Ed Lee Appoints Planning Commission President Christina Olague as Supervisor; Replacement for Mirkarimi

Christina Olague (Photo: SF Planning Dept)
Ed Lee has named Planning Commission president Christina Olague as a replacement for District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who took over as the new San Francisco sheriff this weekend. (Which is a whole other kettle of fish, you may have heard…)

The Guardian wrote this about Olague on December 20:

[G]iven Lee will probably avoid simply choosing between the [Willie] Brown and [Rose] Pak choices – unless they can privately coalesce around someone, which is certainly a possibility – most City Hall speculation these days falls on Christina Olague. The Planning Commission president comes from the progressive camp but she also served as a co-chair of Progress for All, creators of the Run, Ed, Run campaign that persuaded Lee to run for a full term.

Speaking to the Guardian in October, Olague denied that her early endorsement of Lee had anything to do with the D5 seat, which she said she wasn’t seeking but would take if offered. “If we get progressives to support him early on, maybe we’ll have a seat at the table,” was how she explained her support for Lee.

Here’s an old profile on Olague from BeyondChron, written in 2004.

Update 11:03 a.m. I talked to Corey Cook of USF, a frequent close observer of the San Francisco political scene, asking him what this appointment might say about the way Lee will govern now that he’s been elected.

“There was a pretty long list of qualified candidates he could have chosen,” Cook says. “He chose somebody who is certainly on the progressive end of the political spectrum. Ed Lee didn’t carry District 5, and I think this shows his willingness to appoint someone who is maybe to the left of him. Plus Olague was part of the Run Ed Run movement, so it’s somebody who he can work with, though it’s likely they’ll be on the opposite side of a number of substantive issues.”

I wondered about Olague, by all accounts a progressive, signing on to support Lee during the campaign, since most progressives seemed to consolidate around John Avalos in the election.

“They did, ultimately,” Cook says. “But at the same time, the mayor has deep roots in the progressive community too. One of the things that’s been interesting his first year in office is the degree to which he governed from a center-left coalition, where he was able to pull the progressives along on a variety of issues.

“I don’t know that his big-tent approach to governing isn’t workable. It seems that’s what he’s doing here — saying there are people who can represent progressive communities vigorously who at the same time he can work with, even though they may disagree on some issues.

“I talked to a number of progressives during the election. While they didn’t necessarily like some of the folks who were supporting Ed Lee’s campaign, most of them really had good things to say about Ed Lee and working with him in the past.

“I think the question around this appointment was: Do you try to consolidate your gains and choose a moderate, ensuring yourself a reliable vote on the board but risking a very difficult election in November, potentially not being able to hold onto the seat and losing to a progressive who you may not be able to work with? Or do you choose somebody who by all accounts is on the left end of the spectrum but is somebody who at the very least is certainly more pragmatic?”

Finally, I asked Cook how the appointment might speak to accusations from certain progressive quarters that Lee would govern simply as a proxy for Willie Brown and/or Rose Pak.

“If the perception of Lee is that he is doing the bidding of other people, it’s incumbent on him to establish his independence. This choice is one that does that, I think. And while Willie Brown and Rose Pak were strong proponents of his election, that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to be able to tell Lee what to do. Previously in his career, he has not done the bidding of those around him. To me it’s a leap to assume just because these folks have supported his campaign that he’s going to listen to them on everything, particularly because they don’t always agree.

“He’s shown independent judgment in this case; he’s picked somebody who has support within the district and it’s likely to forestall a serious progressive challenge in November. And he’s picked somebody who was associated with some of his core backers in the campaign – that’s ultimately a pretty good move politically.”

Here’s Olague speaking at a Run Ed Run event in July 2011:

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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