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[Beginning this week, h. brown's Watching City Hall appears in this space three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.]

May 1, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Come to the Chronicle & Examiner …

for HALF of the News …

HALF of the time!

– from “Media Blitz”

Home Depot won.

Along with other, more honest lobbyists, it was a victory for special-interest journalism & Uncle Tom Politics. Neither the Examiner nor the Chronicle ever once mentioned during the debate that Home Depot has, in fact, paid millions to settle charges of racial discrimination (they don't seem to like black people, Sophie). They also did not mention that the gargantuan corporation will not even begin to discuss allowing unions under their ample roofs.

Hey, I have family and friends who get paid to push cases like this for clients like Home Depot. I mean, it ain't nuclear weapons we're talking about here. It's just a simple matter of the best interests of blacks being sold out by their leaders. Why should we care?

Personally? I thought the most interesting part of the debate was 11th District supe Gerardo Sandoval reminding Board President Tom Ammiano that Tom had only carried 25 percent of the vote for mayor in his district. I meant, of course, to properly mention that Supervisor Sandoval is against the Falun Gong people. You 11th District people who have relatives in China who practice Falun Gong, you remember that Sandoval is anti-Falun Gong. He has no complaints about them being beaten, murdered, and imprisoned because he thinks the Chinese Americans in his district don't care. Do you?

Rock & Roll without music

Alex Clemens of Usual Suspects (.com) hosted a great party Monday night at the Temple Bar. That's sort of Supervisor Chris Daly's stomping ground, so I kind of wondered what the crowd would be like. It was a benefit for Project Open Hand.

As a near client, someone paid my way in & bought me my opening round & then it was time for indulging in my favorite pastimes on earth: grilling brilliant & powerful people and flirting shamelessly with beautiful women while drinking heavily. The sad drag about mixing those three pursuits is that you sometimes get confused and often forget the best parts of the night. For instance, while I distinctly recall continuing a big play for a slinky young lawyer, I woke up this morning not only with Frederick Hobson's business card in my pocket, but with his NAME TAG glued on the back!! Wellll, what we don't know, don't hurt us.

Brains & more brains

I got to talk to Samson Wong of the Examiner & the Independent & AsianWeek, who is a walking encyclopedia of San Francisco Democratic politics for the past two decades. He was on the CACE (Citizens' Advisory Committee on Elections) for fifteen years or more.

Guys like him are the best kind of reporters. The kind turkeys like me can rip off for our term papers. When he writes a column, he doesn't just tell you what happened yesterday. He tells you the whole basis of the issue, historically & philosophically, and ventures authoritative prognostication as to the likely outcome of ongoing melodramas. In my short two years writing about politics here, I cannot count the data I have confidently “borrowed” from Samson's columns.

Then I got to meet Professor Rich DeLeon!! Jeez. He knows more than Wong because DeLeon looks at the total genre. A scientist. He's written several books on the local San Francisco political scene. He also writes for our host, Clemens, on (I guess) San Francisco's oldest local political website.

Y'all know what science is? "The search for patterns" (G. Roth). That's why I favor the mostly unpopular “centralized intake” and fingerprinting projects 2nd District supe Gavin Newsom has been pushing. I worked with the population in question at every age & every level, from cleaning up barf to collecting statistics for bashing with calculus to try & define reasonable projections & intervene accordingly.

Smart people. I alternately accosted the lady lawyer (who drives me nuts), an elusive news lady, and a new prospect from the 11th District who must be married cause she wouldn't tell me much.

What a lineup of brains! Jerry Threet, who watched me warily ’cause I attack his boss a bunch. Debra Walker & Robert Haaland kicked in. Wade Crowfoot, for whom my friend Deby did a great poster but we never could download it. Mike Farrah, with whom I've never actually talked but know real well, if you know what I mean. Bill Barnes & his boss, Chris Daly from the 6th District (the only supervisor). Matt Gonzalez's chief of staff, Rob Eshelman, and I traded reckless pitchers of margaritas. And the devil be damned! I singularly failed to impress Steve Cornell, the owner of Brownie's Hardware, where I've bought on behalf of building owners & agents (I often manage property). A talented group. The lobbyist for Sprint was there (looking better even than on the tube), fresh from another victory over your grandchildren’s DNA. But looking really good doing it!

Peskin glows, Adachi shines, and Burton looks bad

Sometimes … ok, OFTEN … Aaron Peskin forgets he is not the chair of the Board of Supervisors' Budget Committee.

