Pobre Nacho. It was supposed to be Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente's big day. He was going to officially kick off his 2006 mayoral campaign at Yoshi's, do his turn on the red carpet for the cameras, and deposit donations from the political glitterati. Instead, a hundred or so party-crashers from the Service Employees International Union Local 790 spoiled the event by blowing whistles, chanting fun things like "No, no, Ignacio," and pressing cardboard silhouettes representing forty laid-off city employees against the windows. A few invitees lingered for as long as fifteen minutes at the end of the block debating whether they should pass through the gauntlet and make for the restaurant's entrance.
De La Fuente, however, stubbornly refused to come out for impromptu negotiations with the campaign terrorists. As he explained it the morning after, he was in the right. Local 790's leadership screwed over its members by not compromising during budget talks, he says, thus forcing the council to hand out pink slips to balance the city's books. "For them to now go through this circus with someone who has helped them in every way, shape, or form is absolute bullshit," the councilman soberly reflected.
While Ignacio shunned the rabble, Mayor Jerry Brown saved the night when he appeared outside about thirty minutes into the two-hour event to make a grand announcement. The unionists hoisted the 66-year-old mayor up onto a city garbage can and handed him a bullhorn (which he didn't use). Brown promised to take a look at each and every position cut and see if there might be some way of saving those jobs. With that, the mob was temporarily placated, the party went on, and De La Fuente boasted an impressive evening of nearly $200,000 in contributions.
Nevertheless, it was a rocky finish to a rough week that started with an embarrassing story in the Trib suggesting that De La Fuente had pressured top cop Richard Word to halt DUI checkpoints to protect sober illegal immigrants from losing their cars for lack of a license.
The councilman adamantly denied the report the next day, but by then it was too late -- the story had hit the wires and been reprinted by the likes of the Washington Times.
De La Fuente's camp immediately suspected that someone had leaked and spun the story to make the mayoral candidate look bad. "Did somebody stab me in the back? Absolutely," he told Feeder. "Do I know who? Yes. Am I gonna tell you who? No. Are you going to be able to tell who in the next month? Yes. You're gonna be able to tell, because I don't take no shit and I always pay back."
Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt already has a reputation for stirring things up, but his colleagues are saying he finally went too far. The controversy started when Butt sent out a message on his e-mail forum accusing acting City Attorney Everett Jenkins of retaliating against him for pushing the city to recruit a permanent city attorney ASAP.
Butt says Jenkins ordered his council wages garnisheed last month to repay a $3,991 judgment from nine years ago when Citizen Butt unsuccessfully sued the city for access to financial records. Butt, who insists he was in the right, has steadfastly refused to shell out the dough (see Bottom Feeder, April 14).
In his mass e-mail, Butt claimed the city attorney was singling him out, leaving other city debts uncollected: "They have a huge backlog of uncollected judgments going back a decade or more that they are too lazy or too incompetent to collect." The councilman also took a swipe at Jenkins' designated "hatchet man," who, Butt said, "has a reputation around City Hall for seldom showing up for work and spending long lunch hours with [a city department head] at the Hotel Mac paid for by taxpayers through city credit cards."
Oh, but the man wasn't through yet. Butt also bragged about having taken a 15 percent pay cut and having paid his own way to Richmond's sister city in China, unlike his junketing council counterparts.
During a recent council meeting, Butt's colleagues asked him to apologize to Jenkins and city staff. Butt refused, saying that if Jenkins could prove Butt had written anything that was false, he'd "admit it" and send a follow-up e-mail to his forum subscribers clarifying the record. So far, Butt says, Jenkins hasn't done that.
As Feeder goes to press, councilmembers are poised to vote on a resolution that would censure Butt for spreading "erroneous and disrespectful" information about staff. Such an official rebuke might not look so good a few weeks before an election. Then again, in a year when Richmond voters might punish budget-busting incumbents, being an outcast on the council might not be such a bad thing.
Fixin' What Ain't Broke
UC Berkeley is soliciting lyrics for its new fight song, so Feeder is submitting his entry via this column. I couldn't come up with anything to go with that dreadful new marching-band tune, so instead I turned to Jay-Z's "99 Problems," which was on the car stereo on the way to work. Only the chorus is really inspired by "99 Problems" -- the rest is a mixture of any rap song from the mid-'80s and Def Leppard's "Photograph." Question not -- just work with me here, people.
Chorus: You're havin' scoring problems/I feel bad for you, son/We got 99 points and you ain't got one
Verse: Birthplace of free speech down there on lower Sproul/You ain't got a chance, dude, so better throw in the towel/Bears, baby, Bears, the original state university/Majority-minority and still preachin' diversity/We've got alumni as far as y'all can see/From QB Joe Kapp to bomber Ted Kaczynski/Cardinal, you can't UC me/This here's a blue-and-gold victory/Head for the showers after we take a knee/Oskie's declarin' a phatwa on that stupid tree/Hey, you callin' us stupid, what types of facts are those?/Cuz all our hos got at least 3.0's/We'll see how smart you are when College Gameday come/We got 99 points and you ain't got one.
Too Much Information
The Double Entendre of the Week award goes to the campaign of Green Party vice-presidential candidate Pat LaMarche, who sent out the following sinfully titled press release last week: "Green Party VP Candidate Sleeps with California's Homeless and Migrant Workers."
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