Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Board of Supervisors’ Swearing-In at City Hall: A New Board Make-over for a New Decade

San Francisco LGBT Pride board member Lisa Williams with new supervisor Malia Cohen

Four new supervisors, the equivalent of city council members in other locales, were sworn in at San Francisco City Hall on Jan. 8 with low key ceremony and with some emotion. Scott Wiener, Jane Kim, Malia Cohen, Carmen Chu, and Mike Farrell were sworn in for four-year terms.

The first to speak in the grand Manchurian mahogany-paneled supervisors’ chambers was Mike Farrell, who said that he is a product of the Marina and that he had washed dishes on Chestnut Street. Pouting supporters of his effervescent opponent Janet Reilly were seen throughout the building. Reilly had expected to win with a coalition of conservative, moderate, and progressive voters, but she was another victim of ranked choice voting.

Jane Kim said that she was overwhelmed by the gathering of activists who helped her — all gazing at her — and she teared up. She spoke about starting out as a community organizer (like Barack Obama) in Chinatown, and that her goal is positive change. She also said that her forays into District 6’s environs made it obvious that though the district is diverse, its citizens want the same things.

Openly-gay new supervisor Scott Wiener with his openly-lesbian aunt Leah Chaplin

Scott Wiener, who is one of two openly gay members of the board, thanked his aunt Leah for being a role model when she came out in the 1960’s, before “Will and Grace,” “Rosie O’Donnell,” and “Glee.” Wiener also thanked his parents, who live in the charming beach town of Margate, next door to Atlantic City, New Jersey. State Senator Mark Leno was thanked for mentoring him, and it was Leno who was heckled at the Wiener election night party at Harvey’s on Nov. 2 when he said and repeated that Wiener supports rent control. Conservative anti-renter guests made their views clear in the crush of mostly older gay white men who listened to Leno’s and Wiener’s comments on the stage.

Wiener made a point at the Saturday ceremonies of thanking his predecessors Bevan Dufty, Mark Leno, Harry Britt, and Harvey Milk, and he thanked his former boss City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Wiener ended his remarks by saying that though their politics are different, the made over board has common ground to work on transportation, pension and retirement reform, and job creation legislation.

Malia Cohen spoke emotionally about her encounter with Mayor Dianne Feinstein speaking to her school class when she was 16 about dedicating oneself to public service. Cohen said that she hoped that a woman would someday be board president and mayor again, and she said that she will encourage African Americans and Latinos to seek public office. The sight of some of her election opponents at City Hall led to her laughing remarks about “What a heck of a race it was” to run against 21 people, and she welcomed them to continue the dialogue for the betterment of District 10.

Carmen Chu said that she was thankful for not having an election opponent, and she thanked her staff and volunteers for feeding her after the ten-hour meeting that chose an interim mayor. Her parents were thanked for showing her what hard work was in their restaurant where Chu said that she ate a lot of egg rolls.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd had hoped to be elected board president, but David Chiu was easily re-elected. Chiu asked the board to work together as a team.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi declared that the board of supervisors “Is the most charming local government in the United States.” He said that all of the board has the best intentions and a love for the city of San Francisco, and that the board has led the nation in civil rights, the environment, and other issues.

Aguilas' Erick Arguello, new supervisor Scott Wiener, Aguilas' John Marez, and HRC's John Lake

Supervisor Wiener invited his constituents to a reception at his office after the swearing-in, where his family met his friends and supporters, and gay attorney Paul Henderson campaigned for district attorney from room to room. Fusion Lounge impresario Michael Costa was also there, advising Reese Isbel, who is running for co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Isbel, an aide to State Senator Mark Leno, joined Leno aide Anna Damiani to congratulate Wiener. Wiener welcomed his enthusiastic guests, and he was toasted with wine and sparkling cider.

There has been media musings that the new board will be less progressive than the last one, but surprises may be looming. Wiener was severely criticized for not being “tough enough” in his support for the Sit/Lie legislation by Castro District merchants, and both Kim’s and Cohen’s inside supporters alluded to their possible swerve to the left on certain issues.

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