Supervisor Gordon Mar recently proposed a November 2020 ballot measure that would prohibit the Mayor from making appointments within 90 days of Election Day. He vehemently argued that it is “undemocratic and wrong to appoint a candidate...to the office they’re running for weeks before the election.”
Mar’s proposal stems from his opposition to Mayor London Breed’s appointment of Suzy Loftus to District Attorney.
Let's be clear: the Mayor fulfilled her duty to the San Francisco Charter when she appointed Suzy Loftus as District Attorney. As former Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg argues, “Breed chose the person she determined by experience, qualifications, and community relationships was best for the job.”
City Hall insiders may be in a frenzy around the politics of appointment, but voters are focused on the bigger picture: getting a District Attorney office that works, and getting it as soon as possible. In a City struggling with open-air drug dealing and a series of botched prosecutions, San Franciscans shouldn't have to deal with a placeholder in the District Attorney's office for the next three months.
In fact, voters reaffirmed the Mayor’s power to make appointments in 2016, when they voted No on Proposition D. Proposition D would have prohibited anyone accepting a Mayor’s appointment from running for office at a later date. The voters recognized this would stop the most qualified candidates from running for elected office and serving the public, and voted it down.
But the outrage from City Hall insiders around Suzy Loftus’ appointment is not only false, it’s also hypocritical.
Opponents of the Mayor’s appointment powers only seem to voice their concerns when it involves someone they don’t like.
When Mayor London Breed appointed Faauga Moliga to a vacant School Board seat just weeks before his election, Supervisor Hillary Ronen was thrilled.
“It’s San Francisco city politics. Since I’ve endorsed him, I’m excited about it. If I hadn’t endorsed him, maybe I wouldn’t be,” she said. The statement is a shockingly clear political calculus. Appointments are only good if you politically support the candidate. Appointments are bad if you don’t.
Supervisor Matt Haney doubled down on the Moliga appointment, saying it was mandatory for good governance: “We have important work to do over the next three months. It’s important for us to have a full board there.”
Mayoral spokesperson Jeff Cretan echoes that sentiment in the District Attorney appointment. As Cretan said to the SF Chronicle this week, “The mayor appointed Suzy Loftus because the District Attorney’s Office needs a leader right now to address the auto break-ins, drug dealing and other crimes impacting San Francisco. With the challenges facing our city, we can’t afford to have a placeholder for three months. Victims of crime deserve accountability and immediate results."
But now it seems like Supervisor Haney is “disappointed and disturbed” by Loftus’ appointment. It seems an odd double-standard: Apparently, the SFUSD Board of Education could not survive without a full board for three months, but the District Attorney’s office can function successfully without a clear leader until January.
Political appointments happen all the time. On the Democratic County Central Committee, the governing body of the San Francisco Democratic Party, Chairs Cindy Wu and David Campos made 8 different political appointments to vacant elected seats.
Many of these appointments were made after well-known elected officials ran for the seat, won the election, and then promptly resigned from the office that they campaigned so hard to win. The folks that were appointed to replace them were unelected and mostly unknown to most voters.
Yet there weren’t any protests from political insiders about an undemocratic process to stack the Democratic Party leadership.
It was not the Mayor’s plan to make an appointment weeks before an election. That decision falls directly in the lap of George Gascon, who inexplicably decided to resign from his office months before his term ended so he could run to be District Attorney of Los Angeles.
Protests about Loftus’ appointment aren’t merely political - they’re hypocritical. City Hall insiders are supportive of all sorts of political appointments - as long as they’re also supportive of the person being appointed. The noise over the District Attorney appointment only distracts from the larger issue that voters care about: fixing a dysfunctional, mismanaged office that has failed to defend victims and serve the City.