That is not always a bad thing. Peskin cut across a post-election eye-gouging match atween departing Willie Brown appointee Kimiko Burton (talk about a poor loser, tag the furniture!) and incoming public defender Jeff Adachi. A good moment for Peskin. Redirecting the energy away from political recriminations and back to the money being spent by the people on services to be provided to the people.

Basic. Peskin does basic good.

Deputy Chief (soon to be “Chief“) Earl Sanders

Chief Sanders of the San Francisco Police Department is Amos Brown with a big badge. Not a good combination.

I'm gonna repeat what you've heard in around 50 other places: Mayor Willie Brown is preparing to drop present SF cop head Fred (“the Graduate“) Lau and replace him with Earl (“you talkin' to meee!?”) Sanders.

This guy is bad news. This is a guy who comes on to Budget chair & 10th District supervisor Sophie Maxwell with an arrogant disposition that says he has the chief's job already.

Can anyone say the word “qualified” here? It's really hard to imagine a marginal political hack like Sanders running anything heavier than the brig at Disneyland. Hopefully, like almost all of his predecessors for the last 150 years, the badge will just be for show & a qualified deputy will be the actual chief.

Jeeez Willie, give the “black” thing a rest. If you have to choose city leaders on the basis of race, at least give us the best you have. Do you honestly believe Sanders is the cop best qualified to be chief of the department? The similarity between this guy and newly rejected PUC candidate Frank Cook was not lost upon this observer. Willie clearly thinks it's OK to be a racist. Just as long as you're a BLACK racist.

Just to add my HYSTERICAL … I mean HISTORICAL reflections.

– Supervisor Leland Yee

You don't need to make things up to make Leland Yee look bad. Just take out a pen and paper & watch & wait.

Leland is trying to cement his rep as a fiscal “conservative.” Trading lightly on brains & ability & heavily upon the color of his skin, Leland is about to become one of the city's reps at the State Assembly. After watching the latest Yee infomercial during Monday's board meeting, I'd rather be rep'd by Sonny Barger.

Yee was busy joining far right supes Gavin Newsom, Tony Hall & … Mark Leno (what's up with that?) to continue radiating you, your children, your embryos & pets with as much microwave radiation as it’s humanly possible to install as quickly as possible. Blocking the latest death rays would have taken an 8-3 majority to overturn a Planning Commission that has NEVER overruled an antenna array.

Newsom/Getty restaurants to accept food stamps

After recusing himself from a vote on live/work legislation from which he might clearly profit, 2nd District supe Gavin Newsom noted that his plans to empty the pockets of the city's bottom-feeding desperate were still very much alive. Speaking to Nina Wu of the SF Examiner, Newsom attacked Health & Human Services chair Chris Daly for scheduling a hearing Newsom himself had requested. Newsom said: "The core tenet of converting cash to services remains intact." In question was Newsom's plan to strip the poor of cash grants and provide, instead, “in kind” assistance. That means vouchers, food stamps, whatever … which, no doubt, the supervisor will be glad to redeem at any of his restaurants.

I understand they'll let you run a tab too. Just tell em h. brown sent you.

hellobigbox: sobone@juno.com


April 29, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Always leave them laughing when you say “Goodbye.”

Never linger long about …

or else you'll wear your welcome out. …

Always leave them laughing … when you say “Goodbye."

– Al Jolson's theme song

It was a full moon, full of big changes in my life. I went to an art opening. I quit writing for the Sentinel. I experienced a new “cheap” thrill. I got two solid job leads. I did a full workout for the Bay-to-Breakers. I propositioned a married woman, drank too many margaritas & smoked pot on a mountaintop. Let me start with the Sentinel deal.

I quit my first writing gig

I wrote a really vicious column last week & sent it to the SF Sentinel for publication. It had lots more "fuck's" than usual (always quotes) & at one point suggested that the mayor of San Francisco stick his most recent charges of racism "up his ass."

Not a pretty thing.

It was vintage h. brown. Edgy. Borderline. Over-the-top. It was the kind of thing Call publisher/editor Betsey Culp regularly removes from my more rambunctious work without a comment. It was, in fact, published in the Call last Friday. Sentinel Publisher Patrick Murphy, whose skills as a reporter, editor, and photographer have made the year-old online (www.sanfranciscosentinel.com) the most watched outpost for political insiders, objected to the profanity. It is a conversation we have had before.

Any fault in my separation from the Sentinel is entirely my own. Pat always made it clear that he did not care for profanity in his publication unless it was a direct quote. I mostly made certain that I had a direct profane quote or two to keep my work there “spicy.”

