At today’s (Tue/15) Board of Supervisors’ meeting, members of the board voted 6-5 against placing a proposal on the November ballot that would create special elections when vacancies arise on the Board or in the Mayor’s Office.
If approved by voters, the measure would have immediate impacts on San Francisco’s political landscape. Board President David Chiu is vying for a seat in the California Assembly against Sup. David Campos, which will leave a vacancy on the board one way or another.
But Sup. John Avalos, who authored the charter amendment proposal, noted that “this measure is not about any existing mayor or any existing supervisor.” Instead, Avalos described the measure as a bid to make city policy more democratic.
“It will allow voters to decide who fills vacancies in special elections,” Avalos said.
As things stand, when a supervisor’s seat is vacated, it’s up to the mayor to appoint that official’s replacement. When a mayor’s seat is vacated, a much more rare occurrence, it’s up to “a small minority of people – us,” to appoint the city’s top elected official, Avalos said. “This shapes how decisions are made, often behind closed doors.”
Taking this question to voters via special election would ultimately be more democratic, he added. “If you are on the fence on this measure, I hope you can still send this ballot measure over to the voters,” Avalos told his colleagues.
Sups. London Breed, Katy Tang, and Scott Wiener each spoke in opposition to the idea.
“It’s not a perfect system, but no system ever is,” Breed said. “I’m not sure what problem we’re trying to solve with changing the charter.”
Wiener sounded a similar note. “There are various ways you can do it, and no way is necessarily better or worse,” he said of the current system for appointing vacancies. “I don’t see how the system that we have is in any way broken.”
But Sup. David Campos chimed in to challenge that framing. “The question before this board is not, what is the best system? … The question is a lot simpler than that,” Campos said, “Since we are talking about democracy. The question is: Will we give voters in SF the opportunity to decide for themselves what the best system is? Let’s not you and I pre-judge what the voters are going to say.”
In the end the measure failed six to five, with Sups. Mar, Avalos, Campos, Chiu, and Jane Kim voting in favor.