Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Entry Where I Piss Off Everyone in San Francisco Politics: No on L (Sit/Lie) and No on M (Patrols)

Today I do what few can in San Francisco – piss off everyone on all sides of the political spectrum. That’s because today I strongly suggest you vote a big NO on both Proposition L (the so-called “sit/lie” law) and Proposition M (the so-called foot patrol law). And, I’m not against it for the reasons most opponents cite. So everyone gets to be mad.
Prop. L is a bogus law simply because it won’t change anything, while M is one of those poison pill measures designed solely to block another measure (i.e. L) that I can’t stand. Both are examples of a dysfunctional political system that values scoring political points and spending a lot of money on dead tree mail and political ads all over the place.
So why is “Sit/Lie” so bogus?
First off, let’s get one thing out of the way that is apparently The Biggest Problem In The Entire City: Those Damn Upper Haight Street Punks. Now, I am not one of these bleeding hearts that think these poor dears just need more hugs and handouts to be good little children. (If anything they need a swift kick in the ass and a bath).
Most of these kids are from the suburbs or flyover country who want to live like aggro bums and got the notion that Upper Haight was the most hospitable to their plans. For the most part they are not kids kicked out of the house because the Admiral didn’t like them or something serious. And yes, they’re jerks. I’m not going to defend them and I fully believe the SFPD and concerned citizens should bring the hammer down on ’em.
Therein lies the problem. See, if you don’t report crimes to the police, the police will not go after the bad people. If you see someone smoking crack (Mr. Mayor, are you listening), YOU CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT THEIR ASSES. Then the police do this thing called “arresting people and putting them in jail.” Then the District Attorney does this thing called “prosecuting criminals.” Other cities have figured this out and it seems to work.
It does not work in San Francisco, because here, people don’t report crimes, the police usually cite and release folks, or “give ’em a warning,” and our pretty DA, Kamala Harris simply does not believe in prosecuting criminals.
Would a “sit/lie” law change any of this? Absolutely not.
So passing this will make a few people in Upper Haight feel good, we’ll be saddled with a law that will not be enforced, and NOTHING will change. (Unless someone brings back the Committee on Vigilance, which is highly unlikely.)
Now, the flip side of this law: the Unintended Consequences. Trust me there will be many. If some kids are sitting on the sidewalk playing, they could just as easily be cited as anyone else. If my neighbors and I decided to enjoy the rehabbed benches and sidewalks of our block, we could be cited. The proponents say “oh that won’t happen” but we all know how NIMBY-esque people can be, and I can assure you some prissy NIMBY-ite will bring down the hammer on a couple of folks sitting in front of their garage during a garage sale if they want to. This IS San Francisco after all.
“Doesn’t lefty Santa Cruz have some law? What’s the big deal?” you ask. Yes, they have something similar to Prop. L, but when you look closer, it’s really not the same thing at all. That’s because unlike in Upper Haight, the merchants on Pacific Avenue pay into a fund that has staff out there first leading off with the carrot (offer of help and services to those on the street) backed up with the stick (the police will move people along). It also only applies to the business district. Will this law have anything like that?
No. Because the Haight Street folks don’t want to spend any money to do this. So basically nothing proactive will be done to prevent the problem from forming – we’re just going to have to hope that people will do their jobs and bust people. Look how well that’s worked in the past.
Remember the “Aggressive Panhandling” law? Not enforced as promised. Remember the “Matrix” program under Frank Jordan? FAIL. How about all those business doorways with the “request for enforcement” of the No Trespassing law? FAIL.
Finally, let’s take a look at a serious situation that was only recently noticed by the Chronicle (despite being a problem for years!) – the case of the crazy tattooed chick on Irving Street who routinely committed assaults on people – and yet was never held accountable for her crimes. The SFPD simply wrote her tickets and sent her on her merry way, she bounced around expensive homeless services, and continued to commit more crimes – and the DA didn’t do a damned thing.
This went on for years, and all the well-paid public employees simply wouldn’t stop this person from hurting others. Would a “sit/lie” law have done anything to stop this? No, it wouldn’t, because you see this crazy chick was hurting people while standing up.
Until voters in San Francisco decide to elect DA’s for more than a pretty face and high minded liberal rhetoric, and are willing to report crimes to the police, and have a police force that has the backing of said voters to actually enforce the law, NOTHING HAPPENS, “sit/lie” or not.
As for Proposition M? This is just another political game – when someone puts something on the ballot, the Other Side puts up a competing measure with a poison pill that negates the other (in this case Prop. L) if it gets more votes.
This is wasting taxpayer money for political cheap shots, and won’t do anything productive if passed. Vote NO and tell the Board of Supervisors to lay off the endless empty “nonbinding resolutions” and start working with people to get things done. Play time is over – there’s a major recession killing our city and we need to deal with it.