Pat replied to the piece by saying that if I couldn't play by his rules regarding profanity, he was ready to end the association. Now, I'm a very combative person and that made me bristle. After about one second though, I realized that I had no right whatsoever to be angry. Like a surly adolescent, I had knowingly challenged limits I knew to exist. It is, after all, Pat Murphy's publication.

On becoming too full of oneself

In my own mind, I'm a selfless hero. I work very hard every day keeping as current as possible with the local City Hall scene and seek to use my writing skills as a tool to sway as large a group of people as possible to my point of view on every issue. My “point of view” is generally what is now being called "progressive."

Personally, I think my values are kind of old-fashioned. Down with the rich. Up with the poor. Keeping the city a place where struggling artists and immigrants can afford to live. That kind of thing is really not new.

However, those goals have never been more challenged in San Francisco. Another economic upswing of five years or so or a well-placed piece of legislation or Trojan horse ballot measure could complete the transformation of our delicate lady into a densely packed “Gentropolis.” Sooooo, I do what I can to stop that from happening. To be most effective in my efforts, I have to get my message out … while having a good time. That's what made my decision with the Sentinel conflicted.

Last I looked, the Sentinel had a daily readership of around 15,000. Considering that these 15k are among the most politically influential readers in town, giving up that kind of access gave me pause. I always thought the greatest strength of the Sentinel was Murphy's willingness to give equal billing to views diametrically opposed to his own. Clearly, if I am unable to bring my readership to the Call, I will have lost a taller soapbox for my causes. But what price do we pay for influence? How much to compromise your values a little? A lot? Journalism is fascinating. The local dailies (Chronicle & Examiner) are so compromised that almost none of their local coverage tells all of the truth on any issue. Countering that kind of insidious pollution of the local media market is a noble cause for us all.

Sooooo …

Vote with your feet. Or fingers in this instance. Last I looked, the Call had a daily readership of around 2,500. It is a 150-year-old publication. My cousin Sam Clemens wrote for it (and got fired for the satirical style that later made him world famous).

Puncture my ego. Or inflate it. For now, you can ONLY meld with my mind at www.sfcall.com. Give me a reality check. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Other events …

The Falun Gong wedding

Sherry Zhang got married Saturday.

Lord, what an incredible woman. A Ph.D. scientist at Livermore. Key local spokesperson for the Falun Gong. Serene beauty & brains.

I met her at 5th District supervisor Matt Gonzalez's office at a poetry reading or art opening or some such thing. I immediately recognized her from the debate on TV (Channel 26 is better than MTV) in which the reactionary forces of Rose Pak succeeded in convincing the Board of Supervisors to ignore the imprisonment, torture, and murder of Falun Gong practitioners (it's like a non-violent exercise/meditation thing). Got the board to refuse to heed the pleas of 100-plus million people in need. A very UN-San Francisco reaction. Anyway (my favorite transition) … anyway, I immediately proposed to her over a glass of wine & she was kind enough to, in turn, invite me to her wedding.

Oh well.

I didn't make the wedding. It was at a yacht club in Redwood City and Muni don't go there. Plus, it would have been kind of like Homer Simpson at a Gavin Newsom rally. I mean, I'm sure I would have had a hell of a good time but … how shall I say … I could have detracted from the total event. “Know thyself,” as they say.

Good luck to Sherry and the Falun Gong and a pox on the supervisors still opposing the Falun Gong resolution. For all of you folks out there who oppose the oppression of your fellow humans, here's the Board of Supervisors lineup on the issue:

In support of Falun Gong rights  Opposed to Falun Gong rights

1. Board President, Tom Ammiano

1. 1st District Supe, Jake McGoldrick

2. 5th District Supe, Matt Gonzalez

2. 2nd District Supe, Gavin Newsom

3. 6th District Supe, Chris Daly

3. 3rd District Supe, Aaron Peskin

4. 8th District Supe, Mark Leno

4. 4th District Supe, Leland Yee
  5. 7th District Supe, Tony Hall
  6. 10th District Supe, Sophie Maxwell
  7. 11th District Supe, Gerardo Sandoval

People, we need for two supervisors to change their positions on this issue. For a variety of reasons, seven San Francisco supervisors have placed the city in the unusual position of refusing to heed a call for help.

In an odd twist, the heir-apparent to the Chinese presidency is in San Francisco as I write this. International speculation has it that once he ascends to the leadership position, he will reverse the Chinese government's stand on the Falun Gong. Will Rose Pak then order the seven supervisors she presently controls to change their positions also?

