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Friday, May 10, 2002

[Watching City Hall appears in this space Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.]

Wednesday, May 15

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

There was something about the flashing amulet dangling from airport consultant Karen Skelton's neck. Was that the source of her power?

She had the entire Budget Committee cowed as she explained why she was worth a half a million dollars as a part-time worker over the past two years. The lady is a real bone crusher. Full of spite & condescension. Tight-lipped and hard-faced. Kind of reminded me of my last wife. Heavy bags under the eyes. Snarling. I kept waiting for her to go over & mark Peskin's desk in the usual manner or at least spit in his face. Her victory was certainly that complete.

"I want to talk to city staff!" the Budget vice chair had informed Skelton. To my (and everyone else's) total astonishment, Skelton simply ignored him & kept on talking. He repeated the request. "Who's running the airport?!" asked the fading Peskin. He got no staff. Only another Skelton sneer and miles more of bullshit.

"From whence cometh this great power?" I asked, staring into my glass of wine. The amulet! It had to be the amulet. I dug through the deepest shelves in the musty library of magic until I got to the amulet section. Continent by continent, I searched out the match for the mighty lady's talisman. Nothing in voodoo. It wasn't South American, nor Chinese. Ahhhh, it was African! There it was: "Contains powdered politicians' gonads." No kidding. It made sense.

What neither Peskin (nor anyone else) asked

"Can a restructuring of SFO's 'gauge' & 'slot' policies solve the time delay problem?" Why didn't anyone ask?

Ya know, there is one airport serving Tokyo. It has one runway. The airport closes at 11 pm. And they get by. Wanna know why? Because airlines fly big, big planes into Tokyo (gauge) and the airport tells them the order in which they can land (slot).

New York City hasn't added to their area runway capacity for 30 years. And they get by.

Why not here? Cause United Airlines, which pretty much runs the place, would, as a consultant told the Finance Committee a couple of years ago "tell you to go pound sand." Yep, that's what he said.

Republican deregulation didn't just cost thousands of air traffic controllers their jobs. It took away the local municipalities' right to control gauge & slot.

It was an ugly hearing. Top city staffers John Martin (ostensibly, the airport director) & project manager (yeah, uh huh) Stuart Sunshine cringed around Clinton fund-raiser Skelton like broken-spirited dogs. Peskin took one last shot: "The 'Big Dig' in Boston was hundreds of millions of dollars over budget!" The normally balls-on Finance Chair was off by TEN BILLION dollars! You don't wanna see that in your watch dog.

Yeah, Boston & the rest of America has poured almost 15 billion dollars into the “Dig.” Guess who's building it?

Hey, right! You're pretty good. Yep, Bechtel. You'll recognize their shills. They all wear two thousand dollar suits. And they all have these amulets.

A tree with a view

Bruce the raven, a stalwart in Phil Frank's great “Farley” cartoon has had a big problem of late. Seems Bruce nests in the Presidio during mating season and NAP (Natural Areas Program) wants to cut down his tree. Two years ago, the poor bird had to fight dot-commers for his spot. Today's enemy is worse. The NAP project is crossing the lines of governmental jurisdiction like Frank's free-flying raven. Over 10 percent of the trees in San Francisco city parks have been marked for destruction. The number in the Presidio is over 4,000 trees.

Being something of a conspiracy nut, I thought I'd take a stab at why these folks want to shut off huge areas to citizens, dogs, birds, and “free-range” journalists. I think they are cutting the old-growth trees in the areas with the best views now so that it will be easier to sell the land to private developers down the line. They won't have to listen to a bunch of “butterfly” people chained to giant cypress trees (or nested up with Bruce & his family).

You doubt? Few months ago in a Chronicle op ed piece, Frank D. Inferrera suggested selling off a piece of McLaren Park. Yep! Something about the land was shaped weird or something & they could make the boundaries lots more even by chopping off a piece. Oh yeah, the odd shaped piece did have one thing going for it. Great view.

It's no wonder the country is in such bad shape. The only people who know how to run it are busy cutting hair & driving cabs.

