Controversy swirls around board president vote 

click to enlarge David Chiu is leaving the Board of Supervisors after being elected to the California Assembly, which opens up a seat and also the board presidency. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • David Chiu is leaving the Board of Supervisors after being elected to the California Assembly, which opens up a seat and also the board presidency.

The timeline for when the Board of Supervisors should vote on who will serve as interim president turned into a guessing game around City Hall in recent days. And while the latest twist has the decision coming as early as next week, that may not happen since one supervisor will be out of town.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who will be replaced after winning a seat in the California Assembly last week, submitted a motion Wednesday to allow the board to vote on an interim president at its upcoming Tuesday meeting. The deadline for the motion was Wednesday.

Chiu, who won the heated District 17 Assembly race against Supervisor David Campos, will be sworn in as successor to Tom Ammiano on Dec. 1 -- leaving the board without a president and District 3 without a supervisor. He has held both posts since January 2009.

But there's a catch: Campos won't be attending the meeting next week since he is on vacation with his family, his legislative aide Hillary Ronen said. However, the Campos camp is confident the vote will not take place.

"We're not too worried about it," Ronen said, noting that it takes only one supervisor to send the motion to a board committee, which would prevent the full board from voting on it next week. "People knew he was going to be away. I'd love to know the intention behind [Chiu's motion]."

It may seem more logical to vote for who should take over as board president when there is an actual vacancy. The earliest that could happen would be Dec. 9.

But Board of Supervisors Clerk Angela Calvillo sent out a memo late Friday to board members with her recommendations for the process, which included taking action before the actual vacancy since "it allows the board to have a president at all times."

"I am appreciative of our board Clerk Calvillo's perspective that we should not have a time period where there is a no board president," Chiu told The San Francisco Examiner. "I support the board deciding as soon as possible when to do this."

Chiu said he will hold on to the role until he is sworn in as assemblyman Dec. 1. He declined to say who he would support for interim president.

"I'm in conversations with colleagues and I look forward to continued conversations," Chiu said.

Names of those in the running are Jane Kim, London Breed and Mark Farrell. The president's post is often called the second-most powerful political position in San Francisco after to the mayor.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said he supports a prevacancy decision.

"It makes sense to have a board president elected and ready to take office seamlessly when David Chiu leaves for Sacramento," Wiener said.

That may prove to be harder than it sounds. Campos is away Tuesday and at the Nov. 25 meeting, the last one before Chiu is sworn in to his Assembly seat, Supervisor Malia Cohen said she will be absent.

Not only that, but some of Chiu's colleagues don't want Chiu, who has often acted as a key swing vote on controversial issues at the board, to vote on the matter.

Supervisor Eric Mar told The Examiner that it was "premature to vote that early," but if the board did, he would support Campos, the most senior member, for interim president.

"He has shown tremendous leadership at the board level," Mar said of Campos.

Mar said that Chiu should not be allowed to cast a vote.

"He's not even going to be here," Mar said of Chiu. "The 10 of the rest of us, plus if his replacement is chosen, should be the ones deciding who should be interim and who should be the board president for the next two years."

But Chiu countered that "I think the full board, all 11 members, ought to take a vote on it. We all have perspectives on this. I certainly have a perspective on wanting to see a future board president who is fair, balanced and able to hammer out consensus on the difficult questions of the day."

He added that "my constituents of District 3 would also want a District 3 representative to cast a vote."

Supervisor John Avalos said the board should wait until Dec. 9.

"It should happen when we need it to happen," he said. "I think David Chiu has left the board, I don't think he should be part of the process. It should be the remaining members."

If the board appoints an interim president, then it would have to vote again on board president for a full two-year term Jan. 8, under City Charter rules.

Mayor Ed Lee has the authority over appointing Chiu's replacement as supervisor. If the mayor waits until Jan. 9 then the appointee can serve for 10 years. If he does it before, it would only be six years.

A rumored front-runner is Cindy Wu, current chairwoman of the Planning Commission and a community planner with the Chinatown Community Development Center, a nonprofit housing provider.

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