Friday, January 30, 2015

Misspelled Castro Plaques Not Sold to Aid Transgender Folks

Never expect accountability and transparency from civic leaders in the Castro gayboyhood and friends of Supervisor Scott Wiener, and you'll never be disappointed or surprised.

In September, after embarrassing typos were noticed on the LGBT Rainbow Honor Walk plaques embedded in the sidewalks of the Castro, the man responsible for the plaques, PR guru David Perry, and his friend writer Armistead Maupin, promised to sell the misspelled plaques to aid transgender folks. After a week of rooting around for answers, Perry finally contacted me. Let's unpack his email.

Perry: "I am on sabbatical until March 1 and not online. I was just now made aware of your query. Because of wise and generous counsel from the Transgender Law Center, we were able to correct -- and improve -- the replacement Christine Jorgensen plaque. We reached out to TLC as colleagues and friends as soon as the initial error came to our attention. During those initial days, it was felt that perhaps an auction of the incorrect plaques might be beneficial." 

MP: How curious he found the means to get back to me, even though he's supposedly off-line all the time these days. I'm not aware of anyone who thought selling the incorrect plaques was a smart more and wondered who the heck would waste money on them. Perry omits names of who allegedly felt an auction was appropriate.

Perry: "However, after careful reconsideration it was decided that the most respectful thing to do -- in consideration of Jorgensen's legacy and out of respect for the entire Transgender community -- would be to not allow a plaque with less than perfect language to go out into the public or private hands. To do so could, potentially, lead to further misinformation and possible misunderstandings. Out of respect for the Transgender community, we shelved the idea of an auction."

MP: After garnering barrels of ink after Perry and Maupin announced the auction, and a lotta forgiveness and let's just move on attitude from Wiener, an opaque reconsideration took place out of public view. Clutching his pearls and again invoking the plight of transgender people, Perry stated the auction was swept under the rug, er, called off.

Too bad Perry never informed the Transgender Law Center about all of this. Here is what Nathan Harris of the center wrote to me earlier this week:

"Thanks Michael and sorry for my delay in responding to you. In part that’s due to the fact that I’ve been trying to find an answer to your questions. I’ll let you know when I know more. To my knowledge, Transgender Law Center was named as the beneficiary of the Jorgensen plaque auction. Hunting down more details."

Sure doesn't sound as though Perry, in his "careful reconsideration" reached out to the beneficiary. To claim the auction was shelved out of respect for trans people, and then not communicate his new decision with the TLC is just more b.s. from Perry still covering his ass.

Perry: "Again, I apologize if this information was not conveyed to you before and thanks for your follow through on this issue."

Well, since Perry and his PR machine, and Maupin and Wiener, have all been silent about the promises made in September, how was I or anyone supposed to learn about the "reconsideration"? 

This accountability failure from Perry, Maupin and Wiener is worth noting for the homo history books.

(Photo and image taken from Maupin's Facebook page showing Perry next to the incorrect Oscar Wilde plaque. Not sure why Maupin said the sale would benefit the Rainbow Honor Walk in his message, when TLC was to receive the money raised.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pit Stop Toilets Needed in the Castro

There may be a free public toilet kiosk on Market Street near Castro, on the sidewalk near the Chevron station, but it's not enough for all the folks who need to pee. 

While a lot homeless folks piss in various spots of the Castro's central business district and surrounding streets, let's bear in mind the many non-homeless bar patrons and visitors to the gayborhood, especially on the weekends, who pee on the streets.

One particularly pungent pee smelling area is around the bulletin board on 18th Street, just past the Walgreens store, at the entrance to a small parking lot.

When I announced my candidacy for District 8 Supervisor last spring, I staged a presser at the kiosk toilet and called for expanded free public toilets, along with shower facilities, for everyone to make good use of. We need to address the public health hazards inherently present with so much pee and poop on the streets, and no rain to wash it all away.

