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Monday, May 17, 2002

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

Wednesday, May 22

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

The Presidio Trust Sucks … big time!!

– An objective observation

Hillary Gitelman told the audience that they could pick up a copy of the trust's long awaited “plan” for the 1,400 most valuable acres on the earth in the back of the room. I knew I wasn't going to learn anything listening to her because I tried listening to her through many hours of hearings before the Planning Commission when she represented the Planning Department & was able to turn 3,000 spaces meant for artists into 3,000 offices.

Soooo, I went out back (wiping away the sweat from the eight miles I'd strained through jogging to the bridge & back to the Officers' Club) & picked up a '“free” copy of the new plan. A trust employee named Jeanette Park refused to give it to me. She wanted my name and address. She wasn't my type. Too cold & severe. I refused. She wouldn't budge: "We want to know who has our plan." I identified myself as press & gave my name. She still wouldn't give it up.

Now, I'm an asshole as often as not, but these trust folks make me look tame. It is a done deal, folks. Hundreds of citizens packed the building but their opinions matter nada. Anyone who thinks that Shorenstein Real Estate won't end up with a handsome slice of this treasure is naïve.

It's a real pity. The day was as beautiful as it gets. The earth and the very sky itself were rinsed to a crystal clear by the rain of the past few days. Dogs chased sticks into the surf (illegally). Folks climbed the slopes for a better view of the bridge & bay (illegally). Don't go here & don't go there. All the public will have left of the Presidio in 2014 will be the desiccated desertscape the “Natural Area” idiots have already roped off along the shore. I don't drive, so I'm not certain, but there's a gate at the parking lot next to the bridge & it's only a matter of time before everyone pays to sit in their car & look at the water. It's a pity. … as I said.

Newsom continues attacks upon poor

Public Works & Public Protection chair Gerardo Sandoval & vice chair Matt Gonzalez fended off an attempt by 2nd District supervisor Gavin Newsom to gut his own legislation requiring sprinklers in the living spaces of all of the city's 480 plus SROs by the end of next month. "Burn, baby burn!!" seemed to be the message Newsom staffer Kathy Garza delivered on behalf of Newsom, who declined to face the progressives' two legal eagles. The proposed amendments were transparent loopholes designed to:

  1. Allow the SRO owners to delay the installation of sprinklers for another two years.

  2. Establish a legal basis for future moves to evict the poor tenants. Newsom's amendments give the owners an option to pay an "in lieu" fee rather than relocate tenants. Randy Shaw of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic pointed out that no one had ever been required to move due to the installation of sprinklers. Newsom's new wording gives a Republican judge a place to hang his hat in rubber-stamping evictions of the poor.

Officials from several city departments (they'll be promoted if Newsom becomes mayor) testified in favor of creating the new loopholes in the current sprinkler legislation. Deputy Director of the Department of Building Inspections William Wong argued that the sprinkler defenses of the buildings should simply be "throughout" coverage of the buildings and not in "all areas."

Gonzalez (the future mayor of Baltimore) noted that as a trial attorney, he couldn't understand why anyone would want to make a law more vague.

Deputy City Attorney John Malamut (who clearly didn't want to be in the room) defended the position as best he could, putting whipped cream and a big red cherry on Newsom's steaming pile.

Staffers noted that the “Noose” himself was in the building, "wandering the halls" during the proceedings. C'mon Gav, you gotta face Sandoval sometime.

Blue ribbon for the hearing goes to Chair Gerardo Sandoval, who is developing an inner gyro under some truly bizarre circumstances. Who would have expected Newsom to send a team of assassins after his own legislation? For a moment, it looked like the District 11 supe might give Newsom a pass in the spirit of collegiality, but he stood tough & joined Gonzalez in assuring that you are more likely to be drowned than burned to death the next time you drop a cigarette in your SRO room.

Kimiko Burton continues purge

Deputy Public Defender Rob Amparan got the axe yesterday. The veteran public defender who shared an office with Supe Matt Gonzalez & later ran the 5th District supe's campaign for district attorney ("in a way, he got me into politics" said Gonzalez). Gay. Latino. Member of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.

