Author Archives: gdewar

Once Again I Was Proven Right – Sit/Lie Turned Out To Be A Lie, After All…

When I wrote several pieces saying the proposed “sit/lie” law was an bogus piece of unnecessary legislation, people got upset.
Apparently pointing out the fact this law was as useless as all the other laws we’ve passed to “get tough on the homeless” have been made people uncomfortable for some reason. I even noted how one could easily clean up Upper Haight (or anywhere, but during the campaign the debate centered solely on an overpriced neighborhood that attracts a bad element) with existing resources and laws. Or, bring back the Committee on Vigilance, if that doesn’t help. (Hey, it worked in the past!)
Folks didn’t like that, and I got a lot of nasty mail saying I was pro-criminal hippie gutter punk or some such nonsense. Which is not true, as I pointed out many ways that one could use existing laws to put law breakers in jail, but no one wanted to talk about that.
This is S.O.P. for SF politics – put “feel good” measures on the ballot, get everyone all riled up to think this is either The Big Thing That Will Solve All Problems, or The Worst Thing Ever To Happen to Humanity, have lots of well-funded antagonism clog your mailbox. Newspapers get to print Big Headlines and pundits get to drone on and on, and consultants make the big bucks!
Meanwhile, nothing really changes. I think pointing out that is what annoyed folks the most!
So, reading today in the Chronicle that the SFPD is still not enforcing the law because of vague concerns about “training” and appeasing the pro-Upper Haight punk lobby or whatever just validated every criticism I had of this useless law.
Sure, CW Nevius and the pro “sit/lie” folks got their Election Day victory, and for about 5 minutes could say that voters “did something.” Today, however, we find that nothing has changed at all – there are still gutter punks in Upper Haight, there are still homeless people begging for change on sidewalks, and it’s a safe bet than in a year from now, aside from adding more lines to the law books, very little will be any different than it was a year ago.
San Francisco needs to make it harder to get things on the ballot, or its electorate needs to think more before signing petitions. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean anything will change. Better to use the many, many laws and expensive resources on hand to make our city the best it can be.
UPDATE: A little short of a month later, the Examiner ran this story about the sh*storm in Upper Haight, as the SFPD doesn’t enforce the law, the “punks” are worse than ever, and nothing has changed (aside from a pricey chain store moving in across from a McDonalds.) Super #FAIL.
PS: Lower Haight still rocks. I’m glad I don’t spend my money or time in the Upper Haight, though!

Did San Francisco Get Played By Twitter? Did San Francisco Even Care?

So far, the Transactional Politics era that kicked off with the selection of Mayor Ed Lee seems to be up and running. The latest example is the much-hyped tax break given to Twitter (ahem, businesses that locate in mid-Market) announced by Mayor Lee, and Supervisors Chiu and Kim.
This all came about after folks at Twitter suggested they might move to Brisbane (!) if it didn’t get something form the cash-strapped city government. However, skeptics in the business news media wondered aloud if that was ever going to happen, or if it was just a public negotiating tactic.
Now, let’s be clear: I enjoy using Twitter’s services, and have no problem helping startups and the like cut through red tape and start new and innovative businesses. After all, it’s part of what makes living here so much fun, right?
That said, I am surprised, what with all the Ivy League graduates we have serving on the Board and such, it never occurred to anyone to ask a few questions before rushing to the podium and feeding the media a “story” that will end up on some junk mail the people in question will be sending us the next time they run for office. (Now, to be fair, you can read a witty argument in favor of Twitter’s deal at my friend Elaine’s blog, Court and Snark (and I highly suggest you do).)
Here’s a few:
– Twitter’s valuation is on paper only – it is not a public company, nor does it make a profit. There’s no indication that it will even exist in a couple of years, or not. Wouldn’t we have learned from Dot Com Bust I that betting on what Internet company will be around in the future is riskier than betting on a “hard six” at the craps table? (See: FOX purchase of MySpace as an example of how betting on social media companies can work out).
– By their own admission, 25% of Twitter’s employees ride a bike to work. Twitter places a tremendous value on its talented workforce and has always worked to create not just a great product, but a great place to work so they get the best out of their people every day. A move to Brisbane (which is cut off from SF via any decent transit, etc.) would be a significant disruption for these folks, and, well, it’s Brisbane.
I used to work in South San Francisco, and trust me, working in suburbia can really suck if you’re from SF and there’s no decent transit connection. You have to drive to work and spend a lot on commuting, and you’re cut off from anything going on in SF. (That said, when I worked in Lafayette, it wasn’t so bad, just a lonnnnng ride on BART and then a mile walk to the office. Time consuming, but at least no car!)
Part of the allure of locating in a place like San Francisco is that you don’t have far to commute, and you’re still in a vibrant city, not sitting around in some office park where you have to drive 30 minutes to find a decent burrito.
– Also, in this economy, it’s not like office space costs nearly as much as it used to, certainly not like it was back at the peak of Dot Com Bust I. Perhaps Mr. Brown doesn’t realize that the country is in a depression, and it’s not boom times (with lots o’ dollars to give to pals) like back in the day.
These are just a few thoughts. I think, however the lesson that should be learned is that we don’t need Supervisors rushing around, lurching from faux crisis to faux crisis, just to accommodate a few businesses that suggest in public they “might” be moving. As it stands, our City has made it clear that all one has to do is make a threat, and they’ll jump.
A more reasonable response would be to create a better set of regulations that make sense, and make it easy for people to try new ideas and start new businesses with a minimum of NIMBYism and BS in the first place. This way, all thriving businesses, Twitter or not, wouldn’t even think of leaving a place that’s affordable, liveable, and fun to be in, no matter what you do for a living.

