Has Gavin Newsom Outfoxed Supes in Appointments Battle?

Gavin Newsom loves recess, too...
Getting someone appointed to a city commission these days is a contact sport. Mayor Gavin Newsom dragged his feet filling gaping vacancies on the appointed boards that, ostensibly, run a big chunk of this city -- then progressive supervisors made some of those appointments all but recite the alphabet backwards while walking a straight line before waving them through.

This morning, however, Newsom may have found a clever -- but backhanded -- way to kick sand in the supes' faces. He's swearing in a mother lode of commission appointments. And, with the Board of Supervisors on recess for virtually the entire next month, a number of them will be legally confirmed before the supes have a chance to make an official peep about it. Here's how that works:

Board appointments fall into two legal categories. With some commissions -- such as the Fire Commission, Art Commission, and Airport Commission -- appointees are automatically pproved if the Board of Supervisors don't take any action within 30 days. That language in the city charter doesn't make exceptions for Board of Supes' recesses -- so with the supes on vacation from Aug. 10 to Sept. 7 a number of today's appointees are likely de-facto approved; it's akin to a presidential recess appointment.

Sure, the supes could hustle in Rules Committee and theoretically vote down an objectionable appointment on Aug. 10 -- but, realistically, that'd take an act of God. And God rarely shows up at Rules Committee.

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Looks like Gavin had his thinking cap on...
Meanwhile, other commissioners -- Police Commissioners, Planning Commissioners, Port Redevelopment Agency members -- cannot start serving until they are given the supes' blessing. That being said, if the supes take no action within 60 days on such commissioners, they are automatically in. The first nearly 40 days are now spoken for. Is it within the supes' ability to miss the full 60 days and allow an appointee onto a commission through sheer neglect? Our City Hall sources say this kind of behavior isn't out of the question.

Incidentally, Newsom's move, while a tactical winner, requires something of a political meanstreak. Yes, he's going to get what he wants politically. But several commissions -- struggling with vacancies he did not lift a finger to fill -- were not able to make quorum in recent weeks and simply couldn't meet. The mayor's strategy would seem to require a valuation of politics over government -- or, perhaps, the tacit admission that these boards are so dysfunctional it doesn't matter whether they meet or not. This is a possibility.

Not even those steeped in City Hall intrigue, by the way, really know who'll be appointed today. Traditionally, appointees are informed they need to get City Hall and get sworn in; if they blab about it the information gets out. If not, it doesn't. Our messages to Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker yesterday requesting a list of who'll be sworn in today were not returned. Big surprise.

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