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With h. brown

h. "Court Jester" brown
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

Court Jester's Year in Review

By h. brown

December 29, 2007

Bulldog autopsies for 2007
(and, some accolades)

My Year

You should be so lucky. Either God loves me, or my enemies can't shoot straight.
Either way, I had a hell of a year.

I'm approaching my goal of a column every other day for the 5th straight year and
that's a heap of bullshit for one cowboy to assemble.

I'm lots stronger, physically. I did 100 workouts of an average of 3 hours each. I'm way better informed than I was this time last year. I'm better connected to my news sources, my family and my friends.

Father Brown, aged 30, with Mona and Alex Brown

Josh Wolf and I held together a motley crew of a dozen mayoral candidates for 12 consecutive Friday evening debates beneath the Mayor's balcony. We did our civic duty when others cringed. Anyway, one of my life's goals is to run in every district and for mayor. I can check off the mayor's race now. Just 8 more districts to go and I can do D3 this year. If everything breaks my way, I'll finish the collection of campaigns in my 78th year. Hey, it's good for you too 'cause everything I learn and experience I report back to you. Albeit, sometimes slightly air-brushed, or enhanced for entertainment value.

On the down side, I didn't get laid or fall in love, but I also didn't break up with, divorce, or get sued or shot at by someone who once thought I was swell.

Donald Fisher
(Bulldog 'Man of the Year')

Billionaire Republican and child slave labor king, Donald Fisher

I measure what kind of year a person had by whether they were able to advance either their own cause or that of their 'side'. And, how far they were able to advance it.

By that criterion, big Don done good. He dodged a bullet when my columns about the source of his wealth (Asian child slave labor) was confirmed in headlines across the country. Hell, he had local bloggers saying that in some cultures a 10-year old can be the family's chief source of income and that we shouldn't interfere.

Bottom line is that the Gap's bottom line didn't suffer, and so Fisher won.

The Chronicle, and even a few environmentalists, want to hand him control of huge swaths of Northern California redwood forests so that he and his sons can cut them down.

He's also logging Mendocino county and is on the verge of cutting down half of the redwoods in the Bohemian Grove.

In the City he's tearing up sod soccer fields and playgrounds, replacing them with rubber, plastic and concrete. Why would he do this? Because, then, his sons get control of them. They determine who uses the field once they've invested in it.

They've already informed one neighborhood market that they won't be able to set up there anymore because they need to affix their stalls to the earth -- and that could damage the Fishers carpets. Read Matt Smith's SF Weekly piece from 12-20-07 to see what Fisher is doing in the Presidio.

Fisher was the guy who flipped Newsom last year over restrictions carried in the carefully crafted C3 parking legislation. The legislation added at least 10,000 new parking spaces in an already crowded downtown. Anyone who doesn't think he'll get more parking isn't paying attention.

So, Donald Fisher is my man of the year because he got more done and is positioned to catapult even further. Here's the rest of my list.

Marc Salomon

Policy gurumeister Marc Salomon

Marc's the principle brain in the local lefty think tank called the San Francisco Green Party. He's no longer the exclusive source for Progressives seeking info. I'd argue he had more letters to more editors published in more publications than any other contributor, and most of these people don't agree with what he writes. He's just so good at presenting a case concisely, an editor would be foolish not to upgrade his letters spot by using them.

And, he does legislation. He has the ideas, then he pitches them to fertile ground such as an appropriate CCSF supervisor and … lots and lots of the progressive legislation of the past 7 years began between Salomon's ears. He'll be even stronger next year.

Gary Delagnes

Police Officers Association honcho, Gary Delagnes

Gary was my man of the year last year and he had another great year. He got a 25 percent raise for his guys and the promise of the same in June 2011 -- and he gave up almost nothing for it.

No steroid testing for the cops. Foot patrols continue to be at the discretion of precinct captains, and that means there will be fewer of them and single officer beat patrols will be rarer than Bengal tigers.

Delagnes got higher benefits for several demographics under his purview. It was an impressive year.

Ahimsa Porter-Sumchai

Former mayoral candidate Dr. Ahimsa Porter-Sumchai

The long-time Bayview Hunters Point activist broke onto the City stage and impressed all. Dr. Sumchai was my first choice for mayor, after Quentin Mecke (who inherited the remains of the Gonzalez machine and will fade back into the woodwork). After Mecke, Ahimsa had the most supporters in the streets and at rallies. Her leadership on environmental issues in the Bayview have long earned the slander and hate of developers and I can only see that increasing. Way to go, Dr. Ahimsa Porter-Sumchai.

