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Mister SF and Mayor Gavin Newsom size up the chances of an encore engagement for Joan Chen. Detail





Newsom's 'Day One' is one in a million
by Hank Donat

Mayor Gavin Newsom's first day in office was blessed at the start by a beautiful morning. As seen from Grace Cathedral, the golden light breaking through a blue-gray sky over the Mark Hopkins foreshadowed a day of unrestrained optimism.

A list of those who gathered for an 8:30 a.m. interfaith service at Grace would read like a telephone book of San Francisco politics and society.

Bella Farrow, Supervisor Tony Hall, former Mayor Frank Jordan, Clint and Janet Reilly, Hilary Newsom Callan, Ann Lawrence, Paul Vitale, former Supervisor Tom Shieh , former City Attorney Louise Renne, Newsom advisor Mike Farrah, Police Commissioner Angelo Quaranta, and former Supervisor Angela Alioto all arrived at a fast clip starting around 8:15.

Inside the cathedral, prayers read by Rabbi Sydney Mintz, the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, Father Stephen A. Privett, and other religious leaders all sounded a familiar theme: Newsom will be judged by how well he cares for the weakest San Franciscans.

When the Gum Moon Children's Choir sang an original song of blessing, the pols stood in random succession, heads bobbing above the crowd one by one in order to see the tiny tots who were dwarfed by the altar and by the enormity of the day's proceedings. The scene resembled a "Whack-a-Mole" game of the city's political elite.

No pilgrimage to Grace Cathedral is complete without a glance at the rafters high above to check for Armistead Maupin's cannibals. They met there in "More Tales of the City."

Among the morning's revelations, it was learned that Chronicle writer Rob Morse is back on the scene after an absence of several months. Morse was working up a storm at Grace Cathedral. The pack of reporters outside welcomed back the columnist who, when he's into it, raises the bar for all chroniclers of San Francisco.

Later, thousands attended Newsom's swearing in on the steps of City Hall. There, even protestors were optimistic. One had a sign that said, "Thank God for Term Limits." Clearly the demonstrator predicts Newsom's re-election.

The presence of Supervisor Matt Gonzalez added credibility to Newsom's declaration of an era of reconciliation and of a solution-oriented, bridge-building administration aimed at "getting the job done."

First Lady of California Maria Shriver appeared, as if to sprinkle Kennedy dust on the proceedings. For the most part, it worked.

Enough has been written about the manner in which the emcee, actress Joan Chen, mispronounced the names of Shriver and nearly every V.I.P acknowledged from the podium. I'll only add that I'm glad mine wasn't one of them, for obvious pastry-related reasons.

Remarks by outgoing going Mayor Willie Brown were short and appropriate. It was Newsom's day.

Security presence was heavy, with officers on the roof of City Hall, crows-nest style, in addition to those stationed on the streets below. Other uniformed men and women hovered over the dozen or so demonstrators, plus the marijuana guy, some Elvis impersonators, and ubiquitous sign-carrier Frank Chu.

Newsom became San Francisco's 42nd mayor at noon when he was sworn in by his father, retired state judge William Newsom.

A reading by Newsom's uncle, the actor Ed Asner, was a history of San Francisco written by State Librarian Dr. Kevin Starr. It began, "Throughout the millennia," and seemed to last that long.

A public meet-and-greet with Mayor Newsom and his wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom was also less than successful, but that may be owed to Newsom's popularity. Following the swearing-in, Newsom barely had time to thank supporters waiting in Room 200 as well as the press, a handful of gadflies, and about 150 members of the public before the Newsoms had to race across Van Ness Avenue to attend the inauguration of District Attorney Kamala Harris at Herbst Theatre. Hundreds of others, who had lined up full-circle around the second floor of City Hall for a chance to congratulate the new mayor, were disappointed.

The installation of Harris as "da D.A." was marred only by a hot, overcrowded Herbst.

I left "San Francisco Trees" author Mike Sullivan in the balcony with a restless crowd. In the lobby, a ballet of San Francisco characters was taking place a few feet from history.

Allen White gesticulated fervently as he discussed with Christopher Moscone a plan to archive the transcript of the Dan White trial at the Main Library. Moscone, son of slain Mayor George Moscone, supports White's effort.

Moscone agrees that the annual Harvey Milk/George Moscone candlelight vigil lost an important aspect of symbolism two years ago when its organizers scaled-back the march, which had gone from the Castro to City Hall for over 20 years. The 2003 march began and ended in the Castro, as did 2002's. A community marching in a circle is another kind of symbol.

Warren Hinkle strode in wearing a gray suit, looking as dapper as I've ever seen him.

Vic Lee is one of the city's hardest working TV reporters. That was Vic carrying his cameraman's tripod to catch a few sound bites from Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Donna Sachet dashed by in a blur of red and gold in a race to the sidewalk to make sure her car hadn't been towed.

Carolene Marks stopped to say hello. She was ebullient over an approval issued two days earlier by the Library Commission to rename the Richmond Branch Library in honor of her late husband, state Senator Milton Marks.

Medical marijuana activist Wayne Justmann and others were aglow over a decision by City Attorney Dennis Herrera that opens the door for Tom Ammiano to run for another term as district supervisor.

Prosecutor Jim Hammer, who comments on morning television about the Scott Peterson case, chatted with Veterans Affairs Commissioner Veronica Cauley about getting up at 3 a.m.

Harris' Green Room reception was the party of choice for the incoming; the outgoing gathered at The Big Four.

"I think more than ever San Francisco is a City of possibilities," said Christopher Moscone of the new guard, echoing a sentiment heard throughout the day.

It was a day in which the city's battle-worn politicians put down their swords and remembered what they like about one another, or at least acted like they did, which is sometimes good enough for 24 hours

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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