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As Usual

Nov
5
2003

Just in time to get us in the right mood for the election — that thing last night was the Lefty Primary — Matt Smith makes the intelligent case in favor of Chris Daly’s guerrilla Public Utilities Commission appointments.
It’s not the argument the Guardian makes. Instead, Smith takes us “finger waggers” to task for failing to appreciate Supervisor Daly’s frustration with Mayor Willie Brown’s self-serving politics. Smith is right. Brown has used City Hall as a private playground, piggy bank, and social service program for the past eight years. And he hasn’t been subtle about it.
But if the rumors about Daly doing Aaron Peskin’s bidding are true — and an awful lot of people in and around City Hall seem to think they are — then Daly hasn’t done anything very different from what Brown is accused of doing. Peskin’s business is water and the PUC is all about water. Having someone like Adam Werbach on the commission might be good for Peskin.
Smith makes another good point: Chris Daly, Matt Gonzalez, and Aaron Peskin have all done a lot to stop the kind of machine corruption that’s made the Brown Administration the envy of payola lords everywhere. They haven’t made much progress in part because of Brown’s political skill. That, of course, makes their frustration — their little bits of guerrilla theater — that much more bombastic.
But style is part of politics. And more and more, the screaming and yelling the flat out rudeness that passes for public discourse from San Francisco to Washington — at all levels, in almost every discussion — has become self-defeating. Daly and Gonzalez in particularly like to take sledgehammers to problems that just aren’t that big. Holding a sit in over a parking garage then yelling at police officers — that was a Daly trick. Making fun of Tom Ammiano — that was Matt Gonzalez. Taking a stab at stripping down the Equal Benefits Ordinance’s power over non-profits (non-profits like, say housing advocates maybe or environmental groups?). That was Daly and Gonzalez. Their style isn’t the Brioni smoothness favored by Da Mayor and well, that’s one reason they resort to theatrics. It’s a vicious cycle. It needs to be broken.
San Francisco isn’t that big. And the fights that the city’s Democrats and other assorted liberals have are often, as the case with the PUC appointments, procedural. Sometimes, they’re over city management issues. Sometimes they’re issues of style. But they’re rarely the Liberal v. Conservative, Progressive v. Reactive bloodbaths that call for the kind of speechifying and stand-up dramatics that made politics so much fun when, oh, lives were at stake. At heart, San Francisco a the tolerant Liberal-leaning village, a sophisticated small town. And if it’s going to stay this way, the rhetoric has just got to come down a notch.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 4:11 PM | Permalink

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