Friday, October 12, 2012

DPW: No Public Input Needed
Deleting Castro's Empty News Racks

(Pedmount, with only one slot occupied with a publication, on Castro Street near Walgreens.)

Last month, I heard from the Department of "Public" Works' point-person for news racks, the very fickle Grace Moore, about potentially consolidating all of the empty pedmounts cluttering up the Castro's congested public sidewalks. Moore said:

The Market Street, Church to Castro, 18th Street, Castro to Diamond pedmount zones have been evaluated for consolidation. Through the consolidation process [previously explained], DPW has identified 7 pedmount units as candidates for removal by the end of October. 

I followed up with Moore about which pedmounts might be deleted from the public space, and she replied:

The list of pedmount units and locations that are proposed for removal is below. I’ve asked Clear Channel Outdoor to let you know when removals are scheduled.

CHURCH ST: MARKET ST Intersection 
CASTRO ST: 18TH ST Intersection 

Since Moore threw the deletion responsibilities to Clear Channel, the corporate giant responsible for installing, maintaining and potentially removing the useless pedmounts, I asked their community liaison Jana Lord to explain Clear Channel's plans:

The publishers need to be involved in the coordination/confirmation of which locations, and Grace has started that process. Once we have the publishers on board as to which sites, they will be removed by the end of [October].

Back to Moore, who in her fickleness now equivocates on deletions in October:

Pedmount units at various locations throughout the Castro have been identified as potential candidates for removal. As I explained in my earlier . . . publishers must be given the opportunity to evaluate DPW’s proposal and accept the recommendations . . . Under the current contract, Clear Channel is only required to remove a total of 11 units this year.

Thoroughly disgusted and confused with the Moore and Lord replies, I sent several questions to DPW's new public information officer Rachel Gordon, former City Hall beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. I wanted to know about the public having a say getting the racks out of the Castro, who are the members of DPW's News Rack Advisory Committee, why the committee has such an erratic meeting schedule and meets at the incredibly inconvenient time of 8:30 AM, among other questions.

Instead of Gordon responding to my specific concerns, Jerry Sanguinetti, who is Moore's boss, sent a general reply, emphasis added:

Although the San Francisco Department of Public Works is the City’s lead agency in the removal of pedestal newsrack units, the pedestal removal selection process is a collaborative process between DPW; Clear Channel, the company that has the pedestal contract with the City; and various newspaper publishers . . .
DPW strongly believes in working with the various affected communities and gathering their input; however, the ordinance does not require that pedestal installments or removals be a result of public input
Isn't that something! The Department of "Public" Works has a process that only involves the private Clear Channel and newspaper publishers, and they are under no obligation to consider what the general public wants in terms of reclaiming our public space. This is not democracy, or, let me say, this is the San Francisco style of democracy involving the privatization of public space that willfully excludes the public and taxpayers.
Moore and her news rack committee, whose membership is not shared with the public on the committee's page (compared to the North Korean politburo's membership roster which is easily locatable), have deigned to hold a meeting on Tuesday, October 22, at 8:30 AM. That guarantees nil to minimal public engagement and the agenda excludes time for public comment.

Andrea Aiello, the executive director of the Castro Benefit District offered this statement in reaction:

We were able to identify 7 news racks that could potentially be removed. It appears as if the publishers have the ultimate say in which news racks they would like removed. The publishers have agreed to remove one of our top priority news racks. 

However, the decision making process is not clear. 

According to DPW, the News Rack Advisory Committee does not oversee the removal of news racks. The CBD would like to further understand this process and will be attending the committee meeting on October 23rd to urge public input into the removal process. I understand there is not a specific line item for public comment on the agenda, but have been assured that general public comment is always received at these meetings.

If it's not too much trouble, can Mayor Ed Lee and his city family restore some democratic and clear principles to guide reclaiming public space in Castro for the public?

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