Editor’s Notes

Pub date January 9, 2008
WriterTim Redmond

› tredmond@sfbg.com

My brother called me from the East Coast over the weekend to ask if I was still alive and my house still standing. He’d been watching CNN, which apparently was showing nonstop reports of terrible storm carnage in Northern California, complete with breathless voice-overs talking about hurricane-force winds.

"Yeah," I told him. "It rained."

It was windy too. Some trees came down, my roof leaked a little, and some people who built houses on unstable hillsides learned what happens to unstable hillsides when it rains. None of this is terribly unusual or strange. It’s just that people in San Francisco aren’t used to living in a world where there’s actual weather. You’d think a place that could be shaken into dusty wreckage any minute by the inevitable earthquake would be a little less freaked about precipitation.

Still, I found a bit of a lesson here.

Just hours after the storm broke, while the bold and adventurous tech pioneers of Google were still huddled in their homes and afraid to go to work, the San Francisco Department of Public Works had crews on the streets clearing fallen trees. The response was stunningly efficient — the stuff that couldn’t be chopped up right away was hauled off to the side so cars could get through. By that evening the worst of the fallen timber was corralled and being cut up with chain saws. It’s fun to talk about the lazy, inefficient public sector, but frankly, the DPW did its job.

And 36 hours later, the efficient, private utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., still couldn’t get the power back on along Third Street.

We got a press release Friday from the Democratic Leadership Council, which runs the Bill Clinton wing of the party and has long supported Democrats who hew to the center-right. The DLC folks call these hawkish neocons "new Democrats." And according to their Jan. 4 statement, the "New Democrat of the Week" was … San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom got the award for "his continued commitment to reducing his city’s carbon footprint," which is fine and lovely. But it came the same week he announced, in a very DLC style, that he was bringing Kevin Ryan, the former United States attorney, on board as the head of his criminal justice council.

Ryan’s a right-wing prosecutor, a George W. Bush appointee who was in charge of the witch hunt and persecution that sent videographer Josh Wolf to jail for 226 days. Why, exactly, is a guy who has no respect for the First Amendment working for the mayor of San Francisco?

Newsom’s big plans to shake up his administration seem to amount to firing Public Utilities Commission general manager Susan Leal (who can’t be fired right now because she’s on job-related disability) and replacing her with controller Ed Harrington. Leal had to go because she might run for mayor in four years against whomever Newsom and chief consultant Eric Jaye handpick (Assessor Phil Ting seems to be the choice right now) and because, as Sup. Bevan Dufty put it, "PG&E was not happy about her."

Sounds like an award-winning strategy to me.

PS Our predatory-pricing case against the SF Weekly and its parent company goes to trial Jan. 14 in San Francisco Superior Court with Judge Marla Miller presiding.