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Dog Bites 

Board of Supervisors; Population Growth; Dot-com Layoffs

Wednesday, Jan 10 2001
The Changing of the Guard

Goodness, but City Hall was festive Monday. Dog Bites, who'd arrived a couple of hours early in hopes of securing a seat for the inaugural meeting of the new Board of Supervisors, strolled the halls, watching a maintenance worker take a screwdriver to the lock on Tony Hall's door; a few yards away, you could tell which was Aaron Peskin's office by the crowd of excited people bearing covered dishes. We made a mental note to drop by later; Peskin always has the best food.

A bouquet of congratulatory flowers sat outside Jake McGoldrick's office, while around the corner Matt Gonzalez and Gerardo Sandoval were chatting. "I lucked out," said Sandoval, who'd drawn one of the best of the supervisors' offices.

"I was really shocked to see my own name on a door, but just to see Chris Daly's name on a door -- wow, that's really fucking cool," said Gonzalez a little later, as everyone waited for the swearing-in ceremony to begin.

The overflow crowd in the chambers -- which had been decorated for the occasion with large arrangements of calla lilies and pink hydrangea and pots of cyclamen on the supervisors' desks -- seemed to think it was really fucking cool too, cheering and whistling as the new supervisors' names were read aloud by Board Clerk Gloria Young. District 3's Peskin and District 11's Sandoval got the loudest applause, and a sustained standing ovation followed the completion of the list.

Not everyone present was quite so thrilled. Mayor Willie Brown sat behind the rostrum, his legs crossed, a finger resting against his cheek, unsmiling -- in fact, his expression distinctly reminiscent of the one worn by our cat when things haven't gone his way.

Further business completed, it was time to elect the president of the board. Daly rose to nominate -- surprise! -- Tom Ammiano, and was quickly followed by McGoldrick, who seconded the nomination.

"Seconds aren't necessary for nomination," explained Young.

McGoldrick rose again. "I'd like to third that nomination," he said, to general laughter.

Acclaimed as board president, Ammiano ascended to the rostrum and introduced Brown, who kept his remarks brief, emphasizing that the city welcomes "newcomers" and "new businesses." There were a few hisses from the public gallery when he asserted he was looking forward to a cooperative relationship with the board. "The door of the mayor's office remains open," said Brown.

Then the love-in continued as the new board members introduced themselves, their families (in Tony Hall's case this took quite some time -- "I mean, did he bring the entire Sunset, or what?" a friend asked us), their supporters, and, as Ammiano later observed, their rhetorical styles.

"I'm the only woman, so I'm going to pump up," said Sophie Maxwell, to laughter and applause. "I'm going to look big. I'm going to look strong."

Peskin described his district as the "living room of the city"; Sandoval, already making an impassioned case for district-specific budgets, said, "Aaron, your district may be the living room of the city, but we're the factory of the city."

Several of the new supervisors, along with Ammiano, said the city must end the displacement of longtime residents by wealthy newcomers; Dog Bites wondered whether the wealthy newcomers are themselves soon to be displaced -- not, of course, by further gentrification, but by the NASDAQ. But the board has its mandate.

"We're going to have a great year," said Ammiano. "And guess what we're going to do? We're going to legislate, because that's our duty."

Damned Lies and Statistics

So the news situation is picking up, but we're still a little off-balance: We don't have a new calendar yet.

Now, doubtless there are many well-adjusted people for whom the purchase of a wall calendar is not a decision fraught with terrifying potential for aesthetic missteps. But Dog Bites feels a calendar must be completely enjoyable for a full 12 months: An April of Big Sur does not compensate for an October spent in the company of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. And there is no excuse for Anne Geddes -- now, ever, or next December.

Meanwhile, we struggle along, uncertain whether next Thursday is the 21st -- wait, that doesn't seem right -- and doubtless making all sorts of promises we'll find ourselves unable to keep. But at least we're not alone in being, um, out of date. One reader, who probably should remain anonymous but whose name is Paul, called to complain about the "Welcome to San Francisco" signs at major entrances to the city. Paul is disgruntled because the city hasn't updated the official population total given on those signs; in fact, he's so disgruntled that he's threatening to do a little updating on his own, maybe at 3 a.m., maybe with some Wite-Out.

When Dog Bites expressed concern that Wite-Out might not be rainproof, Paul said he could always try white paint, but that the main point is the official total (719,000-some-odd) is obviously wrong, given the fact the city is patently more crowded now than it was in 1990, when the numbers were last updated. "I'm thinking I'll make it either 819,000 or 919,000," he confided. "Nine hundred nineteen thousand would probably be an exaggeration, but that would actually help me make my point. Besides, it's probably easier to turn the seven into a nine than an eight."

