District 5 update: New borders and a new name in the running 

“What’s the rush? He’s got until Tuesday,” said a friend who works at City Hall.  It was Thursday and I had been pestering him to give up the identity of the mayor’s appointment to the vacant seat on the Board of Supervisors for District 5.

Former District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was sworn in as Sheriff yesterday, so the seat is officially empty.

At first I was just convinced that the mayor was giving us the same familiar serving of baloney we saw when he pretended to be “on the fence” about whether he would run for mayor. It was clear then that Lee just wanted to stall and keep the peace until the budget was passed and he could take credit for pension reform and the streets bond.

So what’s the reason for Lee’s delay on the District 5 appointment? As I gossiped with my favorite political consultant on Wednesday night, we got to the issue of the redistricting commission. “They are meeting tonight to roll out the initial maps,” he told me.

“Oh, cool,” I thought and wrote a note to myself to follow up with people who were there to see if anything interesting had happened.

It was only on Thursday, when it was clear that the mayor felt no sense of urgency, that I put two and two together.

To be clear, I think the mayor was waiting to see the newly proposed district lines. He wants to appoint someone who could keep the seat in the November 2012 elections and that depends somewhat on the contours of the district.

I dug around some more and sure enough, the maps revealed on Wednesday night show a District 5 with a North of Panhadle neighborhood lopped off and put into District 2. Sources tell me that this is a problem for London Breed, the Executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex whose popularity is seen as concentrated in that area. Without it, her ability to be elected is more questionable.

As I have written before, the seat was down to Breed and Planning Commissioner Christine Olague. So do the new district lines mean that Olague will get the seat? Not necessarily. A new name has emerged as a real option: Bill Barnes.

Barnes is a former legislative aide to then-Supervisor Michela Altioto-Pier and – get this – was also an aide to then-Supervisor Chris Daly. Clearly, Barnes can operate in varied camps and folks seem to think he has enough progressive credibility to get re-elected and maybe prevent other progs like Daly from mounting a challenge. Barnes lost to Mirkrimi in D5 back in 2004, and would probably be happy for another shot at the seat. Barnes strikes me as independent-minded, so I asked an insider whether Barnes could be counted on to be an ally of the mayor. "Ed trusted Bill to to run his day to day campaign [for mayor]," I was reminded. 

Of course, this is San Francisco: where anything can happen and frequently does. When His Highness, Edwin Lee the Ponderer decides to name a replacement for the D5 seat, we'll be right here with all the dicey details. 

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Melissa Griffin

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