Saturday, February 06, 2016

VisionSF Party: Our Goals & Agenda for 2016 Elections

Given the epidemic of disgust in San Francisco with the Democratic County Central Committee, City Hall sleaze, the corruption of Democratic clubs and too many nonprofits their community organizers (many from the East Bay) looking for p.r. and grants, there's real hunger among a lot of folks for an truly alternative organization or network open to all.

Unfortunately, the local Green Party is not the vehicle or home for those of us looking to put our energy into an effective group. Even though their mayoral candidate Francisco Herrera in November came in a solid second against Ed Lee, the Greens did nothing of significance to build on their electoral accomplishment. 

No big outreach to voters, no meetings scheduled, no nothing on their website since November. Yeah, three months after the election, the Greens of San Francisco haven't updated their home page. If you can't even maintain a damn decent web site, how the hell do you expect to pull in folks to your party and achieve realistic goals?

A tipster sent this alert from the VisionSF organizers. Maybe they'll do a better job of political organizing and tapping into progressive disgust with the status quo. Make of this what you will:

Hi VisionSF activists. 

Our steering committee had a very productive meeting on Friday Jan. 22. We'd like to tell you the highlights and to invite you to our next general meeting, which will be held on Friday, Feb. 19-6 pm, at the Women's Building Auditorium, 3543 18th Street.

As you know, 2016 will be a very important election year, not just nationally, but in SF, where control of the Board of Supervisors is at stake, as well as the important State Senate race to replace Mark Leno. VisionSF has decided to hold several public events in each of the supervisor districts where progressive candidates will be involved in close, key races. These events, which will be modeled on our successful Brava Theater "coming out party" last fall, will combine speeches, musical performances and other entertainment -- and will channel this energy into the district races.

VisionSF will by supporting the following candidates for Supervisor this year:
Dist. 1 -- Sandy Fewer
Dist. 3 -- Aaron Peskin
Dist. 5 -- Dean Preston
Dist. 7 -- Norman Yee
Dist. 9 -- Hillary Ronen
Dist. 11 -- Kim Alvarenga

In addition, we will be backing Jane Kim for State Senate.

This is the year that VisionSF will seek to have a significant impact on the political dialogue in San Francisco. We feel that the issues of housing displacement and citizens control of the police are particularly urgent issues, where our voice needs to be heard. 

For VisionSF to go to the next level of political engagement, we will be taking steps to formally organize, so we can begin raising funds and making political endorsements. Several members of VisionSF have generously promised to make a financial commitment to the organization, so our fundraisers can hit the ground running as soon as we are officially registered. And to ensure that VisionSF stays on track between meetings, we are pleased to announce that we will be hiring a half-time executive director, former Supervisor and Planning Commission president (and longtime activist and VisionSF member), Christina Olague.

To put our ideas into action, we are forming three committees -- Fundraising, Media and Outreach. The following VisionSF members will be serving on these committees. If you're interested in getting involved with any of these working groups, please contact us and and we'll bring you on board.

David Talbot
Christina Olague
Tim Redmond
David Carlos Salaverry
Lia Salaverry

Julie Levak-Madding
Tim Redmond
David Talbot

Gordon Chin
Calvin Welch
Christina Olague
Spike Kahn

We look forward to seeing you on Friday, Feb.19. It's going to be an exciting year.

Contact David Talbot or Christina Olague for more information on how to get involved.

...our Mission Statement...

It’s Time to Take Back San Francisco
A broad coalition of San Francisco residents is coming together to meet the challenge of a great city in crisis.  Whether or not we have always agreed, we are united in our understanding that powerful players, unconcerned with the public interest, now dominate City Hall. We know it is up to us, the people of San Francisco, to turn things around. And now.
We believe a sustainable city, like a natural ecosystem, requires diversity to thrive. where everyone is welcome, where diverse and engaged communities can work together to build a better future. We believe that the overwhelming majority of the city’s residents agree – and if we can mobilize, we can change the direction of San Francisco.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Wiener's Biggest Senate Donor is Castro Blight King Natali

The merchants of San Francisco's gayborhood are frequently bemoaning LGBT business owner Les Natali for his many empty storefronts, especially the long-for-lease old Patio venue on Castro Street.

In early September 2015, I blogged about Natali's donations to state senator Mark Leno, Supervisor David Campos and Scott Wiener's campaign for a Democratic County Central Committee seat and his 2014 reelection effort.

A few days after my post went up, Natali become what I believe is Wiener's largest individual donor to his campaign to succeed Leno in Sacramento.

A search today at the California Secretary of State's election finance page shows that on 9/11/2015, Natali gave a whopping $8,400 to Wiener's senate campaign.

If there's someone else who's equaled the Natali donations, I didn't see that info at the SoS's site, and if you know otherwise, lemme know and I'll amend this post.

Do these donations accepted by the Supervisor of the Castro show he puts getting elected to higher office above addressing the blight of empty businesses owned by Natali?
No Open Pozzie on NYC's HIV & Stigma Panel?

