SAN FRANCISCO (NNPA) – During a contentious public meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to appoint Mark Farrell, a White venture capitalist, to serve as acting mayor. The vote stripped London Breed of those powers, who was the first African American woman to serve in that role. Critics of the board’s actions—inside and outside of the city—alleged that the vote was tainted by racism and discrimination.
Breed rose to national prominence, after she was named interim mayor of San Francisco, when Ed Lee, the city’s first Asian American mayor, died of a heart attack last December.
Amelia Ashley-Ward, a long-time resident of San Francisco and owner of the Sun-Reporter Publishing Company, said that she was surprised to see so many “White progressives lining up” during the city hall meeting, before the vote, to express concerns about Breed holding the two power positions—interim mayor and president of the board of supervisors—while running to become the next mayor of the city.
“Perhaps San Francisco isn’t as progressive as some people like to think, said Ashley-Ward. “I think that she was double-crossed by some of her colleagues on that board, who might have promised to support her.”
However, according to the San Francisco Examiner, temporarily serving as acting mayor and board president is not a conflict of interest.
“It is precisely what the voters established in the charter; it is common democratic practice; and it has been happening for the past six weeks, not to the detriment of city stability, but to its benefit,” the Examiner said.
The Examiner continued: “San Francisco mayors and boards always overlap. Mayor Lee appointed two of the board’s current members. The City Charter gives the mayor authority to join and speak at any board meeting. And supervisors serve as acting mayor all the time, occasionally signing their own legislation.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association called the San Francisco board of supervisors’ vote a “non-progressive and backward decision” and speculated that some board members may have been motivated by race and gender bias.
Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group, said that she was highly disturbed by the actions of the board of supervisors.
“This vote has national implications for African Americans everywhere that aspire to serve in public office, said Leavell. “As chairman of the NNPA, I condemn [the board’s vote]. I strongly encourage everyone to support London Breed’s campaign to become the next mayor of San Francisco.”
Leavell continued: “The Black voters need to come out in large numbers. People who aren’t registered to vote, need to register. Those who can give time, need to give time.”
Ashley-Ward said that Breed is one of the most qualified candidates in the race.
“She is very capable and that’s what frightened her opponents,” said Ashley-Ward.
Unabashedly outspoken, the 43-year-old Breed said that she was raised on the hard knock streets of the Fillmore District, just southwest of Nob Hill.
“When you come from the kind of community that I come from and experience a lot of frustration, you have to be outspoken to get things done,” Breed said during an interview with the NNPA Newswire. “I say what I feel like I need to say and that’s how I’ve always been, and I couldn’t live with myself, if I felt that I had to change to be an elected official.”
Breed said that she wants to continue to address homelessness, improve social services and increase access to healthcare in the city.
Breed said that the Black Press, particularly newspapers like the San Francisco Bay View and the Sun-Reporter, is vital in San Francisco.
“The African American newspapers lead the way in providing a well-rounded, news perspective and they’ve pushed companies that make money in the African American community to reinvest those dollars back into the community,” Breed said.
Breed also recommended that the Black Press raise awareness about the lack of diversity in the tech industry.
Ashley-Ward called the board of supervisors’ vote a “disgrace” and said that even though many residents are angry and incensed, she hoped that their passion translates into a record-level of civic engagement on June 5.
“There are some really bad feelings in the city, over what happened with the vote, but that should spur people into action,” said Ashley-Ward. “It won’t just be Black voters; it will take all freedom-loving voters in San Francisco.”
Ashley-Ward continued: “We have to embrace people like London Breed, because they are the future.”
Freddie Allen contributed reporting for this story.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.