Amparan started in the office as a volunteer & worked till he was hired. He is known as a hard-working, hard-fighting advocate. Burton's lieutenant's called Amparan into the office last Friday & proceeded to give him a ration. Sources say Amparan kept his cool & told the Burton flunkies to "put it in writing." After stewing over the matter over the weekend, Burton informed Amparan at 3:30 pm & told him to be out of the building by 5:00 pm. There was no word on whether Rob got a gold watch.

Can it be that Burton's anger is centered on Gonzalez? In her first week in office, Burton fired Adam Lipson, who was Gonzalez's treasurer when he ran for D.A.. These guys helped to start a movement.

How much damage can Burton do before she finally is put out at 5:00 pm on that special day? Can't the mayor appoint Burton to some solid waste oversight group? C'mon Willie, give a little back to the people. We'll see about YOUR gold watch soon.

Peskin brings the Addams Family to the Rules & Audit Committee

Just when it was starting to feel safe to walk the streets again… Now, I'm not saying it's not OK to hang out with a bunch of rich people. I mean, this morning I looked in the society pages (I wasn't there) & lo and behold, there was Supervisor Aaron Peskin with his arm draped around Denise Hale. Then a few hours later, here's Aaron bringing what was left of the party (da boy did look a little haggard – did he sleep?) to 7th District Tony Hall's Rules Committee.

I never really did figure out what the hell they wanted. They'd lost Harry Parker somewhere along the way & he was probably the only one in the city who knew why they were there. Library Boss Susan Hildreth said some stuff about books and stuff. Jim Lazarus talked about the importance of keeping your neat stuff out of the rain or something. Peskin kept trying to make a deal & get the hell out of there.

It seems the 53 people Aaron has been partying with form some kind of massive fine arts cabal that has the power to sell every piece of art in the public domain or trade it for a big foot on the waterfront. When they left, I think they left with an option to take over all of the historical artifacts gathered in the various basements & attics of city departments. Something like that.

Let's do this. Let's put it all in the Old Mint & put a big dog to guard it until Willie Brown gets his gold watch. (Don't scratch it, Willie, it will only break your heart.)

The only thing I DID understand was a semantics debate between Chair Hall & Vice Chair Gonzalez. One of the proposed collections was from the LGBT Historical Society. Hall did not want to specifically acknowledge sexual orientation as a criterion for an assembled collection. I mean, I can understand. I disagree but I understand. Who wants to steer the grandkids around a collection of … ahem … of … you get the idea.

But a city that can let a bunch of naked senior citizens on Viagra run the entire route of the Bay to Breakers has room for some vintage plaster molds of Jimmy Hendrix's “thing” (there used to be a museum downtown that featured his & other rock stars' ).

I'm outta here. Anyway, Hall worked out a compromise with Gonzalez and gays get to be a part of San Francisco history.

later gators: sobone@juno.com


Monday, May 20

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

first came the churches

then came the schools …

then came the liars

then came the rules …

– Telegraph Road: Dire Straits

It was a dream weekend. This is a town where you can still live your dream and not get arrested doing it. Friday night Jens Neilsen moved back to town. Ole Jens, he could be the cover boy for “High Times.” Some category like "Lifetime Achievement in Pot Consumption." I'll tell you about him later. I was his roommate for one fuzzy year when Reagan was president.

Saturday I slept till people started kicking me (don't block the door to the bathroom in a hippie pad). Then I jogged South of Market & caught an enclave of “chance takers, dream makers & heart breakers.” It was cool.

The Green Party was “training” candidates for public office. It was kinda like watching the Chicago Cubs work out in spring training. I mean, you know they're gonna get killed once the season starts, but optimism in the face of disaster is always an admirable trait.

I kept expecting Ernie Banks to stand up and make a speech. Instead, we got Rich DeLeon & Matt Gonzalez. Two great speakers. DeLeon announced he was turning Green. Maybe it was something in the quiche. I commented that I'd join the Greens for a beer but there warn't none. I'll remain, as one foxy little number from Pacific Heights described herself, "Decline to State."

