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March 21, 2003


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
-- Robert Frost

I jogged out to see my new granddaughter in the Haight today. Tandewe is just over a month. When she starts walking (six months for her, I’ll bet), I want to have her race the mayor’s kid. I saw his latest at the Irish Parade & she & Tandewe could be twins. I see her giving up a year to Da Mayor’s kid but winning because her roots are closer to the Mother Continent of us all (Africa).

Along my jog, I looked at the way the City is spending your money. Ooooh, boy, someone sure does like fences and concrete!

Fencing U.N. Plaza Sculpture

I live in the Tenderloin. As I began my run from Geary & Leavenworth, the first public shame I passed was the little park at O’Farrell & Larkin that it took 5 years to open to the public. Yeah, uh huh. Willie had em fence in a park named after a hero cop (John McCauley), killed in the line. It’s still closed most of the time. It didn’t get a look until Park & Rec figured out how to spend a million bucks on a friendly contractor for a rebuild. Better to have built an SFPD kiosk in the center of the park, open 24/7/365.

Anyway, that’s the first fence of the day. When I hit the Civic Center Complex, I veered over to look at the new fence around the incomprehensible sculpture that dominates the plaza. I found the fence to be a nice addition to the work. I’ve seen bombed buildings that looked better than that pile of garbage.

A friend of mine broke his leg there a few years back. He got on one of the granite “legos” that comprise the work to smoke a joint, stepped backward and fell ten feet. He asked if he should sue. I responded: “Let’s see, you went to make an illegal drug deal on federal government property and got hurt because you were high?”

I think the people crapping and weeing on the sculpture are actually making their own individual artistic statements. Call them “performance artist critics.” (That’s probably not far from the defense their free legal eagles use.)

From another angle, think about this. A bit over from the sculpture that everyone uses for a bathroom is a spanking J.C. DeCaux toilet that almost no one uses as a bathroom. The answer (there) is obvious. The hundreds and thousands of people who frequent this space daily often need someplace to pee & poo. Anyone who has been to Paris will praise its “pissoirs.” Located at busy intersections, they offer basic trough urinals in constructions that are simply screened appliances (a sheet metal strip of around 30" blocks the critical areas from the shoulders to the knees from public view while “business” is done). Let the turkey who did the sculpture combine with DeCaux and give us an actual, legal outdoor bathroom. And of course, you incorporate a police kiosk into the design.

I jogged on.

There were a bunch of fairly new sidewalk “cut-outs” (allowing wheelchair passage from sidewalk to street level w/out falling in the street, out of your wheelchair & under the wheels of a line of SUV’s). They have increased the construction rate on these noble constructions &, on the face of it, that has to be a good idea, right? Well, oddly enough, the “ramps” being built are replacing ramps that are often less than ten years old themselves.

Simple enough, if you’re a cynic. Willie is padding the wallets of some “concrete” folks who have returned the favor … oh, so many times. Trust me, fellow Scrooges, if Willie Brown has his way, there will be nothing left of bond money or discretionary funds or public lands or air or water that hasn’t been spent, promised, given, traded, or otherwise encumbered. In exchange for perfectly legal “contributions.” Add 600 or so middle- and upper-level new City employees at the “manager” level who owe him their career and you’ve got a beginning look at Willie Brown’s legacy. He’ll be getting favors at City Hall till he croaks. The people of Sunol will be eating the dust from his gravel pit for 50 years. Boondoggle in Da Panhandle

I recall calling Matt Gonzalez sometime last year to alert him to something I saw written somewhere. It was something about Park & Rec planning to widen the sidewalks in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, add some little concrete circles round new benches and otherwise “line-jump” ahead of items park users really need (like latrines). I recall thinking that the Panhandle, being so narrow, they certainly didn’t need to go widening the paths, which were not only plenty wide already, but you know, they kind of fit the place. I mean, it’s a park, not a golf course. Whatever. He hadn’t heard & I’d lost the article.

I pretty much forgot it until today. I was jogging along, as I mentioned, to go see Kudzai & Mona & Tandewe and I, of course, took the route through the Panhandle. For me (and around 10 million or more other people), the place has a special place in some of the most special memories of my youth). I started noticing orange cones everywhere. There were newly backfilled trenches down the center of the walk and leading off to newly poured concrete bases for a new set of lights. I stopped and walked and looked in wonder. The new and wider walkways I’d seen in the paper or in some department memo or something were obviously only part of a much larger expenditure. If there were ever a boondoggle project, this is it.

Alongside the walkway will be large, handsome new lights. Trouble is, there are already two full sets of street lights along Fell and Oak streets on each side of the narrow strip. Park and Rec is putting up dozens of new lights, some within ten or fifteen feet of existing street lights! There are at least a half dozen of the new lights surrounding the restrooms which have been locked shut for years. There were around 50 moms and nannies playing with their kids in the playground next to the closed latrines. They have no where to go to the bathroom, folks!

Elizabeth Goldstein, Rec Director (and one of Willie’s grateful “Special Assistants“), told Jake McGoldrick at a Board committee a couple of months ago that she was going to have to close more bathrooms and continue to defer maintenance on the rest while dumping millions of bond funds into unnecessary capital projects like a fence around a lake for $38 million. Or dog pens. Willie likes fences. Me? I don’t like those people. What they need to do is rehab the bathrooms in the parks and redesign the busiest ones with those neat little SFPD kiosks adjoining. (are you seeing a pattern here?).

I jogged by the tree where an old friend told me he saw an international rock star “pull a train” on a whole band during the Summer of Love. (With a couple of thousand people watching!) I was here in ’66 when the “diggers” boiled soup for thousands of hungry right here in the Panhandle. (They were kind of the precursors to Food not Bombs.) I’m chasing rabbits off memory lane again. Bear with me. The point was that I have noted a pattern in the three years I’ve covered City Hall. The people of the city are losing not just their housing, but access to the very parks themselves. I wondered who was funding this kind of effort and they have begun to show their faces.