A Cure for the Haterade Some San Franciscans Insist on Serving During Fleet Week

admaad2.gifThe Blue Angels began their practice runs today, and inevitably an elite squad of San Franciscans have to dump the haterade all over it because it “offends” them in some way. Blogs get flooded with the usual junk, and we have to listen to the equation “If we didn’t spend X dollars on the Blue Angels we could spend X dollars on [insert cause or whatever here]” over and over.
Meanwhile, most of us dig the Blue Angels. But I have a cure for at least some people who have to complain. If you must, do this – pretend the Blue Angels are the Viper force in the Battlestar Galactica episode “Exodus, Part 2” when the Galactica dropped through the sky, launched the Vipers, and helped kick some Cylon ass and save the humans.
There. See, feels kinda cool, doesn’t it? No need for the haterade now.

Muni Rider Voter Guide Update: Helping Discern Candidate Fact and Fiction

Once a week I plan on doing a short update about the Muni Rider Voter Guide to keep it in the public eye in this last month before the election. As we enter junk mail and advertising season, a lot of people will have a lot to say about Fix Muni Now (Prop. G) and many candidates will start saying all sorts of things about What They’d Do If Elected to Make Muni Better.
One thing to remember is that the Muni Rider Voter Guide was never in the business of issuing endorsements, so trying to tell people what was perceived they wanted to hear wouldn’t work. Candidates were free to answer as openly as they chose on a few questions that try to find out what (if anything) they know about Muni, and how they make tough decisions.
SFist reported a dust-up between two candidates in District 8 about their positions on Proposition G, the Fix Muni Now measure. Let’s look at what the hullabaloo is all about, and what we have on the record at the Muni Rider Voter Guide.
Rafael Mandelman, a candidate in District 8, was apparently upset that a mail piece contrasted his views on Prop. G with that of one of his opponents, Scott Weiner. Weiner claimed Mandelman was against the measure, Mandelman claimed he was “sort of” for it, but with reservations, etc etc.
Let’s look at his answer in the Muni Rider Voter Guide for some clarity, shall we? (Remember, there’s no advantage to placating the audience here):

5. What is the Fix Muni Now charter amendment? Do you support it? (Y/N) Why or why not?
Currently the City Charter provides that driver salaries shall be no less than the average for the two highest paying transit systems nationwide.  Proposition G would remove that provision, I support that change, and it will surely pass. I do have some concerns about the measure. First, proponents argue that by making salaries subject to collective bargaining, we will enable the MTA to secure work rule concessions from the TWU that could save as much as $30 million. Maybe, but that was the rationale for the charter changes in Proposition A three years ago, and at least in that respect, Proposition A was a failure.  Second, I would have preferred to see a broader package of reform on the ballot.  Finally, I am concerned that Proposition G creates an unfair burden for drivers, spelling out burdens of proof for arbitration proceedings that are more burdensome than for other city workers.

This answer, while not saying an explicit “yes” on G, sure sounds supportive. But by not mentioning the voted “No” on G when the SF Democratic Party was doling out endorsements, and was against it when asking for the SF Labor Council’s support, it creates the perception of trying to have it both ways – hence the attack. Mr. Mandelman has said he has had an “evolving” point of view.
I can appreciate that – before researching labor and management troubles for the Muni Death Spiral article I co-authored this year, I was 100% against this measure. Only after I did my own research, did I make the difficult, but necessary conclusion that running things “as-is” was not the best way to run a railroad, and support it. (Read my reasons by following the link, where I debunk many myths about the measure.)
That said, other progressive candidates have given thoughtful and direct answers as to why they are against Prop. G. While I respectfully disagree with their analyses as to why they are against it, I also appreciate the fact that they’re being as clear as possible.
We can agree to disagree and instead find other ways we can agree to fix Muni in the future. Plus, progressives have a tough time on this measure – while popular with the public, organized labor (on whom they rely for financial and organizational support) is dead set against it. Hey, I get it, and that’s fine. It’s no different than candidates being for or against a measure because their allies elsewhere are for or against something too.
So what have we learned today? In a close campaign, the hit pieces go a flying’ and the debates get heated on hot button issues like Muni. Sometimes candidates say all sorts of things in the heat of battle. However, at least on some Muni issues, the Muni Rider Voter Guide helps you, the voter, try and discern what they’re really saying, and compare the campaign rhetoric of today with was said in the past.
For candidates, the best bet is to simply be clear where they stand and not try and make everyone happy – that’s impossible in San Francisco. I would also caution those that are trying to use the “Muni issue” to make their campaigns look good – those of us who care about these issues (i.e. almost everyone in SF) will be looking very closely at what happens after the election too, and those that choose rhetoric over results will have a lot of explaining to do in 2014.

