Christina Olague

Supervisors advised against Mirkarimi recusals, essentially removing their gags


It’s looking increasingly unlikely that any members of the Board of Supervisors will be recused from next week’s big vote on whether to sustain the official misconduct charges against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, particularly given an advice letter written today by attorney Scott Emblidge, who is advising the board.

Mirkarimi and his attorneys were hoping some supervisors would admit discussing the case with Mayor Ed Lee or others – particularly Sup. Christina Olague, who is at the center of the controversy about whether Lee committed perjury when he denied, while testifying under oath, ever consulting with any supervisors about the case – and they were disappointed with Emblidge’s advice.

“Scott Emblidge parrots the language of the City Attorney in his recommendation against recusal,” Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner told us, taking issue with the relationship Emblidge and his firm have with the city and the fact that he also served as legal counsel to the Ethics Commission, some of whose members were unaware of that dual role and expressed concern. “The board must appoint independent counsel.”

In his advice letter, Emblidge did take a similar position to that urged by the City Attorney’s Office, which argued that supervisors are assumed to be politicians who have some relationship with the person that they’re being asked to judge and that analogizing it to a jury in a criminal case isn’t accurate.

“That analogy is misguided. The Charter does not provide for resolution of official misconduct charges by a body unfamiliar with the parties or the facts of the dispute. Rather, it specifically entrusts that decision to the Board of Supervisors, a body composed of individuals who almost certainly would have had dealings with anyone charged with official misconduct,” Emblidge wrote in a letter requested by Board President David Chiu. “Rather than a jury trial, this proceeding is more like an administrative hearing involving employee discipline or other important rights.”

Emblidge said the legal standards indicate that a supervisor must have a financial interest in the decision or be so “personally embroiled” in the case that he/she would have already demonstrated a strong bias or animus against Mirkarimi. And even then, it would be up to a majority vote by the board to excuse a supervisor from the vote.

Such recusal votes are usually mere formalities once a supervisor claims a conflict-of-interest, as then-Sup. Gavin Newsom sometimes did on votes involving landlord-tenant relations. But given that it takes nine of the 11 votes to remove Mirkarimi – with each recusal effectively being a vote in his favor – claims of a conflict will be carefully scrutinized, which Emblidge thinks is appropriate.

“The bar should be high for recusal because of the three-fourths requirement,” Emblidge told the Guardian, making clear that was his personal rather than legal opinion.

The City Attorney’s Office strongly advised the supervisors earlier this year not to discuss the Mirkarimi case with anyone, and they have all heeded that advice and refused to discuss the case with reporters, adding to the drama surrounding a high-profile decision with huge potential long-term ramifications.

Unlike other big decisions, in which supervisors will publicly stake out positions before the vote, often making clear the political dynamics and swing votes, nobody really knows where any of the supervisors stand right now. It’s widely believed that progressive Sups. John Avalos and David Campos – both of whom have unexpectedly easy paths to reelection in November – are the most likely votes for Mirkarimi, with just one more vote needed to reinstate him.

Olague will be in a tough spot politically, torn between supporting the mayor who appointed her and a district that Mirkarimi once represented, where opposition to his removal seems strongest. Ditto with Sup. Jane Kim, a fellow former Green long allied with Mirkarimi, but also someone who backed Lee last year and has ambitions to be the next board president.

This is also a board filled with Ivy League lawyers, and it’s hard to say what aspect of this complex case will draw their focus. Will they side with those who say the decision is simply about showing zero tolerance for domestic violence, or will they share the concerns of Ethics Chair Benedict Hur, who calls this a potentially dangerous precedent that gives too much power to the mayor.

It’s even possible that someone from the board’s conservative bloc of Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, and Carmen Chu might object to this costly and distracting move by government to go after one individual, making this more about limited government and deferring to voters rather than the fate of an individual for whom they have no particular fondness.

Until now, it’s been difficult to read these tea leaves, but that might be about to change. Emblidge argues that the grounds for recusal are so narrow and restrictive that even if supervisors make public statements about their thoughts on the case, that wouldn’t present a conflict-of-interest that would prevent them from voting on it, particularly now that they’re actively reviewing the record.

So, are we about to start getting some hints from under the dome about how this is going to play out? We’re listening and we’ll let you know.