– Harry Truman

This is no place to drive a cab. The industry is regulated by a commission, hand-picked by Da Mayor and dominated by cab company management.

A couple of years ago, Supervisor Gavin Newsom led a push to add 400 more cabs to the streets. Seems the patrons at his restaurants were having to wait for their hacks.

Now, with the economy in the tank & earnings down, the companies have added 7th District supervisor Tony Hall to their charm bracelet. After meeting with industry brass, Rules Chair Hall called for higher “gates” (the daily rental fees the drivers pay). Ignoring the declining earnings of drivers, Hall has thrown his considerable influence behind a move to further impoverish the drivers. Adding insult to injury, Hall opposed a plan by which drivers with airport fares could pass on the $2 fee that SFO charges for drivers for each & every airport run (no other city has such a fee). Primed by cynical execs Hall suggested drivers be allowed to tack the $2 surcharge upon the poorest citizens in the most dangerous neighborhoods.

Hall needs to watch the taxi commission. He'll learn two things quickly.

Lesson one: the company execs are lying scum. Lesson two: the drivers are the most articulate independent contractors in town. Given the thousands and thousands of people these folks talk to daily, I wouldn't want them bad-mouthing me.

The tough 7th District supe should re-think this one. No one ever became mayor of this town by kicking the collective butts of working people.

think gauge … think slot: sobone@juno.com


Monday, May 13

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Supervisor Lakey … from District 12.

– Ammiano turning a misspeak into a joke


Mr. President, I decline to serve.

– Deputy City Atty. Ted Lakey, showing good sense.

Ahhhh, Monday. The board returns. Let me highlight the committees I watched last week & pass on a few rumors.

Public Works Committee

Comcast sucks. They proved this beyond a doubt by appearing before the board's Public Works Committee & denying they were the new owners of the AT&T cable franchise they just bought.

Long range, this could well have been the key hearing of the week. The change of ownership (challenged, as I said, by Comcast through a shell company) affords the board the chance to rewrite the dreadful contract Willie's last Board of Mistresses handed to AT&T. Tons of construction promises they never kept. Higher & higher rates for declining service. Citizens came forward to tell of waiting hours to talk to a tech rep but seconds to reach a sales rep. Yes, no doubt about it, AT&T blows too. Non-profits came forward touting deals Comcast agreed to under fire that gave more public access channels & better rates.

As the printed media loses diversity, it is important for progressives to seek a fairer opportunity to present our views through electronic media. Other than “Ammiano Retorts,” there are no news shows on AT&T's Channel 23 that do not represent the views of the local plutocracy. Even the Park & Rec show is in Da Mayor's bag. Every supervisor should have their own half hour show. At the same time every week. Presently, the station runs the same insipid Hearst/Fang shows several times each.

McGoldrick finds Emilio Cruz

Comcast knows how to play the phony public-support-at hearings game. They not only had an “Uncle Tom.” They had an Uncle Juan and an Uncle Lee & an Uncle Gay & an Uncle Disabled. Not so surprisingly, they all used the same words in describing AT&T as a "good corporate citizen."

Also no shocker: most of the fellows fronting for their own particular demographic were getting money from AT&T through some tax deductible outlet. The nice-looking, well-dressed Latino gentleman noted that the “Hispanic Scholarship Fund” he represented was getting millions from AT&T. Lot of money, I recall thinking. I wondered if the mayor had people sucking down some of this corporate “charity.”

As if reading my mind, 1st District supe Jake McGoldrick suddenly asked in an off-handed fashion, "Does Emilio Cruz work for you?" The boy did a double-take, paused, then answered with a smile, "Yes, he does." There were grins around the audience. Now we knew at least one of the reasons AT&T got such a great deal from the mayor. Cruz is, after all John Burton's much shuttled and appointed son-in-law. Wonder what he makes over there?

