Tuesday, April 30, 2013

19 City Hall Folks & Chron Reporter: $24K Mexico Junket in May

A new gifts of travel disclosure was posted at the San Francisco Ethics Commission web site, showing that nineteen City Hall folks, members of the Board of Supervisors, public transportation commission members and reporter for the SF Chronicle will all be in Mexico City from May 15 thru May 18.

The will be on a junket to look at transit systems in Mexico City, all expenses paid by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. The disclosure estimated the official's expenses would be $1,300. Multiply for all nineteen junketeers and the total tab comes to $24,700.

What does the sponsoring institute want in return and what on their agenda when the nineteen folks return to San Francisco? Will there be a community forum with these illustrious junketeers, including the Chronicle reporter, before and after the trip? Does the citizenry deserve a lot more transparency about this junket and all junkets our elected go on?

Here's the list of folks going on the junket:

1. Andrea Bruss, Designee/Legislative Aide to SFCTA Finance Chair Malia Cohen (a) 

2. Cindy Wu, SF Planning Commission Vice-Chair (a) 

3. Eric Mar, SFCTA Plans and Programs Committee Chair (a) 

4. Gillian Gillett, Director of Transportation Policy, Office of the Mayor (a) 

5. Jeremy Pollock, Legislative Aide to SFCTA Board Chair John Avalos (a) 

6. John Avalos, SFCTA Board Chair (a) 

7. Judson True, Designee/Legislative Aide to SF Board of Supervisors President David Chiu (a) 

8. Leah Shahum, Executive Director, SF Bicycle Coalition  

9. Michael Cabanatuan, Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle 

10. Michael Schwartz, Senior Transportation Planner, SFCTA 

11.  Peggy da Silva, SFTRU Chair  

12. Peter Gabancho, Project Manager, SFMTA (a) 

13. Rama Amin  Transportation Director, SPUR 


15. Shari Tavafrashti, Principal Engineer, SFCTA 

16. Tom Nolan, SFMTA Chairman of the Board (a) 

17. Christopher Van Eyken, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (d) 

18. Bernardo Baranda, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (d) 

19. Karina Licea, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (d)
Tab for Kamala Harris & Staffers' SCOTUS Junket?


(From MSNBC's studio to . . . 

 . . . to ABC News' studio, AG Harris supposedly had state business to tend to in March in DC.)  

Let's follow more of the money of the fourth California elected official who went junketerring in late March when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in the Prop 8 gay marriage case. Bear in mind, none of the four argued before the court and were mere observers to the historic hearing.

In response to my April 3 pubic records request for what I thought were standard and easily-to-locate-and-vet travel expense reports from Attorney General Kamala Harris, her office furnished me with a two-page letter yesterday and a minimal number of responsive records, from which I excerpt, emphasis added:

During the period referenced in your request, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Senior Counsel to the Attorney General Michael A. Troncoso, Special Assistant Attorney General Brian E. Nelson and Director ofthe Ofñce of Communications Gilbert J. Duran traveled in an official capacity to Washington, DC., for multiple purposes, including purposes related to the United States Supreme Court’s oral arguments regarding Proposition 8 and/or the Defense of Marriage Act.

Mr. Troncoso and Mr. Duran arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2013, and departed on March 27, 2013. Mr. Nelson arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2013, and departed on March 27, 2013. Enclosed are travel itineraries for Mr. Troncoso, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Duran indicating the airfare paid by the State. Their other travel expenses have not yet been processed for reimbursement. After completion of processing for reimbursement, we will produce records responsive to your inquiries to the extent they are not exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. We expect to complete processing and review of such records in about a month.

Attorney General Harris arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2013, and departed on March 27, 2013. Attorney General Harris has not and will not be seeking State reimbursement for her travel expenses. We have no responsive records of her travel expenses.

Good to know we didn't foot the bill for her PR blitz for herself, and who knows what she did with her six-days in DC to move up the Democratic Party ladder, but I am not happy that we are paying the bill for three of her staffers, including her publicist, for their junket to DC.

