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Friday, June 14, 2002

Columns written on June 4, June 10.

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

June 4, 2002

I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness …

starving … hysterical … naked …


– from “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg (describing the SF Board of Supervisors?)

I just wish Frank Gallagher had shown up. Matt Gonzalez throws the best parties in town without even seeming to try. It was an art opening. I forget the artist's name. I'll get back to you with that tomorrow after I go look at the exhibition sober.

I came away with a small stack of business cards & flyers stuffed in various pockets and orifices. You do too, right? And you try to hide them from your significant “other.” It's ever so interesting to go through your pockets after a particularly good party & see what's there & what's missing. For instance, if your reserve condom is missing, you might want to have a couple of cups of espresso & think real hard.

Didn't happen this time. Damn!

Aaron Peskin turns out to be human!

(Quotable notables at the gathering)

From now on, I'm only going to say nice things about 3rd District supe/Finance chair/Budget vice-chair Aaron Peskin.

OK, I'm lying. The guy (outside of board president Tom Ammiano) clearly has the most clout on the present board. Ammiano made that happen, I should add.

It has been a good plan. Peskin likes to deal but is owned by no particular interest group. Like me. Aaron & his wife, Nancy Shanahan, came to rub shoulders with the heart & soul of North Beach. It's their turf and the artist was a North Beacher. These supes all have their niches, surrounded by stacks of files on a variety of interest groups. Peskin, with his far-reaching powers through Finance & Budget may have the widest variety other than Ammiano.

Gonzalez spends more time with poets & artists & writers, if that's where your interests lie. “Gonzo” (as Marc Salomon calls him) is the spear point of progressive politics in San Francisco. Like any good lawyer, he's a negotiator & like any true believer, he holds his ground to the end when basic principles are involved (like Da Mayor's control of 99.7% of the city budget). Only Gonzalez & Chris Daly (also at the gathering) voted against last year's capitulation to Willie Brown. Hopefully, this year it will be different.

That's the message I was yelling across the crowded room to all who would listen. "We need 200 million in add-backs this year!" I preached to a well-jugged 50-ish beauty in an open-backed floral print dress.

"Who's Willie Brown?" she replied. I like that in a woman. "And, what's an 'add-back‘?" she continued.

It would never work between us, I thought. She just wouldn't understand when I twisted in a sweaty sleep, mumbling Controller Ed Harrington's fiscal projections. A couple needs more common ground than hot, uncontrollable, no-holds-barred sex to make a go of it.

Hmmmm, well, hmmmm, that's clearly a lie too. Least, as best I remember.

"I give you the best compliment I can," yelled Peskin across the din. "I read you every day. Not just for what you say about me [mostly insults] but to see what you've written about Gavin Newsom!"

I was flattered & said so. (It's always good to know that your hate mail is getting through to its targeted recipients.) I didn't note (true) that while reading me takes five or ten minutes (tops) a day, watching EVERYTHING he says & does on Channel 26 takes up to ten or twelve hours a day (a person needs a hobby).

A curvaceous young thing next to me flattened a boob against my arm to lean & shout into my ear, "Who's Gavin Newsom?" I was liking this crowd better all the time.

I complimented Peskin on a statement attributed to him that personnel cuts should also be on the table through the continuing budget battle. (It's so easy to yell from the sidelines) We continued the banter. I praised former supe John Bardis, who gets under Peskin's skin & whom I consider a civic treasure who is there to ask the questions so many of us homebound drunks would like to be there asking.

"Yeah, I know he went to Harvard & all that," spoketh Peskin. "I just get tired of hearing the same thing over & over."

The area of concern was the challenge Bardis regularly poses to the board at every level (not just Peskin – Aaron just gets the brunt of the fire because he runs, directly or indirectly, all of the board's broadest fiscal considerations). Bardis challenges the board to take back some of the budgetary powers that rightfully belong to it under the City Charter.

I returned that I thought Bardis's target was more likely aimed toward the TV audience, which is considerable (if you count the tapes we all trade, Channel 26 is kicking KRON's backside). I retreated enough to allow that the plunder of legislative power to originate alluh da cash-expenditure proposals was hardly new to San Francisco. You historians correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the executive branch started grabbing budgetary prerogatives as far back as Andrew Jackson & was pretty much completed under Franklin Roosevelt. Grabbing back even a bit is a truly daunting task. To expect the District 3 supe to reverse the trend in a deficit year is to ask much. Much. Much.

Well, asking “much” is what coaches & parents & journalists are supposed to do. I'm all three. I expect lots.

I'll settle for a little. Just grab 4 percent of the power we gave you back from the mayor & divide it among your district's constituents. You might be surprised at the support you get.