Ah, political expediency. Anyway, concerned about Paul's safety -- God knows we can't afford to lose a reader -- we asked if he'd tried going through official channels. He hadn't, so Dog Bites called Caltrans spokesperson Jeff Weiss, who checked into the question and told us the Highways Department ordinarily updates those "Welcome to (Name of City Here)" signs every five years, at the request of the city. "We don't replace the entire sign," he explained. "We just put a cover plate over the census numbers."

But San Francisco hasn't asked Caltrans to change the numbers because official 2000 San Francisco population figures aren't yet available. Dang Pham, director of the city's census office, said the city probably won't get the new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau until April, so Paul, disgruntled as he is, will be looking at the 1990 figures for a while, because the request to Caltrans won't be made immediately either. "The Board of Supervisors has to authorize it first," explained Pham.

Still, things could be worse. "Roland, our sign guy, was saying some towns never ask us to change the numbers," Caltrans' Weiss told us. When we expressed surprise, Weiss confided that some towns are more concerned with image maintenance than with accuracy. "Certain cities, for whatever reason, might not want to show population growth," he said.

Fit to Print

Not surprisingly, everyone keeps e-mailing us with the latest errors from the Fangxaminer; we especially enjoyed the one Jeff Carlock spotted in the Sunday Magazine section story on butterflies: "But it has vanished from the rest of its former range which once included (what other parts of the region?)."

Mm-hm. And we're a little disconcerted by the necrophiliac quality of the new F-Ex column by one-time Herb Caen contributor P.J. Corkery; imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but -- the logo too?

Meanwhile, wasn't it Wilfrid Sheed who said that urination was the sincerest form of criticism? Actually, maybe that wasn't quite it. At any rate, Keri Siry writes, "The other day, my husband and I were walking our cute little dog Samson and we noticed that he was peeing on a newspaper stand! We rushed to scold him when we noticed it was only that stupid Chronicle PM "paper,' which quickly led to a "Goo-ood boy!'"

Help Wanted

Our acquaintances keep swearing they know ex-dot-commers who are even now loading their Pottery Barn entertainment armoires into U-Hauls and shaking San Francisco's dust from their Kenneth Cole boots, so perhaps the city's as-yet-unreleased census numbers are already more out of date than anyone suspects.

We were interested in this note from the field. "Just wanted to report a very Dog Bites-like moment I experienced at the corner of 16th and Valencia last night," writes Ingrid Nelson. "A gaggle of ten or 12 young dot-commer types was traipsing past me in their Banana Republic finest, when a guy approached them selling Street Sheets. One woman in that ubiquitous career-gal uniform (French blue blouse with three-quarter sleeves, straight knee-length black skirt) told him, "Sorry, we all just got laid off yesterday -- none of us has any money!' They all laughed and headed on, presumably to drown their sorrows at a bar."

Well, as it happens, Wired editor-at-large and Long Boom -- you know, as in the stock market will soar indefinitely -- prophet Kevin Kelly is looking for a personal assistant, if that's any help to anyone. "Right now I am about to embark on writing a book, but I have no idea what the book is about," wrote Kelly in a job description posted on Craig's List. "My chief need is a fantastic researcher, a super sleuth, an I-won't-rest-until-I-find-it person, yet a person comfortable with uncertainty, whose mission in life is to bring order where there is little, and organization where there is chaos. ... If you respond to this ad, please be sure to impress me with some tidbit you found out about me that would require some digging yet is in the public, like my mother's maiden name (always good for breaking into bank accounts!). We're talking going way beyond the top list in Google."

Out-of-work dot-commers: E-mail us if you think the tax assessor's current valuation of Kelly's house will get you the job.

Meanwhile, at other organs of the digital revolution, things are looking a little bleak. "Ah, the pamphlet of the Internet economy," observed fellow SF Weekly writer Mark Athitakis, picking up this week's 96-page edition of the Industry Standard; the magazine laid off 36 staffers Monday.

No, Dog Bites is not gloating; the record will show we've already made the profound observation that bad economic times, well, suck. However, if the troubles faced by these publications result in anyone learning any lesson at all, please, please, please let it be that the reading public doesn't want to see pudgy middle-aged guys in suits trying to look studly on magazine covers. Now might also be a good time to point out that the whole businessman-as-celebrity trend is remarkably pathetic; further, we don't know about other people, but we think we could do without a headline like "George Boutros Likes It Rough" over a story about some guy in mergers and acquisitions at Credit Suisse First Boston. And anyway, mergers and acquisitions? What is this, the '80s again?


About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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