helps spit-shine the reputation of the Association of Realtors, which, amid a rental crisis, has tried to dismantle rental protections. But wouldn’t that be awfully cynical of me?
David Ho, a political strategist who was once a protege of the late Rose Pak, was neutral on Jung’s appointment, but observed that it seemed Mayor Lee’s political camp was making a show of its power following the announcement of Mark Leno running for mayor.
Jung is just one of a recent string of moderate-aligned Democrats appointed to commissions who are also Asian-American, according to Ho, which includes Lee Hsu to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Supervisor Sandra Fewer’s former opponent Marjan Philhour to the Commission on Status of Women (approved the same day as Jung’s hearing), and the failed appointment of Jason Chan to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission.
“I can comfortably say the moderate [Asian Pacific Islander] block of the Lee administration are flexing their muscles. I’m not critical, I’m just stating a fact,” Ho said. “As Rose would say, ‘If you got the juice, use it. Otherwise, you’re wasting your power.’”
But Ho did raise an interesting question: Who was the last progressive Asian-American appointed by Mayor Lee?
Neither of us could think of one.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.