Friday, July 03, 2015

Roberto Hernandez's Carnaval = $1.1 Million in City Funds

Sunshining, looking at government records and sharing them online, is one form of activism we need in San Francisco's Mission district as public polices are debated and created by a small circle of unofficial community leaders, policies average folks have to live with.

This week, I've shed light on Maria Zamudio, a paid organizer with Causa Justa who's also a coordinator of Plaza 16, and Luis Granados, the executive director of MEDA which has a controlling interest in Plaza 16, pointing out that both live in Oakland. When we discuss potential social solutions for the Mission, the residency of where "our" leaders live must be part of the community's transparency principles.

Another Mission honcho is Roberto Hernandez, who's seen by many as the Mayor of the Mission and lives in the district. Among his various roles is running the fabulous two-day Carnaval Parade and Festival every May, that's a whole lotta fun and also builds community, and just like with the LGBT movement's SF Pride, is and should be receiving City funds.

BTW, SF Pride received $58,400 in 2013 and 2014, while in 2015 the amount went up to $64,200. Use these figures as a comparison when considering how much City funding goes to Carnaval.

It is the San Francisco Grants for the Arts program, funded by the Hotel Tax Fund, that doles out public money to parades. Here are the numbers for Hernandez's stewardship of Carnaval:

2003 / $103,900

2004 / $103,900

2005 / $103,900

2006 / $103,900

2007 / $103,900

2008 /   $93,500

2009 / $103,900

2010 /   $78,600

2011 /   $78,600

2012 /   $78,600

2013 /   $70,700

2014 /   $70,700

2015/    $79,700

Add the annual amounts together and they total $1,173,000 over thirteen-years. That figure has generated millions more in money spent in the Mission during each two-day celebration, and brought together diverse folks to enjoy a great party and a dose of political engagement.

This video of Hernandez ranting at the June 4th Board of Supervisors meeting, when they were considering a development moratorium for the Mission, illustrates his concerns and agenda for his Mission domain. I've heard this stump speech of his before in which he list complaints and stats from questionable sources.

While he's good at throwing a party, I'm not convinced he's an effective political leader, one with the ability to offer realistic solutions and mobilize beyond his Latino base, but at least he lives in the Mission.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Mission Nonprofit Leader Lives in Oakland: Luis Granados

The Mission Economic Development Agency is a nonprofit with a huge political and social footprint in San Francisco's Mission district.

MEDA's most recent IRS 990 tax file for 2014 shows it had revenue of $8.5 million, of which $7 million was from government grants. That money makes the nonprofit a big boss when Mission housing crisis issues are debated and potential solutions considered.

Several Mission residents, people who actually live in the district, have complained in the past year that MEDA speaks and looks out for itself primarily and is not a transparent organization. There are no regularly scheduled weekly or monthly meetings with MEDA leaders, but they are always at the table and sitting in on closed-door meetings where Mission community business is decided.

An example of this is MEDA's huge influence on the Plaza 16 steering committee, which I allege is a nonprofit front-group in desperate need of openness.

I recently pointed out that Plaza 16 steering committee member and co-coordinator of the group, Maria Zamudio who works at Causa Justa, lives across the bay in Oakland yet sets the Mission housing activist agenda. She is not the only East Bay resident with such privilege.

Luis Granados, the executive director, also lives in Oakland and commutes into San Francisco to wield great influence at City Hall over policies that actual Mission folks have to live with, yet have little control over.

The California Secretary of State's campaign finance search engine turns up two donations from Granados, $750 to David Campos' run for assembly and $100 for Mark Leno's state senate effort, and reveals that he lives in Oakland.

In my view, there is a deep need for a Mission activist and advocacy organization free of control by nonprofits, Democratic Party hacks and East Bay residents. An organization with open meetings and honest transparency, allowing for new leaders to emerge and fresh ideas to be implemented. Enough with the Plaza 16 and nonprofit charade of these folks dominating the Mission Agenda.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Plaza 16's 'Hail Mary' Moratorium Ballot Plan Revealed

Since I'm not part of the cabal of nonprofits and their allies running the Plaza 16 "community" organization, I've not been privy to how the steering committee has arrived at the decision to put the group's name, time and energy into a development moratorium ballot prop for this November.

I've monitored Plaza 16 coordinator Andy Blue's cheerleading posts on Facebook and learned of signature gathering in recent weeks to qualify the initiative for the fall election. Why bother with the trouble of democratic engagement with the public in a town hall or two to see if the "community" beyond the nonprofits backs the ballot prop route?

A recent public records request to Joseph Smooke, Sup. David Campos' legislative aide and former member of the Plaza 16 steering committee who is a founder and current coordinator of the PeoplePowerMedia video news service, produced this email June 10 to Smooke:

"This is a Hail Mary pass and I'm not a good candidate to 'bottom line' a moratorium initiative, but I have a strong belief that without one, the Mission will continue to gentrify rapidly.

"Though NOT a member of SFHAC, I'm on their mailing list and go to their public events. I'm also a licensed remodeling contractor, and know the developer mindset. If the Mission community does not mount a moratorium initiative in 2016, the developers will declare victory, increase land speculation, file more projects, evict and gentrify on steroids. This is especially true if they believe there will be an initiative in 2016.
"Giving developers a full year to consolidate their financial and political power is a terrible idea. The current activist "A" team has too little bandwidth to take on a huge moratorium initiative. So bring in a "B" team.

"The Mission community clearly wants escalation. The community will feel betrayed if the only deliverable is a few hot protests followed by the steady juggernaut of eviction, displacement and socio-economic cleansing."

The email is from David Carlos Salaverry, who is the paid staff coordinator of Save The Mission, a new arm of Plaza 16 with the same old Mission and housing leaders in charge.

Salaverry attached a three page Word Document laying out the Plaza 16/Save The Mission's campaign and fundraising plan for their electoral effort. Sure would be great if we had democratic agreements with our "community" leaders who shared such documents with the rest of us, but until such time as genuine transparency and accountability are integral to Plaza 16, let's be grateful with have the power of open govt laws and folks who request and disseminate public records.

You can read Plaza 16's campaign plan here.

A bit of money must have been raised because the campaign leaders are paying up to $50 an hour for signature-gatherers.

This image has been recruiting paid workers for Plaza 16's campaign and has been circulating on social media. In the middle, it reads: "Keep your freedom to live in SF. Join nonprofits: Causa Justa, MEDA, PODER & more."

Does Plaza 16 and the nonprofit cabal pulling its strings have any plans to eventually hold public meetings open to all, to communicate a bit of their campaign plans with folks who don't work at these organizations?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Unanimous SOTF Vote Against Breed Related to Her Calendar

I've been tangling with San Francisco's president of the Board of Supervisors, London Breed, for willfully disregarding sections of the City's open government laws when it comes to my requests for a copy of her work calendar.

In April, in response to my public records request for a duplicate of Breed's calendar for February, she claimed demise of such a public document as of February 1 and this was the basis for lodging a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

At a City Hall hearing, two floors above where Breed and her three paid staffers carry out City business which is supposed to include adhering to sunshine statutes and requests to send a knowledgeable person to SOTF meeting, the complaint committee heard my testimony. Since it was too far and too much trouble for Breed's brooding and hostile legislative aide Conor Johnston to make an appearance, no rep from her office rebutted my claims.

The committee of three voted unanimously to find Breed in violation of the section of law requiring her to have a rep at the complaint hearing. The second matter of failure to produce her calendar couldn't be considered without her rep.

While the SOTF full panel couldn't vote on that matter, it's my contention that Breed's refusal to keep and produce a calendar upon a public request and her ongoing hostility toward existing sunshine statutes is an outrageous display of contempt from the board president.

Breed is again asked by the SOTF to send a staffer to their compliance committee because this complaint of mine is still an open matter.

An Order of Determination was issued on June 29, today, and here are the pertinent sections:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

6-Hours: SF Pride Parade or Lav Diaz's New Film?

I hear there's a loud crowd of homosexuals and their pals creating much hoopla on Market Street for a little ol' parade today. Should last about six-hours, if all goes well with gaps between contingents at the SF Pride parade.

Not my scene and as my luck with the Cinema Gods would have it, today is a screening of director Lav Diaz's new almost-six-hour film from the Philippines, "From What is Before", at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. My ticket was purchased in advance, just in case the showing sold-out. You never know!

For me, Gay Day Pride is every day and I'm quite queerly pleased for all the folks celebrating in downtown San Francisco and soon at United Nations Plaza and the Civic Center, but the crowds and horrible music are not for me so I'm off to what is sure to be another masterpiece from a leading light of global cinema.

