Saturday, January 07, 2006

Willie Brown: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Granted that the Willie Brown years were a mixed bag for San Francisco, especially his failure on the homeless issue and his aggressive pro-development policies. Brown is what I call a Development Democrat: Keep your constituents---especially the unions---happy by building a lot of stuff, which provides jobs and money to keep the political machine well-oiled, regardless of any impact on the neighborhoods. On the other hand, there were some great things accomplished during the Brown years: the wonderful remodeling job on the Ferry Building, the rehabilitation of Union Square, the excellent new baseball stadium, and the completion of the fine restoration job on City Hall. It's not clear how much credit Brown can take for these triumphs, but they all happened on his watch, and they all make the city a much better place.

But all the snickering about corruption and favoritism under Brown's regime has become commonplace in SF. Matt Smith in the SF Weekly:

During Brown's 15-year career as all-knowing-all-controlling Assembly speaker, systematic capitol shakedowns became so rife that FBI agents launched an undercover sting operation, ensnaring lesser pols and leaving Brown unscathed. As S.F. mayor Willie again systematically funneled public funds to political friends. FBI agents crawled over San Francisco, carting away underlings and getting nothing on Brown. That one needed to be a Willie Brown crony of one sort or another in order to feed at the S.F. government trough, however, was well established by investigative documents and news reports. ("Keep it Really Real," SF Weekly, Dec. 28-Jan. 3)

Bullshit! If Brown's transgressions were so "well-established," why has he never been busted for anything? Why wasn't Brown "ensnared" by a sting like "lesser pols"? Because there is no evidence that Brown ever broke any laws. Smith certainly adds nothing substantive to verify the myth of Brown's corruption. The truth is that Brown played by the rules and the laws that everyone else played by. Accusing him of being a crook just because he did it a lot better than anyone else is sloppy journalism.

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"Dispensaries" and "Medicine" for "Patients"

Supervisor Mirkarimi deserves credit for carrying the recent ordinance to regulate the city's 34 marijuana clubs for the first time, even though Proposition 215, the medical marijuana measure, passed in California way back in 1996. The December issue of the Haight Ashbury Beat has a front-page story ("All Haight Cannabis Dispensaries Expected to Stay Open Under New Rules," Alex Dixon) using the current jargon that progressives favor when discussing the issue: The pot clubs are "cannabis dispensaries," pot is "medicine," and club members/card holders are "patients." You don't have to accept Arthur Evans's terminology---that the clubs are "drug dealers"---to find the euphemistic terminology a little tiresome. Even more tiresome is the pretense that allowing the clubs' customers/"patients" to buy an ounce a day is somehow a reasonable compromise from the half-pound an earlier draft of the ordinance allowed. No matter how sick you are or what the nature of your ailment is, no one really needs an ounce of marijuana a day---or even a week. The heaviest pot smoker I know smokes about an ounce a month, a staggering amount, considering the potency of contemporary marijuana. This stuff is a far cry from the Mexican weed we smoked in the Sixties, most of which was seeds and stems anyhow. Anyone who is coming in every day to buy an ounce is probably re-selling it. Hence, Arthur Evans is right---or at least half right---when he calls the pot clubs "drug dealers," since they are evidently enabling a lot of small-time drug dealing.

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