A Call for Political Junk Mail for Campaign 2010!

As it’s the campaign season once again, that means that the time honored tradition of political junk direct mail will be filling your mailboxes this fall. Most people just send this stuff straight to the recycle bin (at my apartment it never even makes it indoors as people just dump it in the recycle bin we have outside by our mailboxes), and that’s a shame. Mostly because unlike most people, I actually look at these things, not so much to be “informed” but rather to decode and debunk what it is they’re saying.
Unlike TV ads, which get analyzed extensively by the press, direct mail runs “under the radar” and often times it’s past election day before people realize what hit them. So, as I’ve done in the past, I like to scan these in and critique them on message, artwork, and the lie-o-meter, because I’m just that obsessive.
So what does this mean for you? Well the thing is despite having voted in one form or another for some time, because I’ve only lived in this particular residence for about a year and a half, I don’t get as much mail as some of you might. Thus, I’m asking for help in collecting samples from around the City of SF (particularly independent expenditures on behalf of causes and candidates) and anything that looks interesting or explicitly lame or just plain odd. Email me and let me know what you’ve got and I’ll make arrangements to pick it up or send you some $ for postage. Or, scan it in if you can and send me a JPG.
Thanks!

I’m No Fan of Gavin Newsom, But Abel Maldonado is a Liar Liar Pants On Fire

I’m no fan of Gavin Newsom, and that’s not exactly a state secret. 7 years of ruining Muni and showboaty, go-nowhere policies and big pay raises to city workers has left the city a mess. That said, when I saw the infamous convention video that appointed Lt. Gov put out over the weekend, I was just blown away by some of the big lies in this thing and even I found it rather unfair. You know when something’s up when even a big critic of the Mayor thinks the guy is being picked on unfairly.
Anyone can rip on Mayor Newsom with an endless array of provable facts. The fact that despite this, the Maldonado camapign felt a need to put a BIG ASS LIE in the middle of it made me realize that I’m going to have to write in someone for this because while I don’t like seeing Newsom get a promotion he doesn’t deserve, I sure as Hell can’t vote for Abel either.
The lie? Well in the video they mention the death of an SFPD officer in 2006. Then they cut to a video of Newsom being interviewed by Dan Noyes of ABC7 in San Francisco. It’s the famous “mad clap” video where he goes off on Noyes. You can find it at 4 minutes and 10 seconds in to the video (btw which has terrible editing. WTF?)
The problem is, Noyes wasn’t asking him in 2006 about the death of an SFPD officer. Instead it was shot in 2007, and Noyes was asking about the many allegations of Newsom’s alcohol abuse that were swirling around him as that and that other scandal were making its way out on the Series of Tubes.
Amazing. They had to edit a lie instead of just tell the truth. For no good reason. Yeah, we really want either one of these guys a heartbeat from the Governor’s office. Time to write in your favorite celebrities or something!

“The Social Network” Trailer + the MySpace, Twitter and YouTube Parodies

For fun, I’ve collected all of the satirical trailers of “The Social Network” in one place. Because that’s being productive, right?
If I could get access to some cameras and some youthful actors, I’ve got a script for “The Muni Blog” ready to go…
The Original:

The Twitter Version:

The YouTube version

annnd The MySpace version

Attack Happy Meals? Fine. But What About the Pitiful State of SF School Lunches?

