Irony watch: San Francisco has hired RJR Reynolds Tobacco Co. lobbyists Cassidy and Associates to advocate for the city in the nation's capital. The strange relationship could find the influential lobbyists arguing for and against city interests -- all while making $125,000 a year from local taxpayers. Among other niggling hypotheticals is that RJR, which is being sued by the city, could ask the big-gun lobbyists to pressure San Francisco into dropping its pursuit of millions in damages for smoking-related health costs. City Attorney Louise Renne surely miffed the weed peddlers with her invitation to 57 other California counties to join her crusade. Yet Willie Brown (who, along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, recommended Cassidy) is apparently undisturbed by the potential conflict of interest. "Lobbying firms -- like lawyers, public defenders, and corporate attorneys -- often have several clients," says P.J. Johnston, Brown's deputy press secretary. "I'm sure people here will take a look at it. But I don't think there's a direct conflict."
Killing the Messenger
Local political consultants are getting personal in their campaign to stop Supervisor Tom Ammiano's bill regulating their lobbying activities. Their targets: ethics maven Larry Bush, who advised Ammiano on the bill, and Ethics Commissioner Paul Melbostad, who wants the commission to back the bill. In records requests sent to Ammiano's office and the S.F. office of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), consultant Mike Rice is seeking any and all relevant communication, presumably to catch Bush advising Ammiano while on federal time. (Bush, a former SF Weekly scribe, is a spokesperson for HUD.) "They even asked for my reimbursed lunch receipts," Bush says. "All they'll find on my computer is my chicken salad recipe, which I guard jealously." Vis-a-vis Melbostad, an employee of consultant Robert Barnes filed a complaint June 17 asking for Melbostad's removal from the commission because of alleged bias. Melbostad calls it "intimidation."
Night and the City
Despite a June 14 protest in Oakland, AC Transit ran its last Owl buses the morning of June 15. The agency says it can't continue the service due to rising costs, lost subsidies, and a budget deficit. So the routes will be closed between midnight and 5:15 a.m. And with BART not running between 1 and 4 a.m., that means the end of public transportation between the city and the East Bay in early morning hours. Ron, the driver on the 12:35 run, says he isn't sure what's going to happen to his passengers, including many clubgoers. "There's going to be more people out drinking and driving now, probably," he says. "When I hear people say what great public transportation we have, I cringe," says Bruce, an S.F. resident who had come to Oakland for a surprise Pavement show Saturday night. AC Transit spokesman Mike Mills says five dozen public workshops preceded the company's decision. AC Transit's planners hope to restore Owl services.
By Dirk Olin, George Cothran, Heather Wisner