01/27/2012 04:26 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

Friday Followers: Mayor Lee Needs to Take the Lead

How does that go again, be careful what you wish for? Something along those lines must be going through the head of our esteemed mayor. That temporary position was such an apparently easy gig, the full-time one would be just as fun, right?


Let's see now, we have had Occupy, the increasingly complicated America's Cup, the lights going out in Candlestick Park on national television, Occupy again, trying to get Lee's 17-point plan for the city underway, and of course, Occupy again. Finally, just to make sure there are enough balls being juggled in Room 200, there is that small dust-up with the sheriff.

Having fun yet Mister Mayor? Somewhere along the line, you must have realized that there is no grace period for this job. And worse, that there is no place to hide. Maybe it is unfair of me to be training certain artillery this early in the campaign, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that a pattern is starting to emerge with our noble leader.

See, it's that word "leader" that has me worried. In order to be a leader you have to lead. And in order to lead, you have to be in front, by definition. So why does it seem that Mayor Lee has a fear of being in that position? I first started having this suspicion during the Justin Herman fiasco with Occupy San Francisco. The night the SFPD showed up with their barricades, then abandoned the barricades, then stood by as the Occupiers made sculptures out of the barricades was particularly aggravating to watch. The mayor kept waiting, almost seeming to hope that somehow the decision would be made for him. In reality, after a while it stops being waiting and starts being stalling.

Which brings us to the situation with our sheriff. If the mayor thought that the lights going dark in Candlestick was embarrassing, this is swiftly eclipsing that moment. We now have constant national coverage, with AP covering every step and papers across the country giving this space. And with each turn of the screw, the evidence gets worse and worse, including the emails that were released yesterday.

We have a sheriff that claims he can do his job, except for those times when he can't. Like for instance, when he is in court. I am not one of those people baying for him to resign as I do believe the courts have to be given the time and space to run their course. But there is no question that the sheriff and his department have been compromised, and by extension their ability to serve us, the taxpayers. As a result, he should step aside until the issue is resolved.

The judge in this case has kept the restraining order in place because she believes there is evidence to suggest the son and wife need protection. My question is, who in this matter is in charge of protecting us, the people of San Francisco?

The answer is the mayor. But again, Mayor Lee has taken the passive approach of letting events move along by themselves, not leading on the issue, and apparently hoping that somehow he will be saved again from having to make an actual call on the matter. Monday's meeting with the sheriff was worrisome, because again it seemed the whole reason for the meeting was a hope that the sheriff would step aside voluntarily and get the mayor off the hook.

Ross Mirkarimi is nothing if not a political animal, and he predictably did not fall for it. He senses also that Mayor Lee will not lead. A stronger leader would have laid out exactly how embarrassing the process of suspending the sheriff would look, the DA would explain the evidence that appears in an Ethics Commission meeting, and a graceful solution for all would be achieved. Obviously that is not what happened.

I can't tell you what will happen at trial for the sheriff. He appears to be determined to go to court regardless of the outcome, and there seems to be an attitude of, "If I am going down, I am going to take everyone with me." Only one person can alter this path. The question is now whether an administrator whose hallmark is consensus building can make the call.

On the other hand, one group that is not having trouble finding leaders is the mob growing around the effort to save the Gold Dust Saloon. Almost 3,000 people have joined the cause on Facebook, and there are now multiple websites supporting this cause. And the effort is now about to steamroll into City Hall. In the next few weeks a proposal for the Gold Dust to be considered an historical landmark will be brought before the Board of Supervisors.

Thanks to the fact that the city accepts the state's DPR 523 forms for local landmark nominations, there are basically three ways you can nominate a building. The owner can nominate it, a non-owner can nominate it with the owner's permission, and a supervisor can do it without the owner's permission. Look for a supervisor to be that leader, and get the nomination calendared. And when that happens, look for the 3,000 to gear up for public comment that day, a show that I can't wait to see. I wonder where we will have drinks after?