Friday, September 30, 2011

DPW: Why SF Streets 
are Cluttered With News Racks

(Eight-slot rack, with only one slot in use, on Castro near Walgreens.)

Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in the late 1990s engineered a 20-year deal involving JC Deaux, Adshel and Clear Channel ridding sidewalks of individual messy newspaper boxes, replacing them with multi-slot, sleek news racks. At the time, newspapers were rolling in money and the web hadn't seriously dented their profits or affected how they do business.

Fast forward to today, the publishing industry has been radically downsized, papers have either folded or seriously cut back on distribution, and the web has drastically upended delivery of the news to consumers.

Yet, our public street space is cluttered with the largely empty news racks, serving a dwindling number of publishers who are not properly maintaining their slots with newspapers.

I recently asked the Department of Public Works questions about these matters, and Grace Moore and colleagues have provided me with details about how we got to this point, and also claim that nothing can be done to stop the placement of new pedmounts or removing all the useless news rack. In short, IMO, Brown sold prime public real estate to the news rack industry and there's little citizens can do to reclaim our sidewalks.

Every time I pass one of the crappy news racks, I think to myself, more Willie Brown fecal matter blighting San Francisco.

While I of course embrace the First Amendment and am sympathetic to the plight of newspaper publishers, I find it deplorable that the news industry is granted special rights to place superfluous street furniture on too many street corners. The First Amendment is alive and well on the web, and publishers should abandon their romantic attachment to horse-and-buggy delivery.

If it's not too much trouble, can the public have more of the public sidewalk returned to us, but radically consolidating the existing empty news racks, and halting installation of any new ones, until there is a full public discussion on the situation?

Here's the info from DPW:

The publishers name and contact information that you requested is listed below. Publishers have paid $50 for each box space through the end of 2011 as required by the News Rack Ordinance. In order to receive a box space in a pedmount unit, publishers are required to submit an application and pay the required fee prior to occupying the box space. DPW has no "written agreements" with these publishers for the occupation of their boxes. Provisions for the placement, removal or relocation of pedmount news racks are outlined in Article 5.4, Section 184.12 of the Public Works code.

A public hearing for the proposed pedmount installations in the Castro neighborhood was conducted at the Newsrack Advisory Committee in December 2005. See the attached fact sheet; “Steps to Establish and Implement a Fixed Pedestal Zone”.

DPW was notified by Clear Channel Outdoors on September 6th with information that they asked to remove units 140 and 141 temporarily to allow for sidewalk construction work at the BofA on Castro. We were informed that the units would be reinstalled 2-3 weeks later. Clear Channel Outdoors is required to post notice 72 hours in advance of reinstallation according to 2.4.50 of the Public Works Excavation Code.

The city has no authority to stop or delay the reinstallation of those units. Publishers have sued the City many times alleging the City infringement of their rights to use public sidewalks to distribute under the First Amendment. Pedmount units are intended as an attractive alternative to the individual free standing racks. As we understand the current law, the city cannot ban the use of news racks on public sidewalks.

As I’ve mentioned to you, we are in the process of evaluating pedmount news rack locations throughout the city to determine where we can downsize or eliminate units based on the existing need. Before we can do that, we must offer an opportunity for publishers to apply for empty box spaces. (Currently there is a 14% vacancy in the Castro pedmount units.)

Pedmount unit locations throughout the Castro will be accessed and a determination made by the end of 2011.

Pedmount Units 140 and 141
CASTRO ST: 18TH ST - SE corner
 Unit 140


CASTRO ST: 18TH ST  SE corner
 Unit 141


Publisher’s Contact Information




























Thursday, September 29, 2011

US Embassy in Belgrade's Warning
on October 1-2 Gay Pride March

(Ambassador Warlick shakes hands with Gay Pride organizer Lazar Pavlovic at the October 2010 Belgrade rally. Credit: Jamie Kirchick.)

The LGBT community of Serbia last year managed a Pride march and related events, despite violent threats beforehand and bloody assaults connected to the march. The U.S. Ambassador, Mary Warlick, extended support to the Pride organizers and also was present for a rally before the 2010 march.

As a member of Gays Without Borders, I've been emailing Ambassador Warlick and her dedicated staffers, requesting that she again appear a Pride event, but I've not heard back from them about her plans for this weekend's lectures and march.

