Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Pay to play in the City by the Bay

Yesterday I attended a little press conference called by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, the Courage Campaign, and community activists to demand an investigation of the "pay to play" practices of our mayor and his minions.They steal the city from its residents and give it away to favored developers.

Intimations that something is rotten under the dome of City Hall leak out over and over. It was common knowledge that when Willie Brown was termed out in Sacramento, he used his mayoral terms (1996-2004) to line his own and his croney's pockets, treating the city as a piggy bank.

An FBI sting operation brought down our crooked State Senator Leland Yee (accepting bribes and gun trafficking!) in 2014. Half the ruling establishment of San Francisco seems to have been implicated in some way in these shady dealings, though only a few are being made to take the fall. In early August, Jonah Owen Lamb reported in the San Francisco Examiner that court filings related to the Chinatown gangster the Feds have charged reveal some seamy stuff:

Evidence from the prosecution of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow potentially implicates a wide array of city and state leaders, including Mayor Ed Lee, in alleged bribery schemes, pay-to-play plots, campaign fund laundering and state construction contract rigging.

According to a Tuesday filing by Chow’s attorneys in federal court, which includes never-before-released details and names from a yearlong investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mayor Lee, some of The City’s leadership, an Alameda County prosecutor and a state official were all named in alleged wrongdoing caught on tape or witnessed by undercover FBI agents or their sources.

... The alleged misconduct started at the top, according to the filing and its FBI sources.

“The FBI alleged in discovery that Ed Lee took substantial bribes in exchange for favors,” notes the filing, which goes on to say that then-Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer and commission staff member Zula Jones facilitated those exchanges.

Jones was reported by the FBI to have said that former mayor Willie Brown taught Lee to do business, according to the filing.

“You got to pay to play here. We got it. We know this. We are the best at this game … better than New York. We do it a little more sophisticated than New Yorkers. We do it without the mafia,” Jones reportedly said.

Mohajer allegedly “explained the process by which she launders Ed Lee’s campaign money,” said the filing, which went on to say that Lee took $20,000 in campaign contributions, gifts and trips in his first four months in office. The filing alleges Jones and Mohajer said Lee “knew he was taking the money illegally.” ...

There's plenty more in the linked article. Not surprisingly, the Mayor denies the charges.

At yesterday's press conference, the most poignant testimony came from Betty Mackey, a tenant who is facing eviction from her apartment on Yerba Buena Island out in the Bay. The Yerba Buena cluster has been used as affordable city-owned housing since 2000, but now that the city has fully taken possession of the land from the Navy, it is to be given to Lennar Corporation, Kenwood Investments, Wilson Meany and Stockbridge Investments to build luxury condos.

Tenants maintain that the city should be able to take advantage of the property to build more affordable housing. After all, we own it. Why turn it over to the ultra-rich? Oh, to pay off the mayor's political funders? So it seems.

Mackey waved this chart for all to see the interconnections of San Francisco's rich and powerful looters. You can see the whole at the link. Apparently they are all in this together.

Will the rest of us ever get mad enough to throw the bums out? And can we be in this together?

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