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February 14, 2003


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Dodging Gavin

“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 first paycheck.

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 different story.

This week, the full board endorsed Gavin.

Gentrification Wins

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.

“Those guys don’t have hair do’s. They have hair don’t’s.”
Melisa’s friend

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 appearance.

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 to be.

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 “styling.”

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 admire that.

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 don’t work.

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 business.

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 no benefits.”

“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 cars).

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 the government.

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: sobone@juno.com