Caretaker mayor concept blasted by Daly


There's been much talk about naming a “caretaker mayor” to replace Mayor Gavin Newsom in January – most of it coming from downtown-oriented politicians, advocates, and publications, who are in the minority on the Board of Supervisors – but Sup. Chris Daly offered a full-throated denunciation of the idea this week.

At the end of Tuesday's long debate on adopting a procedure for choosing a successor mayor, Daly appealed to his colleagues, “Can we please spend a minute talking about what we'd like to see in the new mayor of San Francisco?” And in his remarks that followed, he focused on shooting down the notion that a caretaker mayor is what this troubled city needs.

The idea behind a caretaker would be to choose a technocrat who would pledge not to run for reelection in the fall, thus keeping any prospective candidate from gaining an advantage from incumbency. Names most frequently cited by moderate politicians and media voices are SFPUC head Ed Harrington, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, and City Administrator Ed Lee. Some more progressive caretaker names that get dropped include former Mayor Art Agnos and SF Democratic Party chair Aaron Peskin.

But Daly – publicly sounding a perspective that's been widely discussed in progressive circles, who question why the board's progressive majority would purposefully punt away the chance to lead – said the idea is fundamentally flawed: “You would be putting someone in office who is necessarily weak and hamstrung.”

While Daly acknowledges that he'd like to see a progressive in Room 200 and that “the political divide is real” between progressives and moderates, he said the flaws in installing a caretaker mayor should be apparent to everyone. To deal with a $400 million deficit and other structural budget issues, the new mayor is going to have to show leadership and have a base of support, which a caretaker mayor wouldn't.

Although the Hearst-owned Chronicle has been promoting the idea of a caretaker mayor now, Daly noted that the Hearst-owned Examiner editorialized against the idea last time the city was in this position, in 1978 after Mayor George Moscone was assassinated and the board picked Dianne Feinstein to become mayor. “The City should not have to accept a “caretaker” mayor invested with only a thin veneer of authority,” editorialized the Examiner.

“It would be a colossal mistake,” Daly said of choosing a caretaker mayor. “We need to do better than just someone who knows the inner workings of city government.”

But the fear that the board's progressive majority would put a progressive in office – or even a moderate politician with some progressive inclinations and connections – seems to be downtown's greatest fear right now. The fun begins Dec. 7 when the board resumes its discussion of the issue and could start taking nominations.


Piss off to Fairfield, nobody's gonna miss ya.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

my thoughts exactly!!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 6:54 am

This hard and fast "faultline" between caretaker, one-termer or two-termer may not actually exist. "Events" can transform today's certainties about this either/or formulation into a both/and end result. The Chronicle editorial board should not be the last word on the topic. An Interim Mayor could well evolve from caretaker to one-termer or even two-termer. A talented politician vowing to serve as a “caretaker” is not a politician unless they can undo a promise and make you feel good about it at the same time. That is a metric of a politician’s charm. Charmers are vote winners.
However, unless there is a Larry Sabato crystal ball out there that can predict the future with precision there are way too many independent variables in play for even veteran control freaks to project just how this all plays out. That’s why it’s great the Guardian is on this story.
Here is one sketch of hundreds that could be made to model the process that is about to unfold at City Hall. For purposes of argument, say Agnos becomes Interim Mayor with 6 votes. He raises revenues, reworks several expensive contracts -- POA, MEA and Local 798 come to mind-- dealt in a collaborative manner with benefit issues the Controller has written about, and existing local tax revenues start to recover due to a marginally improving SF employment picture. Agnos then figures out a successful legal challenge to Prop 26. What then? Does Agnos give it all up while seeing 70 year old Jerry Brown work the levers in Sacramento. Doubt it. Worst case, one year of Art Agnos could be better than 10 years of a Mayor who isn't up to the task or who avoids fixing the problems Gavin Newsom helped create and then successfully evaded before being elected Lt. Governor and leaving town.
There are too many contingencies involved with this process for anyone to surmise a possible decision (see rules discussion) on December 14th will define City politics until 2010. It might be the ultimate leverage play, a Donald Trump fantasy brought to San Francisco politics, but it’s not a sober assessment of the possible.
What happens on this Board and outside of it is part of a larger dynamic political environment. The year 2011 needs to be plugged into every equation. For example, David Campos has impressed regular Board watchers. He would hold his own in any televised 2011 Mayoral debates but could he defeat a Leland Yee? Especially if Mark Leno decided to run in 2011, and split a gay male vote that in real terms may be in decline because American society has grown more tolerant over the last 20 years, and this town is not the only Mecca.
David Chiu could also be interim Mayor. He can tap a growing Asian American electorate in San Francisco. What would that do to a potential Leno 2011 candidacy if both Chiu and Yee run? There is a good chance Asian American votes could be successfully aggregated under RCV so Chiu or Yee finished on top, but a handsome number of those votes could be exhausted in which case, advantage Leno.
An effective guide to the answer the “who” question about the best possible pick on December 14th is to conduct a poll between now and when nominations are taken on December 7th. Let the public, activists, pols and journos see how all of the most plausible progressive nominees fare. That takes it out of the realm of editorial boards, bar fights or the blogosphere and to San Francisco voters. A necessary qualification would be that a poll measures voter attitudes at a given time, public opinion data is not set in stone. It’s fickle. Political veterans should employ their instincts as well as “bullshit detectors” while interpreting the data. A terrible choice will stink even if Candidate X is at the top of the heap, but going forward with a candidate polling 1%, lacking a billionaire’s bank account behind them would be foolish.
A respected poll would inform the practical task of a progressive Board of Supervisors having six votes for a nominee on December 14th. It seems a more realistic way to structure this process than with absolutes about caretaker” vs “decennial.” Afterall, lacking the necessary six votes there won’t be anything but a downer story to comment upon.