Ooooh, that's kinda sexy. Like the first paper you file when you decide to run for public office is called the "Declaration of Intent." It's kind of a “let the public beware” thing for your friends, neighbors & family. It means you can start collecting money. The chick declined to state her declaration of intent however & she didn't have any beer either, so I moved on.

Before I left, she said something like they were "counting on me." That was puzzling. Then I noticed that the name tag they gave me said, "Candidate for Supervisor, District 2." Usually, I get a press pass & people put stuff in your food. Now, here's someone asking for my help.

You know someone named “Daniela Kirshenbaum” from Pacific Heights? Expect an announcement for supervisor real soon. Five minutes with me should have sent a message to “help thyself.” Not that I can't win. But the Cubs do have a better chance.

The “dream makers” were all around. You call em lobbyists or consultants or campaign managers or whatever. For the right money, they can send Bugs Bunny to Congress. The “heart breakers” were there. Journalists, that is. Met Adriel Hampton of the Examiner for the first time. He kinda looks like Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. Sam Wong from the Independent was there. He always looks at me like I'm a suicide bomber or something.

Ahhhh, to be a card-carrying member of the “fourth estate.” Feared & loved. Sought after. And avoided. Sounds like the grounds for my last divorce.

They were all there. They couldn't figure it out. The lobbyists and the press were trying to figure out why this small (no more than 150) group of “progressives” has been able to kick their asses so soundly the last couple of years. Well, the Cubs had to win sometime. Can it continue? Probably.

Daniela could very easily be the new District 2 supervisor next year at this time. Joel Ventresca could finally punch through a win in 4. Only fools will run against Chris Daly in 6. 8 will be a liberal LGBT & Sophie Maxwell will lay waste the Burton/Brown candidate in 10.

Yeah, sorry, Willie. It's gonna get worse. Or better for the people. You and John don't care about that though. Feathering the old nests. We'll add a little barbed wire to your construction. Your final San Francisco monument will be the huge garage attached to your alma mater, Hastings College. Thanks, guys. Hope you got a bunch. May the blood of every pedestrian killed because of the increased congestion brought by your garage be poured upon your graves for all of the years the garage exists. And eternity.

Then came Billy Bob Thornton

I never go anywhere. Well, hardly ever. And hardly anywhere.

I did on Saturday night though. A bunch of us gathered under my daughter Mona's umbrella & went to the most famous performance hall in rock & roll history. We went to the Fillmore. And we saw Billy Bob Thornton sing.

t was a memory. Them's better'n gold you know.

We're scared shitless … we're playing the FILLMORE!!

– Billy Bob gives the hall its proper due

There were twelve of us. Young and old. Tall & short. Fat & skinny. Ugly and beautiful. A nice mixed demographic. Ohhh, we had common features. I think almost everyone was an alcoholic.

We came to watch Billy Bob Thornton play in a band. And to see Earl Scruggs’ kid, Randy, play the hell out of a wired, wide-bodied acoustic guitar. (String musicians tell me they can feel the vibrations returned to their flesh only from an “acoustic-designed” frame. Pianos, too. Computer chips don't make love to musicians)

Soooo believe it or not, it's 24 hours later & the same people are still laughing & mocking & drinking & running around me. I took a poll. All the girls wanted to jump Billy Bob's bones. Big time. Personally, I wouldn't have picked him up hitch-hiking, but I loved the music. With the girls, things got more primal.

The dude has the frame of a heavy-duty speed freak & a voice that combines Johnny Cash with Conway Twitty. He wore a bandana, jeans, silver crosses (afraid of vampires?) & a red silk unbuttoned blood-red shirt that flowed. And flowed. And flowed. It was a dream weekend & Billy Bob was living his dream.

Hey, I used to own a nightclub. Quarter century ago. Booked talent. Lotsa great musicians. The boy (Billy Bob) put together a really competent band. It reminded me of the kind of talent that used to play behind Elvis Presley. Billy Bob is a far better singer. I've heard better. A thousand times. (And, he is indeed good) A thousand great musicians who are now changing tires and pumping gas and pushing up daisies. But, Billy Bob, like the political wannabes I'd watched earlier in the day, was living his dream.

