The bad old days - Page 4

45TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Looking through the past 45 years of Guardian coverage of City Hall corruption brings to mind the upcoming election

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This 1971 Guardian cartoon by Dan O'Neill still captures the spirit of a machine-controlled City Hall

Of course, the Chronicle, which he helped immensely when Hearst Corp. bought the paper and had trouble with federal regulators, has helped Brown by giving him a column that created a new, sanitized persona.

But the important thing about the Brown administration was not so much who was in charge but who benefited. The landlords, the developers, the big corporations got pretty much what they wanted from City Hall. The rest of us got screwed.

And now those same interests — in some cases, the exact same people — who supported, promoted and worked with Willie Brown are backing Lee for mayor. If they thought he was going to be an independent progressive, that money and support wouldn't be coming in. There are people who miss the machine days — and if they think Ed Lee is their guy, it's reason to worry.

Corruption matters. When people lose faith in local government because they see the kind of sleaze that was daily business under Brown, then they stop wanting to pay taxes for public services. After all, the mayor is wasting our money already. Lee may be a decent guy — but some of the people he hangs out with, some of the people who are supporting him, have a long and very unpleasant history in this town. And all the time he was sitting there at City Hall, while Brown was running a corrupt operation that did lasting damage, Lee never raised a public finger in protest. I hate to see all the history forgotten when people decide who to support for mayor in November, 2011.