Thursday, August 30, 2012

AEGIS 10 Yrs IRS 990s,
GLAD, EQ Federation, PI & NCTE Updates

Here are the latest rays of gay sunshine from our advocacy organizations.

After publishing my post on 11 gay and AIDS groups that don't meet the basic transparency standard of posting 3-5 years of IRS 990, I contacted executives at some of the groups and asked them to reconsider keeping tax returns off their web sites. But before we get to what they had to say, let me share a note from my friend Sister Mary Elizabeth at the invaluable HIV/AIDS site

We've been posting our 990s since 2000. This will most-likely be our last year to post. We've laid off all but two of our staff. I was laid off last year. We'll know next month if we'll have enough grant money to make it through another year with only two employees, but to be honest, two people and one part-timer can't maintain a site as large as AEGiS. AEGiS is the only site that has created and maintained a record of the pandemic since its beginning -- our mistakes, our victories, etc. but there is no community support. Your efforts to get the NY Times to donate their archive was much appreciated. It would have never happened without your assistance.

With ten, yeah 10, years of IRS 990s posted on-site, AEGIS is the community organizatino with the most tax returns a click away for public inspection.  I'm sorry they're having financial trouble. Very proud to have persuaded the Times to share their AIDS stories with Sister, and hope they find sound fiscal support soon.

I must cop to being wrong in my survey about the Equality Federation. I heard from their communications director Kim Miller and she informed me their current return is posted  here on their site. My apologies for failing to notice the 2010 IRS 990 was at the About Us page, at the very bottom under the resources section.

Miller agreed their returns need to be on their own page and that their Equality Federation will update their financial disclosure after Labor Day, and I applaud them for so quickly expanding their existing commitment to transparency. I suggested the federation adopt and promote a recommendation to all state advocacy groups to also post 3-5 of IRS 990s on their sites, an idea I will follow up on in the fall with Miller.

Over at Project Inform's financials page, executive director Dana Van Gorder kept his promise to me and the community to post his five most recent returns and clearly labeled as such. You'll find the 2007 - 2011 IRS 990s here.

From Lee Sislow, executive director at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston, first came word that she embraced the posting of 990s but said her colleagues were all on end of summer vacations and to give her some time to chat with them. She then sent two emails full of radiant light:

Michael, just to follow up. The GLAD senior team met and agreed we should—and will—post our 990’s. We, too, support transparency among movement organizations. We expect to have them up on our website by the end of the week. Thanks again for bringing this to my attention.

Great to have that commitment in writing, but a wee bit more time is needed at GLAD:

Turns out they won’t be posted until next week, as we have to do some relabeling on our web site and our web master it out the rest of this week.

Who else is taking action to be more accountable to the LGBT community? The leader of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling, shared this good news about what her organization is doing in September:

We pride ourselves on transparency. For several of our nine years, NCTE did post 990s directly on our website on our "About" page. At some time in the last year or so, a decision was unfortunately made to post only our Annual reports. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it was not made in any attempt to decrease transparency. We will fix it, but not until next week since almost everyone including me is out of the office today at various conferences. Thanks for the reminder. I do consider you a colleague and appreciate your work. Please feel free to reach out anytime formally or informally. Thanks for all your work and thanks for the reminder to post 990s.

And thanks to all these executive leaders for taking the time move their groups, and more of the movement's money, into a greater degree of fiscal transparency. Gay sunshine marches on!
SF Homeless Stakeholders, 
Including Czar & SFPD, Visit Seattle 'Wet-House' 

The reason why it took more than 24-hours for San Francisco's homeless czar Bevan Dufty to respond to my complaint on Tuesday evening, regarding two homeless guys trashing the public toilet at Castro and Market Streets, was due to his travel that day to Washington state. Yesterday, Dufty took steps to make sure the toilet was in working order and to prevent problems from reoccurring.

He sent this note explaining the trip, who went and what the purpose was. I've asked for an estimate of the cost to taxpayers and once I have that info, I'll amend this post. From Dufty:

Our trip to Seattle was to continue building the coalition of support that Seattle needed to implement a Wet or Pre-Treatment Housing program. The following individuals participated: 

Lt. Bill Roualdes, SFPD Homeless Outreach Officers 
Jennifer Friedenbach, Director, Coalition on Homeless 
Gail Gilman, Executive Director, Community Housing Partnership 
Jon Ballesteros, VP for Public Policy, SF Travel 
Kevin Carroll, Executive Director, SF Hotel Council 
Eileen Ward, SOMA neighborhood activist

Only Bill and I travelled on City expense. The City rented a van that we drove from Sea-Tac Airport into downtown Seattle and back. We left at 7:00 a.m. and returned on a 5:55 p.m. flight to SFO. No one stayed overnight. 

We visited 1811 Eastlake for over two hours, meeting with staff and touring the building. Then we visited the FareStart restaurant that has trained, employed and helped house over 6,000 individuals over the past 20 years . . .

Following lunch (hosted by Hotel Council and SF Travel), which included Bill Block who heads Seattle's Committee to End Homelessness (their 10-year plan agency) and a tour of their facilities we visited two supportive housing buildings . . .

Then we returned to the airport. It can be difficult to cite a new program in San Francisco . . . It also happened that Kevin and Jon are relatively recent in their roles and they had never worked with or met Jennifer . . . I believe Jennifer is being invited to speak before the Boards of the Hotel Council and SF Travel, this never happened before . . . I think this trip solidified stakeholder involvement and support. You will see more activity and announcements in the weeks ahead. Let me know if there is anything else I can add.
BAR & Wiener Ignore
Milk Plaza Improvements

(The spanking new pigeon-poop free rainbow banner, on the Milk Plaza street light now free of birds. Credit: Andrea Aiello, CBD.)

