Newsom, board sessions may go back to ballot

San Francisco voters could have a second opportunity this November to decide whether the mayor should attend monthly Board of Supervisors meetings — but this time the outcome would have the force of law.

Last November, 56 percent of the voters approved the nonbinding Proposition I, a policy statement saying Mayor Gavin Newsom should attend monthly Board of Supervisor meetings for so-called question time.

In the aftermath of the vote, members of the Board of Supervisors feuded with Newsom over how to implement Prop. I. The board, amid criticism from Newsom, said they were following the will of the voters by adopting a policy that sets aside a portion of every third regularly scheduled meeting of each month for a question-and-answer time with Newsom. To date, Newsom has declined to attend any of the meetings.

Newsom had criticized the board’s question time, saying it would be ineffective and fail to foster dialogue. As an alternative to Prop. I, he offered up monthly town hall-style meetings focused on specific issues and held in city neighborhoods. The first such meeting took place in January.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who conceived of Prop. I, introduced a charter amendment May 22 that would end up on the November ballot if it receives six votes from members of the board. Daly said given Newsom’s “recalcitrance” about showing up at the board for question time, “there’s good reason to move forward with it.”

If voters approve the charter amendment, The City’s mayor would be legally required to attend monthly board meetings.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said the mayor has an “open-door policy” and encourages members of the board to talk with him any time. Ballard suggested the charter amendment would lose at the polls. “I’m not really sure if the voters want to give the Board of Supervisors the power to boss the mayor around right now,” he said.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he advocates Newsom attending question time, but did not feel a charter amendment was the right way to go.

The charter amendment is expected to be heard by a Board of Supervisors committee after 30 days from the day it was submitted.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?


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