I'd like to see the City install the Pit Stop toilets in the Castro, and which are a huge success in the Tenderloin. There are other features and benefits, according to a recent Bay City News story:
"The pilot [Pit Stop] program is a partnership with the city Department of Public Works and nonprofit San Francisco Clean City Coalition making available portable toilets and sinks, used needle receptacles and dog waste stations.
"The facilities are staffed through the coalition and moved to the sites by truck, according to the public works department. The toilets run on solar power and are cleaned off-site everyday, city public works officials said."
Very impressive that the toilets also help reduce canine poop and needles on the sidewalks. Will Castro leaders agree to investigate Pit Stops for the gayborhood?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's in the FBI File on Matthew Shepard?

Not much. The feds responded in less than eight weeks to my FOIA request for the file on Matthew Shepard. Last week the FBI snail-mailed 28-pages to me and I've posted all of them here.

The file contains memos from the FBI to the crime lab in Cheyenne, Wyoming, confirming specimens for DNA and other forensic testing were received in Washington. That's it.

I expected the FBI to release a file about the death of Shepard and the investigation regarding the circumstances under which he was killed, but it appears such a federal file does not exist.

Here are two-pages from what the FBI sent me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Brunch At HRC's Castro Store: Queer 99% to Protest the LGBT 1% 

Queer social justice advocates will converge on the Human Rights Campaign's souvenir store on Castro Street in San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 31, at noon in solidarity with ACT UP/New York's protest on the same date outside HRC's gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

The Bay Area advocates are upset with HRC for the following reasons:
- No concern for needs of poor and low income LGBT people

- No agenda promoting construction of affordable housing, a living wage and access to higher education

- No action response to the national outcry against police killing Black, Brown & Transgender people.

- No global gay plan that respects the work of local LGBT folks and group's working on international issues

- No incorporation of progressive and economic justice concerns in HRC's Corporate Equality Index

ACT UP/New York is calling on HRC to address HIV related matters including workplace discrimination and preventing new infections. 

In San Francisco, activists will be at HRC's store at 575 Castro Street on Jan. 31 from noon till 1:00 pm. Light brunch nibbles will be available.

There will be a speak out at Harvey Milk's old camera shop from the queer 99% about social and economic justice, with a special focus on fully embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Among the endorsers and organizers of the West Coast action are Veronika Fimbres, African-American trans leader; Tommi Avicolli Mecca, housing rights advocate; Melanie Nathan, global LGBT organizer; and Michael Petrelis, HIV positive activist.

Please join us!

For More Information:

Melanie Nathan

Brandon Cuicchi (NY): 
Phone: 1- 646.284.2948

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Angela Lansbury, Mike & My 56th Birthday

The legendary trouper Angela Lansbury is 89 and on tour with a fabulously entertaining production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit", which Mike and I had the pleasure of catching last night at the Golden Gate Theatre.

I'm turning 56 tomorrow, Monday, January 26, and it's a memorable birthday weekend in a number of ways. Just being alive and still acting up when necessary, appreciating the gifts of having loving friends and family and the joy of living with Mike, are the best presents I could receive.

Oh, it's also a terrific, sunny San Francisco day and my plan for later today is to see a good late career film by Jean-Luc Godard, "In Praise of Love", at the Pacific Film Archive over in Berkeley. 

Please join me in celebrating life, seeing Angela Lansbury live on stage again, every single birthday, the challenges of Godardian cinema and every thing else that keep the world spinning.

Friday, January 23, 2015

SF's Only Print Copy of Charlie Hebdo, Mohammed & Me

Three likely San Francisco venues where a print version of last week's Charlie Hebdo might be found - Fog City News, Cafe de la Presse, the Alliance Francaise - do not carry or subscribe to the controversial French publication.

But the humor collection of the main library on the sixth floor is, as far as I can determine, the only location in the city where Charlie Hebdo on paper.

I was there today to glance at it and giggle at the small portion of cartoons and texts I could understand, and had a librarian snap a photo of me holding the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo with Prophet Mohammed on the cover under the headline, "All is forgiven". Prophet Mohammed holds a "Je suis Charlie" sign as he sheds one large tear.

