Copyright 1995 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 21, 1995, SUNDAY, SUNDAY EDITION
SECTION: ;Pg. 2/Z1; MATIER & ROSS
LENGTH: 610 words
HEADLINE: MATIER & ROSS
BYLINE: PHIL MATIER, ANDREW ROSS
State Assembly Speaker and likely San Francisco mayoral contender Willie Brown was diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa in the 1980s and could by now be legally blind, according to a story this week in the Western Edition, a neighborhood newspaper in San Francisco's Western Addition.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a hereditary disease that afflicts approximately 100,000 people in the United States.
''He probably has very little vision left,'' a University of California professor and practicing optometrist told the paper. ''By 60, if you can see at all, you're lucky. Sometimes there is a little bit of cloudy central vision preserved to the end.''
Brown, who turned 61 in March, did not respond to the paper's questions. But his press aide, Darolyn Davis, told the Edition that Brown ''doesn't have to see anything to do his job. It has no impact whatever on his performance.''
''It's bad, horrible,'' one confidant who has known Brown for years told us after the story appeared.
''It shows when he has to read something. He holds the paper right up to his face. If you stand off to the side and say 'hello' and he doesn't know your voice, he won't recognize you.''
So how does he manage?
He has phenomenal retention. So good that after one glance he can quote from pages and pages of bills and reports almost verbatim.
* STINK BOMB
Parking and ticket honcho John Newlin gets more than his share of hate mail -- but even he wasn't ready for a package that arrived recently:
Used toilet paper and a note addressed ''Dear Bureaucrap.''
''I guess this is San Francisco's answer to the Unabomber,'' Newlin said from his downtown office.
What made the prank even more weird was the note of apology that arrived the next day.
* TOP DOLLAR
The Secretary of State's annual report on who's spending the most to lobby in Sacramento is in. In all, lobbyists spent a record $ 250.2 million during the 1993-94 legislative session.
Here are the winners:
1) $ 1.8 million -- Western States Petroleum Association
2) $ 1.8 million -- Pacific Telesis
3) $ 1.4 million -- State Farm
4) $ 1.4 million -- Chevron Corporation
5) $ 1.3 million -- California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
And what does the money go for?
''We track about 800 to 1,000 bills at any given time. We have about 475 hospitals and another 200 personal and affiliated members (people who do business with hospitals),'' said Hospital Association V.P. Lauri Aldrete.
And what do they get?
A lot, according to Common Cause's Ruth Holten.
''These are not only the most powerful interests, they are also major campaign contributors, and the combination of the two makes them extremely powerful players in the state capital,'' Holten said.
''And while they might not get everything that they want, they are very successful at blocking the things they don't want.''
Which is just what they pay for.
* PRESIDIO 2000:
It's off the For Sale list for now, but if the Presidio goes back on the block for real, this may be what were looking at if the developers get their hands on it
* JUDICIAL GAMES
Judge Lance Ito is looking for some thoughtful games for the O.J. Simpson jury to play in their spare time. May we suggest: A) Clue B) Celebrity Jeopardy C) Dr. Wizard's Chemistry Set D) Mumblety-peg.
* HAT TRICKS
American politicians haven't worn hats since the days of Eisenhower -- and here's why:
Pete Wilson: Chief Executive
Dianne Feinstein: The Artist of Compromise
Quentin Kopp: Conventioneer from Hell
Mike Dukakis: Iron Mike
Frank Jordan: Former Police Chief
GRAPHIC: PHOTO (6), GRA,PHOTO, (1) Willie Brown , COURTESY OF WESTERN EDITION, GRAPHIC, Presidio 2000, It's off the For Sale list for now, but if the Presidio goes back on the block for real, this may be what were looking at if the developers get their hands on it , PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ED RACHLES