Separated bikeways on Oak and Fell finally up for approval


After three years of delays and broken promises, the fate of a dangerous but vital bike route in San Francisco will be decided on Oct. 16. Oak and Fell streets, one of the few major east-west byways in the city, carries tens of thousands of cars each day, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Right now, there is no bike lane on Oak, and the stripes on Fell are only two feet wide with no buffer, putting cyclists inches from heavy traffic.
But all that could change. If the transit agency gives it the green light, the perilous Oak-Fell corridor between Scott and Baker will gain needed concrete barriers and wider bike lanes, according to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose and bike advocates.
“This has been a long push,” said Leah Shahum, president of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a vocal advocate of the project.
If passed, separated bikeways, crosswalk enhancements, traffic signal timing changes, and parking mitigation measures would be installed by the end of 2012, Rose said, and construction of bulbouts and a concrete bikeway barrier would be put in by the summer of 2013.
The project has met repeated delays, despite Mayor Ed Lee’s promise that it would be done by the end of 2011.
A section of the major bike route “The Wiggle,” its the only game in town if you’re a cyclist who wants to cross the city from east to west. But not everyone favors the fix.
Blogger and anti-bike activist Rob Anderson, who sued San Francisco for not performing proper studies on bike lane projects in 2005, calls it a slap in the face to people who must drive to work.
“It shows no sympathy or understanding for working people in the neighborhood,” Anderson said. He bemoaned the loss of parking as particularly harmful to residents in the area, which would lose 35 parking spaces, according to SFMTA data. “It’s all about making cyclists comfortable.”
Shahum agrees with Anderson on that point, arguing that’s the best way to encourage more people to get on a bike. “Poll after poll, survey after survey say that the biggest deterrent to biking is safety,” Shahum said. Its not just about the accidents, it’s also about people perceptions.
If the bike lanes were more safe, more cyclists would ride them, Shahum said. This would pave the way towards San Francisco’s goal of increasing bike ridership to 20 percent of trips made in San Francisco by the year 2020, which is enshrined in legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors two years ago. Currently, about 3.5 percent of bike commutes in the city are by bicycle, a 71 percent increase from 2005, according to the city’s “2012 State of Cycling Report.”
One San Francisco politician says that the city wasn’t pedaling fast enough on the redesign. District 5 candidate Christina Olague sent a letter to the SFMTA two weeks ago urging the transit agency to pick up the pace and break ground by year’s end. That may have been a factor in SFBC’s subsequent decision to give Olague it’s top endorsement, with Julian Davis gets its number two spot.
Shahum said the SFBC plans to turn out its members on Oct. 16 to ensure passage of a project it has sought for years: “We can breathe when it’s over.”

SFBC keeps its distance from Critical Mass anniversary ride


Today’s 20th anniversary Critical Mass ride has received overwhelming media coverage in the last few days, including a surprisingly laudatory editorial in yesterday’s Examiner, so people are expecting the ride to be huge. But the talk of last night’s CM20 birthday celebration at CELLspace was about Quintin Mecke’s widely circulated letter blasting the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition for refusing to even put the event on its calendar or in its newsletter.

By contrast, even the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association (SPUR) – founded and funded by downtown players with little love for Critical Mass – listed today’s “special anniversary ride” and related events throughout the week in its calendar and on its newsletter, recognizing this “monthly bicycling event that began in San Francisco and inspired similar events throughout the world.”

As I wrote in this week’s cover story, SFBC and Critical Mass grew up together on a similar, symbiotic trajectory, effectively working an outside/insider strategy (think MLK/Malcolm X) that has won cyclists a recognized spot on the roadways. But SFBC always warily kept its distance from Critical Mass, worried about offending politicians, the mainstream media, or the driving public.

That’s an understandable strategy, given the persistent resentment many feel toward Critical Mass. But when considered in combination with SFBC’s increasingly corporate culture and sponsorships and its controversial recent decision to allegedly overrule its member vote in its District 5 supervisorial endorsements, SFBC is in danger of losing the allegiance of much of the cycling community (which remains a minority of road users, and thereby political outsiders almost by definition).

David Snyder — SFBC’s executive director through its biggest growth period, SPUR’s former transportation policy director, and currently the executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition — is reluctant to wade into the current controversy, but he does acknowledge the important role Critical Mass played in winning political acceptance for cyclists in San Francisco. 

“In the mid-’90s, when the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was a couple thousand members, the brouhaha around Critical Mass [particularly the crackdown in ’97] increased our membership by 50 percent at one point,” Snyder told us. “At that time, we benefitted hugely form the attention Critical Mass paid to safe streets for bicycles. And I don’t think we need Critical Mass to do that anymore…The Bicycle Coalition’s goal these days isn’t to develop an awareness of unsafe streets, it’s to develop a bold agenda to fix them.”

I spoke with Mecke, who finished second in the 2007 mayor’s race, at last night’s event, and he was frustrated by his follow-up conversations with SFBC leaders, who seem to have taken a very defensive posture instead of welcoming this interesting conversation. I called SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum to discuss these issues, and I’m waiting to hear back from her and I’ll update this post when I do.

But in the meantime, to feed the discussion, here’s the full text of Mecke’s letter, followed by another letter to SFBC on the endorsement issue:

Dear Bike Coalition:

Sadly, I can’t say I was surprised when I read this week’s SFBC Newsletter and found absolutely zero mention of the 20th Anniversary of Critical Mass.  According to your own newsletter, apparently the only thing happening in the San Francisco bike world that is worthy of your 12,000 members knowing about on Friday, Sept. 28 is SFBC’s Valet Bike Parking at the DeYoung Museum.  Seriously?

This is the San Francisco Bike Coalition and you couldn’t even bring yourselves to stick a small mention of Critical Mass in your newsletter or on your website (or god forbid you actually celebrate/acknowledge CM and show some pride), a cycling event created here in San Francisco which has spread across the globe to multiple continents since its inception & inspired thousands of cyclists to take to the street?  It’s truly amazing that Critical Mass was on the cover of the Guardian this week and even SF Funcheap listed the event but SFBC wouldn’t even put a mention at the bottom in the “Upcoming Events” section, hidden away amongst all the SFBC sponsored events? Not even a listing of the critical mass website or the community events going on all week long?  Your website lists the celebration of the 15th anniversary of TransForm but not Critical Mass?

Wow.  I’m truly speechless.  How embarrassing but more to the point, how sad. Are you afraid of offending Chuck Nevius or Mayor Lee? I don’t know how, why or what SFBC has become as an organization at this point but it’s disappointing as a long time cyclist to see the city’s only (?) organized bike advocacy organization which continually touts how many members you have to not even show the smallest amount of solidarity to your fellow cyclists and to the city’s own cycling history.  That being the case, history will march on without you.