Posted by naanbread on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

and now? San Francisco was severely traumatized by the assassination of two of its most popular politicians in 1978 - Replacing Mayor Moscone with a strong mayor with strong support was absolutely necessary after Dan White murdered the mayor and Harvey Milk.

Today San Francisco's mayor has been elected Lt. Governor - not assassinated. There is nothing comparable in the situation of the city now and then - although with Steven's continual bleating about the need to increase taxes to solve the deficit you'd think we'd be standing at the precipice of societal collapse if the city started offering a few less services to our indigent population.

Newsflash - the Board can make cuts to solve the budget deficit, the same way states in Europe (many with Socialist governments - like Greece and Spain) are doing right now with much greater resolve and support than we're seeing in SF, at least on the pages of The Guardian. 10% cuts aren't "wrenching" other than to the overpaid and benefited employees of Non Profit Inc.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

are working really well in greece and ireland...

Posted by guest on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

Didn't Bloomberg run as a one-term mayor?

Changed all the rules to stay on? A billionaire can do that. Harrington has bragged for years that his principle talent is to instruct powerful electeds in how to make their thefts legal. Check out his interview in SPUR's publication about a decade back. He's worse than Newsom.

This whole thing is rigged to make someone like Harrington mayor. The best way to short circuit that is for a Progressive to nominate him on the first round and then not vote for him. Expect the right wingers to try and do just that to Ammiano and Gonzalez who are the real threats to Downtown's hegemony. Both should play smart poker and refuse the nominations until the second round in three weeks.

Progs should agree amongst themselves to refuse nominations in the first round. Kill off the Downtown tadpoles first.

go Niners!


Posted by Guest h. brown on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

I hope Chris Daly keeps up his verbal fireworks about the process of appointing an interim mayor. His recent attacks on the concept of a caretaker mayor will only serve to strengthen support for the idea.

This is a longstanding tradition with Daly. His attacks on Care Not Cash helped pass the measure. His attacks on Gavin Newsom helped elect him mayor. His attacks on the civil sidewalks law help pass the initiative. His outspoken support for James Keys in district eight helped push Keys down the totem pole.

Keep up the good work, Chris!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Nov. 26, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

Take Daly's statements regarding his opposition to a care taker mayor, put them on the front page of the Chronicle, Examiner and Weekly, include one of those pictures of him smelling his finger, and watch the response.

Care taker Mayor assured!

Jesus ever loving Christ SFBG, eight years later and you still haven't wrapped your head around the idea that Daly is an utter cancer to your movement. Nobody gives a sht what he says, they just know to do the opposite.


Posted by Sambo on Nov. 27, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

Not everybody. In the November election a full 5% of Daly's district did vote for the candidate (James Keyes) that Daly endorsed and said that her was 'most like himself'.

Posted by Homer on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

Can you clarify what you mean?

"her was 'most like himself'."

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

So sorry, that was an unfortunate typo. Daly had said that James Keyes was the candidate 'most like himself'. So I meant to type "he was the candidate" but my clumsy fingers hit the 'e' and the 'r' at the same time to create "her was the candidate"

Posted by Homer on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

A legend in his own mind

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 28, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

Even a dog knows not to lie down where he poops. Chris Daly is no different: he's pooped all over this city, and is now high-tailing it out to Fairfield. Congratulations, Chris! You've done more to destroy this city than the "downtown" interests ever could.

Posted by Fed up on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 11:13 am

All this manoevering and manipulating strikes me as repugnant. Not only is this not a democratic process but it isn't even an open process, sicne clearly backroom deals are going to be worked out.

That is exactly why we need a neutral figure. Someone competant, dispassionate and unambitious. SF voters would never vote in a very left-wing mayor and so we shouldn't get one through the backdoor.

Posted by Tom on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

The Chron reports that Daly has lost his bartending gig. Matier/Ross say he is looking for a job now and is worried about his pending unemployment.

How about a big "Fuck you!" cheer, and we make Chrissie the interim mayor?

Posted by Barton on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

The mind boggles. I imagine his first priorities would be to (a) rebuild the old Transbay Terminal; (b) turn the Westfield SF Shopping Center into an SRO; and (c) impose a 100% tax on all incomes above $35,000 (except, of course, his own).

Meanwhile, in the real world, I would suggest that if Chris Daly is really that concerned about having nothing to do after his term ends, he could demonstrate his continued commitment to public service by coming down here to central SOMA and spending his days sweeping up the daily accumulation of shit and garbage left behind by his most devoted constituents.

Posted by Peter on Dec. 06, 2010 @ 8:38 am


That would be the ultimate one-finger salute to all of the Downtown interests who have robbed us, beaten us, never-endingly harassed us. Brought in mercenary troops to patrol our streets. Given away our most precious buildings and park and shore space. Chris would be great for that but how about the ability to actually hold the office and move forward lasting reforms? No one has over-turned the highest minimum wage in the country that he gave us. Nor any other reform he either created or co-sponsored.

Gonzalez for Mayor!

The 'Once and Future King'

Posted by Guest h. brown on Nov. 30, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

@barton and h.brown,
you must be smokin' the pre-civil ganja to think that gonzales and his trust funder quasifarians would serve this city in any way other than a public urinal. chrissie (has he gone tj?) is movin on 'cause he smells the streets and it ain't pretty. forget your kingmaker fantasies and select: Jello Biafra for interim Mayor in 2010.
he has more balls than any of the recent poseurs you've cited. how about a big middle finger for you barton and h. brown and the rest of the progressive rot now infesting this once great city.
go to fairfield and don't come back until you grow a pair.

Posted by you know who on Dec. 02, 2010 @ 8:58 pm