Sure, the issue is on the web but if you're the kind of free expression advocate and practitioner who likes the feel of newsprint and holding a physical copy of a newspaper, stop by the library on Grove Street and hold it in your hands as you read it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tom Ammiano Cancelled Tonight's Forum in the Mission

A sign was posted at the 518 Valencia political and cultural center announcing that progressive LGBT leader Tom Ammiano is sick with the flu, so his scheduled meeting was canceled.

I wish him a full recovery after getting all the rest he needs and applaud him staying home when sick, both for his health and that of others who might catch the bug he's got if he ventured out.

One of the group's sponsoring tonight's forum, the Progressive Democrats of America's San Francisco chapter, shared the cancellation on their Facebook page where a post from December said his planned meeting last meeting was put on hold due to the big storm.

Let's hope Tom gets well and is soon finally holding his forum with us.

SF Chron Invents New Oscar Acting Category!?

The Academy Award nominees announced last week and the omission of black-theme films and African-American actors, directors and other moviemaking talents this and in previous years, generated much good commentary about Hollywood and diversity.

A caption for a photo in the Jan. 21 San Francisco Chronicle, "Ben Affleck, who played a Latino in 'Argo', Accepts an Oscar for the Outstanding Performance by a Cast award", running with a column by syndicated Washington Post writer Ruben Navarrette Jr., invented a new acting category for the Oscars.

He's concerned about lack of recognition by the Academy Awards' governors and membership of Hispanic contributions to the movies, invented a new acting category for the Oscars.

There is no Outstanding Performance by a Cast category for the Oscars and the statuette in Affleck's hand is not a golden Academy Award. Oops.

To compound the incorrect information, today's Chronicle's corrections print and online section contains no correction about the photo's caption. Let's hope the paper gets around to addressing the mistake tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Were Castro's Misspelled LGBT Plaques Auctioned Off for Charity?

The Rainbow Honor Walk is a project headed by gay publicist David Perry, who in September unveiled the bronze plaques featuring various LGBT folks embedded in the sidewalks of the Castro district.

Much embarrassment ensued because "biting" was misspelled in Oscar Wilde's plaque and Christine Jorgensen was mistakenly described as "transgendered".

In response to the outcry demanding to know why Perry and his board of directors hadn't checked the spelling and grammar before debuting the plaques, Perry said he'd auction off the grammatically incorrect plaques and donate the money raised to gay charities.

I tweeted to Perry and Armistead Maupin in December, asking if the auction had gone forward and if so, how much funding when to the charities. Since I've not heard from them, I sent a note to Perry via his PR firm's site requesting followup info.

Once I hear back from Perry with answers to my questions, I'll update this post.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

'Homeless Cleansing' Under Mission Street Freeway Exit

It appears the San Francisco Police Department has eradicated the homeless population that was encamped along two stretches of Division Street, from Folsom to under the Mission Street freeway exit.

There are usually at least three dozen individuals with shopping carts, bikes and equipment to fix them, tents and discarded mattresses and a good number of canines sleeping, eating or peeing in this area.

Not today. As Mike and I walked around the neighborhood, we noticed the cops and probably the Department of Public Works performed some "homeless cleansing" from the sidewalks and passageways under the freeway.

Instead of homeless people, there were SFPD metal barricades and yellow safety tape lining the sections where these folks once congregated.

So, these two blocks are currently cleansed of the homeless and sidewalks are now free of trash, poop and any encampments. The homeless problem there is now solved, right?

Of course not. The homeless folks have merely moved to another location, probably more out of sight of the cops and DPW workers.

Would you say this is more evidence the sharing economy of San Francisco and the record profits of established and emerging tech firms isn't trickling down to the streets and the people who live on them?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Polk Street Porn Shop Shutters

Another one bites the dust. San Francisco continues to lose commercial venues where men gather for the sexual company of other dudes.

Before you say there is diminishing need for sex clubs, bathhouses or glory hole arcades, allow me to states that not every horny man cruises the web and there is still a large segment of men who need such places.

I was on Polk Street yesterday and noticed the signage over the entrance to what used to be Frenchy's Adult Superstore was gone. Passersby informed me that the shop was emptied of its wares and shuttered in the early days of the new year. A sign in the window read:

"We appreciate your patronage over the 35 operation of this store . . . But that doesn't mean goodbye! Please visit our other locations!"

