Following “offensive” comments by her colleague Supervisor Chris Daly, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier said she plans to introduce rules of conduct — along with penalties for violation of the terms — for the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors.
The Board of Supervisors has no recourse to reprimand members for so-called inappropriate behavior other than to issue public statements of admonishment or to approve a motion to censure, which carries no penalties, but represents a strong public rebuke.
On Wednesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to members of the board asking them to “take action to address Supervisor [Chris] Daly’s conduct.” During a hearing Tuesday, Daly criticized Newsom for his proposed funding cuts to certain health services at the same time that Newsom “artfully dodges every question about allegations in his own cocaine use.”
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he publicly admonished Daly for his comments and no further action was necessary.
“His [Daly’s] actions were offensive and inappropriate,” Alioto-Pier said. “We have to figure out how we can control decorum. Before Supervisor Daly, there was no need for this.”
Alioto-Pier declined to go into detail about the rules of conduct or what the penalties would be.
Daly did not immediately return phone calls from The Examiner. On Wednesday, Daly defended his comments as being “germane” to the discussion.
In 2004, Alioto-Pier introduced a motion to censure Daly, after he told an audience of a board committee hearing to “f— off” and then walked out of the room. The motion did not pass, receiving support from only Alioto-Pier and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd.
Elsbernd said the idea of rules of conduct for board members also came up in 2004. “I wasn’t excited about it [then] because, frankly, the notion of having to do a code of conduct for 11, presumably mature individuals, seemed a little over the top. But perhaps recent actions merit the need for it.”
Board elections’ structure questioned
Recent City Hall scandals surrounding two members of the Board of Supervisors have revived questions about whether district elections best serve San Francisco residents.
District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly drew admonishment this week from Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin for raising allegations of cocaine use by Mayor Gavin Newsom during a public hearing. The Mayor’s Office immediately called for a censure of Daly, while Newsom publicly denied he ever used cocaine.
District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew is under investigation by the FBI for reportedly accepting $40,000 in cash from business owners seeking help in obtaining city permits and also faces two separate legal actions based on allegations that he lied about where he lived in order to run for office.
Daly is on the far left, and Jew, on the far right. In all likelihood, experts say, neither would have prevailed in citywide elections.
Political analyst David Latterman said the recent scandals are enough to prompt a questioning of why there are district elections, but not enough to create a push for change.
Downtown business groups advocate for citywide elections since it would result in more moderate board members more likely to speak to their interests. Also, advocates of a citywide election say that only a few thousand voters shouldn’t decide who should makes decisions that impact the entire city. Jew was elected with 5,125 votes and Daly with 8,654.
Nathan Nayman, executive director of the downtown business group Committee on Jobs, said there has been an ongoing debate over district elections since they were re-enacted by voters in 2000, but said there is no active push to do away with them.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said that “the knee-jerk reaction is just a repeal of district elections and go straight back to citywide.” He added, however, that “in doing that, you forget about what the benefits are of district elections, which is direct accountability and direct representation.”
Newsom said Thursday that he “never liked” district elections, although he was “not promoting that we remove them.”
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said there is no need for a change.
Peskin added that “individuals are getting better attention under a district-elected system than under a citywide one.”