Mayors and Blackouts on the Debate

Well although tonight is the last Presidential debate,  I won’t pay much attention. This one is over except for the huffing and puffing of the talking heads,  the excuses of the consultants, and the dearly needed change in this country. Even Tina Fey has had enough, vowing to go to outer space if Palin wins. 

But there is one Presidential event worthy of comment that occurred 96 years ago yesterday: Teddy Roosevelt was shot.

While on the way to deliver a campaign speech, a saloon keeper ( I thought they were the only guys we could trust) shot Teddy square in the chest. Only a glass case and some newspapers turned the potentially fatal blast away. (Lucky he wasn’t carrying today’s sadly slim Mercury-News or he’d be dead.) He not only refused medical treatment for the wound, but he delivered a speech that lasted over an hour. Now I would have loved to hear that one.

So let’s turn to our Bay Area Mayors. I had a chance to see all of them in action a few weeks ago at the Silicon Valley Leadership Forum at Santa Clara University, and have been watching them the last few weeks closely. Compare them to one another and the verdict is simple. For these times and these conditions, San Jose clearly comes out ahead with the calm, reassuring leadership of Chuck Reed.

He is a friend of mine, so I’m biased. Nevertheless, he is the proper mayor for the proper time. Looking to the East Bay, the clumsy and disturbing leadership of Ron Dellums proves once again that Congress is a very bad training ground for big city mayors. Dellums is unable to deal with the savage and unwieldy problems of an Oakland with its economic stagnation and high crime. Being Mayor is not about the beanball.

To our North in San Francisco, the promising beginnings of Gavin Newsom’s time in office are starting to fray badly. His paroling of illegal alien offenders is one problem, and—although he surely can’t be blamed for excitement in the “Howard Dean” moment that we are seeing regularly on the Prop 8 adds on television—“Whether you like it or not” is a gift from heaven for those that wish to preserve the Supreme Court decision on “Same Sex Marriage.” He should have known better than to go wild when dispassion was the order of the day.

Combine that with Newsom’s officiating at the same-sex wedding of a teacher last week, where her First Grade Class was there to greet her on the steps of City Hall, and you want to scratch your head at the denseness or hubris of such an inciting incident. I like Gavin; his father is a old friend of mine, but what was Mayor Newsom thinking!

When we look around the region, the low-key, calming influence as well as the demand for fiscal austerity in the tenure of Mayor Chuck Reed is just what the doctor ordered—and Joe Sixpack too—and I think even those who opposed him in the election can clearly see that now.


  1. I voted for Chuck Reed and continue to believe that he was the better choice vs. Cindy Chavez. However, Reed should be ashamed of himself for his stance on VTA’s BART project. During his campaign for mayor, he correctly identified the Taj Gonzales as an example of a huge unnecessary government expense. Then he turns around and supports blowing $6+ billion on a poorly designed, misrouted, gold-plated boondoggle of a rail line when better alternatives exist and have been ignored. Reed should have at least considered less expensive alternatives. I guess he’s just another dishonest politician after all. Why hasn’t he spoken out about the pro-BART people’s recent harrassment of the “no on B” ballot argument? [see ]

    Meanwhile, the Los Altos City Council voted last night 5-0 to formally oppose VTA’s measure B. Good for them.

  2. Newsom, Sacramento, and most Californians have sorely disappointed me with the Gay Marriage issue. And I don’t even mean the position they take on it—I just mean we have much bigger fish to fry, people! I wish we could set this aside for a year and focus on the bigger problems that affect more of us in bigger ways. Economy, the White House, overseas military deployment, our mounting losses in antiquated Intellectual Property laws and Chinese cloning, etc.

    HJ—Los Altos voted down paying taxes for mass transit? In other news, water falls from the large white masses in the sky sometimes.

  3. Is Chuck Reed calm or is he comatose?

    Is Chuck Reed a leader or is someone who ducks issues (see Metro story on Larry Pegram and how Chuck won’t even honestly state where he stands on gay marriage and Prop 8)?

    To say Chuck Reed is better than Newsom and Dellums is not saying much.

    I’d rank him behind McEnery, Hammer, and Gonzales as an effective mayor.

  4. Chuck Reed makes for an excellent mayor, and unlike HJ #2, I commend him for backing BART to SJ and Measure B.  Mr. Reed understands the need to have long term vision.  He also understands that BART is an excellent system that will serve San Jose/Silicon Valley’s transportation needs far into the future.  370,000 riders per day can’t be wrong, can they?  People, repeat after me: we can afford to pay 1 cent for every 8 dollars spent to finally bring BART to San Jose!!  Finally, the large metropolis of Los Altos is coming out against Measure B…better run for the hills BART backers (LOL)!!

  5. I always thought that Newsom was a bit of a game show host.  Ron Dellums is a disaster.

    I think Tom’s right.  Reed is the Bay Area’s only real leader.

    Pete Campbell

  6. What was Newsom thinking when he posed with his first wife in Vogue shortly after his election? He was reclining on a carpet with his wife in the Getty mansion.  The photo that really didn’t make sense was his wife posing in a Getty clothes’ closet.  Actually I’m embarrassed that he graduated from SCU, as I was with Mayor Ron’s wife.

  7. I’ve seen Reed in council sessions and he’s very calm and collected. The term “comatose” would be applicable if we lived in a movie. San Franciscans think they do, so that’s why they have their movie star mayor.

    I do admire Newsom’s work on the gay marriage issue, but you’re right that his mistake was in becoming such a divisive figure. His job is as a public servant and leader, not an activist in the purest sense. I also don’t like when Keith Olbermann goes off on his rants on MSNBC.Even though I totally agree with his viewpoints, I don’t like my side of the debate to become as arrogant and petty as the opposition.

