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March 10, 2003


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

There are 110 million peaceful practitioners of Falun Gong in the world.
- Peaceful practitioner across from Newsom Coronation

I promised to go get coffee from the Beanery next to the Castro Theatre and figured I owed it to my readers to do Gavin Newsom’s official entry to the 2003’s race for San Francisco mayor.

Full stop on my early morning: What a magnificent day, with the sun bringing us yet again from around 50 degrees in the dead of night to 70 degrees by late afternoon. It will do this, folks, 300 days a year! I keep promising myself to start running again and get in shape, but I have been waiting (as have you) to have an angel from the Lord awaken me before daybreak and walk me (surely, at the point of some kind of serious saber). We can’t be rushed into combat here.

Think of my work as your morning political crossword puzzle.

There are, as I mentioned, 110 million practitioners of Falun Gong in the world. I am on my way to buy coffee in the Castro and have stopped at the Newsom rally (which I truly expected to be the MTV-type presentation).

In fact, it was.

I like Gavin

I like Gavin Newsom. Yes, I’ve maligned him and slimed him. I just don’t think Gavin represents my best interests or the best interests of anyone inside the city limits who does not make a million dollars a year. And my numbers crunchers tell me that a 10% shift in the APA vote can toss the election to Alioto.

They came out by the thousands to cheer Newsom

Not enough thousands though. Ya know what I mean? It’s like I’m watching a submarine movie and the boat is getting out of range of the depth charges. It was getting to be a question of counting the crowd. Newsom had promised near 6,000. By the scheduled start of the event, he had round 1,500 in the corral.

I sidle up to a guard in the “Secret Service Wannabee” group and offer to go bring in black people for $100 head. He doesn’t understand. He is only there to protect Gavin from the poor people and has no idea…

We’re getting out of the range of Gavin’s depth charges. You can’t believe his act. You go into his office and you find that he has, like pictures of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on his wall. He has a book by Robert Kennedy open on the desk with certain phrases high-lighted. The entire rally was so much of rip-off of a 60’s Kennedy rally that it was unsettling.

And across the street there is the usual Falun Gong exercise class. They go about their morning exercises. I go and talk to them. There are over 110 million in their sect. They have actually gained membership since the Chinese government began to persecute them.

Newsom is against them. So is Peskin. So is McGoldrick. Bad news.

The Falun Gong? They never heard of Newsom. Here is this young boy, passing on hurt to the poor from Hunters Point to Peking and they never heard of him in either place. That’s probably a good thing for him. They should take his campaign and dive like the submarine while they are ahead.

Let me put this to those of you who are sober or straight one more time. By accident, the Falun Gong had a more effective spontaneous demonstration on Saturday than the Newsom machine. While Newsom sat on the stage and moved to hug the likes of Amos Brown and Willie Brown and worse, the Falun Gong went through their slow and graceful exercise routine and gained strength. As Newsom peaked and turned nose toward the ground.

The more I’m around the Newsom campaign, the more surreal the whole thing seems. It’s like they think that if they treat him like John Kennedy, he will become JFK. Rachel Gordon of the Chron noted that Gavin had twice the security detail of the governor. Newsom looks and talks more like Max Headroom all the time. I can’t see San Franciscans buying this superficial soap opera. The “Stepford” campaign stinks. Look for a genuinely spontaneous Angela Alioto to catch Gavin in honest polls by Independence Day.

Urban Pioneers Rule

I used to be lots of different things. I was a firefighter for five years. I saved the world as a Navy radioman for three years. And I taught for five years too. Two of those years I taught Special Education in San Francisco. As a teacher, the best program I saw for saving troubled kids was the Urban Pioneers. I want to reach down now and try and explain what a program like this means to kids.

I need to do this because S.F. Unified Superintendent Arlene Ackerman tried to kill this program before, and in the tragic wake of the death of two students on a Pioneer outing last week, she is certain to try again to kill the 20+ year old crown jewel of successful district rehabilitation programs. It works like this:

Everyone doesn’t learn in the same way. That doesn’t stop America’s mostly white top educators from using the same yardstick for everyone.

If you don’t do well in the cognitive style of reasoning, you can forget success in the modern American educational system. But in fact, there are many other domains from which to address thought and action. What a good educator does is find the kids’ strength and put them in a program that plays to it. Unfortunately, virtually all U.S. school superintendents are cognition-based educators. They reject other programs.

Taking it to the wilderness

My students were mostly gangsters. They’ll forgive me for saying that. They were mostly proud of their tags. I taught the “Severely Emotionally Disturbed,” and believe me, they were not “cognition based.” Plus, they had been conditioned over the years to immediately start acting like butts when they walked into a classroom.

Now, waking up in a tent in the Sierras or at Point Reyes is quite another thing. Ya get them out in that situation and they act differently. It is literally a “pioneer” experience. Out there, you have to help each other. The courses emphasize challenge, with safety. There are places in every course where the students cannot move from one point to another without helping each other. There’s nothing like standing on a crop of rugged ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a bunch of kids of all shapes and sizes and colors who are having the experience of a lifetime on so many levels. Then you realize that you are, too.

Finally, a program that works! A quick description.

Newspaper accounts talk about the Urban Pioneers as a Charter School and emphasize the student body of the school. Actually, the Pioneers are the leaders of a much larger program. In my case, I took a half dozen of my students, who were, as I said, “gangsters” - they caused absolutely zero trouble during the three-day trip. Another dozen or so kids from the school designated as “At-Risk” (of becoming a gangster) came with us. Among the adults, I was the junior member. A police sergeant from Mission station was our leader. There was a serious woods-type female biology teacher. And there were the Urban Pioneers.