Billionaires fund slanted poll

Chronicle lawn jockey Ken Garcia & my buddy Adriel Hampton of the Examiner are writing about a poll funded by Warren Hellman, Donald Fisher, and Dick (he’s partial to the Chinese government) Blum. Now, I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but I did once get an “A” in Research Statistics at a very good school. I want to see the poll in question. You know how easy it is to skew the results of a poll by only slightly altering a question or the order in which you ask them? The pollsters had the public about 80% in favor of a car-free park on Sunday but something like 80% against a smaller closure on Saturday.

Let me be as honest as I am able. I really don’t understand why the billionaires want to keep the common folk away from their newly reconstructed “world class” greenhouse. Oh, wait. I just answered my own question. They not only don’t want you there. They don’t want you in their Marina with your petty little 25' boats or on the golf course with your kid’s noisy black friends or at the Golden Gate Stables with your funky old horse. Jeeez, I really am amazed at how much money these people will spend to keep from rubbing elbows with you guys.

Bottom line? Expect more polls that tell you Gavin Newsom has been proven by DNA test to be the reincarnation of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or something to that end (he ain’t got thuh libido). You know how we San Franciscans are. We love to study polls. Don’t you?

Speaking of which, would you look at a rash for me?

What makes dead Armenians better than live Falun Gong?

Do you know what happened it Turkey in 1919? Neither does the Board of Supervisors. It doesn’t matter to them. They have once again decided unanimously to condemn a purported genocide by a regime that hasn’t existed since Woodrow Wilson was the president. In a show of hypocrisy unmatched since Willie Brown compared the Laguna Honda laundry workers to his mom (he’s been trying to fire them ever since), in a real show of ugliness, Aaron Peskin lectured the Turkish government for not admitting to atrocities committed in another era by another government. This, cowboys and cowgirls, after last year standing to oppose a resolution asking the Chinese government to slack up on torturing, murdering & imprisoning their Falun Gong practitioners. On this issue, Peskin pontificated that it was not the job of a San Francisco supervisor to tell a foreign government how to act!!

What is different here? Oh, how about two things. First, Peskin’s district is not 43% Turkish-American and, of course, second, he (along with supes Sandoval, Hall & McGoldrick) believes local APA voters will not respond to hundreds of Falun Gong devotees ringing doorbells in their districts come election day. Mark my words, believers in truth, justice & the American way, justice will out and at least one of these four supes will go down in November of 2004 with a helpful shoulder from the Falun Gong.

I suggested to Angela Alioto that she make this issue her own ,but she was not responsive. Gavin Newsom, naturally, voted against the Falun Gong.

On Turkey …

Once I had a Turkish wife

Here’s the Armenian question from the Turkish side. The Turks sided with the Germans in the First World War. After the Germans folded, the French & British & Australians came after the Turks. The Armenians began an immediate revolt and (according to the Turks) began slaughtering Turks. What do you do when your country has been a single entity for a thousand years and one region tries to break away? Wellll, the brighter two or three of you will have already drawn parallels not just with the American Civil War but with the current situation in Iraq. Nations fight to maintain their borders. A half million Americans died doing just that from 1861 to 1865.

Now the Turks are faced with another potential breakaway state that could develop on their southern border as a result of the U.S. grab for Iraqi oil. And HERE COMES PESKIN! Tossing gasoline on the fire. Grubbing for a few Armenian-American votes. Telling a trusted ally how to run their nation-state. Telling them to rewrite their history! Bad form, Aaron.

And, oh, by the way, the Turks drove out the Sultan in 1924 and proceeded to form a new, western-oriented government (still standing). They retook their borders and have defended them since. I was there during the last Gulf War and the 90-year-old retired military brass I talked to were still chafing at how the French and British took the Middle East and its oil from them. Honestly. People never forget. The Armenians to them are like the Confederate nuts here, who continue to fly the colors of their break-away nation 150 years after their defeat. If the Board of Supes has no business scolding the Chinese government, it certainly has no business attacking the Turks.

Anybody but “Noose-em”!

Let me throw a few roses toward 3rd District Supe Aaron Peskin now, to offset the smell of the other “stuff” I just tossed on him. Situation is that there are these cute little cottages on a hill in Peskin’s domain, and a developer with Gavin Newsom in his pocket decided to tear them down and build something more expensive. The neighbors were furious and went to Peskin who, quite rightfully, applied for Landmark status for the structures.

The hearing before the full Board was as one-sided as you’ll see. The developers said they had to knock down the cottages to shore up a retaining wall. Engineers for the neighborhood said it was a lot of hooey. Peskin himself provided a personal anecdote describing how a similar wall behind his own home was reinforced using standard practices and operating in a space of 11'. Newsom’s developers said they wanted 25' to work in and this would require (unfortunately -- though they’ll make a million off it) them to knock down those low-rent cottages. Every expert save the one they were paying disagreed. Newsom went with the developers. It’s a gentrification thing. Game/set/match to Lord Peskin on this one. Way to protect your turf, guy!

She taught me everything I know

I’m going to bring (if things work out) a very special guest to next Tuesday’s Board meeting. A person I haven’t seen in 30 years. The mother of my two children. She’s coming to meet our second grandchild (Tandewe), whom you’re getting to know. You see me with her, you come over and say “Hi.” I told her that although I am a drunken pot-head with no job or prospects that, “No one makes a move in this town without checking with h. brown!” I wonder how high that steaming heap will fly?

Remember the Maine: sobone@juno.com