Contrary to our “biking” Supervisor David Chiu’s comments in today’s Chronicle (I always enjoy politicians running from anything deemed controversial), it’s actually SFBC that is simply one tiny part of a much larger movement made up of a variety of cyclists from all walks of life whose decision twenty years ago to ride freely in the street once a month for just a few short hours has laid the groundwork for cycling reforms, political action and transformative experiences across the country and the world.

What a shame that instead of celebrating all parts of the cycling community, SFBC has decided to distance itself from the historic roots of its own community in the name of moderation, families on bikes and political expediency.

Enjoy Bike Valet night at the DeYoung Museum, it sounds like an awesome event.



Dear Leah:

My name is Gus Feldman. I am an avid bicyclist, a Bike Coalition member, and the President of the District 8 Democrats.

I’m in receipt of a letter from you, dated September 12, 2012, requesting that I renew my SFBC membership. I am writing to inform you that I will only renew my membership if the SFBC Board of Directors publicly releases the results of the SFBC member vote for the District 5 supervisor race.

While it is clear that the membership vote is one of several factors used by the SFBC Board of Directors to determine endorsements, the refusal of the Board to grant SFBC members the ability to see the results of their votes demonstrates an unacceptable degree of secrecy. By withholding this information, the Board is publicly stripping SFBC members of all agency in the endorsement process.

If in fact the popular suspicion is true – that Julian Davis won the most votes from SFBC members, but the Board decided to grant Christina Olague the top endorsement in the interests of expediting the construction of separated bike lanes on Oak & Fell streets – we would greatly appreciate the Board publicly declaring and explaining the decision. Such a decision is certainly logical, as the Oak/Fell bikes lanes are a key priority for many SFBC members. The fact that the Board has elected to conceal the vote results, as opposed to explaining to SFBC members why and how Olague received the number one endorsement, is highly insulting as it insinuates that the Board does not have faith in SFBC members’ capacity to understand the rationale by which the Board arrived at their determinations. 

Please understand that if the Board elects to depart from the current practice of concealing the vote results, and transitions to one of transparency, I will promptly renew my membership.

Gus Feldman

Qualifying Mirakarimi’s jury


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors formally received the official misconduct case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Sept. 18, starting the clock on the 30-day deadline that the City Charter provides for the board to take action. Board President David Chiu announced a special meeting to consider the case on Oct. 9 at 2pm. The schedule the board had previous agreed to: a 10-minute presentation by the Ethics Commission, 20 minutes by representatives of Mayor Ed Lee (who brought the case), 20 minutes by Mirkarimi’s side, a five-minute rebuttal by Lee, public comment (which could last for hours), and then deliberation by supervisors.

The drama-before-the-drama will involve what in court would be called jury selection — Mirkarimi’s lawyers want to see if any supervisors should be disqualified from voting.

It’s a critical point: It would take at least nine of the 11 supervisors to remove the sheriff, and that number doesn’t’ change if some are ineligible to vote. So every recusal is, in effect, a vote to save Mirkarimi’s job.

And it’s an open question whether some supervisors should recuse themselves. They’re supposed to be unbiased jurors, and if any of them have discussed the case with the mayor in advance, they might be forced to sit this one out.

Mayor Ed Lee was asked on the witness stand whether he spoke with any supervisors about removing Mirkarimi, and he denied it. But Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker said her longtime friend and political ally Sup. Christina Olague told her Lee had sought her input on the decision. Confronted by journalists, Olague denied the charge but said, “I may have to recuse myself from voting on this.”

Another possible recusal from the vote would be Sup. Eric Mar, who just happened to be called as a juror in Mirkarimi’s criminal case — and thus could have been exposed to prejudicial evidence — before those charges were settled with a plea bargain. There have also been rumors that Board President David Chiu spoke with Lee about Mirkarimi at some point.

Last month, Mirkarimi lawyer David Waggoner told the board that he wanted each supervisor to declare whether he or she has spoken with anyone about Mirkarimi, but the legal team is proceeding cautiously, wary of offending the supervisors who will now decide the fate of their former colleague.

“We’re going to respectfully ask each member of the board to state under oath who they’ve talked to about the case,” Waggoner told us.

Normally, jurors would be extensively questioned during the voir dire process, and those who had served on an elected body with a defendant for years would almost certainly be removed from the jury pool, which seems to have been the case with Mar’s disqualification on the criminal case. But that’s just one more example of how this unprecedented process is anything but normal, with city officials basically making up the rules as they go along.

Feinstein screws Breed


Candidates in the District 5 supervisorial race, where one recent poll showed almost half of voters undecided about a field of imperfect candidates to represent the city’s most progressive district, have been sharpening their attacks on one another — and learning lessons about hardball politics.

Christina Olague, the incumbent appointed by Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year, has been taking flak in recent debates from competitors who are highlighting the schism between her progressive history and her more conservative recent votes and alliances. That gulf was what caused Matt Gonzalez to pull his endorsement of Olague this summer and give it to Julian Davis.

London Breed has now suffered a similar setback: US Senator Dianne Feinstein revoked her endorsement of Breed following colorful comments the candidate made to Fog City Journal, which were repeated in the San Francisco Chronicle, blasting her one-time patron Willie Brown.

Breed, whose politics have been to the right of the district, seemed to be trying to assert her independence and may he gone a bit overboard is proclaiming that she didn’t “give a fuck about Willie Brown.”

