If the sun shines in the morning, is it thanks to Supervisor Julie Christensen?
It sure seems so, as Mayor Ed Lee is trumpeting Christensen so often, I’m surprised he just doesn’t start all sentences with her name by default. “Julie gets things done! And, oh, can I get a large coffee, please?”
The electorate battle royale this November is the Board of Supervisors District 3 race (representing Chinatown, North Beach, etc.) between the incumbent, Christensen, and the former eight-year Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
It’s the biggest race in The City, mainly because it’s been painted as a proxy battle between Lee, a political moderate, and political progressives such as Peskin.
Christensen’s vote is considered Lee’s lock on the board. Her presence would maintain the ideological 6-5 split in favor of the mayor’s initiatives.
Her vote is Lee’s golden ticket.
Which explains why Lee is pouring The City’s budget and resources to garner political wins for Christensen, many of which are trumpeted with their names combined.
Looking at the mayor’s daily public schedules from January to now, there is listing after listing of “Mayor Lee & Supervisor Julie Christensen to participate/celebrate/announce New Funding/Old Funding/Free Puppies for Everyone!”
Okay I made the last one up, but they are together quite often. Many of these events are in Chinatown, regarded as ground zero in the supervisor’s race.
Last week, for instance, Lee and Christensen promised free security cameras for some neighborhood merchants during a meeting with Chinatown’s “6 Companies,” a local group.
Lee is now the “helicopter mayor,” and one example of his hovering presence is in the recent Stockton Tunnel improvements.
“Today Supervisor Julie Christensen will announce funding in the Mayor’s budget to launch a plan to provide bicycle and pedestrian safety upgrades in the Stockton Tunnel,” announced a June 11 press release from her office.
My sources tell me it was a needed change, and Christensen rightly deserves the credit.
“The MTA has a proposed project at Union Square and a proposed project to 30-Stockton at Chinatown,” Christensen told me. “They were not looking at the Stockton tunnel that connects the two projects. I suggested we should look at it in a continuous fashion, and not all chopped up.”
In the end, Christensen netted bicycle and pedestrian upgrades. That’s a good win for a sitting supervisor and shows she anticipates her constituents’ needs.
But as her press release outlines, and insiders told me on background, this project only came to fruition thanks to money Mayor Lee set aside for her in his budget.
She didn’t need to strong-arm him. She’s his pick, and he’s going to help her get those wins. It is, of course, in his best interest to do so.
“If I lose, a candidate who vowed to make a mayor’s life a living hell would win, and you’re surprised he’d spend time with his appointee?” Christensen told me, incredulously. “The fact of the matter is, I try to use that perk judiciously. But there are times when the weight of the mayor’s help is valuable.”
Fair enough. But the alliance has an unfortunate side effect: We never get to truly see Christensen’s mettle.
Before they vote in November, District 3 residents are unlikely to see how Christensen is tested in a battle of wills with the mayor. This test is a crucible and can end many ways.
For former District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, also appointed by Lee, crossing the mayor meant a hard swing of a hammer that knocked her from her supervisor seat.
Scott Wiener recently struggled in a political wrestling match with Lee over Muni funding on the last ballot. Wiener seemingly won that one, though it cost him some political points in the short term.
So would Christensen stand up to the mayor for something her district needed and the mayor did not want?
“Absolutely,” Christensen told me. “There is no doubt that over time the mayor and I will disagree about significant things. That is the nature of this business and the two branches of government.”
This may be true. And, if she wins, her constituents would depend on it.
But because of Lee and Christensen’s alliance, no one has any way to know.