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Down and Out at the US Conference of Mayors

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President Barack Obama speaks at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, Friday, June 19, 2015. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

I had a genius idea. The United States Conference of Mayors was in town last weekend and I was gonna infiltrate it. Mayors from all over the country would be there and I was gonna get press passes for myself and a cameraperson so I could ask these mayors hard-hitting questions and get their answers on film. My plan was to start with softball queries like “How about them Warriors?” and “We sure got some big hills don’t we?” only to win their confidence before I zeroed in with “If you were San Francisco’s mayor, how would you handle the rent crisis?” and “How do you suggest we tackle our homelessness epidemic?” It would be sharp. It would be rebellious. It would be legendary.

It was an utter failure.

It started off poorly when Andre and I went to get our press passes. I got in with no problems, but when he was filling out his press request the day before, autofill had entered Andre’s stage name instead of his real one. He almost didn’t get in because his last name didn’t match his ID. In fact I can’t believe they actually did let him in considering that Barack Obama, yes that Barack Obama, was speaking that day. Which brings me to the next problem: we were completely ignored.

One of the more charismatic men on earth, and certainly one of the most powerful, was going to speak. Even if you don’t agree with his politics, being in a room of roughly only 500 people while the president of the United States orates is an incredibly rare experience. The crowd of mayors and their attendants were a twitter, all over twitter, and despite this reporter’s rather rakish and dashing sartorial choices, they couldn’t give a shit about me. So I listened to some of the speakers instead.

A funny thing happened when Nancy Pelosi spoke. She closed her speech talking about the need to get corporate money out of politics. This would’ve been normal-sized irony if I just acknowledged that the sponsors of this four-day session of mayoral mutual masturbation included: Wells Fargo, Google, Uber, Walmart, Comcast and other heavies. But what made it super-duper extra ironic was that after Pelosi, the head of Kaiser Permanente spoke, followed by a VP from Salesforce. During the Salesforce guy’s talk, he played a 5 minute video explaining how important Salesforce was to city governments. As my friend Jerry Rosenblum says, “The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.”

President Obama took the stage after Mister Salesforce and talked for 30 minutes on the dot. He talked about Charleston, Gun Control and how Congress was a bunch of haters. He also talked about mayors, saying how awesome they were, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do when you talk to a room full of them. When he finished, the room exhaled and mayors scurried out to go to their next meetings.

By this point I had only gotten one interview so we figured we’d try and get a few in the lobby while the mayors fraternized between obligations. And this is where the person in charge of all the press badges caught up to me. The news of the mix up over Andre’s press badge had gotten to her and I was grilled for 20 minutes about who I really was and what my real motivations were. Andre ended up losing his press pass and by this point I could tell my grand rebellion, my attempt at legendary political snark thorough the medium of video, was a complete crash and burn. So, I just went ahead and saved it for print.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

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