Last week, I went to Kamau Right Now, the wonderfully smart and funny live radio show W. Kamau Bell does each week in conjunction with KALW. The show started with Kamau doing a short comedy set, then talking with a panel of incredibly sharp guests that included Lateefah Simon, Bucky Sinister and Davey D. This was followed by man-on-the-street-type audio interviews and finally culminated with something called the “awkward talk,” in which Kamau and the featured guest, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, had, well, an awkward conversation. Bhi Bhiman played songs throughout.
The event was incredible and showcased some of the best of what the Bay Area has to offer, culturally and intellectually. The thing that stuck out the most, to me, was the fact Mayor Schaaf actually showed up, weathered the awkward conversation (and crowd heckling) and doubled down by staying after the show to personally speak with any Oaklander who wanted to talk. Considering Oakland’s looming housing crisis, rapid hyper-gentrification, and the fact that Uber is soon relocating its headquarters to The Town, there was a lot to talk about.
Much respect to Mayor Schaaf for at least having the guts to be there, which is something San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee would never have done. In fact, that came up in conversation.
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, a reporter and columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, coincidentally sat near me in the audience. When Mayor Schaaf took the stage, Joe asked if I could imagine Mayor Lee showing up — to which we both guffawed.
In fact, it feels like Mayor Lee is doing the complete opposite of Mayor Schaaf; he seems to be hiding in his office. In a March 16 article in SF Weekly, Max Denike detailed how Mayor Lee has only made 12 public appearances since his inauguration, a tiny number considering he made 40 in the same span last year.
An absentee mayor would be one thing, if he were just dodging questions about his connection to shady things like his three fundraisers being charged with bribery, money laundering, campaign finance fraud and grand theft. Hell, I’d probably hide out, too. But the man has a job to do, and, now more than ever, San Francisco needs someone who is willing to stand up and do it.
San Francisco needs a leader who, instead of ignoring Supervisor David Campos’s call for a state of emergency to handle the homelessness crisis, does everything in his or her power to make it happen. We need a mayor who takes action to help stem police violence instead of enabling a police chief who allows Officer Roger Morse to go unpunished after getting away with shooting Alex Nieto. We need a mayor who, at the very least, is willing to be seen in public, hecklers be damned.
But no. Instead, we have one who is hiding in his office.
If Lee doesn’t want to act like a mayor, maybe we shouldn’t let him be one. A recall might not be that far off.
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.