How to Read a Campaign Financial Disclosure Statement!

This week, the first campaign finance disclosure reports for Mayoral hopefuls were released. Via SFist and the Examiner, we learned how much each campaign had raised as of December 31, 2010. (If you were on any of these candidates’ mailing lists, you probably got a million emails asking for money up until 11:59pm December 31.)
While these do report how much they raised and spent, they do not necessarily indicate how much money each candidate has on hand as of today. That’s because virtually every campaign engages in a little trick whereby they will defer certain payments (salaries, etc.) from friendly vendors or employees, until after the reporting period. This then allows them to show more money on hand, even though the very next day (January 1) they’ll pay out the money owed to whomever hasn’t been paid yet.
Making this link is almost impossible, since the next reporting period won’t be for several months, and by then, no one will remember this. It’s a neat trick, for sure, but it can also bite a campaign in the backside later on. If in fact a campaign really doesn’t have the money after paying out their debtors, moving forward in 2011 can be tough.
So in the end, these reports don’t mean much if you don’t know if the campaigns are playing the deferred payment game or not. A better way to do reporting would be to have campaigns report daily, their donations and expenditures, and have that information online and printed out and distributed to the public to designated locations daily, or weekly. That ends the deferment game, and the public would be better informed on who is paying for whom in an election season.
Of course, the next step would be to regulate taxpayer funded campaign mail, which we’ll have in 2011 in the Mayor’s race this year, with several candidates likely to take advantage of the program. After all, we’re paying for their propaganda – shouldn’t we at least regulate it in the best interests of the citizens that fund it?

The SF Weekly Calls Out San Francisco’s Do Nothing/Feel Good/Soundbite Politics!

