Willie Brown (politician) : biography
Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. (born March 20, 1934) is an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served over 30 years in the California State Assembly, spending 15 years as its Speaker, and afterward served as the 41st mayor of San Francisco, the first African American to do so. Under the current California term limits law, no Speaker of the California State Assembly will ever have a longer tenure than Brown’s. The San Francisco Chronicle called Brown “one of San Francisco’s most notable mayors” that had “celebrity beyond the city’s boundaries.”
Brown was born in Mineola, Texas and attended a segregated high school. He moved to San Francisco in 1951, attending San Francisco State, graduating in 1955 with a degree in liberal studies. Brown earned a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1958. He spent several years in private practice before gaining election in his second attempt to the California Assembly in 1964. Brown became the Democrats’ whip in 1969 and Speaker in 1980. He was known for his ability to manage people and maintain party discipline. According to The New York Times, Brown became one of the country’s most powerful state legislators. His long tenure and powerful position were used as a focal point of California’s initiative campaign to limit the terms of state legislators, which passed in 1990. During the last of his three allowed post-initiative terms, Brown maintained control of the Assembly despite a slim Republican majority by gaining the vote of several Republicans. Near the end of his final term, Brown left the legislature to become mayor of San Francisco.
Brown served as San Francisco mayor from January 8, 1996 until January 8, 2004. His tenure as mayor is marked by a significant increase in real estate development, public works, city beautification, and other large-scale city projects. He presided over the "dot-com" era at a time when San Francisco’s economy was rapidly expanding. Brown presided over the city’s most diverse administration with more Asian Americans, women, Latinos, gays, and African Americans than his predecessors. He increased San Francisco’s funding of MUNI by tens of millions of dollars. He ended San Francisco’s policy of punishing people for feeding the homeless.
The SF Board of Supervisors opposed Brown’s agenda and some of his initiatives, in particular office and housing development. Brown was restricted by term limits from running for mayor and was succeeded by a political protege, fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom. After being "termed out" of the mayor’s office, Brown officially retired from politics, although he had often been associated with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served for seven years after the end of Brown’s Mayoral tenure. and participates in fundraising and advising other politicians.
Silicon Valley Internet Entrepreneur
In 2012, Brown became an investor and lawyer for Tickengo, a leading emerging Internet-based peer-to-peer collaborative transportation community that connects people seeking car rides with individual drivers nearby. Tickengo uses technology to promote carpooling and ridesharing for all citizens, while lowering pollution, congestion, and the need for related infrastructure spending.
Favoritism and patronage criticisms, FBI investigations
Allegations of political patronage followed Brown from the State Legislature through his tenure as San Francisco mayor. Former Los Angeles County GOP Assemblyman Paul Horcher, who voted in 1994 to keep Brown as Speaker, was reassigned to head San Francisco’s solid waste management program. Brian Setencich also was appointed to a position by Brown. Both were hired as special assistants after losing their assembly seats because of their support of Brown. Former San Francisco Supervisor Bill Maher was also hired as a special assistant after campaigning for Brown in his first mayoral race. Brown is also criticized for favoritism to Ms. Carpeneti, the lobbyist with whom he had a child. In 1998 Brown arranged for Carpeneti to obtain a rent-free office in the city-owned Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Between then and 2003, a period that spans the birth of their daughter, Carpeneti was paid an estimated $2.33 million by nonprofit groups and political committees controlled by then Mayor Brown and his friends.