|Watching City Hall #221, SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
Care Not Cash Exports artists
Saturday afternoon my friend Ricky Hansen and a bunch of other old Kenmore Residence Club former residents got together in Golden Gate Park for a 20 year (more or less) reunion. People came from all over the country and even further. We ate and gabbed. Some broke away from the crowd to smoke fine green bud We drank and sang and danced in the beautiful Indian Summer sun. Eileen Left did pastel portraits for the children. And, we all said goodbye to Kim Spicer.
He didnt die
Kim Spicer is a sculptor. He works in Fix-All and chicken wire, of all things. His pieces can be large enough to be dangerous to passersby, as red Cadillacs loaded with blondes swinging quarts of Jim Beam explode into the room. I recall several of us matching dents in our heads caused by a work that had a fish with a re-bar spine leaping from the brightly colored, rough-textured monolithic sculpture mounted in a too narrow hall. (It got moved a number of times and he finally smashed it with a hammer typical artist.) Typical San Francisco artist keep that phrase in mind. Charles Bukowski said: the best friend of art is cheap rent Kim Spicer said: Artists and hippies dont vote Put the two things together and you come up with an art community that is not normally politically active being driven out of San Francisco by forces they dont really understand. Welll, let me say this about that. Kim is a scalp on Gavin Newsoms belt.
Baby with the bathwater
Now, if you have read much of my work (my sympathies if your life is that bereft of ) if you have read my shit, you understand that I have less sympathy for the winos and crackheads and junkies and muggers in the streets of our fair town than any of the candidates any of the incumbents, and, certainly, any of the cops. Im for dragging the bastards away in a meat wagon and hosing them down on Treasure Island then, running them through an old fashioned DP upgrade (DP stands for displaced person a WWII term used to describe how emancipated prisoners of war and concentration camp survivors were cleared of lice and other vermin) What I mean is the Left is composed of many points of view. While I might favor a solid DDT powder for bedbug infested drunks where was I? Youll have to help me here, I tend to wander yeah, Kim and the baby and bathwater thing.
EVERYONE wants the bums off of the streets! And, I mean EVERYONE!! But, if you get fancy about dragging the assholes to the showers (and, hoosegow, if necessary) if you get fancy by trying to pinch their friggin financial aortas through cutting 90% of their welfare payments you dont just catch the bums you catch the artists too.
You catch people who dont even receive welfare. You catch the people just sleeping on someones couch when the crackdown comes on through. Now, over 14,000 people in this town get some form of General Assistance. I am one of them. 12,000 of us get along just fine, using the kindness of friends and the hundred bucks a week the City provides when your unemployment benefits run out. Its illegal in most leases to have your friend sleep on your couch for more than a couple of weeks. Did you know that? (Hell, panhandling is illegal for 50 years already but the statutes arent enforced Angela Alioto gave me that one the fact there are already existing statutes, by the way, negates Newsoms entire Panhandling initiative) But, Im a couch surfer, not a panhandler. Until your own ship of dreams comes in, most of you will be couch surfers for a portion of your life. If all of the people who really qualified for General Assistance in this town actually applied for it thered be another 30,000 people on the rolls. It is for these people that I speak. These are the people inadvertently caught in the same indiscriminate drag net as the winos in the streets. Kim was not a wino in the streets (OK, maybe he was a wino indoors, but that is, you must admit, an entirely different thing) Let me track how he finally couldnt stay in town and what we lost and all of that kind of thing, which is why you should vote for Matt Gonzalez for Mayor (my own totally nonpartisan opinion) What happens is that when you apply for general assistance, they want to know where youre living and, theyll help your friends landlord evict both you AND your friend! (theres a real disincentive to let you stay over) They dont care if you (like Kim) have been creating world class art here for the past 30 years while making just enough fixing other peoples plumbing and walls to get by. They got Kim with Gavin Newsoms new Alameda model welfare reform.
A sober Olympic gymnast would have trouble jumping through the hoops the outside consultants copied from the Alameda human services people the hoops they added to their system. Hey, Ive been through some of them.
When you go down to 1235 Mission to meet your social worker now, they pull you aside and make you wait around an hour (every God damned time!) you wait an hour to get fingerprinted. Now, Trent Rohrer (Newsoms chief henchman yes, youve moved up from flunky status, Trent congratulations) Trent has you sit in front of a desk while a stern lady makes you place your fingers onto a little machine that reads your fingerprints. By the Alameda model, you have to do it over and over. Now, fingerprints dont bother me. Like most of you, Ive been arrested far fewer times than I deserved and never convicted of anything. Thus, there is nothing in any system to tell the receptionist and cop at the processing center that I was arrested in Casablanca, Morocco in 1963 for for well, you look it up.
