Sf Gov InAction: Special Faux-Guest Edition!
Do you ever get tired of doing the same thing every week? Me too.
So this week I decided to imagine how SF Gov InAction would look if it were written by five of this city's most ... um ... noteworthy ... pundits.
You say "parody," I say "homage." Either way: Enjoy.
Monday, June 29
11 a.m. - Budget & Finance Committee (as written by TIM REDMOND, San Francisco Bay Guardian Managing Editor)
I was driving back from a trip to wine country last week and noticed that there were a lot fewer cars on the road than usual for this time of year. This is an important improvement: when other people drive, it hurts the environment.
I can understand why other people want to drive. I'm from upstate New York, where my family still lives. They shoot guns, they wave the flag, and they supported the Iraq war even after people in San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. told them not to. We even passed a resolution: To this day, I'm not sure if they've read it.
Of course they take their cars everywhere. It's part of their culture: some of them even put religiously themed bumper-stickers on their cars, without understanding that this makes them part of the military-petro-pedophilia complex. Everywhere they drive, they put up new unsustainable housing developments. This has to be stopped. More development means more housing, which means more people will be able to buy houses like mine. That kind of development ruins San Francisco, destroying its skyline and its unique spirit as a place where other people rent apartments because they didn't get in early.
They just don't get how destructive this is.
But we do, and we should be doing better. That's why all good progressives are appalled that a coalition of supervisors is proposing to bond $388 million for "safe streets and road repair," knowing full well that safer roads make drivers more confident in their cars, and that confident drivers stop taking public transit, which is almost identical to raping poor people. If we want to support a more just and sustainable society, repairing roads is the wrong way to go.
The bond is proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose commitment to turn all of San Francisco into a condominium is dangerously close to becoming a reality, thanks to an unholy alliance of Don Fisher, PG&E, and the Chinese government -- all of whom the Guardian has exposed as evil (see "They're EVIL!" March 23, 2005). But what's really dangerous is the way Newsom has managed to sucker three progressive supervisors, David Chiu, Eric Mar, and David Campos, into co-sponsoring this bill.
Progressives should know better, and these three supervisors should fall in line. After all, falling in line is what progressives do.
Just think what else we could do with $388 million. With that kind of money, we could fund at least one extremely inefficient non-profit. Imagine.
But this is going to be a difficult meeting for non-profits: The city budget is up for discussion again, and let's face it, the cuts are going to be brutal. Many of the organizations that pretend to care most for the city's poor and destitute are going to get their funding cut; some won't survive. My relatives in upstate New York would say "good," and then they'd shoot something. But that's not the San Francisco way, and I hope the progressives on the board don't kow-tow to the suburban attitudes of people like Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius (see "He's SUBURBAN!", Nov. 8, 2008) who last week claimed that we should only be funding programs that work. Think about it: if California did that, would we have made such progress on issues like gay marriage and water conservation?
But what's most appalling is a code change by Newsom that would eliminate the city's longstanding commitment to providing mental health services for the indigent and uninsured, instead committing us only to supporting those "who are suffering from a serious mental illness."
Maybe Gavin wants to be the one to tell patients that their mental health conditions aren't "serious" and therefore not worth our time and compassion, but I don't. I want to help everyone, regardless of how ineffectively it is done, and I think most San Franciscans want to help everyone who needs it.
As our mental health code presently notes: "if timely, effective and coordinated mental health treatment is not provided to indigent and uninsured residents who are not seriously mentally ill, these residents are at risk of becoming seriously mentally ill and hence requiring more expensive and comprehensive mental health care from San Francisco."
That's the language Newsom wants to take out -- even though it's still true.
1 p.m. - Land Use & Economic Development Committee (as written by WILLIE BROWN)
Last week I got a call from former President Bill Clinton.
I thought you should know.
He likes my hat.
This is extremely important information for you to have.
I stepped into a taxi the other day, and told the young man driving that I was going to a party at Fleur de Lys.
He said "You sure are living large, Mr. Brown!"
I replied, "I sure am, Boyd. And the funny thing is that I remember you from back when I was mayor: I crushed your whole family because their small business stood in the way of a development that I'd been paid under the table to look after. By the time I was done, your parents had spent your entire college account on lawyers' fees and lost their house. There sure is no justice in the world."
"No justice at all," he agreed.
But don't worry: I left a tip.
Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier has a measure before the land use committee this week to turn the old Metro Theater on Union Street into a city landmark.
It's a good bill, and it should pass, but there should be enough loopholes to allow a developer to turn it into a theater-themed condominium just in case
So many big companies are canceling their lavish Fourth of July parties because they think that, in this economy, it's in bad taste to spend millions on a shin-dig.
I hate that. My take is: Waiters and caterers and dishwashers need work, too. So do the people who produce gift baskets. If you want to improve the local economy for everyone, let the big companies' big parties happen. If you cancel the parties, you're letting San Francisco down.
Look at me: Despite the terrible economy I recently went right ahead with my 75th birthday party. I had a beautiful, week long, event in France. Only the best. But not one San Francisco waiter thanked me. Can you believe it?
It's enough to turn me off philanthropy altogether.
There's another measure to extend "interim zoning controls" for six more months in the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Survey Area.
Now that I'm not in office, I can tell you the truth: Re-zoning is what politicians do when they don't have any good ideas.
A message to the young Democratic operative who spilled port wine on my new tie at Pearl's late Saturday show:
You're a dead man. You don't have five hours to get your affairs in order.
Tuesday, June 30, 2 p.m. - Full Board of Supervisors (as written by MARK MORFORD)
Telepathy is the dream of psychology circling like mako sharks around the collective unconscious. We tell ourselves that I can read your mind if I can just think harder than you.
But if you've ever watched a sunset, or trees rustling in the wind, or nymphs dancing in polluted water to the divine flute music of the muscular satyr-God, and you know you have because all of us turn to the mystery of the primitive visual to fill our brains after they've been scooped out by Facebook and Twitter and the latest videogame-movie-TV-fast food-tie in, then you know that thoughts are liquid and elusive. They're heart-stopping and orgiastic and raspberry flavored vodka that nobody would have thought of if they hadn't mixed mescaline and Nyquil.
If you think interpreting the thoughts of one person is hard, the sociological equivalent of a psychological equivalent, than interpreting the thoughts of 11 people is like asking masturbating dolphins to use a vibrator. It's not going to happen without another million years of evolution and prayer and Apple opening a neurosurgery department to replace your brain with an iPod that can already remember more songs than you.
Asking what the supervisors really think about the mayor's proposal to gut the Budget Savings Incentive Fund, like a father dipping into his daughter's piggy bank because he can't afford to pay the mortgage and buy crack if she doesn't chip in, is like asking Pablo Picasso what he thinks of Andy Warhol's interpretation of the Mona Lisa. They're not speaking the same language, can't really appreciate each others' brilliant-if-troubled dancing divine Tao critical inspiration, and besides are you really going to ask that? Really? When you could ask Picasso to take you to one of those parties with brilliant artists lounging naked by the pool? One of them is gesturing at you to come hither, and it's not Eric Mar.
You can only know Picasso by the paintings he's left and you can only know the supervisors by the way they vote: The rest is a hopeless thicket of psychology and politics. I'm not the only person to suspect that David Chiu is speaking in code: But I am the only one who thinks it's sexually empowering. Besides, it's not like the Budget Savings Incentive Fund ever saved the budget. Next time the incentives should wear a bikini.
Not even a masturbating dolphin hedge-fund manager in a bikini is as desperate for money as San Francisco, though: Among the many fee increases coming up at this meeting are large hikes on private EMS service providers. Your life may not be worth a lot to the government, but the business of saving your life sure is.
That's probably why the fees for the services provided by the Department of Public Health are also slated to jump at this meeting like Baptists in an EZ Bake Oven. Because the city needs the money, and you need a defibrillator, so it all works out. This is 21st-century bio-capitalism at its purest form, which is so dirty that it makes even the most anemic, porn-stained, right-wing blogger in his mother's basement take time off from licking a picture of Newt Gingrich to shudder at what we hath wrought.
We'd be in really big trouble if 21st-century bio-capitalism couldn't be ironic, too. But it can. Carl Jung's dictum that the shadow is always as big as the light is equally true in the converse opposite inverse reverse mirror-image. Gavin Newsom, whose hair will be worshiped by generations of post-nuclear apocalyptic primitives as the only modern edifice to survive the explosions, is plugging the city's budget hole by charging chain restaurants a fee to enforce the menu labeling law that we imposed on them last year. So now purveyors of partially-hydrogenated concrete-in-a-bun will have to pay for the regulations that remind everyone not to eat there: Regulations which didn't cost any money to enforce last year. Yep, that's irony.
Chain restaurants have the comfort of knowing that they're not alone: Fees on almost everything that Recreation and Parks does, from the Japanese Tea Garden to swimming lessons, are scheduled to go up. Now you're damned if you like nature and damned if you prefer to swallow cell-shaped plastics doused in corn oil and labeled "chicken" by multinational conglomerates. We're all damned. I blame the Pope.
Being damned by the supervisors isn't like being damned by Satan, however, and not just because Satan looks sexy in red leather and only punishes you for things you've actually done and is all a figment of our guilty psyche anyway.
