With h brown
The Privatization of San Francisco
(art, land, exotic animals, commissions and more)
February 11, 2007
George Roth, the cab driver from Mars used to say that science
was the search for patterns and that once you were able to identify
a pattern, you could use calculus to create a parabola identifying
future actions and events and the timing of same which you could
Well, I've identified a pattern regarding the continual privatization
of San Francisco and I'm predicting future moves on the part of
the Swells. I'll toss in a few comments on particular items on
the 3 lists I've developed here to support my argument and because
anecdotal data is cool and funny and tragic and all that other
shit. I'll start with stage one of the privatization process.
1. Identify valuable public assets
Think big. Would you like to be able to trade every bit of art
owned by the City? How about all of the exotic animals in the
zoo? Want to destroy a commission (e.g. Communications) that is
giving your industry problems? Need a place to keep your polo
ponies? Want to keep government television from the poor? Want
a 50-year lease on the best spots overlooking the ocean or the
Bay (with clauses allowing you to exclude the poor)? Like to buy
4 golf courses planted on the most expensive property on the face
of the earth for one dollar? Want to underfund the Ethics Commission
cause you're a crooked political fixer? Want to shield violent,
murderous, homophobic cops by understaffing the Police Commission
and the Office of Citizen Complaints? It can all be yours, but
first you have to accomplish step number two.
2. Elect a mayor who will do your bidding
(having the City Attorney and D.A. in your pocket helps too)
Price is no object on this one. If you want an entire neighborhood
over which to play feudal lord (as I said before, think big)
if you want that, you're gonna need to control the Redevelopment
Authority and they're fully appointed by the Mayor who also has
either all, or the majority appointment powers over every other
commission, authority, and enterprise agency. The Mayor appoints
every single department head.
Want a sweet union contract in exchange for getting out your
members' vote? The Mayor negotiates all MOU's while the City Attorney
Having elected your puppet mayor, it is time to survey the property
or authority you wish to control.
What's the present condition of the physical structure or agency?
Solid staff? Popular with the public? Who's the local supervisor?
Will he or she look the other way when a couple of billion dollars
in golf courses are handed over for a single dollar bill? Should
you plant a few stories with publications that depend upon your
advertising and writers to whom you sometimes or regularly provide
Is the Communications Commission anti-business because they want
to look into the Comcast contract? Are those reinforced concrete
stalls with the thousand year tile roofs at the stables in Golden
Gate Park strong enough for the horses?
3. Defer maintenance for targeted assets
Fire gardeners in the parks and replace them with security to
toss out the poor and homeless. Stop filling cracks and painting
in the Veterans Building. Keep a straight face when you say that
the Old Mint (which survived the '06 quake without sustaining
a crack) needs retrofitting and might best be managed by a private
Sell the grounds keeping equipment at Harding Park claiming
it's too old and hard to maintain. Smile as the grass grows and
the greens suffer. Stop cleaning the Trans Bay Terminal. Stop
replacing burned-out lights there. Close all of the businesses
in the building and allow the poor that your other policies have
made homeless, who sleep around the gorgeous deco structure.
Stop maintaining the Marina boat slips and raise rates on all
the small boaters but lower the rent for the yacht clubs. Close
all of the bathrooms in the parks that the poor use and build
new ones only inside areas that have already been privatized.
4. Reduce staff
Pardon me, but does the Ethics Commission really need enough
staff to investigate my regular violations of the campaign finance
laws? Is using a City funded non-profit like SLUG, it's equipment
and workers to campaign on City time for your candidate really
worth an investigation? Does the City even need a Communications
Commission at all (Newsom deep-sixed ours within months of his
election)? Isn't the police chief your mayor appointed doing a
fine job disciplining the SFPD? Why staff the OCC to strength
or give the Police Commission a civilian staff large enough to
analyze the cases and proposals that pass before them daily? Why
use PUC engineers to do PUC projects when you can hire outside
consultants? Why clean, paint and maintain a structure when you
can let contracts for consultation, design and construction of
an inferior structure by a firm that contributed to the mayor's
campaign, or is a client of someone who did?