Enjoy the day, everyone, and be safe whatever you do.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SF Pride's Top-Spots Lineup: AirBnB, Cops & Sheriff, Pelosi & Mayor

Regardless of the old anti-Chelsea Manning board replaced with "reformers" two years ago, the SF Pride Parade lineup is very telling about the same old boring corporate, law-and-order agencies and Democratic Party dominance of the prime event of the entire weekend.

As in previous years, the lineup's composition was made behind closed doors without transparency by the SF Pride board president Gary Virginia, veep and longtime parade control queen Marsha Levine, and executive director George Ridgely.

Among the folks getting prime-time at the parade, in the first twenty top-spots are AirBnB, Apple, the SF Police Department and Sheriff's Office, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Ed Lee, and a few nonprofits and grand marshals.

The parade is not liberation. Remember when we queers were fighting for that in all aspects of our lives, at least among those of us wanting more from SF Pride than just Democratic politics and profits from attracting LGBT dollars? Yes, a long time ago but that is no reason to totally sell-out.

If the transgender and queer folks acted up at the Compton Cafeteria in the Tenderloin, protesting abuse by the police force, an issue still with us today and more so for black folks across the City and America, just so law enforcement agencies could lead a parade, then they demonstrated in vain.

Here's the list of top-spots for tomorrow's parade. Full list is here.

Oaklander Sets SF's Activist Housing Agenda: Maria Zamudio

If you've attended any of Plaza 16's meetings or protests at San Francisco's City Hall or at the BART Plaza at 16th and Mission Streets, you've seen paid organizer Maria Zamudio of Causa Justa literally running the show.

No matter when or where Plaza 16 puts on an event, Zamudio is front and center hogging the mic and limelight, and more problematically, setting the San Francisco Mission housing activist agenda, as the above photo montage illustrates.

Many folks are not aware that Zamudio and her girlfriend live in Oakland. There is a lot radically wrong with Plaza 16 allowing an East Bay resident to have so much power over who sets the Mission's course of action to either stop the Maximus Partner's condo project or deciding who gets time to speak at meetings, or even attend "community" meetings.

Recently, Zamudio and her partner were experiencing housing troubles and they launched an online fundraising effort to gain housing security:

"Unfortunately, within a week of signing our new lease our landlords informed us that our home was on the market [...] Because we live in Oakland, there are no requirements for anyone doing an Owner Move-In eviction to provide relocation support for the tenants."

Why has it not been continually disclosed at Plaza 16 events that Zamudio lives in Oakland? Sure, no matter where she resides her right to have an opinion about San Francisco housing issues allow her a say but she dominates the agenda that people who actually live in the Mission don't have influence over.

I wish to also point out that her nonprofit, Causa Justa, and the other charities running Plaza 16 as their front-group, come to the community and position themselves as "the" community's voices. The nonprofit footprint of reps such as Zamudio in Plaza 16 and the Mission is too large and needs curbing.

Not only must there be a challenge made to the dominance of Zamudio and nonprofits, we also need to look at activists attending the board meetings of Causa Justa, PODER, MEDA, the Housing Rights Committee/SF, Dolores Street Community Services and Mission SRO Collaborative. If they can come to our community meetings, they should reciprocate and allow activists to attend theirs.

Related to all this are fascinating quotes HRC/SF executive director Sara Shortt gave to the San Francisco Business Times in March, about the SF Bay Area Renters Federation and its leader Sonja Trauss who, like Zamudio, resides in Oakland:

"'I think they are a sham group that is acting as a shill for market-rate developers and other pro-development groups. I find it offensive that they are purporting to represent the voice of renters.'"

"Shortt said that Trauss has 'no experience or qualification in the field of housing,' lives in Oakland and doesn't speak for San Francisco renters. 'I think it's very deceptive. They haven't proven themselves to be a representation of the community.'"

I'm of the opinion that some aspects of Plaza 16 are a sham, that it shills for nonprofits and purports to be the voice of Mission renters and others, that if we're going to criticize Trauss for living in the East Bay and advocating policies in San Francisco the same standard should be applied to Zamudio, and Plaza 16 has proven themselves to be a restrictive organization where all are not welcomed.