Sources say Brown has been in payback mode ever since, urging Feinstein and others to stop supporting Breed. Neither Brown nor Feinstein returned our calls, but Breed confirmed that she was told the senator was “concerned” about that published comment. And we know that Feinstein never called her to discuss the article, her comments or the fact that, perhaps at the behest of Brown, she was yanking her support.

On the record, Breed was contrite when we spoke with her and reluctant to say anything bad about Brown or Feinstein, except to offer us the vague, “There are a lot of people who respect and like me, and they don’t like what they see happening.”

Perjury charges don’t look so good for the mayor


The Chron doesn’t think it’s important, but there’s some serious evidence in today’s Ex that the mayor wasn’t entirely forthcoming when he testified before the Ethics Commission. The declarations from Debra Walker and Aaron Peskin are attached at the end of the story; they’re worth reading.

Walker is very straightforward: She says she’s friends with Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez. She’s also been close friends with Sup. Christina Olague:

Ms. Olague and I often got together for coffee or movies, and we talked often about land-use issues. I wrote a letter of support for Ms. Olague to Mayor Lee, asking him to appoint her as supervisor. At her request, I loaned her a painting to hang in her office when she took office.

All of that is consistent with what I’ve heard about their friendship, and it doesn’t sound like Walker was ever out to get Olague or to put her in a bad situation.

Then Walker  explains that during the week of March 6, she was talking to Olague and complained about the Mirkarimi case. “She said the mayor had asked her about the case when they were talking about other issues, and had asked her for her thoughts.”

The declaration goes on a bit, with plenty of backup to the idea that Olague and Lee had discussed how to deal with the sheriff. Which doesn’t surprise me — I have heard from other prominent people in the city that Lee reached out to them for advice on whether to suspend Mirkarimi.

But it’s a problem for two reasons. One is that Olague, sitting as a judge in this case, isn’t supposed to have talked to anyone else about it — certainly not the prosecuting authority, the mayor.

The other is that Lee denied under oath that he had talked to any of the supervisors about the case.

Debra Walker isn’t a fan of Ed Lee, but she would have had to go to considerable lengths to create this level of fiction. It rings honest to me, particularly when she notes that “on June 29, 2012, at 2:10 pm, I received a phone message from Supervisor Olague saying ‘Debra, the converstaion never happened.'”

Look: This is a sworn statement, made under penalty of perjury. So either Walker’s lying and guilty of perjury, or the mayor is. Which seems more likely?

Ditto for the Peskin declaration, which includes dates, times, places, and specific messages. Again: Did Peskin go out of his way to perjury himself — or did the mayor fail to tell the truth on the stand?

This is now part of the case, like it or not: The credibility of the mayor is one of the issues at hand — and more important, if Lee talked to Olague he probably talked to others. Who would then have to recuse themselves.

The gloves are coming off in competitive D5


Candidates in the District 5 supervisorial race – where one recent poll showed almost half of voters undecided about a field of imperfect candidates seeking to represent the city’s most progressive district – have been sharpening their attacks on one another, learning lessons about hardball politics, and fighting over key endorsements.

Christina Olague, the incumbent appointed by Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year, has been taking flak in recent debates from competitors who are highlighting the schism between her progressive history and her more conservative recent votes and alliances. That gulf was what caused Matt Gonzalez to pull his endorsement of Olague this summer and give it to Julian Davis.

London Breed has now suffered a similar setback when US Sen. Dianne Feinstein revoked her endorsement following colorful comments Breed made to the Fog City Journal, which were repeated in the San Francisco Chronicle, blasting her one-time political patron Willie Brown. Breed, whose politics have been to the right of the district, seemed to be trying to assert her independence and win over progressive voters who have different worldviews than her more conservative endorsers.

But she may have gone a bit too far when she told Fog City Journal’s Luke Thomas: “You think I give a fuck about a Willie Brown at the end of the day when it comes to my community and the shit that people like Rose Pak and Willie Brown continue to do and try to control things. They don’t fucking control me – you go ask them why wouldn’t you support London because she don’t do what the hell I tell her to do. I don’t do what no motherfucking body tells me to do.”

Shortly thereafter, Breed said she got a call from Feinstein’s people withdrawing the endorsement. “There were just some concerns about the kind of language I used in the article,” Breed told us.

Sources say Brown has been in payback mode ever since, urging Feinstein and others to stop supporting Breed and switch to Olague. Neither Brown nor Feinstein returned our calls. On the record, Breed was contrite when we spoke with her and reluctant to say anything bad about Brown or Feinstein, except to offer us the vague, “There are a lot of people who respect and like me, and they don’t like what they see happening.”

Breed went after Olague hard during a Sept. 18 debate sponsored by the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council and other groups, blasting Olague for her ties to Brown, Lee, and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, claiming Olague is too beholden to that crew and D5 needs a more independent supervisor.

Asked to respond to the attack during the debate, Olague said, “I won’t dignify that with a response.” But it seems clear to anyone watching the race that Olague has been getting lots of support from Lee, Pak, and Brown and the political consultants who do their bidding, David Ho and Enrique Pearce, which is one reason many progressives have been withholding their support.

The Breed campaign this week trumpeted its endorsement by three prominent progressive activists: Debra Walker, Roma Guy, and Alix Rosenthal. But it has been Davis that has captured the endorsements of the most progressive individuals and organizations, including a big one this week: the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which gave Davis is sole endorsement even though he’s straight and Olague is from the LGBT community.

