For those just tuning in or just recently transplanted here from elsewhere, Willie Brown is still, for all intents and purposes, running San Francisco. Many of you know this already, and understand that Ed Lee is mostly just a puppet with one arm controlled by Brown and one arm controlled by Rose Pak, and Dianne Feinstein and a Republican donor named Ron Conway have their hands up his backside operating his mouth. Or something like that. Anyway, Washington Monthly, which is based in Washington D.C., just published a lengthy piece by former Bay Area-based NYT columnist Elizabeth Lesly Stevens about the history and reach of Brown's power, and how his direct influence on city politics (and where the money all goes) will extend to 2020, assuming Lee gets re-elected and Brown remains healthy and active (he's still sprightly at this point despite being 78).

Speaking from afar now and presumably safe from Brown's henchmen, Stevens freely delves into the fact that Brown represents a number of mysterious clients through his ongoing "law" practice, many of whom are thought to be developers like Lennar and big players in land use and land-use policy. She eviscerates the Chronicle for being "so weak" at this point that Hearst Co. thought about dissolving it a few years ago, and criticizes folks like Matier and Ross for never really going deep enough into what's really happening in city politics — typically just skimming the surface and toeing the City Hall party line. Any of Brown's previous political scandals involving sweetheart contracts with friends, etc., have long been forgotten, and Brown's political machine is essentially unstoppable.

"So," Stevens writes, "San Francisco serves its average citizens less well each passing year, and no one seems to mind—about that, or about the fact that the city is run to an unknown degree by a former mayor who openly holds sway in the public sphere yet answers to no one."

She also points to a headline Brown penned in April -- "Ed Lee’s Lack of Political Experience Is Showing" -- as a sign that Lee is trying to be his own man, and that Brown will probably punish him for it if he continues. The column had to do with some appointments Lee was making that Brown wasn't pleased with, and it was Brown's attempt, very publicly, to tell Lee that he'd better remember who's really in charge around here or he will be replaced.

[Washington Monthly]