Oh, here we go. Once again, we can rely on Sup. Eric Mar for legislation that’s all about the feel good and the headlines, but not about the policy. Today, we find out that he wants to ban Happy Meals, because he wants to protect the children from their own parents and guardians, and because it sounds cool to him and his ilk. You can bet the SF Gate comments are flipping out about this one.
It sounds noble – until you realize like most SF legislation, is another half-assed idea hatched to make someone look good. As always, this will apply to Big Evil Chains – but you know that they’ll exempt “local” restaurants, just like with the fake plastic bag ban. And, it will generate lots of heat, but the alleged goal (healthier children) is lost. Instead of wasting dollars on some showboaty measure like this, why not instead get more healthy produce in neighborhoods that have none? Why not instead educate parents so they can make informed decisions? Fast food shouldn’t be a daily staple – but taking your kid to McDonalds once in a while will not kill them, either.
Oh wait. I forgot. Not only would that be a long term commitment to policies and program that won’t show up on his next election mailer, it might also call attention to Mar’s own shameful record on child nutrition.
What’s that you say? Well, Mr. Mar was once a member of the San Francisco School Board. Want to see what kind of healthy lunches they’re serving? Check out this student-made video that shows what they’re serving at Lowell High, the gem of the school system:

While the video was made in 2009, after Mr. Mar left office, it is ludicrous to think this only started after he left office. Same goes for ongoing non compliance with complex regulations.
Interesting. We have people in office who don’t mind coming up with “flavor of the month” policies, instead of long term effective solutions that aren’t as showy. They generate regulations that are needlessly complex and don’t serve the intended goal (in this case making sure kids get healthy options for lunch, etc.) and leave the detritus for someone else to deal with.
But subject them to such regulations, as the school district was, and suddenly it’s a human rights violation.
Hmm.
To Summarize: Better food for kids=good. Giving parents the options and information about said choices=good. Getting better quality food, fresh vegetables, etc. to all neighborhoods=good. Showboaty regulations that are ill thought out and are intended mostly for a mail piece in 2012=FAIL.
UPDATE: Thanks for the link, SF Weekly!

The SF Democratic Party’s Questionnaire Makes No Mention of Muni or the “Fix Muni Now” Charter Amendment…Why?

NJudah-postage copy.jpgThe San Francisco Democratic Party (known formally as the Democratic Central Committee) will be voting on its endorsements next week. This is an important vote, because many people simply look at what the party recommends on a postcard they get in the mail, and votes more or less along those lines.
Candidates who wanted the endorsement had to submit to a rather lengthy questionnaire which you can read here, or download it from their site.
I found it fascinating that amongst all the detailed questions, not one was about Muni, which is on most people’s minds whether they like it or not. Even after the publication of the Muni Death Spiral, and the ongoing debates between the Mayor and City Hall about the future of Muni, there’s nothing on here for local candidates for Supervisor or other office discussing something everyone is affected by. In a list of local ballot measures, the Fix Muni Now charter amendment isn’t even listed. This, an amendment which amassed 75,000 or so signatures to get on the ballot and would surely be of some interest to voters.
There’s been all sorts of speculating on how the DCCC will vote on a Fix Muni Now endorsement, but if I had to guess, looking at who serves on the board of the DCCC, it’s going to be an interesting vote.
Four members of the committee are also elected members of the Board of Supervisors (Campos, Chiu, Avalos, Mar) who rely heavily on organized labor’s support. Two are candidates for the Board (Walker, Mandelman) who also rely on labor support as a cornerstone of their campaign. Scott Weiner, another candidate for office, is sharing offices with Fix Muni Now in the Castro, and Gabriel Haaland is a well known labor leader in San Francisco.
It’s difficult to tell how the ex-officio members (those who are Democrats elected to office) will vote on this, as is with some of the other members of the DCCC. If anyone has any insight into this, feel free to post in the comments.
I find it fascinating that a city that claims to be “green” and “transit first” has a Democratic Party locally that doesn’t seem to want to talk about these issues. If the current questionnaire as posted on the Party website is wrong, and in fact they do list Fix Muni Now, I’d love to see it. Otherwise, it seems that once again, Muni’s challenges aren’t being relegated to the back of the bus – Muni isn’t even being allowed on in the first place.
Oh, the irony.
PS: Since the local party doesn’t seem to want to talk about these, I’ve launched the Muni Rider Voter Guide. It’s now live. Which candidates will speak up and tell us about their plans for Muni, and which will duck the issue?
PS2: The local Democrats voted “no endorsement” for Prop. G, the Fix Muni Now measure. If anything it just proves once again the so-called “progressives” don’t give a damn about Muni, and continue to actively work for its demise as much as Muni boss Nate Ford and Prince Newsom do.

