Willie Brown (politician) : biography
Brown’s opponents in his 1999 mayoral reelection campaign were former Mayor Frank Jordan and Clint Reilly. They criticized Brown for spending the city’s US$ 1 billion in budget growth without addressing the city’s major problems and creating an environment in city hall of corruption and patronage. Tom Ammiano was a late write-in candidate and he faced Brown in the runoff election. Brown won reelection by a 20 percent margin. He was supported by most major developers and business interests. Ammiano campaigned on a promise that he would raise the minimum wage to US$ 11 per hour and scrutinize corporate business taxes. Brown repeatedly claimed that Ammiano would raise taxes. President Clinton recorded a telephone message on Brown’s behalf. Brown’s campaign spent US$ 3.1 million to Ammiano’s US$ 300,000. The 1999 mayoral race was the subject of the documentary See How They Run.
Crime and public safety
Although scheduled on a flight to New York City the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Brown received an alert from his SFO security detail and cancelled. After learning of the attacks, he ordered the city to close schools and courts, concerned over the potential for terrorist attacks in the city, and recommended to representatives of the Bank of America Tower and Transamerica Pyramid that they should also close.
In February 2003, Brown’s appointed Police Chief, Earl Sanders, and several top officials at the San Francisco Police Department were arrested for conspiring to obstruct the police investigation into an incident involving off-duty officers that was popularly called "Fajitagate".
Brown ended San Francisco’s policy of punishing people for feeding the homeless. San Francisco continued to enforce its policy regarding the conduct of the homeless in public places. In 1998, Brown supported forcibly removing homeless people from Golden Gate Park and police crackdowns on the homeless for drunkenness, urinating, defecating, or sleeping on the sidewalk. Brown introduced job training programs and a $11 million drug treatment program. San Francisco, then the United States’ 13th largest city, had the nation’s third largest homeless population at a peak of 16,000. In November 1997, he requested nighttime helicopter searches in Golden Gate Park. The Brown administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating new shelters, supportive housing, and drug treatment centers to address homelessness, but these measures did not end San Francisco’s problem with homelessness.
In 1996, Brown approved the Equal Benefits Ordinance that required city contractors to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In 1998, Brown wrote a letter to President Clinton urging him to halt a federal lawsuit aimed at closing medical marijuana clubs.
One of Brown’s central campaign promises was his “100-Day Plan for Muni.” Brown supported the "Peer Pressure" Bus Patrol program, which paid former gang members and troubled youth to patrol Muni buses. Brown claimed the program helped reduce crime. He fired Muni chief Phil Adams and replaced him with his chief of staff Emilio Cruz. In 1998, Brown was Mayor during the summer of the Muni meltdown as Muni implemented the new ATC system and Brown promised riders there would be better times ahead. A voter approved initiative in the following year would help improve Muni services. Brown increased Muni’s budget by tens of millions of dollars over his tenure. Brown later said he made a mistake in over promising with his 100-Day Plan.
Brown helped mediate a settlement to the 1997 BART strike.
During his first term as mayor, Brown quietly favored the demolition and abolition of the Transbay Terminal to accommodate the redevelopment of the site for market-rate housing. Centrally located at First and Mission Streets near the Financial District and South Beach, the terminal originally served as the San Francisco terminus for the electric commuter trains of the East Bay Electric Lines, the Key System of streetcars and the Sacramento Northern railroads which ran on the lower deck of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. Following the termination of streetcar service in 1958, the terminal has seen continuous service as a major bus facility for East Bay commuters; AC Transit buses transport riders from the terminal directly into neighborhoods throughout the inner East Bay. The terminal also serves passengers traveling to San Mateo County and the North Bay aboard SamTrans and Golden Gate Transit buses respectively, and to tourists arriving by bus motorcoach. Today, the terminal is being planned for redevelopment as a region wide mass transit hub maintaining the current bus services, but with a new tunnel that would extend the Caltrain commuter rail line from its current terminus at Fourth and Townsend Streets to the site. Once completed, Caltrain riders would no longer need to transfer to Muni in order to reach the downtown financial district. Additionally, the heavy rail portion of the terminal would be designed to accommodate the planned High Speed Rail lines to Los Angeles.