Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Women leaders rally to keep Breed acting San Francisco mayor

by Cynthia Laird

Women leaders held a rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Thursday, January 4, to show support for acting Mayor London Breed and were critical of possible efforts by the supervisors to name a “caretaker” mayor who would not run for election in June.

On Friday, Breed pulled papers to run for mayor in June.

“I’m proud to announce I am running for mayor to lead the city I was born + raised in,” Breed wrote on Twitter Friday. “I’m not a partisan. I’m not an ideologue. I believe in a San Francisco where we succeed as one. Together there is no problem we can’t solve.”

(People gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday for a rally in support of acting Mayor London Breed. Photo: Cynthia Laird)

(People gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday for a rally in support of acting Mayor London Breed. Photo: Cynthia Laird)

At the rally, organizers said they wanted Breed to continue as acting mayor.

“It’s a statement about the process,” said Andrea Shorter, a lesbian and longtime activist who sits on the Commission on the Status of Women and helped organize the rally, which drew about 75 people on a rainy afternoon.

She and other speakers said that Breed should continue to serve as acting mayor until the June election. Breed became acting mayor by virtue of her being board president at the time of Mayor Ed Lee’s death December 12. She also remains president of the Board of Supervisors and the District 5 supervisor.

“We are gathered here today not to endorse in the June election,” said Debbie Mesloh, another organizer and former aide to Senator Kamala Harris when she was district attorney. “We’re saying the City Charter is clear and London Breed became acting mayor after the untimely death of Ed Lee. She was elected as District 5 supervisor twice, and elected board president twice.

“There is no reason to depose acting Mayor London Breed,” Mesloh, president of the Commission on the Status of Women, added.

The rally came days before the Board of Supervisors is set to meet for the first time in 2018. It is unclear if the board will vote at its meeting Tuesday, January 9, on appointing an interim mayor or will forego such a decision and leave Breed as acting mayor. Several of the city’s progressive supervisors have publicly questioned whether Breed should remain acting mayor and president of the board, suggesting it would be better to have one person as the city’s mayor and another person as president of the board.

In several interviews with the Bay Area Reporter, the board’s sole gay member, District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, has declined to state his own preference, saying the timing was “too soon” following Lee’s unexpected death.

According to a legal opinion by City Attorney Dennis Herrera that was issued December 12, Breed is the acting mayor and will remain so until the June election, unless the board chooses to appoint an interim mayor. Such a person would need six votes from the supervisors, who cannot vote for themselves.

Charter section 13.101.5(b) empowers the supervisors to appoint a successor to the deceased mayor to serve until the June 5 election, Herrera’s opinion states.

“If the Board of Supervisors does not act to appoint a successor, then the board president continues as acting mayor until the election,” the opinion states.

Last week, Herrera pulled papers to run for mayor, but has not officially entered the race.

Speakers at the rally argued that no caretaker needs to be appointed, that Breed is doing the job, and focused on the part of the charter that made Breed acting mayor.

“I’m here to add my voice in solidarity with our mayor, London Breed. She’s held the city together these last few weeks,” said Janice Mirikitani from Glide United Methodist Church.

She said that she was “personally offended” by the notion of a caretaker mayor “when London Breed has the proven experience, especially for women and poor families.”

“Talk is cheap” when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling, Mirikitani said, adding that she took exception to some who’ve suggested Breed step aside for an interim mayor to “level the playing field” in the upcoming mayor’s race.

And she pointed to the dwindling number of African-Americans who call San Francisco home. Breed is the city’s first female African-American mayor.

“She’s a five-star mayor,” former supervisor Amos Brown told the crowd, adding that Breed “has character … is competent … and has chemistry.”

“She’s no pushover and not afraid to speak truth to power,” said Brown, the longtime pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church, where Breed is a member.

Sunny Schwartz, a lesbian and criminal justice expert and an official with the city’s probation department, told the crowd that early on she supported gay former state Senator Mark Leno’s mayoral campaign. (Leno announced last May that he was running in a race that was originally to be held in 2019. Lee’s death changed that, and now Leno is running in June.)

“Today is not about Mark Leno or Jane Kim,” Schwartz said, referencing the decision by Kim, the District 6 supervisor, to jump into the mayor’s race. “What this is about is a vibrant, smart leader who is our acting mayor. This is about rallying around out acting mayor. This has dropped in her lap.”

“Let us come together in these next five months,” she added. “Come June, people have a right to elect whoever we want.”

— Cynthia Laird, January 5, 2018 @ 11:51 am PST
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