Watching City Hall
by h. brown
|“You are no longer homeless and do not fall under prop ‘N’”
|— My caseworker
I was legally “homeless” from last summer until yesterday (February
3). There are around 2,800 people who still have that designation in San
Francisco and will thus be subject to Supervisor Gavin Newsom’s “Care not
Cash” legislation. I’m curious as to how many of that group will be able
to take the route I have taken to change their designation and thereby
escape the fate of having their welfare checks cut to nearly nothing. For
me, the actual change was only on paper. For others, it could mean going
from the comfort of a friend’s couch to a vermin-infested SRO. Here’s how
it worked for me.
My unemployment benefits had been exhausted for six months before I
finally bit the bullet and applied for welfare. It had never taken me
that long to find a job and I kept denying how bad things were. I
borrowed a grand from my buddy Sean and figured it would carry me till my
That was about a year ago and I’m still unemployed. My “advanced” age
(58) makes me too old by city standards for manual labor and also unlikely
to be hired for anything else. I am, as they say, “Over-the-Hill.”
But I’m luckier than most. Most who fall to this level anyway. I’ve
never burned absolutely all of my bridges. Which is good advice to give at
any age. I’ve always had family and friends to fall back upon and have
used them as they have used me, as it were. It’s a “class” thing some
places, but in San Francisco this kind of practice (taking another poet –
who snores! – onto your front room couch for a “short” time) … for
hippies like me, this kind of thing is like Basic Law I. So I never had to
sleep in the streets. I slept under Golden Gate Bridge one night, but
that’s another story.
So, there I am sitting at 1235 Mission in the all-purpose waiting room
of the homeless. And otherwise destitute. I’ve been in the system for a
half year now and been through each of the turns of the riggings of the
city’s “safety net.” I look around the room where around 200 people are
waiting. A few are wandering aimlessly, speaking to companions imaginary
or accessed by drugs they have not shared with me.
There are five “foxes.” That’s a rate of around 3% is my guess (I’m a
“girl watcher”). About the same number are insane (outwardly).
The first accepted ID on all of the lists as you reach the front of
each line with your thick documents is a Prison ID. Hell, that must be
legitimate. I mean, would you buy an ID that said you just got out of
prison!? Anyway, there are ten guys who just got out and some others do
the “stroll” from time to time.
This is the ambience to which I’ve adapted in my months at 1235. I’ve
come in monthly to meet with my caseworker, whose primary goal is to
ascertain that I really and truly live in San Francisco. Every month I
bring a note from my friends, who testify that I have indeed been bunking
in their cribs.
I don’t have to do that now. No meetings with the caseworker till
June. I’m out of the “Care Not” scythe path. It is very sad to me that I
should ever have been within its reach.
I look around the room at 1235 as I finish my interview. It is an
enormous open room with 20′ ceilings. I scope the people and realize
that as Newsom’s legislation is implemented, these people would become my
neighbors. I’d be living in some SRO or (most likely) in a shelter,
instead of with my friends (to whom I now flee).
Listen, I’d have liked to follow the “homeless” designation to the
point where I was stripped of my basic (state-mandated $320) $395 monthly
stipend, put into some SRO or whatever, and tried to live on $59 a month.
I mean, it would be great theater!
Gavin Newsom said he’d sleep in a shelter himself. He did not. I toss
it off as a joke to him now and then but he ain’t gonna do it. Hey, me
either, Gavin. I don’t want lice and bed bugs either.
We both know that the real issue is who owns and lives upon these
blessed 49 square miles. Am I the first to note that? Are we the 49’ers
because of the gold rush or because the city is a square of 49 square
miles??? Anyway, Gavin’s friends own pretty much all of the private
property worth owning. Now they want all of the public land. And the
public art. The public stables. The public golf links. The public marina.
The Veterans’ Building. The Library. The Police Department… Wait! That’s a
This week, the full board endorsed Gavin.
