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Norman Yee rises to helm SF Board of Supervisors

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed congratulates Supervisor Norman Yee being elected as Board of Supervisors president at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

Norman Yee became the Board of Supervisors president after hours of public comment and weeks of speculation at City Hall on who would become the next board president.

At the inaugural meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer nominated Yee and Supervisor Matt Haney nominated Hillary Ronen.

The initial vote was 7-4 for Yee with supervisors Gordon Mar, Shamann Walton and Haney in support of Ronen.

Mar called to rescind the vote for the board to unanimously approve Yee, the longest-serving supervisor, as the new board president. The second vote was 10-1 with Ronen in the dissent.

It seemed likely a progressive supervisor would take the helm of the Board, as progressives hold a majority of seats after Haney, Walton and Mar were elected last November.

All three were sworn into office before the vote, along with reelected supervisors Catherine Stefani and Rafael Mandelman.

Ronen had campaigned for the position but it was not until about two weeks ago that Yee emerged as a frontrunner for the position as well. At a rally in Chinatown on Dec. 27, Yee drew out support from the community and his office said the vote for the board presidency was close at the time.

Fewer, who had served with Yee on the Board of Education, said she has known Yee to lead with integrity, thoughtfulness and compassion:

“I believe that Supervisor Yee will further this collective progressive vision through strong compassionate and steady leadership as the President of the Board of Supervisors.”

Haney, who represents District 6, said the community members who spoke in favor of Ronen affirmed his nomination and support for her as board president:

“They said you are you going to stand up for the most vulnerable and you’re going to fight for the people who are most in need. You’re going to stand with working people, immigrants and working labor. That’s what I feel I need my district.”

Ronen addressed concerns that her leadership style could be too brash to take up role as board president and that some colleagues did not consider her legislative achievements on the board or how she conducts herself as supervisor:

“I’ve been told I’m too difficult. I’m called crazy. I’ve been told I don’t know how to bring people together. I don’t know how to compromise, which by the way is bullshit. I do all of those things.”

Despite not winning the board presidency, residents, community and supporters for Ronen came out in droves during the public comment period to try persuade Ronen’s colleagues to vote for her.

Safai said the death of Chinatown community organizer Rose Pak and Mayor Ed Lee left a void in the Chinese community, which was a factor in his vote for Yee:

“What it means symbolically for this city to have a Chinese-American board president at this time, at this moment, in our history, is what weighs heavily on me.”

Mayor London Breed, who was a former board president, issued a statement following the vote of the new board president:

“I want to congratulate Supervisor Norman Yee on being elected to serve as President of the Board of Supervisors. As a former Board President, I know firsthand the responsibility that comes with serving in this role, which includes working collaboratively with all members of the Board to improve the lives of everyone in San Francisco.

Breed added:

“I look forward to working with President Yee to create more housing for all San Franciscans, help our homeless residents get the care and shelter they need, and keep our streets clean and safe.”

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