Assessor Carmen Chu: What Comes Next

Carmen Chu by Koozmin.jpg
Mike Koozmin | San Francisco Examiner
Carmen Chu is movin' on up
The announcement today that Mayor Ed Lee has appointed moderate stalwart and diligent number-cruncher Supervisor Carmen Chu to the vacant Assessor-Recorder position is a bit like the revelation that the boat sinks at the end of Titanic. A great deal of time was expended before exactly what everyone knew was going to happen happened.

But now that the predictable move has gone from being a fait accompli to accompli, interest shifts to what comes next. Rabid political observers will focus on who will be tapped to replace Chu as District 4 supe. But it's also worth looking at what may happen in the assessor's office.

Since so few people ever pay attention to the assessor's office -- and it brings in around 39 percent of the General Fund's revenue, while sufficing on about 0.39 percent of the General Fund. So, let's start there.

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Appointing a sitting supervisor to assessor is a move ripped from the shrewd mayor playbook. It's a way to reward loyal soldiers -- both the incoming supe and the outgoing one -- and form a board in line with a mayor's vision. It helps, however, to put someone in the assessor's office who's qualified to hold the job. When Mayor Frank Jordan appointed Supervisor Doris Ward to the post, the result was an unmitigated disaster. Ward's lax and spectacularly incompetent management of the office allowed the city's wealthiest corporations and individuals to keep millions of dollars that could have gone to run the city.

It certainly worked out for somebody.

SF Weekly's calls to various San Francisco politicos have not all been returned. But no one is going to mistake Chu for Ward. The former is a respected budget expert; the list of city officials more knowledgeable about the minutiae of the budget than Chu is itself minute. And, unlike the assessor she replaces, Assemblyman Phil Ting, it's hard to imagine Chu using the job as a springboard for higher office as a serial candidate. Scouring property rolls is the kind of thing Chu would likely enjoy. On a weekend.

Your humble narrator has written several stories about troubling developments within Ting's office (see here and here). It will, for lack of a better word, be interesting to see how Chu -- who has a squeaky clean reputation -- deals with things like this.

If Chu doesn't have her eyes on higher office, it figures she won't make splashy pronouncements like her predecessor did. She figures to run a quieter and, perhaps, more conflict-averse office. And, the way the wind is blowing in San Francisco, it also figures that there will be a lot more real-estate doings in the years to come -- making for a busier assessor-recorder.

As for who will succeed Chu: This is a mind-boggling question. Her ascension to the post of assessor was the worst-kept secret in City Hall -- so why extra time is needed to search for a replacement is uncertain. Since Ting's victory in his Assembly race was all but certain, you'd think Lee et al. would have their act together by now.

It's no secret that Lee and longtime friend Rose Pak haven't been exactly on the best of terms of late. Perhaps this has something to do with it. Perhaps.

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