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Overheard in Fog City

By Luke Thomas


April 6, 2007, 2:14 a.m

Kerry and Heinz lunch with Newsom and Siebel

Sen. John Kerry and wife Teresa Heinz paid a visit to San Francisco City Hall Thursday, to lunch with Mayor Gavin Newsom and girlfriend, actress Jennifer Siebel.

Kerry and Heinze are on tour promoting their book: This Moment on Earth.

All three high-profilers arrived simultaneously at high-noon. Kerry and Heinze arrived by Toyota Prius hybrid.

Not needing to clear security, all three distinguished guests rode the elevator to Room 200, to be greeted by his lordship behind closed doors.

Jennifer Siebel, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, Sen. John Kerry and Mayor's Office of Communications Director Nathan Ballard alight outside the inner sanctum of the mayor's office.

Asked why the junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts was visiting City Hall, Kerry told Fog City: "A chance to catch up with the mayor, meet a little bit. We're old friends... talk about some of the things we can do to deal with environmental challenges."

Newsom just "horsing around"

The big laugh going around City Hall Thursday was the article posted on the DrudgeReport website referring to footage published by KGO Channel 7's I-Team, clearly showing Mayor Gavin Newsom doing something questionably suggestive with a KTVU Channel 2 microphone.

One tries to be fair in such circumstances, so Fog City asked Mayor's Office of Communications clean slater, Nathan Ballard, what he thought about the article, and what he thought the mayor intended by the gesture.

"I think it's ridiculous. Clearly the mayor was just horsing around," Ballard responded in earnest, without chuckling.

A legitimate question

Channel 7 I-Team gumshoe Dan Noyes was refused an answer by Mayor Gavin Newsom after Noyes asked Newsom a legitimate question concerning a Laguna Honda story Noyes has been reporting. The deliberate snub followed a press conference Wednesday during a time when reporters are permitted to pose general off-topic questions to our elected mayor.

Now there's been some rocky history between Noyes and Newsom. Noyes is a hard-hitting investigative journalist who has been a thorn in the Newsom administration's side, holding this administration to account with effect, and exposing matters of interest to the public.

In Noyes' defense, elected officials are obligated to provide an honest and truthful answer to any question posed by journalists. The fourth estate, after all, is an essential component of our democracy that functions to protect the public from abuse of powers, and to inform the public about important issues.

By not responding to Noyes' question, Newsom comes across as weak and incapable of handling tough questions. Are we to conclude that Newsom has something to hide, or that he lacks the skill to deal with reporters he perceives to be hostile?

Commenting on the issue, Nathan Ballard told Fog City: "The mayor is happy to talk to any reporter and any reporter from channel 7, but he has made clear on a number of occasions his views about Dan Noyes."

But, to use his own words, Newsom himself said on the same I-Team video footage, "someone needs to be held to account."

One wonders if Newsom really means what he preaches.

Assuming for a moment he means what he says, Newsom should not only be willing to answer legitimate questions from reporters, but also be more than willing to conform to the spirit of Proposition I, requiring the mayor of San Francisco to attend monthly Board of Supervisors meetings, to be held to account for his policies, as voters have asked, in open chambers.

Feinstein under corruption spotlight following resignation

Serious questions have been raised following the stepping down of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal) as chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction Appropriations.

According to news reports, Feinstein resigned her post last week while questions were being asked about billions of dollars in federal defense contracts going to her husband's companies.

Hubby Richard C. Blum is a majority owner in Perini Corp. and URS Corp., two companies that have been awarded favorable contracts while Feinstein was chair of the subcommittee.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Richard C. Blum

Public financial disclosure reports also suggest Feinstein increased her total networth from large investments in Perini Corp. and URS Corp.




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