Wednesday, March 30, 2016

DA Releases 15,000 Pages of SFPD Use-of-Force Files

The corrupt and anti-sunshine district attorney of San Francisco, one George Gascon, set up a blue ribbon panel last year to look at transparency and accountability at the police department. There's not been nearly enough transparency about the panel he established and controls, and I filed public records requests to make it transparent.

Instead of complying with my request to scan the responsive records into PDFs, making it easy for me to share them with the public, the DA printed and copied what he says are 15,000 pages of SFPD and related files.

At least they didn't charge me a thing for the records!

They were hand-delivered to me in a large cardboard box capable of holding 5,000 page, according to the Staples info on it, and the stack of documents which clearly didn't reach maximum capacity.

Could the DA be exaggerating about number of pages released? Imagine that, an ambitious prosecutor not telling the truth and using a blue ribbon panel, totally under his control to advance his career!

There are hundreds of SFPD use-of-force logs printed on both sides of the pages covering a 3-4 year period, listing officers' names and badge numbers and other pertinent info about when and where episode of force took place.

Sure wish the DA had simply hit the scan button when copying these responsive records, to better get them out and read by police accountability advocates. I need assistance in poring the files.

That is why I've reached out to community advocate Mesha Irizarry of the Idriss Stelley Foundation and her network of cop-watchers.

We need to do whatever we can to hold DA Gascon and his publicity-stunt blue ribbon panel accountable.

Finally, a reminder that there is no page at the DA's web site about this panel, their meeting agendas and minutes, how it's operating, etc, nor is there a stand-alone Facebook page or web site allowing the public to keep track of the records acquired and generated by Gascon's panel.

Just one indication of what a sham it is.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Colorful Mike + Mike = Happy Easter Y'all!

Greetings from San Francisco on what can be accurately described as a Liza Minnelli infused day - totally fabulous, full of sunshine and gloriously diverse people, including Mike and Mike.

This June, we hit the 21st year of meeting up and shaking up in very enjoyable sin. My decades of life with Mike are my biggest personal life-accomplishment. What a terrific dude I partnered with!

Remember to boycott North Carolina over it's LGBT bigotry and until such time as the anti-transgender bathroom law is repealed and consigned to the ash heap of homo-history.

Wishing everyone pleasures and blessing of the season, whatever you're celebrating - Purim, Holi, Easter, Spring Equinox - we share in your happiness and beauty!

Activism and love equal life, and my Mikey, are my reasons for glory and peace today. What and who are driving your pleasures today?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SF Fire Dept: Mission Arson Investigations Agendized

In January 2015, a devastating blaze at Mission and 22nd Streets left one person dead, scores of people and small businesses displaced and many questions about whether this was a case of arson were raised.

Since then, numerous folks in the Mission such as artist and community organizer Spike Kahn, reporter Laura Wenus of the Mission Local news site, myself and others have petitioned the San Francisco Fire Commission to hold a meeting about potential arsons in the Mission.

It pleases me to learn the commission and department brass on April 27 will hold their regularly-scheduled meeting at the Lick Middle School, 1220 Noe Street, near 25th Street and on the agenda are recent fires and status of investigations. 

The agenda for tomorrow's meeting, March 23 starting at 5 pm in Room 400 in City Hall, includes an item about next month's meeting. Putting the arson meeting on this month's agenda, I believe, shows the importance the department is putting on the April hearing.

I asked commission secretary Maureen Conefrey to confirm the Mission blazes will be discussed and if the meeting would air live on television. She replied:

"The Fire Marshal and his staff will address recent fires, including ones in the Mission along with the investigations of those fires. Per SFGOV TV, they will delay the 4/27/16 broadcast and have advised me that they will air a previous Fire Commission Meeting in that time slot. It looks like it might be a 6:00 start time."

Good to know the hearing will be taped and aired on SFGOV TV, in addition to being available for on-demand viewing. Let's hear what the arson investigators have to say in a month's time.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Valencia Street Corner: From Blight to Bland - What's Next?

Around Christmastime, I made my first complaint to the City's 311 system about the graffiti blighting the former Volvo repair shop at the corner of Valencia Street and Clinton Park, near our home.

Nothing, except more paint from taggers applied to the exterior, happened with the site and in early February I filed another 311 complaint. The City mailed a letter to the owners, who live in the East Bay, demanding they remove the graffiti.

