Supervisor John Avalos is hoping to pass a charter amendment that would take away the mayor's power to appoint a new member of the board if a seat opens up before an election. (Cindy Chew/2010 S.F. Examiner)

Voters may be asked to eliminate mayoral appointees to the Board of Supervisors

An effort is underway to strip the mayor of the power to appoint members to the Board of Supervisors when seats become vacant.

That effort would also create a run-off mayoral election under certain conditions and require the president of the board to serve temporarily as acting mayor in the event of a chief executive vacancy.

Supervisor John Avalos has dusted off the proposed charter amendment to try once more, this time for the June ballot (it failed to get board support last year and in 2012). Avalos’ proposal’s chances may improve now that there is a progressive majority on the board.

“When it comes down to it the voters don’t support narrow interests closest to the mayor determining who gets to fill vacant seats,” Avalos said.

Most recently, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Julie Christensen in January to the District 3 seat when David Chiu, who was serving in the post, won an election to state Assembly. She lost in her election bid this past November to Aaron Peskin, who held the same seat between 2001 and 2009.

“The mayor spent so much of his time not even campaigning for his own election but campaigning for his appointee on the Board of Supervisors. It shows that something is really amiss,” Avalos said when he introduced the measure last week. He said voters in District 3 made it clear they prefer having a legislative branch “as independent as it can be and having checks and balances.”

When Avalos attempted similar ballot measures in 2012 and last year without success, the board wasn’t operating with a progressive majority, as it is now with the presence of Peskin.

On Friday, Avalos said that he hasn’t done any “vote counting” to determine whether he has the at least six votes needed to place it on the June ballot.

Still, Avalos can count on at least one supervisor for support. Supervisor Aaron Peskin said on Friday he would support it, which bodes well for shoring up four more votes.

Under the proposal, when a vacancy on the board occurs, the board would select an interim supervisor. An election would be held to fill the vacancy, either a special election or regularly scheduled one if it falls within 180 days. The interim supervisor wouldn’t be eligible to run in the election for the seat.

The measure comes as Supervisor Scott Wiener is competing against Supervisor Jane Kim for state senate. The mayor would appoint, under the current rules, someone to serve in the seat vacated by the winner of that senate seat contest for 18 months until the June 2018 election since there is no election in 2017.

The proposal would also require the board president to serve as acting mayor if the mayor’s post becomes vacant as it did in 2011 when the board voted Ed Lee to serve as interim mayor.

The measure would also change how voters elect their mayor. Currently, the mayor is selected using a ranked choice voting system. Avalos’ proposal would keep the system in place but would require a run-off election of the top two vote getters if one mayoral candidate did not receive more than 50 percent of the first place votes.

Avalos, who came in second in 2011, against Ed Lee in the mayor’s race, which included 15 candidates said that it was “difficult for voters to discern what the differences were between the candidates for mayor that year.”

He said that “having the run-off I think really re-establishes voter engagement and understanding in what is at stake for The City.”

The run-off election would be held the second Tuesday of the following December.

The deadline to place the measure on the June ballot is Feb. 23. The rules do allow for one charter amendment to be placed on the ballot later than the others on March 1.

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