5. Divert revenue and assets
So, Harding golf course makes money every year and provides
a fantastic experience at a reasonable price for the general public?
Take every penny that the course makes and divert it to the General
Fund. Why should City workers collect money from the parking meters?
Couldn't an outside contractor do a better job?
6. Wait a couple of years
7. Deplore the conditions you've created
Scream to the high heavens about the incompetence of City staff.
Mention, kinda off-hand, that you just happen to have some friends
who have a trade organization that maintains and trades assets
or manages similar operations. Promise beautification and profits
if you can only have total control of the targeted acquisition
and its holdings.
8. Have your puppet mayor, or (preferably) an ignorant or in-your-pocket
supervisor to propose the privatization of your desired slice
of San Francisco's holdings.
9. Go to the voters
Show pictures of the cracks in the walls you've failed to repair.
Show the overgrown golf course from which you diverted revenue,
equipment and personnel.
10. Repeat process until you win
After you gain control of property or authority:
1. Restrict public access
Hey, wasn't that the entire point of this exercise? Do it right
away. You are no longer a public entity. Like Yerba Buena, you
can hire your own police force and install 33 cameras to watch
the property that is yours for decades.
2. Build a place for the Swells to party
This will necessitate destroying historic structures and infrastructure
but you don't give a shit. The people who supported you expect
hundreds of millions or billions in contracts for what they gave
you. That means to destroy the beautiful and historic and build
the ugly and inferior (see the DeYoung and Trans Bay Terminal).
If you need more room to party, as in the library, remove a few
million books to make room for open space for your private cocktail
3. Create a slush fund to pay for your parties
You're a private corporation of some sort now and you're licensed
to collect donations on behalf of the City and spend them as you
see fit. That certainly means hosting parties for the Mayor and
your patrons and nobody else.
4. Tighten control of the asset or authority by making certain
the Mayor only appoints members of your circle into positions
of power. Price and legislate the general public out.
5. Like, party hearty, dude
+ + +
Following is an admittedly partial list of public assets that
have been either privatized outright already or are in the process
at one of the 9 steps listed in Stage one:
1. The Zoo
2. The Modern and Asian art museums
3. The entire public library system
4. Yerba Buena Gardens
5. The Trans Bay Terminal
6. The Old Mint
7. All of the City's golf courses
8. All of the City's soccer fields
9. All of the City's marinas
10. All of the City's parking lots
11. The stables in Golden Gate Park
12. The Ocean Beach Chalet
13. The Cliff House
14. The cable TV system
15. The electrical power system
16. The City Wi-Fi system
18. The office of Mayor
It all starts with who holds the office of Mayor. Under Gavin
Newsom, privatization has actually increased in pace. That's why
it is so important for the citizens of San Francisco to elect
a new mayor this November. Every single asset listed above was
privatized to the detriment of the average citizen and it has
been done by a group of around 200 of the richest people in San
Francisco because they feel that they have to control absolutely
Privatization and it's evil twin, gentrification, are sucking
out the soul of the City. Above, in my 'search for patterns',
I've outlined the factors in the real world that produced the
points on the parabola we're studying. I'd say we can safely extrapolate
and send troops to the following locations at which we might slow
down the surge of the Swells.
1. This year's mayoral election - We need candidates opposed
2. Privatization of the Municipal Golf Courses
3. Privatization of the stables in Golden Gate Park
4. Reconfiguration of marinas to accommodate larger yachts
5. City Wi-Fi system
6. Public access to SFGTV
Hey, I know things are worse than I'm describing but I'm only
one drunken pot head. Above is the scheme and the pressure points.
Pick a project and start googling and pressuring your local supe.
The one certain thing is that the Mayor will not listen to you.
Not this mayor, anyway.
Loving the rain?
h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of sfbulldog.com,
an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h
is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and
a hard-living satirical muckraker. Email
h at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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