Da Mayor Willie Brown and Mayor London Breed share a moment at the traditional John's Grill election day schmoozefest in 2018. When Brown asked Breed how she was doing, she replied "I'm feeling like a winner!" Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Politico on Friday broke the news that our newspaper of record has opted to jettison “freelance columnist” Willie Brown at month’s end, putting a belated conclusion on an inexcusable and, frankly, inconceivable situation. 

And it only lasted 12 years. Less time than the Central Subway project or Geary BRT — but an embarrassingly long stretch for something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. 

Brown, former mayor and Assembly speaker, and still very much a mover and shaker, high-level information peddler, and registered and unregistered lobbyist in this town, should never have had a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Or any newspaper. 

The most infamous pay-to-play politician in state history and “San Francisco’s legendary Juice Mayor” should never have been allowed to casually write his own unchallenged history of this city. He should not have been allowed to soft-pedal government officials’ rank dishonesty and billion-dollar lowballing schemes as just one of those things. He should never have been allowed to gleefully plug his clients and/or private businesses and/or political creations and savage their competitors. He should not have been allowed to issue coded advice or threats to members of the political class via a column in the newspaper. He should never have been allowed to elude Chronicle reporters Monday through Saturday before generating his own take on the issues for Sunday — and write articles that must have induced pinball machine noises in Chronicle staffers’ heads as they checked off violation after violation of the paper’s ethics code. 

Deciphering Willie Brown’s columns became an exercise in reading between the lines and pinpointing his self-interest and stream of potential revenue in the subjects he was ostensibly “reporting” on. It was never clear if Chronicle higher-ups understood this, or cared. 

With Brown, you’d do well to assume there’s a well thought-out underlying motivation or rationale for his actions, even if it’s not apparent. If his editors thought they could stay a step ahead of him — good luck with that. Attempting to match wits with Brown is a bit like attempting to play drinking games with the U.S. Ski Team: You will lose. 

So it was also never clear if Chronicle higher-ups understood that Brown — and others — were essentially running a PR firm from within the pages of the newspaper. 

Plenty of writers — and editors — understood this. That’s why, when a new editor-in-chief last year took over the paper and asked employees during one-on-one meetings what they’d like to see changed, many made it damn clear where to start. 

“You are better off having them speculate on what you conceal than confirm what you actually did.”

Willie Brown

I haven’t spoken with new Chron EIC Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, but I’d like to think he wondered how the hell this situation was ever permitted to commence in the first place, let alone fester for a dozen years. 

It was an open secret that short-timer Chronicle scribe Phil Matier — who also decamps at month’s end — wrote Willie’s column. That only added to the spectacle of this deeply baffling situation. Staffers complained about Brown literally phoning in his column to Matier and “wordsmithing it. Loudly.” 

Transcribing Matier and Brown’s rambling and profane lunchtime discussions so that Matier could pen the column was an actual assigned task for a lucky low-level Chron staffer. 

I have some of these transcripts from a few years back. In one Brown notes that, as Assembly Speaker, he told his members to never write him anything important: “I don’t give a shit if you put ‘draft’ on it, you are fucked if anybody touches it and it is guaranteed they will touch it … and you are better off having them speculate on what you conceal than confirm what you actually did.” 

His interlocutor Matier agreed with this. 

But he was right. Somebody wrote it down, and somebody did, indeed touch it. And eventually wrote about it. But not in the Chronicle.

Da Mayor Willie Brown stays in the center of things. Photo by Joe Eskenazi

The Chronicle‘s decision to part ways with Brown was the right one. Praise is in order for the paper’s management. Because, make no mistake, Brown’s corrupting presence undermined the good work Chronicle reporters and editors were doing. 

Here’s what one reporter told my colleague Matt Smith in 2008, at the dawn of the Willie’s World error: 

“Real journalists in the room were appalled by it. And the people who weren’t are people who don’t put journalism first or who have a very shallow understanding of San Francisco politics, or of who Willie Brown is, or of the reporting done in Hearst papers on Willie Brown.

And here’s what another told me, eight years later

“Willie Brown is a pox on all of us.” The advent of his column “was a devastating blow to whatever serious work people thought they could do at the Chronicle.”

But this isn’t just about journalists self-righteously clinging to a code of ethics as everything else in our profession crumbles around us. It goes deeper than that. 