Earlier this week I told my buddy Tommi Avicolli Mecca that when the Bay Area Reporter came out today, there would be nothing in it about the recent visible and tangible cleaning and improvements this month at Harvey Milk Plaza. Let's recap.

Just over two-weeks back, I complained to Barbara Garcia who heads the Department of Public Health about the health menace to people with AIDS of the gross pigeon poop at HMP's always-crowed corner at Castro and Market Street. Garcia, who was on vacation at the time but still reading emails, directed her staff to investigate the menace and she contacted the pigeon control unit at the Department of Public Works.

Within days, I heard from Mohammed Nuru, DPW's chief, about his department steam cleaning HMP, while DPW plastered posters telling people not to feed the birds. The owner of the news rack befouled with poop, Clear Channel, through its community liaison at my request had the structure refurbished with a new shell because the previous one was too caked with poop that couldn't be scraped off.

On her own, the executive director of the Castro Benefit District Andrea Aiello coordinated with Muni and a subcontractor last Thursday to apply bird repellent gel on the cable wires and street light where the pigeons roosted. My complaint to Merchants of Upper Market Castro president Terry Bennett, about their filthy poop-smeared rainbow banner on the utility pole, produced its removal and replacement with beautiful new banner.

So, we have this activist launching an effort that engages DPH and DPW chiefs and staff, Clear Channel, the CBD and their work with Muni and a subcontractor, and MUMC. Three city agencies, two civic groups and a private advertising company all moved to make HMP more healthy, vibrant, clean and inviting. Something all parties involved should be proud of.

And not one word about any of the improvements were newsworthy for the BAR. I wish I knew why editor Cynthia Laird, and her reporting staff of Matthew Bajko, Seth Hemmelgarn and Chris Carson opted to ignore the betterment of HMP this month.

Here we had several stakeholders coordinating a number of positive changes to this historical public space, and in an almost unheard of short period of time, and it's not news to the BAR folks. At the same time, Scott Wiener on his Twitter feed and Facebook page has remained silent about these improvements in his district.

The BAR has a story today about problems with the benches at HMP and a meeting held on Monday to address several plaza related issues and the work of DPH, DPW, CBD, Muni, a subcontractor, MUMC and Clear Channel to make the plaza better was omitted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

60+% of Revenue Goes to Charity

Earlier this month, I blogged about the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's 2011 AIDS Walk in Golden Gate park and how 58% of revenue went toward expenses. Figures from SFAF and the California Attorney General's office showed that the 2010 edition of the walk saw 52% of money raised go to pay for costs of producing the event.

The longtime producer of the AIDS Walk here, Craig Miller of MZA events, is also the producer of the Gay Men's Health Crisis annual AIDS Walk in New York City, but the expenses are not as high as in San Francisco.

A few weeks ago, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request with New York's state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for the closing statements from MZA Events filed on behalf of GMHC for the last two years in which a full fiscal accounting is available. This week, a disc arrived via snail mail containing 95-pages responsive to my FOIL request. I've posted all of the pages here.

In 2009, a robust sixty-two percent of revenue went to GMHC, as the document pictured shows. The walk brought in $5,608,300, expenses totaled $2,170,100 and $3,438,200 was retained by the nonprofit AIDS service organization.

For 2010, the amount received by GMHC was sixty-four percent from the AIDS Walk, reported in the document shown. Revenue came to $5,813,700, costs were listed at $2,196,800 and total figure of what was kept by GMHC was $3,616,900.

Even though the NYC numbers are quite better than for San Francisco, I still wonder if GMHC might be able to reduce costs associated with using MZA Events or if the agency were to organize the AIDS Walk in-house. The objective for all the walks and other fundraisers for AIDS organizations should be to provide as much of the money raised to the services directly helping people with AIDS.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Public Pooping Pix:
Castro's Broken Free-Use Toilet

A short while ago, I left a voice mail for San Francisco's homeless czar Bevan Dufty on his cell phone, asking that he take charge of dealing with an unacceptable situation involving the free-use public kiosk toilet at Castro and Market Streets.

After catching a screening of "Chinatown" at the Castro Theatre, (it was a poor print with long sections flecked with "green rain" on the celluloid), I tried to use that toilet. My friend Todd and I came approached the toilet and noticed the door was open, and saw a strung-out homeless man was chatting to himself as he moved his bowels.

Todd said, "Oh, my," and I muttered, "What the hell?"

Soon enough, I had my camera out and snapped a photo of the guy doing his pooping. Seeing me with my camera pointed his way, he let out a loud laugh and another homeless guy and buddy of his came along. This new guy shook the inoperable door, looked on his pal on the toilet and said, "Hey, dude!"

I believe it's the duty of Dufty to investigate the trashing of the public toilet, have his city-funded homeless outreach team try and find the guys responsible for this bad behavior, contact the maintenance crew for the toilet and have it fixed and tell us what his plan is to prevent homeless folks from again rendering the toilet inoperable.

It is pathetic that Dufty, Scott Wiener and the Merchants of Upper Market Castro have done all they can to prevent activists from being able to use the rainbow flag in Harvey Milk Plaza.

As the homeless population at the plaza, half a block away from the toilet, expands and hostile behavior keeps more locals from using the upper level's pedestrian walkway, and so few locals even think about wanting to hang out in Harvey Milk Plaza for more than two-seconds, Dufty, Wiener and MUMC adamantly refuse to work with activists who want to use the flagpole and bring responsible citizens to the plaza.

Memo to those leaders: You can expend all the hot air you want about removing the purple benches, bringing more police presence and planting thorny shrubbery and other methods to repel the strung-out homeless people messing up the plaza, and think you're solving your problem.