This morning, I heard from Billy Urich of Connecticut who traveled to Belgrade last year and is on his way there now. He's also chair InterPride Committee on International LGBTI Human and Civil Rights and performs other global duties on top of showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Serbia.

To the LGBT folks of Serbia, I say on behalf of Gays Without Borders in San Francisco, we stand in solidarity with you this weekend as you again organize for visibility and tolerance. We hope your Pride events are free of threats and harm.

Here's the alert from our embassy that was sent to Billy, in as a JPG, and excerpts from the text. Click image to enlarge:

U.S. Embassy Belgrade
September 29, 2011
Emergency Notice # 08-11


On Sunday, October 2, at 10:00AM, Serbia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community plan to hold a pride parade and rally in downtown Belgrade. The U.S. Embassy Belgrade’s Regional Security Office (RSO) has indicated that there is a high potential for violence before, during, and after the march. Serbian authorities have also informed the RSO that a number of groups opposed to the march will begin assembling at various locations throughout Belgrade on Saturday, October 1, and confrontations between these groups and the police are possible. The RSO has strongly recommended that embassy personnel avoid the downtown area and limit travel throughout Belgrade both Saturday and Sunday.

The U.S. Embassy Belgrade informs U.S. citizens that Serbian Police have called the parade and rally “high risk” events. There will be a large police presence downtown throughout the day of the parade. Police have pledged to do all they can to protect parade participants and businesses along the route and after the march, but similar events have been marred by violence in the past. Last year’s march was marked by running street battles between police and protestors. Given the heavy police presence along the route, the RSO has learned that protesters may also target individuals at transportation hubs and other gathering places where the police presence may not be as heavy both before and after the march.

U.S. citizens should know that demonstrations that begin peacefully can quickly turn violent. You should avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Try to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

You can stay in touch and get embassy updates by checking the U.S. Embassy Belgrade website. ...

We encourage U.S. citizens living or traveling in Serbia to register with the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to obtain updated information on travel and security within Serbia. ...

The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade is located at 50 Kneza Milo¹a Street. The Embassy telephone number is 381-11-3619-344. ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SF HIV Panel to PWAs: Drop Dead

[UPDATES: I've heard from NAPWA and SF PWA leader Gary Virginia. Scroll down for the new info.]

This coming Friday, there's an AIDS Inc town hall funded by Merck and cosponsored by lots of public health departments and service organizations at City Hall, and not one of the panelists is identified as a person living with HIV. The scheduled speakers hail from the industry, and are decent folks whom I generally respect, but we also need to have open PWAs on the panel. It's inadequate to only have PWA voices from the floor.

This sham community organizing is being executed by the Road to AIDS 2012 group that shares no info on whether it's a nonprofit or private entity. The forum needs to be zapped.

In the dark and deadly early days of the epidemic, a group of brave folks living with AIDS gathered in Colorado to strategize for their survival, and a key outcome were the Denver Principles. They called for many empowerment tools for PWAs including this crucial demand:

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

The National Association of PWAs, a poor excuse of an advocacy group for a vulnerable population, posts the Denver Principles on their site but it's window dressing because they do so little pushing on AIDS Inc to live up to the principles.

I emailed my concerns and this note from one of the handsomely paid HIV negative consultants behind the town hall to several folks at NAPWA, asking them to weigh in on the absence of PWAs and didn't hear back from NAPWA. This came from consultant A. Toni Young of Road to AIDS 2012:

We have not asked the HIV status of panelist nor will we. Road to AIDS 2012 is being staged to give communities an opportunity to engage with local federal and state decision-makers. Panelist have been invited based on their ability to answer questions from the community given the role each has played or is playing in the implementation of the NHAS [National HIV/AIDS Strategy]. We are providing an opportunity for all people specifically People living with HIV and AIDS to have access to those decision-makers in their community. Limiting this to the perspective of one person on the panel would be counter to our goal. The PLWHA of the Bay Area are diverse. We want all those people and opinions reflected in this conversation not just one panelist perspective.

Hogwash. They're fine about just single panelists from local or federal health agencies, but have no room for a PWA? What an insult at any time, but especially so a few months after AIDS Inc putting on a great show marking the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS cases in America as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much of the AIDS at 30 hoopla by the same folks organizing the panel and those on it, was self-congratulatory about the supposed vital role of people with AIDS at service agencies and within government circles.