Davis also snagged the number one endorsement of the San Francisco Tenants Union, a big one for D5, as well as the sole endorsements of Gonzalez, former Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin, and Sup. John Avalos. Assembly member Tom Ammiano also endorsed the Davis campaign, adding that to Ammiano’s earlier endorsement of John Rizzo, the other solid progressive in the race. Rizzo also got the Sierra Club and the number one ranking by San Francisco Tomorrow.

But Olague is enjoying quite a bit of union support, including snagging the sole endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council, whose members in the trades like her controversial vote on the 8 Washington project more than progressives or her competitors, who all opposed the deal. Olague was also endorsed by the United Educators of San Francisco and California Nurses Association.

The biggest union of city workers, SEIU Local 1021, gave its unranked endorsements to Davis, Olague, and Rizzo, as did Sup. David Campos. Sup. Jane Kim – who has also occasionally parted ways with progressives after Ho and Pearce ran her campaign against Walker – gave Olague an early endorsement, but late this week also extended an endorsement to Davis.

“As someone who has championed rank-choice voting, it is important for me that progressives are thoughtful about how we strategize for victory.  I have known Julian Davis a long time, and I believe that he would be a strong leader that fights for progressive values that District 5 cares about, including sustainable streets and livable neighborhoods,” Kim said in a statement given to the Davis campaign.

Another important endorsement in D5 is that of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which carried a faint whiff of controversy this year. The group gave Olague its number one endorsement and Davis its number two, but some SFBC members have secretly complained to us that the fix was in and that Davis actually got more votes from SFBC members, which most people thought was how its endorsements are decided.

SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum told us she wouldn’t reveal who got the most member votes, but she did say that the SFBC Board of Directors actually decides the endorsements based on several factors. “The member vote is one of the factors the board took into consideration,” she said, listing a candidate’s record, relationship with SFBC, personal history, and other factors. “Nothing special was done in that vote, by any means.”

SFBC has been playing nice with Mayor Lee in the last couple years, despite his broken promise of getting the critical yet controversial Fell/Oak separated bike lanes approved by the SFMTA, which he first said would be done by the end of 2011, then by the end of 2012, but which lately seemed to be dragging into 2013.

At SFBC’s urging, Olague recently wrote a pair of letters to the SFMTA urging quicker action on the project, and it seems to have worked: Shahum said a vote on that project has now been scheduled for Oct. 16, and she’s hopeful that it might now be underway by the end of the year after all. As she said, “We’re thrilled.”

BTW, in case you’re curious, the Guardian’s endorsements come out on Oct. 3.

Supervisors set Oct. 9 to decide Mirkarimi’s fate


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors officially received the official misconduct case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi yesterday, starting the clock on the 30-day deadline that the City Charter provides for that body to take action. Board President David Chiu announced a special meeting to consider the case on Oct. 9 at 2pm.

“The last day the Board of Supervisors can act on this is Oct. 17,” Chiu told his colleagues yesterday, reiterating the schedule the board had previous agreed to: a 10-minute presentation by the Ethics Commission, 20 minutes by representatives of Mayor Ed Lee (who brought the case), 20 minutes by Mirkarimi’s side, a five-minute rebuttal by Lee, public comment (which could last for hours), and then deliberation by supervisors.

In addition, attorneys for both sides have until Sept. 25 to submit any legal briefs they want the supervisors to consider, and Mirkarimi’s attorneys are expected to raise objections to an Ethics Commission summary they considered “one-sided,” as well as getting into the issue of whether Lee committed perjury during his sworn testimony in June.

It takes at least nine of the 11 supervisors to remove Mirkarimi, and there is an open question about whether some supervisors should recuse themselves from voting because of conflicts-of-interest, which would essentially count the same as a vote in Mirkarimi’s favor.

Lee was asked on the witness stand whether he spoke with any supervisors about removing Mirkarimi, which he denied. But Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker said her longtime friend and political ally Sup. Christina Olague told her Lee had sought her input on the decision. Confronted by journalists, Olague denied the charge but said, “I may have to recuse myself from voting on this.”

Lee was also asked whether he tried to get Mirkarimi a city job in exchange for his resignation, which Lee denied, but former Sup. Aaron Peskin has said that permit expediter and Lee ally Walter Wong (who has refused to answer questions from the media) extended that offer through him, which Mirkarimi didn’t accept. The Ethics Commission refused to consider the perjury allegations, calling them beyond its purview, but Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner said he plans to submit sworn declarations by Peskin and Walker to the supervisors.

Another possible recusal from the vote would be Sup. Eric Mar, who just happened to be called as a juror in Mirkarimi’s criminal case before it was settled with a plea bargain. There have also been rumors that Board President David Chiu spoke with Lee about Mirkarimi at some point. Last month, Waggoner told the board that he wanted each supervisor to declare whether they have spoken with anyone about Mirkarimi, but their team is proceeding cautiously and wary of offending the supervisors who will now decide the fate of their former colleague.

“We’re going to respectfully ask each member of the board to state under oath who they’ve talked to about the case,” Waggoner told us.

Normally, jurors would be extensively questioned during the voir dire process, and those who had served on an elected body with a defendant for years would almost certainly be removed from the jury pool, which seems to have been the case with Mar’s disqualification on the criminal case. But that’s just one more example of how this unprecedented process is anything but normal, with city officials basically making up the rules as they go along.

Mirkarimi’s wife and alleged victim, Eliana Lopez, has consistently maintained that she was never abused, except by city officials who have sabotaged and humiliated her family and taken away its livelihood. She told the Guardian that the thin charges in this case shouldn’t warrant the removal of an elected official: “You can have different opinions about Ross’s behavior, and people can have different opinions about that, but the people of San Francisco should decide who represents them.”

