Pretty Rowdy in Pink

How some ladies from S.F. will harass Hillary Clinton into being the tipping point against the Iraq War

Americans' habit of constructing parking lots as a transportation solution "distorts transportation choices, warps urban form, and degrades the environment," Shoup writes.

Like global warming, the idea that too much parking can be a problem is sometimes attacked by conservative pundits. Like global warming, it's not seriously doubted by experts in the field.

BART board member Tom Radulovich is executive director of Transportation for a Livable City, which helped draft the parking legislation. He notes that parking spaces also fetter economic development.

"There's an upper limit on auto-oriented development downtown, and that is the capacity of the roadway. If we want to add more jobs downtown, and bring more people downtown, we have to decouple that from driving and parking," Radulovich says. "This isn't a matter of ideology. It's a matter of geometry."

When the there's-no-global-warming blockheads claim to disbelieve climatology, that's viewed here as silly. When intelligent designers quarrel with biology, we smirk. Isn't it about time parking zealots -- whose beliefs rest on the notion that geometry doesn't exist -- likewise be laughed out of town?

As a city blanketed with universities, conservatories, institutes, and think tanks, San Francisco is a studious town. Our city fathers spend millions on analysts, audits, blue-ribbon commissions, and other inquiry, making us perhaps the most apprised city on Earth.

In the latest such example, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced he would appoint a blue-ribbon committee to study the issue of police officers who film insulting videos. In keeping with our community's high esteem for the life of the mind, the Chronicle asserted that, if Newsom wishes to be seen as a man of action, he will keep his commitment in order to shift into beard-stroking mode.

"Newsom vowed to convene a blue-ribbon panel to recommend Police Department reforms, a move that he now must deliver on unless he wants to be tagged as a politician who makes empty promises," the story explained.

I have an idea for another plan of action, one that also involves lots of studying, and one that just might allow the city to put an end to some of this other bogus studiousness.

Why not conduct a public relations audit to determine the fiscal and economic impact every time a politician uses city resources to run a PR campaign rather than take needed action? The mayor's ongoing handling of the police video flap is a prime candidate for such an inquiry.

To reprise, a few weeks ago a cop posted a video on the Internet making fun of the homeless, racial minorities, and others. Public Relations 101 says that, in the event of potential negative publicity, a celebrity either sidesteps or steps in front of, re-contriving events to create the appearance that the celebrity is simultaneously a protagonist and a victim of potentially besmirching events.

The mayor, brilliantly from a PR perspective, created the appearance of doing both.

Newsom called in political consultant Eric Jaye, of Storefront Political Media, who got to run the Mayor's Office for a couple of days. A passel of cops quickly got suspended. The mayor announced plans to upend the culture of the Police Department, which is to a dangerous extent infected by prejudiced, incompetent power-trippers.

Within days, however, the mayor's rhetoric softened.

Rather than overhaul the department himself, the mayor said, he would appoint a blue-ribbon commission. By Thursday the stance had turned to mush. The blue-ribbon commission idea was "stalled" pending further notice. All 24 policemen suspended were back to work in a week. And the mayor's stated concern had shifted from supposed preoccupation with the piggish ways S.F. police act to piggish things they said. The cops' "slander," to be distinguished from their actual contempt for citizens, had to stop, Newsom said.

All in all, this was a successful PR campaign, in which the mayor distanced himself publicly from his nasty cops, while offering a wink and a nudge to the officers themselves.

For the city, however, it's a disaster. The sundry direct costs of this PR exercise -- fighting off the cadre of high-powered lawyers the police union has engaged, paying overtime to cover the shifts of suspended officers, and putting high-paid underlings into crisis-PR rather than crisis-fix-things mode -- will end up totaling many thousands of dollars.

The indirect costs, however, will be more staggering. The fact the mayor said he's going to take on the untouchable police union, then pretended to have said nothing of the sort, will have awful consequences. The worst officers, with their union behind them, will become both emboldened and enraged, something the rest of us will suffer for during years to come.

There's a topic for a blue-ribbon commission.

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