Watching City Hall #352, (3-17-05)
“Why don’t we just change the word to ‘ask’?”
(Michela Alioto-Pier puzzles press)
Well, she certainly puzzled this member of the press at any rate. The issue was an item that D5 supe, Ross Mirkarimi had introduced at Tuesday’s Board meeting through the mechanism of the ‘imperative’ agenda. This legislative process allows the Board to rush through an action without hearings or public comment due to either an emergency situation or the fact that it is an innocuous commendation of some sort. The matter at hand was not innocuous.
It was a request that the Mayor’s Office of Protocol lower the American Flag to half-mast this coming Saturday to honor our war dead in Iraq.
Actually, it started as more of an instruction to the Office of Protocol that they lower the flag on the 19th. Enter 7th District Supervisor, Sean Elsbernd.
Sean’s views are the most conservative on the Board and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear the boy is a Republican. … Anyway, he appeared to think (rightly, I believe) that the commendation was more of a criticism of the war in Iraq. Plus, the inspired supervisor added, he didn’t think that the Board could order the Mayor’s Office of Protocol to do anything! To my surprise, he totally ignored the 800 pound gorilla sitting in plain sight in row one.
The Deputy City Attorney on watch informed the Board that the good supervisor was absolutely correct, that the Board could not order the Office of Protocol to do anything. … Getting old glory at half-mast was looking unlikely.
District 1’s flamboyant Irish lad, Jake McGoldrick got pissed off. He called angrily for the Office of Protocol’s budget and mission statement or something like that. (Good move. I’ve always thought we should let visiting kings and queens and presidents ride in on Bart and eat at McDonald’s like the rest of us.) … The Board was warming up.
District 8’s boyishly handsome Bevan Dufty joined Elsbernd and announced he’d vote against this one too (it needed an 8-3 margin). He smelled duplicity and didn’t want to be rushed. … Mirkarimi held his own as District 11’s Gerardo Sandoval began to sound as though he had doubts. … And still, nobody mentioned the 800 pound gorilla.
Board President Aaron Peskin came to Mirkarimi’s side of the field and things started to change quickly. Ever the skilled compromiser he began peppering the Deputy City Attorney with question after question. Revision after revision. “I think we can save this.” Yeah, uh huh. He said that.
“It is the anniversary of the war on the 19th and over 70% of San Franciscans voted their disapproval of the war in November.” I forget who said that, but they were right and the 800 pound gorilla shifted around in his seat. They were getting close.
Then, came Pier!
‘Alioto-Pier’, I should say. Grandpa Joe would have loved this one as Michela had a rare difference of opinion with fellow Newsom appointee Elsbernd (they’ve both since won in their own right ant Pier won in a huge landslide). … “Why don’t you just use the word ‘ask’?” she asked. It was over right after that.
Peskin grabbed the new, less offensive verb and wove a new resolution backward and forward until everyone except Elsbernd was nodding up and down. I still had my doubts as to whether the thing was gonna get out of there. I kept expecting Elsbernd to suddenly point and cry out: “Well, what about the gorilla!?”
There were 3 votes. Vote one went 9-2 with only Elsbernd and Ma opposed. Vote 2 went the same. Sandoval left the room.
That bothered me. I kept remembering when then, Supervisor Newsom had left the Board chambers rather than vote on a resolution condemning the Patriot Act. I also remembered when Sandoval had locked himself in his office to avoid being the swing vote in favor of the City footing the bill for transgender surgeries. (Ammiano then, Board President, sent the Sheriff’s deputies to escort Gerardo back and he joined Gavin Newsom then the District 2 supe, in sending the legislation to Willie Brown all wrapped up and veto proof people forget, but that was really the first time Newsom showed serious balls in defending gay rights) …
Didn’t matter. Even Elsbernd voted for the amended resolution. And, it was all because of Alioto-Pier. … Now, let’s study the gorilla.
Nowhere for Newsom to hide
What nobody mentioned was that Mirkarimi and the 70% of San Franciscans who oppose this war will be joined by a crowd that could easily top 100,000 in front of City Hall on this Saturday. That would be the day when da Dome’s colors will tell us how our new mayor stands on the other great issue of the day. The flags will complete the set. The world will watch and film as anti-war activists, politicians, Krissy Keefer’s ‘Dance Brigade’ troop from Dance Mission & a host of others sing and preach and dance on a huge stage in front of City Hall, framed by the powerful image of a magnificent building and City in mourning. … There’s something chilling about a flag at half-mast. Yeah, that’s some powerful shit.
What Pier did was to hook Gavin Newsom upon the horns of a real dilemma. If she hadn’t said anything and Elsbernd had done the same, Gavin could have lowered the flags and said the Board ordered it. But, the amended resolution merely ‘asks’ Newsom to take the action. If he refuses, he’s framed as pro-war in a City where over 70% of the voters just announced they felt the opposite way. … On the other hand, there’s that thing about dancing with the one what brung you to the prom. That would be that group of oil soaked, knuckle-dragging imperialist warmongers who put up the money for all of his businesses and financed every one of his political campaigns. And that’s also, … some powerful shit.