Rose Pak's CAVE (Chinese American Voters Education Committee) rep. came to praise AT&T. A citizen countered by noting that she stayed up one night to check out the “extra” channels AT&T had added without her permission & were now charging her for. She noted that they seemed to be mostly infomercials for ab machines & cleaning products. The people who weren't paid to be there don't like AT&T & they don't like Comcast. They recommend the city attorney play legal hardball with the new contract. Poor babies, don't they know? The City Attorney's Office only plays legal hardball with the board!

In another screwed-up Willie move, the mayor cut funds to Public Ed. Government Access TV (PEG). Speakers complained of a new & inexperienced hierarchy that wasted money on their own salaries and put everything into a new downtown studio facility which will now (w/cuts) remain mostly unused.

That's our mayor for you. And our board too. They've sold out or flaked before gas & oil companies. Communications giants. Transportation's been attached by a shell Cayman Islands bank. A giant construction giant has gutted our Public Utilities Commission. Speculators plan secret projects on public lands. Your air waves, air quality, views, pedestrian safety & water are for sale. They don't pay taxes.

Anti-Riot Bribes Approved

The Mayor's Criminal Justice Council came forward to present their budget. They came expecting a fight. Nope. Nary a whisper. Funds like these came out of riots in Watts & Detroit & D.C. A lousy program in this area is better than nothing. Give em more.

Give the supes a raise

Do you really want to be represented by eleven people who are either rich, on-the-take, or near starvation? It is utter insanity that San Francisco Supervisors make $37,500 a year. It's just another ruling-class ploy to keep the people’s representatives weaker. Willie's big-boobed ex-girlfriends make up to & over a hundred grand a year in a variety of departments. Only a rich boy like 2nd District supe Newsom (see "Pluck, pluck, pluck … PLUCKKK!") wants elections kept citywide, where expenses are so great that no Chris Daly or Jake McGoldrick could win. Newsom wants to keep salaries down because that gives him an advantage. (OK, I've refiled my Declaration of Intent to run against Newsom – see “Pluck!”)

Last year the board asked staff to find out what comparable salaries are for like positions around the local area and the state. Screw em! It's cheaper everywhere in the world than here. Give district supervisors as much as a lower-level mayoral mistress. Say … $120,000 a year or so. I hate to tell you this, but that only puts them into the middle class around here.

"Pluck, pluck, pluck … PLUCKKK!"

– Gavin Newsom's campaign strategy

I keep getting messages from people who should know that Gavin Newsom is planning to back out of a race against me in the 2nd Supervisory District this fall. Word is he wants to use Lynne Segal as a stand-in. What's up with that?

C'mon Gavin, I'm old, poor, weak, ugly, stupid. Whatcha afraid of? Do you like surprises? I have lots of kinds of surprises planned for you. Music, mimes, musicians. Added debates … OUT OF DISTRICT!

Yeah, don't you want to debate me in front of an auditorium full of Falun Gong in Chinatown? Let's give em a show, boy. I understand you've never beaten anyone in an election. Hey, what does it look like if you bail out and leave a woman to protect your home turf.

“Pluck, pluck, pluck!”

Transportation & Commerce

The DPT (Department of Parking & Traffic) wants your car! They ain't gonna let you write it off as a donation to a Russian Church either. Trust me on that one.

Can I get an “Amen” on getting up early in the morning or in the middle of the night to go move your car? Can I get an “Amen” if you've ever sat in your pajamas waiting for the spot you're in to become legal? Can I get an “Amen” if you've ever been trailed around the block by a hovering Mosquito-like PCO (Parking Control Officer – Meter Maids to you non-PC thugs) cause they know you have to move your car and they've chalked your tire & checked your tire stem. (An old PCO told his trick: "The stem was at 11 o'clock & now it's at 4 o'clock!")

They talked about the difference between 500 feet and a “block.“ They spoke of doubling this and that fine. $100 for blocking a bike lane but only $50 for blocking an entire vehicular lane. More stress, fights, angrier motorists & truckers & PCO's. Committee Chair Jake McGoldrick put it into perspective: "You know how the Strategic Air Command always keeps a certain percentage of their planes in the air? Here, we have 500,000 cars and only 320,000 parking spaces. Twenty-four hours a day, someone is either illegal or circling."

