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Friday, August 2, 2002

Watching City Hall for July 30, August 2

July 30, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

(warning: this is a 20 minute read)

Leno vs. Drug Czar's on Donahue

Hall, McGoldrick, Sandoval, Gonzalez, & Daly shine

(San Francisco again sets the trend)

I was up until almost 2:00 am last night watching San Francisco supervisor (soon-to-be state assemblyman) Mark Leno on the Phil Donahue show. Mark was there to prove once again why this amazing city seems to always lead the pack. In a broadcast which was watched and will be watched again and again around the globe, Leno defended another of his many gifts to the City with the Big Heart. The latest is a referendum for the November ballot which asks our citizens if they have the will once again to challenge the federal government in an area in which Washington has passed from being remiss to downright cruel.

Should a municipality provide vital medication when the federal government says “No“? That medication is POT.

Marijuana's enemies – a true murderers' row

In the 1940s New York City had a mayor named LaGuardia. LaGuardia left City Hall to go to the U.S. Congress, and he took a very good idea with him. The idea was the legalization of marijuana. He formed a commission, and they studied the issue well. Doctors, patients, scientists all agreed. For patients dying of cancer, pot controlled nausea, increased appetite and lowered stress, all without turning the patient into a zombie as other medications did (and still do). It seemed a slam dunk that pot would be separated from heroin and cocaine and other truly dangerous drugs.

It never happened. The report got buried. It got overwhelmed. It was buried in dollars from interests who feared competition. Drug companies. Alcohol interests. Tobacco companies. And, in an interesting turn, gangsters!

No kidding. They sent cash and lawyers to fight the measure because as long as it was illegal, they could make money from bootlegging it. Combine those interests today (it WILL be the same lineup against the gentle, soft-spoken, but firm Leno) & you account for well over half a million deaths a year in the United States alone.

General Barry McAffrey, the former drug czar whom Leno opposed last evening, did not rail against them. Nope, he was after the cute little, easy-to-grow weed that would challenge their profits. Pot.

Again, San Francisco is ahead of the curve. Leading the pack. Way to go, Mark.

It is not the first time

San Francisco has a big heart. Two years ago, Supervisor Leno led an 8-3 board super-majority voting to provide insurance coverage for city employees who chose (in order to maintain sanity) to undergo transgender medical procedures. Notice, I did not say “elective” procedures. It is not elective to those who undergo them, and they have not only the support and respect of this lowly columnist, but of our entire community. The national and international ripple effect of this vote has begun.

A decade or so back, the city voted to become a sanctuary for aliens fleeing torture, murder & dire poverty. Other cities followed. We were the first.

Board president Tom Ammiano broke ground over two decades ago when he came out as the first openly gay teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District. Others followed, and the world followed with them.

Ours is a leadership role that the world recognizes. Sometimes, we do not.

Fearful of conservative backlash (or shrinking campaign contributions), a majority of the board rejected a resolution that would have censured the Peoples' Republic of China for banning, torturing, and murdering members of the Falun Gong. At that time, only Supervisors Daly (the resolution's sponsor), Gonzalez, and Ammiano stood up for the oppressed. Later, (no surprise) Leno joined their ranks. Under pressure from the Chinese government through their consulate, and a flow of money through Chinatown fixer Rose Pak, the majority of the board echoed the tired refrain of cowards: "No one listens to us" and "We should not tell foreign governments how to act."

I am not going to attribute these quotes because I am still in hope that some of the speakers will grow a conscience. Of course, personally, I stand to make a bundle from Amnesty International and the Quakers and Doctors Without Borders, who have all battled on behalf of the Falun Gong.

To Peskin, McGoldrick, Sandoval, Newsom, Hall, Maxwell, and Yee: the Falun Gong have not forgotten your daggers in the back. Neither have I. On this basis, I am running against Newsom in District 2, supporting a Green (Barry Hermanson in Yee's District) ,and will lead a neighborhood canvassing of Falun Gong followers in Maxwell's District 10. What did Christ or somebody say? "What profit you, if you remain supervisor but lose your soul?"

