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Friday Fishwrap

Posted: 12/09/11 01:45 PM ET

Well, it certainly has been an interesting week here in the 49-acre woods. As everyone in the country knows by now, we have been dealing with a certain nefarious group of infiltrators who have tried to occupy our city in strange and fascinating ways.

Yes, this group has been busy having meetings, pondering and cogitating among themselves, making broad proclamations and trying everything they can to insert themselves into conversations where they have no business being. And in doing so, they have proven themselves completely tone deaf to those of us working stiffs who wake up every morning hoping that today this wonderful little city of ours will start turning things around.

Nope, not talking about Occupy San Francisco... again. I am talking about none other than that proud civic institution, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Or, as I have decided to call them, OCH (Occupy City Hall).

Now granted, I am painting in rather broad strokes. And I will confess to a little bit of hyperbole, which all of you know I am prone to do. However, the action over the last several weeks has reached a point where I have to pull out the old lance and start tilting at windmills.

Let's set the stage, shall we? First off, there is the budget. Apparently, we should all be happy these days because we were told this week that the shortfall is less than originally stated. This is good in a "the plane isn't diving into the ground as fast as assumed" way, but let's agree we are still going to auger into a financial cornfield at some point.

Then there are our lovely streets, those pothole-strewn obstacle courses that we have to navigate every day. We are going to fix those not with money from our city's General Fund, but with another of San Francisco's famous bond measures. And we have our schools, which we are going to prop up with the latest in a never-ending conga line of... wait for it... bond measures. There is nothing that we will not put on a credit card it seems these days.

We have a Presidio that still needs to figure out how to become profitable, restaurants that face a new piece of legislation every other day, and homeless people that seem to outnumber any other constituency in the town. In other words, there is a lot of actual work that needs to be done right now.

Which brings us back to OCH. Oops, sorry, the Board of Supervisors. How have they spent their fall? Well, they have declared war on plastic bags. They watched their war on Happy Meals get blown to pieces. They even declared war on war, announcing that we in San Francisco are against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For I think the twenty-seventh time ...maybe twenty-eighth.

You didn't know that we looked to OCH to spend their time convening and conversing about national and international issues? Then you have not been paying attention. They also decided that they oppose the Federal "Super Committee" Farm Bill Process, which came as a relief to all the farm operators here in the 415. They also, after much deliberation, expressed their concern over federal cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

Not that they have not been keeping their collective eye on the ball here in our own backyard. They oppose the sale of certain mouse and rat poisons. They contemplated an incentive program to give credits to businesses that hire ex-felons. And then there is my personal favorite, a motion recommending a Russian language multi-offender driving under influence program. And no, I have no idea what that last one means either. Maybe it makes more sense in Russian.

What gives? I blame a couple dynamics, but I think I see a corollary here. Years ago, I worked in advertising. We had one client that had a very weird dynamic. The product marketing folks we worked with were very smart. They knew their market, their competition, and their audience. And the company's founders were true Silicon Valley visionaries.

Then there was the group in the middle. That gummy, blobby bunch of middle managers. Every time we had to get an advertising campaign past these folks, it was like pushing through quicksand. One day, we expressed our frustration with one of the product managers. He smiled at us knowingly. "You know how you survive as a middle manager in this company?" he said. "You survive not by making the right decisions, but by making sure you don't make the wrong decisions."

Sound familiar? Russian DUIs are not going to get you in trouble. Taking a stand on bonds will. When you are busy passing resolutions about national and international issues, then you aren't taking a chance with your own political fate. What is to blame for this? Maybe it's the need for politicians in general these days to "play to the edges." Find that rabid little group that will support you, spoon-feed them just enough issues to keep them on your side, and punt on the rest. Heck, with district elections it's a great little strategy.

But it doesn't help the city at large. It doesn't help the big issues that are facing us all. Sometimes you need to rise above your constituency and become that visionary leader. Otherwise, all we are left with is a gummy, blobby bunch of middle managers, hiding in their tents, occupying city hall.

 

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