Mayor Ed Lee defended the rules governing his monthly question time sessions with the Board of Supervisors, while also chiding the board Tuesday for a degeneration of behavior during last week’s vote to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as sheriff.
Despite criticism that question time seldom yields meaningful interaction, Lee said a rules change could potentially turn the sessions into “a gotcha game” and “would erode the respectful dialogue that I have worked hard to develop with all of the Board of Supervisors.”
And Lee noted that the board’s chambers can, at times, become unruly.
“For example, just last week I believe we saw that disrespectful dialogue and treatment of people degenerate in this very chamber on an issue where there remains serious disagreement, and I know a number of board members have expressed their deep regret for allowing this to occur,” Lee said, referring to the tense meeting last Tuesday in which the board failed to uphold Lee’s suspension of Mirkarimi for a New Year’s Eve incident in which he grabbed his wife’s arm and left a bruise.
Among those who expressed such regret was Supervisor John Avalos, who last week in a statement called “for greater open-mindedness and respect as some members of the audience were heckled and jeered at.”
Lee called the monthly question sessions useful.
“They might not be as entertaining to you as some of the other items on the board calendar, but my goal isn’t to come here and grab headlines,” Lee said. “We’ve talked about street trees, Muni, pubic safety.”
The voter-mandated sessions began in April 2011. Supervisors must submit written questions on the Wednesday before the monthly sessions, and Lee typically reads prepared responses without debate or follow-up questions.
The rules were created by board President David Chiu in collaboration with Lee and approved by the board.