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Friday, July 19, 2002

Watching City Hall for July 15, July 17

July 15, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Mayor to voters: "Screw you!!!"

– Has Willie Brown gone nuts?

Naw, Willie is crazy like a fox, as they say. The man is a genius at thwarting majority will and his actions today, July 15, were simply a continuation of a lifelong pattern.

You love the guy when he does it to the majority and you're in the minority. You hate it, when you're in the majority and he does it to you. In either case, his motivation is always the same. Willie does it for money.

Today, Willie decided to abolish the Planning Commission because he can no longer control all of its actions. Tonight, his Civil Service Commission will insist upon his right to override the voters' will in handing control of the Department of Elections over to a director appointed by the new Elections Commission created by Prop E. Tomorrow, or the next day, Willie will likely destroy the Board of Appeals because he can no longer totally control its members.

Crazy … like a fox

It's time for the Board of Supervisors to get off the dime and realize they made a serious error in not supporting Jim Reid's petition to remove Willie Brown two years ago. It is time to call for an emergency election to remove the mayor as quickly as possible. The supervisors should at least show they have the balls to put the option of removing Willie Brown on the table. It is bad enough when he mocks them. Hell, everyone does that. But now he's mocking the electorate and that cannot be allowed. If the Board refuses to act…

If the Board refuses to act, control of the Department of Elections will likely revert to the mayor within 24 hours. Citizens will have no Planning Commission to appeal to for at least a year and a half. Gerald Green will become the unelected building czar of the City and County of San Francisco. Citizens will have no recourse but to bow to the will of developers as funneled through Planning Director Green. Anyone who doesn't think the mayor would gladly maintain that status quo until his term ends … is an idiot.

Welcome to Willie world – watch your back!: sobone@juno.com


July 17, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Things are not only stranger than you imagine …

things are stranger than you are ABLE to imagine.

– George Roth, SF cab driver

He could have been talking about San Francisco in general or San Francisco politics in particular. Either was appropriate this week. It was a week when I met Barrett, the homeless squatter, while I was doing my final interview before being issued my first welfare check ($203.87). I watched so many Board of Supervisor meetings and hearings and authorities and commissions that I'm starting to dream about them. My e-mail is fat with good tips and casual flirtations.

My sisters are providing plane tickets and a rental car so's I can find my way to my mom's place outside St. Louis cause it might be the last time. She's 88 & at 58, I am still her baby boy. Mothers! Disappoint them & they still love you. I don't mean to be vain but I think there is a special bond with the “baby” of the family. I fought fires for five years, been arrested as a spy in a foreign country, taught & coached a thousand tough kids, but I'm still that little red-haired bouncing baby boy in 1944 to her.

I'm starting to put together the team for the run for supervisor in District 2. Our first event is planned as “The Dance & Jam Before the Storm.” Yeah, I like that. Or “Dance with Your Enemies.” Yeah, I can see that working.

My friends and I built and ran the biggest night club in St. Louis (mostly jazz) in the 1970s. I threw a party for 300 people there every night and I can try and pull it together for just one more gig. Not a bad dance card for a homeless bum.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Aaron Peskin was on TV this morning talking to Phil Matier in front of Café Trieste and the talk turned to the homeless and I'll lead in with that story.

Steve Bough – Employee of the Month

Steve is my new caseworker. He processed my second application for public assistance through the Department of Human Services' CAAP program. This is the program that takes care of the folks 2nd District supervisor Gavin Newsom wants to send into shelters and take away their stipend. More about that later.

First, kudos to Mr. Bough, a 23-year veteran of the department, for standing out like a saving buoy in the sea of a really tough and largely depersonalized intake service at DHS's CAAP. You sit in the waiting rooms for hours and you study the hundreds of others there & you compare them with the pictures in the paper of the people Newsom talks about & they aren't here. Well, some of them certainly are. But of the 500 or so people I watched during the three weeks (normally a week and a half – I had to start over for missing a meeting – misread a date) … of the 500, maybe 2% percent came close to fitting Newsom's alcoholic/drug addict profile and yet all of them (including me – hey, now I have a real vested interest here).