This issue is as simple as it gets. Good vs. Evil. No rocket science needed. Rose Pak described the Falun Gong before the board as "worse than al Qaeda." The woman is clearly only about money. That seven members of a supposedly “progressive” board would acquiesce to her wishes is astounding. Like they say: "Money talks."

Full moon art show

It's called the: “Reply Hazy Try Again: 20 Artists Reply to the Magic 8-Ball” exhibi and it is at 136 Freelon (415 371-1777), near 4th & Brannon.

Made the scene upon the invitation of Doug McAbee, who wanted to see the caricatures and illustrations of Mark Zeimann, a cartoonist (zmanart@flash.net; 415 398-2403). His oil, which led the show (front door to the left), had the clarity of a Chagall (price: $500).

I piled into Doug's fast, silver 4-door dart with Aimee Iura, a graphic artist who also makes jewelry & furniture, and the ever-burly sculptor/painter Kim Spicer & we rocketed to the park atop what is REALLY San Francisco's crookedest street. We were wrecked & drove around quite a bit to find it. There is a park at the top. It is at one of the crests of Potrero Hill, just above & behind SF General.

What a view! Clear skies. A panoramic almost 360 degree view of the city capped with a full moon. That was enuff by itself, but there was a “cheap thrill” to follow.

After walking the park, smoking a little more weed & getting back into the sleek new sedan, our friend sat at the lip of the cascading serpentine road & waited. We puzzled. It didn't take long.

A well-polished BMW crawled around the corner. The driver gazed over at us. He knew we were waiting for him or someone like him. He pulled to the steep crest, gently gunned his engine & PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL!!!

Our chauffeur followed suit and we were suddenly tossed like rag dolls, swinging & swirling and swooshing down the sharp incline!

How bout that, huh? Ever heard of that one? Me neither.

Hey, I jog past Hyde & Lombard most every day & watch the tourists inch slowly down the terrarium-like setting to Leavenworth below. All the while “thinking” it is "the crookedest street in the world." Ha! Leave it to my friends to do the REAL crookedest street, James Bond style! It was so unexpected. Like a broken elevator cable. Don't do it.

Married women

None of your damned business who I propositioned.

On Bay-to-Breakers workouts, I highly recommend a turnaround at Marina Green. No matter what direction you're coming from, you have to do at least one massive hill to get there & a month or so of that will make Hayes Hill (toughest part of the Breakers course) feel like cake when you reach it in the actual race. I've learned over the years that you can strip your sweat shirt and get some warm rays in the grass at the green even when a chilly wind is blowing. The deep green turf gathers the heat & lying prone, you're under the breeze. Nice & warm.

Run the race. Walk the race. Hell, it's a race for only the first 100 or so contestants. For the other 100,000 it is more of a drunken, orgiastic parade. Ain't that your kind of event?

mynestisat: sobone@juno.com


April 26, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Juno is unable to detect a dial tone

Having free computer hook-up & a Pentium 1 is kind of like having a very old car with no reverse & only one forward gear. Once you get going, you can travel a long way in one direction as long as you don't try anything fancy. Add to that the fact that an old speed freak buddy built it for me out of parts from District 3 dumpsters and it can really get interesting. If I leave the processor on, it talks to itself all night. Mutters like grandma used to. She smoked a corncob pipe, plowed behind a mule, and had a still in the woods.

I digress.

Peskin pisses pianist plenty

Apparently bare-assed strippers aren't the only fine artists 3rd District Supervisor Aaron Peskin is ready to wrestle with. (Don't you love prepositions at the ends of sentences – it was a senseless rule of Latin grammar adopted into the language by perverted English priests anyway.)

Peskin … strippers?

Oh yeah, Moe, Curly & Larry & today's Finance Committee meeting.

Aaron really isn't as bad as I make him out to be. I simply won't tolerate any supervisor disagreeing with me on any issue at any time. That's fair, huh?

Anyway (no, I'm not paid by the word) … anyway … anyway, today in Finance, Chair Peskin, Vice-Chair Chris Daly & substitute member & Board President Tom Ammiano (think these guys have enough titles? – if you greet them properly, it takes two of your three minutes of Public Comment) … anyway … the city has around (I might be wrong – that's not unusual – getting me to admit it is) … anyway, the city has around 27,000 employees. In order to protect themselves, they join unions. All but (as I recall) 127 of them.

The unionized folks have pretty good luck when negotiating new contracts with the city. Of course, it could be the torches & chains & choruses of threats they're prone to (hey, I LIKE their style) or it could be that they GET OUT THE VOTE! How many? As the “other” Daley (the one with the “e,” the Cub town mayor) used to say, "How many do you need?"

