Saturday, February 28, 2015

3/2 Presser at 16th St BART Plaza to Stop an Eviction

The battle over San Francisco real estate for residential tenants, small businesses and cultural venues shows no signs of cooling off. This release hit my in-box today. One more flareup in the war over the diversity and gentrification of the Mission. Here's the announcement for the presser: 
"Friends of Station 40 will announce at a press conference on Monday March 2, 2015, at noon at 16th and Mission BART plaza that they will be supporting tenants of Station 40, the eleven-year-old collective household and political events in their fight against eviction. 

"Last week the collective received eviction court papers (an unlawful detainer) from landlords Ahuva, Emmanuel, and Barak Jolish. 

"Although the Jolish family had previously stated its intentions to sell, they have refused a proposal presented by the Station 40 collective, SF Community Land Trust, and Mission Economic Development Agency to sell their property to the land trust, in what would be a win-win situation for the property owners, current tenants, and Mission community at large. 

"Friends of Station 40 say it is no coincidence that the collective is being evicted on the same intersection as the hotly contested proposed development by Maximus Real Estate Partners of a 350-unit luxury apartment building in what is a predominantly working-class neighborhood.   

"The press conference will include Station 40 tenants and collective members; 
Tracy Parent, director of the SF Community Land Trust; Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee; Erick Arguello of Calle 24; Chandra L. Redack, tenant at 1049 Market Street, another building under the threat of eviction; a Plaza 16 Coalition representative; and others.

"As someone who has attended many forums and trainings at Station 40," said Mesha Irizarry of the Idriss Stelley Foundation, "I feel tremendous loss at the thought of this eviction. Station 40 exemplifies what a vibrant creative, collective space should be, [and] has been a nest of the struggle to keep San Francisco the core of art and revolution in the Mission and whole city."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Legendary Patti LuPone's Fantastic San Francisco Show

The best of the Broadway belters, none other than veteran entertainer Patti LuPone, brought her "Far Away Places" show to Davis Symphony Hall on Feb. 23 and before she came on stage fans were screaming her name. When she appeared, without uttering a word or note, rapturous applause broke out.

For two-hours this legendary diva took us on a musical tour around the nation and globe, with delicious helpings of wonderful stories and asides between songs. She was backed by a fantastic five-man band, The Gypsy Drifters, who delivered fantastic melodies and sounds perfectly meshing with her voice.

From the Stephen Sondheim canon our ears were tickled with "By the Sea" from his masterpiece, "Sweeney Todd", which she performed years ago with the San Francisco Symphony at the same hall.

The number that has most stayed with me was a rather unexpected choice,  Kris Kristofferson's road song "Me and Bobby McGee", that she sang with a ballad warm ballad tempo. It was a fresh rendition of this rock classic. In the same vein, she covered Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" with just the right amount of wistfulness.

LuPone treated us to a beautifully rousing "What's New Buenos Aires?" from the show that cemented her legend back in the day, "Evita". When she forgot the lyrics, she said, "Of all the songs to mess up, it had to be this one!" The audience reveled in her trouper humor before she picked up perfectly from where she left off.

During her second act, LuPone mentioned with pride that her son Josh was in the audience, in an upper box and a spotlight was shone on him. Did she say he's following in her acting footsteps. Yes, indeed, to the cheers of her fans.

That glorious LuPone voice was on full display in her final encore number, "Haste Ye Back", performed a cappella. This fan would have appreciated another number or two of her unaccompanied by the band but, alas, she again left me wanting more -- something I've experienced many terrific times over the decades catching her live performances.

As we exited Davies Symphony Hall, people were smiling from ear-to-ear and speaking of how much the loved the show the legendary LuPone delivered. Let's pray to the Broadway gods that she pays San Francisco another visit soon.
Maximus Emails Released by Campos

Not a single email sent or received by Supervisor David Campos himself, but plenty of responsive public records from his aides. The files are too voluminous to post here, so I've posted them in three batches at my Facebook. You don't need to be a registered Facebook user to view the emails:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is Public Defender Adachi Backing Transparency at Police Panel?

Earlier this month, I questioned San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi about omitting mention of the dearth of transparency at the Office of Citizen Complaints that provides oversight to the police department. Deputy public defender Jami Tillotson filed an OCC complaint over her arrest inside the courthouse at 850 Bryant by the SFPD as she stood up for her client.

The OCC is barred by state law from discussing any complaints or even confirming or denying one has been lodged, or if a police officer is being investigated. Adachi wrote to me saying his office would wait to see how transparent the OCC was, which surprised me since he's surely aware of the above facts.

My inquiry to the OCC generated this response on Tuesday:

"The OCC is in receipt of your email to Director Joyce M. Hicks, wherein you wish to know whether the OCC has received a complaint related to the arrest of Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson, and whether our investigators are investigating any allegations. You have also requested information about any such complaint and the name of who may be handling it in our office. 

"Please note that State law prohibits us from releasing information to members of the public about whether complaints or inquiries have been filed with our office against police officers. [...] 
Given statutory protections and prohibitions, the OCC must therefore decline to provide you the information you seek."

That response was sent over to Adachi and his office provided me with this statement on Wednesday:

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant. That is why our office regularly releases video footage and documents of suspected police misconduct. I believe the OCC and all city agencies should be similarly transparent. Unfortunately, laws that protect police privacy, including the 2006 Copley Press v. Superior Court, have ensured that misconduct investigations are often carried out in the dark. Any information we receive from the OCC investigation into Ms. Tillotson's complaint we will share with the public." 

This news, that Adachi wants full transparency at the OCC and is committed to releasing the findings from the complaint in question is, well, a welcomed giant ray of warm sunshine. It immensely pleases this open government advocate to learn of Adachi and his office's position to improve police oversight via expanded openness.

(Tillitson, left, and Adachi, announcing the filing of their OCC complaint.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Will Campos Release His Maximus Monster Condo Emails?

It is never too early to file a sunshine complaint. Follow my email trail regarding obtaining public records from Campos -- his emails with or about the Maximus Partners development firm. He needs a heaping of pressure about the changing Mission district, which is why I'm calling his b.s. that he won't attend the March 4th meeting organized by Maxiumus because the company erred by putting his name on a flyer as a cosponsor. Small potatoes and no excuse for Campos and his City Hall staff to get themselves to the meeting, just to hear what the public has to say. Staying away will equal cowardice on Campos' part.

Let's see if I hear from Team Campos by the close of biz today:

Me to Campos, email Feb. 23 at 11:26 am:

"This is an immediate disclosure request for copies of all emails sent or received by you or anyone in your City Hall office related in any manner to Maximus Partners, their monster condo proposal for 16th and Mission Streets, anyone at Maximus Real Estate Partners or employed by them including the two lobbyists you met with in 2014.

"My request is for public records from January 1, 2014, through February 23, 2015.

"If you have any questions, shoot them over to me via email. Please confirm receipt of this IDR by the close of business today."

When I didn't hear from Team Campos by noon today, this complaint was lodged:

"Sunshine Ordinance Task Force
City Hall

"I wish to file a complaint against Supervisor David Campos for failure to comply with the law governing immediate disclosure requests, which mandates that he respond within 24-hours to such a request. The law states:

"When does the City have to respond to my public records request?
"The City has ten days to respond to a public records request. If you request records that are voluminous, in off-site storage or several different offices have the records, the time to respond to the request can be extended by 14 days. Citizens may also make an "Immediate Disclosure Request." Departments must respond to Immediate Disclosure requests within 24 hours after receipt of the request. However, departments can, in appropriate cases, extend the time to respond by 14 days.
"As you see in the email below, which was sent to Campos and several of his staffers more than 24-hours ago, I requested public records from them. Unfortunately, Campos and his aides have failed to acknowledge receipt of my request.Therefore, in my opinion, they have violated the Sunshine Ordinance and I request a full investigation by the SOTF."

Here is the response from Victor Young, the administrator of the SOTF:

"I am in receipt of your complaint against Supervisor David Campos.   However, please be aware that Supervisor Campos has until the end of business today to respond to your request. I will process your complaint tomorrow morning." 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Are SF DPH's Annual Truvada & HIV Drug Costs?

Last Thursday, I made this public records request to the San Francisco Department of Public Health:

"I need the following information from SF DPH and ask that you share this request, if you're not the right person to gather the data I'm seeking. Let's get to my specifics:

"From 2005 through 2014, the cost per year paid by the department for all HIV/AIDS and hepatitis medicines, listed alphabetically if possible.

"Is the department tracking annual costs just for Truvada, Combivir, Sovaldi, etc, as I would hope?

"I'd like to learn which drugs are most and least distributed to patients, see fluctuations or patterns of what patients are taking exact costs of each drug that is paid for by the department."

This is the response I received today from Nancy Sarieh, spokeswoman for DPH:

"The information you are requesting is not available. Fulfilling your public records request would require developing a custom report from our pharmacy drug distributor for each of the DPH locations that purchase drugs. This custom report does not already exist."

It's surprising that our health department, often described as a leader in AIDS issues, is not tracking how much is spent annually on individual drugs. 

How are we to know if Truvada prescriptions and the amount of the drug provided to DPH clients is up, down or stable? Should we have such data on not just HIV and hepatitis drugs, but all drugs purchased by DPH with tax dollars?

I would think such data would assist epidemiologists, public health officials and HIV prevention groups in myriad ways. Maybe this is a matter for the HIV Prevention Planning Council to delve into at a future meeting.

Let's follow the money!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Campos Must Speak at Maximus Condo Forum on March 4

Ever since the plans for a monster condo at the 16th Street BART Plaza in District 9 were made public, Sup. David Campos has steadfastly sat on the fence regarding fears of displacement among hundreds of Mission residents.

On Wednesday, March 4, community members and folks associated with the Plaza 16 Coalition, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, Our Mission/No Eviction and the Latino Democratic Club are turning out for the presentation of Maximus Partners' latest plans for their development at Mission and 16th Street.

It's crucial that Campos get off the fence and take a stand on March 4 and speak at the forum about his concerns regarding Maximus Partners.

He's maintained neutrality claiming he may one day have to vote on matters related to the Maximus Partners, but remaining neutral in these desperate housing times is a very lame excuse when leadership from Campos is needed. Campos can find a way to address the forum and still vote on any Maximus Partners business before the Board of Supervisors.

Frankly, it's been so disappointing that Campos and his City Hall staff have shown such little interest in the monster condo, but now that his campaign for state assembly is over and his legacy, not to mention the diversity of the Mission, are at stake and needs to tell us which side he on.

In 2014, Campos had a meeting with a lobbyist from Maximus Partners in March and a separate meeting in July with a different lobbyists for the developer, according to Ethics Commission records, pictured. While he had time to speak with two Maximus Partner lobbyists, he never showed up at any Plaza 16 Coalition meetings last year, even just to listen.

The side of the grassroots and longterm Mission residents, small businesses and cultural venues, or the Maximus Partners side. It's time for Campos to choose a side.

We should accept no excuses from Campos about skipping the March 4 forum, to be held at the Laborers Local 261 Union Hall, located at 18th and Shotwell Streets.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekend Woof  #95: Young Igor Flexes & Poses

It's been way too long since I posted a collection of all-male pics, and just this week my straight friend Eddie asked why I hadn't updated this series in a while. When even a straight dude likes this photographic series, I have to keep him and other fans happy. Here are a batch of boys seen around town lately.

This is young muscle dude Igor who works at a Civic Center fitness center. He gave me a tour of the facility and did a few poses and flexes for me.

On top is my friend Andrew showing off his bicep and large tattoo, and the bottom photo is of a young reporter who saw me inside a public restroom and had to tell me he followed my campaign for supervisor.

Oh, this built weightlifter in blue sure made the long wait for my Muni bus at Haight and Market a wait I didn't mind enduring one bit. And how have the last two months been for you in terms of seeing male eye candy on the street, pleasing to you?
51 SF Shower Sites Ready for Use by Homeless Folks?

You sure learn a lot by attending the San Francisco fire commission meetings, including that the fire department recently take care of maintenance and repairs for several shower facilities inside City-funded firehouses.

Since an exact number of SFFD shower sites wasn't provided at the commission hearing where the cost of the repairs was broached, I filed a public records request for the info. According to the department, there are approximately 51 locations with working bathrooms and showers.

I am proposing that the city consider making those taxpayer-funded facilities available to the homeless on a limited basis, for use to urinate and defecate and also regain or maintain good hygiene. We are all painfully aware of the lack of such facilities for homeless people and it's a reason why we have the homeless, and drunk bar patrons, using the streets to pee-and-poop, and they until recently tried to bathe as best as possible at the restrooms in the library's main branch.

There simply are not enough toilets and showers for public use in San Francisco and a recent article by Joshua Sabatini in the Examiner reported these facts showing one part of the need for them in at least one shelter:

"Homeless advocates [have made a] $2.2 million city funding request [that] includes such items as installation of showers in the main emergency family shelter, First Friendship."

While we wait for that request to be considered and showers potentially installed at First Friendship, let's open select firehouses around the city during restricted hours without hindering the ability of SFFD personnel to respond to emergencies.

Bevan Dufty, the Mayor's homeless czar, was asked to weigh in on this proposal and he replied:

"When I was District 8 Supervisor, I know that facilities were available at Fire Station 26 that is adjacent to Walter Haas playground. In the case of Station 26, the restroom is immediately accessible upon entry, without accessing the private quarters, and I do not know if other stations have similar configurations.

"You have asked a good question and I will work to get good answers. Certainly any opportunity should be fully explored and we will apprise you as we learn more.  City government is closed for Monday's [President's Day] holiday so we will follow up Tuesday, [Feb. 17]."

Good of him to share this info about firehouse 26 and sorry to report Bevan didn't get back to me as promised. Also asked for an opinion was head of the Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, who said:

"Yes, I will be working with Bevan on this."

One firehouse I want to consider as a bathroom and shower facility for the homeless and other segments of the public, is firehouse 1 on Folsom between 5th and 6th Streets because it's so close to where many homeless folks live on the streets or down alleyways. This firehouse is a state-of-the-art facility opened in 2013.

Do you agree San Francisco citizens, department heads and elected officials need to debate opening firehouse bathrooms and showers to people who need them?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Who Did Sup. Avalos Meet With in 2014 & 2015?

Less than 24-hours is how long it took Frances Hsieh, legislative aide to Sup. John Avalos, to provide me with an electronic copy of the supervisor and his aides' meeting calendars for all of 2014 and January 2015. Such rapid compliance and turnaround after filing a public records request is rare and I salute Hsieh for her speed.

Avalos recently proposed legislation mandating all elected San Francisco officials and department heads maintain meeting calendars listing attendees at meetings and the organizations they represent. He is to be commended for this initiative which echos a key issue during my campaign for District 8 supervisor.

Hsieh sent me 130 pages of calendar info and I'm pleased to report that even though Avalos and staff were not required to include details about who they met with and what topic was discussed, such details are part of the calendars.

Two dates stand out and are shared in the combined image. In November, Avalos met with someone from the Ford Foundation about a bank, perhaps a municipal bank for low-income residents, and in December aide Jeremy Pollock met with a member of BART's board of directors, Tom Radulovich, to discuss "lots of wonky stuff".

I wish I could state that Avalos posted his calendar to his official supervisorial page, but he hasn't and let's hope he soon amends that city-funded page to include calendars.

Until then, you can read the entire 130-pages released to me this week at my Google docs page.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Castro Newsrack Clutter: Consolidation or Reinstallation?

The Department of Public Works' Newsrack Advisory Committee met at City Hall on Tuesday evening to hear testimony about pedmounts in the Castro business district. Among those speaking during public comment were Andrea Aiello of the Castro Benefit District, Daniel Bergerac of the Castro Merchants, Mike Yamashita of the Bay Area Reporter, and yours truly taping some of the meeting.

Here's Aiello's comment regarding the outcome:

"The committee decided they needed to do a walk through the neighborhood to examine each spot and assess ADA issues and other path of travel and sight line issues. Daniel and I asked Cynthia Hoe [DPW's program director for pedmounts] to include us in that walking tour of the news racks."

Bergerac shared this message the day after the hearing:

"I spoke to Steve Porter at Harvey’s, he is writing a letter opposing replacement the pedmount on the Castro Street side of the restaurant. This will cancel his plans of offering outside dinning, as there will not be enough space.  After 9 months of construction, he was counting on the revenue these tables would generate to help make back his numbers. 

"We need to continue to remind the committee, of the Twin Peaks being a historic landmark.  That preserving and providing visitors of a clear view of the bar is very important, especially for photo opportunities in front of the historic OPEN windows." 

I'm pleased the committee finally held a meeting at a convenient hour to consider the problems of too many pedmounts in the Castro and the high number of empty slots. The Castro business district has enough street furniture cluttering the sidewalks and consolidating existing pedmounts should be an option.

My hope is that other ordinary citizens and residents of the Castro support keeping as much public sidewalk space as possible for the public, and limit the imposition of corporate street clutter (pedmounts are advertising space), on the streets of San Francisco.

Check out the video of some of the public comments made on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BAR: U.S. Protection of LGBT Iraqis Questioned
Kudos to longtime LGBT global reporter Heather Cassell of the Bay Area Reporter for her comprehensive article today about the plight of gay Iraqis and whether the United States government is doing enough to help them. Big thanks to BAR editor Cynthia Laird for giving this story front-page placement in the paper's print edition today.
(Bodies of dead gay Iraqis lie on a street in Baghdad. Credit: Associated Press.)
Here are excerpts from the story and links to the referenced UK and US government files obtain through FOIA requests are at the end:
A dozen years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the government is reluctant to let LGBT Americans know what it was doing to protect gay Iraqis at the height of the violence against them.
The U.S. government isn't willing to disclose much information about what it was doing to help LGBT Iraqis during the invasion of the Middle Eastern country, according to a heavily redacted report issued five and a half years after it was requested.
The redacted documents followed alarming reports issued last year by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The November 2014 reports, titled " When Coming Out is a Death Sentence: Persecution of LGBT Iraqis," and "We're Here: Iraqi LGBT People's Accounts of Violence and Rights Abuse," addressed the current situation for LGBT Iraqis, who experienced an uptick in violence in the second half of 2014.
The reports confirm the rash of murders of gay Iraqis at the hands of militias but debunked other claims that more than 100 gay Iraqis were sitting on death row.
The Bay Area Reporter was provided with the government reports from the United Kingdom and the U.S. The reports were obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests that were filed with both countries in June 2009 by Michael Petrelis, a gay San Francisco activist with Gays Without Borders.
Petrelis didn't receive the heavily redacted 19-page FOIA report until early December 2014. That was five and a half years after he received the U.K.'s 51-page FOIA response that wasn't so heavily censored. [...]
"Like most Americans, I've been concerned about the American war in Iraq and the troubles it's unleashed, including the torture against gay people," said Petrelis, 55, who filed an appeal to his FOIA request to the State Department in late December.
"As gay advocates we have to be concerned that information was not released in a timely manner," Petrelis added. "Five and a half years is not acceptable in terms of releasing this information and then what was released was redacted."
Human rights experts Becca Heller, director and co-founder of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, and Jessica Stern, executive director of IGLHRC, agreed with Petrelis, stating that the U.S.'s lack of rapid response to a FOIA request in regard to human rights issues is a concern.
Stern stated that the law provides that the U.S. should fulfill requests in a timely manner.
"Five years could not be considered a timely manner," she said.
Stern pointed out that the U.K. was just coming to the conversation regarding foreign policy dealing with LGBT issues, and she hadn't seen much in terms of LGBT Iraqis.
"I can't comment on what the government of the United Kingdom has done on Iraq. I haven't seen a lot from them from the British government, which leads me to believe that this has not been a priority concern of theirs," Stern told the B.A.R., despite being provided the U.K. 2009 FOIA report. "But there also haven't been British organizations consistently lobbying their government to take up this issue. [...]
"The U.S. has actually addressed issues of LGBT Iraqis," Stern said. "It has raised issues of LGBTI Iraqis in bilateral affairs going back seven years. It's funded the evacuation of LGBTI Iraqis. It has supported the effort of a broad range of Iraqi organizations to address gender-based violence."
However, she believed the U.S. and other governments could do more. [...]
Part 1: Revealing what was being done
The B.A.R. found all but one of the documents included in the redacted U.S. FOIA report on WikiLeaks, as well as another document that wasn't included in the report that addressed the situation of LGBT Iraqis in Iraq. All but one of the reports was unredacted. [...]
In the reports, officials of the three governments confirmed a rash of murders of gay men were at the hands of militias. This was after reports of kidnappings of gay Iraqi men by militias who tortured them – even gluing their anuses shut and feeding them laxatives until they died – surfaced in American and Iraqi media in 2009.
It was these reports that prompted Petrelis to file a FOIA request in a quest to find out what the U.K. and U.S. were doing in Iraq, particularly what they were doing to protect LGBT Iraqis, he said. [...]
However, Wijdan Selim, the minister of human rights of Iraq, confirmed in the report that claims of more than 100 LGBT Iraqis sitting on death row that came from Iraq LGBT, a UK-based organization that is now defunct, weren't valid. Additionally, evidence of claims from the same organization that individuals were convicted of homosexuality wasn't found in an investigation, she said in a 2009 report.
Representatives of Iraq, the U.K. and the U.S. attributed a "spate of murders of homosexual men in Baghdad" early in April 2009, to militias responding to religious leaders' calls to "eradicate homosexuality" or for families to reclaim so-called family honor. [...]
Some of the ISF members sided with religious leaders and militias on the gay issue, in spite of homosexuality not being illegal for adults in Iraq, she informed U.K. and U.S. officials during a meeting in April, according to the July 10, 2009 report. But the law is vague, being left open to interpretation; for example by some Iraqi religious leaders and communities who consider homosexuality a crime under Islamic (Sharia) law.
Extremist religious leaders and militias, such as the Jaysh al-Mahdi and the Badr Brigade, were already campaigning for people to turn in anyone they believed to be homosexual. Muqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the Jaysh al-Mahdi, "ordered that the 'depravity' of homosexuality be eradicated," on May 29, according to a July 10, 2009 state department email.
Police were infiltrated with followers of the extremist militias.
In portions of the redacted reports, Selim pointed to the increasing rise of "Islamization of Iraqi society," during a December 14, 2009 meeting with Jeffrey Feltman, then assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. LGBT Iraqis told Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) officials that they feel the "Islamization of Iraqi society discriminates against them," as one of the main concerns that LGBTs cited. [...]
However, Selim expressed concern, along with other ministries of human rights, including the Kurds, that pushing the LGBT issue would increase violence against the vulnerable community. Overall, there wasn't a desire within Iraq to raise the LGBT issue or to help LGBTs for fear of a backlash. MoHR was also overwhelmed with other pressing issues, such as sex trafficking, according to the reports.
Mohanad Lateef, a 45-year-old gay Iraqi photographer who escaped to the U.S., agreed, pointing out in an interview that, "It's difficult to protect a minority when you are not protecting the majority."
Selim informed Feltman that "her ministry is working to ensure the rights of all Iraqis," but she warned, "raising the specific issue of LGBT murders would only make this community a bigger target for extremists," during the December 14, 2009 meeting, according to the report. [...]
Selim wasn't convinced by Feltman's reassurance that she wouldn't lose support when the coalition forces withdrew. Lack of support by the U.K. and U.S. was already occurring. She expressed frustration with lack of support from the two countries and that her warnings weren't being heeded by the government of Iraq.
The WikiLeaks reports revealed that the U.S. was concerned about what was happening in Iraq, especially with the LGBT community. However, officials concealed that concern and the actions taken at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq to get LGBTs out of the country in April and May 2009.
Neither LGB members of Congress nor the State Department responded to multiple requests for comment.
Part 2: Disappointment and caution
"I'm disappointed that the U.S. State Department has not released more comprehensive information about what they were doing at the time to protect [LGBT] Iraqis," said Petrelis, critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, who were in their first year of office at the time.
"You don't get any sense of what our government was doing to protect the gays at the time," Petrelis said, after reading the unredacted WikiLeaks reports. [...]
Human rights experts and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres wouldn't comment on the U.K. and U.S. policies in Iraq then or now, but they acknowledged their concerns for LGBT Iraqis. The UNHCR added its willingness to help LGBT Iraqis leave the country, if necessary.
However, the U.K. FOIA report shows that the country was working with human rights and global LGBT rights groups, including the LGBT Iraqi group, to grasp the alleged human rights violations against LGBT Iraqis and how to best handle it. The U.K. report also showed that the Dutch government also expressed concern about the homophobic murders of Iraqi LGBTs and was working with the U.K. to attempt to solve the issue. The U.K. report showed that the country was involved in the conversation in 2009.
"There is still every reason for human rights advocates and gay activists to say we want gay people protected in Iraq," argued Petrelis.
Petrelis believes then and now that there is "every reason for American gays to be concerned about our State Department and what it did or did not do in 2009." In his mind, an informed LGBT community and allies can help the government help protect LGBT Iraqis.
1. UK Foreign Office, July 2009, part one.
2. UK Foreign Office, July 2009, part two.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Latin Seniors at Planning Commish: 'Transit Service, Not Lip Service!'

About thirty-minutes into an informal Planning Commission forum at the Women's Building tonight, a couple of longtime Latin residents of the Mission yelled their complaints about the commission's process for implementing changes of a lot of public services and spaces in the Mission district.

Much of the evolution in the works from the commission and Muni for the Mission fails to address the deep, daily worries of long-term residents, small businesses and cultural venues without the deep pockets of the techies moving into the neighborhood. If you've got a six-figure income, copious cash in the bank and a robust savings-and-investment portfolio, you have little to worry about regarding your housing and basic needs.

Everyone else for whom the latest tech boom isn't providing affordable housing and crucial social services, because the profits of the sharing economy don't trickle down to thousands of ordinary San Francisco residents, has myriad reasons to worry about the planning process and goals.

As I learn the tricks of using my new video cameras, I ask you to bear with me on the shaky camera and audio recording. The important thing is I captured the voices and faces not only of those fine neighbors of mine letting out their pains and worries, impossible for the two dozen City workers to ignore, but also got on tape the applause and nodding heads of approval from others.

Act up, fight back, fight for the Mission!

Vid: SFFD Debates Airing Meetings on TV

The question before the San Francisco fire commission is not if but when and from where they will begin broadcasting their meetings on SFGovTV.

At the Feb. 12 meeting, held at the fire department's headquarters at Second and Townsend Streets, where only one bus line stops directly at the building, the commissioners debated the cost of airing the meetings. Two commissioners, whom I laud for their pro-transparency and accessibility views, Ken Cleaveland and Francee Covington, continue to lead the charge to get meetings televised and from City Hall.

Cleaveland, in the video, makes an argument I've also put forward. There are other commissions dealing with less public safety concerns, such as the entertainment and taxi commissions, that meet at City Hall and televise and stream their hearings.

IMHO, City Hall is where the meetings should take place because it would save taxpayers money and is exceedingly easier to access via Muni buses, street cars, light rail vehicles, BART trains, and bicycling, not to mention has a huge underground parking lot at Civic Center, amenities lacking at SFFD headquarters.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Board of Supes' Slush Fund Allocations: 2014 & 2015
The City Controller's Office responded on Tuesday to my public records request for the breakdown of how each member of the Board of Supervisors spent their district allocation of $100,000.
Having six-figures in discretionary money to spread around the district is classic slush fund politics and helps these elected officials shore up goodwill.

Highlights of 2014 allocations include London Breed spent $5,000 last year on dog poop bags and dispensers, Jane Kim used $17,250 for three portable toilets, and David Campos gave $45,000 to enhance the community garden character of the Portola area, $30,000 to finish a mural at the Bernal library and $25,000 for community engagement related to the Mission Homeless Navigation Center.
Information for January 2015 shows Campos has spent his $100,000 for the year. To his credit, he gave $40,000 in rental subsidies to families with children displaced by the late January fire at Mission and 22nd Streets, $35,000 to foster community gardening in the Portola district and $25,000 to the same homeless center.
You can read all the data from the City Controller's Office in the photo album below.

District 1: 2014

District 2, District 3: 2014

District 4: 2014

District 5: 2014
District 6: 2014

District 7, District 8: 2014

District 9, District 10: 2014

District 11: 2014

2015: District 1, District 2, District 3, District 4, District 5

2015: District 6, District 7, District 8

2015: District 9, District 10, District 11

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why is SF Mime Troupe Holding a Community Meeting Next Week?

There's a flyer taped to a utility pole on Valencia Street tonight urging attendance at an important Mission district neighborhood forum on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Good to see outreach on the street from the San Francisco Mime Troupe. The forum will start at 7:30 pm a their building at 855 Treat Avenue. Their web site contains a truncated version of the flyer's text:

"We are all aware of the influx of newcomers to the area and how it has affected available space for a variety of uses. Many artists and neighborhood groups have been displaced and cannot afford skyrocketing rents. We want to be able to make changes to our building that would make it possible for community use when available. 

"We are now in the early stages of a feasibility study that would inform us of what we can and can't do to the property.

"We want to share our home with a community that is working for positive solutions to challenging issues, one that is inclusive rather than divisive. That's why we need to hear from as many of you as possible! Please come and be prepared to listen and talk."

It's a regular meeting-apalooza happening around and about the Mission in the next two weeks. Before we see what transpires at the Mime Troupe forum, we first have to get through the Planning Commission's town hall on Wednesday, Feb. 18 from 6 to 8 pm at the Women's Building on 18th Street near Valencia:

"The final meeting of the Mission Public Life Plan will unveil the results of the Streetscape Design Survey. The survey results will include priorities for sidewalk amenities and programs to maintain and enhance Mission Street as a vital transit corridor with art, commerce, public for all people to enjoy." 

Plans from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency is a co-sponsor of the meeting and will present Muni's plans for enhanced services in the Mission, with an emphasis on the 14 and 14 Limited lines. At the January meeting, according to the Mission Local site, activists derailed the Planning Commission's agenda with complaints about gentrification and continuing displacement.

Then on Thursday, Feb. 19 starting at 6 pm at St John's Episcopal Church on Julian Street near 15th, the Plaza 16 Coalition is holding a community-wide discussion about how best to react to planned condo construction in the vicinity of the 16th Street BART Plaza. Here's what will be discussed:

"We know we don't want the Monster at Plaza 16. What DO we want? We NEED your ideas, your input, and your help! The first Plaza 16 community meeting of 2015 is going to be crucial. We are going to help launch a new community-driven process to develop a community-serving vision and plan for 16th and Mission."

Which meetings to attend? Not sure if I'll go to any of them but I'm confident all three meetings will generate much social media and in-person chatter afterward, so we'll all learn what idea were presented and debated, who spoke and what decisions were made.

Since the Mission district is (not so well) represented by Supervisor David Campos, I checked his City Hall site and his Facebook page to learn of any other forums and see how he was promoting the three meetings. He has no newsletter for this month at his official site and his last newsletter came out in October 2013, while his Facebook postings omit details on these crucial meetings in District 9 that will eventually help determine the future of Mission.
Are you committed to participating in any of these gatherings?
SFPD to Enforce No Skateboarding on Sidewalks Law

Mike and I live about three blocks away from the city-own skater park on Stevenson and Duboce, and while we're glad to see that lot under the freeway transformed into a public space from a parking lot we're confronted daily with problem skateboarders.

I wrote to Capt. Dan Perea, the commanding officer of the Mission police station and Rachel Gordon, the public info officer for the Department of Public Works, about skaters barreling down Duboce Street's hilly sidewalks, weaving in and out among Valencia Street's pedestrian-crowded and narrow sidewalks, or going against traffic in the bicycle lanes of the Valencia corridor.

The SFPD and DPW were asked to address our worries by enforcing the law prohibiting skateboarding on sidewalks and erecting signs reminding the skater community of this law, and to respect the safety concerns of everyone who uses the streets and sidewalks.

Here's Perea's response:

"Thank you for your email. Officers have been informed of your concern regarding the activity of individuals riding skateboards on the sidewalk and in the wrong direction in lanes designated for bicycles. These lanes are designed for directed one-way traffic flow and enforcement efforts will be undertaken." 

This is Gordon's reply:

"I have already made inquiries regarding the process for putting up signs. I will get back to you have I get the information, and then we can decide how to proceed."

Thanks, SFPD and DPW, for moving on out request!

We reached out to Sup. Jane Kim's office because the Stevenson Street skate park is in her district and her aide Sunny Angulo requested we come to a neighborhood meeting in March, where skater representatives might be present. Since we can't make that meeting, we asked for the contact info of the reps and were told they don't want it given out.

An email addressed to the skater reps with whom Kim's office interacts was sent to Angulo, with a request that she forward it to the reps because we'd be more than happy to sit down with them and discuss our safety issues.  I'll follow with Kim's office about all of this and see what assistance they can give us now that the SFPD and DPW are taking action.

With San Francisco's public spaces, especially in the Mission, becoming more dense with our growing population of new residents moving into recently completed condos, more cars and bikes on the streets, increasing numbers of tourists and party-goers activating the Mission and Duboce neighborhood, we all need to work together to craft policies and develop a street culture that keeps everyone safe from injuries and respects the needs of all users of public streets.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Take a Trans Friend to Lunch Vid: Veronika & Michael
One personal response to the five tragic killings of transgender women of color so far in 2015, was my individual declaration of Valentine's Day as Take a Trans Friend to Lunch Day.
My longtime fabulous friend Veronika Fimbres, who just happens to be a trans woman of color, agreed to join me this afternoon for some gab and grub.

We enjoyed ourselves tremendously siting at a sidewalk table at the Castro's Cafe Flore. Between Veronika and I, we saw so many pals and acquaintances I lost count, and we said hello to men and boys we just wanted to be friendly with on this sunny, warm day.
Here's our video from this afternoon. Do you agree we need to celebrate and cherish our transgender buddies, and that we look marvelous together?
Contact one of your trans friends and take him or her out to lunch!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reinstall the Castro's Newsracks? City Hall Hearing on 2/17 

Has it really been five-and-a-half years since I first called attention to the unsightly and mostly empty news rack pedmounts cluttering San Francisco's sidewalks, and pushed to have therm removed or their numbers greatly reduced?

Since then, the Department of Public Works' Newsrack Advisory Committee has resisted my lobbying to have the members hold their meetings during early evening hours instead of the first hour of a business day, and to also publicize the meetings to ensure community engagement.

I've finally won this battle against City Hall. DPW's newsrack program manager Cynthia Hoe shared this info today with me:

"This email is to inform you that a News Rack Advisory Committee Meeting has been scheduled for:

"Tuesday, February 17, 2015
5:30 PM
City Hall Rm. 416

"This meeting is to discuss and receive public comment regarding the reinstallation of pedmounts in the Castro." 

I know of only a handful of folks in the Castro who care about these pieces of street furniture that double as more intrusive corporate advertising on public property. 

To be honest, considering it's taken so many years to persuade DPW to hold a hearing at a convenient time, because of objections from the newspaper and publishing industries and their delivery truck drivers and ClearChannel which maintains the pedmounts, I know it's gonna take a few more citizens and activists to speak up to prevent the city from reinstalling pedmounts in the Castro.

If public space advocates are to reclaim a small portion of the municipal landscape in the gayborhood, which could lead to a consolidation or reduction of existing newsracks, we must lobby DPW's program manager. Send her an email today:

Hope to see you at the hearing on Tuesday.

Pedmount on 17th near the corner with Castro Street before the redesign of Jane Warner Plaza.

To expand the plaza's sidewalk, the newsrack was removed. As this "after" photo demonstrates, there's more needed space for pedestrians and folks in wheelchairs with the pedmount deleted.