Do you know about “Amateur Night at the Apollo”? It’s a legendary show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where performers do their best to entertain the audience. If they aren’t up to snuff, the crowd lets them know in a very direct way: They boo them off stage.
While most of us will never have to suffer this indignity, Mayor Ed Lee knows all about it. From being drowned out at his own inauguration by protesters to being heckled off the dais at the Interfaith Council’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, a loud coalition of angry and heartbroken San Franciscans is lumping the mayor into the same category as a third-rate juggler who drops a ball on stage.
The difference is that Mayor Lee isn’t trying to earn the crowd’s applause and adulation through singing and dancing. His performance is trying to convince San Francisco, a city whose communities Lee has sold out over and over again, that he’s been making the right decisions all along.
Apparently, he’s doing a shit job of it.
Occasionally, I think, “You know, maybe Ed isn’t trying to sell us out after all. Maybe he’s just a really bad negotiator.” That would explain the tax breaks given to multibillion dollar mid-Market tech companies, or why San Francisco is paying nearly $5 million for events for a Super Bowl that’s happening 45 miles away, while Santa Clara isn’t dropping a penny. Don’t you think he could’ve given the bill to the NFL like Santa Clara is doing?
Lee got outmaneuvered by a city whose most recognizable landmark is a stadium built for a team that has OUR city’s name on it. And I’m not even gonna bring up the America’s Cup debacle. I keep waiting for Ashton Kucher to jump out and tell us we’ve been Punk’d.
The thing is, these aren’t even the main reasons Mayor Lee keeps getting shouted down at his public appearances.
The past few years have seen a rash of police killings of black and brown San Franciscans, the most recent of which was the five-person firing squad that gunned down Mario Woods on Dec. 2. Despite outrage from all over the country about this racially biased killing, the fact that thousands are calling for Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired, and the 108 Bay Area lawyers who have called for an independent investigation of the incident, Mayor Lee hasn’t done much more than shrug about it.
If the demonstration that closed down the Bay Bridge on MLK Day is any indication, things are only going to heat up for the mayor.
To say this is an inauspicious beginning for Mayor Lee’s second term is an understatement. While the policies he’s championed have helped make some people very rich — at the expense of displacing countless San Franciscans — they’ve also helped create a movement that is picking up steam. The energy that coalesced around the “Vote 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” mayoral campaign of Francisco Herrera, Amy Weiss and myself has turned thousands of people, who were previously only marginally involved, into activists. Couple that with the people who are fed up with police brutality in communities of color, and you’ve got a small army.
As the Super Bowl approaches, and as the eyes of the world turn to our 49 square miles of class warfare, it will be interesting to see if our mayor will even be able to order a $5 cup of coffee without being booed.
I would not want to be Ed Lee right now. Hell, I don’t even think Ed Lee wants to be Ed Lee right now. He’d probably have better luck on “Amateur Night at the Apollo.”
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.