More Party

The artist for the show is George Long. A real renaissance kind of guy. Photographer. Saxophonist. And abstractions: "Inspired by Picasso and the weird liquid surrealism of Salvador Dali. Wild brush strokes, bold colors, paint squeezed straight from the tube or applied with palette knife over brushed color washes. Many of his works contain partial figures dancing out of the abstraction. Some figures are obvious; others are deconstructed." Paintings in the $700-$1500 range that freeze you before them and make your mind work.

Stop into Supervisor Gonzalez's office while you're at City Hall registering as a Green Party member.

And, there was poetry.

Two Poems by George Tsongas


(in reverse)





(the mayor)





are the people

surrounding him






father to son

(bush sr. to jr.)


tell me, georgie boy


did you cut down

the cherry tree


I cannot tell

a lie, father

I did not cut

down the cherry




I've been behind

the barn chopping

lines of cocaine


for me


brother jeb

Nice, huh? Miles Davis climbed to the stars, pierced them, and soared beyond on the stereo as serious artists, poets, dilettantes & a handful of drunken journalists paused to study each painting and one another too. Frank Gallagher went to the Giants game. They lost. We won.

see yuh: sobone@juno.com


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

June 10, 2002

Jock cowboy cops bust supe's chops
(Who you gonna believe?)

Soooo, do you believe the cop or the nun? There's a no brainer.

Always ahead of the major media outlets, SF Sentinel chief Pat Murphy had copies of witness statements regarding the assault of Supervisor Chris Daly by Tenderloin Police Officer James Riordan on the internet within hours of their filing. Sister Bernie Galvin & Tenderloin Housing Clinic head Randy Shaw, among others, testified in writing that 6th District supervisor Chris Daly did NOT resist arrest. I do believe that makes the actions of Officer Riordan to be common assault.

I guess we should thank our lucky stars that Officer Riordan kept his gun in his holster. The last time a San Francisco cop went after a supervisor, he shot him to death shortly after blowing away the mayor. You do remember Dan White, don't you?

Let's get this Riordan gentleman tested for steroids while he's on suspension pending investigation.

Meanwhile the scumbucket Hastings Board voted unanimously to build their eight-story garage. Hastings' promises mean nothing to them. They promised replacement housing for the SROs they wrecked. They lied in their teeth. The wishes of the neighborhood mean nothing. The safety of pedestrians means nothing.

Out of touch, fat cat lawyer boards protected by violent cops. Why does it all sound so familiar?

What's uh gonna happen? Wellll, I'd say Da Mayor (who had to be restrained from attacking Daly himself) will arrange for a promotion and a commendation for all involved storm troopers. Yet another outrageous day for Hastings' alumni Brown & John Burton. While Burton's daughter lays waste to the Public Defender's Office, pop continues to prove it's all about money for him now.

Last week's committees

Start with Finance. Board President Tom Ammiano and Finance Chair Aaron Peskin both promised us last year that they would make certain they got Walter Shorenstein and his cohorts back on the tax rolls this year. Moving toward that end, Controller Ed Harrington brought in two of the country's top tax experts to assess the possibilities of new corporate taxes. It was easily one of the best hearings of the year. Ammiano & Peskin proved they'd done their homework as they drew out the visiting economic gurus. Chris Daly summed up the matter for all: "Bottom line is that I want 27 million a year!" That's about right.

Public speakers again shone. After listening to why the city couldn't levy this tax & that tax, one fellow rose to note: "In 1982, the 30 wealthiest families were worth 45 billion dollars. In 1999, the same families were worth 535 billion.… It doesn't take much to see where the money is going.… And some of those families live in San Francisco." Another speaker noted, "The government said they couldn't tax the rich any more in the 1960s until the tanks had to be called out. Then, they found a way."

How you gonna pass a law … against a law of nature? 
– Public speaker in Health & Human Services

Everybody's gotta go sometime or else you swell up & explode.

Boy, was Tony Hall pissed. The 7th District's hard-line supe just can't get anything out of committee these days. The previous week it was his “HOPE” legislation (apartment-to-condo conversion – would destroy rent control, as proven in Santa Monica). Then, last week, it was his ordinance "Prohibiting Urination and Defecation." It sounded like an easy sell. However, somewhere in between the supes’ last discussion of the matter and last Thursday, someone took the provisions out of the legislation that would have delayed its enforcement until an adequate number of public toilets were open. I guess it was a ploy to make the other supes look bad, but it had the opposite effect. It echoed Gavin Newsom's “Care Not” legislation, which would put people in jail for not using facilities and programs that don't exist.

The committee had its high point with a hearing called by President Ammiano and organized by Deputy City Attorney Kamala Harris. Brilliant presentations "on the exploitation, abuse, and neglect of teenage girls." Dr. Mimi Silbert, founder of Delancey Street, brought several decades of experience belied by her girlish good looks. “Cupcake” Brown was the best motivational speaker. Forced into prostitution as a early teen, she fought free of drugs and the street to become a successful attorney. Speakers agreed to shoot for an inviting “safe house” for the abused and exploited as a much-needed first step in addressing the issue.