Not these 127 forlorn folks. Oh, I don't want to be too nice to them. That would be out of character for me & asides, I think they're mostly top brass. When Peskin indicated he might not pass on the same raise to the 127 that the folks with torches & chains got, some guy in a $1000 suit and a $200 silk tie came running in from a secret panel in the wall or something & started singing their case. It would have worked better for me if he'd been wearing faded & patched bib overalls and a straw hat, but I guess you gotta go with your own kind.

Anyway (is there an echo in here?) …

Anyway, suddenly 6th District Supe Chris Daly (who usually – like all of us – just sits & nods while Peskin does the numbers) kind of raises his hand and says what sounds like: "Hey! There's a penis in here!"

That made even Peskin hesitate. Was someone mocking him? Asking for a “raise” for a penis?

9th District Godfather & gay comedian Tom Ammiano just kind of looked in the air and whistled.

Turns out the unprotected worker was a P I A N I S T! Yeah, get your mind out of the gutter. Anyway, being totally frank (as he refreshingly usually is), Peskin says something like, "Let's continue this for a week to give everyone on the list a chance to call me & tell me why they deserve a raise. I'm sure the 'pianist' will call me."

Hmmm, how's the Examiner gonna write up that one? How's about “Peskin Prodded By Persistent Pianist Pleading Poverty!"

Way to go, Gerardo!

Anti-Falun Gong 11th District Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval kicked ass in the Wednesday press (I love “hump” day - six newspapers by 5:30 am). Sandoval snatched major ink in both the SF Weekly (piece of doo out-of-town interloper), where major talent Matt Smith praised Gerardo's sponsorship of legislation that bids the city to recognize Mexican consular ID's as legal identification (with potential national effects on immigration policy), AND the far superior Bay Guardian (born & raised here), where Sandoval explained convincingly enough why he would support the Home Depot project specifically (despite the fact they're non-union racists) but would support (and would supported have LAST week) Ammiano's conditional use requirements (just makes em REALLY deal with their new neighbors) for future retail spaces of over 50,000 square feet. He pointed out (rightly) that Home Depot was a special case. When we’re in the middle of big construction projects and when we die, most folks around here go to Colma. Now if Sandoval would just introduce a resolution deploring the Chinese government's brutality toward the Falun Gong, he'd be damned near 100 percent on the h-brown-o-meter.

I'm sorry sir, but anyone who has oppressed you for 400 years would have to be a lot older than me.

– Playboy cartoon: businessman to black militant

Note to Mayor Willie Brown: "You know what you can do with your racist accusations. Sincerely, h. brown.

Mr. Mayor, I voted for you for 20 years. Every time I had a chance, until last time. Most of the reason I voted for you was because you were black and I am a bleeding-heart liberal. Now maybe you wanna call me a racist!

We don't like you anymore because you sold us out to rich white folks. It is you who are the racist! I did not drive 20 percent of the black people in San Francisco out of town so that rich white developers could get richer. I did not encourage white contractors to pay off phony black “front” construction companies to keep jobs away from blacks. It was you who did all of that. There. Is that clear enough? I don't want anyone saying that I “hinted” that you were a race traitor.

Oh, can you do me another favor? Endorse Gavin Newsom for mayor next year.

Won't you come home, John Burton?

The Chronicle’s Matier & Ross reported a month or so back how our good city's most powerful politician did us all one hell of a favor. Seems he single-handedly stopped a bayside skyscraper that would have blocked views for a couple of hundred thousand of us. He did it (if y'all believe the Chronicle) with a single, profanity-laced phone call.

Damn! I love that style. Do it again, John. "Hit em again. Hit em again. Harder. Harder."

Stop the eight-story garage at your alma mater. That would be Hastings School of Law.

You are clearly our only hope. They say you were able to stop the skyscraper because it was a project on University of California property & you are able to, shall we say, “fuck” with their budget. Now we have another equally objectionable structure ready to be shit out of the U.C. sphincter.

You claim to oppose the structure, but where the hell are the profanities? Where is your anger!? Where are your threats?

Hey, big boy, wanna come home a winner instead of a loser? Every liberal and neighborhood activist in town is opposed to this and we are getting our ass kicked. We need a fucking white knight (our black knight switched sides long ago).

Talk's cheap, John. You want our support? You want people to smile when you enter a restaurant? Help us big boy. You done it before. You can do it again.

nobigbox: sobone@juno.com