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    Democracy at City College, A Hell of a Campaign, President Tang, and Battles Ahead

    Rafael Mandelman

    Rafael Mandelman

    Congratulations to my newly elected colleagues on the City College Board of Trustees. Newcomers Amy Bacharach, Brigitte Davila and Thea Selby joined veteran member John Rizzo in winning seats, giving the Board a majority of  members elected after the current accreditation crisis began back in 2012.

    Happily, and perhaps partly in recognition of the changes in the make-up of the Board, the State Chancellor of Community Colleges has put out a plan for the gradual restoration of local control to City College. The plan is intentionally vague, reserving significant (in my view, excessive) discretion to the State Chancellor and Special Trustee in determining the pace at which the Trustees will assume responsibility for the College, but it now seems quite possible that I and the other Trustees may be back in charge within the next year.

    A few words about David Campos: the man ran a hell of a campaign. And let’s be honest: running against a better-known, better-funded candidate who started the race with a double-digit lead in the polls, the odds of his winning were always long. That Campos ended up as close to Chiu as he did is testament to the dedication and hard work of the candidate himself and the hundreds of volunteers he inspired. Campos gave a voice to all those being left behind by San Francisco’s latest gold rush.

    And he raised an astounding amount of money—nearly a million dollars, vastly more than any other progressive candidate has raised for any race in this City—to make sure that voice was heard throughout Assembly District 17. Winning, of course, would have been better, but at least he gave the other guy a real run for his money (well, Ron Conway’s money). Congratulations David Campos, and thank you.

    The spillover effects of Chiu’s win have already been felt on the Board of Supervisors, where District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang was selected by her colleagues to serve out the remainder of Chiu’s term as Board President. San Franciscans could be forgiven for asking: “Katy who?” One of the less limelight-seeking of the Supervisors, one wonders if her relatively low profile may have helped ensure her selection, as ambitious colleagues unable to corral the necessary five additional votes voted for Tang in the hope that they would have another crack at the position when the next Board term begins in January.

    One thing we do know about the Tang selection: she is by far the most conservative president the Board has had in decades, showing how very far rightward our City Hall has drifted from the days when the top spot on the body was occupied by the likes of Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez and Aaron Peskin.

    Chiu’s election to the Assembly also gives the Mayor the opportunity to appoint a successor to fill his soon-to-be vacant District 3 Supervisor seat. Conventional wisdom had been that he would likely appoint Planning Commission President Cindy Wu. I have known Cindy for years and think she could be a great Supervisor. Unfortunately, word is that some of the Mayor’s more conservative supporters have weighed in against her appointment. Meanwhile, longtime progressive activist Jon Golinger (who managed both the 2013 and 2014 No Wall on the Waterfront Campaigns) has let it be known that he will be running no matter whom the Mayor appoints. Stay tuned.

    The news that State Senator Mark Leno is considering challenging incumbent Mayor Ed Lee for his job in November 2015 has stirred excitement among both Lee-haters and Leno-lovers, not always the same people. For that reason, if Leno does run, his campaign is likely to include some unlikely bedfellows. He will surely be supported by his good friend Scott Wiener, along with other longtime Leno-supporters who have no special love for San Francisco’s Left. At the same time, his campaign will also need, and at the moment looks likely to have, the support of many progressives desperate for change at City Hall, many of whom have never supported Leno in a competitive race, by the way.

    How these two camps will manage to co-exist under one big Team Leno tent will be one of the campaign’s challenges if Leno does, in fact, run. Of course, it is Leno’s very ability to draw on a base of support that extends across San Francisco’s political spectrum that makes him such a strong potential challenge to the Mayor. Clearly, he’s not John Avalos, Tom Ammiano or Matt Gonzalez. But he may be more likely than any of them to get past fifty percent, and he just might make a very fine Mayor indeed.

    That’s all I got for now. Happy Tofurkey Day One and All!

    Rafael Mandelman was elected to the San Francisco Community College Board of Trustees in 2012. He is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.