The political intrigue surrounding the successor to David Chiu as interim president of the Board of Supervisors intensified last week, and today could be the culmination of the City Hall saga.
San Francisco's more left-leaning supervisors are fighting to prevent the scheduled vote, setting the stage for a contentious debate, while Chiu, who introduced the motion for the board to vote today, and others are pushing for it to happen now.
The person would serve out the remainder of Chiu's term as president, which ends Jan. 8. The board would then vote again for a president to serve a full two-year term, and whomever is elected as interim has a big advantage in snagging the permanent seat.
Chiu will be sworn in as the District 17 state assemblyman, succeeding Tom Ammiano, on Dec. 1. But first, Chiu wants to vote on the board president seat he will be vacating. And he has scheduled the vote for when Supervisor David Campos, who he defeated in the Assembly race Nov. 4, is away on vacation.
Chiu's legislative maneuver sparked a debate about Board of Supervisors rules. One supervisor even explored boycotting the meeting to prevent quorum. Initially, critics thought one supervisor could object and send the vote to a board committee preventing the vote, but it turns out that it is not so simple.
If one board member makes that request, Chiu can block it. Chiu's decision could be appealed and that would be voted on by the board. In a tie, Chiu would prevail, according to a recent memo from board Clerk Angela Calvillo.
On Monday afternoon, some supervisors and legislative aides said no one had secured the six votes needed to become interim president. The discussions were expected to continue leading into today's 2 p.m. meeting.
Timing could make all the difference for some of the top contenders, which include London Breed, Mark Farrell and Jane Kim. Chiu once again positioned himself as a swing vote. It's worth noting that Breed endorsed Chiu in the Assembly race, Farrell endorsed Campos and Kim issued a split endorsement.
Supervisor John Avalos has been among the most outspoken in calling for a postponement. Supervisor Eric Mar also supports a delay. Supervisor Scott Wiener supports taking the vote today. Other supervisors have declined to comment.
Avalos reiterated his position Monday: “I am confident that the Board of Supervisors will do the right thing and delay the vote. It should be the remaining members of the Board of Supervisors who take part in the vote.”
Avalos suggested that the vote won't occur because no one on the board will be able to get the six votes. For example, Breed could likely win the post if Chiu and Farrell voted for her, but Farrell is said to be vying for the post as well and his chances may look better if he waited until Chiu was off the board.
Mar declined to discuss who is in line for the spot but instead called for a vote Dec. 9, after Chiu is off the board and the remaining colleagues are present.
“The interim president is an important position,” Mar said. “To have somebody missing from that is not good for the collegiality of this board.”
Board president is an important seat in San Francisco politics. In addition to assigning where colleagues sit on board committees, the president can set the tone between the board and the Mayor's Office. A president more in line with a mayor's policies gives the mayor more ability to accomplish goals and set the political agenda — which could be an important factor for current Mayor Ed Lee as he heads into an election year.
Chiu was elected as board president in January 2009 with the backing of progressives, but shifted more to the center afterward.