Watching City Hall #322, 10-18-04
“We love you h. brown!!!”
It was good to be back in school. I’d pretty much forgotten the scheduled forum at the Urban School on Page street until just before. I figured we’d be jammed into a Civics class and the kids would throw things at the candidates and choose their favorite based upon who could dodge the best. Least ways, that’s the way we always did it when I went to high school.
Things have changed
The entire school was there. There were over 300 in the combined audiences present in the school’s gym and in its theatre arts auditorium. That was around double the size of any crowd the D5 candidates had seen at any stop on this year’s campaign trail. I was impressed. Unlike the beloved ‘gangsters’ I’d taught for years, these students were well scrubbed and attentive. I’m betting 99% of them are college bound. They sat, sprawled, and a few even perched upon the interior window ledges that touched the ends of the rising tiers of seating in the ampitheatre.
They were ready with incisive questions, timers, raised placards that proclaimed ’30 sec’, ’15 sec’ and ‘stop’. They paid attention more closely than their adult counterparts at most of this year’s D5 supe tour. They knew that some of them might be riding in armored personnel carriers in Iraq this time next year carrying automatic weapons and praying. A few of them were probably already old enough to vote in the coming general election and all of them were going to cast their Ranked Choice ballots at the conclusion of the forum. All candidates quickly deduced that this was a crowd to be taken seriously.
I set the tone
I arrived first and entered the gym for the initial session. I quickly placed my name placard down at the left end of the table and took a seat. I was guessing they’d start ‘left to right’ and I’d be first. I wanted to see if I could chase the Newsom candidates into abandoning use of his name with my opening remarks.
“We’ll start left to right with h. brown.”
In 90 seconds, I gave the audience a lesson in class struggle from the macro to the micro level and told them to eschew candidates who praised the mayor or bragged of support from Downtown groups. I told them that they should choose a supe whom the mayor despised although that might delay the repair of potholes and other basic services in retaliation for the new rep’s support of shifting wealth and resources from the rich to the rest of us.
Only Andrew Sullivan (recently anointed by the mayor) mentioned Newsom in a positive manner. Promises to plug potholes and increase police foot patrols by kissing Downtown fanny were few. Forced to quit bragging about their friends and concentrate upon their own abilities and accomplishments, the empty suits began to stand out. I am so friggin’ brilliant.
Mirkarimi, King and Davis
I began the second session by establishing my credentials as an experienced and independent evaluator of candidate talent. I flashed my press pass and explained the essentials of political satirism. I regaled them with stories of being arrested as a spy in Morocco when I was only a year or so older than they. I spoke of teaching severely disturbed students and fighting fires. I assured them that both myself and my endorsements were trustworthy and then gave them my own 3 picks. I told them that Ross Mirkarimi was definitely the best candidate to carry forth the torch for the progressive agenda. I reaffirmed my support for Susan King for the number 2 spot on the IRV ticket and, newcomer Julian Davis as my third choice. … Now, pay attention. I damned near dropped the top choice over the weekend.
I love Frontlines. You know, the ‘commie’ newspaper that comes out whenever Carlos Petroni and Chris Finn decide their pile of content is ripe enough to infect some of the tens of thousands of readers who grab the limited editions from bus seats and coffee house tables. … Anyway, Petroni and company came out with their picks a few days ago and sometimes getting their endorsement is like getting a kiss from ‘Typhoid Mary’. … It’s nice, but it just might kill you.
People who speak ill of Matt Gonzalez or Frontlines or any of a small circle of artists, wonks & operatives will find me at their metaphorical throats in short order. Mirkarimi attacked Frontlines and I attacked him.
Ross: “I’d rather they didn’t endorse me at all.”
h.: “You’re being too thin-skinned. You should phone them and thank them and ignore the criticism.”
Ross: (to staff we’re at his headquarters at the Horseshoe on Haight) “I don’t want that newspaper around here.”
h.: (as I begin to speak, a couple of the staff pass under-the-breath hushes in my direction I pick up on it and charge ahead) “Have you got some kind of Kevin Shelley action going here? It’s a lot better to have friends than slaves, Ross.”
It did no good. Hey, everyone can’t be a Gonzalez. When Ross goes into these little diatribes, vets of both campaigns agree on that point. With all of his faults, Mirkarimi is still the best candidate and that’s all there is to that. … Allow me to tour the entire candidate field with you in the form of an explanation.
Robert Haaland has the rep of being ruthless and sneaky. Lisa Feldstein has the two faces of Janus depending upon her own perceived self-interests. Mirkarimi has the tag of being a misogynist with a quick temper. And, … you know what? It’s all true and the opposition is much worse. Defending any candidate, Left or Right can be like defending the conduct of Barry Bonds. When he’s just stroked the long one and defeated the hated Dodgers, he’s easy to take. When he’s being a self-centered butt in private, you sometimes wonder why you bother.
Cause we don’t pick leaders for a hug.
I listened to Ross on Saturday and got pissed-off and went away to call a few people and decide whether or not I should drop the dude for conduct-unbecoming-a-hippie. We went through the list of back-ups. For hours. … And hours. … And, more hours.
No one else came close
Haaland and Bill Barnes are great people whom I’m honored to know, but they are so hopelessly intertwined with the rotting corpse of the local Democratic party that the smell and influence is simply not tolerable. Feldstein deserves the Janus label and is too close to developer interests to trust in the long run. … That leaves Susan King who is, in my own opinion both absolutely marvelous and absolutely unelectable. She’ll bore you to death with extended treatments of issues that, although important, are not (in my own opinion) … immediately germane.
Rest of my friends
As I’ve said before, Julian Davis is a future mayor but the learning curve of a couple of years would severely limit district impact in any forum. Dan Kalb is a self-absorbed loudmouth. Nick Waugh hasn’t really decided which color uniform he should be wearing (I fear that either will do).
‘Stuck in the middle with you’
Rob Anderson and I are atween the above group and the purely Downtown candidates. I don’t have any friends and he has two. Together, we might crawl to 21st place in a field of 22. Nothing happening there.
Much loved but misunderstood
Phoenix Streets is a defender of the people like his old fellow public defender workmate and good friend, Matt Gonzalez. Love the guy, but he lost me when he said he thinks it’s OK for an owner to tear down large apartment buildings that come under rent control and replace them with buildings that do not.
Emmett Gilman is a great guy. He cares about his neighborhood and his family and his community. I suspect he’ll be one of the few candidates who’ll be a friend when the race concludes. Again, being nice ain’t enough. Nice guys do finish last. Emmett won’t finish last, but he’ll challenge me for the title.
I can’t get a handle on Brett Wheeler. While Carlos Petroni came near to handing the coveted Frontlines endorsement to Brett, people I know say … (great phrase, huh?) … “People I know, say …” Naw, let’s just leave it at that and say ‘too little information’. This guy could be the best candidate out there but I really can’t tell. His disposition is perfect. He’s got this professorial thing going. His positions in debates are fresh and innovative (I think he came near to advocating an institution similar to Gonzalez’s municipal bank). Needs more study.
Jim Siegel is another princely individual. What the hell he’s doing in this political snakepit is beyond me. He’s way too honest to be a feckless supporter of Downtown (although, he’s tried it in the matter of the UC project). Still, I can’t put him with the likes of Ciocca and Sullivan.
Likewise with Michael O’Connor. A generous, decent sort who creates jobs and stability within his own orbit … but his positions are Downtown positions (it’s OK to tear down the apartment building where you live) …
The rest should leave town
Andrew Sullivan is a friendly droid. Pat Ciocca is an articulate and friendly droid. Francis Somsel needs to discover some kind of yoga or tea or chant to bring him inner peace. Joe Blue is a greedy, racist thug (but, in a nice way). Tys Sniffen is an insufferable elitist prig.
Why the free pass for Vivian Wilder?
First, I have no idea what she stands for because she didn’t attend a single convocation. Second, I do not attack women older than me (other than Diannne Feinstien she hates it when you misspell her name, so I made certain to get it right this time) … women older than me, children or pets.
And, Phillip House?
On the other scenes
When not begging for couch space, I’ve been on a regular social tear. Let me toss you a few highlights.
Watching Jonathan Richman build a band
The band would be ‘The Suns of Mercury’ and the place was the Rickshaw performance hall and bar on Fell, just West of Van Ness. I had it on good authority that Richman, who was Patty Smith’s original drummer and a founder and lead guitar on The Modern Lovers (he’s best known for his classic performance as the minstrel who tied together the ‘Something about Mary’ masterpiece) … had heard Jonathan would perform.
Nothing like a humble and accessible genius. I was early. He was in front of the club talking to a couple of other musicians. What would become the first serious rain of the season had arrived and in its earliest phase was just beginning to change from mist to drizzle.
… that’s enough for now … I’m hungry … I don’t live here and if the people who do get home, it could get ugly … I still haven’t checked my e-mail … you’re bored and you’re boring me … I have to go cancel a hot date with Jack Davis for tomorrow nite and find something to do tonite … the beard is getting intense enough to consider applying for work as a Santa Claus (after ‘Bad Santa’ there’s hope for me) … I did a rickshaw ride with Matt Gonzalez and watched the 49’ers get creamed with Alex Clemens … you know. You get the idea. I may be an unemployed bum, but my life is much more interesting than yours could ever be. It’s a San Francisco thing.I trace all messages to: