Good Scout, Bad Boy: Examining the Virtues of Leland Yee

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Photo courtesy www.lelandyee.com. Photo illustration by Andrew J. Nilsen

Leland Yee — the state senator who, according to some polls, is the current mayoral front-runner — has polished for himself a shining public image. He purports to be an earnest public servant, conventional in attitudes and tastes, willing to take on popular causes such as advocating for the rights of non-English speakers, and protesting the secrecy surrounding Sarah Palin's $75,000 CSU speaking fee. He stands up for children, even, protecting them from violent videogames. In short, he's the straight-arrow Boy Scout of a legislator, advocating open government, free speech, reforming schools, and all that's good for the kids.

But beneath that do-gooder veneer lurks a long history of apparent ethical lapses. During a generation in public life, Yee has become expert at talking himself out of trouble. In the past, compromised political characters have nonetheless gone on to great public careers. Yet Yee's puny political accomplishments don't seem to portend great things. Join us as we examine the history of Leland Yee, the political Boy Scout who would like to turn demerits into badges.

imageYEE IS CHASTE. Although cops stopped him twice in the Mission District's hooker-row area near Capp Street in 1999, Yee denied soliciting prostitutes. He told the media: "They presume that people are driving around there looking for prostitutes, but there are people who use that street to go home. They said there was somebody they thought looked like me who may have been soliciting. And I said, 'No, I was coming from work.'" (He had been living at his parents' place on Dolores Street.)

imageYEE IS HELPFUL. According to a 1992 incident report, a police officer in Keauhou, Hawaii, detained Yee after a security guard at KTA Super Store spotted him slipping a bottle of Tropical Blend Tan Magnifier Oil under his shirt and into his pocket and then walking out of the store. After he was nabbed, Yee insisted it was a simple mistake: He had taken the merchandise to check with his wife, who was waiting in the parking lot, to see if it was the right one to buy.

imageYEE IS PRECISE. In 1994, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, where Yee was administrator, was in need of grant money. Ex-employees claim he came up with an enterprising solution that involved revising medical records of people who'd been helped by the nonprofit to make their conditions seem more severe. One said she'd seen Yee with a bottle of Wite-Out revising stacks of patient records willy-nilly. Yee told the press he was merely making reports more precise. Whatever Yee was doing, the nonprofit's overseers didn't seem to mind: Following the incident, he was promoted.

imageYEE FAVORS DIVERSITY. The diversity of invasive plant species, at least. In 2002, Yee joined with dog and tree advocates to object to preservationists' contention that cypress and eucalyptus trees should be cut and dogs should be restrained to protect the native lessingia flower. In an editorial in The Independent, Yee compared those preservationists to racists: "How many of us are 'invasive exotics' who have taken root in the San Francisco soil?"

YEE IS LOYAL. Just ask his campaign donors. He has authored 213 bills. Of those, 54 were sponsored by organizations including the casino Bay 101, which gave him $9,900, and the California Association of Health Plans, which gave him $22,938. In all, Yee reported receiving $188,755 in campaign contributions from the backers of so-called sponsored bills that bear his name.

YEE IS KIND. To his own children, that is. In 1991, San Francisco's superintendent of schools ordered Yee to withdraw his son and daughter from school, saying he had given the district an address that wasn't his to qualify them for a better school. Yee did this while a sitting member of the school board.

Had Yee given the address listed on his voter registration, his kids would have been sent to a school ranked near the bottom in the city. When confronted, Yee gave conflicting explanations of the seemingly bogus address before settling on the claim that his children were living in his friend's home, so he figured that was the address he should give.


Leland Yee can't erase his own past.

Too often at the ballot box, we're asked to ignore the negative side of two-faced candidates in the hope that some compensating political talent will help them do great things. Willie Brown's image as a flashy genius obscured sleaze that spurred several FBI investigations into his cronies and business dealings. But as San Francisco mayor, he overran obstructionists to build a city full of monuments such as the new university campus at China Basin.

Bill Clinton presented himself as the policy wonk you'd want to have a beer with, but the real Clinton's impulse-control problems nearly brought down his administration. His energy, instinct, and savvy, however, were enough to eliminate deficits while leading a relatively peaceful world.

In November, San Franciscans will be asked to make a similarly painful choice.

Leland Yee is a political lifer who has served on the school board, the Board of Supervisors, in the state Assembly, and now in the state Senate, where he represents the Eighth District. He has built a public facade of earnest goodness that, if it were as much his essence as it is his veneer, would make him Sacramento's top Eagle Scout.

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48 comments
barron
barron

It's Bush's fault.

barron
barron

It's Bush's fault.

anon
anon

Leland Yee is the worst backstabber. During the Ed Jew debacle, the Chron ran an article about who "fingered Ed." Although Ed Jew as Yee's political hack, it was Leland Yee who stabbed Jew in the back when he went to the FBI to rat Ed out. I guess Ed failed to do Leland's bidding so he was expendable. I will not be voting for this phony.

