Jeb Bush Takes Slap at San Francisco, Backpedals

Times Staff Writer

A state that sells themed license plates pleading "Save the Manatee" even as it keeps paving and filling its wild spaces is hardly one to talk about endangered anything.

But Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had his little jest during a Cabinet meeting, joking that the people of San Francisco may be endangered, and "that's probably good news for the country."

The remark came to Bush's lips as he was considering environmental land and surveying a map of places with plenty of varied wildlife species.

"It looks like the people of San Francisco are an endangered species, which may not be a bad thing," Bush said. "That's probably good news for the country."

As people in the room laughed, Bush wondered, "Did I just say that out loud?"

What the governor really meant to say, his spokesman said later, pouring oil onto already oily waters, was in the course of a discussion of endangered species, and "everyone knows that Republicans are an endangered species in California."

Maybe the Sunshine State's governor hasn't read the papers, but the Golden State's new governor is a Republican, and a healthy specimen of one he is.

The spokesman for Willie Brown, the mayor of said endangered city, said His Honor realized this was tongue in cheek, but he would feel better "if the governor would send me one of his alligators; I've got a supervisor [who] needs companionship."

That's an infra-Frisco reference to what Supervisor Chris Daly did last month, when Brown was on a trade mission to Asia and Daly was left in charge as acting mayor.

Daly did not confine himself to ribbon-slicing, but appointed two board members to the city's Public Utilities Commission -- an act Brown called "an assault ... to serve some political purpose."

(San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera did rule that there was only one vacancy, not two -- but that Daly was within his rights to make the other appointment.)

Back in Tallahassee: The Florida governor's tag to his little joke: "Don't call Willie Brown."

Sauce for the Goose but Not the Gander

Last time, when it was about Bill Clinton's nominees to federal court robeships, U.S. Senate Republicans dithered and delayed in the name of rooting out "judicial activism," and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said to a GOP colleague, "Some of the guys on your side think an activist judge is someone with a pulse and a heartbeat."

Now, when it's George W. Bush's choices for the fed bench, Senate Democrats are filibustering to stop some judicial ascents, among them California Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown.

You'd think the sauce for the goose would be basting the gander too. Not in politics.

California Republicans e-mailed a press release accusing Boxer of "ugly politics." In 1997, sticking up for Clinton's nominees, she said, "It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor."

Then, last week, apropos of Bush nominees, she said, "I don't deserve to be here if I don't exercise the right given to me in the Constitution of the United States that I revere. If I didn't exercise that right, I do not deserve to be here. If I didn't stand up and block some of these people, I do not deserve to be here."

The same sort of thing happened in mirror image during Clinton's presidency; back then, a White House spokesman decried the "partisan politics" of the Senate's Republicans. Now a different White House spokesman finds it "unfortunate" that some Democratic senators "play politics with our nation's judiciary."

Ah, politics -- the only real perpetual motion machine.

For Politicians, Musical Chairs Is Risky Business

The political version of musical chairs is called term limits, but no one ever seems to get tossed out of the game, no matter how many are left chairless.

This time, termed-out-in-2006 state Sen. Richard Alarcon, a Sylmar Democrat, has taken out papers to take on Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, a San Fernando Democrat, for her Assembly seat.

Montanez, in turn, says her spokeswoman, is likely to give Alarcon her blessing, and try to swap seats with him by running for his Senate seat.

Piece of cake, no? Not if Alarcon decides to run for mayor in 2005, something he won't rule out: "I don't foreclose any options."

And there can't be campaigning without fund-raising, which spawns its own set of problems. City commissioners have been fund-raising for L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn, which has the City Council and Ethics Commission anxious to curb their enthusiasm.

Now Hahn says there's no favoritism for commissioners who raise some bucks for him. But in 1996, when Hahn was city attorney, he testified before the Ethics Commission about a proposal to prohibit city commissioners from soliciting campaign contributions for elected officials -- so says a report released by the ethics panel.

"At the June meeting, then-City Atty. James Hahn expressed support for the proposal, citing a public perception that commissioners are overly involved in fund-raising activities, and that commission appointments are based on past fund-raising activities and that commission positions are maintained if commissioners continue to engage in fund-raising activities."

Well, THAT was then....

Points Taken

* With the appointment of environmentalist Terry Tamminen as the head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, the plaza in front of the Cal/EPA building is beginning to be known as Tamminen Square.

* No comment: A press release from Gray Davis' office was headlined: "Governor Davis Declares End to Energy Crisis."

* Democratic congressional members Jane Harman of Venice and Duke Cunningham of San Diego introduced a bill to build a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery to noncitizens killed in the line of duty in the nation's armed forces; to date, they said, at least 17 foreign-born, noncitizen military veterans have died in Iraq.

* Sen. Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Vallejo resident Elena DuCharme were honored as San Francisco Bay environmental champions in the first "People Save the Bay" report.

* Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Los Angeles Democrat, won the distinguished public service award from La Cooperativa Campesina de California for her efforts on behalf of migrant and seasonal farm workers.

* Republican former L.A. mayor and incoming state Education Secretary Richard Riordan won the Free Spirit Award from the California Wildlife Center.

* Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle opens his new house Wednesday for a $200-per fund-raiser for a Republican Assembly candidate, with a goal of raising $50,000 between the stuffed mushrooms and the little brownies in white paper frills.

* Ten California cities will share in $675 million for the nation's cities to upgrade homeland security programs. They are Anaheim, Fresno, Long Beach, L.A., Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Ana.

You Can Quote Me

"This was driven by anti-environment legislators. The old political adage of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' applied here.... This rolled it back far beyond what the military felt was necessary."

-- Rep. Sam Farr, a Carmel Democrat, protesting a bill that would permit the military to bypass key environmental laws to conduct training -- a move environmentalists say puts rare species and habitat at risk and does little for the military.

Patt Morrison's columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is patt. This week's contributor was Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy.

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