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April 14, 2003


Watching City Hall

By h. brown

Left a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack …
I took off for a ride and I never came back …
Everybody’s got a hungry heart.
-- Bruce Springsteen

Knowing when you’re beaten is an important skill. The most dangerous soldier on the battlefield is the mortally wounded private who doesn’t even know he’s been shot. Politics can be that way. Tom Ammiano, for instance, was mortally wounded in the last mayor’s race when black and yellow voters confirmed their homophobic parenting by an 80-20% vote against him.

Now, the more linear reader might ask just what the hell Bruce Springsteen has to do with the San Francisco’s mayor’s race. These would be the people who don’t know that it is obviously something that was playing on the radio when I started the column.

Anyway, Ammiano is most definitely the most dangerous zombie wandering the current San Francisco political landscape. If you’re a leftie (like me) that is. If you are Gavin Newsom’s brain trust, he is just what you want to see. If you are part of the Getty/Newsom/Stepford alliance, you send money to people like Ammiano and Susan Leal to stay in the race because you know they keep more credible threats out.

Who’s more credible? Gonzalez won’t run so I’m thinking of Van Jones who spends his energies keeping the police clean amongst other things. All I’m saying is … hey! … I have almost 15,000 readers who care more about politics than sex. Listen, “progressives,” I’m a pretty good salesman but, for God’s sake give me a friggin’ candidate who can win!!!

Hottest couple, bar none

P.J. Johnston and his wife, Karin Carlson are most definitely the hottest couple in San Francisco at this moment. It used to be Willie and whoever was his current main squeeze but those days have passed. Da Mayor has loosed Carlson, who is his spokesperson, before the Board more in the past weeks and she handled herself well. She actually showed a bit of humor, which is rare in a Brown appointee (normally, they substitute sarcasm). Ms. Carlson’s hubby, Willie’s press secretary, P.J. Johnston, has always been one of the burg’s edgier characters. Both Carlson and Johnston combine brilliance and great looks. You wonder what they’ll do next once they get Willie tucked into his suite at Laguna Honda. (Keep your grandma out of that ward!)

Cops before Budget

Hey, I watch lots of government television and sometimes the speakers aren’t very interesting and your attention strays to the crowd as you pour another martini (I’m hoping vodka will be a stage down from bourbon & …) Anyway, there she was. What a cute brunette! The most swollen and pouty little lips. Long, strong straight hair, covering her empty head.

Who is she, you might ask? She is SFPD brass arm candy! It was a hearing before the Budget Committee called by Board President Matt Gonzalez, who wanted to know why the cops overspent on overtime to cover anti-war protests. The beaming foxette sat right behind Chief Fagan and absolutely roared with laughter as war protestors complained about police misconduct.

Get a brain, Fagan. Willie will certainly get one for you, if you don’t get it together. Realize that the TV camera frames everyone sitting behind the public speaker of the moment and whomever you assign to these seats is going to reflect the department. Here’s this little dip complete with uniform and gun, cracking up with command staff while citizens cried as they talk about headless Iraqi children. She sat next to a captain from department Finance named Goldberg and he changed seats quickly when he glanced up and saw what she looked like on the tube.

This is a recurring problem before most gatherings aired on City government TV. Groups like the cops and the Residential Builders and the various members of the Homeless Coalition like to put their most rubber-faced members directly behind the speaker’s podium where they grimace and contort in the most distracting manner possible. It is very distracting from the speaker and in effect robs them of the attention they’ve often waited hours to attain.

This was simply yet another proof that the cops need their tail feathers trimmed big time.

Say “Goodbye” to Treasure Island

About 3 years ago, I watched an unusual Rules Committee hearing. The Chair at that time was Mark Leno. Mabel Teng was Vice Chair and, as I recall, Barbara Kaufman was the third member. The subject was the appointment of a Citizens’ Advisory Committee of some sort to help guide the decision as to just what the best use of Treasure Island would be once the City gained total control.

