“Las Vegas, Nevada.” 

That’s what boxers are taught to say when their brains have been rattled about in their skulls and they find themselves supine on the canvas, looking up. They may be in no position to comprehend the words the referee is saying to them to determine if the fight should continue. 

So, instinctively, they’re trained to blurt out “Las Vegas, Nevada!” — because the question the ref often asks is “Do you know where you are?” 

You couldn’t blame members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association for, apropos of nothing, belting out “Las Vegas, Nevada!” of late. They have taken quite the political beating in recent months — be it getting stunned by their own Taser measure; alienating every viable mayoral candidate; dumping tons of money into denigrating Police Commission President Suzy Loftus’ proposed use-of-force measures (which were approved); then dumping even more money into supporting Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus and denigrating Chesa Boudin (who won, of course). 

Oof. Las Vegas, Nevada! 

After walking into a barrage like this, you could excuse our city’s police union of behaving in a discombobulated manner. To wit: Following the June 2018 victory of Mayor London Breed, a politician the union vituperatively turned against in a viscerally personal manner, the POA hired Steve Kawa to be its City Hall political point man. 

If someone other than Breed had won, the POA would presumably have hired someone else to help mend its splintered fences. But Breed triumphed, so enter Kawa — a trusted and key lieutenant to Mayor Willie Brown before becoming the chief of staff for Brown’s handpicked successors, Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee. He negotiated labor contracts; he cracked the whip; he essentially oversaw the city’s autonomic functions. He was, in his City Hall run, artfully referred to as San Francisco’s “shadow mayor” or, in later years and under more laissez-faire mayors, as simply “Mayor Kawa.”

Kawa’s employment by the POA has long been a subject of discussion in San Francisco political circles, but good luck finding anything about it written down anywhere. Kawa did not return our call but POA president Tony Montoya confirmed that “Steve is on retainer for dealing with City Hall politics. I am able to bounce ideas and strategies off of Steve.” He referred to Kawa as “the unofficial mayor” for multiple official San Francisco mayors. 

Ousted former POA president and consultant Gary Delagnes also confirmed Kawa is on the POA payroll. 

Well, that was politic. And yet, this same union willingly participated in and promoted Tucker Carlson’s weeklong “American Dystopia” San Francisco filth porn extravaganza, with Montoya and fellow POA executive board member Tracy McCray providing on-camera interviews for FOX News’ latest discovery of San Francisco. The POA additionally pushed the five-part series on its social media feed. 

So: The POA went to the trouble — and expense — of hiring the most connected San Francisco government whisperer in the realm and then, per Montoya, did not consult with him prior to lending a hand to a FOX News broadside on San Francisco city government, further alienating the POA. 

That is not politic. That’s a Las Vegas, Nevada! moment. 

The condition of this city’s streets are a sore subject for Mayor London Breed. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Mayor London Breed, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, does not enjoy nationwide depictions of her city as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. 

She does not enjoy stories about fetid streets and ranting homeless people being used to justify conventions relocating to cheaper locales, thereby preventing placard-wearing SoMa visitors from indirectly contributing to our pension fund. That money will instead likely end up being fed into slot machines in — you guessed it — Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Breed does not enjoy the fetid state of our streets, period. Multiple reliable sources have informed us that city cleaning crews make a habit of hitting up spots on her itinerary before she arrives, and power-washing them. We’re told they did this with prior mayors, too. 

So, aiding and abetting in the nationwide depiction of San Francisco as a dystopian wasteland is not the way to make friends and influence people in City Hall. And that goes extra when the show is produced by FOX News and Tucker Carlson. 

The rub here is that the condition on our streets is dire — though any claims that this FOX series is doing anyone a service or shedding some manner of light on a neglected subject is weapons-grade B.S. The photogenically wretched state of our city has been documented through and through; even local journalistic outlets know they can be rewarded by reams of web traffic from keyboard warriors who’ll leave comments about “Libtards” and “Snowflakes” by nourishing them with a steady stream of stories about feces and needles (or undocumented immigrants shooting people). 

San Francisco is a city that could always use a good look in the mirror. Our policies and the competence with which they have been executed do need to be frequently reassessed. If anyone wants to analyze the myriad failings of San Francisco government, there’s plenty of material to work with. Carlson’s policy recommendations, however, pretty much begin and end with heavy-handed policing and locking people up — but let’s not pretend FOX News is making a good-faith effort here; they’ve long been bad actors and that’s why interview requests from FOX are routinely spurned by City Hall denizens.  

Carlson, who was born in San Francisco, is a smart man with great fluency in stupidity. He is also a superficially respectable and well-coiffed disseminator of White Nationalist talking points. He is not Ken Burns. His people were not here to document the condition of the city and wring out a kernel of truth but, instead, to chalk up the state of play on Turk and Taylor as the natural outcome of runaway liberalism and Democratic Party rule. They could roll camera in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, too — but L.A. isn’t a city that used to be led by our telegenic and wildly ambitious governor. Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein don’t live in L.A., either. 

As far as blaming our homelessness situation on liberalism, there are entire nations objectively more liberal than San Francisco — with fewer total homeless people (they also have far lower crime rates, recidivism rates and incarceration rates; unlike here, homeless people aren’t booted out of their tents during torrential downpours and elected leaders don’t balk at taxing wealthy corporations to fund housing and services for the indigent). As far as laying culpability at the feet of “the Democrat Party,” it warrants mentioning that virtually every big-city mayor is a Democrat. Sixteen of the nation’s 20 most populous cities are led by Democrats (and San Antonio’s Ron Nirenberg is an independent). 

There are painful and nuanced discussions to be had about this city’s handling of the homeless crisis, and San Francisco’s own role in exacerbating its rampant unaffordability — which factors into homelessness as surely as Mountain Dew factors into tooth decay. But that’s not the purpose of sending out cameramen to zoom in on every last piece of dung smeared across the pavement. 

Starting Monday, the 2,300-odd unionized San Francisco police officers will begin voting on whether to retain Montoya as president or instill his challenger, Rich Chibotti, who is backed by bellicose former honcho Delagnes and is, essentially, running from Montoya’s right. 

Among a voting population with a sizable chunk of members who, unironically, send around OAN News stories or stuff from Prager U, it would arguably burnish Montoya’s credibility to sit down with Carlson’s people and rip this city but good. Montoya could do worse than lifting, word for word, Travis Bickle’s lament in Taxi Driver:

“You should clean up this city here, because this city here is like an open sewer you know. It’s full of filth and scum. And sometimes I can hardly take it.  … Sometimes I go out and I smell it, I get headaches it’s so bad, you know…They just never go away you know … It’s like … You should just flush it right down the fuckin’ toilet.”

In 1976, this was an unnerving rant from a psychotic movie character. But it’s 2020 now, and, who knows? That kind of forward thinking could get you elected head of a public safety union. 

Alas, Montoya’s interview for Carlson’s series doesn’t appear to have been predicated in this way. “I am just now learning who he is,” says the union president. “I don’t have time to watch TV.” 

His rationale for doing this interview, he said, wasn’t to humiliate city leaders, but “I want them to accept responsibility.” And, if his interview backfires, wildly, he’ll have to accept responsibility for that: “I have to take that and grow from there.” 

He predicts a “nail-biter” election. We’ll see. 

Kawa, Montoya says, hasn’t yet spoken to him about the wisdom of sitting for this interview. 

“I don’t think Steve is a FOX News kind of guy,” Montoya says. “I’m sure it’ll get back to him at some point.” 

That sounds like a safe bet. Las Vegas, Nevada!