Let me say this to the Board. It is true that we make fun of you. Peskin pointed out last week that being ridiculed is part and parcel of the mantle you assume when you are elected to the office. What he did not say is that you all represent us and we are either proud or shamed by your actions. So, we make fun of you?! We in San Francisco all make fun of each other too. The talk shows. Foreign dictators. They all make fun of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. But they also look to them to discover the cutting edge of public thought. Everyone wants to influence what the San Francisco Board of Supervisors thinks and does.

Speaking of which, on to a matter to be taken up by the board next week. Let's use a little Shakespeare here:

"What's in a name?"

(No name is better than da wrong name)

Next Monday, Supervisors Hall, Daly, McGoldrick, Sandoval, and Gonzalez are sponsoring a measure which would prohibit the city from selling or leasing naming rights of any public space or structure. It is an idea whose time has come. The mayor is certain to veto the measure.

The pittance the giant corporations pay to “tag” our public structures pales beside the shame we feel when they are found complicit in the overthrow of governments, restraint of trade, jacking up utility rates, lying, cheating, invasion, evasion, or being friends to George Bush (either one). We don't need it.

Not to mention the damage to small local businesses. Tony Hall chaired a Rules Committee hearing that listened to people who did business around Candlestick Point / Candlestick Park. They noted that they sometimes post and mail literature around the world which contains their addresses. Every time the name of the park changes, the highway signs leading to it change and their customers cannot find them.

I will not advertise for the company that bought the naming rights to Candlestick, but they paid 900 grand. Hell, as one supe put it: "That's less than Tammy Haygood overspent on ballots!"

Let's keep it “Candlestick Park.” Let it forever be the “San Francisco Symphony.” I like the sound of “San Francisco Opera” and “San Francisco Ballet.”

Come to think of it, I'd have to change the name of my column if the board did the unthinkable. Imagine if Willie's friends put together pocket change (for them) and suddenly I was not “Watching City Hall.” Suddenly, I was “Watching Da Williedome.” It could happen.

I call upon Supes Leno, Ammiano, and Peskin to join their the cohorts and draw a line in the sand. The other three seem hopeless. Maxwell sponsored the legislation to sell the rights to Candlestick. Newsom is a ventriloquist's dummy for the worst offenders. And Yee? Yee, I am told, already has the word “Coppertone” tattooed on his chest.

Mamma said there'd be days like this …

she just didn't say there'd be so many of them.

– an old country expression

San Francisco is a strange town. I'm completely broke. I live on welfare. I have no home, woman, or car. Yet because this is San Francisco, I am sitting in a half-million-dollar condominium, drinking the finest liquors, smoking the best pot, and planning a concert headlining one of the finest composers on earth in the neatest setting I have ever seen. I am crushed financially, yet more powerful than I have ever been in my life.

Let's see, I was talking about Ken Garcia, the “lawn jockey” voice of the rich, who specializes in pushing their domination of Golden Gate Park. No? Well, it's important, so we'll start there.

Garcia attacked my favorite supe, the 5th District's Matt Gonzalez, again over the weekend and I finally figured out why. If you know Gonzalez, he is about the least political politician you are gonna find. The guy is more about promoting art and poetry and humanity than getting re-elected. He is the only supe who voted against Mayor Willie Brown's continued developer-fed city budget. He is the leading voice against the corporate monoliths that dominate the political, social, and economic scene, but they surely don't fear him. I mean, hell, they got Chris Daly to vote for their budget! Gonzo is, indeed, the “last man standing.”

If I were advising Willie's juggernaut, I'd say, "Go around him! You don't wanna call attention to a hero and make a martyr when you've already won the day." Willie either isn't getting that advice, or he's ignoring it, or (this is a real possibility) he may be out of the loop now. Dee dee? Harry de Wildt? All the other socialites? They may have decided Willie is passé .

They may have decided to go for every square inch of the desirable land in San Francisco. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. I mean, don't bring your dog to THEIR beaches or headlands or Presidio or even Marina Green. EVER!!! Don't try to play soccer or skate or dance or sing or play music in Golden Gate Park without a permit that Elizabeth Goldstein will never issue. Forget pulling into the park for free on Saturday, parking your car, and walking to a promenade closed to traffic where you can skate with your kids down the center of the road, pausing to listen to a free jazz ensemble lingering away the afternoon in a walkway.