On Tuesday, the full Board of Supes voted 10-0 to approve a plan
(against vehement neighborhood objections) to build a huge structure in
the center of Glen Park which will make pedestrians more vulnerable, the
library inaccessible, a bunch more “wealthy” neighbors, and clogged
streets. The new board joined new supe Bevan Dufty in ignoring the wishes
of the people of his district.
Way to go Willie!
Speaking of barbarians!
Willie Brown needs a solid ass
kicking. He’s hidden behind armed bodyguards so long, he thinks he’s
invulnerable. He thinks nothing of getting in “the face” of men decades
younger and far more powerful because Brown knows he has armed bodyguards
within feet. Yes, the mayor hasconfronted Supervisors Chris Daly and
Aaron Peskin in such a manner. But this is not unusual for him. A friend
reported being accosted by the mayor at Le Colonial in a similar manner.
The mayor is dangerous! Anyone who
has watched this guy for any length of time realizes that. I mean, hell,
I’m a little light-weight “gadfly” (as Samson Wong calls me), and I am
followed home and shadowed for a week or more after I cover a meeting of
the Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections considering whether to recall Da Mayor. Yeah, a guy named “Reginald” shadowed me for a time. I saw him
on Channel 26 later on. He wore a suit (more or less) and testified in
public comment about whatever he’d been sent to speak about, affiliating
himself with a variety of neighborhood organizations. A friend told me he
was an SEIU muscleman.
Yeah, worry, Aaron. Willie is a
bigot. He is a racist. He is a coward. He has thousands of “friends”
who carry guns, legally.
I know, you’re a problem solver, but
you’re from a different era than Willie. Your time will come. But trust
an old redneck. He’s from my era. Willie Brown is dangerous. He has the
values of a hyena.
How long is it going to be before the
cops are trying to cover up for the mayor assaulting a supervisor or a
citizen or … ?? We have a situation here.
I got a “buzz cut” today. When I’m not stoned or drinking, I’m very
interested in my appearance. My friends kept saying things like “shave
your head” and “accept Jesus.” Anyway, now I look different and I feel
free to return to judging the members of the Board of Supervisors on their
Others, too. Let me share these things with you all, because I know
what a bunch of clotheshorses and overall fashion freaks my readers tend
Gerald Green, Director of Planning
Gerald is by far, Willie Brown’s top
appointment. Today I watched a Rules Committee hearing and Green was
there trying to keep Jake McGoldrick from creating an advisory group
(Newsom has a dozen of them). Green didn’t want Jake’s people looking over
the shoulder of the Planning Department. (Fear of hard time will do that
to you.) I got to looking past the dialogue, which bored me to death, got
to looking at the other features of the concerned individuals.
Green (a planner for 18 years before
Willie came back to town) looked great in a double-breasted,
wide-lapelled, subtle brown-weave suit. His tie was a kind of pale
lavender base with small white polka dots. It stood out tastefully
against a plain white shirt. His Edwardian beard was clipped perfectly,
and my son-in-law told me the jagged line sculpted across his hair was
Gerald explained to Jake that when he
learned his department had a morale problem, the first thing he did was to
take a short vacation (I mean, a “retreat”) with the senior members of his
staff. He noted that he and his staff had paid all costs of the retreat.
Just kidding. He added that after he got back from the retreat with his
senior staff, he decided that in the interest of morale, he should go on
another retreat with the rest of the managers on his staff. Ya gotta
An aside on that...
The aside on that
As an aside on that, I think the four
best athletes in City Hall were sitting in the little circle of that Rules
hearing. Tony Hall needs no introduction. Olympi- level athlete who has
added a few wrinkles but lost no tone. Gerald Green, looking like a Roman
gladiator. Aaron Peskin, a monster mountain cyclist, Dolphin Club Bay
swimmer (Willie wouldn’t have had a chance). And, as a surprise, the
young board president, Matt Gonzalez (yeah, despite the paunch). I’ve
watched the boy beat staff and reporters in impromptu push-up sessions in
his office in between hearings. (He did 45.)