Lopez said she’s been dismissed and mistreated by Lee, the Ethics Commission, and domestic violence advocates: “These self-appointed white women that are part of the Domestic Violence Consortium are doing everything they can to attack me and insult me while claiming to help me, and never once reaching out to me.”

But she said that she’s hopeful the supervisors will resist political pressure during an emotionally charged election season and do the right thing: “What we need from the supervisors is brave and honest supervisors. The people of San Francisco need that.”

Stop the presses: CleanPowerSF 8, PG&E 3


Sometimes, the good guys (and gals) win.

And so, after the Guardian started the public power movement in 1969  with the pioneering Joe Neilands expose of the PG&E/Raker Act scandal, after three  initiative campaigns to kick PG&E put of City Hall and enforce the public power mandates of the federal Raker Act and bring our own Hetch Hetchy public power to our own people, after hundreds of people worked for years inside and outside City Hall for public power and clean energy,  the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday  to formally launch a CleanPowerSF project that would for the first time challenge the decades-old power monopoly of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

It was a historic moment. And it was a historic veto proof vote that Ed Lee, the PG&E- friendly mayor, and his ally and mentor, former mayor Willie Brown, the unregistered $200,000 a year PG&E lobbyist, will have difficulty snuffing out this time around.

The CleanPowerSF 8 were Sups. David Campos, who sponsored the legislation, Scott Weiner, who cast the deciding swing vote, David Chiu, Eric Mar, Christina Olague, Jane Kim, Malia Cohen, and John Avalos, all of whom made helpful remarks during the debate. They also voted down an attempt by the PG&E bloc to continue the vote for a week and voted against crippling amendments.

The PG&E 3 were Sups.Mark Farrell and Carmen Chiu, who tried to dilute the legislation with the crippling amendments, and Sean Elsbernd, who was strangely silent during the debate. 

I use the phrase CleanPowerSF  8 and PG&E 3 to dramatize the crucial political point and toss in a bit of Guardian history on the story.  For years, as clean energy/public power proposals were routinely voted down as a result of PG&E political muscle and power lobbying, the Guardian would use variations of the phrase. PG&E l0, San Francisco l or whatever was the PG&E margin of victory. The phrase was accurate, pin-pointed the good and bad guys and gals, lifted our spirits, and sent the message that the battle was far from over.

The hero of the afternoon was Ed Harrington, the general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission who delayed his retirement to complete the project. He got a standing ovation after his testimony backing up his legislation and deft handling of  all questions.  As Campos said, Harrington’s legislation  was as “good as you are going to get.”  No one seriously questioned his plan, figures,  marketing strategy, or key argument that his plan was fiscally and environmentally sound.

PG&E was never mentioned during the discussion and it was difficult to determine its lobbying strategy. After the vote, I asked Eric Brooks, the crafty clean power leader at the meeting,  what happened to PG&E and  its strategy. He said that PG&E, after the San Bruno disaster and other notable mishaps, was not the monopoly power it once was and that perhaps the company had decided it would rather face the slower pace of  CleanPowerSF rather than another clean energy initiative it would have a good chance of losing 

Thanks and congratulations to the CleanPowerSF 8, David Campos, Scott Weiner, John Avalos, David Chiu, Eric Mar, Chritina Olague, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen, who voted themselves into San Francisco history.  Five of them will face the electorate and PG&E in the November election (Campos, Avalos,  Chiu, Mar, and Olague.) and they acted and spoke as if voting for CleanPowerSF would be a significant advantage to their campaigns in their districts. And thanks and congratulatons to former Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who carried the public power flag as the unpaid campaign manager during the first two unsuccessful public power campaigns and then carried the CCA plan inside City Hall during his seven years as supervisor.  When he was voted in as sheriff last November, he handed the CCA baton to Campos who pushed the proposal through with style and solid argument that the issue was choice and providing necessary competition to PG&E’s monopoly.

The vote to start public power in San Francisco comes none too soon. The tear-down-tne-Hetch Hetchy dam forces have put the nice-sounding Proposition F to study draining the Hetch Hetch reservoir.on the fall ballot. This is the first step toward tearing down the dam.  The problem for the city is that it could ultimately lose the dam, if it isn’t moving to public power, because the Raker Act mandates that San Francisco have a municipal  system to distribute public power to its residents and businesses because the act allowed San Francisco to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. The Guardian’s position is that the dam is in place and  should only be torn down after the city has real public power and is able to find and afford an adequate new source for the city’s water and power supply. And that, let me emphasize,  will be a massive undertaking involving billions of dollars and incredible political challenges.   .

Much more to come in this saga that never ends,  b3

Here is Guardian City Editor  Steve Jones’ account of the vote: :

And some Guardian background on the PG&E/Raker Act Scandal in my advance story:

Historic, veto-proof vote launches CleanPowerSF


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today cast an historic vote that was more than a decade in the making, approving the CleanPowerSF program – which challenges PG&E’s monopoly by offering 100 percent renewable energy directly to city residents – on an 8-3 vote that would be enough to override an implied veto threat by Mayor Ed Lee.

The outcome was far from certain throughout the two-hour hearing as conservative Sups. Mark Farrell and Carmen Chu led efforts to undermine the program, which was the final work product of retiring San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Executive Director Ed Harrington, who previously served as the city’s controller for 17 years.

