Willie Brown upsets Miami mayor with remark

By Margie Mason, The Associated Press
Saturday March 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Once again, Mayor Willie Brown has caused an uproar by letting his tongue run loosely while away from home. 

In Paris this week on a trip to promote tourism, Brown responded to concerns about safety in San Francisco saying, “I think you’ve got us confused with Miami. There are probably no safer streets, comfortable streets in the world today than those that are in San Francisco.” 

“If only he’d left his mouth in San Francisco,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, whose columnist Rob Morse joked that the streets are not only comfortable, they’re “warm with fresh urine.” 

“Brown’s mind is Versailles-like in its isolation from reality,” Morse wrote. 

A mayoral spokesman said Brown’s comments were “tongue-in-cheek” and blown out of proportion by the media. “The mayor didn’t mean any harm by it,” spokesman Ron Vinson said Friday. 

But Miami Mayor Manny Diaz isn’t laughing. He wrote Brown saying he’s “very dismayed,” and claimed crime has decreased significantly in Miami, a major destination for French tourists. 

“In the future, I hope you will refrain from making comments that unnecessarily impugn the character of another city and its residents,” Diaz wrote. 

Brown was still in Europe on Friday and was unavailable for comment, Vinson said. He was unsure whether the mayor would later contact Diaz. 

Brown’s comments in Paris were prompted by questions about San Francisco’s rampant homeless problem. Tourists on many downtown streets encounter bodies sprawled on sidewalks, accompanied by the stench of urine and feces.  

Drugs and related crimes are endemic. 

It wasn’t the first time Brown’s mouth got him in trouble in Paris. During a 1996 visit after a 49ers loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Brown also made an infamous crack about San Francisco’s backup quarterback, Elvis Grbac, calling him “an embarrassment to humankind.” 

Such remarks gained so much attention that Brown made a 1999 campaign promise to keep his mouth shut. 

“There’s a tendency for the mayor to shoot from his hip, and when you do that, there’s a chance that maybe it will ricochet,” said Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano. “I don’t think he’ll ever escape it.” 

Ammiano should know. Brown once referred to the city’s supervisors as “his mistresses and a bunch of pantywaists.” 

“At the next meeting,” Ammiano said, “we said, ’It’s Mr. Pantywaists to you.”’ 


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