My question was provocative to Sarah Schulman and Steven Thrasher, two participants in the "Shifting the Stigma of HIV/AIDS" panel in March organized by the Center on LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS) at City University of New York.

Via Twitter, I asked, "No openly #HIV #poz folks on panel?" and my friend from our 1980s ACT UP/NYC days together and writer Sarah Schulman, who knows a few things about PWA (person with AIDS) empowerment, negative-splained her view: "Of course there are."

No, Sarah, my pozzie eyes don't see any panelists openly disclosing as living with HIV and its stigma.

Writer Steven Thrasher, who currently reports and opines for The Guardian, took great umbrage at my question and told me panelist Ian Bradley-Perrin was openly poz. Ok, but that disclosure is missing from the CLAGS announcement.

I asked CLAGS to formally respond via email to my concerns as a pozzie and Matt Brimm, an organizer of the panel who discloses his poz status, said:

"People living with HIV, myself included, are responsible for imaging and organizing the HIV Stigma panel, in close concert with writers who have been working on HIV/AIDS for decades. I am not on the panel, but Ian Bradley-Perrin is on the panel and is openly HIV positive. [...] Our intended audience is first and foremost people with HIV/AIDS.

"However, we did not list Ian’s status, and even though a quick google search clearly reveals just how public he has been as HIV positive, we could also have mentioned that in the brief bios. I was responsible for collecting the bios of the panelists and submitting them to CLAGS, and, because I was under some time pressure to get the bios turned in, I didn’t think to ask Ian if I could amend his bio paragraph to include his status. [...] I’m going to check with Ian about changing his bio on the website."

Sarah, Steve and Matt all raise the matter of me googling each panelist to discover if anyone is poz.

Frankly, as a longtime pozzie and advocate, telling me I have to google to learn if any panelist is poz and fill in their blanks feels disempowering to me. Just disclose and be done with it!

For me, empowerment equals questioning academics and reminding everyone of the Denver Principles, a set of recommendation developed in 1983 for persons living with HIV and AIDS and this key element:

 "Be included in all AIDS forums with equal credibility as other participants, to share their own experiences and knowledge."

Memo to CLAGS and other universities: Put openly poz people on your panels, disclose their status in announcements and raise the bar on empowerment of people with AIDS.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Vice Mayor Kawa Meetings With Homeless Inc's Friedenbach

Looking over Mayor Ed Lee's chief of staff Steve Kawa's calendar for 1/1-1/17/2016, we see that on January 11th he held a followup meeting with Jennifer Friedenbach who's the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. Our surprise stems from mistakenly thinking she doesn't have the ear of Kawa to speak into, who's essentially the vice mayor for San Francisco.

Just last week, she penned a column berating the "clusterfuck that is City Hall's approach to handling homeless people in a life-threatening situation" for, a site well-known as the stenography pool for David Campos and progressives.

What does she discuss with Kawa? Her email to him after the meeting sheds light on her agenda, which I wish she had disclosed in her column. We believe she has a responsibility to inform homeless stakeholders of her engagement with Kawa and other City Hall leaders.

Not to give Kawa a free ride on making his engagement with Homeless Inc (and other City stakeholders), so we call upon him to also disclose what plans he's discussing regarding homeless folks and programs.

Friedenbach says she'll be in touch with Kawa's aide to schedule their next meeting. We'd like to know when that is and what's on the agenda, and hope she begins telling stakeholders what she'll be promoting to Kawa and reporting back to us about her ongoing conversations with the vice mayor.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Royal Philharmonic's Safe Mozart Selections

Our performing arts calendar got off to a pleasant enough start last weekend, when we heard the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall with Pinchas Zukerman at the podium.

The program was safe and uninspiring, opening with a rousing rendition of the overture to Mozart's "The Magic Flute" and then his Piano Concerto No. 1, with Jonathan Biss, pictured, delivering a commanding performance at the keyboard.

The standing ovation for him was well-earned.

This orchestra's talented players performed with enthusiasm, and subtlety that delighted our ears, we only wished their selections were more adventuresome.

We anticipate additional times at the hall with our cherished San Francisco Symphony taking us on daring and robust musical adventures in the coming months.

How was the start of your performing arts new year?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

SFFD: $1.3 Million in Upgrades for Chief's Empty Residence

My jaw dropped yesterday, at the San Francisco fire commission meeting at City Hall when I read the budget request to the taxpayers because it included $1,366,580 for the Chief's Residence.

The SFFD claims the residence, located at 870 Bush Street, serves as a secondary center of operations in case of a disaster, a claim I find hard to swallow even with a grain or two of salt.

I'd like the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor to consider selling this property or putting it to good use on daily basis. It currently sits empty and was used as temporary housing for City department bosses, until an act of vandalism in 2008.

At that time, Mayor Newsom's planning department boss John Rahaim's boyfriend set fire to a bed and caused other damage to the property.

