Public best served by Ed Jew exit

At this point in the Supervisor Ed Jew saga, it is impossible to escape a conclusion that the west-side member of the Board of Supervisors would have best served his District 4 constituents and the entire San Francisco public by stepping aside last week when Mayor Gavin Newsom requested him to. Newsom was left with little choice except to end the distraction looming over City Hall and commence suspension proceedings.

Jew repeatedly made it clear that he still has every intention of digging in for a last-ditch fight against the rising list of charges filed against him. The supervisor is fully within his rights in insisting that all his legal troubles simply result from a tragic series of misunderstandings.

It remains conceivable that Jew could somehow win the pending city and federal cases against him. But surely it must be evident to any defendant not totally self-deluding that the people who elected him cannot be adequately served while he simultaneously fights two criminal court battles carrying prison sentences.

Ed Jew had time to build sympathy in the court of public opinion, but his changing stories appeared increasingly flimsy. If he had a persuasive case that he lived on 28th Avenue sufficiently to comply with election laws, he could have simply opened his door to the press and demonstrated that the home had furniture and working utilities.

As for Jew’s excuse that the $40,000 he allegedly collected from a tapioca-drink chain to repair their permit problems was merely being passed along to a consultant, apparently that benign spin is unsupported by FBI tapes. The genuinely saddening aspect of Ed Jew’s disgrace is not that the first-term supervisor was a tragic victim, but that his allegedly blatant greed and astonishing hubris have raised enough suspicions to destroy an electoral career that began only this year with such bright promise.

Jew began his public life as an active community advocate, building a foundation of credibility that enabled him to make a close-fought but ultimately successful grass-roots campaign for the Board of Supervisors in 2006. He tapped into Sunset district discontent against the status quo, positioning himself as a maverick who identified with the interests of middle-class taxpayers.

Upon joining the board in January, Jew upheld his maverick image and appeared to be doing a good job for the district. His independent and somewhat unpredictable voting record did not resemble favor-trading business as usual, which won him few friends on the board.

This lack of supervisorial allies is likely to work against Jew when his suspension comes before the board. He is gone if he cannot get backing from two of the 10 eligible votes, an unlikely outcome considering the board’s understandable eagerness to distance itself from the ugly play-for-pay allegations facing Ed Jew.

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