Once again, the only paper that seems willing to call out City Hall politicians of all stripes on their nonsense is in fact, the SF Weekly. They’ve called out the city’s “pay more/get less” governance in the past, did a great piece on Muni (horn tooting time, I co wrote it), SF’s pension crisis, the phony plastic bag ban, and so on.
Today’s target were the do-nothing, feel-good, soundbite politics that politicians here just love to engage in.
That’s because with term limits, they need to be thinking ahead to the next campaign and the next job. What better way to fill the junk mail, online ads, Facebook pages and TV ads with endless streams of feel-good bullsh!t that will make you feel great about voting for them. Unfortunately, they also accomplish absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile your taxes go up, your Muni fares go up while Muni continues to fail, we have a bazillion dollar deficit and big long term problems that no one wants to solve, and the mainstream press is more caught up with the latest horse-trading and political games at City Hall. In the end, it’s the citizen that loses.
When talk of Supervisor Mar’s phony “happy meal” ban started up, I too pointed out what a clusterfuck the school lunch system was under his reign on the school board, and it hasn’t changed much for great majority of SF Unified students to this day. Instead of doing something constructive that would have had an impact when he had the chance, he’s off pulling this crap instead. Meanwhile, I doubt anyone could name a single action he’s taken to do things like say, help all those businesses in the Richmond that are the target of predatory lawsuits. Then again, that wouldn’t play well on TV.
Or does it? Watching Sup. Mar’s cringe-inducing performance on the Daily Show makes you wonder if he really understands much of what he’s doing.
Likewise, I’ve been calling out both the alleged “moderate”* ex Mayor Newsom and so-called “progressive”** Mirkarimi, who have successfully bullsh!tted the entire worldwide media that the City banned plastic bags, when in fact they did not. Either really do it and take on the powers that be, or get off the high horse and admit this was all for headlines.
Until San Francisco voters decide that accomplishing something is more important than flavor of the month press releases, they will continue to get a government that they truly deserve – one that works for special interests, for politicians ,and sends the bill to the citizen and his/her children. Good luck with that.
* The term “moderate” is a meaningless piece of doublespeak that we need to dispense with. It has no inherent meaning, and it is used to cover up policies that are anything but.
** The term “progressive” is a meaningless piece of doublespeak that has no meaning either. In this town, anyone can use it so it has no inherent meaning, and the range of politicians claiming said label renders it useless. Discard, please.

President Roslin Shows Us How to Throw Down Vs. Another Public Official

Sup. Chris Daly made headlines when he threw down with Sup. David Chiu earlier this week with his whole “It’s on like Donkey Kong…I’ll HAUNT YOU!” line at the Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this week:

As always, though, President Roslin shows us how it’s done (pardon the poor quality, it’s the best I could find on short notice:

Although, as someone pointed out, for progressives, the new status quo is really more the equivalent of the Emperor and Darth Vader winning at the Battle of Endor.

Some Things About Ed Lee You Might Want to Read Since the Media Won’t

Watching the ongoing sh*tshow that is City Hall right now, with Ex Mayor Newsom still hanging around, the Supervisors mostly acting like fools, and the endless array of public commenters and the echo chamber of “insiders,” you can’t help but get scared. I mean what if something Truly Horrible happened, like an earthquake, a terrorist attack or something else bad happens? THESE people are the ones in charge?
God help us.
Anyway, whilst hearing all the chatter about Ed Lee, I kept thinking to myself “Hmm, wasn’t he involved in some weird shenanigans with Willie Brown back in the day?” But alas, it seems local media can’t even search their own archives, so I did a little snooping at the inimitable SFGate.
There, I found a few articles by Chuck Finnie and Lance Williams (both of whom have left the then-Hearst owned Examiner for bigger and better things) that might be worth a read by certain Supervisors and so on, just so we all know what we’re getting into here. There’s more, but this was just a sampler. If I were so inclined I suppose I could research and post more links, but this will do for now in advance of Friday’s showdown that’s moot, since it’s not like Supervisors or the Mayor or anyone involved in these dealings really cares about running a city on behalf of its citizen.
Take a look, and make up your own mind:
This piece from 2001 is the last part of a 6 part article about all sorts of shenanigans under Mayor Willie Brown.
Here’s another piece, detailing problems with the Human Rights Commission under Lee.
Remember when the FBI was buzzing around City Hall, finding all kinds of weirdness? Sure you do. Right?
There were all sorts of abuses of the minority set asides used in contracting. Basically companies were getting the set-asides, despite the fact that no people of color were owning or running them. In other words, the City was extolling its virtues, while living like sinners. Surprised?
Anyway, this only took me about 15 minutes of searching on the Gate. Kind of curious that the Gate doesn’t seem to read its own archives. Even more curious that all these grant-funded folks who allegedly are here to “save journalism” don’t seem to be aware of things that happened prior to 2008. Hmm.
PS: For all you fans of the sit/lie law, check out the raucous debate in 1999 about an anti panhandling law that did eventually pass. How’s that working out for you all?
And how’s the enforcement of Sit/Lie going?
(insert sound of crickets chirping here)