Thus far, we learn the AG's office spent $2,102 for the roundtrip airfares of her three staffers. In addition to this cost, there is the serious sunshine matter of Kamala Harris' office needs two months to locate and vet travel expense reports. It is unacceptable that any state elected official needs so many days to provide public records related to travel.

Maybe the mainstream press could take an interest in the AG office's expenses for the SCOTUS and her turnaround time on release of standard public records.

By the way, Michael Doyle of the Sacramento Bee provided great details about how our AG spent some of five-days in Washington. Thanks much, Michael and the Bee!:

On Sunday, she appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," declaring that the case is a matter "of equal protection under the law."

On Monday, the eve of the oral arguments, Harris made media phone calls and met with some reporters in person, including a pair from the Bee and from the San Francisco Chronicle.

On Tuesday, Harris appeared on PBS's "Newshour" and on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

On Thursday, Harris appeared on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" to discuss both the Proposition 8 as well as the Defense of Marriage Act case.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/03/kamala-harris-reaping-prop-8-pr-bonanza.html#storylink=cpy

Here's the public service I've previously performing following public money used so elected officials in California could go on Prop 8 SCOTUS junkets in March.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who took eight minions with him, stuck taxpayers with a $17,000-plus tab. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom went solo and ran up a $1,200-plus bill for taxpayers. State Sen. Mark Leno also went solo but paid his own way.

Monday, April 29, 2013

200+ Join Bradley Manning Rally At SF Pride Office

(Click to enlarge)

A big thank you to the 200-plus individuals who participated in our 90-minute rally early this evening at the SF Pride office, on behalf of accused gay whistle-blower Bradley Manning. Not a single elected official, homosexual or straight, attended and a rally without a politician to suck up activist energy is a great rally.

The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, spoke to rousing cheers and announced he would attend his first Pride March in June when he marches with the Bradley Manning contingent. Top photo, Ellsberg in front of Manning banners. Middle photo, the crowd listen and snapping pix of him. Bottom photo, yours truly giving his hero a friendly embrace.

Our call-and-response when like this: "They say court martial!" "We say Grand Marshal!"

There was a strong lesbian and women's presence. Top photo shows rally co-organizer Lisa Geduldig and a pro-peace activist named Laurie. Second photo is of a proud self-described gay-and-gray member of the Gray Panthers, telling the crowd about queer sodomites arrested for breaking laws explaining our history and related to Manning. Third picture is one I took because I love how the woman decided her own message, then taped it to a rolled up newspaper making her sentiments known. Fourth picture features my friend Patrick Connors, and a longtime lesbian social justice activist who works at Rainbow Grocery and whose name I don't know. Fifth photo shows Sue Englander of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club after she said a few words to the throng.

When I saw my longtime friend and occasional political sparring partner Chris Bowman, left, and I went over to him and said my reputation needing ruining so I wanted to be seen hugging him. Chris is with the Log Cabin Republicans and GOP. Glad he was there exercising his free speech rights with a sign praising SF Pride for reneging on the Grand Marshal honor for Manning. Standing with him was former Supervisor Harry Britt. Chris' sign reads: "Thank you, Lisa and the Pride board for correcting an egregious error!"

And the queer beat goes on . . .
Daniel Ellsberg to Speak at Manning Rally at SF Pride

Just got this news from my organizing colleague Lisa Geduldig:

Daniel Ellsberg just called me. He is going to speak at the protest today!!! I need to add it to the release, tell the press, post on FB. Please tweet! 

Please join us at 5 pm at the SF Pride office, at 1841 Market Street near Guerrero.
Bradley Manning: Grand Marshal, Not Court Martial!

Last night I met with friends to strategize about our rally tonight at the SF Pride office, requesting that Bradley Manning be reinstated as a Grand Marshal of the LGBT parade in June.

During the meeting I heard this slogan, which is the most fabulous slogan I've heard in years and should be adopted far and wide on blogs and posters:

Bradley Manning: Grand Marshal, Not Court Martial!

One of the points I intend to make at the rally at 5 PM at the SF Pride office at 1841 Market near Guerrero, is to express genuine gratitude to the leaders of this group especially the board president Lisa Williams.

Yes, gratitude because Williams and her cohorts have handed us queer Bradley Manning supporters a golden PR opportunity on a silver platter to bring attention to his pending court martial and what led to his arrest and prosecution.

Hope to see you at the rally!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Court Date, Monday at 1:30 PM; Elected Official Emails Me

My legal hassle with an elected official is in its sixth-month and on Monday, April 29th at 1:30 PM, my lawyer Derek St. Pierre and I will again appear before Superior Court Judge Sam Feng. Usual place, Hall of Justice, usual Department 17 courtroom on the second floor.

Yes, this matter continues to take up the time of numerous sheriff's deputies, the staff at the District Attorney's office and Judge Feng, and when May rolls around this week, if no resolution is reached tomorrow, we'll be our seventh-month of clogging up the criminal justice system.

In related news, I continue to receive unwanted communication from the elected official pursuing this criminal case. Who would have thought the elected official would be able to bring this charge against me and continue to send me emails, which contain invitations to his events including an upcoming birthday party.

Check this out.
Harvard Paid for DA Gascon's Boston Junket

(Members of Harvard's Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety pose for a group photo. DA Gascon is in the back row, on the far right. Credit: Harvard University.)

Here's the latest news in my campaign sunshining the travels of San Francisco's elected officials and who pays for their trips, and why they are traveling.

I emailed Christine Cole, who is the Executive Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School, about her Executive Session from May 31 through June 2, 2012, at which our DA spoke. I learned about this because the session was on the DA's calendar.

My questions had to do with if Harvard footed the tab for the DA and anyone else on his staff who may have been on the junket with him. Cole wrote back:

George Gascon was invited as one of 29 participants in a very select group for an executive session. He, along with all the others, with the exception of federal employees are reimbursed for reasonable ground transportation costs, and food not provided by the event up to the federal per dime for Cambridge. We pay directly for accommodation and air. The DA did not receive compensation for attending. He did not have staff accompany him to my knowledge. The costs are covered on a federal grant. 

Gascon has not filed a disclosure form with the Ethics Commission about this educational, via a government grant, outside source paying for the trip, and I'm not sure if he's required to do so and I'll be in touch with the commission for further explanation.
That aside for the moment, regardless of whether an elected San Francisco official is legally required to disclose these junkets, in my view, it would be excellent civic accountability to the citizenry for all such trips to be made public on the official's web site.

Bradley Manning Supporters to Protest at SF Pride Office


WHAT:     Bradley Manning Supporters to Protest at SF Pride Office

WHERE:     Outside SF Pride Office, 1841 Market Street
(btwn Octavia & Guerrero), San Francisco

WHEN:     Monday April 29, 2013 @ 5pm

CONTACTS:    Lisa Geduldig: (415) 205-6515 - lisag@igc.org
Michael Petrelis: (415) 621-6267 - mpetrelis@aol.com

FACEBOOK:  www.facebook.com/events/455476737862828/455476744529494

San Francisco, CA - A group of gay activists has called a protest against the San Francisco Pride Committee’s rescinding of naming as a Grand Marshal openly gay whistleblower, Bradley Manning, a US Army soldier who was arrested in 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website Wikileaks. Manning was charged with a number of offenses including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. The 25 year old’s trial is expected to begin in June 2013.

The action is being organized by gay peace and social justice activists Michael Petrelis,  Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and Lisa Geduldig.

"Our message to SF Pride is that they should make Manning a Grand Marshal of this year's Pride March and Celebration because of his brave act of whistleblowing against the military industrial complex," said Petrelis. "We are fed up with marriage and military concerns sucking the oxygen out of what used to be a queer movement and Pride March and Celebration about social justice for queers," Petrelis added.

