He never impressed me as either a deep or original thinker, except on gay marriage, when he was mayor of San Francisco. The ambitious political lightweight Gavin Newsom, now biding his time as California's lieutenant governor until he runs again for governor, speaks some political truth in the current issue of Fortune:
Fortune: You call Citizenville, your new book, an attempt to "radically rethink the relationship between citizens and government."
Newsom: My sense of government today is that we're treated as subjects, not citizens -- that things are done to us, not with us. That's the framework and relationship that I think has to radically change.
After wondering which adviser fed him that thought, I saw some truth in his words especially when thinking about a few issues of importance to me.
Look at how our public sidewalks in San Francisco are horribly cluttered with empty news racks and advertising kiosks, because of a deal shoved down our throats by former Mayor Willie Brown. As I've blogged for a number of years, there are no provisions in the contract for all this useless street furniture allowing citizens to have any of it removed.
In the Castro district, we've seen City Hall cede total control of the rainbow flag on public property at Harvey Milk Plaza to the private Merchants of Upper Market Castro group. Don't forget how practically all of the decisions governing public seating and gatherings, especially of nudists, are made in private and we see politicians and neighborhood groups go through the motions of public dialogue creating an illusion of democratic engagement.
How about the San Francisco Human Rights Commission being told by elected official that their budget may be reduced if they hold a public hearing on the rainbow flag, after he demands that they stay out of his territory? A perfect example of how citizens wanting a public agency to find a resolution to a seemingly intractable problem, acceptable to more than just the elected official and his merchant friends, are treated like subjects as mentioned by Newsom.
Now that Newsom has opened his mouth about citizens as subjects with little say in our local government, I'd like to see him take concrete action (like he didn't when serving as mayor) to restore some power to the people.