Here's the list of names of the HIV negative panelists. Do they give a damn about the Denver Principles?:

Judith D. Auerbach, PhD
Vice President, Research & Evaluation, San Francisco AIDS Foundation

Grant Colfax, MD
Director of HIV Prevention and Research, San Francisco Department of Public Health

Charles Fann
Community Co-Chair for the San Francisco HPPC and Health Promotions Program Manager at Tenderloin Health

Andrew Forsyth, PhD
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health/Infectious Diseases,

Sharyn Grayson
Co-Chair at Collaborative Community Planning Council - Oakland TGA

Kabir Hypolite, PhD
Director, Office of AIDS Administration, Alameda County

Marsha A. Martin, DSW
Director, Get Screened Oakland

Herb K. Schultz
Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region IX


Longtime gay San Francisco leader and a person with AIDS, Gary Virginia, posted an important comment calling on the organizers of tomorrow's forum to include a PWA. I believe Gary would be an excellent addition to the roster of speakers, and I hope the organizers wise about this matter.

On Thursday afternoon, Peter Kronenberg, communications director for NAPWA, shared this note with me:

Sorry we couldn’t get back to you sooner. Our Sunday through Tuesday was jam-packed with National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events, and yesterday we were pretty busy wrapping up.

We agree that it’s surprising to see San Francisco organize an event of this kind without any PLWHA on the panel. It’s their event, though, and we can’t tell them what to do. Your best approach might be to contact the organizers directly and raise the issue with them. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they said, Yipes, how did we not think about that?

While it's good to have this communication from NAPWA, I am so disappointed, again, that it absolves itself of getting involved with making sure the town hall tomorrow night adheres to the Denver Principles and the demand to include PWAs on panels. It's so sad that NAPWA won't lift a finger to contact the organizer and nudge them to do the right thing.

In my response to Peter and colleagues at NAPWA, I express frustration that they do so little public pushing on AIDS Inc to embrace not just the Denver Principles but the voices and wisdom of people with HIV and AIDS at every level of decision-making and all public organizing efforts.

NAPWA should be doing more for PWAs and I'm calling upon them to stand up for PWA inclusion on this San Francisco panel.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Supervisor Avalos 
on the Castro's Rainbow Flag

Here's my disclosure at the top of this post. My first of three votes in the mayoral election is going to Supervisor John Avalos, not just for his written commitment to address equal access for all of the public to the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, but also because of his over all progressive political positions.

I've been nudging him, his City Hall and campaign staffs, and volunteers to tackle this issue and in recent days John sent this response:

Thank you for writing. Several months ago, I said that I am interested in reclaiming public space at the plaza. My staff has been stonewalled in this effort and with all the million other things going on including my campaign for mayor and our city wide and district work we do not have the bandwidth fully take this issue on at this time. Please know that it is not for lack of caring but that we are stretched all too thin. 

Please also know that now that I am running for mayor worthy requests like yours pour in from all sides and while we can express support we do not always have the staff power to take action. My apologies.

As Mayor and barring contractual agreements that will take longer to change I can easily make a difference in your issue. After the election in whatever capacity I serve, you have my commitment to bring people to the table to share views and hopefully work out more flexible use of the public space at the plaza. 

That word flexible is key to finding a solution to the problem of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro being so rigid about their illegitimate control of this important piece of public property.

I now have written promises from two major candidates for mayor - John Avalos and Bevan Dufty - that they will take on this matter of public space for the public at Castro and Market Streets after the election. They know I will hold them to their word. It's my hope that John and Bevan collaborate with activists and all Castro stakeholders to resolve the rainbow flag controversy.

Silence of the Lambda:
Gays, Troy Davis & the Death Penalty

Capital punishment, for me, is a gay issue both abroad and here at home, and it's one reason why I helped organize street protests in San Francisco over Uganda's "kill the gays" bill and to urge the United Nations to oppose the executions of gays. At both actions, I deplored the death penalty in all cases around the planet.

The execution by the state of Georgia last week of Troy Davis (pictured), despite evidence of his innocence, questionable witnesses and prosecution, and global opposition brought forward many individual and organizational voices in an effort to keep him alive. In vain, I looked for statements and actions by Gay Inc groups, showing solidarity with the justice movement working to end executions.