SFFD's request for over a million dollars for repairs and upgrades to this mansion should be closely scrutinized.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

NGLTF's IRS Filings: Deficit Up, Revenue & Assets Down

With the National LGBTQ Task Force, formerly NGLTF, facing withering criticism from all sides about its debacle at the Creating Change meeting over the weekend in Chicago, over Israeli and Palestinian controversies, I decided it was time to read their latest IRS tax filings.

First of all, I wish to commend the task force for voluntarily posting four-years of IRS 990 reports on their site. Before we go over what's posted, I must point out that the 2015 filing wasn't there so I asked for it. Mark Daley, the communications chief, said: "We are in our federally approved extension period and expect to file on or before Feb 15."

The day any nonprofit files with the IRS is the day they have to make the filing available for public inspection, so I'll be watching the task force's site for their latest return.

In 2011, the task force had revenue of $8.1 million (line 8), a deficit that year of $351,000 (line 19), and assets listed at $5.5 million (line 22).

During 2012, the revenue was $7.1 million, the deficit was $637,000 and had assets of $4.8 million.

For 2013, revenue came in at $6.5 million, deficit amount was $498,000 and assets were at  $4.3 million.

In 2014, they had revenue of $5.2 million, a whopping $2.1 million deficit and assets plummeted to a low of $2.1 million.

Btw, executive director Rea Carey's salary last year was $252,200.

My read of these numbers is that the task force is not raking in as much money as it did four years ago and they've had to dip into their assets to pay the bills. Let's see what their 2015 tax return shows in a few weeks.
It's My 57th Birthday Today!

Dear Friends and Family,

As I celebrate my birthday on this chilly San Francisco morning, my heart is warmed by the love of my life-mate and husband Mike, and the presence of you in my life.

We snapped this photo last night in our kitchen and behind us is our Christmas card from 1996, the first full calendar year of our partnership together.

What a terrific life I've lead, in quite interesting times to put it mildly, and the greatest present, after my Mikey, is the gift of still being alive and kicking.

Love, big bear hugs and queer cheers to all!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mayor's 2-Week Deletion-of-Files Policy Under SOTF Review

Here's the update on my Sunshine Ordinance Task Force complaint against the Mayor's Office and Ed Lee's policy, approved by City Attorney Dennis Herrera (no friend of open govt), allowing his staff to delete public records after retaining them for only two-weeks.

On January 11, the SOTF's committee for education and outreach heard my concerns and two representatives from the Mayor's Office defended the destruction of City Hall files. The complaint stems from my public records request for a copy of Mayor Lee's chief of staff Steve Kawa's calendar and the response stating his calendars were deleted every two-weeks.

The committee ruled my complaint was valid and it's been forwarded to the full task force for further review, tentatively scheduled for March 2. Committee members said the Mayor's Office may have violated sunshine laws over "failure to maintain records in a professional manner."

While I'm not pleased this complaint will take three-months to be fully adjudicated by the SOTF, as mayoral records are routinely shredded thus denying the public access to them, at least we have the SOTF to bring more transparency to City Hall.

Every two-weeks, I file a new request with the Mayor's Office for Kawa's schedule, which is the only way currently to retain this City Hall powerbroker's calendar. What amount of public records are regularly destroyed by Ed Lee's advisers? We need a lot of answers to that question.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

SFFD Rejects Homeless Welcome Toilet Access Signs

Before we jump into the signage matter, please read Chief Joanne Hayes-White's monthly calendar for 2015 posted here as two PDFs.

Last spring, I persuaded the fire, health and public works departments to collaborate and make the homeless aware of expanded toilet access at taxpayer funded firehouses. I now am demanding the fire department install signs at all firehouses saying "Public Toilets Open to All. Everyday from 9 am to 6 pm."

This response from Mark Gonzales, deputy chief of operations, today lays out convoluted rationale about station operations, which has nothing to do with toilet access toilet access. In essence, to me, the SFFD is rejecting "homeless welcome" signage and expanded public use of the restrooms.

Currently, every station has a large sign out front announcing it's a safe surrender site for unwanted babies. I see no reason why similar signage won't be installed regarding toilet access hours and that everyone is welcome to use bathrooms.

Let's put aside the condescending tone from Gonzales and continue to advocate on behalf of the many homeless trying to survive on the tough San Francisco streets, during the continuing El Nino storms and frigid temperatures.

If you support toilet signage at firehouses, please attend the next fire commission meeting on Wednesday, January 27 at 5 pm at City Hall in Room 400.
You can reach Gonzales at 415-558-3402 and here's his addy:

Excerpts from his letter:

"I was asked to respond to your request to Chief Hayes-White from January 16, 2016. I am responding to the issues that you raised at the January 13, 2016 Fire Commission meeting regarding public access to Fire Station restrooms.

"I appreciate your advocacy for the homeless population in this regard; however, I believe such access is not operationally feasible in most cases for the public or the Department members. [...]

"The SFFD prides itself in meeting or exceeding our response times to emergencies. This is accomplished through quick apparatus boarding and immediate travel out of the Firehouse to the emergency incident.

"Given the totality of all these considerations, although your idea is well-intentioned, the SFFD cannot accommodate the request to immediately place signage at all Fire Houses with public toilet availability."