For the Danielas and the Jim Reids, it's a short trip to the Department of Elections, where they drop their $500 on August 5 and enter the race for supervisor. I did it. You can too. Then you hit the campaign trail.

I spent $20. You might wanna spend more. Billy Bob did. I surveyed the room. Maybe a thousand people. $30 a head. Not enough to cover the nut on a back-up group that included three dynamite guitar players who switched from lead to rhythm like it was nuttin. A keyboard player who could play with anyone on earth. Two heavy banging drummers, a solo bass & a back-up singer with a body to … well, I don't need to get tooo graphic here too. Anyway, I'm betting this tour is costing Billy Bob money. And I'm evaluating that it is money well spent.

Look for Billy's song “Elevator,” about the way he met Angelina Jolie for the first time & couldn't believe he ended up: "having it all." Thanks for the memory, Billy Bob, hope we gave you one too.

Then came the race

I got up at 5:30 am to do the trash. (Ya can't lie in the doorway ALL the time) I couldn't believe it was raining on race day. Raining for a Bay to Breakers!

Like always, I tossed & tried to make up reasons not to go. Something was tight or something else hurt. I was too hung over & yet not yet drunk enough. I found a half of a half pint & mixed it in some brutally unforgiving day-old coffee. And struggled up to the kitchen where I found Monica making a complicated triple-cheese quiche on a butter-drenched tortilla base when even ambitious chickens were still asleep. She had to make a bunch. There were a couple of clobbered Buddhist monks asleep against the walls, Melisa's broken foot never hurt her appetite, there were at least another half dozen scheduled in, and Matt Gonzalez & his roommates had promised Bloody Marys to all who could reach his open garage front halfway up Hayes Hill.

I dug deep & had another shot. One cannot disappoint one's public. The rain got more serious. Aimee had awakened & she & Ania were mixing orange juice with champagne & passing it out to people who no longer remembered (or cared) their identities. Vaguely, I walked to the front windows to watch the rain wash off the sins of the previous weeks & sipped at the sprightly & tangy mimosa. I wondered what the poor people were doing.

The Kenyans are fast! However, Andromeda & Gillian (our advance party) beat them to Gonzalez's garage. Ya know, rain's not so bad if you're drunk enough. I left the rest of the party to find their way & jogged off to intercept the 200,000 or so insane compatriots who would soon make me realize that in this town, at least, I'm a pretty conservative guy. I reached Hayes Hill & hooked up with Nat, an online friend, and her kids. We watched lots of people who shouldn't even be naked when they take a bath parade in their altogether proudly. The kids turned their heads. I shook mine. The dog next door just raised his leg. The 2002 Bay to Breakers was underway!

It was one hell of a race. Of course, any true San Franciscan knows that the Bay to Breakers is only a “race” for the first 200 or so competitors. To the rest of us, it is a parade. It is a chance to party & dance & drink & sing … with everyone … all across town … once a year. I always see people at the Bay to Breakers that I haven't seen since the last Bay to Breakers. It's always a happy reunion. People say stuff like, "I see you had a penile implant" or "How are the wife & kids?" You know, San Francisco stuff. Gonzalez was a great host.

The Hayes Hill six-lock incline is the toughest section of the 7.46 mile race. For 90 years or so, the people on Hayes Hill have dedicated themselves to making the passage through this toughest part of the course as delightful as possible. They play music (often live) loud enough to break your friggin' ear drums. They break out water hoses to cool the sweaty runners. Some throw beer on you! They take your picture and point. They laugh & they cheer. They encourage & they mock. And many of them have kegs & open garage bars. Ya gotta love that stretch of the competition. Many's the year I never made it to the top of Hayes Hill.

