Monday, December 31, 2012
21 Cool, Cruel Civic Center Events in 2012
1. A Tale of Two Inaugurations
Cool: Ed Lee is the first Chinese mayor elected in San Francisco, a city with an historically large Chinese population that has been woefully treated and politically underrepresented for centuries. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi wins a hard-fought electoral battle for San Francisco Sheriff with much of the old public safety establishment doing everything they can to support his two competitors.
Cruel: Interim mayor Ed Lee "changed his mind" and ran for mayor in the November election, winning with the dual assistance of appointed incumbency and documented fraud throughout Chinatown. His inauguration party in City Hall was roped off from the public and only invited VIPs such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (above left) were allowed into the rotunda.
Mirkarimi's open and public inauguration across the street at Herbst Theatre was overshadowed by accusations of domestic violence against his wife that had just been reported in the SF Chronicle by establishment attack dog Phil Matier, above center. He was at the Mirkarimi reception talking to Joanne Hayes-White, the SF Fire Department Chief who was once accused of bashing her husband's head with a pint glass while he was frantically calling 911.
2. The Chinese Lantern Festival
Cool: An illuminated, two-story, smoke-breathing dragon appeared in Civic Center for two weeks in January and was an unexpected treat, an offshoot of the "Global Winter Wonderland Festival" held in Santa Clara earlier in December.
Cruel: Falun Gong protesters were at the culminating performing event, decrying Chinese government propaganda.
3. America's Got Talent Auditions at Bill Graham
Cool: A surrealistic melange of entertainment wannabes were being herded around Civic Center for a photo shoot.
Cruel: It felt like wandering into a contemporary version of Day of the Locust.
4. The SAFE Campaign to Abolish the California Death Penalty
Cool: Instead of campaigning on moral grounds, the anti-death penalty Proposition 34 proponents stressed pragmatism and how financially wasteful and ineffective the California death penalty actually is in practice. The campaign attracted smart, idealistic people among its ranks of volunteers, and they had a serious chance to win.
Cruel: The proposition lost 52%-48% in the November election.
5. BooBoo Stewart at the Asian American Film Festival Party
Cool: Standing next to a Twilight star in your local neighborhood Asian Art Museum at a film festival party is fun.
Cruel: The post-film party offerings were desserts and sweet cocktails, not a good combination for most metabolisms.
6. St. Patrick's Day Parade
Cool: It's a charming parade with lots of cute white people and everyone else too, step dancing and marching and drinking on floats.
Cruel: In New York, the St. Patrick's Day Parade is still disallowing a gay contingent, in the year 2013.
7. The Unethical Mirkarimi Mess
Cool: Nobody came out of the public inquisition by Mayor Lee against the elected Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi looking good. The few exceptions were Ethics Commission President Benedict Hur who voted his conscience, and Mirkarimi's final duo of lawyers, Waggoner and Kopp, who were sometimes the only ones in the San Francisco Ethics hearing room who seemed remotely ethical.
Cruel: I wrote about this story a lot, but it's a sordid tale that is better buried. The drawn-out, expensive political theater was a disturbing look behind the curtain at the corruption and ineptitude of San Francisco city government, and how that can manifest itself in a poisonous vindictiveness that wouldn't be out of place in an organized crime family.
8. Falun Gong Adopts Civic Center
Cool: Elderly Chinese, performing regimented Tai Chi routines to cheesy music, in the big empty plaza in front of City Hall, is a lovely addition to the neighborhood.
Cruel: They are a religious cult, but so is the Catholic Church.
9. Breathing Flower on the Plaza
Cool: The Asian Art Museum installed a 24-foot fabric red lotus by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa as part of their Phantoms of Asia exhibit, and the piece waved around wildly in the Pacific Ocean wind tunnel plaza for the entire summer.
Cruel: The neighborhood was afraid it was going to fly away at some point.
10. Future's Past in Hayes Valley
Cool: Burning Man's Black Rock Arts Foundation continues to funnel beautiful and interesting sculptures into the Hayes/Octavia Patricia's Green, and the latest is a small temple by Kate Raudenbush.
Cruel: Graffiti monsters have semi-trashed the interior.