    I hope it doesn’t become the downfall of equality in supposedly progressive California. We need people with the poise of Reed to present issues factually and not passionately.

  8. #9: Except a true leader needs to take public stands on controversial issues.  Staying out of the gay marriage issue is not leadership, it shows timidity.  If we are to have a progressive California, our leaders need to reflect that, especially in the largest cities.  We may think that Newsom has become a divisive figure, but that is always the case with somebody who is trying to make real change.  He stuck his neck out and without it, the progress we’ve made toward equality wouldn’t have happened.  While it may stymie his career, he took a real stance and will be remembered as a civil rights pioneer.

  9. Fourth Best (#4), why should it matter what Reed thinks about Prop. 8?  Does his opinion make the roads better, or hire additional safety officers, or build a new library? 

    Tony (#5), ahhh, 370,000 riders… 340,000 residing in Alameda County and 30,000 here in Santa Clara County.  I still believe that those who will ride BART to SJ should pay for it.

    I continue to think that we’re fortunate to have Reed as our mayor, and not Dellums or Newsom… or worse yet, Mayor VivaLaRaza of Los Angeles.

  10. Generally I like Chuck.  In these tough economic times, he’s clearly the best of the Bay Area bunch.

    But he was deceptive in his promotion of the extension of the phone tax as a tax reduction.  Technically true, a 10% reduction.  But highly misleading, since a no vote would be a 100% reduction.

    Chuck’s lawyer training came through on that issue—technically correct, but in the big picture, highly misleading…and very disappointing.

  11. Tom

    You are much better Historian than that. It was Teddy’s glasses case and his written speech (not a newspaper) that stopped the bullet. After the speech he handed out as souvenirs to the crowd, the pages of his speech with the bullet hole in them.

  12. #10, Newsom “will be remembered as a civil rights pioneer?”  I don’t think so. 

    Most will remember him as the grandstanding dickwad who made San Francisco the laughing stock of the nation.

  13. #13 Rick:

    In the publishing biz, there’s a dreaded phrase to describe what I did to Tom’s piece: It’s called “editing in a mistake.” 

    In the original draft, Tom said the bullet was stopped by “some papers.” He most likely knew those papers to be a speech—you’re right; he’s a good historian.

    I “fixed” the copy to read “newspapers.”  It reads better that way, don’t you think? Only one problem, apparently—it’s not true.

    Good catch.

  14. Tom,

    We are indeed blessed to have Chuck Reed at the helm.  Dellums is simply ineffective and should retire immediately.  Newsom is an embarrassment to the Bay Area and California. God forbid that he ever enter State or Federal politics.  I cannot think of an individual more ill-suited to be Governor.

  15. Rick and Eric –  IT worked!  We are discussing history and interesting items instead of that ghastly debate. Remember the last admonition in “The Man Who Shot LIberty Valence” – “… when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  Nice phrase and the title of a fine biography of John Ford.  TMcE

  16. I don’t understand what is wrong with Mayor Newsome officiating over a same sex marriage…..Sounds like you got some homophobic issues Mayor Tom….????

  17. Tom,

    It is clear that your friendship with ol Chuck makes it tough to give him an honest evaluation. Easy to understand. While you characterize him as steady and calming, many see him as alseep at the wheel when it comes to several issues. I believe, most notably public safety. SJ is fortunate to have an excellent police force, still we need more officers. Police staffing remains at 1980’s levels, while the city population has grown, not to even the undocumented illegal aliens that tax police resources. The city is far behind national and state ratios of officers/citizens. Crime rates are on the rise and nearly every officer you talk to will freely tell you they are short and that it effects response times, follow-up, and what crimes they can investigate. It is so ironic that from a lavish city hall Chuck Reed now calls for thrift. From his Corinthian leather chair and maple desk crys for fiscal responsibilty. I guess when crimes finally touches him or someone close to him, he will finally see the wisdom of supporting a push for more than 15 officers/year…

  18. Rob #17 – you miss my pt. Those that wish this issue was not on the ballot and hope it is defeated now that it is, should be disgusted with many aspects of this campaign, including giving so much ammunition to the pro-Prop 8 side by such things as a same sex marriage, officiated by the mayor, where a 1st Grade Class greets their teacher. It feeds the most alarming fears and can swing critical votes.  It was Ronn Owens, a very anti-Prop 8 person, who called Gavin’s judgement incredible and stupid: it was.  TMcE

  19. MikeB – I really agree with what the central thrust of your comments are. More cops ( I added 100 in my first year w. a business license tax agreed to by business) is a necessity. And the subsidizing of the nightclub industry – a millions plus dollars a yr. –  is robbing each and every San Jose neighborhood of officers. It is such lack of decision making that is reducing SJ to a dangerous state. Certain socio-economic factors are beyond our city’s control: a permissive attitude to nightclubs and too few police are things the city CAN affect. My friendship with Chuck Reed will not stop me for such observations and criticisms. TMcE

  20. Tom

    Thanks for your response. I agree with your position re the nightclubs. Subsidizing the clubs hurts on many fronts and creates a dangerous state. Downtown has been at that point for quite a while. As well, I remember your addition of those officers when you were in office. Chuck should learn from that example and rein in spending somewhere else to make it happen. Maybe I pulled the trigger too quickly. If you can be frank about Reed’s shortcomings in this forum, and maintain the friendship, I salute you. Good luck and thanks again for those 100…

  21. Mike –  We need to pull together now in a big way.  We need more cops and we need a more comprehensive look at how we police Downtown – stop subsidizing the big clubs. I think the Council has to be tough and wise in the coming year – it’s a high bar but one that I think Chuck Reed can leap. Thanks for the imput.  TMcE

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