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Breed Pivots Back to Being Board Prez

by Matthew S. Bajko

Board of Supervisors President London Breed
Board of Supervisors President London Breed  (Source:Rick Gerharter)

Two days after being jettisoned as acting mayor of San Francisco by a majority of her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, District 5 Supervisor London Breed showed no signs that the political upheaval at City Hall had diminished her spirit.

Rather, during a 45-minute interview in her supervisor office with the Bay Area Reporter Thursday, January 25, Breed hit back at her critics and pledged to continue to focus on the needs of the city as president of the board.

"I am excited and fired up. I have received an influx of support since this thing happened on Tuesday from all sorts of people," said Breed, who is a leading contender to be elected mayor in the special election June 5 that was scheduled due to the sudden death last month of former mayor Ed Lee.

In a maneuver that surprised many in the city, the board's five progressive members, along with more moderate District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, elected Mark Farrell as the city's interim mayor when the board met January 23. Formerly the District 2 supervisor, Farrell will occupy Room 200 at City Hall until the winner of the June race is sworn in.

It was an outcome that Breed did not see coming. Prior to the vote for Farrell, four board members, including Sheehy, had voted to make Breed interim mayor, but it was two votes short of the total she needed.

"I was not expecting to be made interim mayor because I knew I didn't have the votes," said Breed. "I didn't expect it would be Mark Farrell."

Supporters of Breed, the first African-American woman to serve as the city's mayor, were incensed at seeing her replaced with a conservative white venture capitalist. They castigated the board's decision as racist and sexist.

Those supportive of the move stressed it had nothing to do with Breed's race or gender and was more about maintaining a separation of power between the board and the mayor's office. Her colleagues chose Farrell to be a "caretaker mayor" since he opted not to enter the mayoral race by the January 9 deadline to file.

They had argued it would not be fair to keep Breed as mayor, which she automatically became upon Lee's death due to her being board president, while she ran to be elected to the position in June. In a guest opinion piece he wrote for the B.A.R. this week, Sheehy, the sole gay member of board and the city's first known HIV-positive supervisor, reiterated that argument.

After Breed failed to be elected interim mayor, Sheehy asked himself if Farrell could capably lead the city as a "full-time mayor." His answer, wrote Sheehy, was "a resounding yes."

Breed told the B.A.R. she found it "unfortunate" that Sheehy "did not keep his word" in regard to the interim mayor vote. She noted she had worked to address a number of issues in Sheehy's district during the roughly six weeks she served as acting mayor, such as cleaning up the area behind the Safeway on upper Market Street where many homeless people set up tents and used needles often litter the bike path.

"I have been nothing but supportive of him and the folks in District 8," said Breed.

Having endorsed Sheehy in his bid to retain his supervisor seat in the special election on the June ballot, as he was appointed to fill a vacancy by Lee last January, Breed said she does not intend to rescind her endorsement. In that race Sheehy is facing a strong challenge from gay City College trustee Rafael Mandelman.

"We will have a relationship as long as he is a supervisor," said Breed, who on Wednesday named Sheehy chair of the board's public safety and neighborhood services committee and maintained him as a temporary member of the budget and finance committee.

During the hearing to elect an interim mayor, Breed said she took particular offense to the accusation made by District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen that she is in the pocket of "rich, white men."

"It is offensive to imply that somehow, as an African-American woman, a rich, white guy owns me because he has expressed support of my candidacy," said Breed.

It was in reference to reports that tech investor Ron Conway had called supervisors and threatened to ruin their careers if they didn't back Breed remaining as mayor. Asked about the phone calls, which Conway has denied making, Breed told the B.A.R. that the only member of the board who mentioned such calls directly to her was District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin. A political foe of Conway, Peskin has criticized his political spending in past elections to defeat progressive candidates for local office.

"No supervisor told me directly that Conway had called them," said Breed.
Interim Mayor Mark Farrell swears in Catherine Stefani his replacement as District 2 supervisor Tuesday, as her husband, Chris, and children, Gigi and Dominic, look on. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Despite the political musical chairs of the last week, Breed expects to be able to work with her colleagues on the board going forward. She noted how she reached out to Lee and the supervisors after her election in 2012, when she defeated appointed District 5 supervisor Christina Olague, the body's first out bisexual member, despite not having their support in the race.

"At the end of the day what I care about most is the work we are doing for the people of this city. You move on," said Breed. "You just do the job, you do the work, and you keep it moving."

Yet Breed did indicate her pique with some of her board colleagues with the new committee assignments for the supervisors. Ronen was demoted from chair to vice chair of public safety while District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee, who nominated Farrell to be interim mayor, was made a temporary member of the budget committee.

Breed reshuffled the makeup of the committees after Farrell named his former legislative aide, Catherine Stefani, as his replacement on the board. Stefani for the last two years had served as San Francisco's county clerk. She pulled papers Tuesday to run this fall for a full, four-year term as the representative for Cow Hollow, Marina, Russian Hill, and Pacific Heights.

Her becoming supervisor is seen as maintaining the moderates' six-member majority on the board for now. Stefani was named to the budget committee as well as rules, on which she replaced District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, now vice chair of budget and a special committee on federal issues.

"I believe these are very balanced committees and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the coming legislative year," stated Breed.

Breed told the B.A.R. she expects to remain as board president, having been elected last year to a second, two-year term. When asked about possibly being replaced in the position, Breed said, "I haven't heard any talk of that, but with Aaron Peskin I wouldn't be surprised."

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