Mull this over. Let's call it Castro Inc for shorthand - all the official components that rule over the neighborhood. Castro Inc talks a great line about "activating" the plaza, the latest PC term to reclaim abused public squares, and more energy is spent on keeping political activists from activating in the plaza.

Two years of controversy because of MUMC rainbow flag intransigence, instead of two years of cooperation allowing us use of the flag. MUMC is as guilty as the abusive homeless people in making the plaza the repellent pit that it is.

But until such time as you finally get in your heads to work with activist stakeholders who want to come to - not avoid - Harvey Milk Plaza, the crap will continue at Market and Castro Streets pleasing no one.

Memo to the homeless and transients passing through town: Treat our neighborhood with respect. Stop trashing our public spaces.

Memo to Homeless Inc: I have no idea if you all do a damn thing to alleviate the homeless problems at this plaza.

Let's see what our homeless czar does tomorrow about restoring the kiosk toilet to working order.
What I Saw at
Last Night's Milk Plaza Meeting

(Last week, I complained to MUMC president Terry Bennett about the filthy bird poop-smeared rainbow banner, which is the responsibility of her group, on the edge of the plaza close to Castro Street. She had it replaced over the weekend. Notice the lack of pigeons on the street light. Credit: Andrea Aiello, CBD.)

Over thirty individuals attended the streetscape committee meeting of the Castro Benefit District, held at the SF gay community center. The official topic up for discussion was solving myriad problems at Harvey Milk Plaza and activate the public space, in the short term. Here are random notes on some of what transpired.

1. I suggested a Sunday Speakout in the center of the plaza under the rainbow flag. Harvey used to draw a chalk soapbox on the sidewalk and speak his mind, and serves as a good model of how to bring small numbers of people to the plaza. Of course, I raised the matter of establishing equal access to the public rainbow flag for community and political events. Also, I want to see signage indicating the kiosk toilet at Jane Warner Plaza is free.

2. The condo owners who live just a few feet off the plaza want the large purple benches removed. They recognized even without benches, homeless folks will still congregate on the cement sidewalk. It was suggested thorny rose and blackberry bushes be planted to prevent people from using the carve-out gardens as urinals. Owners complained about partying at HMP after the bars close, and the noise from Warner Plaza during daytime weekend concerts. Frankly, the owners seemed to want no one in HMP, no music at anytime and a desire to have the area turn from mixed use area into nothing but a residential area.

3. There was general agreement to rethink the benches, everything from taking them out to replacements of the rounded-up individual seats at Muni bus stops.

4. No representatives of Homeless Inc were at the table. Odd that key stakeholders who stopped the benches' removal last year weren't present. The city's homeless czar Bevan Dufty showed up late. He stated he's been in touch with the city's homeless outreach teams and Homeless Inc, seeing if anyone wanted linkage into services. Dufty said there are no homeless or transient folks desiring linkage, so there was really nothing else he or the city could do, and suggested the missing Homeless Inc groups should consider intense case management of the folks hanging out at HMP.

5. Scott Wiener made mention of his multi-year proposal to expand sidewalk space on Castro Street as was done on Valencia Street, and also radically restructure the retaining wall on the north side of HMP to make the public space see-through. Wiener said there is no money allocated for this proposal which would take years to implement, even if funding were in hand.

6. The vice president of Merchants of Upper Castro Market, Petyr Kane, said his group long ago warned the CBD to install the purple benches but the advice was rejected. He called for more coordination of MUMC and CBD, for the good of HMP. Kane refused to speak with me afterwards about lowering the rainbow flag for September 11 and bringing a crowd to HMP. He was instructed by his board to not say a thing about the flag.

7. Andrea Aiello of the CBD did an admirable job of wearing four hats. She welcomed people to the meeting, facilitated the agenda, took notes at the easel and posted the large notes on the wall. She would have been greatly helped, and the meeting would have been better, if CBD board members took on responsibility to take on one of those tasks.

8. The police caption from the Mission Station, Bob Moser, sat on my right and briefed us on how his force handles complaints about the homeless in HMP.

9. Everyone agreed HMP's upper level, where the benches and rainbow flag are, was poorly designed and does not lend itself to serving as anything more than pedestrian walkway. The final 20 or so minutes were only about the medium range plan of addressing the benches. I spoke up to remind everyone the matter of short-term plans to activate HMP were left out in the cold.

10. A note from longtime community documentarian Bill Wilson, who remained silent all evening:  I left the meeting and didn’t really trust myself not to express my utter contempt for those self-indulged condo idiots if I said anything. 

I just don’t understand why these people brought condos in the Castro if it is such a nightmare for them. Yes, even in Harvey’s time the plaza was a gathering place so they can’t say they bought their condos before it turned into a gathering place. I assume that they really aren’t in favor of adequate historic signage because then tourists wouldn’t have to pay to learn about the community.

There is something about leading a tour of Castro that brings out the viciousness in people, as was the case when Trevor Hailey was alive and conducting them. To end with Kathy Amendola who does the tours now, demanding thorny shrubbery so people will get hurt is just absurd. It didn't help that she kept yelling her thorny point.

The next meeting of the full board of the CBD is on Thursday, September 13, from 6 to 7:30 pm, at the community meeting room above the Bank of America at Castro and 18th Street, where there will be more discussion about HMP.

Monday, August 27, 2012

FBI Unsure If There's 
A File on Alexander Cockburn

Longtime leftist journalist and activist Alexander Cockburn, who I started reading back in the 1970s when he wrote for the Village Voice, passed away in July after battling cancer. He was a radical's radical, the likes of which we have too few of today. In 2002, during my legal troubles with numerous HIV/AIDS and political institutions in San Francisco, Cockburn wrote a much-appreciated column for The Nation and his Counter Punch site telling the local district attorney to undo his over-charging.

After he passed away, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for any records they have on him. As with my FOIA request to the FBI in July after actor Andy Griffith died, the feds sent this boilerplate response about a possible Cockburn file:

"Since these records were not reviewed, it is not known if they are actually responsive to your request. If you wish to review these potentially responsive records send your request to [the National Archives and Records Administration]."

Yes, I've sent in a request to NARA asking if they have any records pertaining to Cockburn, pictured. I will be very surprised if there is nothing from the FBI on him. What continues to dismay me is that the FBI is not tracking the files they have moved over to the National Archives. I expect better tracking from this agency, of all federal agencies, regarding their files.
SPLC: $238M Assets, Bermuda Acct,
Owns Foreign Firms & Investment Companies

For the Southern Poverty Law Center, its executive director Morris Dees and the other honchos, pimping out the word poverty has proved quite profitable over the years. They had a total of $238 million in assets last year, enjoying so much wealth other nonprofits can only dream about. The enormous assets are shown on the first page of the tax return, pictured.

The latest SPLC return is for 2010, has been available for public inspection since January and as far I can determined not reported on by the corporate or alternative media or across the blogosphere.

The last time I examined an IRS 990 for the Southern Poverty Law Center was in November 2010, and the big news back then was they disclosed that they opened an offshore bank account, in the tax haven Cayman Islands.

Their latest tax return on page 5 reveals SPLC has added to that account with another one in Bermuda, pictured. Federal tax law exempts SPLC and all nonprofits from having to publicly state how much is in the accounts in the two foreign countries.

Folks living in poverty across America must feel so empowered to know this organization is fighting to lift them up from their poor economic status, by shipping unknown of U.S. dollars (thousands? millions?) to two tax havens abroad.

On page 32 of the return, pictured, SPLC sheds only the most minimal required light on the organization's expansion using their vast wealth to engage in for-profit dealing outside of U.S. borders and tax requirements:

The Center has ownership in several foreign corporations. However, the center's ownership percentage in these corporations does not rise to the level of reporting on the Form 5471.

The Center is an indirect owner in several passive foreign investment companies on Form 8621. The direct owner has properly reported these investments on Form 8621. Therefore, The Center does not have a filing requirement.

I'm sure the SPLC leaders and their financial investment advisers opened the offshore accounts, and bought part ownership in several corporations and investment firms abroad, only to the degree that they can legally avoid being required to be fully transparent with additional details about the accounts and investments in other countries.

What I'm very curious to learn is how keeping hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in assets, several offshore bank accounts and part ownership in foreign financial firms in any substantive way addresses poverty in America.

Seeing the 2010 IRS 990 for SPLC and how big their endowment is, they would be more honest if they changed their acronym to $PLC because they are so wealthy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Woof #3:
San Francisco Men at Work 

My previous posts in this series referred to men on the street, but that's inappropriate for these guys - all of whom had their photos taken while they were at work indoors. Told them they would appear on my blog, finding a taste of fame on the web. Many thanks to the guys for standing still so I could capture them on disc.

The last time I saw George, owner of the Mykonos restaurant on Polk Street, he had more meat on his bones and he carried the extra pounds very nicely. He told me with the help of his wife and her mother, he's shed forty pounds. In the top photo, he's writing down the URL for my blog and he spelled my last name correctly without me dictating it to him. That doesn't happen often. Stop by Mykonos and sample the best spanakopita in town.

Young Scott works at Lucca's Ravioli Store on Valencia Street and the entire gang at this Italian deli are good men, providing service with a smile. Everyone knows when you want old world fresh Italian meats, assorted cheeses and delicious pastas, Lucca's is where you shop. I'm thinking of asking for one of their hats to wear at the Folsom Street Fair in September.

Steven Biegel posing for my camera at his office on Valencia Street near McCoppin with brighter than expected shafts of sunlight hitting his body. I met his attractive wife and adorable two girls recently downtown, and chatted about all of us adults hailing from New Jersey. He's my chiropractor with the gentle touch that snaps my spine with ease. Next appointment, I have to get photos of him without the sunbeams.

Milk Plaza Safe for Tippi Hedren
to Visit With No Fear of Pigeons Pooping

On Thursday morning, a subcontractor hired by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency came to Harvey Milk Plaza and with use of a crane lift, applied bird repellent gel on utility poles and cables. The gel, effective for 12 months. should prevent pigeons from landing at those spots, then befouling the plaza with their excrement.

Andrea Aiello, the executive director of the Castro Benefit District, spearheaded this successful effort with the SF MTA and in less than two weeks was able to bring a solution to the pigeon pooping problem to this historic public plaza.

I phoned the president of the Merchants of Upper Market Castro, Terry Bennett, at her Cliff's Variety Store to complain about the filthy poop-smeared rainbow flag banner on the utility pole at Castro and Market Streets. Those banners throughout the neighborhood are the responsibility of MUMC. Bennett promised to have the maintenance person who tends to the banners remove the dirty plaza banner.

Thank goodness Bennett didn't play any of the usual MUMC games about why they can't do something at the request of a community member, as they do when the issue is the iconic rainbow flag in the center of the rundown plaza.

The photos were snapped by CBD's Aiello and please give her credit if you use the images. Thanks Andrea, for the quick movement to get the gel applied to the plaza!

Now, Tippi Hedren and all of us can go to Harvey Milk Plaza and not be shat upon by the birds.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Who Knew?
NGLTF's Carey on 2-Month Sabbatical

This note came my way today from an anonymous tipster:

I consider one of your finest moments your exposure of the extended vacations that Geof Kors and Lori Jean took in the summer of 2008 - just weeks before CA voters were to decide Prop 8. It is no exaggeration to say that we are still paying the price for their incompetence today.

As we are now at the 4-year anniversary of their jaunts to Spain and Alaska, I thought you would appreciate this Washington Blade article, which reports that NGLTF Exec. Director Rea Carey is unavailable as she is on "sabbatical." No word on how long this sabbatical will last or whether she is still in the country. This would be weeks before voters in 4 states decide marriage equality, IA voters decide on whether to destroy their judiciary to make a statement about gay marriage, and the whole country picks a President and Congress.

When an executive director of a major national advocacy organization takes a two-month sabbatical, I believe the community is owed an explanation about the time off from (handsomely paid) movement duties.

It's disappointing Lou Chibbaro in his Blade story didn't delve into how long Carey is on sabbatical, the reason why, if she's in the U.S. or abroad, and who's running the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in her absence?

Ordinary gay Americans are frequently told how valuable and integral the executive directors are of community advocacy organizations. It's one reason why leaders such as Carey, who received $248,000 in compensation in 2011, earn so much. By the way, the 2011 IRS 990 for NGLTF is not on their site, but can be found at this GuideStar link.

I sent off a few questions to Carey's addy and received an automated reply which stated in part:

I will be out of the office from July 1st – August 31st on sabbatical. During that time Darlene Nipper, our deputy executive director, will be serving in my stead.

A two-month sabbatical and NGLTF does not bother to tell us why. Who knew Carey was on sabbatical and can anyone say they noticed her absence? From not posting their latest IRS tax return on their site to keeping Carey's sabbatical on the hush-hush, NGLTF shows how it's not fully transparent with the LGBT community and cares little for accountability.

We need to develop standards of accountability and transparency from Gay Inc and AIDS Inc, starting with the basics of posting at least three years of IRS 990 on their site, the most current return within a week after filing it with the IRS, disclosure of their contract agreements to perform work on the movement's behalf and being upfront when a top executive making a quarter of million dollars goes on sabbatical.
D5 Sup. Candidate London Breed
Asked to Explain Sunshine Opinions

London Breed is a San Francisco native who currently sits on the SF Fire Commission, serves as state Attorney General Kamala Harris' proxy to the Democratic County Central Committee and is also the executive director of the African American Arts and Culture Complex, and she's running for the District 5 Haight seat on the Board of Supervisors. In June, I asked what she thought about moving the commission meetings to a location where they could be broadcast on SF Gov TV, to bring some much-needed transparency to the panel. Like a good pol, she take a vague position:

I am supportive of exploring the option to move fire commission meetings to City Hall and placing them on public access television. 

Doesn't sound like she's too excited to get those meetings on TV. I send the following questions to her more than a week ago, and unfortunately, I have not heard back from her. Maybe posting the questions here will prod a response from her:

I'd like to follow up on this statement of yours from June, saying you are interested in exploring potentially moving SF Fire Department Commission meetings to City Hall, where they would be broadcast on SFGov TV. If  you can answer these questions, that would be appreciated.

1. What steps can you take before the election to explore the option of holding the fire commission meetings at City Hall?

2. It's my understanding that the meeting room at SFFD headquarters on Second Street is not equipped with TV cameras, and that is why the commission meetings are not currently broadcast on SFGov TV. Is that correct?

3. A few members of the public feel the current location of the commission meetings is isolated and not easily accessible via public transit or as centrally located as city hall where the police commission meets. Do you agree?

4. What arguments would you make for putting the fire commission meetings on an equal footing as the police commission meeting, held at City Hall, full of public comment and aired on SFGov TV?

5. Minutes from fire commission meetings rarely show any member of the general public in attendance and using public comment time. Many minutes show public comments occasionally from the fire union or folks connected to the department, like former fighters. Can you point to any minutes where one or two members of the general public spoke?

6. In terms of city wide sunshine, are you aware that the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force is not meeting this month because they are not in compliance with the requirement to have a disabled member?

7. How would you make sunshine/open government principles a key part of your D5 campaign?

8. Sunshine advocates believe the Ethics Commission and City Attorney are very lax in enforcing rulings from the SOTF against city agencies and employees. How would you, as the D5 supervisor, bring about enforcement of all SOTF rulings?

9. In general, what your views on how best to expand sunshine at City Hall and educate San Francisco residents about sunshine principles and the SOTF?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Project Inform
to Post 5-Years of IRS 990s

The executive director of the HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy organization Project Inform, Dana Van Gorder, today agreed to my request to post five-years' worth of their most recent IRS 990s on their web site.

I told him about the term I coined, the Kendell Standard, so-named for Kate Kendell who's the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. When I reached out to her in 2010 about getting NCLR's 990s up to their site, and to post the newest one very soon after it's submitted to the IRS, she had her group's returns on their site within 24-hours.

Project Inform will soon meet the Kendell Standard, when five years of tax returns for the organization are posted to their site. Van Gorder sent me this note:

I've always believed that, because AIDS service organizations work on behalf of the community, we have an obligation to be transparent about sources of our revenue and the manner in which we are spending funds entrusted to us. 

While our 990s have always been available on GuideStar, community members may not know that they can be found there and so it makes perfect sense to place them on our website, as well. 

We weren't influenced to do so by other community groups that also post their 990s on their sites, so much as fundamentally believing that it is the right thing to do. 

Sorry we haven't done so before, and thanks, Michael, for encouraging us and others to do it. The posting of our 990s is underway and they will be up early next week on our website.

Many thanks to Van Gorder and Project Inform for taking an extra step to make themselves more transparent and account to people living with HIV/AIDS, donors and the general public. Thank you, Dana!

I hope the ten other organizations who are my list of gay and AIDS advocacy organizations that presently do not share a single IRS 990 on their web sites, join Project Inform in remedying this situation and are soon meeting the Kendell Standard.
Milk Plaza Forum:
Aug 27, 5:30 PM at SF Gay Center 

For everyone who's complained in recent years about the run-down, dirty and uninviting environment of Harvey Milk Plaza and has ideas to revitalize this historic piece of public property, we have an opportunity next week to make the plaza something LGBT people can be proud of.

Here's the scoop from the Castro Benefit District's executive director Andrea Aiello:

The CBD is holding a meeting on Monday, August 27, starting at 5:30 pm, at the LGBT Community Center, Room Q11, to discuss strategies to make short term improvements at Harvey Milk Plaza. The goal of the meeting is to develop a consensus on a few short term strategies which can realistically be implemented to create a more welcoming environment for all at Harvey Milk Plaza.

I have a few doable suggestions to put forward:

1) Apply anti-bird gel to every surface where the pigeons land and defecate. The railing on the upper pedestrian level, that abuts the backside of the Diesel store, and is ten-feet in front of the rainbow flag, is a roosting spot and health hazard that must be made bird-free.

2) Since the Merchants of Upper Market Castro are responsible for the banner rainbow flag on the utility pole near the Muni underground entrance, they should immediately remove that feces-smeared flag. MUMC would do everyone a favor by replacing that filthy flag, which has been there for years, with a pristine one.

3) Remove at least one of the three useless and empty news racks cluttering the limited sidewalk space. Let's have more public space for standing around and cruising.

(September 11, 2011. Under a half-mast rainbow flag at Milk Plaza, Mayor Ed Lee, standing next to photographer Bill Wilson who organized the event.)

4) Return control of the enormous iconic rainbow flag on city grounds in the center of the plaza to community control. Let's stage a flag-lowering ceremony on September 11 to honor Flight 93 hero Mark Bingham and all who died 9/11. Such a ceremony would bring people to the plaza and what's so wrong with that?

Let's get a good turnout at the August 27 meeting and hear more creative ideas to bring vibrancy and fun to Harvey Milk Plaza. The SF gay community center is located at 1800 Market Street, near Octavia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Muni Applying Anti-Bird Gel
at Milk Plaza, Thurs at 9:30 AM

I've been informed by the Castro Benefit District's executive director Andrea Aiello that she's been in touch with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency about the pooping pigeon problems at Harvey Milk Plaza.

She told me about a bird-repellent gel that is effective at keeping birds away from lamp posts and cable wires, such as the ones at the public plaza at Castro and Market Streets. It's supposed to be as good as wire bird spikes and may do the trick to prevent the pigeons from landing on utility poles, and befouling the plaza named for icon Harvey Milk.

On Thursday, starting at 9:30 AM, a crew from Muni will be at Milk Plaza applying a thick coat of the bird-repellent goop on all the pigeons' landing spot. Should be an excellent opportunity to snap a few photos and witness a giant step forward in removing the healthy hazard of the poop.

As a person with AIDS who wants to see Milk Plaza be as fabulous as possible, which includes community control of the rainbow flag, I want to thank Aiello for spearheading the effort to solve the problem of pigeon's pooping at the plaza.

Maybe the Muni crew in their lift can also remove the disgusting rainbow flag banner, smeared with bird excrement, under lamp. C'mon, this is the plaza named for our hero Harvey and the gayteway to the LGBT Castro. Can our civic leaders finally make the plaza something Harvey and the rest can be proud of?
NOM's On-Site IRS 990s:
$1.2M Deficit Over Three Years

(Click to enlarge and read NOM's first page of their most current tax return, with the deficit data.)

I was surprised to see the National Organization for Marriage practices robust fiscal transparency. The NOM site contains their four most recent IRS 990s, something the eleven gay and AIDS organizations on this list refuse to do.

Let's go over NOM's reported deficits. In 2007 there was zero in the deficit column, for 2008 it was $410, in 2009 it was $103,500, and during 2010 the deficit ran a whopping $1,131,161. The cumulative deficits add up to $1,235,071. That's a lot of coin to lose.

Here's something I've not seen on any other IRS 990 for any nonprofit. On page one of the the current NOM return, in the assets column the figure listed is a negative $1,191,164. They have no assets to report to the IRS, which means no financial cushion. What's up with that?

Regarding the salary paid to NOM's executive director Brian Brown, he received $57,300 in 2007, $130,208 the next year, for 2009 the pay was $172,000 and in 2010 he was compensated $212,000. Brown's cumulative pay totals out to $571,508.

Click here to visit NOM's page for their IRS 990s, which are shown in the screengrab.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nat'l Minority AIDS Council:
$970,000 Deficit Over Three-Years

Yesterday I blogged about eleven gay and AIDS organizations that don't post IRS 990s on their web sites. One of those groups, the National Minority AIDS Council, has incurred a deficit in fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010. The cumulative deficit comes to $969,624.

When I spoke with NMAC's longtime executive director Paul A. Kawata, pictured, he was adamantly committed to taking no steps making it easy for the public or reporters or anyone visiting his site to find his three most recent IRS 990s on-site.

He said that it's enough transparency that NMAC's tax returns are on GuideStar, but when I mentioned not visitor to his site knows what the heck an IRS 990 is never mind about the GuideStar site, he was dismissive of my points.

I urged him to join the many gay and AIDS organizations - among them GMHC, NCLR, SF and NYC gay centers, HRC, GLAAD, PFLAG, SF AIDS Foundation, Food and Friends, AIDS Foundation Chicago, NAPWA, Immigration Equality, AMFAR, Lambda Legal - whose best practices for transparency equals posting several years' IRS 990s on-site.

After my call with the very defensive Kawata, I told a friend it had been like arguing with a gay marriage opponent, one full of irrational fears. While the transparency tide clearly goes more and more toward voluntary on-site posting for all responsible nonprofits with intelligent executives at the top, Kawata remains committed to doing nothing to help anyone find his IRS 990s.

Kawata's salary in the same three year period as the deficits - 2008, $247,103; 2009, $246,108; 2010, $245,115 - cumulatively came to $738,326.

I will now do what Kawata fears and link to NMAC's three current tax returns at GuideStar. Give them a read.
Milk Plaza Pigeon Poop Returns;
People With AIDS Face Health Risk

 (Newly refurbished news rack at Castro and Market Street this afternoon, shows newly dropped bird crap on top.)

Last week, I complained to the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Works about health hazard posed by bird droppings on a large (and useless) news rack and sidewalk at an always-crowded section of Harvey Milk Plaza. Swift action ensued, with DPH inspecting and confirming the problem, posting signs discouraging feeding of pigeons, and DPW steam cleaning the news rack and plaza.

I want to prevent the birds from resting and defecating and pushed Richard Lee, environmental health expert at DPH, to lead the effort to place spike on the cables and lamp post where the birds rest. His reply:

In regards to the Dept. of Public Health, we would get involved in installing spikes or other pigeon proofing only if we deemed the pigeon droppings a public health nuisance and we were able to identify a responsible party to perform the pigeon proofing. At this point, we would like to observe the effectiveness of the newly mounted signs to see if it reduces the pigeon droppings before we take any enforcement action. Of course, the PUC and any other agency or business could install pigeon proofing on their own volition. 

Since I also complained to community liaison Jana Lord at Clear Channel, which owns and maintains the news rack cluttering up the plaza and which is main repository of the droppings. My suggestion was to paint over the encrusted droppings, and yesterday she sen this note:

I had the news rack re-furbished last week.  Have you seen it?

Today, I went to the plaza and saw that the cosmetic, yet welcomed, attempt last week to clean up the droppings have not solved the problem of birds resting and pooping from cables and the lamp post. Yes, the news rack is refurbished . . . and again befouled with pigeon poop.

The signs from DPH has been removed, but I didn't see any crumbs or seeds for the birds to eat. Actually, I've never seen anyone feed the pigeons at Milk Plaza. So, we're back to square one and a public health risk for people with AIDS and others still exists in the heart of the Castro. 

While DPH continues to observe the situation, and the health hazards from the disease-ridden poop remains on the top of the news rack and nearby sidewalk continue to pose a risk.

One thing I can't understand is how the poop hazard didn't cause anyone that I know of to complain about it until I made an issue of it last week. You would think Supervisor Scott Wiener, who's said he wants to revitalize the plaza, and all members of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, who likewise want to bring vibrancy to the plaza, would have addressed this matter already.

I am again asking all concerned parties - DPH, DPW, Clear Channel, the Castro Benefit District, Wiener and his staff, MUMC, SF Municipal Transportation Agency - to rid Harvey Milk Plaza of pigeon poop by immediately installing spikes where necessary to stop birds from resting on lamp posts.
BAR & SF Chron
Ignore 58% Costs of AIDS Walk

The editor of the Bay Area Reporter, Cynthia Laird, when she was cutting her teeth as a reporter in the late 1990s, provided readers with excellent accountability coverage of gay and AIDS nonprofits. If Laird wrote about a nonprofit's finances or fundraising events, she always included information about executive salaries and the expenses of events. Laird set a fine example of comprehensive nonprofit reporting that didn't accept p.r. materials at face value. She used to dig deep.

Unfortunately, that was not the case in her late June story about the upcoming the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's annual AIDS Walk in Golden Gate Park, a money-making day produced by Craig Miller and his MZA Events firm. The walk was held in July.

Her long piece, "More Money From AIDS Walk", told of an increase amount of funds "will be distributed to local HIV/AIDS nonprofits from next month's AIDS Walk San Francisco, but changes in the grant process left some organizations out of the running this year."

While that was true, what Laird omitted was that the expenses of the event would also be increasing. Not one word was in the BAR about costs to produce the walk in 2010 and 2011. As I reported for the EDGE Media site, both the California Attorney General's annual report on commercial fundraisers and the SF AIDS Foundation state more than half of revenue in those years went toward expenses, not beneficiaries.

BAR readers were not informed that 52% of donations in 2010 and 58% in 2011 were spent on overhead for producing the AIDS Walk. Laird reported that SFAF picked up the $212,000 production fee and delved no further into the expenses. 

After the walk, the BAR reported, "The annual event raised nearly $2.7 million for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and 46 other Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations."

It's not fully accurate to say the $2.7 million in revenue is going to service organizations. Both SFAF and MZA Events acknowledge that more than half of that amount will go for this year's walk expenses, and that should have been noted in the BAR.

Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, reporter Meredith May in her article about the AIDS Walk also failed to say a thing about the high cost of producing it. 

For the BAR and the SF Chronicle, their pieces can be summed up in five words: San Francisco AIDS Foundation said.

Of course, SFAF omitted data about the expenses because it's unhelpful to inform participants and donors that so much of their contributions does not make it to direct services for people with AIDS, and as I've shown, two major media outlets didn't broach the subject of expenses.

Reporting on the AIDS Walk without mentioning the costs is troubling. Yesterday, I requested comments from the BAR and SF Chronicle about their omissions regarding expenses and neither got back to me. Silence from these publications does nothing to address the serious problem of excessive walk expenses.

Monday, August 20, 2012

11 Gay & AIDS Inc Orgs
Where the IRS Sun Doesn't Shine

When I contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights' executive director Kate Kendell in November 2008, to request she post her organization's three most current IRS 990 filings it took her less than 24-hours do what I asked. She also committed to post the latest 990s when her accountant filed them with the IRS.

I coined the term the Kendell Standard, and I apply it to what every other LGBT and HIV/AIDS nonprofit ought to be doing. NCLR now has their latest four returns on-site.

In recent years, I successfully lobbied GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Associated of Persons With AIDS, AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the AIDS Fund to share their three or four most recent 990s on-site.

The SF gay center and PFLAG, pictured, host nine, yeah 9, years of returns on-site. While I've been critical of a few of the groups, I offer genuine praise that they are all now on-board with fiscal transparency.

We LGBT Americans need to recognize that our community organizations are an industry, and as such must meet certain basic transparency standards regardless of federal public disclosure laws. Smart nonprofit leaders and groups voluntarily post a minimum of three 990s in keeping with their best practices policies, delivering easy and accessible fiscal accountability. Some are listed above and want to see their ranks expand.

The only reason to keep 990s off-site is because of fear, in my view. Fear that pulling back the economic curtain will expose important fiscal numbers executives would rather keep from donors, clients, the press and general public. Yes, the 990s are posted at GuideStar and the Foundation Center, but it's unwise to assume the average contributor or donor knows what an IRS 990 is, much less how to locate them on the web.

I've culled a list of gay and HIV organizations that do not post 990s on-site, and many have been lobbied by me for years about this. Let me be clear: if your 990s are not on-site, you're not fiscally transparent. And don't try and sell me any number of annual reports as good enough transparency. An annual report contains no salary data, among other vital pieces of data.

This email from Jeff Spitko, vice president at the Victory Fund, is typical of an executive who thinks I fell off the sunshine truck yesterday. His response to my request that he post his 990s: "Victory takes transparency very seriously. As you know, our most recent audited financial statements are available on our website and all 990s are public record. The content within them is available to anyone."

If only Spitko and other executives would get in touch with Kendell and learn what real transparency is.

These eleven organizations fear sharing 990s on-site and not one even links to their 990s on GuideStar. The ones that also don't post annual reports are denoted with an asterisk. One day, we'll look back at the resistance and arguments against on-site 990s and ask, "What was the problem?" I hope that day arrives before President Obama is sworn in for his second term.

The eleven organizations that need to let the IRS sun shine in:

AIDS Healthcare Foundation *

Rick Jacobs' Courage Campaign *

Empire State Pride Agenda *

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders

Latino AIDS Commission *

National Minority AIDS Council *

Equality Federation

Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center

National Center for Transgender Equality

Project Inform

Victory Fund

Democracy in Action:
SF Sunshine = Good Govt Blog

(Cartoonist Adam Zyglis' illustration from 2006 sheds light on the importance of letting the sun shine in!)

A few weeks back, I launched a much-needed blog to aid in maintaining democratic principles in San Francisco that's dedicated to collecting the work of other sunshine and good government advocates: San Francisco Sunshine Equals Good Government.

So far, I've published the writings or artwork of sunshine veterans Doug Comstock, editor of the Westside Observer, journalist Richard Knee, open government advocate Kimo Crossman and the amazing Patrick Monette-Shaw, he of many talents that leaves many in the pro-sunshine movement in awe of his resourcefullness and bird-dogging of the various anti-sunshine forces.

Coming soon are fabulous columns from Bruce Brugmann and Tim Redmond, explaining the recent and current attacks on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. I plan to keep my sunshine blogging here on this blog, and to maintain the SF Sunshine = Good Govt site for key pro-sunshine and transparency advocates.

Check out my new sunshine blog here and visit regularly, because the pro-sunshine forces have much positive news to share about preserving and expanding open government in San Francisco.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekend Woof:
San Francisco Men on the Street #2

More male eye candy pleasing to my queer sensibilities. Photos taken in recent weeks around the Bay Area, and though I say "men on the street", I snap 'em where I see 'em!

Considering he was moving so quickly outside the BofA branch at Market and Van Ness, these four images do a smidgen of justice to the dude and his testosterone. No complaining about the blurry shots allowed.

Freshman Cal student Maxwell, who's working usher duties at the Pacific Film Archive.

This is Randy, who I spoke with outside the PFA after watching Alexei Guerman's Russian masterpiece "Khrustalyov, My Car!" on Saturday night. Randy said he had never seen Hitchcock's "The Birds" in a theater, so I gave him my ticket since the Russian film was plenty of cinema for one evening.

 Muscular calves on a young cyclist, snapped while riding a crowded Muni bus.

From the archive. Not sure when I took this photo of Liz Highleyman, longtime queer health writer and activist, and veteran black gay photographer Duane Cramer, but I needed an excuse to publish a photo of woofy Duane.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekend Woof:
San Francisco Men on the Street #1

My camera's been put to good use lately, snapping pix of attractive men and boys on the streets of San Francisco. In an effort to offer readers something lighter, and more pleasing to the queer eye, I'm sharing a few photos of dudes from around the Bay Area. Pictures will become part of a Weekend Woof series.

Unless stated otherwise, no inference is made as to the sexual orientation of any dude, so let your imagination run free. I'm using blurry photos because like the men and boys, they may not be perfect but damn, they are fine enough for me!

Young beef on Market Street, near the Orpheum Theatre

Chad, our former straight boy neighbor on Clinton Park

Tom, my neighbor and queer pal, on Market near Castro Street
Political volunteer at the Democratic County Central Committee meeting. OK, he wasn't on the street when I took the photo - so sue me!

Wet and cool young guy washing cars at Mission and Van Ness Avenue

 Jeff, who used to work at DeLessio's Cafe. An avowed straight boy whose eyebrows make me weak.