Rolling Brownout

California needs a dictator! That’s the only way we’re going to solve this current energy market debacle.

Regular readers have come to expect such radicalisms in this space, but this is one revolutionary suggestion that didn’t originate with Bites. No, it actually came from Willie Brown, the mayor of San Francisco, delivered over the weekend to the annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in The City.

The idea of abandoning representative democracy in favor of something more authoritarian may seem strange coming from perhaps the most masterful politician to wield a gavel in California in the last 30 years, but these are strange days in the Golden State.

Brown skewered the lack of brainpower and leadership being exhibited in Sacramento these days, saying centrism, term limits and the constant begging for campaign donations have paralyzed California government at a time when radical solutions are needed to seize power back from the power industry.

Some Capitol veterans may snicker at the idea of the occasionally megalomaniacal Czar Willie seizing the scepter, but Brown actually didn’t have himself in mind for the dictator role. No, he thinks former Sacramento Municipal Utility District manager David Freeman is the man for the job.

Freeman, who now runs the quasi-public power system in Los Angeles, was last week named by Gov. Gray Davis to oversee negotiations by the state to buy electricity from the same power-generating capitalists that Davis recently railed against in his State of the State speech.

That’s hardly a solution, Brown pointed out, and “official adviser” to the paralyzed powers-that-be is hardly a dictatorship. No, Brown would like to see Freeman given the authority and the money to solve this problem however he sees fit, whether it be seizing power plants, taking over Pacific Gas & Electric‘s distribution system, starting a statewide public power authority or ordering public floggings of the power company profiteers on the Capitol steps.

Only when someone of Freeman’s stature and knowledge is allowed to make good decisions, free of the need to pander to some political constituency, will California emerge from its current darkness.

Because Brown correctly notes that this is an issue with no center, no compromise position, he forces Davis to choose between either a radical free market approach or a radical socialistic approach, and that’s the kind of choice that The Gray One has proven utterly incapable of making.

As screwed up as state government is, Brown said he has absolutely no intention of returning to public office in Sacramento after his current and final term as SF mayor expires.

“I’m a dinosaur,” Brown said, launching into a spirited indictment of how term limits has destroyed the concept of public service and leadership in California, focusing each politician on future job opportunities and campaign contributions, rather than on doing the people’s business.

If Brown really is a dinosaur, and it appears that he is, then Bites weeps over the extinction of public officials who are willing to chomp like a T-Rex on anyone who betrays the public good.

Slither-fest: Speaking of reptiles, Frank Fat’sthe legendary Sacramento restaurant and power broker gathering place—kicked off the Year of the Snake last week with its eighth annual open house and schmoozefest honoring the California Legislature.

Featuring 10,000 firecrackers, Chinese dragons, fabulous food and a bevy of local and state luminaries—from Democrats John Burton and Robert Hertzberg to Republicans Roy Ashburn and Bruce McPherson—it was the place to kick off Year of the Snake 4699.

And considering the lowly place that our increasingly unpopular California legislators find themselves in these days, there couldn’t be a more appropriate animal to represent the Year of the Blackouts.

No power, no Peace: On the day after Bites mocked Sen. Steve Peace—one of the key players responsible for creating our power crisis—for failing to recognize that his political obituary has already been written ("Secretaries Day,” SN&R, Jan. 18, 2001), Peace finally saw the light.

On Jan. 19, Peace filed a "termination statement" dissolving the committee he had created to explore a run for Secretary of State in 2002. May he rest in peace.