State Capitol Will Always Have Room for Mr. Brown

Neither drought nor Prop. 13 nor term limits can keep Willie Brown, the "Speaker for Life," out of Sacramento.

Brown, running for reelection as mayor of San Francisco, was accorded lofty honors on Monday at the scene of his past triumphs, the floor of the Assembly.

The "Speaker for Life" was made "Speaker for a Day."

The Speaker's Conference Room just off the Assembly floor, where speakers use private persuasion to make public policy--and where the dapper Democrat once said he liked to summon Republicans to contemplate the error of their ways--was renamed for Brown.

And, in the sports tradition of retiring a great athlete's number, Brown's desk was similarly decommissioned. The only other legislator accorded this honor was Jesse Unruh, whose desk was not only retired but draped in black for a year after his death.

Curiously, the sky did not fall when Brown said he was "humbled" by the honors. But perhaps that's because Brown then remarked that if current speaker Antonio Villaraigosa had been "really imaginative, you would have named the Capitol after me."

One sly encomium to Brown's political savvy came from now-Sen. Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga). Brulte once challenged Brown for the speakership, but lost after a fellow Republican assemblyman, Paul Horcher, bolted ranks and supported Brown--and then got recalled as chastisement.

As a green young legislator, Brulte said, he had received one piece of advice from Willie Brown: "Always trust Paul Horcher."


Feathers vs. scales In federal court, as in evolution, the chicken has survived the dinosaur.

The interspecies matter was apparently settled last week when a three-judge appellate panel upheld the dismissal of a patent infringement lawsuit brought by the owners of the Barney the Dinosaur character against Ted Giannoulas, the man who long cavorted at sporting events as the San Diego Chicken.

It started with the chicken beating up the dinosaur.

The $100,000 lawsuit, by the Texas company that owns Barney, didn't object to the biologically preposterous matchup of a chicken defeating a mega-reptile, but it did have a problem with copyright infringement, claiming the purple dinosaur in the act looked too much like its purple dinosaur.

The ruling upholds last year's dismissal by a judge who found the chicken commedia to be strictly parody. Whether the parody decision will be further appealed is as uncertain as which comes first, the chicken or his nest egg--the $180,000 the Texas company was ordered to pay in legal fees.


Paper to plastic Note to the folks at the California Department of Conservation, which works to maintain California's place at the top of the charts as the most recycling-minded state in the nation:

You'll be glad to know that your dozen-plus-page press kit on your department's new recycling logo now reposes in a big blue recycling bin. . . .


One-offs The field office of Assemblywoman Audie Bock, the first Green Party member elected to the state Legislature, is in a building named for the man she defeated, former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris . . . A Santa Cruz woman who said she had to put up with daily hooting and comments like "Hey, baby, show me your meat" from construction workers, has won an apology from the construction company after she protested outside the firm's office wearing pork chops on her chest . . . An Oakland man is demanding a retrial of his police brutality lawsuit because one of the seven jurors who rejected his claim, a graphic artist, drew his likeness during the trial . . . In a double rescue, a Pacifica man climbed down a beach-side cliff to save his dog, who was injured in a fall from the edge, and a Coast Guard crew rescued them both when the incoming tide trapped them in a cove.


A Very Cherry Season

Despite a cool spring, the state's harvest of fresh-market cherries is expected to top 47,000 tons this year, according to the California Cherry Advisory Board. At that rate, the 1999 harvest will be three times as high as last year's, when El Nino rains caused the crop to plummet. It also may best 1997's total haul of fresh-market cherries and those grown for use in processing, which was 48,474 tons. Here are the top cherry-growing counties that year, along with the crop's value.

County: 1. San Joaquin

Tons of Cherries: 40,300

Value: $98 million

County: 2. Stanislaus

Tons of Cherries: 4,650

Value: $14 million

County: 3. Tulare

Tons of Cherries: 1,210

Value: $5.1 million

County: 4. Santa Clarita

Tons of Cherries: 1,185

Value: $3.9 million

County: 5. Contra Costa

Tons of Cherries: 406

Value: $772,000

County: 6. San Benito

Tons of Cherries: 207

Value: $568,000

County: 7. El Dorado

Tons of Cherries: 180

Value: $630,000

County: 8. Los Angeles

Tons of Cherries: 144

Value: $500,000

County: 9. Sacramento

Tons of Cherries: 118

Value: $298,000

County: 10. Riverside

Tons of Cherries: 38

Value: $115,000

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times



"She didn't think he should have spent that kind of money on flowers."

--Prosecutor Robert LaForge, on a Petaluma woman sentenced to six months' jail time for stabbing her husband in the back. When the husband brought home the flowers, "there had been a lot going on verbally" between the two already, said the woman's attorney. As the argument resumed, the man threw down the flowers, which clipped his wife's face, and she stabbed him as he bent over to pick them up. His wound required four stitches.

California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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