This year, the big change was the rain. It rained. And it rained. Then it rained some more. It was great! Although I never made it to the top of the hill, people who did told me that it rained all the way to the ocean. I wouldn't know. The Bloody Marys were great. A supervisorial roomie whose name I'm too drunk to recall set up an entire “camera obscura” (like the one at the Cliff House Willie is trashing) in the front of the house & you had to walk through this pitch-black room to see this reflection that didn't work cause it was raining outside, you dummy! And of course, I was drunk. But it was fun bumping around the dark room with lots of chicks and a tangy tomato brew.

Again (out of respect) I paused to wonder what the poor people were doing. Then I looked around again and realized that I was surrounded by them. Eating muffins. Standing on roofs. Dancing endless conga lines in the rain in the street. Carrying left. Carrying right. Covered & nude. Da smooth & da crude. Drinkin da booze & munchin da food. San Francisco. Sunday morning. Thanks for the memory.

peace: sobone@juno.com


Friday, May 17

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

If you can keep your head when all about you

are losing theirs and blaming it on you …

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

yet make allowances for their doubting too.

– “If,” by Rudyard Kipling


You guys are just losing your mind!!!

– Aaron Peskin evaluates SFO staff


Stand … … if you're able.

– Chris Daly, noticing that a good part of the audience is disabled

Open note to Aaron Peskin

I'm a little guy. I used to be 5'5" & they say you lose an inch or so a decade after 50, so I'm probably nearer 5'4". In other words, Aaron, I'm short like you.

When I was young it mattered. I was a good athlete but never big enough to be a standout. The girls left me behind at ten or so & I never caught up. Sometimes people bullied me. But I had an edge. Same edge you got, Aaron. I was smarter than pretty much everyone else. It didn't take long to realize that I could do more damage with a comment or two than 200-pound bullies could do with their fists.

I've done catastrophic damage to people who didn't deserve it in debate, conversation, and argumentation. Oh, I've skewered a bunch who did deserve it, too (such as yourself). Point is, I've had to learn that my intelligence & quick wit and control of the language could make me worse than the bullies who twisted my arm in the schoolyard when I was young.

You need to learn that. Big time. Case in point. Former San Francisco City Supervisor John Bardis.

John Bardis gives the best free advice in town. He is urbane, level-headed & absolutely brilliant. Bardis knows the city charter. Particularly, the portions pertaining to the powers of the Board of Supervisors. He is probably their biggest fan.

Weekly, Bardis takes the podium during public comment at the board or any one of the board's committees. It seems to be his hobby. He always adds positively to the debate. Aaron Peskin hates him.

At Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting, Peskin got Controller Ed Harrington to join him in denigrating Bardis. It was ugly. Peskin responded to Bardis's testimony with a sarcastic: "Thank you for that lesson in Civics."

What Peskin resents is that Bardis always reminds the members of the board of the power they actually possess as opposed to the small percentage they actually use. Bardis continually calls upon the board to stand up and challenge the mayor. He challenges them to take actual control of the budget as their right under the charter. Peskin, too cowardly to do this (only Daly & Gonzalez dare) … Peskin would prefer to shoot the messenger.

Last week when Bardis spoke, Daly was interested in the line he was pursuing. Now, if the supes want further information from a member of the public who has spoken, they can extend the speaker's time by simply asking a question. The favored form is to say three simple words: "Tell me more."

When it comes to Bardis, Peskin will not only never allow him any amplification; he won't let other supes do it either. He interrupted a Daly question to Bardis last week mid-phrase with the peremptory, "I don't want to continue this!!"

This week Controller Ed Harrington jumped in to pummel Bardis (who is NEVER allowed to reply): "The PREVIOUS speaker …" Now, Harrington can play Court Flunky in any Broadway production. He knows Bardis was a supe. He knows his name. When Ammiano chairs an event or acts as presiding officer at the board, he acknowledges "former Supervisor Willie Kennedy" or "former Supervisor Amos Brown."

Ammiano is a gentleman. Peskin is a tyrant.

Are you Gloria Young?

– Gloria Young inquires of “Harry Potter”

The Trans-Bay Terminal project was up before Finance again, too. A half million bucks or something to continue studying it or something. The thing could run 3 billion if we're lucky.