In 2013, Smith, then writing for the Center for Investigative Reporting, penned a masterful story about Brown’s efforts funneling Chinese visa money into the (persistently radioactive) Hunters Point Shipyard project. Brown brazenly denied knowledge of the enterprise, despite promotional material listing him as its “principal” and Chinese seminars in which he was described as the dong shi zhang — the chairman of the board. 

Staff from the office of Mayor Ed Lee — Brown’s political creation — crafted letters, memos and other materials used in these investment pitches for the enterprise Brown denied knowledge of, and one of Lee’s aides ventured all the way to China to help lasso investors. 

In short, it was a cracker of a story — and deeply relevant years later, in the wake of FBI investigators rampaging through the city and picking off indiscreet members of the so-called “City Family” in a broad and long-running corruption probe. 

A number of these Center for Investigative Reporting deep dives ran in the Chronicle. You’d think the newspaper of record would jump at the chance to publish such a meaty story, and one that ensnared Brown, Lee, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi among others. 

Or not. The story, centered around the actions of a high-profile Chronicle columnist, was, for some reason, rejected by the Chronicle. In the end, it ran in SF Weekly, a paper with only a fraction of the Chron’s circulation. 

I was at SF Weekly at the time (I wrote the headline “Chairman Willie”). We were thrilled to have this boffo article fall into our laps — but, truth be told, we were also disappointed.

Every San Franciscan should’ve been disappointed.

Hopefully, less disappointing days are now ahead. For this city, and for its fourth estate. 

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Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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64 Comments

  1. Shocking. I hope this doesn’t mean the Chron intends to serve more than its oligarchic masters. That would be so out of character as to prompt suspicion something even more nefarious is in the works.

    1. Methinks that cigar muncher has embarrassed the VPOTUS elect one time too many. If true we may have seen the end of the DOJ’s housecleaning as well. Meet the new boss…”Based on Leon Trotsky, Snowball is intelligent, passionate, eloquent, and less subtle and devious than his counterpart, Napoleon. Snowball seems to win the loyalty of the other animals and cement his power.”

  2. Without a fact to back my opinion, The Chronicle, I’m guessing, liked having the last Rock Star Mayor’s byline. Love or hate Brown, the guy is charismatic and opinionated, with insider knowledge. That’s what draws readership

    1. Scott —

      If the Chron wants to draw in readership, there are plenty of ways they could do so without undermining the journalistic credibility of the paper.

      They could run cat videos. Or even racy “Page 3”-type content. I’m not saying either of these would be a good thing to do, but both would be less destructive than having Willie Brown’s column in the paper.

      JE

      1. Nice Joe: How about the Sparks cat video – rhymes with “Stick around” . Don’t worry no cats or *icks were harmed. It sizes up City work too.

        Seriously the last line in Willie’s latest post is to salvage his empire building at the expense of every City resident and staffer. …”And that means another appointment for Breed, one she can make without the approval of the Board of Supervisors. This might be a fine way to start moving up new Black talent.”

        If I thought this was an honest attempt to make the City a more wholesome equitable place I would not object. However Mr. Brown uses empire building tactics that end up with the ‘new Black talent’s lives’ in ruins more often than not. And the underlings are expected to go along and stay quiet.

      2. What about Heather Knight, whose election season reportage just happened to synchronize with the bleatings of San Francisco’s conservatives who want to revive the war on drugs (against Hondurans, you know) and who believe that the prison industrial complex just needs a few more decades to prove its worth.

        When a Chronicle “reporter” like Heather Knight parrots the line of candidates that the Chronicle endorsed, that’s purely coincidence and not of import because Heather Knight is not Willie Brown?

        We have no idea what kind of money is being concealed to assist Matier and formerly Ross in their regulat gossip fueled hit pieces. The 5M project was one example of how corruption flux can further enrich Hearst.

        With so much in play, you know there’s gotta be pay in Willie’s World.

        1. Marcos — 

          This is a silly comparison. There’s a very big difference between a columnist whose views you don’t like and Willie Brown, who is actually materially involved in the issues he writes about and is using the column as a means to an end. If you can’t see the distinction, there’s no point in explaining things further.

          JE

    2. Right on! Loved that column and this article would not sway me away from reading his column weekly for now into eternity .