Some don’t think Manning should be a Grand Marshal of the parade, albeit in absentia—that he doesn’t represent or further the causes of LGBT people. Co-organizer Geduldig points out, “He's an antiwar hero, a whistleblower who is gay. He was lipsynching to Lady Gaga while downloading classified documents. It doesn’t get more gay than that.”

Is SF Pride turning its back on activism and dissent? In a statement from Lisa Williams, San Francisco Pride Board President, rescinding the Grand Marshal honor to Manning she says,“Even the hint of support for actions which placed in harm’s way the lives of our men and women in uniform -- and countless others, military and civilian alike -- will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride.” Read Williams’ entire statement here: www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoPride/posts/622822351079480

The organizers are asking participants to carry “I Am Bradley Manning” signs and to wear Manning masks, which can be downloaded here: www.tinyurl.com/ManningMask

Schedule & Speakers

5:00pm    Gather outside SF Pride Office, 1841 Market Street
(btwn Octavia & Guerrero), San Francisco

5:15pm    Speakers include:

Michael Petrelis (Gays Without Borders): Will speak on global gay issues

Tommi Avicolli Mecca (Queer activist for past 43 years): The history of Pride

John Caldera: Honorably Discharged US Navy Corpsman

Carmen Simon (ACT UP)

Related articles and links:
Glenn Greenwald, “Bradley Manning is Off Limits at SF Gay Pride Parade, but Corporate Sleaze is Embraced”

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, “Sometimes It's Hard to Have Pride in Pride” www.oursalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/sometimes-it-s-hard-to-have-pride-in-pride

Bradley Manning Support Network web site: www.bradleymanning.org

Saturday, April 27, 2013

SF Pride: Mary Cheney Replaces Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal

(Daniel Ellsberg. Courtesy: I Am Bradley Manning site.)

That's a faux headline, but one that pretty much sums up the militaristic political thinking, gay marriage uber alles and the corporate mentality at San Francisco's Pride Committee.

To recap, the Bay Area Reporter, which is more and more a mouthpiece for Equality Inc, reported on Thursday that the SF Pride leaders had chosen whistleblower hero and homosexual Bradley Manning to be a grand marshal. The problem was a rogue volunteer gave the paper bad info and SF Pride has rescinded the grand marshal honor that was never really given to Manning.

If you're not into guns with rainbow stickers and gowns at marriage ceremonies and gushing over alcohol corporation and corrupt banks and saluting the egos of an endless parade of queer and straight politicians, there's not been much reason to participate in the official Profiteering Off Pride events at the end of June.

Think about it. Mary Cheney and Heather Poe would be the ideal Grand Marshal Couple with the crew ruining, er, running SF Pride.

Until Manning upset the marriage and military agenda of SF Pride, the forces at Equality Inc were pushing the anticipated Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage as THE reason to be at Pride this year.

Now, with SF Pride handing their legions of critics and Manning supporters, and queers fed up with Equality Inc ignoring economic justice issues for those of us not interested in getting hitched or shooting innocent Afghanistan people with drones, a long overdue debate about the Gay Agenda in San Francisco is happening.

A presser is being planned for Monday at SF Pride's offices. Details coming soon.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Herrera Discloses Higher Cost for Video Promoting Himself

In my post yesterday about the $5,564 spent in city funds to make a video promoting City Attorney Dennis Herrera, under the guise of reaching consumers who were the victims of predatory money practices by commercial payday loan sharks, I mentioned a world premiere of the video.

Trying to generate more news clippings about and branding of the name Dennis Herrera, taxpayer funds were spent to premiere the video at the Wilshire Screening Room in February. I asked one of his publicists, Jack Song, who went to the premiere from Herrera's office and how much their junket to Hollywood cost taxpayers.

One of the most annoying things about the public servants at this office is their snippiness about, um, serving the public. It's like they've been trained in how to be off-putting, condescending and act like their doing you a huge favor all because you want access to public records and info about how they are spending public dollars.

In keeping with acting like royalty, Song lectured me in a two-page letter before simply getting to the numbers:

As I expect you fully realize, neither the City Attorney, Managing Attorney, or Press Secretary would be required to expend their personal funds without reimbursement for their work-related travel or costs [...]

