The Willie Brown School for Mayors 

Interim Mayor Ed Lee’s only problem is that he is seriously ego-deficient. This is not going to help his campaign should he decide to run for actual mayor, which requires a swollen sense of self-importance.

Indeed, it’s written into the city charter that every San Francisco mayor must have a hat size that’s 10 times as big as the average citizen. Willie Brown is a textbook case, but Gavin Newsom is no slouch in the big shot department either, nor were mayors George Moscone, Art Agnos and Joseph Alioto. In fact, it’s tough to find a modest mayor other than Frank Jordan, who always seemed to be apologizing for the fact that he was — well, yes, sort of, er, um, you know, the mayor.

This lack of sufficient ego is a huge detriment for any mayor, but especially for someone hoping to lead San Francisco, which cries out for a flamboyant character to head a city known for its colorful, flashy ways. Should Ed Lee run for mayor, he’ll need to attend the Willie Brown School for Mayors to upgrade his self-esteem.

The Willie Brown School for Mayors is a six-week course run by Brown that is guaranteed to instill self-confidence bordering on hubris that any mayor, but especially Ed Lee, needs to govern efficiently. I suggested the school to one of Lee’s advisers, who told me that the almost-mayor enjoys his interim status and feels no need to tinker with his self-effacing personality.

“People sort of like the fact that Mayor Lee doesn’t take himself too seriously,” he explained.

“I’m really sorry to hear that,” I said. “Mr. Lee is never going to amount to much or ever be a serious mayoral candidate if he persists in being such a modest and seemingly ordinary guy. That sort of stuff just won’t cut it with the electorate.”

I asked the mayor’s adviser if there might be a possible scandal they could whip up that would implicate Lee as a philanderer or perhaps even just a routine abuser of campaign funds.

“I’m afraid we’ve looked into all that and the man seems to be totally clean,” the adviser said. “It’s terrible. We don’t know what we’re going to do to get voters interested if Ed doesn’t come up with something pretty soon to enhance his candidacy chances.”

“The Willie Brown School should fix that,” I said. “Willie was the very model of your modern cocky mayor. He’s so full of himself, in fact, that he’s almost a more powerful ex-mayor than mayor. Willie teaches a survey class in Basic Swaggering l-A, former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums runs a seminar in Advanced Pomposity, and ex-Supervisor Chris Daly is a guest lecturer in Ego Inflation. He never ran for mayor, but Willie felt Chris had enough arrogance for 10 mayors.”

I asked Lee’s adviser if the interim mayor was reconsidering his claim that he doesn’t want to be mayor. “If Ed Lee breaks his promise that he has absolutely no interest in running for mayor,” I said, “that would be a huge first step to the mayoralty. People might finally realize he’s a true shilly-shallying, two-faced, self-aggrandizing politician.”

Another built-in problem Lee has is that he seems sincere about not running: a serious flaw in any politician angling for higher office. He means what he says.

Lee’s adviser added, “Ed truly isn’t interested in the Mayor’s Office, but he’d like to keep running for interim mayor,” the adviser said. “You know, lowered expectations and all that.”

“Aha,” I said. “That may be just the answer! Lowered expectations worked pretty well for Jerry Brown. He lowered himself right into the governor’s mansion — twice. Maybe there’s hope for Ed Lee, after all.”

Gerald Nachman was a Bay Area newspaper columnist and critic for 14 years. His most recent book is “Right Here on Our Stage Tonight! Ed Sullivan’s America.”

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