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Tamara Ching
Tamara Ching

same old rumors and who has not made a mistake in the past. what is proven is his hard work as school board member, san francisco supervisor, california assemblyman and now as california senator. his community involvement is vast and varied. he votes on what the people want and does his work based on this input. but keep up the good work trashing people in your articles instead of focusing on the now and for the future of san francisco. let the educated voters assess which candidates are worthy of the one-three votes this november. senator yee has my vote, as i always evaluate and choose accordingly. this san francisco native is definitely going along with senator yee -- will you.

Sanfranjonny
Sanfranjonny

This is over the top. Only focus the bad. The large illustration all you need is a mustache. He would become Hitler.

Too_much_coffee93
Too_much_coffee93

Somebody doesn't like Leland Yee much.....I expect no less from the idiots who wrote a fictional piece on Barry Bonds (disguised like a true story) when he repeatedly blew off their requests for an interview. The SF Weakly tends to sensational, which turns off anyone concerned with true journalism in the Bay Area

censorized
censorized

Really Matt? Not even the pretense of actual journalism here, just slingin' the sleaze, eh? You had plenty of opportunities to enlighten your readers about the man, and yet chose to run with 20 year old stories and fling around a few unsubstantiated rumors? Beyond sleaze.

In an election like this with so many important issues, we need real journalists reporting actual news. You think Yee is dirty, dig it up and dazzle us with the facts. This shit is pathetic.

Rich Davis
Rich Davis

Free speech? When has he ever stood for free speech? The ban on videogames violated the First Amendment -- a HUGE majority of the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the law. You can't get any more anti-free speech than that.

Guest
Guest

Yee pushing a ridiculous law on video games that has gone on to be proved unconstitutional multiple times is enough reason for me not to vote for him. This stuff is just fuel to the fire. I didn't know this state and SF had so few problems that we needed someone to be the face of the non-existant video game lobby.

The idiots writing anti-video game laws will go down in the same reactionary, backwards chapter in history books where people against Elvis are cited.

David B
David B

Let us not forget about Yee's constant attempts to sell out the Cow Palace to private developers, none of whom, I'm sure, donate to his campaign.

HawHaw
HawHaw

I seriously question the credibility of a newspaper that's half med. marijuana ads and half "exotic masseuse" ads. If you're going to criticize Yee, you're not going to rely on assumed intentions from scattered events; otherwise this is just a political lowblow and isn't going to be taken seriously.

Ramon Lazo
Ramon Lazo

what a load of krap. i don't know anything about this guy nor do I care. i got about three paragraphs into it and the snarkiness and bullshit got to me. what a waste of time. they even designed graphics for this piece of shit article.

Thomas Clarke
Thomas Clarke

Given all of his failings, he does not look much worse than anyone else. I am not too happy with the saints out there.

AverageAmerican
AverageAmerican

I want the truth, I am sick and tired of being blind sided by our politicians. When we know the truth, then we can make an informed decision.

Anon73
Anon73

@Greg - agreed. Someone wrote this with a political hit for Yee. Of all possible "transgressions" someone can committ, I think this is relatively harmless. And is being sensationalized.

Greg
Greg

Wow. I mean... wow. I've never seen anything like this. This is just the most nasty, vicious political hit piece I have ever seen, including the Matt Gonzalez piece. That one was written in Matt Smith's usual trashy, sly, underhanded snarky style. But at least it had a style. This was just plain mean -short on facts and full of unsupported innuendo. And nasty. Just overboard on the nasty.

And I hate to pull out the race card, but dude... that image of Leland in the uniform with the red tie makes him look like a cross between Adolf Hitler and some communist Chinese soldier. One would like to believe that the evocative imagery is purely accidental, but accompanied by a hit piece like this, I think that would be naive.

I can see from some of the other comments that even opponents of Leland Yee are keeping their distance from this. Smart move on their part, because this is just over the top.

Look, I think Yee is all right. Not as progressive as I would like, but better than the politicians who are coming out of the corrupt city hall establishment. So maybe I'm biased. But I would think that a normal person who picked this up and read it, having never heard of Leland Yee or Matt Smith, would just be repulsed by it. I'd be thinking, who is this guy Smith and what is his agenda? Is he shilling for another candidate, or is it just plain Hate?

San Francisco Native
San Francisco Native

Leland is probably the most harmless of the current crop. Matt lays into him as he did with Matt Gonzalez.

Everyone from the system running in the race is filtly, but I think that Yee will be less damaging than Dufty, Chiu, Herrera, etc.'

Mission Bay was not Willie Brown's accomplishment — although he did do a dirty job as a railway lawyer in selling contaminated land.

I think it looks awful, but Smith revels in tack (including his often unfair, often below-the-belt smearing attacks on people).

marcos
marcos

Leland's record has to be balanced against the ethical lapses of the people behind Ed Lee.

At least with Leland, it is just him. With Ed Lee, we're continuing to enable the Brown/Pak/Kawa corrupt operation.

Able Dart
Able Dart

I'm not sure repeating Leland's personal indiscretions makes sense anymore. Everyone seems to have decided that they aren't true or that they don't matter, and they're right. What matters is that Leland has become a media driven political weathervane with a disease-of-the-week policy agenda.

Peter Christiansen
Peter Christiansen

Yee frquently voted with mobile home park owners versus low income mobile home dwellers (many of them seniors), who live in San Mateo county and of course the rest of California. He is what is know as a "blue dog" i.e. right wing Democrat.

SanFrustration
SanFrustration

Leland Yee is one shady character that does not have the best interests in mind for most of San Francisco's voters. From his flip-flop on the shark fin soup controversy, to his pandering to unions, he has proven time and time again to be an untrustworthy character. Personally, I didn't trust him given his over the top stance refuting there was a need for pension reform during the Prop B campaign. He was a sock puppet for public employees, and look where we are today... clearly there is a problem as the public employees were even forced to put something on the ballot. Yet another Yee flip-flop in the making once he makes one comment on the record regarding this issue.

Akit
Akit

Yee made me really uncomfortable when the shark fin bill was going through the state legislature. He first stood aside local Chinese restaurant owners in allowing the continued use of the fins, then after much heat, backs away.

AverageAmerican
AverageAmerican

Long time SF resident, who is familiar with Mr Yee's virtues and demons, appreciates that the truth be told. But will continue to support Mr.Yee because despite his blunders and errors in judgment, he understands and fights for the average citizen and his heart is in the right place.

Sharky
Sharky

Every election year we go through this.

Every election year the local print rags start playing an album called Leland Yee's Greatest Hits. Mortagehookersuntanblahblahblah.

And every time the electorate decides it doesn't care.

Every. Single. Time.

What you're telling us with all this repetition is that, for the past two decades, we've been gullible rubes.

And in November, when Yee inevitably wins (again) the Chron & Weekly will be shaking their heads (again) wondering why we never heeded their advice.

One of these days its going to dawn on you.

LA Weekly
LA Weekly

We'd like to welcome everyone to the comments section, and encourage the open discussion of this issue.

However, we noted multiple comments from the same IP address but using multiple commenting IDs. We have deleted those comments, and will continue to monitor this section. Users who post from the same IP using multiple names -- i.e. "sock puppets" -- will be deleted and banned from posting.

Thanks for your understanding,SF Weekly

Kevin_miller12
Kevin_miller12

Thank you, finally!

Now Leland know's how those sharks feel.

Nice fin work.

Jenny Burton
Jenny Burton

leland yee = worst possible candidate for mayor.

btw...that boy scout picture sure looks creepy (hint...hint...NAZI...).

Ed Vandelay
Ed Vandelay

Run Leland Run... from your moral indiscretions.

Charles Carmichael
Charles Carmichael

I can't stand Leland Yee. how was he even elected before with all these nasty skeletons in his closet. sounds to me like he's a big sleez ball. hope he isn't elected mayor, or SF is done for.

Cbanner52
Cbanner52

Sketchy is not the word that I word I would use to describe Leeland's activities. He is the last guy I want to run our city. Keep San Francisco's name clean.

Tropics
Tropics

gifted "FATCAT" user boooooooo

Tropics
Tropics

watch out....OCTOBER issue!!!picture's of Leland Yee's SexMate

anon
anon

And now the video game manufacturers are trying to stick the attorney fees to the State of CA for a clearly illegal law. Thanks for the extra debt Leland!

Junkfortheinbox
Junkfortheinbox

The Constitution allows for minors to buy video games? What foresight! Seriously dude, the law didn't ban video games, it did not allow children to buy them. You might want to check the facts before being such a drama queen.

starchild
starchild

Hey, selling marijuana or sex is honest -- unlike Leland Yee, if even half of the stuff about him in the SF Weekly story is true.

Sharky
Sharky

Here's the thing about a weathervane: it always points in the direction of the wind. Sometimes the wind is in your face; but sometimes it's at your back, too.

That's why a lot of voters (who feel they've been shut out by Newsom, and before him, Brown & Jordan) really like Leland Yee. Because they all have a seat at the table. His coalition is unusually broad. The cost of that broadness is ideological elasticity.

You call that unprincipled. But if your principles are opposed to mine, that suits me and the rest of my voting bloc just fine.

I've been governed by a District 2 Marina millionaire for the past 8 years. And before him, a vicious Downtown powerbroker. Compared to the status quo, Leland Yee looks fantastic.

SanFrustration
SanFrustration

Hahaha, that is hilarious yet predictable. It would be a stretch to suggest that Leland Yee is posting multiple posts himself, but I'm not surprised at all that his supporters have adopted such pathetic and unethical tactics.

Cbanner52
Cbanner52

They can smell him on the other side of the world!

starchild
starchild

The Constitution allows every freedom that it doesn't specifically leave up to government to regulate. See the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Bill of Rights:

IX - "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

X - "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Governments have no moral right to overrule parents and say that children cannot buy certain video games even if their parents have given them permission to buy them.

Sharky
Sharky

Then you would be shocked to know that the banned posts were obviously not from a Yee supporter because they were anti-Yee in content.

It was really obvious who made them:

http://twitter.com/#!/BobBrigh...

Guest
Guest

Porn was already ruled not for children decades ago. To treat video games the same as porn and different from books and movies would've been asinine and you know it.

 
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