Willie Brown (politician) : biography
On February 5, 2008, Simon and Schuster released Brown’s hardcover auto-biography, Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times, with collaborator P. J. Corkery. The book release coincided with California’s Democratic Presidential Primary on the same day. On July 20, 2008, Brown began writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, a move that has drawn the ire of some Chronicle staffmembers and ethicists for the failure to disclose the multiple conflicts of interest Brown has. San Francisco Weekly. July 30, 2008.
In 2009, Brown is defending general construction contractor Monica Ung, 49 of Alamo, California. Accused of flouting labor laws and defrauding immigrant construction workers of their wages from laboring on Oakland municipal construction projects, Ung was arraigned for dozens of felony fraud charges on 24 August 2009 in Alameda County Superior Court. Brown’s decision to defend Ung angered many in the East Bay’s labor community.
While serving as Assembly Speaker, Brown was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a disease that presently has no cure and that would slowly steal his eyesight. RP is a hereditary disease that causes a continual loss of peripheral vision and often leads to total blindness. Brown’s two sisters were also diagnosed with RP. Brown remarked, "Having RP is a challenge, as Speaker of the Assembly it was very important that I recognize people in the halls of the Legislature. But I couldn’t see people unless they were right in front of me. I needed to have the security people give me notes to tell me who was in the room. Reading is also very difficult so I use larger print notes and memos. Living with RP means having to use more of your brain function—I listen more intently, I memorize vast amounts of information, and I have trained my computer to recognize numerous verbal commands." Brown has worked with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to raise awareness of the disease.
Mayor of San Francisco
In 1995, Brown ran for Mayor of San Francisco. In his announcement speech, Brown said San Francisco needed a “resurrection” and that he would bring the “risk-taking leadership” the city needed. Brown placed first in the first round of voting, but because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, he ran against incumbent Frank Jordan in the December runoff. Brown gained the support of Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg who had placed third in the first round of voting. Brown campaigned on working to address poverty and problems with Muni. He called Jordan the "inept bumbler" and criticized his leadership. Jordan criticized Brown for his relations with special interests during his time in the State Assembly. Brown easily defeated Jordan in the runoff.
Brown’s inaugural celebration included an open invitation party with 10,000 attendees and local restaurants providing 10,000 meals to the homeless. President Bill Clinton called Brown to congratulate him, and the congratulations were broadcast to the crowd. He delivered his inaugural address without notes and led the orchestra in “Stars and Stripes Forever". He arrived at the event in a horse-drawn carriage. According to the New York Times, Brown was one of the nation’s few liberal big city mayors when he was elected in 1996.
In 1996, more than two thirds of San Franciscans approved of Brown’s job performance. As mayor, Brown made several appearances on national talk shows. Brown called for expansions to the San Francisco budget to provide for new employees and programs. In 1999, Brown proposed hiring 1,392 new city workers and proposed a second straight budget with a US$100 million surplus. He helped to oversee the settling of a two-day garbage strike in April 1997. During Brown’s tenure, San Francisco’s budget increased to US$5.2 billion and the city added 4,000 new employees. Brown tried to develop a plan for universal health care, but there wasn’t enough in the budget to do so. Brown put in long days as mayor, scheduling days of solid meetings and, at times, conducting two meetings at the same time. Brown opened City Hall on Saturdays to answer questions. He would later claim of his mayorship that he helped restore the city’s spirit and pride.