Clear Channel loses a big one

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The San Francisco Board of Appeals did the right thing last week and blocked Clear Channel from using its corporate power to shake down small property owners. The board sided with Cheon Hool Lee, a retired Korean immigrant dentist who owns a building on Market Street, who lost a billboard because Clear Channel yanked it down when he demanded fair rent.

The legal issues were tricky, but the principle wasn't: The giant conglomerate was acting like the mob. It had to be stopped.

And yet, the Board of Supervisors, usually far more progressive than the Board of Appeals, went along with Clear Channel and gave the evil media barons a twenty -- that's 20 -- year contract to sell ads on bus shelters in the city. Only Ross Mirkarimi voted no.

I know it was a tough one for progressives -- somehow, Muni management, which wants the money from the bus shelters, convinced the union for the bus drivers to lobby for the contract. And I realize that the estimated $15 million a year Muni will get out of the deal isn't peanuts.

But I have to ask: How much is Clear Channel making? The company won't say. All we know is that the contract is very lucrative, because the media barons went to great lengths to get it. Which means the city could have built the shelters itself, brought in even more money for Muni, hired even more bus drivers ... and sent a message to Clear Channel.

Nope. DIdn't happen.