Forget all that!! The rich (represented by Gavin Newsom) will not give up one inch of the land they have seized through the offices of Willie Brown & Nancy Pelosi &Diane Feinstein / Dick Blum.

I finally figured out that the reason the rich are using their lazy columnist, Garcia, to condemn Gonzalez's plan to keep a small portion of the park free of cars on Saturdays is that they are all geared up to make money off cars there on Saturday!! Remember when they sucked you into voting for an underground garage that would keep cars out of the park? It wasn't going to cost you anything. Of course, they'd make millions as you'd have to pay $10 an hour to park where you used to park for free. They said you wouldn't even know the garage was there because the entries would start at the edges.

What did Gomer Pyle used to say? "Suuurprise, suuuprise, suuuprise!!!" They lied. Oh, they still want to have an underground garage and to charge you big bucks to park there. But now they want to build a garage and charge you to park where you used to park free, and they want you to pay for it!!

Does that work for you? Works for Garcia. But then, Ken is not exactly what you'd call a deep thinker. When Gonzalez's modest plan to close a very small portion of the park to autos came forth last summer, the reaction of the rich was amazing. I couldn't figure it out. Why were they going ballistic over a few hours of open solitude free of blazing autos on a Saturday? Finally got it. If you discourage autos on Saturdays (done successfully for 20 years on Sunday over a far larger portion of the park), then there will be fewer cars parking in their new (publicly financed) garage on Saturdays. And you can bet your sweet bippie that Saturday parking is figured prominently into some of the rich frigs' calculations to obtain loans (from each other) to build the garage, further close the park, and rip off the public.

What a bunch of buttoxial egresses. (That’s McGoldrickeese).

They gonna win? Probably, for awhile. Then they'll get some bad, bad things happening to them and their possessions, and they'll complain to their lawyers and accountants and politicians and reporters and columnists, "You said they wouldn't do anything!!" There are already thousands and thousands of homeless insane, drunk, and desperate people in the streets because their lawyers told them it was OK to seize apartments and put the occupants into the streets. Jeeez, it made good economic sense!

Gavin Newsom is going around saying it is terrible that so many poor and insane are dying in the streets when he helped to put them there!!! Come on, man! The mortality rate of the insane and the alcoholic has not risen in this town. The only thing that has changed is that they are dying in the streets because you have forced them there through the legislation you have sponsored.

Remember when you threw out old people who couldn't pay the millions and millions of “capital improvements” your realtor contributors laid on them? Where do you think those people went? Back to “where they came from“? They mostly were born and raised here. Just like you, but with less connected friends and family. Soooo, you threw them out. Now, you have the unmitigated gall to complain because they die in the streets instead of in their beds.

Ring around a rosy

Let me get this straight. Pius Lee, whom Willie appointed to the Port Commission, complains that he bribed Hector Chinchilla, whom Willie appointed to the Planning Commission (and is attempting to re-appoint), and Hector took the money and did not deliver! Talk about the “system not working”!

Why did Lee go to 3rd District supervisor Aaron Peskin to complain about da failure to deliver on da bribe? The only thing that kept the bribe and delivery of services for same out of the paper was that go-between William Fay (whom Willie also wants to reappoint to the Planning Commission) was absent for the vote to vote down the counter-interests of Chinatown’s Rose Pak. So Lee lost and went to Peskin. Probably because Pak controls Willie Brown and Pius knew he wouldn't react.

What's missing in this equation, people? How about, not one mention of the public interest? Was the conversion of the Apollo Theatre a good thing for the neighborhood? Nothing about that. Just an unusual sighting of the ancient, barnacled bottom of the Brown/Burton bribery-based patronage system breaking water in the press for a short time.

You read it here. Willie will not appoint ANYONE to the Planning Commission or Appeals. He'll allow projects like the Apollo to skate through on the state's '“streamlining” law, which goes into effect after 30 days when an oversight body fails to meet (because of him).

