On Guard! - Page 3

Our perspective on the week's most notable San Francisco news

A city renedering of the new Union Square Station; can Muni build this without busting the budget?


The selection of Ed Lee as interim (or not-so-interim) mayor of San Francisco was one of those moments that left just about everyone dazed — how did a guy who wasn't even in town, who had shown no interest in the job, who had never held elective office, suddenly wind up in Room 200?

Well, former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who was going to nominate Sheriff Mike Hennessey and switched to providing the crucial sixth vote for Lee at the last minute, told us the story during his mayoral endorsement interview last week.

Remember: Lee, as recently as a few days earlier, had told people he didn't want to be mayor. "An hour before the meeting, Gavin (Newsom) called Michela (Alioto-Pier) and me into his office and said Ed Lee had changed his mind," Dufty told us. He walked out of the Mayor's Office uncommitted, he said, and even Newsom wasn't sure where Dufty would go.

After two rounds of voting, with Dufty abstaining, there were five votes for Lee. So Dufty asked for a recess and went back to talk to Newsom — where he was told that the mayor thought the reason the progressives were supporting Hennessey was that the sheriff had agreed to get rid of about 20 mayoral staffers — including Chief of Staff Steve Kawa, "who had engineered Ed Lee running."

So Kawa, with Newsom's help, preserved his job and power base. "It's all turnabout," Dufty said. "I figure Mike Hennessey's had a couple of beers and a couple of good times thinking about my vote. But that's politics." (Tim Redmond)



Friends and supporters of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were kept in a state of agonizing suspense over whether the two men, both 29, would be released from the Iranian prison where they've been held for more than two years following an ill-fated hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On Sept. 13, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated publicly that Bauer and Fattal could be freed "in a couple of days." The announcement brought hope for family and friends who, just weeks earlier, had absorbed the news that the men were sentenced to eight years in prison after an Iranian court found them guilty of committing espionage, a charge that the hikers, the United States government, religious leaders, and human rights advocates have characterized as completely baseless.

Reports followed that the Iranian judiciary would commute the hikers' sentences and release them in exchange for bail payments totaling $1 million. But by Sept. 16, when supporters gathered in San Francisco in hopes that of an imminent announcement, they were instead greeted with new delays.

The constantly shifting accounts hinted at internal strife within the Iranian government, and contributed to the sense that Bauer and Fattal were trapped as pawns in a power struggle. By Sept. 19, their Iranian lawyer remained in limbo, awaiting the signature of a judge who was scheduled to return from vacation Sept. 20.

"Shane and Josh's freedom means more to us than anything and it's a huge relief to read that they are going to be released," the hikers' families said in a statement Sept. 13. "We're grateful to everyone who has supported us and looking forward to our reunion with Shane and Josh. We hope to say more when they are finally back in our arms." (Rebecca Bowe)