The supervisors not only damn you, they also give you moral advice; It's what being in a lava pit would be if there were also 11 demons nearby explaining how all this heat is terrible for your pores. This week the supes are going to tell you how to vote while they pick your pocket. They have a measure telling you to vote "no" on the "Taxpayer Right to Vote Act," a state ballot measure that would cripple public power initiatives, and another measure telling state legislators to vote for "a fair and balanced state budget."
Which is like asking them to vote on how many words I can cram onto the head of a pin. The answer's no more rational than the example, and I salute your divine angel nature. The world is changing, now that Obama's come. You are sexy.
Wednesday, July 1, 11 a.m. - Budget and Finance Committee (as written by MELISSA GRIFFIN)
Okay, Ima gonna lay out some agenda for you, because when they asked if there were any nerds in the room I raised both hands.
That's why I'm such a hit on weekends.
Sometimes what the budget committee does is really simple: It talks about the budget. And talks, and talks, and talks. Then everybody disagrees, and they vote on something that's never going to happen, and it goes to the full Board of Supervisors, where they kinda start over. So, yeah.
Are you turned on yet?
I don't usually go to these meetings in person because I can already smell the hate through mah TeeVee.
That's all going to happen this time, too, although the progressive supervisors (the supervisors who hate each other even more than they hate the moderates, but still manage to hang together as a voting block) are mostly managing to keep the meetings on track. Last year all anybody could do was throw up their hands in despair over and over again. This year they just have to do it once or twice. We're still screwed, but the meetings are shorter.
Here are the players on this committee:
John Avalos is the committee chair, and Chris Daly's former legislative aid, so even though he's a freshman legislator he's spent years working on budget stuff, and spent even more time trying to put the hurt on MisterMayor. Right now he's living the dream of every San Francisco activist: To trap the Mayor's spending priorities in committee.
Ross Mirkarimi is kinda like the Julius Caesar of the Progressive supes, and they stuck the knife in by not making him board president. But don't cry for Ross Mirkarimi, he's shacking up with a Venezuelan soap opera star and has a new baby, and he still thinks he's better than you.
Carmen Chu is a member of the "moderate" block (over at SF Weekly they call them 'The Mayor's Nazgul'). She's the very, very quiet one who sometimes makes sense. Not that you can hear it.
David Campos is my new crush. (And, yes, I know he's gay. Stop "breaking the news" to me, people.) Some girls get dreamy for DJs or hot for firemen; I get weak in the knees from people who carefully review municipal contracts for instances of waste, fraud, or incompetence. Hey, shut up: I do too have friends. Campos is lots of fun at budget hearings because nobody knows what he's going to object to next.
Bevan Dufty wants to be mayor really bad. He's super smart, but you can have an IQ of 170 and there still won't be enough hours in the day to pander to everyone you need to get elected as a moderate when you're not rich. So far, he tends to vote with the progressives in committee and with MisterMayor in the full board. That way he's not leaving anyone out.
Before the hilarity of the city budget hearings ensues, the committee will cover a few things worthy of note, both of which are sure to get Gavin Newsom reaching for the emergency hair gel.
1) A proposal by Avalos to raise the city's sales tax by one-half of one percent to pay for "Health and Human Services" and "public protection" for three years.
Is this a good idea? On the one hand, it would probably pay for a lot of everything that's being cut right now. On the other hand, MisterMayor's already said a big "nuh-uh" to new taxes, and this one will make downtown so mad you might literally see the Transamerica building turn red. So naturally the progressives will hail it like the polio vaccine.
2) Now this next one is everything that makes San Francisco great. It's not just a tax on every car in San Francisco: That would be too simple. This is "a voter-approved local assessment on the privilege of a resident of the City and County to operate upon the public highways in the City and County a vehicle or trailer coach."
The "privilege" of operating a vehicle in San Francisco? Lemme 'splain how this works:
Let's say you just bought a hybrid, which the government is actually encouraging you to do with incentives. After paying the state tax on cars, and for the smog emission test, applying for a license, being tested for a license, paying for a license, paying for a license plate, purchasing gas (which is taxed), paying extra for an apartment with a garage or scrambling every day to find street parking, paying for parking downtown, paying parking meters everyplace else, pushing through traffic, getting stuck in traffic jams, getting blocked in by activists standing in the street (will they be assessed for the privilege of standing on the roads?), and getting ripped off by mechanics -- then you get to pay for the "privilege" of owning a vehicle in San Francisco.
Understand: It's not the vehicle that's being taxed. It's the privilege of operating it. Other privileges that might soon be taxed:
• Coming from an intact family
• Having easy-to-manage hair
• Being in a healthy relationship.
Constant Readers: I'm no driver. I don't even have a license. The only way this tax affects me is the look of pain on my taxi driver Boyd's face. But I can understand if y'all want to stick your hands out of the window and give a big middle finger to sponsors David Chiu and Bevan Dufty: 'cause honestly, it's one thing to tax you, and another thing to expect you to say "thanks for the privilege."