What do you think Gavin will do? He’s no coward, that much is certain. He’s left teeth marks on the hands of bigoted donors before in the transgender surgery and gay marriage issues. What are his options?
He can lower the flags with no comment and go to visit a friend in New York over the weekend.
He can take no action without comment and go to visit …
He can lower the flags and ask to be the opening speaker calling for peace, justice, tolerance and mercy.
He can take no action and blame it on Mirkarimi. (That one’s actually worked for him before. )
He could do a Willie Brown and have Ed Lee bring in DPW crews to cut down the flagpoles the night before the event.
I’m not even going to guess what he’s going to do or give any advice. It is a bit of a touchy problem though, don’t you agree? What if he sticks his neck out and there’s no crowd or coverage? … But, then again, what if he refuses to follow what is now the will of the entire Board of Supervisors and there’s a huge crowd and he gets bad press in Paris and then things get worse in Iraq and there are more terror attacks here? … It’s conundrums like this one that explain why Jack Davis gets that big money.
One more for Michela
In yet another show of independence from Newsom, D2’s Supervisor lady challenged the makeup of a new 9 person body suggested by the Mayor’s office through, of course, Sean Elsbernd. It was her finest moment yet in debate within the chamber and she did the disabled community proud.
The Continuum of Care Plan came from years of work with all stakeholders in the health and human services sector of fog town. It’s a carefully thought out master plan defining measurable goals and objectives complete with baselines and benchmarks and whistles and bells. Gavin’s new 9 person body is to replace the 35 member task force formed to create and update the Continuum of Care Plan.
The Continuum had a big, big problem right from the first day Willie Brown walked in the door. He simply refused to implement it. While a workable blueprint toward abolishing the worst of the suffering for the homeless and insane and addicted lay gathering dust on a shelf, Willie did nothing. Mayor’s Council on Disability member Ed Evans commented: “It was a great group. There was someone there who was an expert in everything. My own area was disability access.” (Ed, like Michela gets around in a wheelchair)
First problem Michela noticed with the new group was that it had nary a single seat designated for a handicapped person. Nope, that’s kind of surprising, huh? The Mayor would get 4 appointments, as would the Board of Supervisors. Controller Ed Harrington whom SFSOS spent big bucks on a couple of years ago, would be the swing vote. Yeah, it was kind of funny, really.
Here’s Elsbernd saying that Harrington is completely trusted by everyone on all sides cause he’s so independent when that’s just such a large pile of bull shit. I mean, the guy is good. Smart and organized and totally informed on every dime of a 5 billion dollar budget plus a whole, whole lot more that’s not in the budget. … But, hey, this is a guy who Willie gave a 10 year term to right as the new Progressive Board came into power in 2000. Harrington proceeded to rubber stamp the entire Brown big business agenda.
He did so well that SFSOS cooked up some kind of misleading power grab handing him millions more yearly. I swear, if you read the language in the initiative (‘Clean Streets’ initiative) you’d have sworn he was gonna be driving a street sweeper part time.
This is a guy who wrote a scathing indictment of the non profit poverty sector agencies a couple of years ago that had them clinking champagne glasses at the Chamber of Commerce. He tore em a new one cause they weren’t successful in implementing a plan that his boss refused to properly fund. Now, he wants to throw out the plan and replace it with a sketchy 10 year plan overseen by people who would prefer that the remaining poor in San Francisco be driven out.
That’s a side issue, but you need to know that he’s beholden to KPMG who brought him here years ago, Willie who gave him tenure and SFSOS who keeps their markers in the safe at the Gap. Independent swing vote? I don’t think so. Elsbernd’s strategy with that tactic asked the other supes the profound question: “How stupid are you?”
Peskin tried to bell the cat but eventually, Newsom and Downtown got their choice. Then Pier surprised everyone except Ed Evans. She folded her arms over her chest and demanded that at least one and preferably two of the other eight seats be designated for representatives of the disabled community. They hemmed and hawed and she wouldn’t back down. She said: “So many of the people effected by this body are disabled people. When the Mayor and the Board think about their appointments to this body, I want them to have to think about disabled people.” She was magnificent.
Then, Peskin trumped all
Proving once again that he’s the sharpest guy on the block with a sack of marbles, the witty Board President took about 5 minutes of sharpshooting and, voila, the Continuum of Care Plan rose from the dead.
“There’s 17 million dollars of McKinney money tied to performance indicators contained within the Continuum of Care Plan.” Aaron said something very close to that and then proceeded to amend Elsbernd’s legislation until the detailed plan devised by the original 35 member task force upon which numerous funding applications are inextricably tied … put Continuum of Care back in the center of the gyro system and required that steps in implementing the new plan be referenced directly to the old plan in regular reports back to the Board. … He conceded the 35 member board that had no power but kept the document that is the bible to non-profit care providers which the 35 people created. … Hmmmm, that Peskin, he got game.
That’s enough for today kids. I seem to have typed myself sober and I’m gonna start to rectify that soon as I get this one on the air.
I’m seeing more & more cops walking beats!
Peace & love kids: