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Monday, August 5, 2002

h. brown's column for August 5

August 5, 2002

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Everything you say makes you look like a fool.

– Rich Hillis (my documentarian)

I got my 15 minutes of “fame” or whatever on Friday. It was, indeed, very revealing. I always knew I was a pompous asshole, but having a camera following my every move for three or four hours removed any doubts I may have had. My friends took one look at the crew filming me (and them too, as a result) and quickly figured Rich and Courtney were only there to make me look like an idiot.

I, of course, came right out and asked: "Rich" (that's what I call him, since that's the name he gave me), "my friends say you'll edit this to make me sound like a fool."

He was honest in his reply: "Everything you say makes you look like a fool."

It was hard to argue with that. You gotta like a guy who brings you beer, great pot, and a shot at immortality, even if it's as an idiot.

Top my weekend

The Guinea pig who looks like she made the PG&E commercial let me pet her the past two days. Little over two weeks house-sitting seven of them, and this one is the matriarch. They are skittish. Pretty cut and dried relationship till yesterday. Now, suddenly, “grandma” has accepted me.

I do lots of these house-sitting gigs. Beats sleeping on the streets.

“Fuju,” the big cut tom cat, was my buddy pretty much from Day One. Cats know right away that I'm an advocate, I guess cause I must smell like all the cats I tend here and there. Talk about the “blind leading the blind.” The homeless columnist rescue homeless cats and hopes money for food and litter will materialize on cue. But Willie didn't send my first check on the 1st, I have no account to process the two campaign contributions I received, and I'm out of food stamps. Word on the vine is that Jack Davis is getting a bundle from Gavin Newsom to force me out of the race in the 2nd District by fair or foul methods.

But the guinea pig? That was real sweet. Lets me massage her ears and scratch her head and back.

One of the two feral cats I'm taming at another secret location (you gotta hide when you're homeless) – the all black one tentatively named “Luna” – has seemingly gotten through her wailing heat and is pretty much completely tame. The other hides in some pipes but we caught her long enough to apply the flea-killing juice on the back of her neck.

Got time on your hands? Tame a feral cat. If you can't afford a tetanus shot first, get a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and apply to the early wounds.

Deadlines everywhere

Saturday I fly out of Oakland to go visit my mom for a few days. My older sisters combine and send me a round-trip ticket every year. Friday is the last day to complete paperwork and pay fees for the district supervisor elections. Thursday is my concert with Neska and Gonzalez and Tony Hall and a host of others. I forwarded a marriage proposal to a beautiful Swede who may or may not become the seventh “Mrs. h.” I'm broke, homeless, unemployed, out of shape, and my prospects and stature have never been higher. Go figure.

Swaying the press

This is Monday and the Board of Supervisors meets in around five hours. On the agenda will be an item by which the board can either approve or disapprove selling the naming rights of Candlestick Park to the 49ers. The city's venerable budget analyst (Harvey Rose) thinks the deal needs work. While not disagreeing with the concept of naming rights, Harvey noted in Finance that the deal was not competitive and the Niners provided no comparison with rights struck by other cities for other stadiums. Adding, "Supervisor, I LOVE the 49ers" and commenting he'd been a season ticket holder for some fifteen years, Rose nevertheless showed his independent mettle by recommending against approval of the deal in its present form. Whether to even consider selling “billboard” space on public institutions is yet another matter entirely. That would be, as Rose observed, "a policy decision."

Then things got more interesting.

Niners refuse to renegotiate

Finance chair Aaron Peskin attempted to ease the deal forward by asking for a bit of minor tweaking, a few compromises by the Niners to address the budget analyst's concerns. Rec & Park general manager Elizabeth Goldstein (who gets tremendous power from this contract) looked somewhat hesitantly at the Niner contingent and invited them out into the hall to talk while the committee continued to consider other things. The Niners told her to go pound sand.

Supe Matt Gonzalez, who had no problem with approving the ad revenue side of the deal but wanted the naming rights portion divided off and debated separately, was sitting in with the committee for just this one item. Gonzalez is the only supervisor who returns the complimentary tickets regularly forwarded to each supe from the Niners through Rec & Park (read “Goldstein“; read “Da Mayor“). Supe Chris Daly, who opposed all corporate gifts including a handsome leather satchel embossed with his name and the Niners logo, for some reason did not think free tickets to a sold-out stadium fit into that category. While a leather folder might be construed as an attempt to influence his vote, tickets from the same source (a far more valuable commodity) were merely "perks." One wonders whether, if PG&E offered to pick up the supervisor's utility bill or AT&T were to comp his phone, computer, and cable bills, these would also be merely "perks." It was a rare inconsistency from Daly and it stood out like a sore thumb. Reporters along the back row chuckled and passed notes.

Niners go to editorial boards with Goldstein

Friday, while jogging along Market Street, I ran into Sam Singer of the Niners, standing outside the Examiner Building. We chatted and he said he was waiting for Goldstein and the rest of his Niner contingent because they were going to lobby the Examiner's Editorial Board. I made a mental note to see if the Ex ran an editorial Monday morning designed to sway the board's vote later in the day. Indeed, it was there.

Now, I don't know how proper it is for a City Department head to lead a contingent of business folks around to the major newspapers and lobby on their behalf. It raises all kinds of questions for me. How much advertising does the Ex get from the Niners? Do they get free tickets, too? Would the team prevent access to Niner players and facilities for reporters from a newspaper that challenged their non-competitive bid?

Analyst Rose inadvertently let slip the kind of power the Niners have over their loyal fans (of which I am certainly one) and the city. Having recommended against approving the measure in its present form, Rose noted that he hoped he was "still" a Niners season ticket holder after his action. I can imagine Rose sitting in his “new” seats behind a huge iron post while Peskin, Daly, and Supe Sophie Maxwell (who sponsored the item) sit in Row One, handsome leather binders in lap, smelling the roses.

8:00 pm, Thursday, 550 Capp

I'm outta my Mission condo-sitting stay tomorrow. The beat, as they say, moves on. By Friday, either I'll have successfully entered the District 2 Supervisor race against Gavin Newsom or I’ll have moved on to something else.

Either way, the next day, it will be time for me to see my family's matriarch. My momma. Ellen Elizabeth Clemens-Gamble-Brown. 88 years old. The family lodestone of love and faith and humor and endurance. She'll hug me and kiss my gray hair and we'll sit for three days and talk about God and destiny and family and she'll call me her "baby." My sisters will flutter around in the background cooking and cleaning and watching. They'll rent me a car and give me money to drive into St. Louis and cruise the crumbling structures of my youth baking in the hot Mississippi sun. Sad. Nostalgic.

Then next Wednesday I'll get on a plane and wing back to San Francisco, where I'll hide on someone's porch or crib a place on their couch and accept charity as I continue my muckraking battle against Willie and the Molloch he represents. I wonder if the Niners will send me season tickets?

Thursday, 8:00 pm: sobone@juno.com