Used to be. Used to be. Used to be when you got your fingerprints taken, they took your fuckin fingerprints and you went on your way. Not with the Alameda model. With this new step (theyve added 11 new steps last I consulted with my sources) with this new step, they make you sit there across from a cop and the lady who does the fingerprints while they watch a computer screen. Say, huh?
Youre supposed to think they are accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC to all of you old Dragnet fans) Maybe they are. I certainly doubt it. What they really want you to do is to leave and move out of town. It is all a part of the steps of the Alameda model.
When I ran out of Unemployment Insurance and got on the dole, it was not that easy to prime the pump that got the checks going. Now, Im definitely a drunk and pot-head and lecher but but, Im not dumb. Still sober, with a 140 IQ it took me two tries to get across their hurdles. With the new Alameda model, my buddy Kim, the sculptor, old Kim (also, no dummy) made 3 runs at trying to get a check sos he could stay in town and, never succeeded. So, he left town.
Ta hells this mean? You say
Gavin Newsom is driving the most serious artists, dancers, musicians and writers out of San Francisco. This is a flat fact. By serious I mean those people (like me) who came here because our heroes came here before us and wrote and painted and danced and we read about it and we came here and and and, mostly we didnt (and dont) care about money but only our individual art and our relationship with our muse (Eileen Left just showed up with a joint and Im going to Deboce Park to watch the dogs play)
Damn! Every watch a couple of dozen dogs rock and roll in a small park? Great fun back to not caring about money and being an artist and the Alameda Model. The best writers and artists and poets and musicians have always come here. They always will. Thats, they will keep coming here as long as the works of Mark Twain and Jack London and Allen Ginsberg as long as people listen to the Dead and Beautiful Day and Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix you get the idea.
Used to be
Used to be, used to be you could come here to do art and always find a place to crash. Hell, artists dont need much. Never have. Never will. Just a little space to do our thing. Gavin Newsom and his developer masters (they were all on stage when he announced his candidacy for mayor start with Willie Brown, standing right behind him) these guys have upgraded most of the cheap property, sos only yuppies can afford it theyve chased all of the lower income people including all of the great playwriters and musicians who have not quite reached financial independence after years of trying chased em out of their apartments and garages and SROs And, they wonder why more people are dying in the streets!? Shit, alcoholics and addicts and the insane have always had a high mortality rate and always will. Only difference now is the yuppies have forced them into the streets and so, (surprise, surprise, surprise Gavin they die there) Newsom isnt funding new programs for these people. Shit no! Hes just making it harder for them to stay in town. Make them someone elses problem thats his push. While candidates like Tom Ammiano and Angela Alioto and Matt Gonzalez have struggled in the trenches for decades to help the poor and the artistic community Newsom has been busy sucking down cash dollars from the richest of the rich in this town (is it any wonder Willie Brown is so jealous of him?) Now, it is Newsoms job to pay back Warren Hellman and Gordon (my other wife is a Volvo) Getty and Donald Fisher and Walter Shorenstein and probably the fuckin devil himself. They dont want much back from Gavin, this self-made millionaire (theres the biggest joke of this campaign Newsom lacks the social skills to run a successful Kool-Aid stand without Getty) Naw, all they want is for Gavin to continue the effort they funded through Willie Brown for the past 8 years to make San Francisco a world class city. What that means is get rid of the poor and insane and addicted theyre not only unsightly they cost money! So, they took my advice and looked around the world for best practices and the like and found out how New York City had and, they chose the programs (like Alamedas) that didnt really address any of the problems of their down and outs but, simply made it harder and harder then, finally impossible for them to stay in town. Those are the programs theyve brought to San Francisco. Biggest problem is, as I said the seine also caught all of the margin-living artists and dancers and musicians and Kim and tens of thousands more like him cut like live red heart meat from the very Soul of San Francisco The artists (like my buddy Kim) load their rentals with all they can carry while Newsom literally goes around counting the dead drunks in the street. You want cold? Thats cold. He put them there. Now, hes standing over them counting their scalps. He just missed Kims.
Enuff for now
Go to Hell, Gavin!!
Matt 4 Mayor: