City Hall Insiders: So Gavin's Nowhere to Be Seen. What's New?

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Will Harper
Ah, the sociable days...
For those who don't walk through the tall, ornate doors of City Hall on a regular basis, the ongoing elusiveness of formerly gadabout Mayor Gavin Newsom comes off as bizarre -- or even surreal. Mayoral Spokesman Nathan Ballard's daily pronouncements that the mayor will not speak to the press today -- but maybe tomorrow -- sound like Beckett quotes ripped from Waiting for Godot (an all City Hall presentation, Waiting for Gavin, would be a great way to pass the time. Call me. We can do this).

Meanwhile, one has to wonder: If Gavin finally leaves his office at Room 200, sees his shadow, and retreats within, will we have six more weeks of budget deficits?

Still, a handful of longtime City Hall employees seemed unfazed by The Gavin Newsom Reality TV Show currently not being filmed by the pod of increasingly cranky reporters hanging out in front of the mayor's office. "Gavin's MO is to get out of his hybrid Tahoe, walk briskly to and from his office -- and he has a suite of offices -- and not come out," said one City Hall insider. "Like most politicians who get a lot of press attention -- particularly this one, because he's so bad with people -- he walks briskly to his office. And he always has two police guards with him to keep everyone away he doesn't want to talk to."

Adds another longtime City Hall employee (and, by the way, these are all folks whose names you'd know if you follow politics closely in this city), "The mayor is never around City Hall. He does his presntation of the city budget, and pops up at press conferences or to announce initiatives at random locations around the city. That's his role."

The takeaway: "My mayor sightings are few and far-between," said a City Hall insider. Now "the only big deal is that the mayor is being weird."

Other City Hall employees, however, said the mob of increasingly desperate members of the media are making life "a little odd." One was followed the other day by a camera-wielding man, ostensibly as a background shot for a news spot. That employee is wondering what the press is expecting when Newsom finally ventures forth from Room 200: "I was sort of visualizing scenes from Pink Floyd's The Wall. You remember when Bob Geldof emerges with his hair sliced back and his eyebrows shaved? Maybe something like that."

The insiders SF Weekly spoke with saw this as a spectacle of Newsom's own making -- and seemed puzzled and impatient with the mayor. "If this were [my department head] I'd tell him to take a half an hour, make some phone calls, and clear everything up," said one. "Newsom is making this issue. I don't know why."

But, adds one veteran City Hall employee, every mayor has his falling out with the press. Usually it's just less melodramatic.

"Willie Brown stopped talking to the press for a while. Art Agnos was run out of office," he said. "I saw John Sasaki in the hallway with a camera there. I guess that's the phase we're in."



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