Losin' It

Can Wade and O'Donoghue keep up in this brave broke world?

As San Francisco enters a season of political upheaval in which more than $300 million must be cut from the city's budget, just as voters prepare to choose a new mayor, we can expect to find our local political sharpies stepping to the fore. Behind-the-scenes activists will begin wheedling and cajoling to preserve their favored piece of the pie as bureaucrats cut millions from departmental budgets. And as local political relationships are upended with Willie Brown's departure later this year, we'll see the city's players seek to preserve their turf by bullying, conniving, and colluding.

It's during turbulent periods like these that power relationships and priorities are formed, re-formed, and cemented for the future. This is when playahs must be on their game, or lose the game. Judging from the efforts during the past two weeks of a couple of old hands -- longtime parks activist Isabel Wade and perennial political fixer Joe O'Donoghue -- our city's stalwarts may be losing their edge. Perhaps, just perhaps, we're on the cusp of a new day.

Let's peer into the world of playahs and fixers and insider doings to see what the future might hold:

Isabel Wade is executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council. In 1993, Dr. Wade received one of the first national awards for excellence in the environmental field from Good Housekeeping magazine. She founded California's urban forestry program in 1977 under Gov. Jerry Brown. Two years ago she led the campaign to pass a local $110 million parks bond measure. She is, indeed, a woman who gets things done.

Next on Wade's agenda: Get the Board of Supervisors to support the sale of naming rights to Candlestick Park, with proceeds earmarked for preserving the budget of the city's Department of Recreation and Park. Wade's technique: Get an obscure alternative weekly columnist -- that would be me -- to write an article touting a naming rights sale.

Last year, after 3Com Corp. said it wouldn't renew its 7-year-old naming-rights deal, the Board of Supervisors voted to end the practice of attaching corporate names to the stadium.

"It's sort of a crass thing for the city to do," says Board President Matt Gonzalez, the measure's sponsor.

By Wade's line of thinking, the fact that the city, and its park system, is facing its worst-ever budget crisis should be enough to make the supervisors reconsider.

"They've already been doing it, so I don't see what the harm would be," she says.

After having an assistant phone me, fax me, e-mail me, and phone me again, Wade explained that if everything went according to her plan, I'd write a news story based on the premise that naming rights are once again in play. (See above.) Next, according to Wade's plan, a corporate honcho might read my story, call the 49ers, and make an offer Supervisor Tony Hall, who's undecided on the naming-rights issue, couldn't refuse. The money would fill Rec and Park's coffers. And the agency would be able to stop borrowing resources from the bond-funded Natural Areas Program, which preserves and enhances local open space.

Now, I'm not saying it's always a bad idea to leave one's behind-the-scenes political machinations to alternative weekly writers -- we're people with many positive qualities. But let's just say we sometimes have different priorities than the machinators.

Anyway, if the rest of San Francisco's devastated publicity market is any gauge, stadium naming rights aren't worth near as much as they once were. The market price for such a deal may have come down far enough to put it within the grasp of ordinary people. I mean really, really ordinary people: Raiders fans.

Judging from my small, informal survey of Raiders fan clubs -- one of the largest, best-organized fan networks in football, I'm told -- the tens of thousands of Raiders fans worldwide might get enough glee from forcing the Niners to play in a "Raider Nation Coliseum" that they'd fork over the $10 or so per year each it would cost them to buy the naming rights.

Following the guide of Wade's apparent worldview, where journalists don't just report the news, they make it, I phoned Raiders fan clubs around the country until I found Edward R. Atkins, a Sacramento air conditioner salesman who's also president of the Sacramento Raider Rooters. I asked Ed if he'd be willing to get his members excited about buying Candlestick naming rights. As anyone who watched the recent Super Bowl riots knows, Raiders fans are an excitable bunch.

"It's an idea I'd be willing to promote in our club newsletter," said Atkins, who then took his level of commitment a step further. "We will be more than happy to set aside an account for this."

Interested Raider fans are encouraged to consult Raiderooters.com, or e-mail Atkins with contributions, insights, or advice at Comfort.Master@Juno.com.

During several decades of lobbying on behalf of his Residential Builders Association, Joe O'Donoghue has allied himself with politicians of every stripe. Just last week, for instance, leftist Supervisor Chris Daly backed an RBA-supported rezoning measure allowing a large South of Market live-work project to be converted into apartments, to the chagrin of anti-development activists. O'Donoghue has become one of San Francisco's most controversial political figures by spreading the message that people who mix it up with him rarely come out unscathed. His latest such campaign -- which involves stomping on a group of Irish carpenters who had the temerity to picket a job site run by his right-hand man -- begs the question: Has old Joe lost his touch?

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