When March roared in and still the blight was unsightly, I sent two letters to the owners and copied everything over to the Department of Public Works and Department of Building Inspections.

On Saturday, March 19, the graffiti was gone and a thick coat of dark gray paint was applied to the entire facade facing Valencia Street and a bit along Clinton Park but not covering the artwork commissioned by the Volvo repair operation years ago.

This note from one of the former owners hit my inbox this afternoon: "I was informed by the prior owner of 235 Valencia Street that you had sent 2 letters to let them know about the graffiti on the building. Please know that I sold the building in October of 2015. Please contact the appropriate owner of record for this property."

Not sure who the current owners may be and the Assessor-Recorder's files may be out of date, but the main matter of ridding our small piece of San Francisco of graffiti has been accomplished. For now.

That new gray paint sure is an inviting canvass. It's also a very valuable piece of real estate and I wonder what's next for the site.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Asian & Latin Press: SF Protest Against GOP's Trump

In addition to local mainstream and ethnic TV news coverage on Tuesday for our small rally at the San Francisco office tower partially owned by Donald Trump, and beaucoup social media attention, we also generated terrific online coverage from Asian and Latin press outlets.

The widely-read World Journal's reporter Guan Wenjie wrote in Chinese about the action and provided his Asian news outlet with an image showing Jeffrey Kwong holding his "Asians Against Trump" poster, surrounded by other activists. Wenjie's story and photo are posted here.

This photo was snapped by Alejandro Galicia Diaz, who also wrote a good story for the El Tecolote news site, which attracts a large audience of Latinos and others:

"On March 15, a small group of protesters gathered outside of the former world headquarters of Bank of America—the skyscraper at 555 California St., which is now 30 percent owned by The Trump Organization—to object to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy

"The demonstration took place on “Super Tuesday,” a day where the five states of Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida, all held their Democratic and Republican primaries. [...]

"'We came out today because today is Super Tuesday in many states and we’re very nervous that Donald Trump is going to secure the GOP nomination for president,' said Michael Petrelis, who was draped in a rainbow flag and carrying a piƱata of Trump. 'And we’re here to say ‘Racist, sexist, KKK, Donald Trump, go away.'" [...]

"It all started in June of last year in New York when Trump stood in front of a large crowd to announce his candidacy. In his speech, he boomed that his goal was to 'Make America great again,' but also insulted many with his comments regarding Mexican immigrants."

All I have to say after our protest and resultant attention is: Dump Trump!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Herstoric All-Women Obits Day in the NY Times

The New York Times' print edition on March 16 made history, or, more accurately, herstory when it published four obituaries all about women of note. As a regular reader of the paper, I can't recall the last time all obituaries were about the deaths of women.

In recent years, the paper has come under deserved fire for ignoring the lives of women and their accomplishments on the obituary page. Public editor Margaret Sullivan in May 2014 wrote:

"Or how about the number of women in Times obituaries? The poet and feminist Lynn Melnick complained on Twitter last week that only seven of the past 66 obituaries were on women. (My count yielded similar numbers.) Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective."

A survey of notable deaths in top newspapers, by gender, compiled by Mother Jones December 2012 found in that year female obituaries in the Times amounted to 29 versus 108 for males.

On March 16, the main obituary page featured the life of writer Anita Brookner, who won the Booker Prize, which warranted a banner headline and took up half of the page.

The second obituary page, taking up the entire right side, led off with a notice about the life of Dr. Barbara Almond, who studied maternal ambivalence.

Next up was the obituary for Ernestine Anderson, who was an accomplished and versatile jazz and blues singer who enjoyed a career spanning over six decades.

The fourth and final obituary yesterday was about Gogi Grant, a pop singer who knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the charts with her song "Wayward Wind" in the 1950s.

All of the women's obituaries included a photo of the subject and were written by male writers. You can read the online versions here.

Women's lives, and deaths, matter!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SF Action: 'Donald Trump! Racist, Sexist, KKK - Go Away!'

A handful of democracy activists staged a thirty-minute protest and press conference today, Tuesday, March 15, at Donald Trump's office tower at California and Kearny Streets during the noon lunch hour.

Melanie Nathan was our primary spokesperson who deplored Trump's many incitements of hate against immigrants, women, people of color and refusal to repudiate white supremacist backing of his campaign.

Representing Asians Against Trump was Jeffrey Kwong, with a sign printed in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

I wore my rainbow burka to add LGBT color and held aloft our #TrumpNever pinata. Be sure to read Melanie's report at her blog which includes her statement read today.

