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Monday, March 22, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

[editor’s note: h. brown is running against Gavin Newsom for supervisor from District 2]

¾ In the interests of fairness

I have blasted 2nd District supervisor Gavin Newsom with regularity in this column & he's never raised a peep in response. I know his aide Mike Farrah in passing & he's always been courteous & friendly. In fact, I attended a house-warming party in the bachelor digs he shared with Alex Clemens (Usual Suspects political website guru) back before everyone started getting married & settling down. Newsom was there but I never met him. I spent most of my time talking to Alex's dad, who's semi-retired much like myself & works with at-risk kids, which is also my specialty.

Anyway, these are all nice people & I'm heading into a campaign in which my goal is to prevent all of them from increasing their shares of power in San Francisco (I'm running against Gavin for supe in 2). I just want to take this opportunity to separate my serious message from my forays into what I call “Satirical Muckraking.” My heroes incidentally are Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin, Lincoln Steffens, Jacob Riis & of course, Sam Clemens.

To date, my writings about Newsom have been composed of digging through reams of clips and tapes (over 18 mos. or so of viewing & reporting upon the SF political scene, I've divided my specific interests into 87 categories of which my news clip section alone holds over 7,000 clips).

When my first-hand observation, tape review, or mining of the local press reveals actions by what Aaron Peskin calls "major players" … when I find actions that are, in my opinion, a danger to myself & the group I have elected myself to represent in print (around 100,000 hippies, artists, musicians, dancers, teachers & writers) … when I see something that I feel endangers the special (yes, “special“) interests of my “folks,” I attack the source & try to get them to change their mind. I try and use my gift of humor as a weapon to weaken and discredit.

Please keep in mind that personal as these attacks may seem, I'm not after the individual. I'm after their power. I'm trying to effect their decisions.

My “special interest” groups do not stop with the above. I've been brutal with every supervisor who failed to defend the Falun Gong. I think the black diaspora is a disgrace. Sam Clemens was fired from a reporting job in this town for protesting physical abuse of Chinese Americans in print. He would have been right at home taking on the current board's refusal to raise a mild protest against the brutalizing of today's Chinese.

So … my “muckraking” is digging up the crap people do, like that Falun Gong vote. The “satirical” part is adding an across-the-keyboard mix of brutal metaphors, insulting allusions, derisive contempt & just plain anger … all in a humorous fashion when possible. And anyone who reads me will tell you, I save the worst digs for myself.

On the serious side ...

Let me say this about that

The census says we have 776,000 people living in San Francisco. I'd imagine that in reality we're easily over 800,000 easily. We live in an area under 50 square miles. We are thus the second densest city in the United States. We have more cars than we have parking spaces (not counting people who commute). The last things we need are more people or more cars.

You'd think that would be obvious and be written into a “Master Plan.” Well, as Gomer Pyle used to say "Suuuprise! Suuuuprise!"

Trouble is, most of the politicians in town seem unclear on the "If you build it, he will come" concept. If you build thousands of offices and thousands of garage parking spaces, people and cars will come to fill them. The excess of people drives up the price of purchase & rental on the real estate.

Joe O'Donoghue, chief of the Residential Builders Association, says that the answer to high prices is to increase density. This flies in the face of reality, as the only place in the U.S. that is denser with human bodies is New York City and it is also the only place with higher rents.

It is the simplest of economics. When demand outstrips supply, prices rise. Got that? So, the only way to keep prices down is the imposition of artificial controls such as rent control.

As Charles Bukowski once said: "The most important thing for the creation of art is cheap rent." When the cheap rent goes, the artists go. San Francisco’s rent control is pretty feeble (it applies only to structures built before 1979 & even in those, apartments vacated can immediately be raised to market rate ¾ probably around 20 percent a year) The reality is that only the small percentage of the essentially nomadic artistic community that has been in residence for over 5 years has much of a break on the rent.

Having worked in the rental industry the better part of my life, I can tell you that pressure upon this population to get the hell out is a scandal.

I think rent control should be extended to all storefront businesses. I say, touch tenants' rights or rent control at your peril. Otherwise, I will attack you with my keyboard.

My view on the homeless issue

It's time to clear the streets of drunks, the druggies & the insane. I agree with Supervisor Tony Hall that there are many many classifications of “homeless.”

Sooooo, get ready to go to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Perhaps several times in this decade. Questions of where & how to start would be in order now. First, where. …

We own this island with its own brig

Last year, the Board of Supervisors decided to allow the Sheriff's Department to keep the Treasure Island Brig as a training facility. We're gonna need it. There are enough buildings on the island to temporarily lodge anyone who is fit to live indoors.

There are … this is absolutely true … some small percentage of people who are not civilized enough to live indoors. For these, we erect tents. Don't ask me how I know these things unless you want your stomach turned. I've spent years working with people “disturbed” & “afflicted” on all levels. I've cleaned up enough human waste to qualify as an expert in the area.

Finance Chair Aaron Peskin brought up the idea last year of the Sheriff's Department taking over all policing duties on the island. A great idea. They are experts at various levels of incarceration. That's what it's gonna take.

The biggest hurdle to this phase of the plan is Willie Brown & his developers. We don't need the hotels & Grand Prix racetrack they've envisioned. We need a giant triage & holding facility for the people who often make walking down the streets of San Francisco terrifying or repulsive … or both.

How we get them to Treasure Island

The Police Department of the City of New Orleans has about half as many officers as the Police Department of San Francisco. Yet during Mardis Gras each year, the N.O.P.D. handles a million drunks, 24 hours a day, for a couple of weeks. They do it by parking police buses in side streets adjacent to trouble spots & doing continuous sweeps on horseback and on foot to snag everyone who can't stand up, doesn't know their name, or has an open container of alcohol. Cops work these areas in 4-hour shifts and by the end of each shift, the buses are full. They then take the buses to sports fields away from the downtown area, where everyone busted gets the once-over. Most pay $100 or so in fines (been a few years since I was there) & head back to party. Some few make it to the real lock-up. We can do that here with a few additions.

Not that long ago, the cops were required to set up a few kiosks around the city at trouble & heavy tourists' spots. They should be brought back & their numbers increased. The squads working out of these mini-precincts will bust their buns for the first year or so. After that, they'll mostly spend their time getting their pictures taken with tourists.

Oh yes, tourism matters big time. How else am I going to find my wives? (I've married 3 visiting foreign nationals.)

$50 for your shopping cart?

Again, kudos to Tony Hall for at least attempting to get the carts off the street. Every single one of them is stolen.

Fear of lawsuits has kept lawmakers away from this issue. Pass an ordinance requiring every cart in every store to be engraved with an ID number. That done, offer a bounty of $50 a cart for every “unlicensed” cart up to a cut-off date. After that, carts without ID's are like cars without license plates.

There's a start for you Gavin. Now I've got something out there for others to fire upon. I look forward to it.

how's your hangover Paddy?: sobone@juno.com