Luke Thomas

I remember trying to get Dan Noyes to talk to Luke about this time last year and Noyes was very hesitant: "He's got that camera," said the City's best TV investigative reporter. Then, I read a quote from Steve Kawa in Luke's Fog City Journal saying: "He makes me look ten years younger, twenty pounds thinner, and two feet taller!" That's power, campers.

Mix that with a healthy dollop of British cynicism, more than passing compositions for piano and guitar, a pilot's license (quick getaway? Can't figure that one out) -- and exacting standards for the writing in his FCJ, standards for himself as well as all contributors.

Fog City is Luke's baby and in just over a year, it has become the best online political publication in San Francisco.

Sue Vaughan

Sue Vaughan (right) with Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney
and Elaine Santore

Sue is the number one defender of the rights and power of women in San Francisco. The Green Party think tank would stall without Vaughan's energy and organizational abilities, and Susan King's ceaseless vetting of issues. In an 'Old Boy' town and in an 'Old Boy' world, these girls will not just pound on the door, they will kick it down.

Last year the Susans (Vaughan and King) ran Krissy Keefer's campaign for Congress.

When I drug my hung-over ass out of bed to go see the SF Mime Company's new show in Delores Park this year, like always, a crew headed by Vaughan already had the classy Green Party canopy perched in the very best spot on the hill overlooking the show.

She had literature ready and voter registration and petitions and water and juices and organic snacks. Just like I've seen her do a couple of hundred times before. In the early morning light. In a pouring noon rain. In front of a theatre on a dark and dangerous Tenderloin street.

Angela Alioto

Angela "Queen Bee" Alioto

Queen Bee is the most powerful woman in San Francisco. Has been for years. Politics is just something she does. Her real strength is in family and her family has grown tremendously in strength and influence under her guidance.

Is that even possible? Oh yeah, gimme a woman in charge every time. They normally are in most families, but you don’t know it. Angela runs a prestigious law firm, does hands-on shrine-building for her Catholic church which is gonna become (talking about her Shrine of St. Francis and attached Institute for Study of Peace) will become a world class think tank concerning the world’s most important mission (achieving peace as St. Francis would have wanted us to do) … this ‘project’ of Joe’s girl will outlive and contribute all of us.

She's point liaison to the federal government for the Mayor's chronic homeless program and has brought more money per capita to San Francisco than any other city in the country.

And, she got in shape and she was always a fox anyway, and don't tell me that doesn't impress you although we know that we shouldn't judge people on looks. Right. Uh huh. Not part of the equation. Not here, anyway. How about you? You use looks as part of how you evaluate a person?

Dick Sklar

Richard Sklar

If this guy stays on the SF Public Utilities Commission, he could very well save the taxpayers a couple of billion dollars over the next few years. At a time when template contracts (some weird hybrids only Sklar can fathom - it's him against some giant contractors and all their political connections - Dick's got few of his own) at a time when the groundwork is being laid for the expenditure of at least 4 ½ billion dollars, Sklar's experience and pure chutzpah are absolutely vital. I can only hope that he survives Team Newsom's stream lining of Downtown's access to public money and property.

I predicted they'd dump him a couple of years ago. How he hangs on is beyond me but he rocks.

Joanne Hayes-White

She's accomplished one hell of a lot and as far as I can see, none of it has been good. Still, my criterion is how the actions of my 'winners' affect the rest of the community and serve the interests of their own group, be it for pure profit, power or greed or for, … world peace.

In only 3 years, Chief White has been able to roll back reforms that took decades to accomplish. While cross-training and cross-servicing for firefighters, paramedics, cops and EMT's is the gold standard across the nation, White interrupted and reversed the trend in San Francisco.

When Hayes-White was appointed by Mayor Newsom there were ambulances in 26 of the 42 fire houses in San Francisco. I was a firefighter for 5 years and I'm here to tell you that ambulances work about 10 times as much as engine or ladder companies. Now there are ambulances in only 8 fire houses.

Michael Cohen

Economic and Workforce Development Director Michael Cohen

Name any large or significant project or contract in the City and if you look, you'll see that Michael Cohen is representing the Office of the Mayor on the transactions.

Treasure Island Redevelopment? Cohen's in charge. Niners new stadium? Cohen's in charge. Trans-Bay Terminal project? That's another of Michael's babies. All the way down to small venues where you want the 'right' people to be in charge -- like the contract to run Bill Graham Auditorium. Again, Cohen is your go-to-guy and he gets the job done.