As a courtesy, I am providing you this breakdown of travel expenses incurred by the City Attorney and his office’s Managing Attorney, and Press Secretary, who all attended the consumer outreach event in Los Angeles on February 20, 2013. 

Dennis Herrera’s airfare - $393.80 
Dennis Herrera’s taxi expense - $120 (includes one-way shared ride with Marisa Moret & Matt Dorsey and from LAX Airport to press conference) 
Marisa Moret’s airfare - $393.80 
Marisa Moret’s hotel cost - $447.81 (includes meals with Matt Dorsey & Dennis Herrera) 
Marisa Moret’s taxi/transportation expenses - $60 (shared with Matt Dorsey) 
Matt Dorey’s airfare - $393.80 Matt Dorsey's hotel cost - $391.53 (includes meal with Marisa Moret) 

What a load of bullcrap, labeling a shameless p.r. stunt parodying the trailer for "Les Miserables" during Oscar season as a "consumer outreach event". How many victims of payday loan sharks do you know hang out at glitzy private screening rooms in La-La Land?

That aside, the total cost to San Francisco taxpayers to send Herrera, his videographer and publicist to Los Angeles came to $2,137.

Add that to the $5,564 previously disclosed to create the video and the grand total, I think, if more hidden costs aren't lurking in the bowels of the City Attorney's office, is $7,701.

Well, at least it's less than the $17,000 Herrera and his minions charged taxpayers in March for their SCOTUS junket to Washington.
Mayor Lee Discloses Two Gifts From Realtors

What's the latest with my campaign to sunshine San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's gifts and donations, which stared earlier this week with my complaint to the Ethics Commission because I believe he has not fully met our disclosure laws?

The Mayor's Office yesterday quietly updated their disclosure page, which had last been updates on July 9, 2011, and revealed the date, donor, gift and financial interests with The City:

3/27/2013        Boston Properties Ceremonial Groundbreaking Shovel - Transbay Tower $300.00 Building permits as reported on the Department of Building Inspection's website: http://dbiweb.sfgov.org/dbipts/
4/16/2013 Kilroy Realty Ceremonial Groundbreaking Shovel - 350 Mission Groundbreaking $250.00 Building permits as reported on the Department of Building Inspection's website: http://dbiweb.sfgov.org/dbipts/
201301097557; 303-2nd St.; 1/9/2013
201111158958; 370-3rd St.; 11/15/2011

I emailed a few folks at the Mayor's press office seeking comments about the sudden updating, and if those two gifts were the extent of what Ed Lee has accepted since July 9, 2011. My request for a statement by the end of business today produced nothing but radio silence. Let's see how long the Mayor's paid publicists take before addressing my easy questions, and if more disclosures for past gifts see the light of day.
Bay Guardian Can't Locate Human Rights Commissioner

Remember the blog post here a few weeks back, all about alleged threats to cut the Human Rights Commission budget if they held a public meeting in the Castro regarding the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza? There was also the matter of one HRC commissioner, Todd Mavis, demanding a hearing just on matter of the threats and what was said to the HRC director Theresa Sparks. Both of those posts were based on minutes posted at the HRC site.

On April 4, the editor of the Bay Guardian, Tim Redmond, emailed me this note:

Do you know Todd Mavis, who raised the flagpole issues at Human Rights? Having a hard time tracking him down. 

Was Redmond pursing a story? He said:

It's interesting. I will keep trying to track him down.

You would think the editor of a local weekly alternative paper would know how to contact a city agency, request communication with one of their commissioners, and chat with the guy. As April draws to a close, I'm still waiting to hear from Redmond about what happened to his outreach effort with Mavis. Something tells me the Guardian will not be writing about the evisceration of the local human rights agency any time soon.

And the beat goes on . . .

DA's Calendar: 217 Media Interviews, 101 Pressers

Thanks to our sunshine laws, I was able to obtain select daily calendars from Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and District Attorney George Gascon in electronic format.

