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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 26   <>  MONDAY, JULY 2, 2001

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Of all the words of gods & men …the saddest are: “What might have been.”

— Unknown

My cats & I wear out a couch about every three months or so. That’s some serious couch-potato credentials. We expect a lot out of our couches. I eat, sleep, drink, write, nightmare, and fantasize. The cats do most of that, plus they tear the hell out of them sharpening their claws.

I don’t care. Tear away! I’m able to do this because my cover identity is as a Tenderloin apartment house janitor/manager & I get first choice of all the furniture from folks who fly away to Japan or France or Turkey. Life, as some hillbilly once said, “has been good to me.”

I wish everyone’s needs were as simple. The toughest time on the couch is during the end-of-year San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee hearings on the mayor’s budget. Geez, days sleeping in the same clothes. But it’s a small price to pay for living out your dream.

Conflicts of interest

Supervisor Matt Gonzalez took on Finance Chair Mark Leno and Vice Chair Aaron Peskin head on this week. It was tense. Leno and Peskin decided not to do any real work on cutting the mayor’s budget. In other words, they decided to stay with the traditional role of supervisors: blow a lot of hot air, then sign on the dotted line for a tiny portion of the loot. Each supe will be lucky to direct a million or so at selected programs and needs. That’s less than 1/5000th of the total. Willie directs the rest, and actually he drives the supes’ choices too by cutting programs sure to bring hundreds of protestors to lobby the supes at every public hearing.

The Gonzalligator wanted to storm the hill. He suggested “unleashing the budget analyst” to suggest some serious slashing. Maybe up to 2 percent to be reallocated. Analyst Harvey Rose and his staff strained at their tethers. Peskin was opposed but Leno seemed amenable & it looked as though he and Gonzalez were going to carry the motion.

Peskin whined and cried and delayed. He was tired. He was hungry. Couldn’t they delay this until the next day?

They did. In the twelve-hour recess, they turned Leno around. From the data the Budget Analyst’s Office had ready, they must have been up the night. It was “put me in, coach.” It was also useless.

Before data was even presented, Peskin & Leno announced it was doomed. They’d vote against it. Leno pontificated and quoted a rabbi in Hebrew. Peskin immediately translated: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Certainly, not if they have their way.

And on this one, they did. The conservative majority now apparent in Finance voted to leave the mayor’s treasure chest for Bechtel and PG&E. “Business as usual.”

Nevertheless, Gonzalez totally pissed off Peskin & Leno, who began to toss platitudes like nails from a fleeing getaway car. (Notice when Leno is really upset, he looks like an ostrich? The neck lengthens, the hair bristles, the eyes become saucers.)

“Just give me 40 acres & a mule”

Treasure Island is just over 500 acres of land. The mayor’s boys in the John Stewart Company manage 776 units of property there ranging in rental value from $1,200 to $1,500 (approx) for two-bedroom & up parcels, which should raise … more than $10 million a year.

It ain’t happening. I don’t know why. Maybe you can figure it out. The island claims a balanced budget of 6 million or so but counts on half or more of that to come from other city departments. “Something is happening there & you don’t know what it is. … Do you, Mr. Jones?”

As usual, it gets worse. Allow me some rope to hang myself.

You sharper cowboys and cowgirls have probably figured out by now that I trust Supervisor Aaron Peskin as far as I can throw Treasure Island. As a drunken, hippie, pothead conspiracy buff, I think he’s fronting another double-cross on the charter amendment he’s offered for the November ballot that calls for a vote of the citizens to approve any fill in the bay that exceeds 100 ACRES!

That’s lots and lots of land. An expert said in committee that less than 400 acres had been filled in the last 20 years since sensible controls were enacted.

Follow this 100-or-less acres that needs no agreement from the electorate. Who can approve individual 100-acre fills? Hmmmm … Anyone remember Barbara Kaufman? Peskin worked closely with her to push through damaging legislation (Chapter 31 of the Administrative Code) that she and her staff had to leave hanging when they helo’d out of City Hall. Turns out Barbara was just appointed head of one of the numerous authorities that rule on what goes into and comes out of San Francisco Bay. We all know she’d be a real guardian of the environment.

Add 100 acres here and there and what you got? Cape Canaveral eventually. Apply that to Treasure Island on a fill or two or three and Lord knows what you got, cause I sure don’t. Sun City, maybe. I wonder if Aaron’s in on the “big” plans yet? I wonder if there are any? Who gets the land under the old freeways and the bus yards? So much to fathom and so little wine.

Always leave them laughing

In “setting an example,” the new board members cut their own staff while increasing the mayor’s plethora of minions. It got down to a matter of who had the most computers hooked up when they took office. Apparently, some had four and some had three.

Chair Leno was stunned! Sympathizing with poor Jake McGoldrick’s lack of a fourth computer, he queried the other committee members. Gonzalez allowed that he had one more computer than McGoldrick. He noted, however, “I’m not ignoring that Supervisor McGoldrick’s office has a sink and mine does not!” (laughter around)

I know why a sink would come in handy. But what the hell does McGoldrick need another computer for? Maybe, an anchor for his bass boat?

My next column will be filed from St. Louis, where I’m going to see my mamma. The mayor there (in my hometown) had to be kept in a safe house a few years ago after another high-ranked local official threatened him.

Live with it: sobone@juno.com

h. brown