Keep circling: sobone@juno.com


Friday, May 10

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

What's a dream worth?

– Daniel Cohen


I sell ads!

– Bruce Brugmann


If you come up with a good idea, before you leave, it will be OUR idea.

– Willie Brown


In San Francisco, it's ok to lie, cheat & steal.

– Willie Brown


That information is “proprietary.”

– Dennis Normandy

Everybody stand and say, "Goodbye, Treasure Island."

No, you weren't trying. I know, because I've been in riots, and you really aren't trying.


That's much better. Now, pay attention & please feel free to grade my prescient abilities. I'm no psychic, you understand. I'm just old and I come from a place where politics is even more crooked than here. So, call me the “early warning (paranoid) outpost” and see if I'm right a year or so from now.

Movement afoot to privatize Treasure Island

It is no secret that Mayor Willie Brown has never thought the best use for Treasure & Yerba Buena Islands was for housing & rehabilitating our homeless and jobless and most desperate. Early on, Mayor Brown proposed such deliciously enticing scenes as a Grand Prix Race Course for the fastest cars on earth (I'd love to see that one run in the Tenderloin!), a Casino (that would be better as an “INDIAN” casino on Alcatraz) and, of course, the winning combination, a series of short (tall hotels would be an embarrassment when they fell into the bay in a mild tremor) hotels (eight stories or so) that wouldn't quite splash into the bay as they crashed.

Let's be real.

Being real

Willie Brown is an expert at selling land, the extending the use of land, lowering taxes, displacing the poor … for a commission. It's happening on Treasure Island.

Recall that scene from The Godfather where Brando turns and says something to the effect of "We got some reporters in our pockets, right? Some editors? Have them get out the story that …."

Remember that? Sure you do. I won't go on till you say you remember.

OK, I lied.

Anyway, Willie & his masters turned loose the reporters from Family Fang’s Independent on Tuesday last to begin to create a favorable public opinion for when the mayor starts doing the following things to San Francisco's Treasure Island:

1. The island (islands, actually – Yerba Buena too) will be cleansed of the poor. Presently, there is an 850-student Job Corps center there, but as Willie Brown flunky journalist Warren Hinckle related in the aforementioned edition, using the most valuable section the island for job corps does indeed say:, "Good-bye golf course or whatever might have ‘bad’ (sic) bucks for beleaguered San Francisco taxpayers."

2. Hinckle then went on at length about the Treasure Island Yacht Club, which his (and Bill Clinton's!) good bud (Ron – supermarket billionaire) Berkle is developing along, with expanding the present yacht harbor on T.I. from 104 to 400 berths. Well, imagine that!!!!! 300 more yachts. Mini hotels. Casinos. A race track. No room for homeless shelters, schools, or rehab facilities in that kind of a setting. The land is too valuable. The poor must go.

3. Setting the stage for the removal of the poor, Hinckle attacked: "The gaggle of nonprofit dimwits whom Mayor Frank Jordan handed the keys to the joint." Better to hand them to Willie & John Stewart, huh Warren? Narrowing it down to a fellow whom Hinckle's masters obviously consider a continuing threat, Warrenboy said, "This band was led by Larry Florin, who was in the middle of the decision to turn the center of the island … to the Jobs Corps"

Hinckle followed this attack on Florin, which ran in Tuesday's Independent with a comment in a Thursday ad in the Fang daily (well, we wish), a comment sure to be pored over by a couple of thousand political junkies (such as me). Old Warren, he throws in a piece here about how Gavin Newsom had a traitor on his staff (that is, in the inner circle), who was, in fact, "Larry Florin … quick to deliver the kitchen-chats strategizing to … Rose Pak – who uses said information to strategize for her candidate for mayor, Police Chief Fred Lau."

Sounds like Warren is trying to get this Florin guy out on the street with me. Let's see if Gavin is dumb enough to dump a friend on the advice of Warren Hinckle.

Hmmmm. What else is going on that short stone's throw away on T.I.?

