This is what happened in the office of the mayor of San Francisco last week:
1. One of the most highly respected members of the Newsom administration quite possibly the only department head the mayor ever hired who has the unquestioned respect of every sector of the community she works with was forced to resign, for reasons the mayor won’t explain. In fact, in a lame attempt at spin, the mayor’s press office put out a statement suggesting that Margaret Brodkin, who ran the Department of Children, Youth and Families, was leaving to take a new position.
Wrong, as Brodkin quickly (and predictably) pointed out in her own release, which hit my inbox at almost exactly the same time. Brodkin told the truth: the mayor, who has had nothing but praise for her in public, fired her, summarily.
2. Just a few weeks after vowing to begin a new era of mutual respect and a desire to work with the new Board of Supervisors, the mayor tried to override the board, quietly, and place his own unqualified ally on a key state commission.
The supervisors had voted 8-0 to nominate Sup. Ross Mirkarimi for a slot on the state Coastal Commission. That’s an important job: the commission regulates development all along the state’s coast, and the person who represents San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma counties needs to be a strong and reliable environmentalist. Mirkarimi, a Green Party member, has devoted much of his life to environmental causes; his colleagues on the board agreed he was the best candidate to forward to the state Senate Rules Committee, which has the final say on appointments.
Without informing Mirkarimi or Board President David Chiu, Newsom tried to pull a fast move: he forwarded the name of Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier to Senate Rules, hoping, perhaps, that as a Democrat, Alioto-Pier might get the nod. There’s a good reason the supervisors didn’t nominate her her record on environmental issues is awful, she’s way too friendly to developers, and the last time she had an outside job, as a delegate to the Golden Gate Bridge board, she missed half the meetings. But Newsom wouldn’t trust the board, and wanted his own candidate.
Which was not only wrong, but stupid: turns out state law gives the supervisors, not the mayor, the exclusive right to nominate Coastal Commission candidates. Newsom’s office didn’t even check the regulations, and by the end of the week, his spinmeisters were pretending that they’d never really forwarded her name in the first place.
3. The mayor came out strongly against a June special election to raise taxes to cover some of the half-billion-dollar deficit but offered absolutely no alternative. That left the supervisors, city employees, the press, and the public wondering what exactly the mayor has in mind 1,000 layoffs? 2,000? Major service cuts? and when he’s going to tell us about it.
Oh, and while all of this was happening, Himself was out of town, hobnobbing with the hip swells at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
I don’t think I’m the only one who’s asking what the fuck is going on in Newsom-land, anyway? *