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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Newsom Resign-O-Rama Continues -- Is it Business as Usual or Beginning of End?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 2:29 PM

click to enlarge So long, Mr. Ryan...
  • So long, Mr. Ryan...
With today's announcement of the departure of Kevin Ryan, the head of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, Gavin Newsom passed an important pinnacle. His right-hand men and women have now quit more times than Brett Favre. It took a while, but Newsom caught up.

On a serious note, Ryan's departure comes one day after that of spokesman Nathan Ballard, and on the heels of a number of key members of Team Newsom bidding adieu.

Whether or not this is business as usual or the prelude to more bizarre behavior by the mayor is a matter of opinion; while longtime consultant Jack Davis couldn't think of another San Francisco mayor who suffered such a bevy of resignations at this point in his tenure, fellow consultant Alex Clemens noted that "People move on in politics -- this is not a Japanese salaryman profession where the first job you get is what you retire from."

That's certainly true; political apparatchiks move from job to job with the abandon of assistant football coaches. Still, the glut of high-profile figures resigning from Newsom's campaign while the mayor's political prospects fade and his behavior sinks past eccentric to legitimately strange is difficult to rule out as irrelevant -- no matter how many departing officials assure the media that this was in the works for months, that the mayor is a great man doing a great job, and they want to spend so much more precious time with their families.

"I don't know anymore what's going on in there and I don't think anybody knows what's going on in there," says consultant David Latterman. "Is this the shedding of skin and Newsom will emerge as a phoenix and rise above City Hall and shine a light on us all? Or do people see a defeated Newsom not doing his job and say 'I'm out of here'?"

Whatever the case, the current situation has grown stale.

"It's not funny anymore," continues Latterman. "We pundits and press, we've gotten on Newsom's ass about not spending a lot of time in office and running for governor. There's been some snark to all this. But I don't think people see this as amusing anymore. The snark is starting to disappear and people are starting to be really distressed."

Jim Ross, a consultant who ran Newsom's first campaign for mayor, agreed with Clemens that people come and people go in the world of politics. But when people tend to go -- and go and go -- and the mayor's plans are as clear as a pint of Guinness -- well, then you've got problems.

"The issue isn't that people are coming and going. It's the lack of public vision out of the mayor's office," says Ross. "For the last several weeks, Newsom has behaved unlike any mayor in recent San Francisco history. Also, he's the first mayor where I couldn't tell you what he was trying to accomplish. Willie Brown was always trying to build something, to cut a deal and get something built. Frank Jordan -- a one-term mayor -- was always all about the economy and public safety. Right now, I challenge anybody to tell me what Gavin is trying to achieve as mayor of San Francisco."

And yet, more than one interviewee said that it wouldn't be proper to claim the departure of Ryan is the bellwether for Newsom's governance; it'd be a challenge for 99 percent of the city to explain what, exactly, Ryan did. But not for Quentin Kopp.

"Ha, ha! Jesus!" exclaimed former supervisor and state senator Kopp when informed Ryan had left Newsom's office. "Well, it was a make-work job anyway. I don't know what the hell Kevin was in that for anyway."

Kopp sighed. "Newsom had a hell of a career. And then it collapsed."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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