We attracted a robust turnout from all sorts of media: The Castro Courier, El Tecolote, Hoodline, KDTV-Univision, KGO Radio, KGO TV, KPIX, KRON, KTVU,  and the World Journal, an Asian publication, and community photojournalists Steve Rhodes and Bill Wilson.

Two furry hubbies, John and Barney, participated as did Curt Weschler, who came with his own sign from the World Won't Wait coalition. We chanted, "Donald Trump! Racist! Sexist! KKK! Go Away!"

Three students - Thomas, Hank and Gabriel - stood with Walter and displayed their signs for the cameras and passersby.

Parading around the Financial District with the #TrumpNever pinata was a magnet for folks with cameras, snapping pics as we walked by or holding the pinata in their arms, giving one of us their cameras so we could take their photos with the prop!

All photos above are credited to Bill Wilson.

This young dude named Juan requested pictures of him with the pinata and his souped up low-rider truck, as he gave Trump the finger. Credit for this image goes to Steve Rhodes.

Monday, March 14, 2016

#TrumpNever Protest at His SF Tower: 555 Calif St, 3/15 noon

Join a group of LGBT and Jewish activists on Super Tuesday, March 15 at noon, at the Donald Trump-owned former Bank of America Tower at 555 California Street to deplore his run for the White House.

We've got a #TrumpNever pinata with placards saying KKK, racist, hater and sexist to define him and his political agenda.

Let's raise our voices at this important press conference and speak out against Trump and his vicious positions polluting the American democratic electoral system!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pinata Protest at Trump-Owned SF Tower on March 15

San Francisco to Protest Trump Rally Violence

San Francisco – Activists and community members will join together outside the office building at 555 California Street in San Francisco, at noon on Tuesday March 15, to protest the violence, the corporate greed, the racism, the homophobia, Islamophobia and the anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump has been promoting at his presidential campaign rallies, all across the United States.

Trump owns 30% of the former Bank of America Tower.

The activists assert that Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump,  has been directly inciting violence at his rallies, using the power of the Presidential election campaign process as his stage.

"Donald Trump’s behavior, in the name of seeking the US presidency, is so outrageous that we must speak out, now,” says Melanie Nathan, of the African Human Rights Coalition.  "This type of rhetoric is harmful, not only to the minorities that he targets, but also to the country as a whole. Trump is hurting our country’s image.  It is no wonder that he has attracted endorsements and attendees from the KKK. Surely that speaks volumes."

WHERE: Trump Tower San Francisco, 555 California Street, San Francisco, CA
WHEN: March 15, 12:15 – 1:00 PM
HIGHLIGHT: A Trump pinata, with a big head draped in a KKK white hood.

Melanie Nathan:
African Human Rights Coalition

Michael Petrelis
Gays Without Borders

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Homeless Inc's Street Sheet's Printing Bill is How High?

After twenty-years or more of observing and occasionally engaging with the Coalition on Homelessness nonprofit, I've never seen them present achievable plans. Their staff and executive director constantly state what is wrong with current City policies and they're against this and that, but forget about asking supporters to push govt agencies to enact solutions.

In recent months, the Tent City homeless encampments grew under the Division Street freeway overpass creating numerous public health hazards for street folks, neighboring residents and businesses and passers-by. COH deplored the situation, their executive director Jennifer Friedenbach met with Mayor Ed Lee's chief of staff Steve Kawa and was in regular contact with City agencies, but good luck finding their list of actions for solutions.

On March 5th, after the City swept the tents and homeless folks away, COH issued a timeline on the sweeps and buried in it was the above list of steps.

Note that no City bureaucrat is targeted to provide the portable toilets, garbage clean up or needle drop-boxes. Should we contact someone - anyone - at City Hall for those services? Nope and COH wants a plan, as if we don't have plenty sitting on shelves gathering dust, oh, plus it must be shared with Homeless Inc who probably won't like it. Same old shit.

My sympathy goes out to San Francisco's homeless population first and foremost for not having housing, but also for suffering under the inept leadership of Friedenbach and COH and how they compound problems.

COH's latest IRS 990 tax filing shows their revenue in 2013 was at $291,200 and assets listed at $83,700, while in 2014 revenue jumped to $432,900 and assets totaled $178,200.

Friedenbach's annual salary was $21,700.

