What do Barstow, Cotati, Dublin, Dunsmuir, Monrovia, Richmond, Santa Maria, and Santa Rosa have in common, besides all being in California? In the first few months of this year, they have each carried out a method of cronyism that I call the Ooze and Cruise Method. How does it work? Simple. 1. If you have always wanted to be a member of your city council, suck up to a current member. 2. Get appointed to a planning commission or design review board. Hang around and wait for an opening to appear on the city council. 3. Ooze into the vacant seat by being appointed by other members, even though you have never run for office. 4. Cruise into the office in the next election because you are now an incumbent, and have a definite advantage.
When you get down to it, we pay our elected officials to deliver one product, and one product only. Decisions. We trust them to make the big, agonizing decisions, like “Should we nuke Japan to end WWII, or invade instead?” History has revered Harry Truman for that courageous decision ever since. Tragic as it was for the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it saved millions of American and Japanese lives that would have certainly been lost in a brutal land war. Of course, most leaders never have to make decisions with such profound consequences. In a typical city, we pay our elected officials to make decisions about things that are just too annoying to think about. Like which landscaping service to hire, which zoning ordinance to update, or which pothole to fill last.
Takoma Park, MD, a city of 17,000 in Joe Biden’s home state, has voted to lower the voting age for city elections to 16.
Note: This is the column that got me fired as an irregular columnist for a local newspaper, before it even ran.
What could be better than spending three hours on Tuesday night at a City of Cotati Strategic Planning Study Session? Spending two hours. Actually, 10 minutes would have been even better, because that was the amount of time that involved either strategies, or the study thereof.
On this particular evening, there were 11 people from city government, and three citizens in the peanut gallery. The 11 included the mayor, vice mayor, three councilmembers, the city manager, assistant city manager, the police chief, economic development director, administrative services director, and director of public works.
The other day, I was donating a box of books to the Rohnert Park Library. Half of them were Lee Child/Jack Reacher novels, which any library is glad to see, and the other half were books by Dick Morris, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. To my surprise, no alarms went off when these right-wing volumes crossed the threshold, and the walls remained standing as I left the building.
Before 2007, San Francisco was blissfully going to the dogs. Gavin Newsom, arguably the worst mayor in the city’s history, was still trying to heal all the world’s injustices, from discrimination against same-sex couples to climate change, while cheerfully neglecting the problems immediately beneath his nose: a Muni without clocks, a pox of potholes, a horde of aggressive panhandlers, and the needle-strewn waste that Golden Gate Park was becoming.
Then the coyotes came.
They look innocent enough; tiny little fenced-in decks outside Italian cafes, yogurt shops, and falafel parlors, where San Franciscans sip fair trade espressos and chai lattes while they inhale the heady aroma of Mini, Fiat 500 and Vespa exhausts and watch Priuses glide by on battery power, silent as golf carts.
For some cities, the path to a healthy economic future has its share of obstacles. In Petaluma, CA, on May 27, 2011, the largest obstacle was Mayor David Glass himself, reportedly trespassing on a field owned by a developer who plans to build a shopping center anchored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. The developer, Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco, sent a formal complaint letter to the Petaluma City Council, City Manager and City Attorney. The company also filed a police report on the incident.
I was amused by a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle stating that former porn star/current performance artist Annie Sprinkle and her wife, Elizabeth Stephens, Chair of the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz, conducted an event in San Francisco called the EcoSex Symposium. According to Stephens, she and Sprinkle have married the moon, the sky, the ocean, the Appalachian Mountains and the snow in a series of nudist-friendly weddings that demonstrate their new gender identity as Ecosexuals. In August, they travel to Gijon, Spain, where they plan to marry coal.
In San Francisco, there’s a ballot proposal that comes from so far out of left field that even Anthony Weiner wouldn’t support it. In fact, judging from recent photographs, the Big Dog might be one of its most vocal opponents if he didn’t otherwise have his hands full.This from a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle: By law, since more than 7,700 signatures were collected, a proposal to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco will be on the ballot this November. Initiatives must have at least 7,168 names to qualify.