Ethnic joke spurs legislative condemnation

A planning commissioner’s joke about Sicilians and cash bribes has no one laughing.

The comedic attempt came during a hearing on a permit application by an owner of a North Beach Italian restaurant for an opera singer during dining hours.

Maybe it was a case of watching “The Godfather” too many times, but planning Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya said, “I’m supportive, but I was kind of waiting for my brown paper envelopes to come from the Sicilians. But I never got anything so, you know, I may vote against it.”

The statement did not strike the funny bone of many, and it prompted one attendee to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Department requesting an apology.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, an Italian-American of Sicilian descent, introduced a resolution that would officially condemn the remarks “that deeply offended members of the Italian-American community.”

“It is one of the stereotypes our community has worked so hard to reverse,” Alioto-Pier said.

She said when her grandfather was mayor of San Francisco, Look magazine accused him of being a member of the Mafia.

“The federal government indicted him,” Alioto-Pier said. “They had no proof. Ultimately, he won his [libel] suit.”

“[Sugaya’s] statement, in addition to being derogatory, brings dishonor to The City and County of San Francisco by implying decision makers are waiting for envelopes of cash,” the resolution said.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution Tuesday. It also would urge members of city boards and commissions “to treat members of the public with the respect they deserve.”

Sugaya did not return requests for comment.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

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