Oh So You Dug Sen. Sanders’ Filibuster? Ok, Time To Act Locally!

floor speech.jpgThe Twitter was abuzz about Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his marathon filibuster of the Obama/GOP tax deal. Living in San Francisco, and being on The Twitter, and following so many Good People On Said Twitter, it was hard not to hear about it. There were all sorts of tribute websites and the like, and that’s wonderful.
The theme of Sanders’ 8+hour filibuster was the inequality in wealth in this country and the real-world effects this has on people who work for a living, versus those who play games in the financial markets and those that inherit wealth, and do not generate it. Etc. etc etc.
All red tofu for the left in San Francisco, and eye-opening statistics for the millionaire’s club known as Congress. However, while San Francisco’s population can cluck their tongues, the fact is that right now, San Francisco is poised to give away millions to a billionaire who makes record profits, all so he can have a billionaire boat race here in town.
The Mayor you just gave a promotion to, and whom you swoon over (boys and girls) is exiting his office early as a solid promoter of this deal. So-called “progressive” Ross Mirkarimi is swooning over this deal based on some sort of misguided nostalgia for his home town 3000 miles away, and the rest of the Supervisors are too busy playing political games to get into Room 200 or passing useless legislation to notice what is about to happen.
Make no mistake, San Francisco is as guilty as any DC insider in this use of the government to side with the wealthy and make the poor pay. The mayor, by decree/fatwa, eliminated a successful “green jobs” operation on behalf of a few NIMBY property owners (most likely recent transplants during Dot Com 1 anyway) with the specific intent of ensuring “those people” (aka the poors) can’t recycle bottles and cans for money.
This is a city that is doing everything it can, again on the behalf of the few, to over-regulate and to kick out plenty of community building operations in the City, all because the wealthy few deem it unseemly that those that aren’t wealthy landowners get to enjoy San Francisco as much as they do.
So high five Sen. Sanders all you like. Until you realize that your own government in So-Called Leftist San Francisco, and those self-appointed righteous knownothingknowitalls are literally selling out your poor, broke city on behalf of Larry FUCKING Ellison, and until you do something about it, you are no better than the President that sold you out for a few pieces of silver to the people he said he was going to fight.
It’s time to act locally, folks. We may not be able to do anything about the swamp that is Washington DC, but if we can’t even clean up our own messes at home, then we have no right to tell anyone else how to live their lives.

Why “Progressives” Have Proven They’re Not Fit to Govern: Then Again….

