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
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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org