A fairly typical few days from Mirkarimi's calendar, above, includes much detailed info about all of his activities, in and out of the office especially who he meets with from his department, where they meet and for how long.


For Gascon, a fairly typical week from his calendar, above, is quite devoid of such details as Mirkarimi provides.

I've pored over Gascon's calendar from April 17, 2011, through March 31, 2013, and added up the activities and events on his schedule.

His office has scheduled 101 press conferences about assorted high-profile cases, and a handful of the pressers have been joint events with Mayor Ed Lee or Sen. Mark Leno.

He's attended 210 such events as speaking before business and neighborhood groups, Rep. Nancy Pelosi's annual New Year's party, marching in local parades, testifying at City Hall budget hearings or Sacramento public safety meetings, making remarks at dinners and receptions, and panel appearances.

At 217, the majority of events on his calendar are media interviews or semi-annual press breakfasts organized by his office or media roundtables, for which lists of attendees are omitted. Here's the breakdown of Gascon's media interviews given to each outlet and press outreach events:

SF Chronicle:

KGO Radio:

KTVU, Univision:
15 each (30 combined)

District Attorney Office media roundtable (no specifics):

SF Examiner:

12 each (24 combined)


Associated Press, KTSF
7 each (14 combined)


Neighborhood Press Roundtables (no specifics):

Bay Guardian, Channel 42, KALW, KPIX, LA Times, NBC Bay Area, SF Magazine, Sing Tao:
4 each (28 combined)

BAR, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, Recorded, Time, World Journal:
3 each (18 combined)

District Attorney Office press breakfasts (no specifics):

CNN, Daily Journal, KRON, NY Times, Wall Street Journal:
2 each (10 combined)

Australian TV, Bay Area News Group, Bar Association Newsletter, Bay Citizen, Daily Breeze, Forbes, El Tecolote, Gil Gross, KKSF, MSNBC, Murray Productions, NPR, Rolling Stone, Sacramento Bee, WBLZ, Western Edition, SF State University students:
1 each (17 combined)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Top 6 Choices for the SF International Film Festival

Our glorious and historic Castro Theatre tonight is the location for the launch of the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival. The open night film is  "What Maisie Knew" starring Julianne Moore, based on a Henry James novel, and is sure to entertain the crowd because the festival always starts with a wise and pleasing choice.

Tomorrow is when we cineastes start gorging all the other films, with upwards of two-dozen screenings daily at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema and the New People Cinema, both located on Post Street in Japantown, and across the bay at the Pacific Film Archive.

Last year, I was ill and could catch only one film, so I'm quite pleased to be well and ready to see as many films as I can squeeze in before the SFIFF comes to an end on May 9.

The program is full of dozens of films I'd like to find the time for, and I've chosen six that are of top interest and could use a bit of attention. In alphabetical order, here they are with notes from the festival:

From Russia, "The Daughter":

A serial killer is on the loose and targeting teenage girls in a parochial Russian village, where Orthodox beliefs and strict nationalist tradition prove to be just as dangerous for sensitive Inna and defiant Masha in this aesthetically austere yet emotionally explosive coming-of-age tale.

The USA-Uganda co-production "God Loves Uganda":

Eye-opening connections between American Christian Fundamentalist evangelism and homophobic practices in both church and government in Uganda are exposed in this investigative documentary. 

The Mexico-Japanese co-production "Inori":

Pedro González-Rubio (Alamar, New Directors Prizewinner SFIFF 2010) blends documentary and narrative as he observes the few remaining inhabitants of an isolated Japanese town as they pray to their gods, collect flowers for graves and worry about “crossing the great river.”

From Hungary "Just the Wind":

As rumors of a right-wing death squad fill their community, a marginalized Hungarian Romany family goes about their daily routines in this powerful, intimate work from the director of Dealer (SFIFF 2005).

From Mexico "Mai Morire":

In the ethereal, nearly pre-Columbian landscapes of the Mexican town of Xochimilco, a stoic woman returns home to care for her 99-year-old mother nearing the end of her life. Haunting and meditative.