It's time to question who leads Plaza 16 and look at where their steering committee members live.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Plaza 16 = Undemocratic Cabal of Nonprofits & Campos

The Mission is well-known for the vibrancy of the Latino, queer and artistic cultures long-established but ever-diminishing in the district and our neighbor suffers greatly from the lack of political vibrancy, not to mention genuine democracy and transparency, and the reason is Plaza 16.

This front group for the nonprofits receiving millions in City and other government and private grants sucks up the most political oxygen and frustrations of Mission and citywide folks, and it's time to look at the Plaza 16 foundation laid down via Team Campos at his City Hall office.

Responsive public records from Campos generated by my request shed necessary light on how a cabal was created. Let's start at the beginning.

(Click on each image to enlarge for easier reading.)

After having contact with Bert Polacci, Maximus Partners' lobbyist, Campos' right-hand Nate Allbee contacted reps at two nonprofits, the key person being Oscar Grande at People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic RightsPODER.

On September 13, 2013, Allbee began soliciting feedback on arranging meetings between Maximus and nonprofits, asking a rep of Dolores Street Community Services, DSCS. to attend a meeting of "community" based organizations to attend and wondered if a subsidiary of her group, the Mission SRO Collaborative, MSROC, would also be present.

Previously released Campos emails disclosed this note:

"From: Oscar Grande []
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:59 PM
To: Allbee, Nate Subject:
Re: Meeting with 16th and Mission Development

"Nate, Both those dates work fine with me. Also, when we spoke over the summer we talked about getting a meeting of stakeholders together on the state of affordable housing in the district. From your vantage point do you feel it's an issue the Supervisor wants to get a handle on/prioritize? Our interest is in having a back and forth with smart folks on when and how to move forward (together) on the opportunity sites like 17th & Folsom, 1950 Mission, Shotwell (oyster development offsite), others... Thanks!"

Make note, please, of Grande not pushing Campos to meet any demand and no mention is made of opening the debate to the at-large community beyond Allbee's nonprofit contacts. Those "smart folks" Grande cites ain't the riff-raff who don't work in grant-driven advocacy.

"From: Bert Polacci []
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 8:34 AM
To: Allbee, Nate Subject:
Re: Meetings with CBO's

""Thanks Nate. Lets talk before we set up any more..
On Sep 24, 2013, at 2:57 PM, "Allbee, Nate" wrote: > 
Hi Bert, > > So schedule is as follows: > > Fri, September 27: > > PODER:10:00am - 10:30am > Dolores St:10:30am - 11:00am > Carecen:11:00am - 11:30am > > Setting up more service oriented CBO's for the next week and working on that neighborhood group as well. Have you had a chance to meet with the Principal of Marshall Elementary yet? > > Nate"

From the get-go, no effort was made by Grande and Allbee to deliver transparency to the real community. No public letters were circulated, no town hall held, nothing posted on an open web site.

A few meetings between Maximus and the nonprofits took place and we, the people, were not informed of any of this. The above email is dated October 2, 2013. Democracy isn't a big concern to Grande and the nonprofit reps Gabriel Medina of Mission Economic Development Agency, MEDA,  Fernando Marti of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, CCHO, and Vero Majano of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Organization, MNRO.

On October 3, 2013, Medina circulated a proposed agenda for an upcoming meeting of the nonprofit cabal and he audaciously listed info sharing, the community's need, everyone's vision and inviting other possible stakeholders/partners. 

The cabal met behind closed doors at MNRC on October 9, 2013, as documented in Grande's email.

The next day, October 10, 2013, Grande sent out notes from the meeting. We see that Maria Zamudio, who resides in the East Bay but works at Causa Justa, Wendy Phillips of DSCS, Laura Guzman of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, MNHC, and Joel Streicker of the Central American Resource Center, CARC, joined the cabal.

They discussed what role Campos would play in addressing Maximus and building a major condo complex at Mission and 16th Streets and whom to invite to the next in a continuing series of invitation-only meetings. 
Those folks included Roberto Hernandez, executive director of the Carnaval Celebration that has received robust six-figure grants from the City and Victor Marquez, Latino lawyer and Democratic Party stalwart.

Grande announces he's off on a junket to the Philippines for a week's confab. 

An October 24, 2013, from Grande reveals he invited more nonprofit reps to the meeting including Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee/SF, HRCSF, Allbee from Team Campos, Andy Blue, an anti-developers gadfly, Christina Olague and Mara Rosales of the SF Latino Democratic Club, SFLDC, Jose Carrasco of Our Mission No Eviction, OMNE, an ad hod committee, and Erick Arguello of Calle 24, a Latino advocacy group.