Mayor steals professor's idea

In the same edition of the Independent where Hinckle first took out after Larry Florin ("shoot the leader first, then the guy with the radio"), in that edition (5/7/02) was a wonderful story about a wonderful new idea by one of the mayor's close, honest, public-spirited advisers (PUC Commission member Dennis Normandy, to be exact). Dennis had this idea to put a huge statue out on the end of Treasure Island to balance the East Coast's “Statue of Liberty.”

When I spoke with the good commissioner on the phone ("This is an attack interview!" – Well, duhhh.), I asked him when he came up with the idea. He couldn't recall.

When I put the same question to staff at Supervisor Gavin Newsom's office earlier in the day (Newsom had pushed the idea earlier but backed off when authorship of the idea was challenged), staff said Newsom never claimed it was his idea. "We read it somewhere" was the best I could get.

Normandy spoke of years of meetings discussing the statue but every single one of them, it turns out was "proprietary information." He suggested lawyers at 10 paces. I declined. Hell, I don't even have a bed, let alone a lawyer. I told him I'd smear him instead & we parted amicably. Let me summarize what I know for certain.

The “Statue of Diversity” is the brainchild of Joan Roughgarden

Two years ago, when I started running for supervisor in District 6, there were eighteen of us running. Ahhhh, we were an interesting group. I called us “the thundering herd” and suggested we do polka weddings when the campaign ended. But sometimes it's best to be apart.

Anyway, one of the things that made the debates interesting was that three of the candidates had actually designed & built models of structures they hoped would praise, enable ,and house our community. There was Jim Reid's module shelter for the homeless (still, the best idea presented). There was James Leo Dunne's tunnel through Nob Hill to be built by thousands of homeless who would then actually live inside the tunnel (nice model – bring lotsa Right Guard). And there was Stanford professor Joan Roughgarden's "Statue of Diversity."

The statue caught everyone's idea. Apparently, even Da Mayor's. The good professor spoke at length about the importance of something here to match the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast as a solid and symbolic representation of what America stands for. Oddly, it was almost, word for word, the same speech I heard from PUC Commissioner Dennis Normandy when he explained why the statue was important. Hell, they even ripped off her pep talk.

Normandy, refusing any documentary proof that he is not a plagiarist, admitted he'd heard of the professor's idea a while back and had even seen drawings of the proposed statue. But, he thought of it first.

Put these two scenes together – Newsom's office: “Let's see, where did I get that idea?” and Normandy: "It's 'proprietary' information." Hey, what movie? C'mon. Yeah, congrats to you quick ones: “Working Girl“!! Sigourney Weaver steals Melanie Griffith's idea, then the bitch get's what she deserves!!! I mean, losing Richard Gere, plus that view to die for out the office window.

I digress.

Why would Normandy do this? Why would the mayor do this?

I'm uh guessin' homophobia

Normandy's statue (if you can believe this) is going to be different from the Statue of Liberty so's it can represent US. That's why he's calling it: “The Flame of Liberty” !!  ??? !!! Now, how many consultants did it take to come up with that one? These people aren't even bright enough to come up with an original name!

And get this. They already have the name copyrighted! Uh huh, I wouldn't lie to you. OK, I might. But, I'm not now. You just have to take my word for it. I mean, would I lie to you?

I was saying … they had a meeting of a whole buncha rich folks to unveil this idea. Oddly, I never heard of it. Anyway, the mayor did. Big gang there. Not the professor. Commissioner Normandy said he'd never heard of her. Till my call.

Heard of her idea. But his came first. Couldn't prove it. The proof was a secret.

Know what? I don't believe him. I think that the mayor & the business community did not want to have a statue designed and named by a member of the city's gay/lesbian/bi/transgender community. I think they feel it would be mocked. I think they ripped off the idea. They cut off its balls and its breasts & named their new eunuch “The Flame of Liberty.

There will be 200,000 square feet of museums & restaurants in the statue's base. He didn't mention the Jobs Corps.

peace: sobone@juno.com