cityhall3.jpgA plan for San Francisco supervisors to vote today on an interim mayor to replace lieutenant governor-elect Gavin Newsom was scuttled after supervisors decided to opt to first hear from the public.

Supervisor John Avalos and Board President David Chiu had offered two different motions last week: Avalos to vote today for an interim mayoral replacement and Chiu to direct the board clerk to develop a process for replacing the mayor.

At today’s meeting, Avalos–with the board possibly lacking the six votes necessary to agree on a replacement–asked instead for the board to take public comment on the selection process.

Avalos then joined with Chiu in support of Chiu’s motion, which is expected to come before the board next Tuesday.

“It is, I believe, very important that we start a transition process that is smooth and causes zero problems to the people of San Francisco,” Avalos told the board.

At issue is a high-stakes decision, after which an interim mayor could use the position as a springboard to run for mayor in November 2011. Some have called for a “caretaker” interim mayor who would pledge not to run for the office later.

The board can select anyone, including one of its own, though board members are not allowed to vote for themselves.

“It’s democracy in action,” a smiling Avalos said of the complicated process in front of the board, before today’s hearing.

He stressed the need for collaboration but also for a quick decision amid the city’s budget crisis.

Newsom is expected to resign his position as mayor and take the lieutenant governor’s seat in Sacramento on Jan. 3.

Under the city charter, following that vacancy, the president of the Board of Supervisors becomes acting mayor. The board then has the option of appointing an interim mayor until the next election.

With the current board’s last meeting taking place on Jan. 4 and four new board members taking office on Jan. 8, there has been speculation as to which body might get to choose a mayoral replacement, and even whether Newsom could delay his resignation until the new board takes office.

Newsom said earlier today that he had “every intention of leaving Jan. 3” and that he was “99 percent” likely to resign on that day. He also said the new board should have a role in the decision.

Newsom’s chief spokesman, Tony Winnicker, later addressed the other “1 percent” of the timing of Newsom’s decision.

“He left the door open if it would make a significant difference in preventing the installation of a radical mayor, who could jeopardize the city’s fiscal integrity and economic recovery,” Winnicker said.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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