Breakfast At Willie’s

root - Posted on 14 July 2003

New California Media sponsors a breakfast with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to address the 'State of the City'

by Tiny/PoorNewsNetwork

The room was light - sort of light and fluffy like one of the brightly
colored donuts neatly piled on a side table along with juice and coffee. As
a member of The New California Media (NCM) I was invited to a very odd
breakfast - a newsmaker briefing and breakfast with Willie Brown sponsored
by New California Media - I had originally had a lot of reticence about
going to the conference at all due to the way I have seen Mayor Brown
handle issues related to racist and classist police policies, housing,
homelessness, and specifically his role in the gentrification of San
Francisco and its impact on communities of color and poor folks. But I
agreed in the spirit of journalism to be a part of the process of making

My next red flag came in the form of an email by MCM representative
Michael Lee as he required that the mayor preview the questions from the
press in attendance, "you know just to get a sense...." I relented and shot
off two questions via email - my first one being one of my most important:
Will Mayor Brown urge his police chief to reopen any of the many cases of
Police brutality in San Francisco against disabled folks and poor folks of
color such as Idriss Stelly and Joseph Tims
- I heard no response to my
questions and they didn't bar me from the door, so here i sat watching
donuts and letting the sun dance on my shoulders through the broad windows
that surrounded the NCM conference room.

"So we are here today with Mayor Brown because polls show that..." The NCM host began the introduction at exactly 9:00 am with a series of statistics
about the increase in media by communities of color in California as well
the readership by communities of color, I wondered as he spoke if in fact
he would touch on the statement listed on the original press release put
out by MCM stating that There is an enormous demand in San Francisco’s communities from
the mayor on racism, discrimination, budget cuts etc.
He did not instead keeping everything rather general and closing with a gentle reminder to all of us that “this was the Mayors birthday – so please start you comments with a Happy Birthday” and then introducing Mayor Brown, "We will start with a brief presentation by The
Mayor on the State of the City.."

" The State of the city is challenged like all cities across the nation -
currently our budget is dealing with a 340 Million deficit - this is a
challenge because people never believe the government when the government
says how much in the red it is.." Mayor Brown began a 10 minute speech
about the budget and its ills and concluded with a very sad story about a
woman who called him up at 6:00 am and complained that several disabled
people hired by Independent Living Resource Center(ILRC) from a city grant
were being laid off due to budget cuts and that he personally attended
these people's graduation- could he please do something about this
situation - he remarked that he tried to make her understand but in the end
she hung up on him..people just don't understand" I wondered if they would
understand a little better if the police and fire depts or the mayors
personal assistants would be affected like this poor woman’s disabled
low-income friends

Notwithstanding my controversial questions I was chosen second to speak, "I
repeated my questions about Idriss STelly and other disabled and poor people
of color harassed and beat down by the SFPD,

"Well I don't know about either of those two cases, but I ( and i then i
screamed inside for all the pain of disabled and poor folks in this city who
have been at the other end of a racist, classist, disablist cops' gun and
all the tears and sorrow shed for Idriss STelly in this city and all the
rallies and actions and media that POOR Magazine, DAMO, (Leroy Moore) The
SF Bayview, KPFA, BayArea Police Watch and indymedia did on the steps of
City Hall in SF done in the name of Idriss and all of his beat down
harassed and attacked brothers and sisters of color and i tried to listen
and i tried to keep writing and i tried to stay still in my seat and i
tried to breathe..." But I will make sure that anyone I hire will in fact
be a qualified person who will lead in qualified way and of course we have
established the OCC to do just what you are saying and that is why they are
there .."

Kevin Weston from Pacific News Service was called on next, " Mayor Brown what
legacy will you leave black folks in this city what will you say that you
have done for Black people" My sad ears perked up as i heard his question,
yea what will you do i thought.

"Well I feel responsible for bringing African American's into SF city
government in particular, notwithstanding all the screaming by activists
and progressives I brought Jerrold Green in to lead the San Francisco
Planning Department who is a fine example of a great leader. Later that day
I spoke to Antonio Diaz from PODER - who stated calmly, " Jerrold Green is
a Brown Appointee, need I say more," When i pressed on he added, " even
though he is African American, he is all to willing to bend to the will of
big developers in this city which is counter to any of the needs of very
low-income communities of color trying to live in this city"

Mayor Brown went on to add that he was responsible for tearing down the
unsightly public housing in this city and building real housing" Once again
as a poor person who has lived in public housing and in lived in no housing
- public housing was better - who took part in the fight to get Housing
Authority in SF to release the vacant perfectly good units in Sunnyvale to
all the poor, houseless families who are stuck in unsightly, uninhabitable
shelters with bug infestations I was incredulous and shocked - he is
actually proud of that -

"I was also so thrilled to be part of a group photo of all the people of
color who are in City Government" , I tuned back in to Mayor Brown who was
now going on and on about how he was part of a group photo that was of at
least 400 people and that he was so proud so he had it "blown up and put
right in the center of his main office for Black History Month" I small
smile crossed my face at this point as I thought -i wondered if he also
turned the photo into a t-shirt so then i could get one and say i came to
Mayor Brown for truth and justice and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

There were a few more questions about the war and his feelings about the
protestors, to which he responded, "I'm just as anti-war as the next guy ,
but I don't agree with shutting down the city - banks were closed -
businesses lost money - and these aren't even San Franciscans - that makes
no sense.."

finally, they came around a second time, I raised my hand I was in a
dilemma i wanted to ask about the implementation of harassment cloaked in
the guise of Homeland Security which is hitting alot of activists locally
and nationally such as the SF Bayview and POOR but I couldn't let his
egregious housing comment just float into thin air without being challenged

" I need some clarification - can you please comment on the fact that in
this city over 40,000 black folks have left and a countless number of those
folks lived in public housing that was torn down with no replacement housing
just a section 8 voucher in an impossible housing market- are you saying
there is no connection"

"well I don't believe that those are that closely connected and in all the
cases it was well worth the wait - from someone who lived in The Hayes
Valley Housing Projects several years ago I can say it was well worth the
Sacrifice - now of course I am sorry that we don't have some replacement
Housing in place for people but the progressive and activist community just won't let that happen"

I tried to raise my hand again to ask him if he was sure he wanted to go on
record as not knowing of The Idriss Stelly case but the veneer of corporate
kindness was a lock on the room and before I knew it we were being pushed
into a happy Mayor Brown group photo - i overheard another agressive media
maker from PNS ask him privately who he would be supporting for Mayor and
he replied " "Gavin Newsome"

"why?" the man asked, pushing further -

"well, Mayor Brown paused to smile for the camera, " because I appointed
him- he is a friend - he's my man.... "

The cameras flashed. Breakfast was over. I went to breakfast with the mayor
and all I got was this silly photo......


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