Supervisor Katy Tang emerged as the Board of Supervisors' interim president Tuesday, beating out at least three other colleagues in serious contention for the influential spot by becoming the self-proclaimed reluctant and compromise choice.
Minutes before the 2 p.m. Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Supervisor John Avalos said he was unsure about what was going to happen on the vote to succeed outgoing President David Chiu. When asked if she was going to be selected as interim president, Tang said, “I hope not,” as she headed into the meeting.
But in the end, the District 4 supervisor was the only one nominated for the position. It came from Supervisor Mark Farrell, who himself was said to be vying for the post, but apparently unable to gain the needed six votes.
The debate on electing interim president did not begin until 6:44 p.m. But about 40 minutes later, it culminated in an 8-0 decision for Tang. Avalos and Supervisor Eric Mar had left the room before the vote to protest making a decision when their colleague Supervisor David Campos was absent from the meeting.
Chiu scheduled the vote last week days after beating Campos in the contentious state Assembly District 17 race. Chiu, who had served as president since January 2009, will be sworn in at Sacramento on Dec. 1.
“Ten of us are going to work with the new president and to have one missing, it doesn't feel right. It's not collegial,” Mar said of his choice to miss the vote.
A motion to not vote on the issue Tuesday was defeated in a 6-4 vote, with supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Mar and Avalos supporting the postponement.
Supervisor Scott Wiener and Chiu said there was a need to vote before a vacancy occurred to ensure a seamless transition.
“We will have a board president ready to go. It makes all the sense to do it now,” Wiener said, dismissing criticism that the timing of the vote was “undemocratic” or “nefarious.” “The fact is that Supervisor Campos today chose to … leave the country on vacation instead of coming to the board meeting. I would love to leave the country and go on vacation today.”
Perhaps a hint that Chiu would back Tang for the post came when he asked her to serve as stand-in president when the board voted to approve Chiu's controversial Airbnb short-term rental legislation last month. Afterwards, Chiu's legislative aide praised Tang's performance.
Tang was appointed in February 2013 to the District 4 seat, which includes the Sunset, by Mayor Ed Lee after it was left vacant when Carmen Chu was named city assessor-recorder. In the months that followed her appointment, Tang ran for election and won handedly. Prior to her appointment, Tang worked as Chu's legislative aide after working in the mayor's budget office.
With Tang's selection, the ongoing power struggle among the top contenders for the president position, Kim, London Breed and Farrell may persist. The interim president seat lasts until Jan. 8 when the board is required to vote for a president to serve a full two-year term.
Tang declined to say if she would want to serve a two-year term.
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Tang said.
Breed said she would support a two-year term for Tang.
“I consider Katy an ally on the board. We work very well together. For me, I was happy to support her,” Breed said after the vote. “That's going to be her decision. I think she would do a great job.”
The vote took place despite a strongly worded letter sent to the Board of Supervisor hours before the meeting from former board presidents, including Aaron Peskin, Quentin Kopp, Harry Britt, Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez, which objected to Chiu being allowed to vote on the interim president. They said it is “disturbing and connotes a fundamental disservice to the body upon which he has served.”
While the interim president would have an advantage in securing a two-year term on Jan. 8, Mar said it's far from a lock.
“Anything can happen between now and the eighth,” Mar said. “A lot of people will probably be vying for the board presidency still.”