The rush for the 10 or 12 positions was awesome. Leno had a policy of rotating choices among the members of the committee (Rules’ present Chair, Tony Hall goes for a consensus on every choice before the committee). There were, like, all these development lawyer types and political consultants. I recall thinking that the island wouldn’t have poor people much longer.

That’s 429 of the most valuable acres in the world and there’s no way the Job Corps would hold their space in the coming years. The empty barracks complete with mess halls and a brig that would easily provide an infrastructure for housing and feeding the City’s entire homeless population would disappear as quickly as Willie’s consultants could make it happen. (When they started destroying the barracks, I loved their justification - they were harvesting all this antique lumber and giving jobs at the same time - imagine being hired to tear down your own house - at minimum wage!) Naw, it would make too much sense to clear the streets of the drunk, derelict, and addicted. Too much fun to turn the entire Market corridor into a toilet. Hey, I pitched these ideas in my race against Chris Daly in district 6 in 2000.

But get real here. Do you really think the “poverty pimp”’ would agree to relocate their kitchens to a nice, green & open space? Naw, this rip-off of Treasure Island is not only a joint effort between the developers & their vest pocket politicians. Nope, the developers have been and will continue to be aided by those in the non-profit community who prefer (for convenience!) to keep their clients downtown. I watched neighborhood groups not only testifying at various stages for the removal of perfect housing for the poor, but in fact lobbying for such esoteric modifications (for scale … the Presidio is around 3 times larger than Treasure Island). A 6th District Democratic Club member stood before the Board of Supervisors to endorse 20 acres of “Wetlands”(???) to be developed on the island. The rationale (I swear to God!) was that it would make the island more attractive to developers. No kidding.

Time passes & it becomes now

The poor and derelict still clog the downtown streets. Most of the barracks on Treasure Island where they could have lived have been torn down. (By them! - through Willie’s programs - what a sense of irony!) Willie ran some straw dog proposals for the use of the island (wouldn’t it be great to make it into a racetrack for formula one race cars?). Willie guided the choice of everyone with a legislatively recordable vote on the matter and got a unanimous vote. Here’s what the Chronicle said: “The mayoral-appointed Treasure Island Development Authority board voted unanimously … to send the city into exclusive talks on development for the base with Treasure Island Community Development LLC.”

Pardon my cynicism, but I do believe da fix … da fix … by da Mayor … da fix … it be in. (Pardon my style, but Willie Brown’s deals are crude and deserve an appropriate literary style in their description.)

Bill Clinton is in on the deal. Yep, ya don’t need to make these things up. Our nation’s former “head” man did local appearances with big Democratic fundraisers Darius Anderson of Sonoma and Ron Burkle of Los Angeles. Lennar is in there. I forgets their local front. They’re (are you surprised?) lead contractor proposed for the Hunter’s Point Shipyard property too. Not a bad deal for them on Treasure Island (are you surprised?).

It kind of sounds like the old WWII “Cost-Plus” contracts the government used to sign. Can you believe this herd of Willie Brown-appointed flunkies agreed to pay two thirds of the $170 million dollar estimated development cost and GUARANTEE the Willies (Brown & Clinton) a 25% return on their investment. There are only two ways to get those kinds of deals folks. You either reach for your wallet … or spread your legs.

Craig’s List for God’s sake?

Hey Aaron, why not just put your Chief of Staff job up on the bulletin board at the Café Trieste? Someone wrote to note that 3rd District Supe, Aaron Peskin, is advertising for a replacement for Wade Crowfoot (arguably the best staffer under da dome) on Craig’s List. Hey, I ain’t knocking Craig’s Café Trieste would be pretty good fishing too. Anyway, word is Crowfoot is headed for Mick Jagger’s alma mater (London School of Economics).

Good luck to everyone involved. Peskin continues to play Atlas with the City budget process & I salute the boy. Crowfoot? Has no limits I can see.

I’m hungry: sobone@juno.com