More than a month after Allbee began his outreach to a restricted list of nonprofits and Campos supporters about Maximus, none of these or other emails release show a shred of concern to make this info and process transparent to the larger Mission community. The nonprofit cabal kept a tight grip on invitations and sharing of emails.

Again, an email from Grande shows his key position in this cabal, dated Nov 1, 2013, about the previous well-attended meeting at a nonprofit (city-funded) office. Because of the length, the email was divided into two screen-grabs with part one above.

Part two of Grande's email reveals the cabal in secrecy decided these ideals were important: inclusion of those most impacted by the problem of Maximus' condo plan, put community needs above the needs of individual organizations, articulating what the community really needs.

It's the height of domineering arrogance that Mission Housing Inc, my term for the nonprofits, to see how these "community" leaders agree on the agenda for the rest of us, all done without any sunshine or voices outside the cabal's circle.

One month later, Campos aide Hilary Ronen circulated an email on December 9, 2013, concerning future closed-door meetings of the cabal. She writes of the sensitivity, without specifics, of the meeting and that only folks in previous meetings should be at the January 2014 sessions. Very telling, Ronen moved conversations from the email-trail to the telephone and no public record of those verbal communications.

This December 19, 2013, Grande email is probably the most telling about his (and by extension the other nonprofit cabal members') ultimate motivation: his organization. Grande writes he must skip a meeting and has staff evaluations to attend to and that "staff stuff trumps all else". Yes, those four words scream what is the central problem of the Plaza 16 leaders and their stewardship.

Their organizations and the government and foundation and corporate grants and donations, and everyone's paycheck, trumps all else.

So, when did these un-democratic leaders finally get around to sharing a smidgen of their activities and knowledge about Maximus and related issues? 

On May 16, 2014, at the Victoria Theater opposite where Maximus would build its condos, eight long months after a lotta meetings and emails and phone chats amongst themselves, the nonprofits held a public meeting giving formal birth to Plaza 16 with themselves in charge of the agenda.

There can be no political vibrancy and effective, authentic grassroots community organizing in the Mission until such time as the nonprofits are held to account and made fully transparent. 
SF Pride Has 226 Parade Contingents But . . .

Every year at this time, I'm always curious to see the lineup of the SF Pride Parade's contingents and with Sunday just days away, here's the reply I received this morning from Marsha Levine who is vice president of the board and parade manager:

"As you can imagine, we’re very busy right now, and even so, the line up is still in a bit of flux and not yet finalized. We’d prefer not to put out misinformation and create confusion for the contingents. The best we can offer you, right now and pre-event, is the Alpha List of all registered contingents. Should we get the opportunity closer to the event, we’ll post an update."

If the SF Pride leaders can't finalize the lineup with five-days to go before the parade, I suggest they change the wording on their Parade Lineup page since the pertinent info is missing. I've posted the Alpha List at my Google Docs page here, which should also be shared on SF Pride's site.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

LGBT Asians Begin TV Campaign Featuring Their Parents

Every day brings more folks out of the closet from all countries and societies, including across Asia and the Pacific Islands and here in America. A new social marketing campaign launched this month promoting visibility in these communities and I'm giving their news release a bit of attention.

Unfortunately, one of the nonprofits behind this laudable campaign, the Asian Pride Project, has disabled the embed function of their powerful videos but you can view them at the project's YouTube channel.

Many conversations will take place because of the TV ads and social media attention, conversations that will advance acceptance and love in Asian and Pacific Islander families for their queer friends and relatives.

Here's some info:

For Pride Month 2015, we pause to commemorate the powerful achievements in our struggle for LGBT equality. There is much to celebrate. However, some LGBT communities continue to face resistance. Especially the LGBT Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Due to centuries of religious and cultural tradition, many LGBT Asian-Americans remain in the closet. Or if they come out, they risk being exiled from family. This month, a powerful new television advertising campaign depicts Asian and Pacific Islander parents declaring unconditional love and support for their LGBT children.

This groundbreaking series of public service announcements will air on Asian television stations across America during Pride Month. Airing in 8 Asian languages and dialects, the PSAs will reach millions of viewers. The attached media release explains more – and provides links to these powerful public service announcements. The series was created by the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and Asian Pride Project.