You listen to the people talk and they all bitch about how their caseworker is unintelligible or hostile to them and you go through the procedure and you see they are correct & you wonder if the process is that way on purpose. Going through the system is like being the knight in that movie “Monty Python & the Holy Grail.” You go from station to station & any of the people manning them (many if them are ex-GA people who seem to truly dislike their jobs) … ANY of them can send you to the back of the line. Make you start all over again because you talked or stood up or went to the bathroom or read a newspaper or read a date wrong. Like in the Holy Grail. Only it ain't a movie.

The movie has phony tension for laughs. At 1235 Mission, the tension is very real. From the long line curling into the street at 7:30 am (hoping your friends won't drive by and see you in line with the “bums”) to the metal detectors and baton body sweeps and the standing and waiting and the guards and more guards (cause people blow up under pressure) to the reams of forms and the eternal sadness and shame of the people packed next to you and the insanity and anger… Sounds like my last divorce. Then you meet one of da good guys.

To Trent Rohr: Trent, have Steve teach your other intake workers how to treat people. He smiles. He's comfortable in his job. He doesn't look at you like you may jump across the table at him at any moment. He's not political. When I asked if he knew “they” were trying to do away with the GA stipend, he seemed surprised. No agenda there. I'd lain awake most of the night. Two alarm clocks set. If I missed the meeting, I'd be exposed as a total leech who wouldn't even go through a little humiliation to bring a few dollars or food stamps into the mix. I made it! Very early.

Who the hell you calling a “senior” citizen!?!

I've been too short for jobs. Too smart. Too young. Too white. Too straight. Lately, I've been “too old.” True, true, true. And sad. Yesterday, when my welfare check was approved, I was told that, finally, being “too” something had an advantage. I may be “too” old and “too” educated and “too” political to get a job, but because I'd managed to get “too” old … I don't have to sweep streets or paint over graffiti to draw my twice-monthly $197.50 check. I'm too old. I don't have to go to classes to get my GED. I'm too educated already! I'm too old and too smart and too political for anyone to ever want to hire me again.

I can write though. A little. You're reading it, ain't you? You got taste, right? You realize it's a “good thing” to have someone covering City Hall not tied to the Hearsts or the Fangs or even Brugmann.

Anyway, here's my present financial status. I'll get $59 in food stamps. Enough with the $395 cash (minus check-cashing fees) to keep me out of shelters and out of soup kitchens and not begging or mugging or burgling (OK, I've only done the soup kitchen thing, but others will do the rest on a much larger scale if Newsom's Care Not! package passes). That ain't bad. A lot better than I've had.

As my heavy sarcasm increases online, my employability has decreased. I seem to have reached 0. Sooooo, the government will subsidize me enough to sit on the pavement or in an attic or basement or wherever & snip at them.

No wonder Gavin wants to cut off the cash. I could be just the first of thousands of marginalized artists to come after the “Noose.” Speaking of which…

h. brown, journalist (funded by CAAP)

I had to use my first check to buy a press pass and a couple of months of catfood and deodorant and stuff like that, but my second check will go toward paying my entry fee into the 2nd District race for supervisor against Gavin Newsom.

Is that your worst nightmare, Gav? Imagine. When I could have bought crack cocaine or heroin or sex, I spend the cash to keep OUT of shelters and bread lines (OK, I did buy some wine). It’s worse. I'm spending most of it on a left-wing, progressive, “Green” campaign to throw your ass out of City Hall. That's gotta piss you off.

I have this deep source in City Hall who feeds me statistics and opinions. This is a revolutionary development for me.

