Nato Green: What on earth does an assemblyman do?

David Chiu

David Campos and David Chiu are fighting over Tom Ammiano's seat in the California Assembly with the intensity of a retiree from Iowa parallel parking a stick shift between two motorcycles on a San Francisco hill for the first time.

Election narratives assume that the Assembly is a more prestigious office than supervisor, but how many voters have the foggiest notion what an assemblyman actually does? I have lobbied several failed bills at the state Capitol, so can share my participant-observer ethnography of how the sausage is made. The voters of San Francisco can then make an informed decision of who is most qualified for the duties of this specific job.

The first thing to know about how the sausage of public policy is made is that it is made entirely of lips and nether parts. To call the Capitol a cesspool would be demeaning to cesspools. Lobbyists spend all day lurking unventilated, fluorescent-lit halls, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting legislators sneaking to the bathroom. People agree to any minor amendments when they have to pee. You can always tell how powerful a lobbyist is from the price of their lobbyist's suit, which is directly proportional to their smell. Brooks Brothers and body odor? That must be the Western States Petroleum Association!

Also, the state Legislature is not run by the people we elect to do so. It's run by attractive 25-year-old staffers for the legislators and various committees. I don't know why sexy people are over-represented in the Capitol, but they are. Apparently powerful men like having hot young women around them. These are the millennials who tend not to be comely enough for Los Angeles, or capable enough to go to New York or D.C. But they are just comely and capable enough to steward the world's eighth-largest economy.

Legislators are on a vertical learning curve from the instant they arrive in Sacramento for about as long as it takes to get termed out and appointed a cushy sinecure on a waste management board. They vote on an onslaught of bills, and can't accumulate policy expertise on more than two things. The result is that legislators are effectively mouthpieces of both their 25-year-old staffers, who act as gatekeepers and filters, and the roundtable of lobbyists, hacks and blowhards they assembled to 'splain stuff to them.

California is for all intents governed by dreamy 20-something aides and lobbyists who bribed their way into the circle of trust. The art of serving in state government is to tiptoe as close as possible to buying guns from “Shrimp Boy” without actually buying guns from “Shrimp Boy.” You have to be able to take bribes and sell your vote without appearing to do so, mostly to real estate developers who think “Arrested Development” is a flattering portrayal of their industry.

So, people of San Francisco: Will David Chiu or David Campos be better at hiring sexy staff and cavorting with predatory corporate shills? That's what you must decide by Tuesday.

San Francisco comedian Nato Green performs stand-up every Friday with The Business at the Hemlock Tavern and his podcast is called “The Nato Sessions.” Full disclosure: Nato has donated time and money to David Campos.

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