A special election to decide on a recall of three San Francisco school board members has been confirmed for February 15 — setting up the first of potentially several city elections happening next spring.
On Monday, city officials confirmed that the supporters of the recall effort had gathered enough valid signatures to force the special election — which we had already basically assumed was the case following a late August announcement by the recall proponents. The group needed just over 51,000 signatures per recall candidate, and as of August they had over 70,000 for two, Alison Collins and board President Gabriela López, and nearly 67,000 for a third, Vice President Faauuga Moliga.
The election is scheduled for February 15, and as the Chronicle reports, that election will also include a vote on the city's next assessor-recorder.
Joaquín Torres has served as the city's assessor-recorder since February, filling a vacancy left by Carmen Chu when she was appointed to the city administrator's job. This is one of several musical-chairs swaps happening in San Francisco City Hall as a direct result of the federal corruption probe that ensnared former Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru, former City Administrator Naomi Kelly, and former general manager of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Harlan Kelly, among others. The Kellys both resigned their roles in December and January following the indictment of Harlan Kelly, though Naomi Kelly has not been charged with any crime.
Torres will now stand for election in February to complete Chu's term.
Also coming up, likely in June, will be an election for city attorney, following last month's appointment of David Chiu to that role, and the moving of longtime City Attorney Dennis Herrera into the PUC role. And at a date to be determined, we'll also have a special election to replace Chiu in the State Assembly — with the two early candidates being District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney and former supervisor David Campos.
But getting back to the Board of Education business, San Francisco is likely to end up spending around $8 million on this recall election which many have criticized as misguided and/or racially motivated. Proponents of the recall deny that there are racial motives for removing the three board members, who are all people of color — they say they would have tried to recall all seven school board members, but according to recall rules, only these three had served long enough to be recalled.
Anger at the school board has been stoked in the last year over three main issues: the slow reopening of SF schools in the pandemic, an aborted effort to rename 44 schools in the district over claims of racism against their namesakes, and a decision to do away with merit-based admissions at Lowell High School.
Additionally, there was the highly publicized controversy over a mural at Washington High School that was deemed racist and offensive to Indigenous Americans. And a mini-scandal involving some five-year-old tweets by board member Alison Collins that some suggested were racist against Asian Americans — though in the tweets, Collins was trying to generalize about racism against Black people by the AAPI community.
The alliance between white & Chinese parents to recall Black members of the SF School Board have the unintended bonus effect of proving that Allison Collins' notorious 2016 tweets about anti-Black racism in the API community were at least partly true.— Nato Green (@natogreen) August 30, 2021
Don't @ me / send tweet.
Collins has said the tweets were taken out of context, and when they resulted in her being stripped of her Vice President title on the board and committee positions, she responded with a 48-page lawsuit against her colleagues and the district, which she has since withdrawn.
Needless to say, the SF Board of Education has been in the news more in the past 18 months than ever in the history of this website, and that doesn't necessarily bode well for their effort to fend off the recall — just given that school board members are typically not such household names.
It's unclear what kind of campaigning might happen with this special election, but stay tuned.