Oh my god. When exactly did San Mateo County and San Francisco politics become an episode of The Wire?
Shrimp Boy, Dragon Head and Uncle Leland are just a few of the names that could be bandied about as easy as Proposition Joe, for those of you familiar with the character from the popular HBO TV series by David Simon.
And yet here we are still trying to digest all the allegations and ramifications of the FBI criminal indictments against state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and 25 others in a tangled web of drugs, money laundering, gun trafficking, favor trading, campaign contributions, murder-for-hire, fraud and trafficking in contraband cigarettes.
On Thursday, Yee stepped away from his campaign for California secretary of state and will likely face suspension from the state Senate Friday if he does not resign. If he’s suspended, he still gets paid, so he probably should be expelled. He’s not going to do any good there anyway.
Yee was in debt from his failed mayoral run and the allegations in the indictment show he was trying some nefarious means to replenish his coffers. Some might even suggest he was running for secretary of state to ensure he would not remain in debt. Money corrupts.
After digesting some of this mind-blowing material related to Yee, I couldn’t help but think of the last time I saw him about a month ago. Yee came to the Daily Journal office with no specific agenda, though typically state legislators will drop by early in a session to talk about their bill package and the overall environment in the Capitol. So the request to stop by wasn’t surprising. But when he was here, I had to prompt him to talk about his bills. I had assumed it was because he was half-way signed off since he was spending about half his time campaigning for secretary of state. Even talking about that campaign, he was lackluster, mentioning he was surprised by the state’s topography. He also mentioned that he understands why some people might want to have guns in remote areas of the state because of the time it might take for law enforcement to arrive and tried to characterize himself as “not an anti-gun guy,” despite his anti-gun legislation.
The conversation was light, almost whimsical, and he definitely seemed looser than in the past, when he was brass tacks about his legislative ideas and political agenda. As the conversation ended, he wanted to thank me for my support over the years, even though we didn’t support him in 2006 when he ran for state Senate and had some fairly substantial differences over the years. His last point was that he always fought hard for public access to information and that he was steadfast against legislation last year that would have made certain public records act requests optional. It was as if he wanted to say he’s done some good in the state Senate and that we should remember that. I assumed he meant when we think about our endorsements for secretary of state, but now, I’m not so sure what he meant.
Either way, it’s somewhat obvious to say the recent turn of events is shocking and sad. But one thing is for sure, if David Simon does ever want to bring back The Wire, the indictment would definitely be excellent source material. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.