Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MORE SF HICK

Recently City Powers announced that a few school playgrounds might be opened on weekends for neighborhood kids. They announced this at a remote press availability attended by the Mayor, the local Supervisor, the School Superintendent, the Head of Rec and Park and a few others with short to-do lists.

I commented that so much fanfare for such a pathetically small accomplishment showed how hick a town San Francisco really is.



I’m writing this after picking myself up off the floor where I had fallen after seeing this piece in Pat Murphy’s excellent San Francisco Sentinel about another gathering in my district.

According to the Sentinel, tomorrow’s dignitaries will include:

Senator Leland Y. Yee, Ph.D., San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu, Bijan Sartipi, Director, Caltrans District 4; Bon Yee, Director, San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic; Dr. William Miller, 19th Avenue Pedestrian Safety Action Group (witnessed April 2007 fatal accident); and Manish Champsee, President, Walk San Francisco.

So, what’s the important event? Launching a battleship? Breaking ground on a new community center? No, and no.

They’re installing a traffic light. A goddamn traffic light!

It’s not even at a previously unprotected intersection. They’re just replacing one light with a newer model, or something. The Sentinel’s excellent story didn’t provide many excellent details.

I don’t mean to be too harsh—we don’t want our elected officials to work too hard or actually strain themselves.

But… a traffic light?

They're proud that they do anything.

See for yourself: 19th Avenue and Sloat Blvd., Thursday, November 1, 2007, 10:30am.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

SF PROPS: VOTE NO (MOSTLY)

When I think of this year’s line-up of local ballot measures, I see an image of Mayor Newsom and Aaron Peskin in a naked, passionate embrace.

Like, way yuck!

Anyway, here are sfwillie’s blog’s official recommendations on this ugly assembly of mostly putrid moves.




Prop A -- NO Fake Muni Reform
They tied this nonsense with a green ribbon—non-polluting buses. The problem with Muni is not pollution, it’s reliability. As to reforming Muni—Prop A was concocted by the same people who brought us the T-Third meltdown, then threw a party to celebrate. Vote no on fake reform. Vote no on incompetence. Vote NO on A.


Prop B -- YES Appoint/Re-appoint Commission Members Timely
I’m guessing a mayor-appointed commissioner who serves past the appointed term does so at the mayor’s pleasure, and can be removed without cause. Commissioners during their appointed terms are more difficult to remove. Makes sense. Vote YES on B.


Prop C -- NO Favoring private ballot initiatives
Requires supervisors putting initiatives on the ballot to “show their hand” many weeks before the election. This allows private (read downtown) interests to put countering propositions on the ballot at the last minute, sight-unseen by anyone but themselves. This is important. Vote NO on C.


Prop D -- NO Reduces Library Hours, Promotes Capital Boondoggles
Voters established a property tax set-aside to fund library operations. The effort was a failure. Now they want to extend the arrangement for another 15 years, and allow the property tax money to be used to pay off bond debt (read crony-contracts). If you want your libraries open more hours, vote No on Prop D.


Prop E -- YES “Question Time for Mayor”
This is stupid inside politics, spurred by short-term jostling. But, it might provide some fun political theater. For some reasons we the public don’t know, this is our current mayor’s biggest nightmare. Vote YES on E, maybe we’ll find out.


Prop F -- NO More benefits for cops
SF has many problems. Fringe benefits for public employees ain’t one of them. This is a simple giveaway. Vote NO on F.


Prop G -- YES Money for horse stables in Golden Gate Park
This is probably a ripoff, but it might give SF kids more of a chance to see horsies. YES on G.


Prop H -- NO More cars in downtown SF
This one is simple. If you are a Republican, vote yes. Otherwise, vote NO on H.


Prop I -- NO NO NO More crony appointments
Assist small business? This should be part of the mission statement of every City department. Creating a new “Office” is an admission of management failure. Make current departments do their jobs. Vote NO on I.


Prop J -- NO Public/private internet ripoff
This is one evil offspring of Board President Peskin’s and Mayor Newsom’s perverse acts as political bed partners. This is such a joke even the Chronicle agrees: vote NO on J.


Prop K -- YES Less advertising
Advertising as a public revenue source is pathetic. Vote YES on K.

With the uncontested races for city offices, voter turnout could be very low. If you care about anything on this ballot, your vote could actually mean something.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

DEBATE VENUES DOUBLE

The brilliant questions I wrote yesterday could have but one responder. Per his latest missive, h. brown might be the only candidate “under Gavin’s balcony” from 5:00 – 6:30pm this evening.

