Groundbreaking ceremonies might just be the most mind- numbingly predictable of all political events. Yet this morning's christening of the imminent demolition of the Transbay Terminal and seven-year construction of the new Transbay Transit Center wasn't without its moments of mirth.
The project will link up 11 transit systems, anchor a new neighborhood in the Financial District, and hopefully be the northern terminal for the high-speed rail. But you can get all that from the press release
. Here we chronicle some of the event's more entertaining bits.
The first important component for a groundbreaking ceremony is big names. Three San Francisco supervisors made it out to the opening -- one, in his shades, may be heckling groundbreakings in Fairfield this time next year. But the supes didn't get the chance to speak. No, this was an event for the high-rollers.
The Washington contingent made it out, sitting in the VIP first row alongside Mayor Gavin Newsom. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore matching dark pantsuits and blonde highlights. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made it, too (he was likely the only Republican). Yet while is was rumored Gov. Schwarzenegger was going to show up, he instead sent economic adviser David Crane, who delivered the message that the governor was busy with budget
stuff in Sacramento (one reporter in the press box actually let out an audible "Boooo!"
at this moment). Who the hell is David Crane
? Only bigwigs, please.
Like Willie Brown, for instance, who sauntered in a fashionable 10 minutes late during Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle's speech while decked out in a grey fedora and matching suit. They still had an open seat for him in the VIP row, two down from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. We can only imagine what he'll have to say about this in his Sunday column.
Thank God for Willie Brown. Sans Hizzonor, this event may have been bereft of any punchlines worth repeating whatsoever. Even Secretary LaHood made some Willie jokes. First he said he judges an event's success by the amount of people and press that show up (Check on the press: ABC 7 silver fox Dan Noyes was on the scene. No awkward touching this time
, though.) LaHood said that he was impressed by the turnout -- at first. "Now I asked the mayor who all these people were ... He said half of them are consultants who are working on this project." Big laugh there.
LaHood continued his comedy act, saying Newsom had told him: "When Mayor Brown shows up this is the only city in America with two mayors at one time." Willie Brown then pointed at LaHood as if to say, this guy's good
. LaHood battled on: "I hope that doesn't hurt you either. Those are two of the funniest
lines. You gotta elect the guy lieutenant governor just for his humor.
He knows how to make the secretary happy." And, on with the show: LaHood noted California received the largest amount of Recovery Act funds
because "you got your act together" at least three times. "You all are in the catbird seat because of the leadership in this state!" Heh. We're all in something
The place was so lousy with politicians that two dudes with binoculars were posted on top of the Transbay Terminal scanning the crowd and another two were posted on top of the building across the street.
And there was this genial man watching the whole scene from the bus dock above.
Speaker Pelosi got a standing ovation and then launched into a barrage of thank yous and platitudes, the most memorable of which was "It's like a makeover, it's like a makeover for California!" Our eyes were starting to gloss over until the festively dressed dude you may recognize from meetings at City Hall started maniacally yelling: "Yeaaa, Pelosi!" and "Yes we can! Yes we can!"
It was time for the moment we'd all been waiting for. The big shots grabbed their "ceremonial shovels" and Newsom said "Let's make it participatory and count down from 10!" The crowd counted. The news cameras readied for the money shot. And then 11 of the most important people dug their shovels into the dirt hauled in in a special container just for the event. Willie Brown, too. He didn't even put on gloves.
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