Brownout at SFO

Mayor's attempt to end-run city voters on runways-in-bay reflects dimming of his political star

There's a reason experienced bettors sometimes tear up their tickets before their horses reach the last furlongs. The body of a struggling horse looks for strength by digging into muscle groups beyond its legs. Its back convulses in waves. During the final moments, the strained horse fades. A track regular spots the laboring immediately and knows the race is over.

As he bets the final moments of his political career on a dishonest and demagogic campaign for airport runway expansion, Willie Brown's efforts appear similarly forced. Brown may not be able to amass the necessary cash and political capital to convince state legislators, the governor, and Bay Area voters that this is the proper time for the bay-fill plan. Odds-on gamblers know the smart wager here: Willie Brown will try, but won't be able, to get his nine-county bay-fill referendum into (much less out of) the starting gate, and will leave office without an airport runway to his name. Finally, then, San Francisco Bay Area residents will be able to tear up their tickets to the Willie Brown show, and consider regional transportation needs in an atmosphere driven a little less by political agendas, and a little more by common horse sense.

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