According to h.:

Except for me, tomorrow’s opposition candidates for the office of mayor this great City and county will be showing their wares at the MUNI station intersection in the Castro. 5-6:30pm. I’m told that since I won’t be there that Chicken John and Quintin Mecke who are both scared shitless of me will attend.

Fog City Journal’s story, written by candidate Josh Wolf, doesn’t mention h. brown at all. Candidate h. claims he was not consulted about the venue change.

The fact that article doesn’t even credit h. as in impetus for the Collaborative, per se, shows that Josh understands political ambition—you gotta step on people.



So h. is on the outs with Luke at FCJ, and Josh is flirting with Ted Strawser, founder of Party Party, who will be moderating the Castro Station group. [In addition to the written word, Party Party employs satirical art, as above, to get its points across.]

SF politics is so, interesting!

Fog City Journal, without h., is getting kind of sfist-y.

h. says he’ll keep his commitment to 12 Friday debates, “under Gavin’s balcony,” and vows to be there this evening 5:00 – 6:30pm.

Mayor Newsom, if h. really is the only candidate present, could say a big fuck-you to lots of people by coming out and exchanging a few jabs with the lovable/hate-able curmudgeon. Newsom would appear very manly in doing so.

The Wolf-Strawser hijacking of the Candidates Collaborative demonstrates why this blog endorses h. brown for mayor. We want clean, transparant government.

H. BROWN FOR MAYOR!



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Thursday, October 25, 2007

MAYORAL HOPEFULS: READ THIS

Good old Sfmike has agreed to moderate tomorrow’s weekly Mayoral candidates debate “under Gavin’s balcony.”

I know this because he asked me to help, mostly just my muscle due to iffy security. I have a prior commitment, so I had to decline.

I’m pretending to help by supplying some questions.

So, in case there’s a pause in the interruptions/arrests—


QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES COLLABORATIVE DEBATE
San Francisco Mayor’s Race, October 26, 2007


1. What is the most important issue for the residents of District ____?
[After picking a number, from 1 to 11, from a hat.]

2. What will you do to solve the murder of SFPD Officer Lester Garnier?

3. Muni was more reliable in 1957 than it is 2007. Why, do you think, this is the case?

4. What programs will you implement to give SF’s rich people something useful to do?

5. What area of study are you currently trying to learn more about?

6. If we could hire someone to nag you, what should he or she nag you about?

7. Do you condemn the Catholic Church for its anti-women and anti-gay bigotry?

8. How will you raise the morale of rank-and-file city workers?

9. How will you reduce user fees and other regressive taxes, and make the city’s revenue sources more progressive?

10. Should SFPD ever cite bicyclists for any traffic violations? If so, what kind of violations?

11. Should bicyclists be required to carry liability insurance, similar to motorists?

12. Should corporate advertising (including logos of event sponsors) be forbidden in S.F. public parks?


The debate is Friday, October 26, 2007, from 5:00 – 6:30pm in the park across Polk Street from City Hall.

[Note: SFWILLIE’S BLOG has endorsed h. brown for mayor.]

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

GOOD KIDS

Sometimes a manly-man acquaintance will surprise me with unexpected sensitivity to the feelings of others. It’s one of the warmest emotions I get.

Sfmike’s posts regarding the demise of Junior ROTC in San Francisco’s public high schools are such an instance. [Photos here from Civic Center Blog.]


In San Francisco, being in the military is not cool. Many SFers thing that the US military, per se, is part of the problem, like organized crime, and must be eliminated.

In most high schools, being in ROTC is not cool. Like, what kind of geek wants to wear stupid uniforms and march around, and, like, obey orders?



So, at a time of frustration of the US’ immoral war on Iraq, and some b.s. about don't ask don't tell, it was easy for SF’s Board of Education to ban JROTC from city schools—a good slap at the Bush administration.

What the BoE fools didn’t consider was that JROTC, like any after school activity can be, was the primary peer-support resource for many of the participants. High school is tough enough. To eliminate existing resources on a whim of political correctness is callous.

The board’s symbolic slap represented a real loss for the kids.

When this was brought to the Board’s attention they said, no problem we’ll develop an equivalent alternate program to fill the gap.



A year later, no alternate program. [SFGate story.]

I guess there’s a lesson here: it’s easier to ban something than to replace it.

Pathetic.

The good news is that JROTC will continue indefinitely. Sfmike tells me that two Board members who pushed for the ban have since departed and the issue is likely to remain dormant.

Whew!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

AMERICAN GOTHIC

The Matt Lauer interview with choirboy Larry Craig and his grandmotherly wife was white-knuckles all the way, but the Craigs came through just fine.