Reading the assorted coverage in the press about the so-called “selection process” that the Board of Supervisors has chosen to engage in to choose a successor to “Mayor” Newsom is proof of a few things. First, that so-called “progressives” are simply not qualified to be in charge of things at City Hall, and second, that frankly, NO ONE in the political class is qualified to be in charge of things at City Hall.
At the center of all of this is Board President David Chiu. Now, bear in mind that he’s not qualified for his current job – he is Board President only because of the progressive-on-progressive antagonism that denied it to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. Instead, they picked Chiu, who never served on the Board, to run it.
Now he wants to be Mayor, so he’s hoping to delay things by creating a patently bullshit bunch of “rules” that have no basis in reality or the law, to delay things and ensure that he gets the top job once Newsom leaves office.
Think about it: A guy whose big experience was pimping the Christian Right online, among other things, who has never served, and has presided over one of the most unproductive Boards in recent history, content to tilt at windmills while Muni fails, and the City’s finances burn.
Now he wants to be Mayor?
Give me a f*cking break. This long list of bullshit rules he’s invented have no basis in reality – you simply need to have 6 votes to be the Interim Mayor – this nonsense about no texting, being in the room or not, etc. is all a pile of crap, and “Supervisor” Chiu should be embarrassed at these kind of time and tax wasting games.
This, however, has been the hallmark of the So-Called Progressives – they’re all out only for their own personal ambitions, and don’t give a damn about real problems, or even their own gang in politics. Instead they engage in foolish things, or write bad laws that are good for nothing but headline grabbing, and don’t help anyone. The Class of 2008 that got elected largely because it was a big presidential year and many first time voters just voted “Democrat” no matter what, has brought us some of the worst legislation we’ve seen in a while.
Outgoing Sup. Daly might be a pain in the ass, but he did understand his role and how to move legislation, and he’s been calling BS on all of this. These new kids are children who think they’re in pre-school at recess, and not in charge of a city people have to pay taxes and live in.
And now, where I piss off Everyone Else in SF Politics….
That all said, it’s time to face facts: we wouldn’t be in this position if “Mayor” Newsom gave a damn about finishing the job he was hired by the voters to do in the first place. Because he too placed personal ambition above the good of the City, we’re in a situation where no matter what happens, working on SF’s many real problems is going to be tossed by the wayside in favor of bullshit politics. Worse, it’s not like he’s advancing to a real office – he’s going to be Lite Governor – a job with no practical use aside from sitting around waiting for the Governor to die or quit.
We were sold on Gavin Newsom in 2003 as the guy who was going to get things done and be some sort of guy focused on “policy.” Instead we got a rich pretty-boy who was great at press conferences, empty promises, and endless Big Talk, but who as Mayor always catered to public employee unions, enhanced the financial destruction of the Muni system with his dishonest budgeting, and who clearly never really cared much for San Francisco or the people who work hard and pay the taxes that made his stupid gas guzzling SUV possible.
I place the blame for this guy squarely on the people and special interests who backed him, screaming and yelling how if we’d elected that Communist Matt Gonzalez the sky would fall. Well, we didn’t, and guess what? We still had a wasteful Room 200 that was devoted to political games, not getting anything done.
What does this all mean? Well, regardless of what the fools at City Hall do now, or in January, you have a say in who will be in charge in 2011. There are many people already running for office. Here’s a helpful hint: don’t vote based on some bullshit you read in a piece of junk mail, or something the chatterers in the press or online say in the echo chamber of buzzwords.
Scrutinize the Hell out of these people who claim they want to be in charge. Demand they speak up and say what they plan on doing to make things different. Don’t fall for a pretty face or a cute slogan or someone who’s name you’ve heard.
Instead, be very skeptical, and make them earn your vote. The kind of San Francisco you’ll be living in for the next few decades depends on it.

Tired of Dead Tree Political Mail? Tired of Seeing Tax $$$ Go to Shady Political Ads? Here’s a Solution!

IMG_1597.JPGSan Francisco loves to pride itself on being the “leader” on all sorts of issues. Problem is, its “leaders” come up short. We say we ban plastic bags – but we don’t because every liquor store in town is using plastic bags. We claim to be for all sorts of Big Important Non Binding Resolution on Big Issues, but of course, no one’s listening because no one cares.
Today I propose some tough new laws that would make San Francisco in the vanguard of something we can all agree on – the end of that massive flood of dead tree mail full of hysterical BS that infects our mailbox every election year.
One of the main reasons you get so much of this junk is becauseā€¦.you’re paying for it. Yes, that’s right, you the San Francisco taxpayer were funding that flood of crap in your mailbox. That’s because some do-gooders decided it’s better if you pay for it, instead of those mean ol’ “special interests.”
Instead, the mean ol’ special interests go ahead and fund their own campaigns, free of any interference from said candidates. This is better, how?
It’s time for the citizens of San Francisco to ask our leaders to do better, and to set a high standard for taxpayer funded campaigns. That’s why it’s time San Francisco institute strict conditions on the use of tax cash for political communications.
Let’s call it the San Francisco “Truth or Consequences in Taxpayer Financed Political Advertising ” Law. And unlike some non-binding resolution, this will be something that has some consequences. Break the law? You pay the taxpayers back the cash – with interest.
Key Provisions would include:

-Telling the Truth: Any campaign mailer, online ad, TV ad, must file within 24 hours all the research detailing the claims in any ad. Said filing would be posted online within 24 hours for voters to review. If it’s not filed or the campaign is found to be lying, they must refund the taxpayers the cost of said mailer. With interest. (For those that can’t get online, print copies would be made available at all public libraries).
-Carbon Neutral footprint: this means ONLY using post consumer recycled paper, ONLY using organic inks, and all other means including eliminating gas-driven delivery, and so on. If that means direct drops to carriers, well that’s life in the world of climate change, kids. This also means using local printers to do said work, since it’s just San Francisco and it’s not like anyone’s sending mail to Vallejo or Los Angeles, so there’s no reason they can’t print locally at locally owned businesses.
-Tax-financed campaigns would also be required to file daily reports of campaign contributions from private sources. Instead of quarterly reports that are manipulated by campaigns, and making them hard to find online, campaigns would send in a list with copies of all checks (minus information that could lead to fraud) and said information would be posted online, within 24 hours for voter review.
And no one say it can’t be done, this is where Google, eBay, Yahoo, Intel and a whole host of companies come from, so outsource it to someone from the second decade of the 21st century to do it, not some fools at the City who would just boondoggle it.

This is just a rough draft, and certainly not a set in stone policy. Obviously any taxpayer funded TV, radio, robocall or online ad would fall under the same general guidelines, etc. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to ask the “big talkers” to stop talking, and start putting their alleged beliefs into practice.
It is time for us to ask more of those who are using taxpayer money to kill trees and send out political advertising. We’ve had enough of screaming headlines and distortions of facts from the people claiming to be “clean money” candidates. It’s time for them to take the “clean money” – but stop playing dirty with the voters.

Are You Kidding Me? RCV/IRV/WTF Won’t Make Things Nicer. It Hasn’t So Far.

It never ceases to amaze me how blatant political spin can be passed off as “information,” if you just make sure to quote spinners on all sides. That doesn’t make what they’re saying any more true – it just makes it seem that way.
Today, the Chronicle had yet another Ranked Choice Voting/Instant Runoff Voting* post-mortem, this time once again repeating the mantra of “RCV Will Make Candidates Nice and Coalition Blah Blah BLAH” all over again. In particular we hear how this is somehow making campaigns play nicer, and encourage “coalition building” amongst candidates, whatever THAT means.
Now, we’ve had this magical system for 6 years in San Francisco. Looking back at all the contested supervisorial races, could anyone argue that they got less hit mail from candidates and independent expenditures in the last six years? No. How about candidates doing the “buddy buddy system” to get elected? Well the only time we had that was in 2004 in District 5, and every single candidate that tried the buddy system got their asses kicked pretty seriously by the top two vote getters. The gimmicky joint mailers and so on didn’t work.
Did we get more “liberals” elected in San Francisco? Did we have any sure losers somehow magically make their way to the top? Not really – most citywide elections since RCV have been uncontested, or in the case of Newsom’s re-election, it was Newsom up against a pack of no-names that weren’t serious about winning.
Turnout hasn’t changed because of RCV either – it’s driven primarily by what kind of elections are on the ballot. People turned out in higher numbers in 2008 to vote in the presidential election – not to vote for City Supervisor. Get Real.
The one thing that has changed is that at least at a district level, candidates should have a strategy to ID their supporters and get them to the polls, but they also need to look at the ones not ID’d as supporters and somehow convince them to mark them in the #2 spot when they vote. This is not an easy thing to explain to people, and there’s no way to really track it either, but it’s a nice safety net. Other than that, campaigns will have to fight a lot harder, a lot faster, because there is no more runoff to shake out the detritus – it’s all or nothing on Election Day.
Whereas in the past, a runoff meant that the final two would have to formally ask for support from losing candidates, be held responsible for whatever stunts they pulled in the general election, and would have a one-on-one debate with their opponent (vs. the cast of 1000s we got in some districts), giving the public a chance to get a better look. True, turnout in a December election wasn’t great, but they could have just as easily had the election just a few weeks later.
By the way, that old saw about “saving money” is pure bullshit, because the people who push this kind of thing also push for huge increases in government spending in other areas. Also, I don’t like the idea of “democracy on the cheap” – we don’t skimp when we’re doing elections in Iraq – why should we here?
I’ll be writing more as I interview more people and try and come up with something that’s a bit more than just refuting the ping pong reporting that is considered “analysis” in San Francisco.