With life back, mayor looks to future

The city of San Francisco took a Veterans Day holiday this week, but the mayor did not.

I know this because I went to see Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday and there were only five people at City Hall, two of them part of his security detail and another a sheriff’s deputy who let me in at the Grove Street garage entrance.

And I can tell you that Newsom looked happier than I have seen in months, even though he had just been informed by the City Controller’s Office that tax revenue is down by tens of millions of dollars and the next budget deficit is going to be much deeper than expected.

Getting your life back will do wonders for almost anyone, and that, as much as anything, was apparently the deciding factor in Newsom’s call to pull out of the governor’s race.

Newsom didn’t want to talk on the record about it, but it was clear that being on the road constantly, having a newborn daughter and the need to be doing fundraising for hours each day — in addition to his day job — was just too much, even for someone as career-driven as the mayor.

Certainly it surprised those people involved in his campaign, who believed that Newsom, despite the public opinion polls, had a good shot in a race against California Attorney General Jerry Brown after amassing piles of opposition research cobbling together his public record of 40 years in elected office.

One person said the campaign determined that Newsom would have to raise $3 million by the end of the year in order to make the race credible, but the mayor just didn’t have the “discipline” to spend the time dialing for dollars.

Yet, the extra 20-plus hours a week, in addition to all the town halls and out-of-town fundraising trips, were clearly taking a toll. And I’m told some family members encouraged Newsom to drop out, noting that he still had years to pursue higher office.

Besides, Newsom told me, “I love this town and I love this job, and I still have a few years left to do some of the things I want to.”

As for ducking from the press, he said the whole idea is “delusional.”

“I’ve been out doing events. I just haven’t had a news conference,’’ Newsom said.

Don’t expect one soon.

Next move for SF-hater Dobbs? Fox is safe bet

Now that anchor Lou Dobbs has resigned from CNN, people are wondering who will come forward on one of the cable networks as the next spirited and frothy San Francisco basher.

Dobbs left the news channel this week, saying he wanted to “engage in constructive problem-solving” — something that eluded him daily in his network perch.

The ruddy-faced television host grew increasingly divisive in recent years, adopting a populist persona while railing against the nation’s immigration policy (San Francisco’s ongoing sanctuary-city debate was a particular whipping post) and joining in with the fringe group that questioned the validity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Network executives had tried to get Dobbs to tamp down his opinions this year, something the veteran newsman apparently bristled about. He said he’s still weighing his options, but the betting line here says the talking heads at Fox News will likely come calling.


New sanctuary policy creates questions, but don’t fear: It’s merely a ‘statement’

Ever mindful of the town’s wacky political machinations, City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello just hours after the Board of Supervisors voted to uphold its new sanctuary policy, asking for assurances that law enforcement officials wouldn’t be prosecuted for federal crimes, since the policy is, you know, probably illegal.

Herrera asked for a reply by early December, otherwise he said he may be compelled to explore the matter in court.

You can expect Herrera to be awfully busy trying to defend The City’s unlawful stance because I already know what Russoniello’s position is — I ran into him at an event this week.

He said he couldn’t possibly give a blanket assurance, since all cases are different. So while the board may be giving a wink and a nod to the idea that somehow The City can circumvent state and federal law, don’t expect the top law enforcement official in Northern California to follow suit.

And that goes for the mayor, who told me all the ruckus about the new measure that would require city officials to only report youth illegal immigrants to federal authorities if they are convicted of a felony is equivalent to the sound of one hand clapping.

“What the board passed is, by definition, a policy statement because it’s not enforceable,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

You can expect more heated rhetoric on the topic in coming weeks, but don’t expect any changes after the new “policy” takes effect next month.


Honor for attorney who most certainly deserves the kudos

It’s not often that you could describe an audience of about 500 judges, attorneys and police officers as a family gathering, but that’s the best way to characterize a get-together this week to celebrate the elevation of one of San Francisco’s most beloved legal minds to the Superior Court bench.

That would be one James P. Collins, the pride of the Richmond district who’s one of those people that gives lawyers a good name.

Collins is always thoughtful and brought a delicate touch to all his cases. He’s like the consummate chess player, seeing all the moves before they were made and never tipping his hand. To this day, I couldn’t tell you if he’s a Democrat or Republican. And I couldn’t care less, likewise for any of the hundreds of opposing counsel who dealt with him (or the governor who appointed him).

Collins is so persuasive, he convinced his legal polar opposite — Stuart Hanlon, famous for defending far left-wing, anarchistic types — to represent one of The City’s police commanders ensnared in the notorious “Fajitagate” case. They became fast friends.

San Francisco has lost one of its top criminal defense lawyers, but gained a gifted jurist in return.

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