City Teetering on the Brink, and Mayor Is ... Where?

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When Mayor Gavin Newsom's new spokesman -- replacing the freshly resigned old spokesman -- said things are "business as usual" for Newsom these days, it was a brilliantly ambiguous choice of words. Truly, what the hell is ever "business as usual" for Gavin Newsom -- especially now?

Having a mayor acting a little bit loopy is an interesting novelty for a while, just as it was to have a former action star or pro wrestler serving as a state governor. But, barring Ed McMahon heading to City Hall and handing stunned city controller Ben Rosenfeld an oversize check, this city is in dire financial straits right now. And this kind of political theater begins to lose its charm when people begin to throw around terms like "insolvency," and "deficit" while coupling them with figures exceeding $50 million.

That's why it's a mistake to think the media is giving Newsom a hard time over his self-imposed press blackout because we feel threatened. Rather, we feel a bit cheated. This is a mayor whose critics -- with some merit -- have accused him of governing by press release. When you take the press releases away, well, then what? Newsom's not saying. And as for the notion that the mayor is now going "directly to the people" -- this is an awesomely half-baked concept. As if globetrotting, gadabout Gavin Newsom needed more ways to resemble "Where's Waldo," now he's randomly popping up at receptions, open mic nights, and, for all we know, keggers at S.F. State.

"Even if he's licking his wounds after the gubernatorial race, Newsom can still give the appearance of running the show -- and he's not," one veteran political consultant told us. "This not talking to the press is just not good." Added another: "In bad times, sometimes the most valuable thing an elected official can provide is that ephemeral quality called leadership."

But this is more than just image control. Longtime San Francisco politicos and members of government told SF Weekly that Newsom's odd behavior could begin to actually harm this city.

"The city has a professional civil service corps meant to keep San Francisco going regardless of the talent and sanity of its elected officials," said a longtime political consultant with tons of business at City Hall. "But the city's self-confidence and ability to win competitive pieces of business is sometimes very much attached to who its chief executive is. If you're trying to keep or attract a sports team, lure a new biotech company, or settle a labor dispute -- these are things where the trappings of the office helps determine whether  disputes are settled, jobs are attracted, or competitive bids are won. So, yeah, sometimes it really matters."

But, hey, no worries. Everything is business as usual.

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