After Davis was put to death, National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell posted this statement to their site:

This is a sad and shameful day for justice and democracy. With scant and tainted evidence the State of Georgia proceeded with its scheduled execution of Troy Davis. Every barrier to protect a possibly innocent man from death fell away and now we all bear some measure of responsibility for Davis’s death. As a nation, we have lost a bit of our decency and humanity with Davis’s execution. It is long past time for our nation and everyone committed to a just and fair system to renounce the death penalty. It is no deterrent, and as the body count rises of men and women who may well have been innocent, our democratic ideals and faith in justice are tarnished.

From New York, longtime gay social justice advocate Bill Dobbs weighed in on these matters last week:

The availability of the death penalty poisons the entire criminal justice system. Gay Inc ought to recognize that but nearly always its voice is raised only for crime victims, hardly ever for any GLBT person who is accused or convicted of a crime.

Wanda Jean Allen killed her girlfriend. Not too many people end up on death row for killing a lover but Allen was a lesbian and black - two strikes against her. State of Oklahoma ended Allen's life. There are other current death row cases with gay or lesbian themes but Gay Inc pays little attention.

Even if Davis was executed something good may come out of this - hundreds of thousands signed petitions and there were some unusual allies for the cause, a former FBI head and even Bob Barr. Yep, doubts can galvanize people. But what if there are no doubts about the sentencing?  [On September 21] one of James Byrd Jr's killers was executed by the State of Texas with little fanfare.

Over the weekend, I wrote to the executive director of Lambda Legal, Kevin Cathcart, to ask if his group played any role in stopping the Davis execution or was engaged with anti death penalty groups and their work. Kevin's reply, in full:

Lambda Legal was not involved in efforts on the Troy Davis case. I also am not aware of anyone organizing in the LGBT community on his execution. Our mission is the civil rights of LGBT people and those with HIV and that is where we focus our resources.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed the gay community's leading legal advocacy organization was silent about the Davis execution. I hope Kevin and his colleagues reconsider their disengagement on the death penalty over all, and as a gay issue.

I also followed up with Kate, seeking info about her group's work prior to Davis' death and collaborating with advocates working to end state sanctioned killing. Her reply:

NCLR staff signed and circulated petitions, and I think some attended vigils in DC. In the past we were part of previous LGBT coalitions—there was a joint statement by many of our groups around the murder of Matthew Shepard to argue for not seeking the death penalty for his killers. We are also signing on to the SAFE initiative effort here in California to repeal the death penalty. I would expect that we would be part of the coalition of organizations who will join forces to support that measure and engage the broader LGBT community to support the measure.

That SAFE initiative Kate refers to is ballot measure proposal put forward by California Taxpayers for Justice for the 2012 election that would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment and no chance of parole.

It's heartening to read the words of Kate on behalf of her organization forthrightly opposing the death penalty and making a public commitment to actively engage to stop this barbaric practice. Let's push Lambda Legal and all other LGBT justice and equality advocates to link arms with capital punishment abolitionists, and say "Gays oppose executions."

Monday, September 26, 2011

SF Cop Tickets 
A Mercedes on Market Street

Over the past few months, many bikers and biking advocates have bemoaned the San Francisco police department's much-needed stepped up enforcement of traffic and safety laws on Market Street that apply to bikers, giving out a high number of pricey tickets to violators.

The general complaint is that the police are engaging in selective enforcement targeting unsafe bicyclists, while allegedly looking the other way as automobile drivers break other traffic statutes on the busy boulevard.

If you believe the biking advocates who generally portray the biker as virtuous or angelic saving the planet by peddling, while the car driver is painted as selfish and an evil user of fossil fuels destroying the world, the cops have given the latter a free ride. Pardon the expression.

Yet today, at about 4:50 PM, I witnessed a motorcycle cop chasing an errant driver in a sleek new white Mercedes-Benz, for driving in the bus and taxi lane from Market and 11th down to 8th Street. Talk about how to piss off an officer of the law who already has at least one ticket to give a bad driver!

Was the episode one of selective enforcement against a driver behind the wheel of a large automobile, and probably not living in a shotgun shack? Nah, not since the Mercedes-Benz was operating quite nicely and wrongly in the dedicated public transit lane.