From Senegal "Tall as the Baobab Tree":

Inspired by true stories, Jeremy Teicher tells the moving story of a teenage girl who hatches a plan to rescue her sister from an arranged marriage. Non-professional actors play roles that mirror their own lives, intimately capturing the emotions of the traditional and modern worlds colliding in rural Senegal.

One of the best features of the SFIFF is that there really is something for every movie-mad person in the Bay Area. Name a genre or area of special interest - horror, American comedies and dramas, provocative documentaries, short and feature-length animation, European art-house - and you'll find something worth seeing.

Not enough to pique your interest, yet? Maybe lectures with directors Steven Soderbergh or William Friedkin will get you to the festival, or perhaps revivals of Francesco Rosi's "Mattei Affair" or the stunning black-and-white Czech masterpiece "Marketa Lazarova" is your cinematic cup of tea. 

Don't miss out on the fun and pleasures of motion pictures at the SFIFF. Go see a few movies or catch a discussion!

CA HIV Stats Dropped 34 Percent Since 2007

The news from Valorie Eckert, our state's HIV/AIDS epidemiologist, about new HIV infections and the status of transmissions is good because declines continue.

After reading the latest semi-annual HIV/AIDS surveillance report for California, current through December 31, 2012, I had an extended phone conversation with Eckhert about Figure 4, pictured.

It shows reported HIV (not AIDS) cases since the middle of 2006 and includes much cleaning up of moving from non-names-based reporting to names-based reporting, and late reports from many local health departments and private labs.

The red bar, for the first full year of names-based reporting is the highest level of HIV cases reported, while the lime bar is for 2012 and shows the lowest numbers.

Because annual HIV stats are omitted from the chart, I requested from Eckert hard numbers for these years and she emailed these stats. Frequency = new HIV diagnoses:


The drop from 2007's 6,217 diagnoses down to the 4,078 in 2012 is around 34%. 

Seeking clarification about diagnosed cases versus reported incidents being a better reflection of the epidemic, I asked Eckert to confirm this and she replied:

Yes, you are right. Diagnosed cases are closer to actual transmissions than the reported. Reported is used more for quality assurance purposes. We like for cases to be reported within 3 months of diagnoses. And typically they are, but unfortunately some are reported years after diagnosis for one reason or another.

I asked her to include the frequency numbers in future semi-annuals so the general public could have those numbers along with the colorful charts, and better understand the state of HIV in California. Eckert said this idea was already in development in Sacramento.

Eckert finally walked me through the most comprehensive epidemiological profile for the state, current through the end of 2009. Of key importance, she said, was this page:

The blue line represents HIV infection diagnoses (peeked 1988-1992), the red one is for AIDS cases (peeked 1993), and the green line represents AIDS deaths (peeked 1994-1995). Interesting that for all categories, the peeks came before the introduction of protease inhibitors and AIDS cocktails.

I'm looking forward to more HIV statistics from Eckert and the Office of AIDS, because I believe we'll see the downward trends maintained.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

City Attorney Herrera's Tab for Video Starring Himself?

Guess they couldn't locate any victims of predatory lending practices at Payday Loans and Check 'n Go, who might want to tell other victims how to apply for a refund so they decided to feature a politician and his staff instead.

Dennis Herrera, City Attorney of San Francisco, stars in a video produced by Dennis Herrera that was funded by Dennis Herrera, designed to boost the ego of Dennis Herrera and to expand Dennis Herrera's name recognition among Hollywood donors.

The video above officially is about educating predatory loan victims to file claims for potential refunds, but instead of simply having victims tell their stories and explain how to apply for the refunds, the real point of the project is to promote one ambitious politician.

Total cost to taxpayers to stroke the egos of Herrera and his wife, who both appear at the very beginning of the video, and the city employees who created the video and star in it?

According to public records from the city attorney's office after I filed a request, the tab came to $5,564, with $1,720 of that amount going to the PR Newswire to garner some attention.

