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The Eye


March 21, 2003


San Francisco sights

The Eye has many eyes. Julian Cash points his baby blues toward the San Francisco anti-war protests and protestors.

The course of true love…

The on again, off again relationship between Gavin Newsom & the SF Call is on again. Or maybe it’s off.

Item: The Call most cordially invited the supervisor from District 2 to join his confrères in a mayoral candidates’ forum. The supervisor declined.

Item: The supervisor most cordially invited the Call to his campaign kick-off in Bill Graham Auditorium. The Call accepted.

Item: The Call received messages of gratitude from not one but two starry-eyed volunteers for its attendance at the kick-off do. They appended a cordial invitation to “bring two friends” to an open house at Newsom campaign headquarters (1625 Van Ness) on Saturday from noon to 2:00, with the promise that the supervisor would be there -- He’ll be doing paperwork, but he’d like to thank you personally.

Item: The supervisor complained to Bruce Pettit that sixteen citizens and no members of the media showed up at a recent press conference, where he issued a “white paper” on the subject of the SFPF. The Call complained to the supervisor that this particular member of the media was never invited, cordially or otherwise.

Do you think he’s seeing someone else?

Some New-som news

Despite the Chron’s best efforts, the supervisor seems to feel that the media are neglecting him. Can’t have that. Today’s good deed will be a good proper dose of attention for the poor laddie.

The Eye shows no favoritism. Next week, Angela. Or maybe Susan. Or… ? The fates will decide.

What did he say?

What if you gave a speech and nobody came? Or paid it much mind?

On Saturday, March 8, the supervisor from District 2 delivered his first words as a mayoral candidate. And the media didn’t pay it much mind, except when the audience embraced the promise, “No tolerance for panhandling.”

They ignored smooth phrases that rose like a swarm of tadpoles and wiggled their way across the partly filled hall:

We can’t make a better San Francisco if we refuse to let San Franciscans buy their own homes.

Too many people are taking the opportunity of the [SFPD] crisis to make a political point.

The world looks to San Francisco because of its diversity, which will be a godsend in the coming century.

The Eye will ignore them, too, confident that they’ll grow into fat healthy frogs over the months to come.

But the candidate who the Reverend Cecil Williams prays will “soar all over the community and touch the hearts of man”; the candidate who State Senator Jackie Speier says will “challenge conventional wisdom in San Francisco” -- who writes the speeches for these people?-- wedged a number of concrete programs between the rhetorical flourishes. It’s our happy duty to examine some of them.

Paying for the pools

Rec & Park, Newsom says, pays nearly $1 million a year to collect some $300,000 in swimming pool fees. It’s time for creative thinking: Imagine all the money we’d save if -- Ta-da! -- we made the pools free!

Fast forward by phone to Becky Ballinger, Rec & Park’s public relations officer. Newsom did his homework, she says. He called to check on the figures. Rec & Park does indeed pay $900,000 to collect $350,000 in pool fees. Close enough. That $900,000 goes for cashiers. “Real people, with real jobs,” she adds.

Under orders to pare its expenditures, the department has done some creative thinking of its own. It plans to replace these “real people” with a mechanical system similar to the one BART uses, offering retraining and assistance in a valiant effort to find new “real jobs.” Already understaffed, it predicts that the present $350,000 will actually double, as fewer swimmers will be able to walk by an empty ticket window without paying. And to perform the cashiers’ customer service roles and better watch the swimmers, the department hopes to hire a few more lifeguards, including junior lifeguards drawn from high school swim teams.

Ballinger sighs. Even with stringent measures like these, the department’s cost-cutting is $1.1 million short. What do you do when people make up 76% of your budget? These are “real people, with real jobs.” Needed: a real magician.

A diverting emergency

Ta-da! Create an emergency room diversion plan, says Newsom, reserving a separate recovery space for chronic homeless alcoholics who now take time & attention away from other SFGH’s patients. Make it a cooperative venture: persuade nine local hospitals to chip in.

Ta-da indeed. It’s a good plan, one that Newsom’s been involved in since at least June 2001, when he called for a task force to look into the problem. Sophie Maxwell soon came aboard, followed by Mark Leno, Aaron Peskin, and Tony Hall. In January 2003, when the task force, headed by Kaiser emergency physician Dr. Scott Campbell, described the situation to the supes, Chron reporter Ilene Lelchuk commented, “The task force's findings ultimately raise fears about how an emergency health system pushed to the brink on an average day will perform during a crisis such as a flu epidemic, earthquake or terrorist attack.”

The Eye is confused. Here is a good plan, on which Newsom labored long and successfully, apparently drawing in a number of worthy collaborators. Why present it in the future conditional tense, like a recent brainstorm? Why not take credit for a job well done? And why not share the credit with the other members of the team?

Care for Prop N

Newsom’s candidacy rides on the coattails of the successful Care not Cash initiative. Starry-eyed cheerleaders suggest that if he won one, he can win the other. Ta-da! Good positive energy!

Good positive energy gone sour: On April 2 at the Board of Supervisors, he says, “they’ll try to stop us.”

Circle the wagons! What’s that all about?

Turns out that several weeks ago Jake McGoldrick called for a hearing on how the city plans to implement Prop N. Seems a fair question, given the scope of the changes involved. Why not hear from the folks from DHS and DPH, who will be carrying the ball? So Board prez Matt Gonzalez scheduled it for the first available Rules Committee slot, on April 2, with probable City Services hearings later. Of course the anti-N public is preparing to attend. But you can imagine the look on Rules chair Tony Hall’s face when he heard the suggestion that his committee was trying to “kill” a voter-approved initiative.

And after the speech…

Doorknobs in the Tenderloin last week sprouted cherry- and blueberry-colored tendrils. Hundreds of long flyers dangled in doorways and spilled onto the sidewalk, announcing in English, Spanish, and Japanese, “You’ve earned it… now collect it! A public service message at tax time, directing low-income people toward information about possible tax credits.

This particular public service message was “paid for by Gavin Newsom for Mayor.” But in case you’re wondering, a disclaimer at the bottom adds, “HELPLINK has not in any way endorsed Newsom or any other candidate for Mayor.”

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