After the most boring June elections ever, San Francisco will have a number of exciting contests in November. The field of challengers to Supervisor Christina Olague in District 5 continues to grow, and SEIU reached a curious endorsement agreement between its 1021 and UHW locals that still allows UHW official Leon Chow to challenge top SEIU 1021 ally John Avalos in District 11. Competitive races are emerging Districts 1 and 7, while Supervisors Campos and Chiu appear to have avoided serious challenges. Mayor Ed Lee will be promoting a series of sweeping ballot measures that include activists’ longtime dream of creating a permanent affordable housing funding source, a bond to improve parks, a parcel tax for City College, and a likely reform of the city’s regressive payroll tax system. Add these local contests to the presidential race and the vital Jerry Brown tax increase measure and San Francisco could have a record high voter turnout this fall.

Mecke to Join D5 field

Longtime Tom Ammiano Assembly aide Quintin Mecke is joining a D5 field already occupied by progressive appointed incumbent Christina Olague and progressive challengers Julian Davis and Community College Board member John Rizzo. London Breed, who initially planned to run as a moderate alternative to Olague, is also in the race.

Mecke, Davis and Rizzo are competing among voters who see Olague as too connected to Mayor Lee, who appointed her. All three will focus on Olague’s support for 8 Washington, an issue that is irrelevant to a progressive agenda and little connected to the needs of D5 residents. They will also argue that D5 has a legacy of political independence in the tradition of Matt Gonzalez and Ross Mirkarimi, and that they rather than Olague fit this bill.

Breed counted on sweeping the district’s African-American voters, but that is now questionable given Davis’ entry into the race. Breed’s background is likely too establishment oriented for her to challenge Olague from the left, while Olague’s history of progressive activism is too secure for her to be suddenly tarred as an ally of downtown.

District 5 had a huge field of known Democratic candidates in 2004, and that helped Mirkarimi, who was the only leading Green in the race. The increased field will split the first place votes cast by those unhappy with Olague, while she will dominate first place votes from those who like her or Mayor Lee.

SEIU and District 11

The indispensable labor blog Stern Burger with Fries revealed last week that SEIU 1021 and SEIU-UHW had reached an agreement on how they would make endorsements in San Francisco. I have heard from many labor folks troubled by the more progressive 1021 shifting its endorsement power to a process controlled by the international union, and the Bay Guardian and others have criticized the agreement.

Under the deal, if there is a dispute between the two locals over an endorsement, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry would appoint a mediator to break the tie. But here is what makes no sense: UHW official Leon Chow’s race against 1021 ally John Avalos is exempted from the agreement.

Why exempt the only race in November in which two SEIU locals will be actively working for competing candidates? That’s hardly showing leadership. President Henry appears to be passing the buck to allow UHW leader Dave Regan to get his way.

We’re talking about UHW backing one of its own officials against an incumbent who is Local 1021’s close ally. Henry’s non-interference in this brewing labor civil war appears to makes a mockery of the entire deal.

Tight Races in Districts 1 and 7

Supervisor Eric Mar faces a challenge from David Lee in District 1, with other candidates still eyeing the race. It’s been long assumed that Mar’s progressive politics make him vulnerable for re-election, but whether David Lee will prove stronger than Mar’s 2008 top rival Sue Lee remains unclear. This race is likely to see the most outside resources coming in from all sides, as it is a top priority for labor, progressives, real estate interests and downtown.

District 7 pits a strongly labor backed candidate, Port Commissioner F.X. Crowley, against current School Board President Norman Yee. Former Board of Appeals President Michael Garcia is also in the race.

Yee has been elected citywide but has aroused the ire of the United Educators of San Francisco and its political director, Ken Tray. Although the union backed Yee in his 2008 School Board race, Tray is backing Crowley, who is clearly labor’s choice.

After being appointed to the D7 seat by Mayor Newsom, incumbent Supervisor Sean Elsbernd faced no serious opposition in seeking re-election. This is really the first chance D7 voters have had since 2000 to start fresh, and expect a very competitive race.

Local Ballot Measures

If being identified as a “moderate” allows Mayor Lee to put forth sweeping measures to help San Francisco, then so much the better. Instead of following the lead of his predecessors and identifying with one big fall ballot measure, Lee is putting forth a broad-based initiative strategy necessary to more fully address the city’s needs.

One measure, a $79 per-parcel tax for City College, was put on the ballot by the CCSF Trustees, not Mayor Lee. But the Mayor’s support is crucial to the measure passing, and would bring in more than $15 million a year for 8 years.

The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is the most significant local strategy for affordable housing production in San Francisco history. It avoids the problem of passing 5-year housing bonds that soon expire, and creates the guaranteed annual cash flow that nonprofit developers require. Lee unified often warring housing factions, avoiding the conflicts that made future attempts a political mine field.

The Trust Fund developed quietly, a fact highlighted by its introduction at the Board of Supervisors on the same day that the Warriors deal to build a stadium and relocate to San Francisco was announced. But its enactment will be among local progressives’ top priority for November.

The City College parcel tax and Trust Fund measures, along with a $195 million park and playground improvement bond, would seem to keep Mayor Lee amply busy for the fall. But the Mayor also intends to put a measure on the ballot gradually exchanging the city’s payroll tax for a more progressive and widely distributed gross receipts tax.

I described the advantages of this plan on May 14, and my colleague, Paul Hogarth, did as well on May 24. It seems momentum for this change is in the air, and that there is no turning back despite outstanding differences.

All in all, San Francisco will be moving forward in November while California simply tries to survive and the presidential race focuses on whether the United States should return to the economic policies of the Hoover era. It’s no wonder people pay a premium to live in a city that, far more than other places, knows how.