Ms. Fong goes to Washington

Proving once again that police chiefs are like baseball managers and school superintendents — no matter how many losing teams they lead, they still land other job offers — word out of Washington, D.C., is that Heather Fong, the recently retired head of our own tarnished cop shop, is up for a top slot at the Office of Community Oriented Police Services, the federal grant-awarding agency that funds police departments.

The White House apparently doesn’t read San Francisco newspapers or seem to care that Fong was a highly unpopular chief.

“She was a career bureaucrat,” one person with knowledge of her candidacy told me. “And it’s a bureaucratic job.”

The COPS office is part of the Department of Justice and advocates for more community policing in state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. COPS has spent more than $12 billion to hire and train new police officers for departments across the country and claims to have added 117,000 since it opened. The agency also has trained more than 500,000 law enforcement personnel and government leaders.

Her candidacy might seem ironic to some people in San Francisco, since Fong balked at many community policing initiatives and only fell in line with the idea when the Board of Supervisors forced her hand.

It’s also a little surprising that the 53-year-old former chief even wants another job, since she’s going to be making an annual pension of $230,000 for life — San Francisco’s city government gift that just keeps on giving. And those who know her wonder openly why she would want to move to the nation’s capital, but they forget how many bridges Fong burned here during her last few years at the SFPD.

At one point, Fong was rumored to be a candidate for a high-level job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, although it might have raised some eyebrows in the Beltway after it was reported that the chief didn’t maintain her firearm credentials while leading the Police Department.

I’m told that Fong is being vetted by the feds right now — and it’s possible they will do a better job in that regard than ignoring the warning signs that existed with Van Jones, the environmental guru who recently was forced to resign from the Obama administration after some of his past protest activities came to light.

If Fong hated the level of scrutiny here, she should really love Washington.


Friends of the Children holding annual benefit

San Francisco’s Friends of the Children — the only program in the nation that provides paid mentors to economically disadvantaged children from first grade through high school — has its annual benefit coming up, and it’s using a tribute to former Mayor Willie Brown and a rare peek at some antique autos as a way to entice would-be donors.

For the past eight years, the nonprofit has been providing full-time professional mentors to the most at-risk kids in San Francisco, a task that equates to a year-round season of sharing. And in these recession times, friends are sometimes hard to come by, which is why the benefit honoring Brown on Sept. 30 at the Academy of Art University’s classic-car museum, is a key event for Friends of the Children.

The national program, which started in Portland, Ore., 16 years ago, assigns a “friend” to a child in first grade, with a commitment to serve them for the next 12 years. San Francisco currently has 48 children enrolled in the program at 20 schools, with a paid mentor for each.

Friends of the Children has a great sales pitch: Its kids are all still in school. If you want to help them raise funds, visit


Weekly fails to do homework on mayor’s bro

The SF Weekly thought it had a real scoop this week, implying that Mayor Gavin Newsom was making up a story about having a foster brother who was imprisoned for dealing crack-cocaine.

“Would Newsom go so far as to exaggerate the criminal exploits of a childhood foster brother?’’ the Weekly wrote, saying that it couldn’t track down any record of a brother incarcerated in the California prison system under a variety of names, including Stephen Ashby.

If the Weekly had dug a little deeper, it might have discovered that Stephen Wesley Ashby, who was born in 1966, had in fact done time in a variety of state prisons and was discharged from San Quentin in 1996. He was paroled to Santa Rosa four years ago and is currently living in Marin.

According to sources close to the mayor, Ashby lived with the Newsoms (then residing with their divorced mom) for one year during high school, but showed no signs of a future as a drug dealer.

“Could it be that Newsom overstated Ashby’s rap sheet to make the white-bread mayor seem more, y’know, gangsta?’’ the Weekly wrote.

Well, I guess not, since his foster brother is real, did some really hard time and is apparently trying to get his life in order in Marin. I was told that Ashby has a son who served in the military in Iraq, among the things the Weekly couldn’t uncover in its coy attempts to call the mayor a liar.


Hetchy believers say don’t drink the water

Of all the utopian campaigns undertaken in recent years, none is a bigger pipe dream than the effort to dismantle O’Shaughnessy Dam, the primary holding tank of the Hetch Hetchy gravity system from which 2.4 million residents and businesses in San Francisco and on the Peninsula receive their water.

Still, the true believers of the idea of restoring Yosemite Valley to its original state do not give up hope, and for that, they should be commended. So in honor of their quixotic campaign, I will tell you that Saturday they are holding a “rally for restoration” at the site of the dam starting at 1 p.m., featuring a “performance” by Lee Stetson as John Muir.

Reportedly, “Muir’s Marchers’’ are completing a seven-day trek across Yosemite to raise awareness for their campaign. And the dam is a good place to stop and rest — and get several metric tons of drinking water.

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