Other cities may have their fair share of criminal mayors (we're looking at you Detroit!) but the Bay Area is quickly making its case as the home of the most comically criminal municipal leaders. Let's take a tour.
First, Emeryville mayor Ken Bukowski killed a guy with his car. Then he was slapped for inappropriate loans. Now his niece accuses him of meth addiction. A lone bad apple? Not among San Francisco Bay Area mayors.
Bukowski is no longer mayor of Emeryville, the small city that's home to Steve Jobs' Pixar, and was even stripped of his vice mayorship. But that's not to say misbehavior is regularly punished. In the superficially spiritual Bay Area, the belief in redemption and personal reinvention springs eternal, and the locals don't need the unifying trauma of a world-changing metropolitan disaster to get over a leader's moral failings; a half-sincere pledge of contrition will do just fine.
A mayor can then move on to greater things. Like running for governor. And people wonder why some top tech talent finds the area "filthy" and utterly dysfunctional. Some of the mayors in question (click each to expand):
It's not just Gavin Newsom's hair that's oily. The San Francisco mayor slept with his chief of staff's wife., and within four days said he would seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Since then, Newsom has repeatedly declined to discuss his "treatment," but has launched a campaign for California governor and won an endorsement from, of all people, Hillary Clinton. And she thought she was done forgiving adulterous men. (Pic: by Thomas Hawk)
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates eventually pled guilty to trashing about 1,000 copies of the University of California, Berkeley student newspaper after the paper endorsed his opponent. He initially denied throwing away the papers, but confessed, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, "a month later, after campus police prepared a report to send to the district attorney." His punishment? Re-election in 2006 (with the Chronicle's endorsement). (Disclaimer: I edited the UC Berkeley student paper in college but was long gone when the Bates thing happened.) (Pic: by Allen Lew)
When mayor of Emeryville two years ago, Ken Bukowski accidentally struck and killed a security job in his car on a rainy day. What did he tell the San Francisco Chronicle? "I don't feel the accident will impair my ability to serve as the city's new mayor." Police reportedly did not test the mayor for drugs or alcohol.
But his niece has just accused him of being a meth addict and ratted him out for keeping a rent-controlled apartment across the bay in San Francisco even though he's a councilman in Emeryville. Bukowski has also been investigated and stripped of various city council titles for taking tens of thousands of dollars in loans from developers and other businesses; busted for failing to pay taxes and fined for misusing campaign funds.
You can blame Bukowski's constituents for electing him, but not for making him mayor: that position is selected by the council on a rotating basis.