Anecdotal Reason #142903 Why “Sit/Lie” Laws Aren’t Necessary

San Francisco’s politics are driven in large part by anectdotal stories, so why not add another one to this “sit/lie” silliness that’s made its way to the ballot. Because the Upper Haight sucks (sorry, but it does, it hasn’t been cool for decades) we’re now going to have well-funded antagonism for the next few months. And, as in the past, it may result in some “law” passed, but like the aggressive panhandling law, and other such things, it probably won’t do a damn thing.
On to the anecdote. This morning I was awoken by some loud shouty people outside my window. At first I thoguht it was the loud, shouty guys who’ve been fixing up some of the units in our building, but after a few minutes I realized it wasn’t them. Instead 3 homeless guys decided to sit on some boxes and get drunk on cheap liquor. Now if they weren’t making any noise, and not making a mess, I don’t think anyone would have necessarily noticed. But no, these jerks were making noise, going through the recycle bins and being jerks.
What tore it for me (aside from the fact I got very little sleep last night thanks to some jerks who decided to rev up their cars and drag race down our block at 3am) was when of them decided to use one of the nice planter boxes on our street that neighbors had built to make the street nicer, as a toilet. So, I called the Taraval Station (this was not a 911-worthy call) and told them what was up. (I later learned several others did as well)
Within 5 minutes, the SFPD was on the scene, and told them to scram, and they did. Now, apparently according to the brainiacs downtown, the police have “no power” in this situation. Sorry to burst bubbles, but in this case, the pack of jerks scattered like rats within 2 minutes of the officer’s arrival. So that makes swiss cheese out of that straw man (see how I combined metaphors improperly there?)
Now, before the liberals get all in my face about being mean to the homeless, let me say this: If these three had simply been sitting and talking quietly on one of our benches and treating the neighborhood with respect, no one would have cared, or even noticed.
In fact many people walking through use our benches and enjoy our planters (not as toilets but as planters), and that’s fine. But when they literally shit on something people worked hard to make the place nicer, and show no respect at 8am for everyone by shouting and drinking, they are being jerks, so therefore they are treated as jerks.
Too often San Francisco defines compromise and respect as “do what the shrillest, extremist voices say, and don’t you dare oppose them ‘or else.'” That is not respect or compromise, that is the dictatorship of the shrill. Until we learn the difference, we will always have this choose-up-sider BS legislation proposed, when in fact if people simply acted like adults, instead of constantly babied children, we would all get along better in a dense urban city.

Sup. Alioto-Pier’s (sort of) Pyrrhic Victory Today

Breaking News! Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, fresh off a failed bid for Insurance Commissioner, fought in court and “won” a victory today – her name can appear on the ballot after all, despite term limits, to run for re-election as Supervisor after all.
At least, that’s the headlines. Take a closer look and you’ll see why this is a Pyrrich political victory, SF-style.
See, while Her Supervisorness was off either not running for re-election or for Insurance Commissinoer or whatever, Other Candidates decided to run. And unlike the joke candidates Sup. Alioto-Pier faced in the past as an incumbent, these candidates are very credible, and very competitive.
Janet Reilly has the endorsement of pretty much everyone on the political scene, somehow managing to get the support of both progressives and “moderate” Democrats, and endorsements from both Aaron Peskin and Mayor Newsom. (Go research when the last time those two agreed on anything, much less the wide variety of politicians and community leaders from all sides did).
Mark Farrell is also a very credible candidate, having raised a lot of money early in the race, hiring a crack campaign team, and who has been running for this office for some time now. He is also a credible candidate, like Mrs. Reilly.
In every campaign where Sup. Alioto-Pier has faced Credible Candidates, she has lost each time. She may have the incumbency badge, but this late in the game it’s hard to see much of either Reilly or Farrell’s supporters peeling off to support someone who as recently as a few months ago was running for another office.
Congratulations, Supervisor. Now let’s see how things shake out when our Supervisorial elections aren’t simply rubber stamps for incumbents.