Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Monday, November 2, 2009

SF Gov InAction: Gavin Newsom, the Morning After, Will Still Have to Celebrate Small Business Month

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 9:30 AM



The news at the end of October was devastating for San Francisco: Trauma and Gavin Newsom for Governor were canceled in the same week.

It's heartbreaking: Both were expensive pilots with such promising premises.

In Trauma, a group of troubled but devil-may-care emergency medical technicians raced through San Francisco saving people from giant fireballs and learning to trust in each others' sex appeal.

In Gavin Newsom for Governor, a devil-may-care San Francisco mayor deeply concerned about the future of California's beverage industry ran for the state's highest office, trying to win the election by focusing the public's attention on how good he looks in a parade.

Where did we go wrong? The public loves sexy giant fireballs and troubled politicians who say things like "Hope!" and "Friend me on Facebook!"

The shows even had crossovers! Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, a regular cast member in Gavin Newsom for Governor actually appeared in the first episode of Trauma! It was brilliant! And Gavin Newsom for Governor's male lead had a baby, for God's sake: What more do you people want?

Both programs went over so well with test audiences. How did they fail?

Anyone who covers politics or television in Say Francisco is contractually obligated to develop a theory about this, so:

Neither show worked because, in the end, we just didn't care about the central characters.

"Gavin Newsom" (as played by Gavin Newsom) might have been a compelling character in a Greek tragedy or on a different network, but as he's become a more successful politician he's lost most of the humanity that people can relate to. If there's an opposite of the "uncanny valley" -- we'll call it the "pretty plateau" - Gavin Newsom's stuck on it. Handsome, rich, a successful career, a beautiful wife who's on the B-list in her own right, national celebrity, glamor ... he seems less and less like a human being and more like a fictional character developed to sell cologne. And that generates a sense of revulsion in voters.

If he had troubles we could relate to, that would be different - but we can't relate to his troubles.

He claims to be an alcoholic, but never really went through rehab. He had an affair with his best friend's wife, and showed absolutely no remorse after the press conference was over. He has a bad relationship with his co-workers (the supervisors) but mostly because he refuses to talk with them -- if we did that at our jobs, we'd be fired. Sure, Gavin has troubles: But they're not the kind that make him look more human in our eyes. Just the opposite -- none of his troubles seem to have consequences. Ours do, so we can't relate.

Nor, for that matter, can we relate to his virtues. If "Gavin Newsom" were a hard worker, constantly putting in 80-hour weeks at the office, many of us could relate to that ... but he doesn't. If he were loyal to his friends to a fault, many of us could relate to that ... but he's not. If he were thrifty, even stingy, with his own money and the taxpayers', we could relate to that ... but his campaign was bogged down by expenses and he won't even admit how much his security detail costs the city. Gavin's supporters claim he is intellectually curious -- but he outsources his intellectual work by having interns type up Cliff's Notes of the books he's read so that he'll know what they say. That's not a precocity that intellectuals -- or readers -- among us can relate to. Sure, Gavin has virtues. But not the kind that make him look more human in our eyes. Again, just the opposite: None of his virtues seem to lead to circumstances that any of us would consider virtuous.

"Gavin Newsom" is stuck on just that part of the "pretty plateau" where a successful person seems least human: he has neither troubles nor virtues we can relate to. There's not a person in the world who, when told that Gavin Newsom decided to give a seven-and-a-half hour State of the City address on YouTube, will say "Sure, that's what I would have done."

"Mayor Gavin Newsom" is the equivalent of a human being failing the Turing Test.

Sometimes, really talented people can make it past this and still get support, but "Gavin Newsom" committed the fatal mistake of admitting he was ambitious. If he could have made it look like he was being drafted by his party, that might have worked. But instead he up and admitted that he wanted it. This mannequin, this success-bot who has no virtues we appreciate and never suffers for his mistakes, wants to have even more power over our lives.

That was never going to get a second season. Maybe if he were running on CBS. On CBS, Gavin would have solved a different murder every week.

Also, like Trauma, Gavin Newsom for Governor was kind of mediocre, when you got right down to it. It was a mediocre campaign running him as a transformational leader even though no one looking at San Francisco from the outside would ever think "Wow, he really changed that place."

So there.

I know I should have spent all this time talking about the Board of Supervisors, but, come on: Not even the Board of Supervisors are going to be talking about the Board of Supervisors this week.

Still, here's what they're scheduled to do:


Monday, Nov. 2, 1 p.m. - Land Use & Economic Development Committee


There are two items on this agenda: One is a recently proposed bill by John Avalos to make it harder to evict people from their apartments. If passed, this measure would mean that the owners of most buildings in S.F. would only be able to evict tenants for a "just cause." Around here, that's an awfully high standard to meet: If San Francisco standards for eviction had applied more broadly, Marcos would still be in the Phillipines. He'd still be paying what he did in 1950, too.

The second item on the agenda would change the planning code to redefine when a discretionary review (DR) of a project could be called and who it would be heard by.

I have to be honest here: I don't really understand the city planning code, and I'm not going to start now. This has been a deliberate decision on my part, and it's worked out really well. People come up to me all the time and ask questions like "Why didn't the supervisors block the MTA budget?" and "Who are the up-and-coming candidates in next year's races?" But nobody EVER asks me "Could you explain how the planning code affects the block I live on?" I intend to keep it that way.

So, yeah, discretionary review hearings. Gotta love that. Or not.

  • Pin It

Tags: ,

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"