Matt failed to attack the gaping hole in “Mensroom Larry’s” argument. Craig's position:

1. I’m was an innocent traveler, na├»ve regarding any mensroom sex happenings, and I entered the airport mensroom simply to use the toilet.

2. I was using the toilet normally when I was arrested. I had no idea why I was being arrested.

3. I made a big mistake by not consulting a lawyer, keeping it secret, and pleading guilty.

4. The reason I made this big mistake was because I was deeply embarrassed by the event and hoped it would “go away,” and I wouldn’t have to tell my wife and kids and the public.

If #1 and #2 are true, then there is no reason for any “embarrassment.” Outrage would be the appropriate response. I’d demand a lie detector test.

Getting arrested is no embarrassment, it’s what you get arrested for that’s embarrassing.

Then, making your spouse face the music with you?

Has any man in America ever inadvertently “touched shoes” with the man in the next stall? Except as part of a sex-advance?




Larry Craig said in the police interview: “I looked down and saw that our shoes were close, but I don’t recall them touching.”

Almost sounds like “quivering lips.”
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NEWSOM SHINES: DEFENDS SISTERS


Mayor Gavin Newsom came to the defense of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, per this SFGate story. Responding to criticism by Bill O’Reilly:

"This debate really is about San Francisco values. The Bill O'Reillys of the world are threatened by San Francisco because we value diversity, universal health care and civil rights for all. They will exploit any controversy to attack our values."

Good for you, Gavin!

Meanwhile, the Archbishop is apologizing for giving communion to two SPI’s.



A USF Jesuit says the Archbishop is obligated to give communion to all who ask for it unless there is some specific reason not to. Such specific reasons do NOT include unusual dress or heavy makeup.

I wonder what Niederauer was expecting. MHR has been a gay church for decades.
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Saturday, October 13, 2007

TWO POLICEMEN KISSING

I thought this was a nice picture.


There’s controversy attached—it was banned from some exhibit in Russia, I guess because of the gay thing.

Thanks to Guardian Unlimited for treating us to this story.

Shot among the birch trees and snow of a Siberian forest, two policemen kiss each other passionately on the lips. They hold and - this is not entirely clear - possibly caress each other's buttocks.

My guess is they're warming each other’s hip-flasks.

There are important art-historical issues involved.

Mr Shaburov said that he and fellow artist Viacheslav Mizin had created Kissing Policemen as a homage to the celebrated British graffiti artist Banksy. "We were inspired by Banksy's iconic image of two constables kissing. We wanted to do the same but in Russia," Mr Shaburov said.

The Banksy:



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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TITLE IX AND PARK RESTROOMS

I played gay softball for twenty years, seventeen of them in San Francisco. During that time the SF Gay Softball League went from ten to forty or fifty teams.

At first there were only a few women playing, and those on mostly men’s teams. The league now includes two women’s division.

At some point, maybe in the early 1990’s we began to hear complaints from the women players about locked or substandard restrooms at the public parks where the league played.

When I first heard this, I scoffed. “These gals must be from out of town,” I figured, “no San Franciscan expects adequate public restrooms in the parks. How silly.

“They’ll learn.”

But they didn’t. They spoke at every meeting about working with city Supervisors and with Rec and Park to get the restrooms opened. The even wanted toilet paper!

Our softball playing lesbians were the first generation to be raised under Title IX, a 1972 federal provision mandating equal resources for male and female students, with the major focus becoming athletics.


So our women grew up thinking their lockerrooms should be as good as those provided for male athletes.

While Rec & Park did provide equal restrooms for men and women (i.e. none) the women nonetheless demands facilities for themselves.

A few months ago Newsom was so irked about the toilets at Portsmouth Square that he made Rec and Park and the PUC actually clean them. Those two agencies made the bureaucratic overhead so burdensome that Newsom would never spasm like that in their direction again, but the issue was engaged.

So, now we have a bond issue on the ballot (which sfwillie’s blog opposes) that includes $11M for new park restooms. That aspect of the bond has made San Francisco an international laughing-stock—but that’s another rant.

Anyway, I find it interesting that San Francisco’s restroom issue has been advanced by Title Nine-inspired lesbian athletes. Good for us!


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Sunday, October 07, 2007

CIRCUS COMING TO TOWN

Mayor Newsom’s decision to employ the City Charter to oust criminally accused, but not yet convicted, Supervisor Ed Jew could set the stage for some entertaining political theater.

Here’s the process:

1. Mayor suspends Supervisor Jew and names his own employee, Carmen Chu, as “interim” replacement.

2. San Francisco Ethics Commission holds a hearing and otherwise investigates Newsom’s allegations against Jew.

3. The Ethics Commission concludes either that Jew should be permanently removed or not, and communicates their opinion to the Board of Supervisors.

