Not many people would have thought that awkward San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly could create the political version of limbo — a dizzying public dance to see how low you can go.
And right now, Daly is so low that he could play handball against the sidewalk — you know, like the ones he wants to take money away from for repairs because street and curb maintenance are not part of what he considers basic government services.
Daly, in his latest cry for help, did a full-frontal flop into his favorite mud pit at City Hall last week, alleging that Mayor Gavin Newsom was a cocaine user without a scintilla of evidence. And then he got his nose out of joint when the media jumped all over his comments and essentially ignored what he considered his “larger statement” about trying to provide health funding for society’s neediest — because really, who could be needier than Daly himself?
So it’s hardly a surprise that his latest outburst would unleash a string of conspiracy theories about why he would embarrass himself at the expense of actually helping the mayor. One blog suggested that the incident was part of a campaign to try to get rid of district elections — but that makes little sense, since Daly owes his public existence to district elections and most of us would never have heard of him without them. And then I read that he was plotting to unveil the drug allegations against the mayor for months, but that can’t be true because those of us who are longtime Daly observers know he has no impulse control and can’t hold back anything for days, let alone weeks.
I have a different take on Daly’s meltdown that is much more subtle, one carefully honed since the days when the supervisor first began having tantrums and bolting from the board chambers. This latest episode isn’t about the budget, it’s not about the mayor and it’s not even about Daly making another public sacrifice to show the world of the need for mental health programs.
No, believe it or not, it’s all about Ed Jew.
For those still reeling from the frenzy of having Gay Pride weekend hit at the same time as Yankee Pride weekend, a refresher: Ed Jew is a San Francisco supervisor who has managed in a very short period of time to get the attention of federal, state and local prosecutors over a series of actions involving everything from suspicion of taking money from businessmen to expedite permits to not residing in the district he was most recently elected to represent.
After the allegations first surfaced, Jew was happy to talk to reporters to explain these mounting mysteries, but then as the charges started to grow, so did the bills for his legal representation, and now he’s about as mum as Barry Bonds’ personal trainer. (For the record, Bonds’ trainer is in prison; Jew apparently spends most of his time in Burlingame.)
Yet no matter how much silence emanates from Jew’s camp these days, the rookie supervisor has been grabbing headlines and television coverage by the truckload. Indeed, he was getting so much scrutiny that hardly anyone noticed when Daly got himself thrown off the budget committee for holding up the budget process with his usual acumen — by trying to take taxpayer money for his own favored programs rather than pay for public safety and the aforementioned street repairs.
Recent history shows that Daly cannot go for an extended period of time without playing the dancing bear for the press — media attention being the drug that he craves on a regular basis. And what better way to steer the cameras his way than by lobbing some gratuitous allegations against his sworn archenemy, then trying to say he didn’t actually say what he said? It generated so much attention that hardly anyone batted an eye when he finally announced his proposal to stop the Blue Angels from flying over San Francisco each year because of the inherent danger — as if the flying aerial team posed a greater danger to The City than Daly himself.
His unfounded allegations hadthe desired effect — Jew dipped under the radar for a bit, the mayor got so angry his hair momentarily fell out of place, and Daly got to bask in the glow of the negative reviews his stunt produced, all proudly petulant over his ability to turn the spotlight his way whenever he needs a charge.
Unfortunately for the supervisor, the high never lasts as long as the dwindling poll ratings, which cling to him like his favored love beads. And he’s going to have to face the fact that Jew’s story is the one that has legs.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (415) 359-2663.