I'm lying. I actually now have several dozen such sources. Honestly. You can't believe how many people who work or have contracts with the city are sick and tired of Willie and his minions. One of them … this is awkward. I can't quote him or her directly because I can't go from here (Word Perfect) to my email and pick off the lines and I don't have enough money for ink for my printer, so I'm just going to paraphrase my “inside source (who is VERY inside).

Ammiano miscalculates all!

Tom Ammiano is reaching out to a union base that can (at best) bring him a 5 percent return in next year's mayoral campaign and alienating a 10-15 percent segment that could, at least in theory, give him a fighting chance against Gavin Newsom and Angela Alioto.

Seems board president Tom Ammiano, rejecting polls that show he faces a city population that includes at least 20 percent outright homophobes (and, therefore, makes him unelectable at this time) has abandoned huge portions of his natural and nurtured base to reach out to a smaller number of red-necked union workers likely to dump him by November 5. Word is Tom has been cajoled into accepting PG&E power hegemony in exchange for endorsements and support likely to disappear in the fall and is, in the process, severing ties with many of his long-term supporters.

"Brugmann will go with Alioto," says my source. "You always go with the guy with the printing press!" adds the strategist with emphasis. "He should be in the lines with the laundry workers. Lots more votes there." Josie Mooney is a "political hack" who will dump him in the end, continues the message.

Longtime Ammiano insiders have been totally mesmerized by his moves. I am not.

Ammiano cannot win in 2003 because he is too much of a “nelly.” Hey, don't blame me. I didn't say a gay candidate cannot win. I've said before, Mark Leno has a better chance. Leno's politics aren't low-class enough for me, but I could support him and he could win (and I will only support someone in this race who CAN win – no more symbolic sacrifices please!!!). Tom can't win and his polls show it and he's making moves that make no sense unless you accept my evaluation. Hell, he's offending supporters and reaching out to cobras.

Tom. for the cause, admit it now. I know it's not fair, but you can't win. And worse, we can't afford for you not to win. Face it. Four years of Gavin Newsom will be like four more years of Willie Brown. You won't see a break in the gentrification process and it will be your fault for not backing out early and backing a candidate or candidates who might actually win. Also, if Newsom wins a first term, he'll be a cinch for a second because there will be tens of thousands of us forced out of town by his policies and rent control will go and it won't be San Francisco anymore.

Retire to the wings, Tom. Don't take us down with you. Become a respected “emeritus” hero. It's better than being the guy who destroyed the progressive movement and all it stands for on the rocks of his ego. Be noble, Tom. Bring us all together behind someone who can win. Do it now.

Back to Barrett. Kid. Maybe 21. Clean scrubbed. Standing ahead of me in the line to get my first CAAP check at the welfare office. He was reading a Raymond Chandler novel. We started talking. He was raised in San Francisco. Bright-eyed. Easy smile and a true love for the city. He knew the history of John's Bar & Grill although he quickly added that of course, he could never afford to go there.

No shelters for him. "I'm a squatter." It throws me. “Squatter” reminds me of the punks from the Savoy who crashed and partied in the “Vats” in the early 1980s. Remember them? Yeah, I partied with them some. Slam dancing. Hot sex and bad, bad music. Slept in an abandoned brewery down by the foot of the Bay Bridge or something (hey, it was always dark and I was always drunk and high).

Are there any vacant structures left like that in San Francisco? Seems, if you're smart and can climb and have a good attitude, there are. "I have a great view of downtown and the Bay," he notes, drawn to his own hometown. Raymond Chandler!? He moves to the streets with the others, driven out by Newsom's developer buddies who will certainly drive him from his little hideout with the great view. Vote? He never heard of Newsom. Or Peskin, in whose district he squats. And he's never voted.

That's the problem with my crusade, trying to hold some space for the artists and dancers and the scenic poor and fishermen and hookers. I asked my co-chair Kim Spicer why we couldn't win. "Hippies don't vote." Yep.

you vote? sobone@juno.com