4. The Board of Supervisors considers the recommendation of the Ethics Commission (and conducts its own hearings and investigations?).

5. The Board of Supervisors votes on permanently removing Ed Jew.

NOTE: There are eleven supervisors, one of whom, Jew’s replacement Carmen Chu, will not be allowed to vote. The City Charter requires nine votes for Jew to be removed. So Ed Jew needs the votes of only two supervisors to keep his seat.

Also NOTE: This City Charter provision has never before been utilized. Procedures are ill defined—nobody knows what they’re doing. Surprise? Newsom?

Ed Jew is fighting the mayor. Ed has a smart lawyer, Steveen Gruel, who’s going to make things tough for the Mayor.
(Photo from SF Sentinel.)


This could get interesting.

Steven Gruel has issued two requests that Newsom can’t possible like:

First: Gruel demanded that the members of the Ethics Commission to immediately cease any ex parte communications regarding this case with the Mayor’s Office and its reps and likewise cease any ex parte communication with the Board of Supervisors and its reps. (
Fog City Journal story here.)

As Gruel explains:

A basic precept of due process, of course, is that adverse parties and fact finders do not communicate about an active case in the absence of all interested parties. I see no reason why this simple rule ensuring fundamental fairness should not be followed here.


At least some of the Mayor’s critics see an unwholesome relationship between the mayor and the Ethics Commission.

The second Gruel letters really pissed off the City Attorney’s office (
FCJ story here).


Gruel requests copies of all documents and communications used by or in possession of the City Attorney that were used as basis for his (actually the Mayor’s) charges against Jew.

Gruel’s letter might have sounded kind of hardass, quote:

Finally, I expect that your response will be complete, truthful and in full accordance with the law. Not only will your response, or the lack thereof, possibly serve as an exhibit in any future federal or state lawsuit, but anything less than strict adherence to your lawful obligations and duties could provide clear grounds for removal proceedings under San Francisco Charter Section 15.105.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera was so pissed he had his press secretary issue a statement that is simply nasty (forwarded by h. brown).

In it Matt Dorsey says:

Apart from running up his client's legal bill, I don't understand the rationale for Mr. Gruel's continued theatrics.
and:
At this point, I think Mr. Gruel would better serve his client to focus on Mr. Jew's numerous legal problems than to engage in this ongoing publicity campaign.

These statements sound political rather than truth-seeking. Our tax dollars pay Mr Dorsey to fire off this crap. The pretense of concern for the accused is cheap rhetoric. I think Ed Jew and Steven Gruel is beyond taking advice from Dennis Herrera or Matt Dorsey.

The Ethics Commission, isn’t quite ready to proceed. They have scheduled a meeting later in October, not to hear the case, but to discuss how to go about hearing the case.

I hope the hearings are on TV (Comcast cable channel 26).

Now Gruel wants certain supervisors to recuse themselves from voting on Jew’s ouster, if and when the case reaches the Board (
SFGate story). Gruel says some supervisors have made public statements that show prejudice against Jew. Gruel threatens a federal lawsuit. SFGate story here.

Gruel’s strategy is to treat the Ethics Commission/Board of Supervisors proceedings like any other legal case in which all of the defendant’s civil and procedural rights are protected. This seems an impossibly high standard for the Ethics Commission.

There's no telling what will happen next.

I guess Mayor Newsom thought it was a good idea at the time.


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

H. BROWN FOR MAYOR

Of all the candidates for San Francisco Mayor this year, political analyst h. brown has done the most to improve the quality of my life as a San Franciscan.

His columns are fun, informative, and well written. He names names.

h. has also created his Salon, a spontaneous, grassroots, community institution that costs the price of a burrito to attend, (plus I think you’re supposed to buy h. a beer).

h.’s greatest failing is possibly excessive passion for good government.



His last couple of columns in Fog City Journal have convinced me it’s time to endorse.

The first of these columns is his “Vision for the City.” In it he states his position on the sale of surplus city property:

The City should never sell land as surplus because, as Will Rogers said: "It's the only thing they aren't building more of."

I thought I was the only one to believe this. Now it’s me and h.

The second column contains h. brown’s answers to an SF Chronicle Candidates Questionairre. Some samples:

On streamlining City government:

Answer: Move all the pretty girls to the front of the room. Well, that didn't work out too well for Gavin, did it? Now that he's surrounding himself with ugly women, he's doing much better. I plan to hire pretty young gay boys and bull dykes. With no distractions I'll be able to concentrate better.