Especially those of you who live in S.F. but work out of town, and don't have convenient transit options to get there: Sucks to be your privileged ass.
Not that you have to worry much. It's not actually legal for the City of San Francisco to levy this tax, even if the voters approve it. (Here's a link to my three part series on laws) As the measure itself says: We are "acknowledging that state law has not yet been enacted authorizing the imposition of the assessment ," but that they are "approving imposition of such a charge at the specified rate when and if state law authorizes the City to impose it"
So if, at some future time, the state of California allows cities to do that, then hypothetically San Francisco will be ready, assuming that whatever it approves actually matches what the state does.
Yes, our city really is governed this way. I LOVE it! There's always SOMETHING to write about on short notice!
Sure sucks to live here, though.
Thursday, July 2, 9:30 a.m. - Rules Committee (as written by BETH SPOTSWOOD)
I couldn't believe I was going to spend Sunday night going over the agenda for a city committee. I don't even know how to dress for that.
Is it something you wear heels for? Or do you kick back on your parents' couch, in your pajamas, and only look at the agenda during commercial breaks of Lifetime Original Movies?
Can you go over agendas and watch reruns of old game shows in which people insult their wives at the same time? Because I've become addicted to Game Show channel reruns of The Newlyweds from the 1960s. I sit on the couch with Brock and we try to guess who turned out to be a beater.
I'd ask which way Gavin Newsom reads agendas, but I know he has people for that. They're the same ones who answer my Twitter messages. Hi Gary!
Have I got people for that? Hells yeah! So I invited my people over for an agenda reading party. I screamed on the phone until Tim and Gina and Mel and Pooja and Eve and Big Chris and Johnny Decay and Brians A-through-F and Smokey Pete all promised to come over and read my agenda for me so that I could spend my time texting, which is my favorite substitute for reading.
Are you ready for something fucked up? Smokey Pete brought a bottle of that new gin infused with cucumber. If I didn't think that he'd be the next big thing in serial killers, I'd have kicked his ass out to the curb right there.
How is it possible that there's someone in this town who doesn't know about my stint in rehab? Hello? My sobriety makes me personally responsible for an 8.2 percent decline in wine and spirit tax revenue! Or so I'm told by an angry letter from the assessor's office (my God, Phil Ting is HOT! Why didn't somebody tell me!).
Besides, I did chronicle every fabulous detail of my attempt to pick my shattered life up off the floor and offer it a glass of flavored seltzer water. My best friends Pooja, Mel, Chrissy-Face, Brock 1, Brock 2, and Little Big Mike, all called that "courageous," but come on bitches: If the alternative to blogging about rehab is going to rehab and not blogging about it, what do you think I'm going to do? It's not Fight Club, people. And even if it was: put me in a room with a sweaty Ed Norton and Brad Pitt in drag and see if I don't write about it. In fact, I'd have that shit video taped. I love video, and I'm great on it. (Click here to see me on camera for the SF Appeal!)
That's another thing Gavin Newsom and I have in common. I swear, when he finally dumps Swiss Miss for a two-week fling with his secretary, he's going to fall into my lap like a ripe plum. Because, let's be honest, he's exactly the sort of person who desperately wants to have his third wedding live-blogged by the bride.
I can give him that.
Anyway, this meeting starts off with the committee appointing people I've never heard of to committees I'll never think about again. Public Utility Commission? Historical Preservation Commission? Is this where they stash all those socially conscious people Mel keeps telling me about? Or are these people criminals who have to spend two to five years on the Historical Preservation Commission to make it up to society?
After the appointments are finished, whenever that is, Chris Daly proposes a charter amendment "requiring adequate taxi service." Finally, a charter amendment we can all get behind at 3 a.m..
This charter amendment also calls for "protecting public ownership of taxi medallions and other features of the medallion program, and ensuring the welfare of taxi drivers." I'm told that this is part of a six-year-long pissing contest between Daly and Gavin. I hate to be the one to tell them this, but: If a feud isn't on TLC, it didn't happen.
If Gavin doesn't text me in the next five minutes, I swear to God I'm going to withhold on our honeymoon.
For at least a half-hour.
Then there's another charter amendment proposed by Gavin and a lot of those new supervisors who names nobody remembers, "instituting two-year budgetary cycle, providing for the adoption of a five-year financial plan, and imposing a deadline of June 30 for approval of MOUs for miscellaneous."
"MOUs for miscellaneous" should totally be the name of something.
Finally, there's a charter amendment by Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu -- and I HAVE heard of this one - "Requiring that one-time revenues be spent only for one-time uses, unless otherwise authorized by the Board of Supervisors."
Is that it? Is that the agenda? Is this all political reporting is? Why did I think this would be hard?
Lunges are hard.