We'll see if the three other locations manage to stay in business. Support your local sex shop or glory hole today.

Friday, January 16, 2015

SFPD Discloses NYPD Funerals' Related Cost

I received this response today and we now know the number of cops paid to be at the funerals on the East Coast in recent weeks, and many tax-dollars were spent for their time in NYC:

"The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) received your request for information on Dec. 26, 2014.  We have looked into your request and respond as follows:

"Members officially detailed to the services by the Department were paid for their regularly scheduled on-duty hours.

"Please be advised that there is no specific City directive or legal citation [stating City funds will be spent for cops to attend funerals in other jurisdictions].  However, as a City department head, Chief Suhr has the authority to detail, assign and schedule employees to attend events, training and meetings.

"There were no additional related costs using City funds.  Members detailed by the Department were responsible for their own transportation, lodging and meals and could seek reimbursement from the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) for their expenses."

San Francisco paid out $7,797 for six personnel to participate in the first NYPD funeral and $9,626 for eight officers' attendance at the second funeral, for a grand total of $17,423.

At a time when politicians and the police force are saying they need more cops on the streets of San Francisco, should we be spending City funds to send 14 officers to the Big Apple?

The Oscars' IRS File: $91M Revenue & LAPD Donations

Did you know that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is a tax-exempt nonprofit that annually files an IRS 990 report? Yes, the Academy Awards and the Oscars' telecast are educational endeavors as defined by the Treasury Department and their tax filings are public records. My previous posts on their 990s are here and here.

According to the most current file, submitted to the IRS on May 8, 2014, the previous year's Oscar broadcast brought in $91,998,904 tax-free money. Nice chunk of change for providing education about the art of Hollywood movies to the general masses.

The Academy donated $10,000 in 2012 and also 2013 to the Los Angeles Police Department Foundation "to support the organization". The $20,000 in total donations stands out because the Academy principally gives to industry nonprofits. Read the Academy's tax reports here.

While the Oscar nominations this year have generated the genuinely truthful hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, we need to think about how #OscarsSoGreen is also a fitting hashtag. Never underestimate that the color of money drives Hollywood's business and creative decisions.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

75 Attend Outdoor Homeless Center Meeting

The City of San Francisco owns a large parcel of land on Mission between 15th and 16th Streets, currently occupied by bungalows last used by local public schools, and the property will soon become a homeless navigation center.

An estimated 75-people turned out tonight for a meeting at the site that was held in the courtyard, with loud generators providing flood-lighting and free standing patio heaters. A good number of attendees were from City Hall and various departments, along with representatives of local nonprofits.

The meeting was facilitated by Mayor Ed Lee's homeless point-man Bevan Dufty, who's spearheaded this project that should open in March. Homeless folks will be offered one-stop social services and a few nights of housing in a bungalow, all of which may equal a ticket off the streets.

I'm optimistic about the navigation center, in part, because of Dufty's managerial skills pulling this project together and the key role Muhammed Nuru of DPW is playing. These are two public officials who communicate regularly with stakeholders and generally deliver the good and goals they promise.

There wasn't a sound system so even with my hearing aids I was able to hear only a third of what was said. Not sure why the meeting wasn't held indoors where we could have heard and seen everyone.

In this video, longtime Latina community organizer Laura Guzman is speaking, you get a visual understanding of the meeting.

I hope to soon see the City feeding two birds with one seed. Putting the property and bungalows to excellent use and homeless folks gaining a new resource of direct assistance in a single location, is something this Mission resident supports.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Homeless Group's PR Helping Street People?

Do you think Matthew Gerring, the editor of the Coalition on Homelessness' paper the Street Sheet, advises homeless folk to think about what they're doing with their lives in response to a request for information? I don't.

Last week, I asked him about the direct impact of recent public relations moves on the COH's part, including a photo-op at the Powell Street BART station over the agency's sit-lie policies toward homeless folks and pro bono ads featuring homeless people, both of which generated much public discourse. 

Instead of providing answers Matthew sent the following reply, boasting of his agency's dedication (which I don't doubt) and acting as though this accountability activist has no business poking around the COH. I've long gotten over defensive nonprofit workers who believe just because their agency may have a small budget and good people they should be above intense scrutiny.
There's also the detail of Matthew giving the wrong info about COH's tax returns. First, it doesn't take a FOIA request to read them. Second, the amount spent by the sponsor of the social marketing campaign isn't contained in the returns.
The larger questions remained in need of answering by the COH. Has your PR in recent months directly made life better for the homeless? Here's Matthew's letter:

I make roughly minimum wage, part time, providing an income to over 150 people who have no other access to employment. My boss makes the same base salary. And we all just worked a shitlad of unpaid overtime to boost sales of the Street Sheet, give the vendors a raise, and give them some free clothing.

The COH has a budget of $300,000 annually. The City spent many times that on road construction last year,and you're picking a public fight with *us* for not doing more than we already do to help homeless people directly.

You need to stop, take a breath and really think about what you're doing with your life. If you have this much free time, file a public records act request for our tax documents. And while you're doing that, ask yourself if that time might be better spent doing something to directly help homeless people.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

SF Bulldog Baths Reopens As a . . .

The San Francisco DPH and the FDA each maintain a pernicious ban against gay men enacted at the height of AIDS alarmism in the early 1980s, ban in need of eradication.

Gay bathhouses are banned in San Francisco because DPH rules require all sexual activities in commercial venues must be visible to safety monitors, so cubicles with doors are prohibited.

For the FDA, recent tweaking of the regulations barring gays from ever donating blood allows gays to give blood as long as they've not had sex with another male for 12-months.

Essentially the SF DPH and FDA promulgate public policies based on severe distrust of gay men.

But I write today about the December soft opening of the Bulldog Baths at 132 Turk Street in the Tenderloin - a dog resort. (Are those canines practicing safe sex? Hehe.)

Visit the Bulldog Baths site to learn about their full range of doggie-daycare and other services for your pooch, and an overview of the building's history as a former gay bathhouse and the area's queer history including the Compton Cafeteria Riots.

Word on the very gritty street is that the first floor is for dog services and the upper two floors are in the process of being converted into residential housing units. Best of luck to the Bulldog Baths' owners.

I wish the City would not only allow gay bathhouses to reopen not only for sexual liaisons just during evening hours, but then also operate in the daytime as a public bathhouse for the homeless to shower and rest.

We're more likely to see the FDA lift its ban on gay blood donations before a gay and/or homeless bathhouse opens for business in San Francisco.

 Entrance to the Bulldog Baths with a rainbow flag flying over the doorway, plenty of signage and surveillance cameras.

 Anyone know how a large silver Airstream trailer was placed on top of the building? It's only visible if you are on the other side of the street, a few stores up from Aunt Charlie's bar.

The plaque marking the building are listed in the National Register of Historical Places still adorns the facade of 130-132 Turk Street.

Colorful signage reading "Playful" and "Enriching", terms I associate with gay bathhouses is well-hung off the fire escapes with a couple of rainbow flags blowing in the wind.

Monday, January 12, 2015

SFPD Withholds Suicide-by-Cop Surveillance Video

The body of Matthew Hoffman was barely cold before the San Francisco Police Department released what it said was a cell phone letter absolving officers of guilt in killing him on January 4 near the Mission Station.

Hours before he appeared in the station's parking lot at Valencia and 17th Streets, he was exhibiting clear signs on the street of mental health challenges, the SF Chronicle reported.

The paper quoted only SFPD sources and a narrative has been laid out by the cops that needs to be questioned, which is why I requested the surveillance tapes of the cameras on the station's property.

Here's the response from the SFPD's spokeswoman Briseida Banuelos: "[We have] determined that this case is still an open investigation and disclosure of the requested video at this time may endanger successful completion of that investigation. Please be advised that the case file records are exempt from public disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(f) as investigatory file information."

Surveillance video cannot be released to the public, but the dead man's alleged Dear Police Department letter giving them a pass for fatally shooting him is shared with the press.

One police accountability advocate, Mesha Irazarry, isn't taking anything the cops are saying at face value. She's pointed out Hoffman's phone must have been password-protected, making it impossible to gain access to his data, and that the language rings hollow and inauthentic from a mentally unstable person.

We need an independent watchdog, perhaps the Office of Civilian Complaints, to examine the cell.

The SFPD must face questions why it didn't handle the situation as one needing a psychological response instead of reacting so quickly with deadly force, and on a bustling street, and why officers didn't shoot-to-wound.

Every instance of an officer-involved killing needs serious scrutiny, particularly when the cops are the primarily source of info and the death concerns a potential suicide-by-cop tragedy.
 Mesha Irizarry speaks at the SFPD's January 6, 2015, town hall meeting about the killing. Credit: Michael Barba.

Chief Greg Suhr, left, address the town meeting and the death of Hoffman. Credit: Jonah Owen Lamb.
SD vs SF: Whose Gayborhood Streetscape is More Fab? 

On our last full day in San Diego last week, Mike and I strolled about the Hillcrest gayborhood and I snapped fotos of the colorful streetscape and fixtures taking up part of the public space.

We were struck by the gaily painted squat trash containers and bright photos glued to the utility boxes, and the rainbow hued bike racks in the street with each shaped like a bicycle.

Contrast those street fixtures in the photos with what's on the newly-expanded sidewalks of the Castro, at a cost of $8.3 million public dollars and no one thought to decorate San Francisco's trash containers or utility boxes. What's up with that?

I'd like to see our awful and boring silver metal staple bike racks reshaped and slapped with a coat of paint, giving the queer eye a thing of urban beauty to behold.

Which do you prefer? What do you think about the Castro following the eye-pleasing lead of Hillcrest and redecorating our street fixtures?

Weigh in on these urban streetscape questions and gimme a piece of your mind!

The photo montages show San Diego's boxes and a bike rack in glorious bursts of diverse colors on the left, and the institutional green and grey palate of San Francisco on the right.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sup. Campos' Kumbaya Homelessness Agenda

For a Latino gay progressive lawyer who's been a City Hall fixture for more than 15 years, David Campos has not left a trail of signature accomplishments in wake as he's moved from being a deputy city attorney, member of the police commission, elected to the Board of Supervisors and the Democratic County Central Committee.

This week's Bay Times contains a vague and platitudinous Campos column about homeless that could have been printed last year or five years ago when an LGBT shelter was first broached. Let's unpack key paragraphs.

Campos: "Many of the problems faced by homeless friends and neighbors are particularly acute for LGBTQ homeless people. 40% of our homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. In a survey of shelters conducted by the Coalition on Homelessness, over 70% of transgender residents have experienced violence at our city’s shelters because of their gender identity. This situation is heartbreaking and utterly unacceptable."

MP: No specifics from Campos as to how he will contend with these statistics and the pain of the people behind them.
(Site of the long aborning LGBT shelter in the Mission District. Credit: Rick Gerharter.)

Campos: "My office is working with community leaders on multiple fronts to address these ongoing issues in 2015. We are continuing to fight for more resources for organizations that serve the homeless population through the City’s budget process. We are working with Dolores Street Community Services to open a groundbreaking LGBTQ-focused shelter. This unique project will fill a vital need, and stand as the nation’s first and only LGBTQ adult shelter."

MP: Not a damn specific, measurable action item from the Campos office. When exactly will he present the community with weekly updates about specific steps he's taken with each city agency and community leader? Considering he hasn't been able to keep his promise to open the Tamale Lady's cafe on 16th Street, we can't count on Campos to deliver on opening that shelter in his district this year or before he's termed out of office.

Campos: "Concurrently, we are also working with City departments to identify spaces in our dense urban fabric that can accommodate short-term and long-term affordable housing and shelter spaces. Together, we are moving forward to implement these housing solutions within District 9 and in the City as a whole."

MP: More kumbaya verbiage illustrating just how hollow the Campos homelessness agenda really is.

Campos: "This work is essential as we determine San Francisco’s direction as a city. 2015 is a critical point where we all must ask ourselves: Will we allow San Francisco to become a luxury for those who can pay, or will it continue to be a home for all of the people who make this great city what it is?"

MP: Practically all of my friend and neighbors who were displaced in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, asked that question before moving to the East Bay or elsewhere. This was Campos' campaign theme and just like he did as a candidate in the past year, he continues to lack comprehensive answers.

As 2015 starts, I find no reason to expect Campos to change from being a mediocre career politician and evolve into a fierce fighter who delivers measurable results.
CHP's 1,400 Emails About Berkeley's Black Lives Protests?

Earlier this week, the California Highway Patrol updated my Dec. 12 public records request for emails sent or received by key officials, including the Golden Gate Division's chief, during the street protests in Berkeley related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The CHP's legal counsel Jonathan S. Rothman on Jan. 6 said they've located 1,388 "separate documents that appear relevant" to my request and the review process has now begun.

Using unnecessary legalese, Rothman explains "the completion of the review should result in the creation of three categories of materials". My request was for all emails to certain addresses regardless of content.

He also says their search "generated other categories of items" omitting any details as to what these items are or which category they belong in. I've asked to have those vague items reviewed and released to me.

Rothman notes that they can charge thirty cents a page for copies, but I've replied that the sunshine law requires state agencies to provide records in their native format, in this case emails, or to provide the requester with documents digitized.

My response also asked for dates of when the review process would conclude and when I might receive responsive records.

Nearly a month after filing the request, I am disappointed the CHP lacks urgency to release the emails. This agency has millions of taxpayer dollars to communicate with the public and comply with transparency statutes, and should be more diligent to expedite sunshine efforts.

Finally, I'm posting the image snapped by photographer Michael Short of an undercover CHP officer aiming a loaded gun at protesters and citizen and mainstream journalists. It is part of what motivated me to request CHP emails.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Cost to Upgrade Fire Chief's Residence?

At the Jan. 8 San Francisco fire commission meeting, chief financial officer Mark Corso spoke about the capital budget for the FY 15 and FY 16.

Corso said among the department's properties needing various upgrades was the fire chief's residence but the cost wasn't broken out from the total budget of upgrades. News to me that this ceremonial residence at 870 Bush Street is used by the department for vague purposes.

Commissioner Francee Covington asked for the amount of the upgrades and what would be rehabbed or replaced. Corso said the price tag was $630,000 while chief Joanne Hayes-White stated the exhaust system in the bathrooms need an overhaul.

Covington moved on to inquire about the entire lot including the apparently quite sizable patch of land behind the residence, which until a year ago was maintained by the Recreation and Parks Department.

The PowerPoint presentation by Corso was strictly for informational purposes and no vote was taken by the commission. Unfortunately, his slides are not available on the department's site so I can't direct folks to his info.

Airing the meetings on SFGov TV came up when Covington wondered if the cost of televising them from either City Hall or fire department headquarters was included in the capital budget. Both Covington and Hayes-White confirmed that it is.

I'd like to have a peek inside the fire chief's residence and it's green open space, along with learning the annual budget for maintaining this ceremonial city property.

Is $630,000 an appropriate amount for the upgrades requested?

(The fire chief's residence at 870 Bush Street. Credit: Mike Koozman, SF Examiner.)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Huge Rainbow Flagpole Activates Public Plaza 

While Mike and I were in San Diego last weekend, we made a visit to the Hillcrest Pride Flag display and public plaza, and saw that it's a marvelous instrument for engagement on many levels. Erected with much grassroots community support, small business backing and political power in 2012, the flagpole activates the plaza where it resides.

Centered on a median strip just off a major traffic intersection, the flagpole is surrounded by a flourishing and clean small park and hard to miss. An air of invitation and welcome beckoned as we strolled up the sidewalk to get a closer look. The entire plaza is clearly well-maintained.

Three plaques featuring text and photos about the history of San Diego's LGBT community and fight against AIDS encircle the metal pole. Several concrete balls suitable for sitting and resting a spell, line the outermost pavement of the monument with thick, flowering plants giving the urban public space a woodsy feel. The height of the plants create a sanctuary effect especially when you walk about the plaza a few times.

The one off-putting thing was labeling people with AIDS who died in the 1980s as "victims" in the text accompanying the plaque titled "From Adversity to Diversity", seen here. We were educated about the Blood Sisters effort to combat fear three decades ago about gay men donating blood by organizing blood drives.

The triangular plaque display is situated on a thigh-high round platform lined with three circles listing individual and business donors who made this LGBT rainbow flag and pride oasis a reality. To the right is Mike resting on one of the white concrete balls. 

The Hillcrest Business Association oversees the flagpole and park, maintains a Facebook page for the flagpole which gives info about how it's used on 9/11 to fly an American flag at half staff and that the plaza is a central focus of the local AIDS Walk and LGBT Pride March. 

When you're in the San Diego area, be sure to check out this stunning public display of pride and celebration located at University and Normal Avenues.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Rainbow Burqa at ‪#‎JeSuisCharlie‬ Vigil in SF
The French consulate on Kearny Street in San Francisco's financial district tonight was the site for a vigil in solidarity with the people of France and free expression advocates, in the aftermath of gunmen slaughtering 12 people today in Paris.
A tweet this afternoon asked people to show up at 7 pm to show sympathy with the friends and families of the editors and cartoonists at ‪#‎CharlieHebdo‬, and police officers on the scene.

I printed a Je Suis Charlie sign, got out the rainbow burqa and rode my bike to the consulate. When first arriving, I saw the cops had corralled the crowd into a too-tight space in one lane of traffic. The San Francisco police officers soon closed the block to vehicular traffic and a dense mass of people occupied the streets.

Folks either held signs or pens and Sharpies. I was there for about an hour and explained to anyone who asked that I wore the rainbow burqa as a protest against the oppression of women in Islamic society and in solidarity with LGBT people in the Middle East.
The photos of me holding an edition of a recent edition of Charlie Hebdo were snapped at the main public library, in their special collections section.

I am proud, as a San Francisco taxpayer, that public funds were spent on a snail-mail subscription of Charlie Hebda's paper edition. It was educational in so many ways to sit and read the past five months' issues. Sure wish I knew French, mon ami, so I could grasp more of the texts but the imagery was often enough quite easy to get.
Were you at any of the vigils around the world in the past 15 or so hours?
Mike + Mike Ride Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train

For both of us, a longtime dream came true this week. We took Amtrak's Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Oakland on January 5, 2015, and saw amazing sights.

On New Year's Day, January 1, 2015, Mike and I flew to San Diego to meet up with a few branches of his family tree who either live there or flew in from South Dakota.

(We spent time in the parlor car watching the agriculture fields from the upper level.)

 (Yours truly basking in the sunshine.)

(Mike enjoying the view of the Pacific ocean in the late morning.)

(Mike's cousin Nancy, in red, and her partner Cynthia about to enjoy a rich dessert.)

We had a most fabulous time with them and enjoyed many treasured moments together. For our return home, we boarded a 6:00 am train from San Diego to Los Angeles' Union Station, then left from there at 10:00 am for the trip up the coast. We arrived in Oakland at 10:00 pm.

I shot this short video in the parlor car as we rode past California's vast agriculture fields.

You hear me addressing Mike's brothers, who are farmers in South Dakota, as we pass the fields saying they may want to farm this land, then Mike says I'm all goofy again like I was a few days before at the Dr. Seuss art show we saw in San Diego. All the while you see how fab the parlor car was in the afternoon.

If ever you get the chance to take this route along the coast and ride in a sleeper car, make sure you ride on the ocean side of the train. The views are so much more incredible from that side and if you want the full effect of seeing both sides, just head into the communal cars with skylights.

Thank you, Mike, for this wonderful Christmas present! Lord, what a trip it was seeing the incredible California landscape from the train! Our best vacation together ever.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Mike + Mike Wish You a Happy New Year

Greetings of the new year to you and yours. Mike + Mike are heading to San Diego for a few days to visit with friends and family. We'll be back to our normal routines on Tuesday. May we all have a prosperous and healthy 2015.

The photo is of us from a trip we made to Washington, DC, in 1997 when we were still spring chickens.