I'm backing it because the mayor's project manager Maria Ayardi is the best-looking woman in San Francisco. My only concession is that I want Da Mayor & Maria to stand hand-in-hand underneath a three-story pane of glass (uh huh, they want to build a huge glass terminal in quake city). They should stand underneath a mock-up of the building while it is shaken to the equivalent of a 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 reading on the Richter scale. That could be what you'll be doing with your kids or grandkids when the next big one hits.

Anyway, you got me off the point. Maria will do that to you. Point was, something funny. There was this guy with Ayardi who looked and acted like a senior Harry Potter gone senile … on acid! I'm not kidding. Watch the tape. He had the Oxford dress look. The tortoise-shell glasses. And he clearly did not know where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. He sat in the front row next to Ayardi & kept wandering back up to the podium in between speakers as though he were going to speak again. It got kind of comical.

Finally, a member of the committee called for Board Clerk Gloria Young to come up & respond to a query. Up comes Harry Potter, in his own little trance. That prompted Young's inquiry. I hope they took him back to the old wizard's home when the hearing ended. Just another rule to remember: If you are scheduled to testify … don't do LSD before the hearing!

That is COMPLETELY false & untrue!!!

– Harvey Rose evaluates Planning Director Gerald Green's testimony

Gerald Green's department is Willie's right arm. They work when they want, upon whatever they feel like working on & they get in the way or give false directions to everything else. You cannot believe a damned thing they say. You gotta admire that in civil servants.

Now, Gerald is an able man. Devoid, by appointment, of moral or ethical high ground, he relies upon very expensive suits, one of the better (though simple – in comparison, I used to own 200 neckties) tie collections, and a very menacing stare. I mean, Gerald can give you a look that can make a grown male go weewee in his pants. Except for Chris Daly & Harvey Rose.

Green was asking for more money to get his department's computers up & going again & the budget analyst (Rose) was saying that the root of the problem was “managerial.”

It was great theater. 6th District supe Daly is vice chair of Finance & Peskin kind of had to pull him & Rose off Green's defiant figure. (Incidentally, Chris, lose the beard, for good! Sitting next to Peskin, it makes you guys look like a Vicks Brothers cough drop box. You don't need to look older. Trust us, that will come on its own.)

Soooo, Peskin separates Green from Daly. Then Peskin separates Rose from Green. Then Peskin jumps on top of SFO figurehead John Martin & starts kicking the stuffing out of him. That part, I liked.

When it was over, Peskin was sitting there with smoke coming out both ears & Daly & Rose & everyone else were just kind of staring at him & Daly says: "Jeez, I thought I was hard on Director Green." It was a true Kodak moment.

A great hearing. Two asides …

One, Peskin (being sensitive as usual) said that he was glad that Daly had "evolved" toward accepting the Trans-Bay project. What Peskin did not say was that the project previously had been described by the incomparable Maria Ayardi as needing up to 3 million square feet of office space to be viable. When the office boom went bust, the plans suddenly included more housing. That's what brought Daly around. Peskin was simply in a mood to bully. Anyone would do. He was still reacting to the ass kicking he took from Karen Skelton the day before.

Second aside, if I personally had 3 billion dollars & a tuxedo, I'd give the 3 billion to Maria Ayardi to build whatever she wanted, if she'd just go to the prom with me.

Newsom vs. h. brown

I asked around City Hall why the hell a young, strong, smart, good looking & rich guy like Gavin Newsom would give up his home ground to a barbarian such as myself in the November elections. The most common reply was something along the lines of "You're a joke!" or "His dog could beat you!" Things like that.

But one of the answers I got surprised me. Someone said that it probably had to do with his panhandling. Really. It seems that you can only hit up a fat cat once a year or some such stuff. Since he'll need serious money to draw attention from his deficiencies when he runs for mayor next year, it makes sense for him to pass up mud wrestling with h. brown for peanuts.

Message to Gav: there or not, you will be the subject of my every reply in every debate. Run from that.

you smell something? sobone@juno.com