    3. Rock Star Mayor byline ?
      Brown lived a block away from me in upper Nob Hill, he moved about ten years ago.
      There was a celebration of sorts.
      People felt relieved of this embarrassment.
      The blatant a identity politics, cronyism ,and corruption are the Pelosi wing of the Democrats.
      They’ve been screwing us in City Hall since Brown became mayor in 1996-2004 . The feeling was palpable to everyone that things were changing at warp speed.
      Pay to Play politics became the norm. Our infrastructures, the payoffs for city contracts, the -citation-tow-storage scam that cost people their cars ( I’m one ,lost my three year old BMW ) ,identity politics ,if your black they can’t touch you politically .
      When we needed someone with a moral compass like Dr. Cornel West, we get a shill that loved bragging about what he just got away with.Ethics ,and morality were thing’s in the Frank Jordan era.
      Jordan was former Chief of Police ,and a great guy.
      Our District Attorney was Terrance Hallinan a true progressive that had a pugilistic manner, he fought for the people.
      Kamala Harris became the new D.A. San Francisco was on a path to hell, and pedophilia … — read up —
      How this clown ,and his minions got away with this was right in your face.
      Pelosi,Feinstein,Boxer,Newsom ( up,and coming rising star ) ,and the Getty’s bankrolled everything through the back door, but they felt so shielded they didn’t feel they had to hide anything.
      Transparency meant nothing. It was like Trump claiming he could shoot someone on Fifth Ave ,and nothing would come of it.
      Breed led this city down the road to ruin.
      Take a look at what city employees make a year.
      Breed even gave them a 3% raise last year.
      Then their “pensions” $100.000.00 to 250.000.00 a year when they retire.
      That’s are money people.
      Health care ,they get the best,and we pay for it.
      All this when there’s tent encampments everywhere,looting is all but legal. I’ve been in Walgreens,and CVS while they were being looted by two genteel young men.
      I tried to step in when one was leaving Walgreens, said “You,and your friend put everything back now “
      The response. “ Fuck off white honky “
      The people working in the store ,all Asian hard working people came over ,and told me to let them go, it happens every day,and we can’t do anything about it. If you interfere you could get hurt or ARRESTED !
      Think I’m kidding ? I’m not.
      Willie Brown,Kamala Harris a winning team …
      Now the entire country is in trouble.— No I don’t support Trump, he’s as onerous as the above mentioned —
      The depression caused by our “elected” politicians is something I’ll never forget.
      They sold this city out.
      Instead of trying to figure out a way to keep people here,and employed was something they never cared about, they just want those six figure salaries.
      San Francisco is a laughing stock now.
      Pelosi is anathema to every thinking person, but the corruption of San Francisco rot runs through Congress on both sides of the aisle.
      The past year just exacerbated the reality, rather surreality …

  3. Job for Sam Spade?

    She was the hottest young editor to hit town since movies started talking.

    They built their road to the future thru her ideas.

    Seminars and podcasts …

    Then, left in a hurry huff w/a secret job in a secret place.

    Which, for sure wouldn’t be around these parts.

    Sometimes people change jobs around here in weird ways.

    Done it myself a few times.

    How’s the Hearst development going?

    h.

  4. While I appreciate as usual, a lesson from Joe Eskenazi on the inner “workings” of our City Past Its Prime, a hearty and noisy chuckle spontaneously burst from inside when I read Mark Rabine’s comment. Thank you both. May 2021 be well for you both and all at Mission Local.

  5. Does this mean the Chron will actually look into Harlan’s antics at the PUC – and his enablers in Infrastructure, Finance & HR? So many other problems beyond Community Benefits. Good stories await. What about those picnics (thanks, Westside Observer) ? Those food invoices? How did HK’s tequila get approved?? It’s a big no-no to try to get alcohol reimbursed. How did that happen? And why are we paying for the PUC staff to eat lunch when that’s what their salaries are for?

    Good riddance to the failed Wille Brown era. And Hungry Harlan. Some vegetarian.

    1. All roads lead to City Contracts. It’s hidden by soul crushing red tape and cronies in charge of compliance. For example: Why is the City providing shell companies a 10% premium to comply with Ordinance 12b? 12b likely should have been sunset-ed long ago as the ACA and Marriage Equality Rulings from the SCOTUS have rendered it redundant, no? It’s a reverse Ponzi scheme. More on this later.

