Low profile suits Newsom

It’s easy to see why critics of San Francisco’s mayor tend to be so vociferously over-the-top — even when he loses, he wins.

Gavin Newsom has essentially been relegated to the sidelines for the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week — many appearances, but no floor speech — since party leaders are loath to publicize the same-sex marriage issue front and center and provide fodder for Republicans to bandy about the “San Francisco values” thing.

Yet Newsom somehow got picked by the editors of Time magazine to be one of just five “hotshots” to watch in its special issue on the Democrats. The magazine’s take: If you don’t know these up-and-comers yet, you will, and in Newsom’s case, that just could be in the statehouse in Sacramento.

Newsom was the only big-city mayor named among the group — most of the others were members of Congress. And ironically, at least to some of the über-liberals so jealous of Newsom’s popularity, Time gave him credit for spending $500 million on public housing — just the kind of thing to make Supervisor Chris Daly eat his ballot book.

The magazine is quick to note that not everything he touches is charmed, mentioning the universal Wi-Fi attempt that got blown up by the board and repeated attempts by The City to build a new cruise-ship terminal.

Says Newsom: “Politicians are risk-averse. They’re afraid of trying something new because they might see a bad headline.”

He must be used to those by now.

The fact that Newsom has not been invited to the center stage has hardly curbed his energy, he’s been omnipresent at events throughout the convention this week, heading a Rock the Vote Ballot Bash and then hosting a Unconventional ’08 concert featuring indie-band darlings Death Cab For Cutie and comic Sarah Silverman. All the while he’s been working rooms, courting potential donors and supporters for his “exploratory” campaign for governor.

Newsom is hardly alone — there is hardly a political wannabe in Denver this week that isn’t preening for the spotlight. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has never met a microphone he didn’t crave, did his best to whip up supporters at an event for Hispanic leaders. And, according to reports, former state Controller Steve Westly is basking in his role as presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s California campaign co-chairman.

But Newsom is still a celebrity, headlines notwithstanding.

New view on oil drilling foretelling new era?

Could laid-back Santa Barbara County be the harbinger of things to come for

The Central Coast area, which became nationally known as the backdrop for the dangers of offshore oil drilling following a devastating spill in 1969, has apparently had a change of heart after all these years.

This week, the county Board of Supervisors voted to end its opposition to offshore oil drilling — a move that would have been considered unheard of just two years ago. Indeed, the lights on the oil rigs are a constant source of conversation among visitors to the area, who remember well the sights of all those oiled birds and mammals from that terrible spill.

But the price of oil and gasoline has apparently caused some of the more moderate board members to rethink their positions, even though, as a local entity, the move won’t have any real impact on state or federal policies.

Still, the mood swing in the eco-friendly county is worth noting, especially since the whole oil-
dependency debate will be part of the upcoming presidential debate. It’s been a long time since Santa Barbara had to concern itself with the Outer Continental Shelf.

Gay rights activists exposing opponents

The state proposition to ban same-sex marriage in California on the November ballot may turn out to be one of the roughest campaigns in recent memory. Gay-rights activists trying to defeat the measure have turned to a strategy of going after companies and individuals that financially support the initiative.

Next week, Californians Against Hate — the organization behind the effort — plans to publish a “dishonor roll” of donors who give $5,000 or more to groups supporting Proposition 8. The published roster will include the names of donors and their employers — even if the companies themselves didn’t donate to the campaign.

The group has targeted big donors of the measure with boycotts, including Doug Manchester, owner of the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, and Terry Caster, owner of A-1 Self Storage, which has 40 locations in California. In a Wall Street Journal article this week, Manchester was quoted as saying he was “saddened by the divisive nature of the movement,” which, for the opposition, is nothing short of fighting words.

“These people have put constitutional amendments on the ballot in 29 states over the last several years to hurt gays and lesbians, and have done so with impunity,” said Fred Kaplan, the head of the campaign to defeat Prop. 8. “We want the world to know who all of these major donors are.”

Outing businesses that have people who donate to a cause may be a questionable tactic, but with more complaints surfacing, it appears to be working.

City discouraging potential business

San Francisco long ago sold its soul to cater to tourists. Which begs the question: Why does it insist on punishing them so?

With its endless parade of taxes, parking fines and, shall we say, less-than-clean streets, San Francisco seems to be suggesting that image is everything. Yet consider other West Coast cities, heavily dependent on the tourist trade, that seem to invite people with more of a civic smile.

Long ago, Beverly Hills came up with the idea to offer free three-hour parking to get visitors to unload their wallets in its shops and restaurants. How busy do you think Union Square would be at that rate?

And tiny Nevada City in the Sierra foothills, almost totally reliant on tourism, provides parking meters at 25 cents for two hours — in downtown San Francisco that will buy you three minutes, less than a penny for its thoughts.

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