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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going -- to Davos?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 7:30 AM

Where's Gavin? Far from San Francisco. Far from our problems.
  • Where's Gavin? Far from San Francisco. Far from our problems.
Today the Board of Supervisors begins the nails-on-chalkboard, surgery-sans-anesthetic, Adam Sandler Film Festival-painful process of adopting hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts. Gavin Newsom won't be there. Not that the mayor skipping a supes meeting is news -- he's made avoiding dealing with the Board his top priority in recent years -- but usually he manages to be on the same continent.

Not today. As the city begins the process of pulling the rug out from under its wealthiest and most powerful residents -- sorry, our mistake: its poorest and most vulnerable -- Newsom is off on a European junket. Yesterday, courtesy of the San Francisco-Paris Sister City Host Committee, he toured the French capital, got a gander at some really fast trains, and took in some seminars.

Then -- at his own expense, assures deputy communications director Joe Arellano -- Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom are off to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1.

Now, if the powers that be at Davos were handing out economic elixirs to mayors of moderately large cities facing $500 million shortfalls, that'd be one thing. But the Davos festivities have devolved into a superficial orgy of celebrity-watching and photo-ops -- according to none other than the founder of the whole damn shebang.

"The partying crept in," 70-year old executive chairman Klaus Schwab said in a truly stunning article on "We let it get out of control, and attention was taken away from the speed and complexity of how the world's challenges built up."

From that article:

WEF Chief Operating Officer Kevin Steinberg says the vast

sums of money that rolled in from Wall Street celebrities for

marquee billing in Davos contributed to complacency among forum

organizers and often obliged them to publicly massage the

viewpoints, wishes and status of their superstar guests. ...

Steinberg says the most-discussed housing issue among some

delegates centered on Davos' Belvedere Hotel, where corporate

chieftains and their deputies were "more interested in entering

into bidding wars to secure the biggest party room than they were

in attending sessions held there.''

"We catered to what the financial leaders wanted: solo

speaking slots, luxury hotels and VIP treatment ...'" Steinberg, 38, says. "We gave them a

soapbox. It was all political. We try to minimize the politics,

but can't."

Other American politicians facing troubling budget shortages -- show us one who isn't -- nixed their Davos plans; New York Gov. David Paterson cited "deficit reduction" as a rationale to stay in Albany ("Deficit reduction," incidentally, aptly describes Andrew Cuomo's progress in gubernatorial polls for the 2010 race). Besides, there'll be no hobnobbing with Bono this year -- U2 is plugging an album.

Helping the supes hammer out an equitable budget may not look as good on a Newsom for  Governor poster as Gavin and his stunning wife standing next to a TGV train at Gare de l'Est -- and it sure as hell ain't as fun. But, if he seriously has anything to offer the people of this city and state, it's a no-brainer.

Voters will not back the man who fiddled around while San Francisco burned.

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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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