A City Hall stunner, reactions to San Francisco's new interim mayor

The city of San Francisco has a new mayor today – it’s third in six weeks.

Last night the Board of Supervisors voted Acting Mayor London Breed out and Supervisor Mark Farrell in.

The surprising decision rocked City Hall. And continuing today, there are hurt feelings over the decision.

"I felt betrayed," said Supervisor Malia Cohen, a moderate and staunch ally of Breed. "London didn't walk into the chamber knowing that she had six votes so that was no mystery. Supervisor Farrell kept his cards held close to the vest and was very elusive [with no] eye contact, non-committal, unavailable leading all the way up until the time we went into the chamber. I'm absolutely saying it was a backroom deal."

It's a deal most city hall insiders say happened between progressives and Farrell, who is considered a moderate like Breed. 

There has also been backlash for replacing the city's first African American female mayor with a white male.

"I realize the optics are very complicated, but in four months the voters are going to decide and what they decide will be the right choice," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a progressive.

"I think what you saw last night wasn't so much about elevating one white man, it was about sending a message to another white man, a tech titan billionaire named Ron Conway, that San Francisco cannot be bought," said Peskin. 

When asked if he had a conservation with Farrell before the vote, he declined to comment.

"There were -- look, we live in a multi-faceted democracy," said Peskin. There were a lot of voices and a lot of influences, um - I was one of them." 

Peskin alleges that Conway bullied supervisors into backing Breed and it backfired.

But when KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty asked Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who was considered the swing vote in favor of Farrell, if he had spoken to Conway, Sheehy replied, "Ron Conway has tried to have a conversation with me. We have yet to actually meet."

Supervisor Sheehy said Conway did not factor into his decision. 

"For me, government requires that each branch be separate, you cannot concentrate all of the power of the city in one office, that's just not right," said Sheehy, who made it clear that he didn't think it was fair for Breed to wear two hats – one a board of supervisors president and one as mayor. "I was totally supportive of London Breed being mayor, but you can't do both. That's not good government."

"I think if Mayor Lee was able to communicate with me he would support my decision to restore the fundamental integrity of city government."

Sheehy said Breed's twin roles gave her the authority to appoint people to various commissions and boards. He and Peskin agreed that the positions gave Breed an unfair advantage in the special election which is why they supported a caretaker mayor. 

Particularly hurtful, said Cohen were Supervisor Hillary Ronen's comments at last night's meeting. Ronen gave a 10-minute speech in which she criticized the "rich white men" who backed Breed's candidacy. "I know that anyone who is not a straight white, Christian male has been fighting at great cost, for 250 years for equal representation in this country," said Ronen. 

Moderates said it was hypocritical of Ronen to then turn around and support Farrell, who is a straight, white, Christian male, as mayor.

Mayor Mark Farrell would not comment on whether or not he had discussions with supervisors regarding the vote to appoint him mayor, but it is widely believed at City Hall that Supervisor Peskin orchestrated the vote.

Mayor Farrell, who is not running for mayor in June's special election, said he is now concentrating on running the city.

"I don't have to focus on the campaign trail. I get to focus on the day to day for San Francisco residents and I believe that's what they deserve," said Mayor Farrell.
Breed today appeared upbeat.

"I just think this is going to empower people who may not traditionally get involved in elections so I'm excited and I’m inspired and I'm looking forward to an incredible campaign!" said Board President Breed smiling, as she stepped away from a gathering on the front steps of city hall.

"She's a fighter," said Supervisor Cohen of Breed. "And she's come up literally scrappy, clawing her way up to where she is to be the President of the Board of Supervisors."

Progressives Jane Kim and Mark Leno are also running for mayor in June's special election.
It's no secret that they wanted Breed out to "level the playing field" so to speak.

Mayor Farrell is keeping mum on whom he will endorse for mayor, if anyone. He will now appoint someone to his supervisorial seat, which oversees District 2, including Marina, Pacific Heights, and Cow Hollow.

If Farrell is trying to gain notoriety before the 2019 mayoral election, he isn't saying. Come June, he plans to take a vacation.