Phil Ginsburg

Newsom administration Chief of Staff Phil Ginsburg

The same people who got Gavin elected mayor (one friend calls them the '4 horsemen' - Hellman, Fisher, Blum and Shorenstein) -- the same people are calling the shots in Room 200 just as they have from the beginning. But, with the elevation of Ginsburg (after he successfully destroyed the seniority system in Civil Service - he came to us via a Hellman/Wells Fargo recommendation) … with the elevation of Ginsburg and Nathan Ballard, the robbery of the bank of public money and resources is running much more smoothly.

For those out of the loop, Ginsburg is ostensibly Gavin's Chief of Staff but he is the de facto Mayor. And, it's wearing on the Mayor. Wouldn't it be funny if the Newsom fired Ginsburg publicly and hired Matt Gonzalez, or Marc Salomon as his new Chief?

Best street publication

Bay Guardian in another stroll. SF Weekly is definitely edgier but Bruce Brugmann's non-union, mostly interns-rag, forces it in order to simply compete.

Tim Redmond has more institutional memory than anyone in town with the possible exception of Art Bruzzone. Looking through 30 years of Guardian archives is like walking through a Hall of Fame of great series on local politics and development and entertainment and dreams and humor. The Weekly is funnier now though, Bruce.

Best online publication

That's easy. Luke Thomas' Fog City Journal. FCJ opened the year breaking the Newsom/Tourk scandal and continued the scoops right on through the year using Luke's close relationships with dozens of power brokers and analytical types across the spectrum.

Best writer

With the Chron's David Lazarus gone, the Weekly's Matt Smith could run up a Lance Armstrong type of streak. He's fearless, crafts coherent and incisive copy and has just enough of a mean streak in him to make him dangerous. I'll excuse his superiority complex because, hey, he is superior.

Best cartoonist

A tie between the Chronicle's Don Asmussen and Matt Smith! Smith's single comic book style cartoon published somewhere around mid-year was a pure work of genius.
He's also making some kind of movie or TV show kind of thing. He probably also flies airplanes like Thomas and John Travolta, sky dives and swims with whales. Kids today. Kids today.

Best at Public Comment

Another tie. This one is between relative newcomer, Walter Paulson and wily and inscrutable veteran, Sylvia Johnson. Watching either of them add their two cents on everything from complex financial discussions to the proper configuration of PD foot patrols is quite an experience.

Walter sings. Who can forget when he crooned 'Hey big spender, spend a little dime on me' to the Budget and Finance Committee? Or, his numerous serenades on behalf of Ed Jew? Priceless.

They say that if you play the comments of Sylvia Johnson backwards, that, like some Beatles songs, they contain hidden messages that are perfectly coherent and reveal the secrets of the Universe. Could be. Could be.

Best Political Appointee

District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu

Carmen Chu. Barely edged out Leah Shahum who questioned the Mayor's devotion to the City's 'Transit-First' policy within a week of being appointed by the Gavster. Nice kick in the cookies, Leah!

I like Gavin's appointment in D4 for two reasons. First of all, she seems to be the first supervisor from there who really likes the job or sees the job as anything but a stepping stone. Her exuberance and good vibes in the job remind me of Ross Mirkarimi's vibes. And second, she lives with a firefighter. That means she has great taste. Both women were born to their jobs. I'm sure I'll disagree with most of Supervisor Chu's votes but I wish her luck. That district needed a hands-on supe. To Shahum, I'd say that within a couple of years (given reality of peak oil) that every day on Market Street is going to look like Critical Mass.

Best Gossip Columnist

It's Elaine Santore, you old silly. Like most pseudo-intellectuals, I claim to hold gossip shows and columns in disdain. While reading everyone of them in every medium I visit.

Searching in vain for my name, or someone's name, I can claim to know which will increase my own image of my self-import. Even idiotic attacks in chat rooms are welcomed. The sum total of public reaction to one's existence for one year can be a useful baseline for planning the next.

Say, huh? I once asked Elaine what she thought about people saying that gossip/fashion columnists were shallow and, to my best recollection, she replied: "Yeahhh. So, I'm shallow, so like, deal with it. If I got a wrinkle, I'd kill myself." I feel the same way but fortunately my vision is so bad that I can barely make out a new liver spot that I've decided to call a freckle.

Politician of the Year

Supervisor Chirs "keeps on tickin'" Daly

Chris Daly, hands down. Even if he hadn't resumed talking to me (hey, I cut people off all the time to let tempers cool and reason to return - doesn't work on me, but it does on some others) -- anyway, nice to be talking to you again, big boy and congrats on the new daughter. Chris carried the Left and we're a heavy and ungrateful load.

Someone once said that in the end we are not judged by the quality of our friends but by the quality of our enemies. Given that criterion, Daly is eligible for sainthood. Don Fisher has opened his vaults a couple of times in efforts to unseat Daly and failed.