Why should Willie even have a Planning Commission? Or even a Planning Department, for that matter? This way, he can simply approve the projects from his office and save lots of time and scrutiny. The Commission and the Board of Appeals were just window dressing anyway.

h. brown's concert

Next Thursday, a week (as we say in the Ozarks), I'm havin' a party. It will be at the Community Music Center in the 500 block of Capp Street and the opening act (my headliner – dramatic pianist Neska) will strike first key at 8:00 pm. We’re following with a jam session of vocalists and musicians which will fire all cylinders till midnight. If you wish to come, there will be 100 tickets only, at $10 apiece. I am renting the space with my first welfare check and will use the proceeds to file as a candidate in the 2nd District supervisorial race against Gavin Newsom.

Gavin has been leading an army of rich rednecks who are trying to cut off the $395 a month in welfare benefits I have just been accorded. Gavin says we use it all for drugs and alcohol. It's worse than that, Gavin. I for one am using it to run against you for your seat on the Board of Supervisors. Now, there's a real scary thought.

be calm: sobone@juno.com


August 2, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

I'm sure it's not because I'm a woman … or black!

– Sophie Maxwell learns from Willie

It was sad, really. Shudda seen it coming. I mean, where was Linda Richardson? Why hadn't Da Mayor entered a candidate against Maxwell in the 10th District? Simple enough. He could already count on her to vote his way. Our (“Progressives”) only hope in 10 is that Marie Harrison will enter and give us a choice. Maxwell? Forget her. She's with Willie. The scene was interesting.

It came at the end of the first item before the Board's Finance Committee on Wednesday. A high-profile, low-dollar item sponsored by Maxwell. To tell the truth, the dollar amount of the item wasn't even revealed. No one knew what it was. For that reason, the Budget Analyst opposed it. Selling the naming rights to San Francisco's football stadium at Candlestick Point.

Yeah, I know, it's called and always will be called “Candlestick” by the locals. And despite the fact that a morning poll on the Chronicle's SFGate found well over 80% of the respondents opposed to selling naming rights, Maxwell, Chair Aaron Peskin, and interestingly enough, Vice Chair Chris Daly (who raved about what a nice "perk" 49'er season tickets were) agreed to send the matter to the full board. I think every member of the board who accepted free Niner tickets should recuse themselves from the vote. Far as I know, the 5th District's Matt Gonzalez is the only member who sends back the tickets. As one member defended the payoff a few months ago, "Do you think we can be bought for a few hundred dollars?" In one word, Supervisor, yes!'

Sophie binds herself to Tammy Haygood

The mostly male, mostly white board crawls so low to please Maxwell that they nearly go subterranean. You can't grovel much more. Hey, she's female and she's black. The last thing you want is to give her the least bit of ammunition that you're discriminating against her. And they haven't. Still haven't.

But Wednesday, she was looking for any excuse to play the race card. When the entire item she was sponsoring went by without anyone offending her, she set Chair Aaron Peskin up, then leaped upon him. It was transparent. First, she hit the button (or whatever it is they do to let the chair know they want to speak) to comment on the stadium-naming debate. She'd spoken often and been accorded her usual Grand Canyon allowance for being female and black. When Peskin noted she'd done the electronic thing to be heard, he called upon her. She said she'd rather allow the 49'ers rep to speak. Peskin accommodated her. The Niner’s rep spoke and he gaveled the meeting to a close.

Suddenly, Maxwell, in high dudgeon, spat out that she had not been allowed to speak. The entire audience, the committee members and the rotten stinking press froze. Where ta hell did that come from? Easy. It came from Willie Brown. Peskin had clearly given her the opportunity to speak when she'd requested it. She'd passed the torch to the Niner's rep but it was just a ploy. She was looking to frame Peskin. Much as I like to see Peskin dissed, it was a bad rap. District 3's little general is many things but he is no racist and he is no sexist. If anything, he's pussy-whipped!

P.J. Corkery reads h. brown!

