lee.debate.jpgThe usefulness of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s voter-mandated monthly appearances at Board of Supervisors meetings was called into question by one of the supervisors at today’s board meeting.

Lee, making his first appearance at the board this afternoon since announcing last month that he is running for mayor in November, is required to appear in front of the supervisors each month for formal policy discussions.

The appearances were part of a proposition passed by nearly 60 percent of city voters last November in response to contentious relations between the former board and then-Mayor Gavin Newsom.

But Supervisor John Avalos today questioned the format of the appearances, crafted by the board and mayor’s office earlier this year, in which the mayor gives scripted answers to questions submitted by even- or odd-numbered district supervisors a week in advance. Supervisors are then not allowed to ask follow-up questions.

Avalos is one of two supervisors, along with board president David Chiu, who are also candidates in the November mayoral race.

He said the format was developed “when we had a more civilized relationship” between the mayor and board.

Lee was criticized by many for announcing his mayoral candidacy, reversing a pledge he made not to run after being appointed interim mayor in January.

Avalos said although “we’ve had substantive discussions–well, not really discussions, but presentations,” he said the appearances “have degenerated into a very scripted exchange.”

Lee, making his fifth appearance in all since January, said he thought the discussions were “exactly what voters had in mind.”

He said, “My answers might not be great for blogs…but I’m not here to make headlines.”

Avalos did sneak in a follow-up question when Lee closed his comments by inviting him to play a game of ping pong at this weekend’s Sunday Streets event in Chinatown.

Avalos asked him, “How’s your game?”

While speaking to reporters after today’s appearance, Lee said he might be open to some tweaking of the format, but said “if we don’t set boundaries, it could be a free-for-all.”

The mayor also defended his use of a script to read his answers, citing the variety of questions he fields from supervisors, who today asked about the Central Subway project, the state’s realignment of state prisoners and parolees to county facilities, the city’s negotiations with California Pacific Medical Center, among other topics.

“It goes from one thing to another,” Lee said. “As brilliant a mind as I think I have, I can’t keep up with six supervisors all at once, they’re coming at me like ping pong balls.”

DanMcMenamin0628p09/13/11

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  • thenicole

    It’s awfully sweet of him to think of the blogs, seeing as how that’s actually how SF gets news.

  • thenicole

    It’s awfully sweet of him to think of the blogs, seeing as how that’s actually how SF gets news.

  • sfbird

    I’d like to go back and see how that measure is worded. This is clearly thwarting voter intent, if not actually the letter of the law.

    People had in mind the British system of questioning where politicians have to think on their feet and defend policy in the face of hostility. I don’t think anyone was voting for a bland functionary to come and awkwardly read from a prepared statement. We already have that.

  • sfbird

    I’d like to go back and see how that measure is worded. This is clearly thwarting voter intent, if not actually the letter of the law.

    People had in mind the British system of questioning where politicians have to think on their feet and defend policy in the face of hostility. I don’t think anyone was voting for a bland functionary to come and awkwardly read from a prepared statement. We already have that.

  • sfbird

    Looking it up, the law “requires the Mayor to appear in person at one regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors each month to engage in formal policy discussions with the Board.”

    And while Lee’s camp will certainly try to split legal hairs if it becomes an issue, I don’t think this fits the definition of “discussion” in any sense of the word.

  • sfbird

    Looking it up, the law “requires the Mayor to appear in person at one regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors each month to engage in formal policy discussions with the Board.”

    And while Lee’s camp will certainly try to split legal hairs if it becomes an issue, I don’t think this fits the definition of “discussion” in any sense of the word.