San Francisco's Next Mayor: Hard Facts to Dispel the Hot Air

Categories: Politics
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'You look like an able-bodied young gent. How's being mayor appeal to you?'
It's amateur hour at City Hall. No, really. Yesterday, after a plan to quickly select Gavin Newsom's successor predictably fizzled --- homeless men passed out in the streets knew Supervisors Chris Daly, John Avalos, and David Campos didn't have the votes. Why didn't they? -- the progressive supes instead called for public input in naming the next mayor.

You mean San Franciscans need encouragement to totter up to the dais during board meetings and tell the supervisors how it is? Who knew?

The notion of folks taking a break from yammering to the supes about vast conspiracies undertaken by the library system or how Smart Meters are melting our brains to instead advocate for their mayor of choice will certainly bring only clarity to the process.

If you're confused, here's the succession scenario stripped down to as simple as we can make it:

The basics are, well, basic: If six members of the current board can agree on a mayoral successor, that "interim mayor" can be appointed and take power when Newsom leaves to assume the reins of lieutenant governor, ostensibly on Jan. 3.

If the supes can't make up their minds, Board President David Chiu automatically becomes "acting mayor." (and earns far, far less than an "interim mayor," incidentally). If Chiu is unseated as board president when four new supes are sworn in on Jan. 8, would he then be out as acting mayor? So it would seem.

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Here's what is clear: If the current board designates an interim mayor, that person can't be discarded willy-nilly by the new board. But if no decision is made, the new board can either pick up the process or leave the board president in charge until the winner of the Nov. 2011 mayoral election is sworn in.

Here, by the way, is the official memorandum on mayoral succession.

Finally, Mayor Gavin Newsom has been making noise about delaying his lt. gov swearing-in to prevent the current board from selecting the next mayor (but, really, to spit in Daly's eye one last time). This, in the end, is likely just noise.

As Melissa Griffin laid out, in order for Newsom to claim he has the right and ability to alter the course of mayoral selection by not resigning, he'd have to claim a distinction between his term as mayor being automatically "vacated" when his state office begins on Jan. 3 and the "resignation" from office demanded by San Francisco's city charter prior to a successor mayor being named. San Francisco rules forbid Newsom from holding two jobs simultaneously, so he's finished as mayor as soon as his lieutenant governor term commences. 

Does Newsom really want to parse the distinction between his position being "vacated" and "resigning" -- and claim he's doing it for the greater good? At the very best, this is a duplicitous thing to do. At worst, it's actionable.

But we'll have no action in the short term. Just lots of talking. And hot air.

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