The video had a local red carpet premiere on February 20 at Gino and Carlo's restaurant in North Beach, according to a Herrera press release, where a background banner featured the seal of the City Attorney. Needless to say, Herrera was happy to pose in front of the banner for a few pix. One of Herrera's staff publicists, Jack Song, emailed today to say the office incurred no expense to taxpayers and guests had to buy their own libations. 

On February 21 at the Wilshire Screening Room in Beverly Hills, the video had its world premiere. The screening rental came to $250, paid for by taxpayers. Jack Song said today that Herrera, fellow publicist Matt Dorsey and staff attorney Marisa Moret, who produced and directed the video, were all at the Beverly Hills event. Song didn't produce requested travel expense reports because, he obliquely stated, there were none. I guess that means unlike their SCOTUS junket, Herrera, Dorsey and Moret didn't stick the tab to taxpayers.

Reaching predatory lending victims is secondary to this entire endeavor. It's all nothing more than more p.r. for Herrera and his staff. They wanted to show off their video-making skills, most likely on city time since this is consider outreach work, and shot a parody of the coming attraction for "Les Miserables", hoping to generate lots of media attention at Oscar-time with their cleverness.

Hello, they spent $1,720 for the services of the PR Newswire and except for a blog post at the SF Chronicle's site, which never raised the matter of how much the damn thing cost taxpayers, there was no bang for all those bucks.

In case I have no presented enough evidence that this video was more interest in capturing the attention of Hollywood donors for future Herrera campaigns, through showing off the parodying skills of his City Attorney office's staff, have a look at the second version of the product, a split-screen edition comparing it with the "Les Miserables" trailer from Universal Studios:

When watching the end credits, be aware that many folks listed are employees of the City Attorney office. How successful this video has been at reaching beyond the friends and family of Herrera and his staffers is anyone guess.

Curious to learn if Universal Studios was asked to grant licensing rights to Herrera for use of their intellectual property.

I sure wish this November's race for the City Attorney's office weren't like the elections of the Soviet Union - no challenger to the incumbent. For lots of reasons, including his abysmal record on upholding sunshine laws and practices, Herrera needs electoral competition.
SF Chron: About Conway's $100K Gift to SFPD . . .

(Screen grab from San Francisco Magazine's December issue.)

Here's the latest chapter in the saga of following the money at the San Francisco Police Department and tech mogul Ron Conway, and his alleged $100,000 donation last June to the force. Previous posts here, here and here.

I've been requesting that the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper make a correction about their August 27, 2012, story by Heather Knight that said:

Police Chief Greg Suhr couldn't be happier that his longtime friend [Ron Conway] is sprinkling some fairy dust on the notoriously Luddite Police Department. In June, Sf.citi donated $100,000, and Hewlett-Packard donated 60 laptops so officers can connect to the department's crime-data warehouse from the field. 

After a few days of requests to the paper's editors and reporter Knight, she emailed this explanation, which sheds lights and raises questions:

The $100,000 from sfciti went to ArcTouch, an app developer, to develop the app and engineering the SFPD is using to allow officers to use mobile technology to build case files from the field rather than having to go back to their district station and use a desktop computer. That is why it doesn't show up as a direct donation to SFPD.

Oh. So, the $100,000 was actual cash as the Chronicle claimed and the money (was there genuine money exchanged or did ArcTouch simply donate $100,000 in staff time?) really went to a tech firm.

I asked Knight and two her editors if they agreed a correction was warranted, and the reply was radio silence. There's been no print correction and nothing appended to the original story. And the Chronicle wonders why its readership dwindles each passing day.

BTW, the paper doesn't maintain an online page for corrections and it certainly could use one, pronto. Sure, the paper edition on page two, at the bottom, prints corrections but there is no online equivalent. 

Hearst executives could learn a lesson from the New York Times about a dedicated corrections page, and raise the standards of San Francisco journalism with such a page.

The larger issue of following Conway's money may be made easier when the SFPD finally develops its gifts and donations disclosure page, which will allegedly will include records back to 2010.