And on Ethics:

Answer: Always give a receipt for your bribes and keep a copy for yourself. Don't screw the staff and if you do, never admit it. Be presidential.

Just as in matters of religion the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence pretty much speak for me, so, in matters of local politics, h. brown speaks to me.

Another good one, on “paying more attention to detail”:

Answer: Is there something of value I haven't already given to Don Fisher?

sfwillie’s blog endorses h. brown to be the next Mayor of San Francisco. He is dedicated to the well being of all San Franciscans.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

CLIMBING THE FENCE

When I started playing tennis eight years ago I had access to a great “bang wall,” as Irishman Desmond calls it, aka a “hitting wall” in the play yard of Ulloa School, my alma mater if you count half a year of kindergarten.

It’s a fifteen foot high concrete retaining wall that runs maybe 250 feet and forms the eastern boundary of the school’s grounds.


I’d go there on weekends and after work for an hour at a time. Hitting against a wall is a way to get a lot of strokes in a short time, and it’s a good workout. To be realistic, a person doesn’t really belong on a tennis court until they can sustain a twelve or twenty stroke rally with a wall.

Sometimes teachers leaving late, at 5:30pm or so would look at me warily, but the yard was so big, with almost no kids around, and I must have looked non-threatening.

I got to know a female custodian who would alert me when she was about to lock the last gate. Usually I’d tell her “thanks, I’ll just hop the fence when I’m through.”

After a year of this I went to the schoolyard on a summer weekday and jumped the fence but was quickly and nervously shooed away by a guy who, I gathered later, was running some sort of summer program for kids. Small and private, he wanted me out of the facility he had rented with good money.

A week later signs appeared on the fences at the easy climbing spots warning against illegal entry. Very unfriendly.

I wasn’t the only one climbing the fence. Teenagers would play baseball-oriented games. Moms and dads would lift there kids over the low part of the fence and play in the little kids’ section. For a while there was a guy doing very disciplined footwork exercises, I think he was a boxer.

By the time the signs went up I was a good enough tennis player that access to the hitting wall was not that big a deal. But without it, I doubt if I would have gotten good enough fast enough to want to keep playing.

Community access to schoolyards for recreational purposes has just been in the news. Pat Murphy over at the Sentinel covers it thoroughly in this story. Mayor Newsom is proposing a trial program that would open fourteen schoolyards to the community on weekends.

The fact that this is a big deal tells you what a hick town San Francisco really is, and what a can’t-do spirit our civil servants have.

Anyway, Newsom is allowing his newly appointed interim Supervisor Carmen Chu to introduce the legislation.


I guess it’s nice of the mayor to give her a readymade resume item so warm and fluffy.

I don’t think that Ulloa School, with it’s great hitting wall is included in the pilot program.

After my tennis session this morning, I stopped by Ulloa School to photograph one of the nasty do-not-climb signs on the fence near the kindergarten classrooms where I debuted academically.

I hoped the kids would be in class but the playground was full. I worried I’d look like a creepy old man taking pictures of kids in a schoolyard, but I was greeted enthusiastically.

“Hey mister! Could you get us our ball?”

It had come over the fence and rolled down the street a little.

At first I didn’t see it. The kids told me it was a “Batman ball.” Then I spottedit, a smallish rubbery kickball thing clearly marked “Batman,” under a red sports car, and threw it back. One of their teachers came over to thank me.

The sign I found was different from the ones they originally put up—not quite as nasty, but still not too friendly.




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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

ST PAUL RETURNS

I’ve always had the New York Times in my favorites. Not that I expect truth, or high mindedness.

I imagine the Soviets used to read Pravda and Isvestia the same way I read the Times: see an official version of the story in order to compare it to other versions.

Also, I used to enjoy Paul Krugman who is smart enough to communicate to the likes of me, and who aims at conveying truth high-mindedly.


Krugman had become a liberal star and NYT tried to cash in with their “Times Select” pay-to-view service. They included Krugman’s op-ed pieces in their paid-only section.

Considering the low level of the rest of their offerings I didn’t pay and so missed Paul Krugman.

Now Paul Krugman is available again, for free. Here’s his latest piece, which compares Countrywide Financial’s CEO’s behavior with that of Ken Lay.

Countrywide, he says, made bad real estate loans, then re-sold the loans as securities but continued to “service” the loans and collect servicing fees.

Countrywide seems peculiarly unwilling to work out deals that might let borrowers hold on to their homes — even when such a deal, by avoiding the costs of foreclosure, would actually work to the benefit of both sides.

Why block mutually beneficial deals? As the article points out, Countrywide can make money from the fees it charges on foreclosures, while the losses from mortgages that could have been saved, but weren’t, are borne by others.

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