Monday, January 10, 2011

The America's Cup Lollapalooza

Last Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco City Hall's rotunda, there was a slick corporate presentation being given to celebrate the awarding of the America's Cup sailboat race to San Francisco in 2013.

Outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, twenty minutes late as usual, walked down the red-carpeted stairs with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, both of them grinning broadly for a crowd of serious power brokers.

In exchange for an investment in the Port's infrastructure over the next three years, the Team Event Authority is being gifted with invaluable waterfront land by San Francisco from the Bay Bridge to Fisherman's Wharf in multi-decade leases and outright giveaways, under the direction of Port Director Monique Moyer (above) who has her heart set on a cruise ship terminal as part of the improvements.

The event was emceed by Olympic skiier and aspiring reality TV star Jonny Moseley, who did a nice job introducing the various VIPs.

We started with outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who looked exultant after outmaneuvering his political enemies the night before when the Board of Supervisors voted for Ed Lee as interim mayor rather than Sheriff Michael Hennessey.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu was seated next to Ellison and Newsom, and he appeared genuinely excited being close to so much money and power. He stared down at Ellison and said, "We haven't met yet, but your reputation through your negotiators precedes you, and I must say that the tips of my fingers are just starting to heal." I'm not quite sure what this meant, but he looked meaningfully at the world's sixth richest person and made it clear that Chiu looked forward to working with him.

There were a number of videos and PowerPoint slides attempting to demonstrate how a billionaire's oceangoing yachting race was going to somehow be transformed into a spectator-friendly sport in 2013 that would be as popular as football or baseball. I'm not buying it for a minute, but at least they are making an attempt, with a race route on the northern side of the waterfront extending from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge with Alcatraz as a central buoy.

The inspirational tone of the videos was fairly absurd, but perfect for the occasion, where the power players were so thick it was both heady and noxious.

Charlotte Shultz (above left), who actually runs San Francisco in her spare time, arrived late for the ceremonies... did Willie Brown, Jr. (above left), the other backroom mover and shaker who politically lubricates development deals for the wealthy, among other favors.

After the ceremony, there was a press conference where Ellison and Newsom appeared to be in the midst of a serious man-crush. The only impolite question was from Katie Worth of the San Francisco Examiner, who wanted to know what the actual "tweaks" were that Newsom offered in exchange for garnering the cup. Ellison emphasized that the Team's only concern was that the sailing village infrastructure be financed and ready for 2013, while not explaining why it was necessary to have 75-year leases. Gavin became excited, and proclaimed, "That was then. It's history. We're over Phase One. Now we're on to the next phase. It's a whole new story." God only knows what the outgoing mayor has given away to the billionaire Ellison, and it wiil probably take years to find out.


Matthew Hubbard said...

Sometimes I'm not quite sure these people you scorn so beautifully are the absolute scum of the earth.

But when you put Willie Brown and Larry Ellison in the same room, I'm sure.

In fact, quite sure.

Civic Center said...

Dear Matty: Just finished "The Wire" and my lord, does that version of Baltimore resonate with what I've witnessed in local politics, race relations, power brokering, and police equilibrium/corruption. Some of the details are different, but the template's pretty much the same.

And like "The Wire," most of these corrupt power brokers are not the absolute scum of the earth. They're opportunistic, situational, nuanced human beings, most of them. But you're right, and thanks for noticing. There are a few that really have passed into inhuman monstrousness, and a lot of them were there for this particular shindig.

AphotoAday said...

Willie Brown, the "lubricator" to the rich... Love it...