The pair of supervisors offered a series of amendments challenging the state requirement that city residents must proactively opt-out of such community choice aggregation (CCA) programs if they want to remain with PG&E, offering convoluted language that would have required people to opt-in to the program before its launch, and requiring that the $13 million in reserve funds from the SFPUC be covered entirely by CleanPowerSF customers, which could increase its rates.

“It looks like the amendments would be harmful to the success of the program,” Sup. Eric Mar observed, prompting Farrell and Chu to flash broad conspiratorial smiles at one another.

Sup. Scott Wiener, who was undecided and considered a key swing vote in reaching a veto-proof majority, said he also had concerns about the opt-out requirement and wanted to better understand how the amendments would work and whether they were legal. “For me, I’m not interested in putting any poison pills in here,” he said.

Wiener posed questions about the amendments to Farrell and to Harrington, who said it was possible for the SFPUC to have CleanPowerSF customers repay the initial allocation of reserve funds over time but that he wasn’t sure how the opt-in change would work without sabotaging the program.

“It harms the ability to have an intelligent conversation with people,” Harrington said, noting that rates are based on the number of customers in the program, so it would be nearly impossible to survey everyone’s potential interest without being able to tell them how their bills would be affected.

As it is, the SFPUC has already done extensive surveys of which neighborhoods and demographics are likely to be interested in taking part in CleanPowerSF, initially paying about $10 more per month for 100 percent renewable energy (PG&E’s portfolio includes less than 30 percent renewable). “We’ve done extensive surveys already,” Harrington said. Based on that research, the city is initially rolling out the program to less than a third of city residents, who will be repeatedly notified about how to opt-out, anticipating about 90,000 customers remain in the initial program. 

The program has been repeatedly tweaked over the last eight years that it’s been in development, during which time Marin County launched a successful version of the CCA concept that was developed in San Francisco by legislators Tom Ammiano, Carole Migden, and Mark Leno.

“I feel pretty comfortable trusting Ed Harrington on whether the numbers add up,” said the measure’s chief sponsor, Sup. David Campos, arguing against the Farrell/Chu amendments, later adding, “With Ed Harrington leading this charge, this is as good as it gets. If you don’t like CCA under Ed Harrington, you’re not going to like CCA.”

Farrell claimed to support CCA in concept, but he strenuously objected to the opt-out requirements that Migden included in the enabling state legislation, which she had argued was the only way to make CCAs viable against PG&E’s proven willingness to spend tens of millions of dollars to sabotage would-be competitors.

“It’s the wrong way to legislate, the opt-out. It smells of coercion,” Farrell said. Campos countered that, “The best thing we can give the consumers in San Francisco is a choice, a meaningful choice.”

Wiener ultimately made a motion to delay the item by a week, something Mayor Lee yesterday told the Chronicle he wanted, in order to further study the opt-out issue, telling Farrell that his amendment “feels a little seat of the pants to me.”

Campos and other progressive supervisors who were supporting CleanPowerSF argued against the continuance, noting that it has been years in development and sitting in board committees since January, while the Farrell/Chu amendments weren’t offered until this meeting had already begun.    

“This is not going to change because we wait a week to make a decision,” Campos said. “The terms of this deal are not going to change.”

The motion for a continuance failed on a 4-7 vote, with Wiener joined by Farrell, Chu, and Sup. Sean Elsbernd (who offered no comments throughout the hearing).

Then, as the vote on the Farrell/Chu opt-in amendment came up for vote, Wiener said, “I don’t feel comfortable voting for amendments that I don’t know what they’ll do,” and it failed on a 3-8 vote.

Sup. Malia Cohen had earlier indicated a willingness to support the other Farrell/Chu amendment: saddling CleanPowerSF customers with paying the SFPUC back for reserve fund costs – which Harrington indicated could be dragged out over many years to minimize the impact on rates, and which might not be necessary at all if the initial program exceeds expectations.

That amendment was then approved on an 8-3 vote, with Sups. Jane Kim, Christina Olague, and John Avalos opposed. Another set of amendments that would keep low-income city residents out of the initial rollout and take other steps to reduce their rates if they opted in – which was developed by Kim, Cohen, and Sup. Eric Mar – was unanimously approved by the board.

Then it was time for the big vote on creating the CleanPowerSF program, approving the contract with Shell Energy Northern California to administer it, and authorizing the initial $19.5 million expenditure. Would there be eight votes to override a veto by Mayor Lee, who has been under pressure by PG&E and their downtown allies to kill the program?

“To be perfectly candid, I struggled mightily with this contract,” Wiener said, reiterating his concern about its opt-in requirement, noting that the measure wasn’t perfect, even though it was significantly improved from earlier versions. It sounded as if he were about to vote against it.

“What we have the opportunity to do is move forward with clean power,” Wiener said, noting that even Marin County supervisors who initially opposed its CCA have come around to supporting it. “This is something I believe we should try.”

And with that, the board voted 8-3 to launch the program in mid-2013, with Chu, Farrell, and Elsbernd opposed.

Campos said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the vote, while key supporters say they are cautiously hopeful it will stand up during next week’s final supervisorial approval on second reading and in a veto override vote, if that becomes necessary. Campos said he was thankful for the work of Harrington, who got a standing ovation after the vote as the board recognized him for his long service to the city.

Earlier in the meeting, Harrington told supervisors that while the program isn’t perfect, and it contains some risks that he considers reasonable, there is no other way the city has identified to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals it has set for itself over the last decade. It is city policy to reduce emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2017 and 80 percent below those levels by 2050.

