Tuesday night, Jan. 23, 2018, supporters of San Francisco acting Mayor London Breed walked around in a daze in City Hall’s opulent Board of Supervisors chambers, shocked to realize Breed had just been ousted as mayor. One supporter asked, “What is a caretaker mayor anyway?”
Answer: The term “caretaker mayor” was invented by self-serving members of the Board of Supervisors vying to be the next mayor of San Francisco in the November 2011 election.
The leading candidates had a conundrum on their hands. And the solution was called “caretaker mayor.” It was, and still is, a political scam that may have led to the untimely death of SF Mayor Ed Lee and did cost his successor, London Breed, her rightful place as “acting mayor” of San Francisco per the city charter.
Gavin Newsom was mayor of San Francisco at the time as members of the Board of Supervisors lined up in hopes of succeeding him. But Newsom had to give up the San Francisco mayor’s office 10 months early to be sworn in as California’s lieutenant governor, the seat he won in the November 2010 election.
The board debated who should serve the remaining 10 months of Newsom’s term as mayor, knowing that the person selected, who would have the advantage of incumbency, would likely be elected. They came up with a scheme they called “caretaker mayor,” a person who would be willing to serve as mayor for the 10 months and promise not to run in the election at the end of the term. That plan would give all the supervisors, who were the top mayoral candidates, an equal chance at winning the upcoming regular election.
But the scheme backfired when the person they selected was Ed Lee. Lee was a dedicated longtime city employee who did not want to be mayor. But who could blame Lee for accepting the position when his wife, two daughters, then Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown and friend and “power broker” the late Rose Pak were in his ear telling him to take the job “temporarily.”
Ed Lee may have been naïve to think he could be mayor temporarily, but politicians like Willie Brown, Rose Pak and Gavin Newsom certainly were not naïve when they decided to play along with the Board of Supervisors scheme. When the election loomed, Ed Lee ran and won.
Not learning from their flawed scheme, the Board of Supervisors used an indefensible reason to oust London Breed as acting mayor. The reason? “Fairness.”
But if a caretaker mayor was created by politicians to prevent an unfair advantage for any candidate, what is so fair about four White politicians — Peskin, Ronen, Farrell and Sheehy — conspiring to oust one Black politician, Breed?
Supervisor Aaron Peskin blamed San Francisco billionaire Ron Conway for Breed’s ouster. Conway, who was a huge financial backer of Ed Lee, couldn’t wait for Lee to be buried when he went stumping for Lee’s successor, who the billionaire thought should be London Breed.
As tacky as it was for Conway to endorse Breed at the Ed Lee family memorial, Peskin’s penalizing Breed for what Conway did is disingenuous at best. Furthermore, Peskin saying the conspiracy “wasn’t so much about elevating one white man, it was about sending a message to another white man, a tech titan billionaire named Ron Conway, that San Francisco cannot be bought” should not pass muster with even the most gullible San Franciscans. A billionaire can always find another in-office politician, especially in San Francisco City Hall.
Many praised Supervisor Hillary Ronen for the speech she gave prior to the nominations and vote — 10 minutes of tear-stained distortions of what San Francisco has become, sprinkled with the truth — reporting that Ron Conway had bullied some supervisors with threats to ruin their political careers if they did not support Breed.
Ronen praised Breed, then, minus a shred of evidence, blatantly accused Breed of being a potential puppet mayor for a rich White man, Ron Conway. London Breed should tell Hillary Ronen EXACTLY what she told those who thought she was a puppet of San Francisco’s most famous politician, the Honorable Willie L. Brown Jr.
Ronen’s rant was full of false praise for Breed’s supporters, who then had to watch Ronen and her co-conspirators evict Breed, who pulled herself up out of poverty to lead San Francisco. That backroom deal to hoist a rich White man over a Black woman two days after the national Women’s March gave Ronen’s White privilege a fresh coat of white paint.
But her opening demand to turn the city “upside down!” only lasted the length of her speech. She blamed all rich White males for all that is wrong in the city but then voted for one of the city’s oppressors, as she describes them.
