By Tim Redmond
APRIL 28, 2014 — I have spent the past week shaking my head and trying to figure out one of those weird mysteries of San Francisco politics: Why are allies of Mayor Ed Lee trying to block Angela Chan from a second term on the Police Commission?
If there’s a good reason, nobody’s been willing or able to share it with me.
Chan is, by all accounts, a dedicated, progressive commissioner. She’s done nothing wrong and a whole lot right. And yet, Sup. Jane Kim pushed another candidate, who lost at the Rules Committee – and now, sources tell me, there is a full-on lobbying effort to get the full board to reject Chan at the April 29 meeting.
Rose Pak, the Chinatown powerbroker, has been calling supervisors asking them to vote against Chan. And, people who are pretty much always reliable say that David Ho, a close ally of Lee and Pak, is lobbying against her.
It’s bizarre: Chan is probably the hardest-working member of the commission. She goes to every meeting. She pays attention to every issue. She has a (more than) full-time job at the Asian Law Caucus, and yet she takes calls from a wide range of community members on police issues.
She’s popular among Chinatown immigrants, many of whom she has represented and helped.
She has put hundreds of hours into her efforts to get better protocols for officers dealing with mentally ill people – so people who are sick, not dangerous, don’t get shot and killed.
As Sup. David Campos put it to me: “She’s done a really good job. She works harder than anyone. And when it’s time to evaluate an incumbent commissioner, that’s what you ask – is the person doing the job? And the answer is yes.”
Sup. Eric Mar agrees: “I know she’s been a strong voice for Chinese and all immigrant communities and deserves to be reappointed.”
So why isn’t this a slam dunk?
Well, for one thing, Chan is pretty independent-minded. She does what she thinks is right, no matter what the Powers that Be tell her. She’s willing to call out elected officials who water down legislation she thinks is important. And among some factions of the city – including some allies of the mayor – that’s just not acceptable.
Then there’s this really wacky theory that’s going around.
Last November, when President Obama appeared in Chinatown to talk about immigration reform, a young Korean man named Ju Hong interrupted his speech
to demand an end to the massive number of deportations under the Obama administration. Chan was there; Chan works with immigrants. Maybe, gosh, she might have put him up to it! And if she did such a dastardly deed, she somehow embarrassed Chinatown.
First of all: No. Hong had his own motivations, his own support group, and the assumption that Chan must have somehow been involved is beyond strange conspiracy shit.
But what if she was involved? What’s wrong with that? Obama is awful on the deportation issue, he needs to be called out – and that’s what we do in San Francisco. We interrupt politicians and protest. What – we’re supposed to be obsequious and just shut up when prominent people come to San Francisco?
Good luck with that.
For whatever reason, though, the campaign against Chan has been in full play. The first move her opponents devised was to put up Victor Hwang, a former prosecutor, as an alternative for the seat. But after a real rainbow coalition of activists and community leaders showed up at Rules to support Chan, the committee, by a 3-0 vote, send her recommendation to the full board.
Chan is one of two progressives on the Police Commission (the other one is Petra De Jesus). She’s against giving cops tasers. The Police Officers Association doesn’t love her.
But Sups. Katy Tang and Norman Yee – neither of them hard-core progressives – joined Campos in voting for her. That ought to mean the deal is done, and in normal circumstances, a sitting commissioner who gets a 3-0 recommendation from Rules is pretty much a shoo-in at the full board.
Not this time, apparently.
My sources tell me Pak and Ho are very unhappy with the Rules Committee vote, and don’t want Chan reappointed. So they’re prepared to push the full board to reject the Rules Committee recommendation – which would allow them to then propose Hwang.
Pak and Ho won’t talk to me. Oddly, Kim, who typically responds to my calls and text messages pretty quickly, ignored me when I asked her to explain why she has a problem with Chan.
David Chiu, who also is very good about responding to messages, is ducking this one, too.
Scott Weiner would only tell me that “many people have contacted me on both sides.”
“Both sides?” What, exactly, is going on?
Victor Hwang, I’m told, is one of the people that Pak and Kim would like to see moving up in San Francisco politics. That’s fine; that’s what activists do, is identify possible future leaders and help them. I have nothing against Victor Hwang.
But here’s where it’s strange: If the mayor’s allies want Hwang on the commission, they can get him appointed easily. There’s a vacant seat on the panel – one appointed directly by the mayor. So Ed Lee could fill that vacancy with Hwang tomorrow.
Chan is in a different seat, one appointed by the supervisors. They could both be on the commission. If this was all about promoting Hwang.
But apparently it’s not.
If somebody thinks Angela Chan is unqualified, or has voted the wrong way on the issues, please: Come forward and tell us why. Because right now this is looking like a political power play.
Chan needs six votes on Tuesday, April 29. If six supes don’t have the courage of their convictions, she could be out of a job.