The kernel here is that unlike almost all of the 'Class of 2000', Daly hasn't changed. He's grown lots. At this point he'd make a great college professor and should consider lending his draw to New College as a guest lecturer to start.

Daly didn't change. While other supes veered to and fro to back chain stores, or monopolistic communications corporations, or the murderous Chinese government -- Daly stays the course.

He doesn't fold to the military industrial complex in the matter of the danger the Blue Angels represent flying through the canyons between our proliferating skyscrapers. He supports the Falun Gong and pushes every year to get them included in the Chinese New Year Parade, while weasels like Peskin sit on the stage next to Rose Pak and take her money.

Next Year

The gloves are off for Downtown's gentrification solution. Some early signs just since the November election provide a clear outline of what's going to happen this year.

Development, relocation and privatization will increase at breakneck speed. Here are some clues and places to look as controls are slipped.

Department of Building Inspection

Newsom himself showed up at the final 2007 meeting of the DBI commission and asked them to rubber-stamp a hundreds of pages long 'DPR ' which totally re-engineers the management at DBI.

First thing the new organization does is to make intermediate managers and plan checkers 'at-will' employees who can be fired for not approving one of Shorenstein's projects.

Second thing it does is to take those pesky fire inspectors out of the planning process. Thataway, next time some thick-headed builder wants to eliminate … you get the idea.

Anyway, the DBI Commission listened to a couple of dozen firefighters and fire marshals and the like say that this was a bad idea, then voted unanimously to approve it without reading it. As Kenny Cleveland, who heads BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) put it: "Our members own 90% of the buildings affected by this plan and we support it."

Cleveland is a PR guy for Walter Shorenstein and Walter wants to grease the process, safety-be-damned. Shorenstein had more people in the room than anyone, but the guy who chaired whomever wrote the report (guy named John Schlesinger) Googles as a SPUR contributor and employee of Wells Fargo.

SFPUC's crooked contracts

Watch for the Mayor to dump Dick Sklar from the SFPUC because he's all that stands between some giant construction, design, planning and oversight outfits … and, hundreds of millions a year in sweetheart contracts.

Prop A will destroy hope for cab drivers

All of you people hammering Aaron Peskin on the back for passing Prop A will realize that I was right when I said that it would be used to destroy the Taxi Commission and the medallion system with it.

San Francisco has the best medallion system in the country. They're free. But you have to wait, sometimes 15 years or more to get one. Peskin's legislation opened the door to sell the medallions and none of the people on the waiting list could afford to buy them. And, there's no On-TV commission/court for them to go to air their complaints. That's 4,500 drivers and their families whose future was destroyed by Aaron's back-room deal.

Fire Department will continue to regress

I watched a Fire Commission meeting where Chief Hayes-White strutted and bragged about moving all but 8 of the department's ambulances of the engine houses and onto the streets to roam like cabs. This is a positive disaster. I know because I was a firefighter and I was a cab driver too.

Oh yeah. If the ambulances were in the individual fire houses as they should be, you'd know where they were at all times and you'd know they were at least, in their own district. But, when I walk the Marina, I often see a couple or more ambulances parked at the water's edge while their crew chew the fat waiting for a call. Like cabbies and cops, these crews tend to cluster. That makes for a poorly distributed force and makes your life more dangerous.


The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. The wealthy think that money brings peace and happiness but it doesn't. When being rich won't work, they'll try to get richer by buying more politicians and preachers and media outlets. They still won't be happy and so they'll push harder.

Once the poor are squeezed too tightly they will revolt in one form or another. That's what history says these circumstances will yield and I see only lip service and window dressing as superficial shows of phony philanthropy and concern.

If the Giants can hold that young pitching staff together, they'll win 80 games. The Niners will cement an agreement with Santa Clara because they are a privately owned business and that is their right. The fault for their move lies with Gavin Newsom's obsequious bowing to the Lennar Corporation. He gave them the Niners parking lot. It's that simple. He gave it to Lennar and refused to give it back.

Luke's Fog City Journal is going to get interactive and will quickly bury all other local online chats.

I want to move somewhere else in the City (preferably in D3) and will search for some kind of part-time job to cover my liquor bill. If I come out on the other side of these holiday parties intact, I want to get back into my customized combination outdoor training and sight-seeing like a tourist.

Happy birthday to Robert Manes

And, Sue Vaughan

And, Bob Brigham

And, Karen Babbit

And, don't forget tomorrow's party here for all of the birthday boys and girls. 5-9pm


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 h@ludd.net.


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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