Filling Ed Jew’s seat

Pub date October 2, 2007
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL It took a while for Mayor Gavin Newsom to make the obvious move and suspend Sup. Ed Jew, but here are much deeper politics here than just the dubious future of an elected official who should have resigned long ago and will almost certainly be forced out of office.

The mayor has appointed Carmen Chu, a political unknown, to fill Jew’s seat — for now. Technically, it’s an interim appointment; if and when the supervisors vote to remove Jew from office, after what could be a lengthy process, Newsom will be able to name someone to take over the District 4 seat until the next election. And since the mayor won’t say who will get that post, the future of the board is in limbo.

There are plenty of scenarios floating around at City Hall. The way some rumors have it, Newsom will try to pick up not just one but two seats in this play.

Jew, for all his conservatism, was not a loyal Newsom ally, and the mayor couldn’t count on his vote. Replacing him will presumably give the mayor another loyalist to join Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, and (sometimes) Bevan Dufty. Political observers have been specuutf8g that Newsom may try to find a job that would entice Sup. Gerardo Sandoval — whose final term is winding down — to leave the board early; the obvious way to do that would be to convince Assessor Phil Ting to move into Jew’s seat as a permanent replacement, then give Sandoval the assessor’s job, which he ran for unsuccessfully in 2005.

In the end, under that sort of scenario, the mayor could wind up with as many as five allies on the board — nearly a majority. That would be a dramatic change in local politics and could raise the prospect of the progressives completely losing control of the board in 2008.

It also means that Newsom will in effect be asking the supervisors in the next few weeks to vote on removing Jew without giving them any idea who will replace him.

The politics shouldn’t directly influence the Jew vote; if the suspended supervisor is, in fact, guilty of misconduct (and the evidence looks pretty damning), then the board should remove him from office. But Newsom has a responsibility to play fair too; the mayor needs to tell the public, before the final vote on Jew’s fate, whom he plans to appoint to that seat.

In an interview in the Guardian office on Oct. 1, Newsom strongly implied that he has no plans to try to free up another seat on the board, that there’s no political deal or backroom move in the works. But he also refused to commit to telling the public whom his final choice will be for that seat and said he reserves the right to make any moves that he legally can under the City Charter.

If Newsom isn’t playing games here, fine: what’s the harm in saying, now, what his intentions are? It would defuse the rumors, end the political speculation, and allow the board vote to be exactly what it should be — an up-or-down vote on removing Ed Jew.