This here's my rap sheet.
– Carlos Soto

Speaking of inspirational.

Tony Hall's Rules Committee got a few much-needed slam-dunks in filling openings on the City-Wide Alcoholism and the Mental Health boards. Carlos Soto noted (much like Cupcake Brown) that his clients quickly realized if he could stay clean & sober, they could, too. Placing a stylish straw Panama hat on the podium, the dapper and lean commissioner (he's been on the board for six years & was applying for reappointment) noted that he wanted "to be honest" regarding his previous “brushes” with the law. He held up the application form & pointed to indicate that it only gave three lines to list previous offenses. He then hefted what looked like half a block of computer print-out paper above his head & let it drop.

The man's rap sheet was lots taller than he was. Forty-two years fighting drugs and alcohol. Twenty-eight years in prison! Now he helps. And helps. And helps. He was recommended for reappointment.

As a writer, you had to sit enthralled, wondering how many novels were contained in those pages.

I should give credit to Helena Brook, whose outreach work for the Mental Health Board made choosing among the applicants most difficult. As Hall noted, "It's situations like this that make us proud to be able to recommend these appointments."

What is an “audit“? I mean … really.

Busy boy, Ed Harrington led KPMG accountants (they audit 25 percent of the country's local governments & just hired a few thousand of the notorious Andersen's staff) … Harrington led the KPMG folks through their presentations. No one got hurt.

Harrington described an audit as something like a financial “interview” in which the nature of the questions means everything. You can hand your subject lobs at the net or you can ask questions like: (to the Port) "What have you done to maximize lease revenue?"

That was kind of funny, actually. Seeings how the Port regularly gives away some of the most valuable space on the planet for pennies on the dollar of their value for what some cynics see as “political” considerations.

Who the hell are “Overstreet Associates“?

Newspaper racks are growing out of the sidewalks around the city's busiest malls & downtown like dandelions on steroids. It's weird & I'm betting it means something bad for you and me. Like maybe the more racks you have on the street when Dan Brugmann completes his inventory for the city, maybe you get more space in the ped-mounts?

Take the corner of Hyde & California, for instance. Ya know, in front of Cala. The Chronicle has added boxes. The Independent has two spanking new boxes (sans papers). Then there's Overstreet. HUGE boxes with about a dozen compartments in each one. Says on the tag that the company is from Hayward, but only two of the slots have anything inside & the contents are mostly soft porn advertising strip joints around San Diego.

So you smelling a rat yet? I'm betting that the new ped-mounts are going to not only be constructed by an out-of-town outfit (Clear Channel Adshel), which will place hundreds of ads all over them (lighted), but that a chunk of the slots therein will be controlled by more out-of-town interests.

More later.

Community conversation on parks

The show sucks.

The host … how shall I say? It's kind of like watching the guests being mugged by Tinker Bell.

The main goal of the show's masters seems to be to keep people, dogs & now cats out of the parks. Last week, they upped the ante. They want to kill the feral cats.

Defending the cats was SPCA president Ed Sayres, who shows all the emotion of a really good poker player. On the attack were Arthur Feinstein of the Golden Gate Audubon Society and Josiah Clark, who described himself as a “naturalist” and seemed anything but.

Feinstein & Clark did a tag team thing with the host on Sayres, who remained unruffled. One of the more humorous exchanges came when Feinstein read from his notes that "we don't need to argue (they weren't)…. We've had our explosion of passions" (in his dreams). Sayres dead-panned the highly successful SPCA program. Trap, spay, or neuter, adopt or (in a few instances) return ferals to the parks. Feinstein & Clark baited, prodded & provoked Sayres to no avail. He simply wouldn't sink to their level.

Clark kept describing how it had been necessary for him to join efforts to "eradicate" certain species to protect the “natural” environment. He kept using the word “eradicate” over & over, staring at Sayres for a response. When he got none, he suddenly barked out: "Are you a vegetarian!?"

Ole Ed Sayres, he is a vegetarian.

You could see Clark deflate. Regrouping, he quickly shot out a statement saying much more about what he really didn't want in parks: "We need to get rid of these bushes where homeless people might be hiding out!"

Let me analyze this. There are types of people who get turned on by upsetting other people. That's their only cause. Oh, they hide behind phony political, social, or environmental agendas, but I strongly suspect the real goal is to get a good woody going. I fully expected Clark to suggest trapping & eradicating the homeless next. Hey, they aren't part of the “natural” environment. We could disguise the traps as porta-potties.

if it's brown … put it down: sobone@juno.com