Last week the Examiner's P.J. Corkery wrote a column that was pure objective correlative. You know what that means? T. S. Eliot (yet another St. Louis native) wrote a piece for some New York magazine long ago. He noted that a poem or a story or an editorial – any piece – had range and strength in direct proportion to the degree to which it related, in the minds of readers, to objects within their own experience. The broader the “correlation” to actual “objects” or experiences, the more powerful the piece. Thus, if I write reams about fiscal prudence and balanced budgets, I get a yawn. However, if I write about the 49'ers and guys who are “pussy-whipped,” my audience increases exponentially.

Ya got that? Anyway, P.J. did a hell of a job & I told him so. I've been a Corkery fan since the Ex dumped the graphic above his column that was (I thought) too derivative of Herb Caen's. I much prefer the caricature. P.J. thanked me for complimenting the piece and I was flattered that he responded.

With that in mind, I read P.J. this morning and he had a really graphic piece of objective correlative from my past. You see, I used to own a big jazz club in St. Louis in the late 1970s. It failed, as most jazz clubs do. My friends and I took massive amounts of Preludin and “black beauties” to put the place together and it is almost axiomatic that anything built on drugs is bound to go down. Still, it was quite an experience.

P.J. was talking about Ed Moose’s days in St. Louis. St. Louis, says I?? Turns out Ed's wife, Mary Etta, ran the Crystal Palace in the old days. Lord, did that take me back. … I remember the tornadoes that ran right down Olive Street on the West End and how the businesses there used the insurance money to build “Gaslight Square.” Maybe it was because I was young and just out of the Navy but I've never seen anything like Gaslight. Oh, Bourbon Street in New Orleans is great but Gaslight was a mixture of Bourbon St. and Royal St. (next block over from Bourbon). Makes me misty.

Point was (I'll get there eventually) that I was so inspired by Gaslight in general and the Crystal Palace in particular that, a decade or so later, I opened my own club a few blocks over near St. Louis University. That's where I met Linda LaFlamme (now, “Neska'“ who played dramatic piano in my club (“h. brown's” – modest, huh?). Best original compositions I'd ever heard and they still are.

Which, finally, brings me to the point. Next Thursday (August 8) at 8:00 pm, Neska will headline a little gathering I'm hosting at the Community Music Center at 550 Capp in the Mission. $10 a head up to 100 people. I tried to get Gavin Newsom to co-host with me but he returned my e-mail. I guess we're going to have to do this the hard way.

Also on the bill:

Back-up band is “Lessick”

After Neska plays, we'll move into a jam session. We always did that at h. brown's. First set was LaFlamme, second set was a new band trying for a spot on the bill, and last set was always a free jam. The music from those jams rivaled the best of Miles Davis and Coltrane. Hell, I had people who played with both of them. I had musicians from the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Mexico, and the hills in Tennessee. Mix that together with Western Swing and Deadhead clones, all together on a triple-tier stage crafted of wood from an old barn we hauled up from the Boot-Heel Delta in Missouri (it was a corner construction that ran 30' along each leg and climbed really high to the drum sets). So, along those lines, “Lessick” is a band put together in Indiana years back by Supe Matt Gonzalez's brother Chuck and Chuck's wife, Liz. Joining them will be my old buddy (and first boss in San Francisco 22 years ago) Michael Moore on lead guitar. Big Mike comes from the DeBartolo's home grounds in Youngstown, Ohio and don't get him started on them.

That's not all, folks. Tony Hall and members of his band have promised to play, and there'll be a couple of topical acts to top things off.

Rich & Courtney come to film

Rich Hillis used to work for Da Mayor. I understand he’s now working for Mabel Teng. He and a buddy named Courtney wanted to make a documentary film on the race in District 2. Last time, you know, Gavin Newsom ran unopposed there. They thought of hiring an actor to run against Gavin for chuckles.

Hillis is rumored to have been with Chicago's “Second City,” which spawned half of the best of Saturday Night Live's cast. That makes him OK with me. They're due here in a few minutes to start filming my race. Turns out they didn't have to hire a clown. I was already a declared candidate. Look for us on PBS if the thing goes well or on COPS if it is a usual h. brown affair.

gotta put on my makeup: sobone@juno.com