      1. Yeah. And why does the current SFPUC “Racial Equity Action Plan” (comically acronym’d: REAP) include resources for SFPUC Commissioners to MENTOR other Commissioners, see section 7.2.3. Shouldn’t they all be equipped to sit there and nod yes on everything upon appointment? Mentoring for what, precisely? And the ratepayers are committing resources for that too? And the REAP is committing resources so Commissioners feel “welcomed.” Mayoral appointment just isn’t enough.

        Nothing the PUC likes more than REAPing.

      2. Coastside, I like your commentary, but want to interject a correction. Not all corruption originates in contracts. I’m adamant that a dysfunctional hiring system that encourages cronyism is basic to pervasive corruption. Before anything constructive can occur in city government, a fair and honest hiring system must occur. SF’s civil service code provides for it, but is routinely violated. That’s where the housecleaning must begin: The Civil Service Commission and HR.

  6. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has said publicly about his appointments he made to the Board of Supervisors. “You are free to vote anyway you wish once you get elected, but if I appoint you, you have one constituent and that me.”

    Source @ Time 5:44: https://youtu.be/khQZ7wnBq0k

  7. Praise the news Gods- Someone finally shut that old man up. I will bury my father next week former San Francisco Police Chief, Prentice Earl Sanders satisfied that Earl got an obit on the front page of the Chronicle nearly rid of Willie.

    1. Ms. Smith — 

      Bias is a term thrown around by people who don’t understand what bias means.

      I am also biased against botulism, Miracle Whip, and murder.
      Yours,

      JE

    2. Joe is right. From Wikipedia: Just sub Mayor Brown for nation- SF is toppling over.
      “In political science, empire-building refers to the tendency of countries and nations to coercively acquire resources, land, and economic influence outside their established borders in order to expand their size, power, and wealth. This expansion can be at the cost of those nations or people that have had resources taken away from them so that the conqueror can be enriched. “

  8. The following appeared below Willie’s column. Who was responsible for allowing this level of bullshit?

    “Two-term mayor of San Francisco, renowned speaker of the California Assembly, and widely regarded as the most influential African American politician of the late twentieth century, Willie L. Brown, Jr. has been at the center of California politics, government and civic life for four decades. His career spans the American presidency from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, and he’s worked with every California governor from Pat Brown to Arnold Schwarzenegger. From civil rights to education reform, tax policy, economic development, health care, international trade, domestic partnerships and affirmative action, he’s left his imprimatur on every aspect of politics and public policy in the Golden State. As mayor of California’s most cosmopolitan city, he refurbished and rebuilt the nation’s busiest transit system, pioneered the use of bond measures to build affordable housing, created a model juvenile justice system, and paved the way for a second campus of UCSF to serve as the anchor of a new development that will position the city as a center for the burgeoning field of biotechnology.
    Today, he heads the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service, where he shares his knowledge and skills with a new generation of California leaders.”

    1. Donna
      Where was that written,The S.F.Chronicle ?
      You’re right, I’ve never read so much crap in my life .
      Willie Brown destroyed this city.
      His cronyism ,corruption are like no,other.
      They forgot to mention the Willie Brown School.
      I kid you not.
      They had to close after a year.
      It slipped under the radar.
      If we had ONE competent journalist to investigate Brown, and write the truth it she’d light on why this city has crumbled playing identity politics …
      Thanks for the heads up.
      Now I’ll take a Valium ,and hopefully my blood pressure will go down.
      Ps.
      His alter ego is now VP. A woman that couldn’t even make it the first primary was anointed to the position.
      If Harris runs for president the right will have a field day with things Tulsi Gabbard didn’t have time to mention.
      Put in “Kamala Harris pedophile enabler in San Francisco “ ( The Intercept wrote a great piece on Harris. How the media didn’t pick up on it I’ll never know )
      Cheers,
      Me
      Just wait for that bombshell.

  9. Wow. Thanks for your article joe. I thought I was the only one who thought it was absolutely ridiculous to have Willie Brown as a columnist for the Chron. He was one of the worst political figures in San Francisco history.

  10. To think… his student job at Hastings was head janitor! Willie Lewis fell a long way from that time… buh bye

  11. As always, Mr. Eskanazi is on point with this long overdue great news to kick off this Chinese New Year of the Metal Ox! Let’s all intend Mr. Garcia-Ruiz, still fresh from his experience as managing editor of the Washington Post, maintains integrity throughout his tenure at the The SF Chronicle and does not turn-coat against the journalists under his management who deserve better than what they’ve had under previous management.

