Yee backed for board president by Chinese community

On Guard column header Joe

The race for president is on, and I ain’t talkin’ Trump.

The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on its next president on Tuesday, and the chips seem to be falling for Supervisor Norman Yee, who represents the West Side’s District 7, including Forest Hill and Lakeshore neighborhoods.

The board president sets assignments for board committees, a vital choke-point for new laws developed by the supervisors, and plays a key role in the budget process. The Board of Supervisors themselves vote for their president, and jockey hard for their colleagues’ votes.

While the progressives just won a near supermajority on the board, they’re heatedly split over the seat. To win, someone will have to herd cats.

Right now Supervisors Hillary Ronen (representing the Mission and Portola), Rafael Mandelman (representing the Castro and Noe Valley), Yee, and incoming supervisor Shamann Walton (the Bayview and Potrero Hill) are all in play for the role, I’m told.

Things could be tilting toward Yee, however, as a number of influential advocates from the Chinese community held a press conference to Chinese-language press last week in support of the West Side supervisor.

While the English-language press wasn’t invited, I’m told by organizers that roughly a dozen advocates spoke in favor of Yee, including Anni Chung from Self-Help for the Elderly and Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Community Tenants Association.

Frankly, with the death of Mayor Ed Lee and recent board appointments, advocates are concerned there aren’t enough Chinese representatives on local boards and commissions. Electing Yee to the top board spot would go a long way toward easing tensions.

Kitty Fong, a representative of the Rose Pak Democratic Club, told me “we need more representation in city departments. We’re losing our [Asian Pacific Islander] representation,” especially with supervisors Jane Kim and Katy Tang set to leave the board.

Some supervisors feel Ronen, a progressive, has the experience needed for the job, however.

“I’m running for this position because I’ve worked in this building in the District 9 office for eight years. I know The City inside and out, and how to move an agenda,” she said and is excited to work on homelessness, housing, and other concerns.

She has at least two votes clinched on the board, I’m told, including one from Supervisor Matt Haney.

Haney told me he’s voting for Ronen because the concerns in her district mirror those in the neighborhoods he represents, the more urban South of Market and Tenderloin.

“She’ll be a strong leader,” he said. “I think she understands a lot of the challenges in my district around affordable housing and homelessness.”

Yee seems to have a core bloc of progressive supes on his side — Aaron Peskin, Sandra Fewer, Mandelman, and himself — though he would need a total of six votes to clinch it. But Ronen may have an ace up her sleeve.

I’m told if Ronen can’t get the votes from her fellow progressives, she and another progressive could flip for Walton, delivering him the presidency.

But that play depends on all of the moderate-leaning board members backing Walton, something I’m told isn’t a sure thing. If the mod-squad had one defector to Yee, and another Ronen backer also backed Yee, he would be primed to net the six votes he needs.

Kick up your feet and grab a bowl of popcorn Tuesday. It’ll be a hell of a show.

(Photo courtesy Rose Pak Democratic Club)

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

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