My two cents, as a slow biker frequently on Market Street, is that there's enhanced enforcement and police presence at key intersections, at high-volume traffic times, and they're on the lookout for either cars or bikes engaging in moving violations.

Knowing this provides me with more reasons to stick my biking rules: stay to the right, stop at red lights regardless of traffic or pedestrians, use hand signals and avoid the bikers barreling down crowded sidewalks and breezing through red lights.
MUMC Prez Gets Flag Criticism at City Hall;
NYT: Group has 300 Members

When it comes to the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro and their agenda for their illegitimate control of public property at Harvey Milk Plaza, the rainbow flag and pole, the top goal is to retain sole control. The second goal is refuse to engage in public discussion with other Castro and LGBT stakeholders.

Controversy over MUMC's domain began in early February and the president, Steve Adams (pictured), who's also chief at the local Sterling Bank, told the Bay Area Reporter that he was committed to public dialogue regarding the flag matters. All these months later, he and MUMC have failed to hold a single open forum for that dialogue.

Which is why I've attended two meetings at City Hall of the Small Business Commission, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Adams is vice president of the commission, heads up the permitting committee, and the body is required to take public comment. Reasons why I'll be at every future commission meeting.

I pack a lot of honest and constructive criticism into three minutes of public comment, related to the frayed and strained current community relations the small business of MUMC have with many activists, residents and consumers of the Castro. This vid clip is courtesy of San Francisco GovTV, an invaluable archived City Hall hearing with an easy to use clip-and-paste function.

This clip is from the September 12 regular meeting of the commission, with Adams present:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

In other related MUMC matters, Steve was quoted in the New York Times' story today about nudists in the Castro. The article was written by Malia Wallon, emphasis mine:

Businesses in the Castro are divided over the role that naked people play in the neighborhood’s economic and cultural appeal. Despite receiving some complaints about nudity from business owners, Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, says he often sees tourists posing for photographs with the nudists.

“Nudity really doesn’t impact business,” said Mr. Adams, whose group represents about 300 businesses. “In fact, it is kind of a draw for tourists. As long as the people who come to look spend money in the neighborhood, that’s all I care about.” 

Three-hundred businesses in the Castro, and they all belong to MUMC? News to me and I've asked the reporter to explain that figure and any verification of it. Seeing how Steve has tossed out lots of claims - written DPW contract, never receiving request regarding Liz Taylor's passing, promise to hold public dialogues - that were quite far from the truth, I'd like the Times to be transparent about the 300 number they reported.

When I hear back from the report, I'll update.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Folsom Fair Pix:
Objectifying the Male of the Species

At exactly 1:23 PM today, it was the worst of Folsom Fairs with dank humidity from the brief rain shower rising from the pavement and putrid charcoal grills spewing fumes and lighter fluid vapors hanging overhead and no wind blowing. I was on my bike and outta there for a few hours away from the madness.

But when the young man with the best calves of the fair, male division, followed my orders to show off his calf muscles, at 4:47 PM, it became the best of fairs for me. The air was clear, except for the sexuality and exhibitionism vibes so thick and hard you wanted to get on your knees and suck it. Ah, the pursuit of happiness on the public street.

Kudos and hosannas to Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director of Folsom Street Events which produces this and the Dore Alley Fair, for a job well done with an experienced terrific staff and board of directors, and throngs of volunteers also well deserving of applause.

Very smart of them to recognize today, due to the inclement morning weather, was not a day for business as usual in terms of when to shut the fair down. Usually, at 6 PM on the dot, not only is the music turned off but those throngs of volunteers blow loud whistles to announce they're coming through with large broom to sweep up the trash (plastic and paper litter, not human ).

The obnoxious pounding "music" thankfully ended by 6 PM, but the crowd was allowed to hang and mingle till a bit past 6:30 PM, giving us all chance to linger over this year's truly beautiful and fun fair. Shout-out to all my old friend who said hello, and all you fellas who made Folsom so fab!

Here are a few pix to enjoy. Click to enlarge.

Furry Muscle Guys on Parade

Tongue Sucking in the Sun

Into Cop Uniforms and the Men Who Wear Them?

Mostly Smooth Dudes

Tattooed Hunk in Black Cap

Stunning Butt Poetry