Let’s re-do McGoldrick
Last year a woman who ran a funeral
parlor was testifying before a McGoldrick committee. She told him she
could make him look better. He replied, “You can improve on this?”
Yeah, we can. My friends noted: He
doesn’t wear a tie well. He should play to his burly strength with heavy
knit sweaters under bulky tweed coats. And lose the hair. What’s next, a
comb-over? Naw, when you’re almost bald anyway, letting the little you
have grow long makes you look like a dork.
Anyway, that’s what the girls said as
they sheared my tresses.
Speaking of tresses
Gonzalez had a great new tie. Glad
to see him taking more of an interest in his wardrobe. The tie was a
glistening gray, dark salmon thing which worked well with the lite gray
sharkskin suit and the shirt which was a middle gray balance.
But, the hair!! I keep saying that
maybe he just needs to wash it and blowdry it or something, but the girls
say that ain’t it. They like his hair, but they say the problem is that he
just has to … just has to be putting something greasy on it. Whatever, it
I talked to Mark Leno the other day
Gonzalez had his monthly art show in
his office and I talked to lots and lots of people there. The high point
was this chick into flowers, nick-named “Wiggy.” But that’s none of your
I’ll share what I said to our new
Assemblyman, Mark Leno, though. “Legalize prostitution for us!!” That’s
what I said. “We have all of the problems associated with the problem and
“What about the local level?” Leno
said something like that.
“I asked Hallinan (the DA) about it
and he said the state had to pass a law legalizing prostitution before the
city could act.” That, or something like it, was my response.
You know, you people really give me
lots of power. My readers. I’m a flake, but my readers run this city. Let’s see if Mark makes a move there. The guy has a talent for locking
into high profile issues and making headlines. This is definitely high
profile and, face it, we are a hooker capital anyway. We should properly
regulate the industry.
They made the monster comb his hair
You old hippies out there who thought
I could save you some space in this burg should pack your bags. I can’t
even save myself.
The problem here is that virtually no
builders are presenting plans for SRO’s (sleeping room only – boarding
house type of housing). We only get monster projects before Planning.
The worst is the 4th and
Freelon project, which will pass the board by an 11-0 vote next week. It
combines the worst of the worst. Gentrification (more than 300 units for
the gentry). Segregation (newly required 15% lower-cost units will NOT be
on site). Pollution (like, we really need another huge garage to attract
Doesn’t matter. The board is looking
at an alliance including everyone from Joe O’Donoghue (live/work emperor )
to Sam Dodge (homeless housing dude). They’re going to lay a 500,000
square foot building down with no access in the event of an earthquake or
major fire. I guess the poor people who don’t “get” to live in the
building are lucky after all.
Oh, there won’t be many units for the
poor anyway. The board spent some time trying to nail down the developer,
but they got no guarantees. They couldn’t have done that without already
having an off-site place for the 15% poor. They’ll get that later, they
were told. Yep, uh huh.
Only smart remark in the entire
hearing came when one of the public turned to look at a beaming Randy Shaw
and said: “You’ve been hoodwinked.”
Get ready for another of these
projects. Then another. And yet another.
On a more personal note
I been sick lately. Bad cold kind of
thing. Second one this year, which worries me. I’m not alone. Lots of
coughing kind of action. I’m wondering if I’m just getting old or if it’s
I have a strange event coming up. Couple of em, really. I have 2 kids, you know. Well, you do now. I
didn’t see them for 20 years. The details are meaningless to you, but try
and imagine what is about to happen in my life.
My daughter is going to have her
first child (my second grandkid – first one I’ll see). She’s due any day
now [ed. note: h. brown’s new granddaughter arrived on February 12]
and her mom is coming to see her through the first days with the new
bambino, or bambina. Her mother. That would be my ex-wife. Whom I
haven’t seen in 29 years. Imagine that. She’s agreed to have coffee with
me. I think I’ll take her to City Hall.
I got a headache: