Our good friends at City Hall are holding a holiday party this weekend, but don’t expect to find our next mayor all neatly wrapped under a tree.
That’s because most sane people would never even consider taking on the role of slashing jobs and departments for the next year and then hope that all the good union members fighting desperately against those cuts would then support that person to continue in the post for the next four years.
And that’s why the job of interim San Francisco mayor likely won’t be filled by the current Board of Supervisors, which is the way it should have been all along, since it’s the next group that will be saddled with the task of erasing the many zeroes in a $400 million budget deficit.
The circus atmosphere that has enveloped the gilded dome since Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to pack his bags to be the next lieutenant governor of California reached its clownish conclusion this week when the only person known to have the six votes needed to succeed Newsom for a year — Assemblyman Tom Ammiano — declined the nomination. The board booted the decision to next week, but chances are they will continue rolling until January, when four new supervisors will be seated, and a more rational approach is adopted after Chris Daly finally leaves the board.
Daly has led the effort to put someone very much like himself into Room 200, a “progressive” power play that has left its practitioners huffing and puffing without any noticeable gain. Daly likened the exercise of choosing an interim mayor to kicking the tires on a car — which may extend to his future role as a salesman, but is probably not the best way to pick the person charged with leading San Francisco for the next year.
Ammiano, to his credit, could see the dead-end sign up ahead and chose reality over vanity, resisting the lure of the left for what its leaders see as a rare opportunity to wrestle the mayor’s job away from a moderate populace that remembers the wreckage of Art Agnos’ tenure from 20 years ago.
No one knows that better than Ammiano, who had a credible run for mayor against Willie Brown, and then ran a second time as the prohibitive “progressive” favorite, only to be cast aside by his so-called loyalists for a new flavor that emerged in the form of Matt Gonzalez in 2003. It was a bitter defeat for Ammiano, who understands that The City’s ultra-liberal contingent is so fractionalized and fickle that it would sacrifice anyone, and since he just got re-elected to a new four-year term, he doesn’t need to be caught up in some narrow political agenda.
Right now, most of the intrigue is centered on board President David Chiu, who, depending on whom you talk to, is currently the most powerful person at City Hall or the weakest.
Chiu is considered the swing vote for the mayoral pick, and could possibly toss the choice for the moderate wing of the board or throw it to the left-leaning majority, but doesn’t have strong support from either side. And when you add in the fact that Chiu is cautious to the point of paralysis, you will understand why some of his colleagues say he is like a contestant on “Survivor” — stuck on his own island.
This much we know: Chiu desperately wants to remain board president, and in lieu of that, would very much appreciate it if Newsom would pick him to be the interim district attorney so he would have the jump on a growing field of candidates when the election is held in November.
But Newsom doesn’t really have to make any deal — he can just sit there Yoda-like until the board makes a decision on who will replace him, and then he can quash it if the pick displeases him. And if it turned out that the selection was Agnos, it would displease him mightily.
That’s why as much as Daly’s mouth churns, it’s merely a rhetorical exercise.
It might be different if we were talking about removing Happy Meals for children. But there’s little appetite for being served up on a platter.
Ken Garcia appears Thursdays and Sundays in The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.