By Steven T. Jones
Newsom, with another new chick
I didn't have high expectations of Mayor Gavin Newsom's "town hall meeting" in the Richmond this morning -- and I was still disappointed. What he had billed as an alternative to monthly policy discussions with the Board of Supervisors during its regular meeting in City Hall -- which voters had asked by approving Proposition I in November -- was instead ridiculous political theater on his signature issue: homelessness. As we said he would in our cover story, "Mayor Chicken," Newsom brought along a cadre a city employees and political appointees who work on the issue and they all hit their cues and sang the mayor's praises while he did his Phil Donahue shtick.
The first hour passed without taking any questions, which the audience had to submit in writing on cards. During the second hour, Newsom sorted through the stack of hundreds for the questions he liked and then asked them in his own words of his employees and panelists. After two hours, they had discussed homelessness from every possible angle and covered every detail -- and the audience was bored to tears. It was deadly dull, except for how frustrating it was. He refused to answer any questions on other topics, and while I chided him on his way out for failing to chose anything but softball questions, he had the gall to criticize the Board of Supervisors for failing to come, an angle that his press secretary Peter Ragone has also been flogging for weeks, convincing absolutely nobody.
The only bright spot in the event were the five people dressed in chicken suits who showed up, who Newsom's board liasion Wade Crowfoot tried to prevent from entering the public building unless they removed them, which they refused to do. It was a good thing they did because the only saving grace of this whole fiasco was watching Newsom get handed a written question (that he never answered) and pretend not to notice the guy was in a chicken suit. The chickens remained respectful through the whole event (not clucking or heckling), but would pop up in windows occasionally or just walk around. Hilarious!
If you think I'm overstating what a joke this forum was -- or if you want to hear Newsom and others (like Angela Alioto, who disgraced herself by sucking up to the mayor) blather on .... click the link at the top of this blog entry. Some buried treasures in the depths of this recording are my heated discussion with Ragone about halfway through and the tough question that I asked (I'm the somebody referred to in Beyond Chron) of those frustrated by the event: Is this a filibuster or an infomercial?
Pics courtesy of Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal