Leave police work to police 

Foul language emanating from the Board of Supervisors chamber recently received considerable coverage by the media. But now, a different word is garnering attention: whoops.

Maybe you’ve caught wind of the “leftier than thou syndrome,” whereby the board’s ruling majority is publicly griping about the Police Department’s push for a new sit-lie law to deal with dangerous street thugs.

Those collaborators on the board have been crying in the press that they weren’t involved in the “process.” Yet, it turns out some of the very same board members are the ones that slapped a proposal together calling for foot patrols in neighborhoods, without bothering to discuss it with the chief of police.

The lesson here, apparently, is that it’s good when they do it, but bad when it’s done to them. And that’s what passes for democracy here in our fair city.

The supervisors are no doubt feeling pressure these days, having to come to grips with the fact that they’re going to have to cut more than $500 million from a city budget just chock-full of their experimental social projects. And it turns out that many of their recent moves backfired, such as the ballot measure designed to protect parks from shadows that instead threatened to kill a whole host of high-profile developments that had to be scrapped to allow its supporters to save face.

But when the board starts acting as the head of the Police Department, you know it’s in trouble. Police Chief George Gascón told me that the first thing he heard about mandated foot patrols was a voice mail from a reporter asking how he felt about the idea. Trust me, you never want to hear anything from a reporter first.

“From a public policy standpoint, it’s a problem because you can’t dictate policy and budget decisions for every community,” Gascón told me. “Foot beats may be appropriate in some cases, but we have a finite amount of resources and it needs to be understood that it may impact other crime prevention aspects.”

You know, like radio cars, crackdowns in high-crime areas and that stuff we generally know as police work, which, most right-thinking people agree, should be left to the police. Gascón is getting remarkably high marks for changes he’s made in the department — and the thought here is that it’s a wise idea to let him run it.

 


Brown sitting pretty while others bicker

At some point, Attorney General-Zen master Jerry Brown is going to have to announce he’s running as the Democratic candidate for governor, but for those who find it annoying that he’s deployed a rope-a-dope strategy, they’d have to admit he’s looking pretty smart.

Brown hasn’t even thrown a punch and already his Republican opponents are bloodied.

The big exchange this week between GOP governor hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner — about Poizner’s calls for a criminal investigation into a Whitman staffer’s e-mail suggesting that the insurance commissioner should drop out of the race because he’s trailing so badly — does not bode well for the Republicans.

Already dealing with public perception that they’re trying to “buy” the governor’s seat by writing tens of millions in checks to their own campaigns, Whitman and Poizner have unwittingly given Brown a boost for his populist bid for his third term in the statehouse.

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that it was pretty amateurish for a longtime aide to put into writing that somehow Republican forces could be marshaled into Poizner’s corner for a future run against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein as long as he agreed to drop out of the governor’s race.

Everybody expected the Republican candidates to spend months attacking Brown in the general election with a mountain of opposition research. But now, Brown gets to sit back and watch his potential opponents label each other “loser” and “sleazy.’’

Is he lucky or good? We’ll find out in November.

 


Google expands its influence with expensive lobbying tab

One of the best ways to judge when a company is riding high is to follow its lobbying practices, and Google, our very own Silicon Valley search engine giant, is starting to flex its muscle on Capitol Hill.

New Senate reports show that Google spent some $4 million on lobbyists last year, more than twice as much as Yahoo and three times as much as Apple. That’s not just idle twittering, that’s serious face time.

Google’s gospel-spreading can be tracked almost as easily as its growth. Five years ago, the company was nearly invisible in the Beltway. Now, only Oracle spends more money among Silicon Valley firms trying to bolster their might with congressional lawmakers.

According to public documents, most of the Washington work is being done by D.C.-based firms on issues ranging from getting approval of its acquisition of DoubleClick to its failed attempt to fashion an online partnership with rival Yahoo.

Last year, the company was especially busy working with the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies on privacy and competition issues related to copyright laws, online advertising and its much-publicized settlement with book publishers.

Expect an even bigger Capitol push in 2010.

 


Might want to cage this canine product

The Super Bowl brings out some of the best in advertising, and unleashes more than a fair share of marketing mayhem. In the latest sign of the apocalypse, a New York marketing firm is pitching Potty Patch, an indoor artificial turf area for dogs so their mesmerized owners won’t have to miss the big game by being forced to take Fido out for his constitutional.

The geniuses at Trent and Co. are pushing the idea with a straight face and accompanying images, suggesting that the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning “won’t be the only one stepping out on AstroTurf during Sunday’s Super Bowl.”

If only truth were a requirement for marketing campaigns. The game will be played on grass — just the type of surface that real dog owners seek out for their pets.

The product is branded by the American Kennel Club, which may want to call in a new trainer.

 

 

 

 

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Ken Garcia

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