  12. With Willie gone, corruption investigations may start to look at the invidious role of various “benefit” districts (CBDs, GBDs and BIDs) the City’s primary vehicle to privatize public services and hand out contracts to cronies….

  13. But nevertheless people read it. I liken it to the “temporarily embarassed millionaires” phenomenon of people voting against their best interests, believing that someday they, too, will benefit from tax breaks for the rich. People reading Willie Brown’s column believe that they, too, could benefit from the advice you mentioned, such as not putting things in writing and other ways to avoid scrutiny by the FBI and other regulators, or his “inside” take on current events. I blame term limits. He should have been able to stay where he did the most good, as Speaker of our state legislature.

  14. Basically Willie Brown and Phil Matier represent 75% of what I go to the Chronicle to read. Otherwise its reportage and op-eds are the equivalent of outraged – outraged I tell you! – peninsula BLM soccer moms who nickel and dime their household help. As for conflicts of interest, the city and county of SF is one big fat conflict of interest and no part of it more-so than the Mission non-profit tzars and their handmaid minions.

  15. I am not sure how, but I agree with your sentiments but will miss reading Willie’s article at the same time. Seemingly a true paradox.

  16. I like Brown’s column, though I’ve always taken it with a grain of salt (especially when he’s talking about something that has his fingerprints all over it as though it’s all news to him). Still, I see the point, and it is probably for the best that the Chron extracts itself from his web.

  17. Thanks, Joe. It’s pretty amazing how Willie Brown’s empire of “pay-to-play” corruption and political patronage could just kind of sit out there in plain sight for years, with voters continuing to vote for and politicians to tolerate, appoint and elevate his proteges – Ed Lee, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, Bevan Dufty, London Breed, Mohammed Nuru, et al.

    Now that Brown has lost his perch at the Chronicle, are there any brave members of the Board of Supervisors untainted and unintimidated enough by the “City Family” mob to introduce legislation to remove this huckster’s name from the Bay Bridge, the elementary school, and god knows what else the fawning members of the governing class have named after him?

  18. Thank you for a great article. Indeed it’s about time we shut down the bullhorn of one of the most corrupt people in the city! The corruption culture of San Francisco started with Willie, it would be nice if it could end with him.

  19. Great article again, Joe.

    Hey, I worked on the fringes of the politics scene in Louisiana during the heyday of Edwin Edwards’ terms as governor (who, by the way, nominated Jerry Brown at the 1976 Democratic Convention). Moving to SF, I was always amazed at how similar Edwin and Willie were in style, in rhetoric, in humor, in politics, and in women. Virtually identical. But I have no knowledge that the two ever met or even talked about the other. Any stories from journos you know about whether they knew each other, even faintly?

    BTW–In the end, gotta give it to Edwin by a nose…. Both loved the nightlife but Edwin loved gambling and didn’t hide it. He also had much more wit at the microphone, but one must remember the fact that Willie has no knockouts in court or at the ballot box.

  20. Interesting :
    The first part of this column goes on and on about “ Willie should have not been allowed to write this, or comment on that “
    Who will be the Politically Correct Czar that decides who gets to print what?
    I read “ Da Mayors” scribbling with a jaundiced eye, and a smile knowing EXACTLY that it was going on .
    I never figured that the 4th Estate had a review committee that decided what was protected by their ethics ( and the 1st Amendment) , and what got spiked.
    The phrase “ holier than thou” comes to mind , as does the interesting concept that this author somehow has the self appointed authority to speak for journalists everywhere , and decide what the readers get to read.
    If we ARE setting up a 1984 committee to decide what’s “ fit to print” , I volunteer to be the person who reads THIS authors writing and exercise my prior restraint as he seems to think he’s destined to do.

  21. Thanks to Joe for this enlightening interview with the soon to be indicted, Slick Willie Brown:

    “The news hit last week — the U.S. attorney’s office charged yet another San Francisco official in connection to a bribery scheme. Yes, again.

    The corruption probe in San Francisco, it seems, is ever-expanding.

    Harlan Kelly resigned as the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s general manager just last week after denying charges made by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office. He is the third San Francisco department head to resign or otherwise lose his office in the wake of this corruption scandal: First was former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, in late January, who was charged in connection with a bribery scheme, and then the Department of Building Inspection’s former director, Tom Hui, who resigned after it was revealed he breached ethics laws by dining with billionaire developers seeking to curry his favor in a project’s approval.