Mark Farrell, a straight White male venture capitalist who represents the part of San Francisco where the 1 percent live, choice of the conspirators, according to the SF Examiner received $49,999 for one of Farrell’s initiatives from Ron Conway, the same billionaire that Ronen accused of being what is wrong with San Francisco.
The only way to justify her pathetic 10-minute political rant and subsequent vote for Mark Farrell is to assume she was and is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
The late Ed Lee must be glad he is not around to take the blame for appointing Supervisor Jeff Sheehy. All anyone heard from this supervisor after the death of Mayor Lee was that he would support Breed, though he did express his belief that Breed had too much power as both acting mayor and Board of Supervisors president. But, as Willie Brown wrote in the Sunday, Jan. 28, Chronicle, “(T)hey could simply have voted for Breed as interim mayor. That would have forced her to give up her supervisor’s seat.”
But like his own campaign for the supervisor’s race in November 2018, Sheehy realized he was in way over his head. Forgetting what Ed Lee had done for him when he gave the HIV positive politician a chance, Sheehy changed his vote at the last minute by voting “No” for London Breed and “Yea” to Mark Farrell, becoming the swing vote credited for ousting Breed as acting mayor.
Supervisor Mark Farrell announced he would not run for mayor in June 2018, so he could “spend more time with his family.” He spoke with a voice full of surprise, saying he was “honored and humbled” at being named mayor by the board.
But when I saw him standing with his wife and kids all dressed in their Sunday best so shortly after his election, I knew this vote had been set in motion way before. You don’t get the wife and kids dressed and down to City Hall that fast from your home in the Marina District; they had to have known the fix was in.
For Supervisor Norman Yee to really believe the reason he gave for voting for Mark Farrell is too hard to swallow. Yee said that then Supervisor Farrell, who was convicted for collecting illegal campaign proceeds of $191,000 and refused to return the funds after accepting responsibility for the violation, was a good choice to help with the City’s upcoming budget process.
Farrell agreed to pay a fine of only $25,000 when he wore down an understaffed SF Ethics Commission. But in its ruling, the Ethics Commission blasted Farrell as “lacking integrity.” That was way before he sat and listened to his colleagues blast Conway, knowing he’d received nearly $50,000 from the billionaire, then “humbly” accepted their votes as mayor.
Supervisor Yee must have been out of the country when this same Supervisor Mark Farrell sold out the Bayview Hunters Point communities with the Candlestick Park lease. In May of 2012, Farrell convinced the full board to allow the San Francisco 49ers out of the final year’s Candlestick Park lease of $5 million for just $1 million. The team was not strapped for cash; they bragged about building their new $1.3 BILLION stadium 40 miles south of Bayview Hunters Point, where the stadium had been a job generator for over 45 years.
The first candidate to announce he was running for mayor after the death of Ed Lee was former supervisor and state senator Mark Leno. In support of a caretaker mayor, Leno was quoted as saying: “For the good of The City, there should be an open and fair election.” Really?
This candidate is using $400,000 in funds he raised to campaign for mayor in 2019 for his mayoral run in the special election in June 2018. A competing candidate, Angela Alioto, is suing. If that is Leno’s definition of a fair election, he should not be allowed to handle budgeting should he become our mayor.
In an earlier legislative blow to Bayview Hunters Point, Leno wrote the legislation that GAVE Candlestick Parkland to Lennar, which had such a bad reputation in the neighborhood, they changed their name.
If only the San Francisco Black community and its allies will rise, this 2018 version of the Board of Supervisor’s caretaker scam — this blatant display of White privilege and power — will backfire in the June 5, 2018, San Francisco election. During her 42 days in Room 200, acting Mayor London Breed demonstrated she can lead San Francisco.
When a reporter asked Breed if racism was the reason she was unseated as mayor, she refused to agree. She respects her colleagues and city government enough not accuse them, despite what her colleagues did to her in an ugly display of what is truly wrong with San Francisco City Hall.
The rich straight White male billionaire got it right. That London Breed is the best candidate to lead San Francisco is shown by her leadership when Ed Lee died and her grace when she was viciously ousted as acting mayor by White privilege.