After two months of confusion and secret discussions at City Hall, a caretaker mayor — who will run the city until voters can elect their own in June — has been selected. Supervisor Mark Farrell will hold the temporary position.
The decision is an interesting one, as many believed Farrell was in the running for June’s mayoral race. But in December, shortly before the holiday, he announced he was not in fact going to campaign for the position.
The long-awaited process of nominating a mayor was revived by Board Clerk Angela Calvillo, who used a similar tactic to that which was used to elect Mayor Ed Lee as a caretaker mayor in 2011. But during the last few weeks, much of this process has been figured out in the moment. “Nobody thinks about these things until they happen,” Supervisor Peskin said.
At 3 p.m., the process began … sort of. A public comment period for the community to speak its piece — just on whether or not the Board should even have a nomination process for caretaker mayor — took more than two hours. Lines stretched around the edge of the large chamber, and even more people against the marble walls in the hallway outside, waiting their turn to enter.
Overall, the speakers seemed split 50/50 on whether or not Acting Mayor London Breed should be promoted to interim mayor, or that a caretaker mayor should be nominated by the Board. Many who took the mic listed Breed’s qualifications to hold the role. Some cited the challenges African Americans have to obtain and hold positions of power in a largely racist society.
Others called for a “fair election,” claiming that Breed’s role as an incumbent would act as an advantage to her campaign in a city that favors politicians who currently hold office.
And some raised concerns about the population of District 5, who — if the situation remains the same — would have to share their supervisor with the entire city.
“We have a huge array of things that need working on,” said commenter Lorraine Petty about District 5, which includes Upper and Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, Western Addition, and the Inner Sunset. “I think we need a supervisor who gives 100 percent of his or her attention to these problems. We need as much low and middle income housing as we can get. We need protections for all of our tenants. We need our streets repaired. We need safer streets, desperately … We need equitable solutions for the failed promises to the residents of Midtown Apartments.”
The Board did vote to continue with nominations, and each had ten minutes to speak. Supervisor Hillary Ronen made a powerful case for a caretaker mayor, stating that she had not chosen a mayoral candidate yet as she did not believe that any had voiced support for the issues her district most needed — housing, homelessness, and displacement, among others. Ronen also slammed Breed and tech mogul Ron Conway’s endorsement of her as mayor.
“There are white rich men — billionaires in this city, who have steered this city … that have gotten us in the absolute mess we’re in today,” she said. She concluded by stating that she would vote for any nomination she believed would get the six votes needed to win the seat.
On her turn to speak, Supervisor Malia Cohen nominated Breed, who accepted the nomination and subsequently left the meeting, as any further participation would be a conflict of interest. Her supporters in the audience began chanting “London, London,” and Supervisor Katy Tang took over running the meeting.
Supervisor Norman Yee nominated Supervisor Mark Farrell, who accepted. Supervisor Sandra Fewer nominated Supervisor Jane Kim, who declined, and called for an open mayoral race with no incumbent, which she said voters haven’t had in 15 years. Kim said she would have nominated City Administrator Naomi Kelly, but that Kelly told her she would decline.
In the end, it was Farrell who won the nomination, with only Breed and Cohen voting no. The audience then exploded, with shouts of “racist” and “shame on you” emanating across the chamber, as the sheriffs stepped between them and the supervisors to keep the peace.
Breed re-entered the room a little dazed, and Calvillo stumbled over her title before settling on president – referencing her role as President of the Board of Supervisors. Up until five minutes earlier, her title had been acting mayor.
This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.