    Harlan Kelly’s wife, City Administrator Naomi Kelly, is also implicated in this affair, having taken trips to China and allegedly taking cash to community figure Rose Pak, according to the FBI. Naomi Kelly is now on a leave of absence.

    The scandal has even ensnared Mayor London Breed, at least tangentially, after she publicly admitted she had accepted $5,600 in car repairs from Nuru in 2019, a gift she did not report despite a legal requirement to do so.

    All of these figures saw their careers in city service begin under Mayor Willie Brown. He appointed Harlan Kelly city engineer in 1996, Naomi Kelly was executive director of the Taxicab Commission under Brown and Nuru was first brought into City Hall by Brown in various roles. Even Breed served at the Treasure Island Development Authority after working on Brown’s mayoral campaign.

    Brown, now a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, is funding Nuru’s defense, according to an interview he gave to the Nob Hill Gazette. He spoke with KQED the day allegations against Harlan Kelly were released to reflect on the ever-expanding scandal around his many former staffers.

    This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

    Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: You’ve known these people — Nuru, Harlan, and Naomi, in particular — for years. Are these allegations a surprise to you? Are the reactions from the public a surprise to you?

    Willie Brown: I don’t understand what the object (of people’s ire) happens to be, frankly, because the kind of thing they’re talking about, and the kind of thing they’re doing, doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of implications for the operation of city government.

    It’s not like someone built a bridge and used inferior products to build the bridge, and therefore risked the lives of lots of people. Or built a rail line and built equipment that risked the lives of people.

    It sounds like these people have been entertained and have been more tolerant of those entertaining them.

  22. Joe. Your bio tells the whole story. You have been bounced from virtually every Bay Area paper/mag in a young life. Brown’s record as a poor kid from Jim Crow Texas to Speaker of California Assembly longer than anyone Eight years as the City’s. First African American Mayor Last year the National NAACP organization awarded Brown “Lifetime Achievement” award. Your hit piece chocked full of un-named sources is why you work for a paper sustained by left wing donations. Your achievements compared to Brown’s extraordinary trove of local and national awards may explain the envy that defines your racist thread

    1. Hey Jack:

      If you feel this way, you probably should not have asked me to work on your biography.

      Too bad. Would’ve been fun.

      JE

    2. Jack Davis; After I worked with you on homeporting the USS Missouri, I worked the Sacto beat trying to reign in plaintiffs lawyers. It was an open secret then that as long as Willie was speaker, it would never happen. It was also well known that he expected political contributions from you to prevent him from damaging your business and clients. Willie was a shake-down artist, and he upped his game when he became SF mayor. I know, because I spent 10 years under Feinstein cleaning up government only to watch Willie put everything on the block to the highest bidder. Dont let the door hit you on the backside, Willie. Good bye.

      1. Jack Davis; Oh, and I should add I found your code of ethics just as disgusting and predatory as Willie’s. You always made it clear you were available to the highest bidder. You gave SF its worst mayors–Agnos, Jordan, Brown– in the past century with your campaign tactics. So you and Willie make a fine couple.

  23. I have, for the most part, enjoyed Willies articles, Not great stuff. But he has a take on things that are realistic and on-point.
    Does he plug his own clients? I dunno. And would have appreciated some examples. This article, without much detail, just sounds like a hit piece.
    The guy is flawed, But he’s got remarkable sustaining power. If his palm is out, at least he has his fingers on the pulse of the City.
    PS – I voted for him. Twice.

  24. Willie’s column was his reward for the “fancy horse-trading” that he did to transfer the Chronicle from deYoung to Hearst ownership and the Hearst Examiner to the Fangs so that they could torpedo it and leave SF effectively a one-newspaper town. Although I was a critic of deYoung proprietorship, that was a golden age of journalism compared to what has followed it.

  25. Willie Brown’s column is the reason I subscribe to the Chronicle! Very disappointed that today was his last column!

    I also couldn’t find the editorial page.

  26. Many people subscribe to the Chronicle only to read Willie Brown’s column and Phil Matier’s, as both seem to have a finger on the actual pulse of the city, and not just entertainment worthy like Herb Caen. And their columns are written with style. Willie Brown truly loves San Francisco and that is why he accepted the offer of a column in this city’s newspaper. I think you represent your viewpoint clearly but just because you feel so strongly and can bring in one or two other journalist’s names who agree with you, I don’t think it’s representative of all Chronicle reporters & staff and definitely not of the SF Chronicle readership. Willie’s column will be missed.

