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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 19    <>  MONDAY, MAY 14, 2001

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

It was a great week to stay away from City Hall, and I did. But I couldn’t resist cracking open a bottle of bargain wine & watching it all on the tube. There were good reasons to hide at home. There was a full moon, there were rolling blackouts, and it was Budget Analyst Harvey Rose’s birthday. Harvey doesn’t take prisoners on his birthday. Just ask Director of Planning Gerald Green. Here was the scene.

Green and Controller Ed (rubber stamp) Harrington brought over a wheelbarrow each of doo from the mayor’s office to shove on through the May 9 meeting of the board’s Finance Committee. There were special assistants positions, even one to be appointed by the mayor to spy on the board — they called it “liaisoning” or something like that. There were single-source contracts (boy, does Harvey hate them). Hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultants. And it all had to be done on that day or, Green threatened, Planning just might not get around to some of the work the public wanted till ...oh, say, late fall or maybe next year.

“Exigency” is the new buzzword coming out of the mouths of all of the mayor’s people. It’s moved into third place on Willie’s Top Ten Obfuscatory Terminology list. “Retroactivity” continues to hold the top spot, followed by “caveat.” “Nexus” was bumped to fourth place by the fast-moving “exigency.”

Harvey finally had enough. He had two things to say. “First,” he said, “I want to thank you for wishing me a happy birthday.” Then he told Gerald to tick just about every bit of the legislation he’d brought over. It was an amazing performance that was only heightened by Harvey’s necktie, which looked as though it was cut from one of those bead seat covers cabbies use. I bet it’s the only day of the year he gets to pick out his own tie.

Unfortunately, Matt Gonzalez gets to pick his own tie every day. I suspect that the Good Supervisor paints his ties, then lays them in the driveway out front to iron them nice n’ flat. I’m also convinced Supervisor Gonzalez washes his shirts in the bathroom sink across from his office. I swear, when Gonzalez questioned Rose and the camera kept going back and forth, their ties made my eyes water.

Other things the bad guys did… Sometimes the audacity of Willie’s departments amazes even me. In Finance yesterday, the Airport Commission sent a guy named Peter Nardoza to inform the supervisors that he had let an entire airline move into a huge section of the brand new terminal without paying a dime and without a lease!! Not only that, he said that he didn’t want them to have to pay anything until they got all settled and started to make more money. They need the break because they’re a little start-up company. They’re named United Airlines, Inc.

Hey, I’m in the business of taking care of rental property. Sometimes for whatever reason, you go through the process of evicting someone. The “nexus” of the poor slob’s life comes when the Sheriff’s Department sends two deputies to assist him onto the sidewalk. Imagine having to evict a whole airline. “I’m sorry sir, but you don’t seem to have a legal lease for this space.”

I guess if their pilots are really good and they pick their spots carefully, they could all land on Highway 101 for a while. That could solve the shortage-of-runways problem. But why restrict them to 101? Surely, there’s enough space to set down a 747 in Golden Gate Park.

davis.jpg (505654 bytes)There’s more. Like I said, it was a full moon. Supervisor Aaron Peskin completed his plans for a huge garage where Sue Bierman’s pretty little park was on Drumm, between Clay & Washington. In an ordinance that looked strangely as though it had been written by attorneys for a West Virginia Coal company, Peskin gave us a park that will be about 6 inches deep, have a busy street running through one end, be sandwiched by large light-rail stops, & sit atop a rumbling, carbon monoxide–spewing 400-car garage. Aaron calls it, eloquently, “excluding the subsurface thereof.” Hell, there’s gonna be more traffic there than when the place was a freeway.

Other goodies… Anytime the mayor sends a piece of legislation, look at it under a microscope and clip a clothespin on your nose. Thus cometh: “Geographic Information System Data License Fees.” Another way to describe this might be: “Permission to permeate, radiate, and microwave the citizenry.” Like Mt. Sutro and its hundred or more new antennas. There’s not likely to be a rush of Environmental Impact Reviews asking such questions as, “Will these antennas harm my unborn child?” Naw, Gerald Green will wave away that problem with a “Negative Declaration” finding. As a matter of fact, Public Works has been collecting fees for these things for about three years already.

I recall reps for some of these antenna folks calling on one of the buildings I managed. They offered over 2 grand a month to allow them to put antennas on our roof. The owner turned it down because he was afraid we’d get sued if the things turned out to be dangerous. The city government, of course, has no such reservations. There they stood with a pile of cash already collected. When Supervisor Aaron Peskin (Planning’s point man on the board) asked, “What up?” they increased the pot by $105,000. The supes took the money and didn’t ask a single embarrassing question.

That wasn’t all…The mayor blind-sided Finance chair Mark Leno. Willie had acting Rec & Park director Elizabeth Goldstein ask Leno to sponsor a resolution giving her total power over the ticket kiosk on Union Square. As Leno put it: “You gave me a no-problem pass through and it turned out to be much more.” It got ugly there for a while. The good chairman even sided with Matt Gonzalez and (despite Peskin’s desire to go along with Planning) tabled a request for more troops. If the mayor and Mark Leno develop a real rift, it could be good news for poor people, people of color, and bottom-feeding journalists.

Complain to h. brown