Monday, January 10, 2011

NYTer: SF Gay Shadow Mayor Kawa
Amending a Law for Ed Lee?
(Steve Kawa. Credit: Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal.)

Reporter Gerry Shih covers San Francisco politics for the Bay Citizen, and some of his piece for that outlet also run in the Bay Area section of the New York Times that appears on Fridays and Sundays. I'm not sure exactly how to describe his gig with the Gray Lady because on one hand he's not on staff, while on the other hand he's not a freelancer, but his work regularly appears in the Times.

In any event, he's been providing a unique view in recent weeks to the many power-plays and backroom deals swirling around City Hall as our Boy-King Gavin Newsom and his buddies manuvered to maintain their grip on the levers of municipal power, and Shih has now given an interview to Holly Kernan of KALW Radio in which he sheds more light on the shenanigans.

Reading how gay shadow mayor Steve Kawa worked to amend local laws behind-the-scenes to keep his desired choice for titular mayor happy and employed after the November election, I couldn't help but think of a banana republic because it's ever-more clear to me that is the state of San Francisco.

From KALW's coverage of the Ed Lee selection as our new mayor, bolding mine:

KERNAN: And so this was essentially a political coup orchestrated by Newsom’s office, Rose Pak, and reportedly former mayor Willie Brown.

SHIH: Yes. This was something – Mr. Lee’s name had been bubbling for weeks at City Hall – but nobody kind of thought it was realistic, simply because he had refused to do the job. He said he wanted to keep a city administrator’s job. He’s a low-key, kind of quiet guy, likes to stay out of the limelight, doesn’t like any of the political drama. But Steve Kawa, Mr. Newsom’s chief of staff, kept pushing him for weeks and kept seeing what his concerns were.

One of them was he was afraid – Mr. Lee was afraid – that he would lose his city administrator’s job. And so Mr. Kawa in mid-December approached the city attorney's office and had them draft legislation that would allow Mr. Lee to return to his job after he served a stint as mayor.

Kawa, not Newsom, was pulling the strings behind the City Hall curtain to install Lee and went so far as to City Attorney Dennis Herrera's staff to look at rewriting the municipal code.

The KALW interview doesn't say if the Kawa-supported legislation has passed the Board of Supervisors, but Shih in a January 6 piece for the Bay Citizen reported this:

The critical stumbling block for Lee, several people said, was his concern about a rule in the city charter that prohibited elected officials from taking appointed positions within a year of leaving office. Lee, who is putting two daughters through college, was confirmed to a new term as chief administrator in December. He told officials he did not want to risk forfeiting the remainder of his five-year contract as city administrator, worth $1.25 million.
As his anxieties became clear, Newsom’s staffers asked the office of Dennis Herrera, the city attorney, to begin quietly drafting a charter amendment to allow Lee to return to the administrator’s post after he served as mayor, according to several City Hall officials. The amendment still needs board approval.

Why do I have a sinking feeling the new board is easily going to give Kawa the desired legislative outcome he wants? Democracy is being subverted in San Francisco not only with the terrible and dangerous way in which a titular mayor was chosen, but also with the shocking announcement and inauguration yesterday of the former chief of police George Gascon as the new district attorney.

Let's see what the progressive members of the board have to offer up as alternatives to the Willie Brown and Rose Pak machines.

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