At first, we all thought they were college students. My kids were middle school, and that’s how they saw the tanned and organized young Pioneers who took us under their wings at the starting point of our adventure (at an old munitions bunker out beyond Baker Beach where bay becomes ocean). What we were seeing was a trained team of Urban Pioneers. They carried the tents. They checked every pack of every student twice before we even got in the vans. Every student had passed a “Ropes Course” run by the cops and Pioneers in McClaren Park. What a program.

Let me cut to the chase. The Pioneers themselves were mostly just like the kids they were now leading and protecting along this rugged landscape. They were leading our kids over the same terrain they themselves had traversed earlier. The program had allowed these kids another way to develop life skills. Most important, it got them out of the often disastrous influences in their homes and neighborhoods. It is the best SFUSD program. Period! Push comes to shove, dumping Superintendent Ackerman (who has always opposed the program) makes more sense than killing the Pioneers.

Do you know how many teen-age kids kill each other in the streets because they never had the chance to take that other path represented by programs like Urban Pioneers.

The Cop Situation

Hallinan is right about the cops. That’s bad news for the cops and good news for the majority of San Franciscans who don’t want thugs roaming the street with SFPD badges (& guns!).

We have a great police department… for the most part. Like most police and fire departments in the world, our public service agencies are run by political appointments, beholden to the authority (Willie Brown, in this case) who appointed them.

Earl Sanders is a great cop. He’s a lousy chief because he lets Willie Brown tell him how to run the department and Willie is a long way from being a good cop (even though he is, as he mentioned, “The God Damned Commander in Chief!!”).

The way these appointments work is that Willie (or most any politician) appoints department heads and commissions and authority people to pay off political debts. (For example, the rich give Willie money & they want to privatize the parks and restrict access and Willie appoints Elizabeth Goldstein Director of Parks and in a couple of years the poor have been evicted from the stables and pools and golf courses & she and her flunkies are fighting more public access on Saturdays.)

I knew Willie’s agenda from finally looking at his record (after 20 years of voting for him!). When my man (Ammiano) lost in the last race, I knew Willie would use his power to do just exactly what he has done. I knew he’d give the rich every piece of property possible to develop to the greatest extent possible with only profit and no thought of their neighbors in mind. I knew that. I knew that Police Chief Fred Lau was a payoff to Rose (“I only make 60k a year & that’s why I got 300 grand off on my apartment at city expense) Pak. Knew Lau was a Pak payback and that eventually we’d get Sanders. I thought when Earl got caught steering a security contract to an old buddy of Willie’s he might not make it, but Willie showed once again that he prefers staff with heavy baggage. Especially, if they picked up that baggage helping Willie along the way. So Earl becomes chief and we’re all kind of glad cause he’s had a mostly good four-decade run.

And he’s black. You know, it looks good for your image back home when the local politicians lead the nation and world in this area or that. It was certainly high time we had a black chief.

Then Earl threw 40 years out the window by diving on a firecracker!

Not a grenade … not even a cherry bomb

My buddy Adriel Hampton of the Examiner wrote this morning that the District Attorney “did not believe they had enough evidence to bring (emphasis mine) such charges.”

Funny, how one word can change everything. That’s not what Hallinan said. What he said (if you trust the leaks - which is where all the Ex and Chron stories are coming from) … what he said was that he didn’t think he could sustain or prove the charges. There’s a world of difference.

Basically, Hallinan is saying what every rational San Franciscan is thinking: “These guys - the high command - are covering for Chief Fagan’s kid and his thug buddies, but they’re smart enough to cover their tracks and lie in unison, so you won’t get em!” But, we all know they’re guilty. You walk out and ask any San Franciscan if they think the police high command is guilty of a cover-up and most will just smile, shake their head and say: “Of course.”

Proving it is another case. Time for a new kind of Police Commission. Divorced from the mayor.

Wong and Gallagher

No San Francisco reporter knows more about the local political scene than Samson Wong of the Examiner/Independent. I don’t just read his columns, I study them. Wong was tops last week in his reading of the effect the cops scandal might have on the race for District Attorney. Still, I think he was wrong.

I think the effect of “fajita-gate” will be to not only assure Hallinan’s re-election. I think it will give the aging one-time juvenile delinquent coat-tails! Imagine Hallinan with coat-tails. All of the ingredients are there. The tinted-glass view of cops that extended from the 9/11 attack has worn thin on the local level. Everyone thinks these cops are going to walk and it ain’t right. Terence’s opponents (Fazio & Harris) are both squarely in the camp of the cop thugs and their protectors. Hell, Fazio is representing a cop who has had over 60 brutality complaints filed against him.

And Frank Gallagher? He wrote this morning that he thinks Matt Gonzalez is going to run for D.A. Well, let me say this about that.

Think higher, Frank. Think, like … mayor. As a stepping stone, I might add.

Gonzo could have been City Attorney last year. He could, most definitely, be D.A. this year. The kid is real. Watch the contrast during Board meetings. It’s like watching Dan Quayle debate Abraham Lincoln. Look for Board President Matt Gonzalez to be dragged by his friends, kicking and screaming, into the race for mayor in July and sweep to an easy victory in November.

Smile at an enemy: sobone@juno.com