Since they don't receive any govt grant, COH's robust increase of revenue and assets came from private donors. What good it does is another question that needs addressing.

The amount spent on COH's Street Sheet publication that homeless folks use to solicit funds and goods, stood out on the tax filing at $48,900. In the previous year cost of the newspaper, usually three sheets for a total of six pages, was $23,000 according to their filing.

Curious that the cost of producing the paper more than doubled in a single year.

Given the high number of homeless folks on the streets that I see or interact with daily, and yes it seems there are more of them, I can say there have been a handful of times in recent months when I saw someone peddling the publication.

In the grand scheme of and large govt bills for homeless people and programs in San Francisco, the COH's comparatively small budget and how they spend it may not be high on the public agenda but that is no reason to avoid scrutinizing their work, financial stewardship and leadership.

What good does COH accomplish?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

SOTF Hearing: DA Gascon vs SFPD Over Public Records

Over the years, ambitious political animal and corrupt district attorney George Gascon has blown off complaints against him with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force for failing to comply with open govt laws, and the SOTF has repeatedly found him non-compliant on several matters.

In July 2015, members of the task force voted unanimously to find that "District Attorney George Gascon and the Office of the District Attorney violated Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Sections 67.25 (a) and 67.29-5, by failing to respond to an Immediate Disclosure Request in a timely and/or complete manner and failure to maintain a daily calendar wherein is records the time and place of each meeting or event attended." The very things he accuses the police department of!

The most recent SOTF annual report states Gascon "has failed to respond to any referral for enforcement from the Task Force, including a failure to provide any explanation to the Task Force or the underlying complainant." So much for the DA upholding sunshine laws.

Gascon has retained the services of the Mung, Tolles and Olson law firm to file public records requests with the San Francisco Police Department, for documents related to cop misconduct and the DA's blue ribbon panel probing the SFPD. He can't be bothered to comply with records requests himself or enforce sunshine laws, but hypocrisy doesn't stop Gascon from now using those laws and the SOTF to further his political agenda.

The SOTF meets today, Wednesday, March 2, starting at 4 pm in Room 408 at City Hall and item nine on the agenda is about a lawyer from Mung, Tolles and Olson, acting on Gascon's behalf, alleging the SFPD has violated open govt laws.

The firm submitted a 120-page brief to the SOTF, which is the first time Gascon or anyone acting on his orders, has submitted such a voluminous record to the task force.

Today's meeting might be an interesting smackdown between the SFPD and DA.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tent City Homeless Sanitary Needs on DPH Agenda Today

There are many failures regarding San Francisco's homeless persons and policies, and contributing to them is the Coalition on Homelessness, a nonprofit that is lousy with community organizing and using social media for effective political engagement and change.

One thing they're good at is promoting their media appearances and always having time for reporters.

At today's health commission meeting, starting at 4 pm at the Department of Public Health's headquarters at 101 Grove Street at Polk, director Barbara Garcia and the Homeless Outreach Team will present info about sanitation issues at Tent City along Division Street.

Many legacy and social media reports today state the City has removed all encampments in this area and fencing erected to keep the homeless from reestablishing Tent City.

From Garcia's advance report:

"The Health Department’s Homeless Outreach Team has been working for months with people living in tents on Division Street. Though we have been able to match many people to resources, we remain extremely concerned about the health and well-being of this population. Unfortunately, conditions where multiple tents are congregated have become unsafe, and people have been living without access to running water, bathrooms, trash disposal or safe heating or cooking facilities.

"The Homeless Outreach Team continued their efforts throughout the week to encourage people to relocate to other locations, including the new shelter at Pier 80. We will provide an update at today’s meeting."

The Coalition on Homelessness, which can't be bothered to mobilize forces when DPH and other City agencies have related issues on the agenda, is also not interested in promoting the meetings of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board as a public vehicle for change. Can you show me one alert from the coalition urging participation at the coordinating board?

Also not known for paying attention to DPH's role in addressing homeless health concerns is Tim Redmond of 48 Hills, a blog devoted to providing stenography services to his progressive pals including those at the coalition.

Redmond's current column for what he says are the important City meetings of the week, quotes the director of the coalition and totally ignores today's DPH meeting.

With lame and inept progressives at the Coalition on Homelessness and 48 Hills, it's no wonder City agencies blow them off.

If you can't make the DPH meeting at 4 pm today, you can watch it live and on-demand at the SFGovTV site.