    1. If you think that Willie Brown wrote that column due to his love for San Francisco, ma’am, I’d like to sell you the Willie Brown Bridge.

      Yours,

      JE

  27. I found the column very entertaining and a big reason why I maintained my subscription. No more Willie, no more Phil, no Sunday ads to speak of, and the move to participation trophy style of restaurant reviews means I’m out. I cancelled my decades long subscription today.

    1. Jack,

      Joe’s best political writer in town and has been for years.

      Matier wrote his columns just as you’re writing a defense of him here.

      No coincidence that when Willie’s ‘man behind the curtain’ retires from the Chron, so does Willie.

      Recall that da Mayor didn’t even write his own autobiography (Basic Brown) which he attributes on the inside cover to:

      “I’d like to thank P.J. Corkery for capturing in these
      pages my love of politics and my appetite for life.”

      I’m always amazed when readers like yourself attack one of these figures for things they say in speeches when they know good and well that the politician didn’t write it themselves.

      Hell, attack Stephen Miller instead of Trump?

      Bottom line is that I’ve always enjoyed reading both of Matier’s Sunday columns.

      Hey, even a serious intellectual such as myself likes some gossip every now and then.

      If I want to learn something?

      I read Joe Eskenazi or Tim Redmond.

      Stay healthy old foe, it was good to see your byline.

      Go Warriors!

      h.

    2. John,

      In my opinion, the Chronicle’s ‘Green Sheet’ is the best sports page I’ve read in my life.

      Worth getting in and walking to 16th and Mission mornings for the exercise for sure.

      Al and his staff write, as Sgt. Friday used to say …

      “Just the facts.
      Nothing but the facts.”

  28. Willie is kinda like The Teflon Don. The Godfather of the political world. He only wore one hat, his own. The regular people on the street love the guy, and was the “ go to guy “ of the political world in his heyday. If his so called “ dirty dealings “ are exposed it only exposes the reality of politics then and now and forever more. Willie is like Willie Nelson in the sense that there is a one of a kind individual in certain spheres, and nobody else like him ,“ There’s no business like show business”.

  29. I found his column very entertaining. Willie is one of the only reasons I kept subscribing to the Chronicle. I’ve been a Chronicle subscriber for over 20 years. Time to cancel subscription, see ya.

  30. Brown, Matier and the funny pages were the only reasons I got the paper. Sure Brown had an angle, that was what made it an interesting column to read. I don’t see how the Bay Area section is going to recover without them. The points this article made are valid, but there’s no denying Brown and Matier had the juiciest info on the most relevant local issues.

  31. I too, along with others, will miss Willie. His defense of B.C. was noted in his column of 2014. Long before so much information about Cosby’s actions came out and the trial got juicy.
    We all change our opinions about things and people as more facts come to our attention.
    A good journalist might get more updated opinions from Willie.

  32. You column is truly hilarious. One would think someone like you might understand the newspaper business. It is about readership. I am life long conservative who often gnashed his teeth over some of Willie’s antics while he held office. However as a columnist he was entertaining. With the declining quality of the Chronicle due to lack of revenue generation, Willie’s column was a major reason this conservative kept paying for the online subscription. You engage in the very opiniated verbiage you disdain. After a few paragraphs your diatribe is unreadable.

  33. Willie Brown and Matier were the only columns worth reading. Brown’s political insight combined with the fact that he was no longer running for re-election gave him the freedom to say exactly what he thought. I really miss his column.

  34. I, like others here, just canceled my long-time subscription due to this final blow of losing both Brown and Matier columns. That was the first (and sometimes only) page I would go to when I got the Sunday paper. (An earlier blow was when the Ben Fong Torres “Radio Waves” Datebook feature was discontinued in 2019). The one remaining columnist I enjoy, Carl Nolte, was missing in last Sunday’s paper so I decided it was time to quit. Too bad.

  35. My first Sunday delivered
    Paper ever
    Just a lot of spit and Vomit.
    Now i feel empty on my porch and coffee,
    I hope he returns, to entertain us again,
    Soon!
    The village black Smith.
    Designer and caster
    of the Barbary Coast
    Trail and the Embarcadero Promanade bronze trail both sides of the promanade.
    Gil Hernandez.

    .

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