“This program before you has the only chance of reaching those goals. There’s nothing else,” Harrington said. He also said “it’s an incredibly efficient way to spend money,” noting that the city has spent $90 million on solar and other renewable energy projects that power fewer than 7,000 homes, whereas this $19.5 million will power 90,000 households, possibly without ever tapping into that $13 million reserve fund set aside to cover any losses by Shell, which will buy renewable energy, a role the city hopes to eliminate as it develops its own projects.

Harrington said the ultimate goal of CleanPowerSF is to develop a large enough customer base that the city could use revenue bonds to finance a wide variety of renewable energy projects – many using solar arrays along city-owned property connected to its water system stretching all the way to Hetch Hetchy Valley – that would pay for themselves.

“The real issue is can you build a facility that will have this rate structure support it?” Harrington said.

That’s the real power and potential of CleanPowerSF – finally taking action to address global warming, which will have a huge impact on San Francisco and future generations – as supporters noted in a rally outside City Hall before the meeting. Sen. Mark Leno said that he doesn’t usually weigh in on proposals before the board, but that, “This is an exceptional time and this is an exceptional vote. This is the time that we need to address our inconvenient truth.”

Endorsement interviews: Julian Davis for D. 5 supervisor


Julian Davis, a candidate in District Five, has lined up some impressive endorsements. He’s running to the left of the incumbent, Christina Olague, and talked about “why ordinary people can’t live in this city any more.” He told us that in the 1990s, the city of Chicago poured billions of dollars into affordable housing, and “San Francisco needs to think in the billions.” He also called for a “comprehensive and aggressive revenue strategyl.” You can listen to the entire interview after the jump.

Nite Trax: The Eagle flies again


I hung out yesterday evening with the new occupants of the Eagle Tavern (now known as the SF Eagle, apparently) at a celebration of the lease-signing at the Lone Star Saloon. Alex Montiel and Mike Leon seem perfect to replace the former Eagle operators Joe and John: Tough-looking and leather-bearish, a tad gruff at first but friendly once they warm to you, and a wee bit shy of the press right now.

They’ll be releasing their full plans for the storied queer bar in a couple weeks, but I did manage to squeeze some juicy info out of Alex. They hope to open the bar in time for Halloween, the liquor license has indeed been secured (in fact, they have two!), and they’ll be doing their best to return some of the Eagle’s ambiance to the now-pretty-much-gutted space, with a few slight modifications to the bar layout for code and traffic flow reasons.   

It’s certainly been a long, winding, super-convoluted road to get to this point!

I’m not sure anyone can convey all the twists and turns and backroom mechanations of the whole thing — Jay Barmann at Grubstreet has done some excellent reporting on it all, but there were still many, many balls in the air, shall we say, and the shady politics got slightly out of control. The fight to keep a historically queer space queer — despite the previous occupants’ quasi-abandonment, despite the lucrative offers from upscale restaurants, despite the limited power and will of the city to legislate such things — was a bit of a hot gay potato for the past year. (The Eagle’s infamous, charitable Sunday Beer Busts lived on in monthly form at El Rio in the Mission, at least.)

Even the idea of a “historic queer space” was questioned: if the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had sanctified it, and the ashes of multiple queer people were scattered about a place that raised tens of throusands of dollars for amazing local causes and was regarded as the heart of the old school gay leather rock ‘n roll biker community, was it important enough to fight for?

Hats off to Milk Club president and outspoken queer activist Glendon Anna Conda Hyde for saying, “Hell yes!”

Glendon (identified slightly incorrectly in a recent Chron story as the Norm of the Eagle’s “Cheers” — that was actually the frizzy-haired dear in the thong and flip-flops who stood around clutching a goblet of piss) kept the Eagle issue at the forefront of the city’s debate about gentrification and the loss of queer nightlife spaces, angering some fussy queens with his usual passion and stridency, but in the end succeeding in rallying an assortment of powerful players to the Eagle’s defense.

I talked to Glendon today about how the whole thing went down. His basic summation was that Supervisors David Campos and Jane Kim did excellent jobs of making sure the Eagle stayed queer (Sup. Scott Weiner does not get very high marks from him in this regard), and that dubious dealings by the person supposedly representing the owner of the building — who lives north of the city, and who Glendon said had indeed wanted to welcome in new queer owners all along — were what kept screwing everything up. Finally the building owner (actually, the manager of a trust that includes several elderly owners) awarded the lease to Mike and Alex after he realized what was happening with his representation and the reaction of the community.

“I think it’s so great,” Glendon told me. “People keep saying that you can’t revitalize queer nightlife in SoMa — but that’s just a lazy excuse for gentrification. I’m glad we could band together to ensure a future for queer spaces in this city. We should be proud of what happened here. Our shared queer history is a powerful force. 

“We’re still fighting for an officially recognized queer historical district in SoMa that will honor those who came before us, and also help preserve lively alternative queer spaces. Supervisor Christina Olague and CMAC [California Music and Culture Association] is working hard on that. One of the major problems is that it’s illegal to say something has to be or remain ‘gay.’ I think we saw here that it can be done within the limits of current boundaries.”

As for the future of the Eagle? “Mike and Alex have indicated that while they’ll still be preserving the main traditions and atmosphere — as well as probably hiring some of the old staff back — they are hoping it will be a much more open space. Already the Lexington Club is planning to host a fundraiser to help them remodel, so that suggests the Eagle will be more women-friendly, and there may be new parties there from some of the city’s younger promoters as well.”

My favorite part of this whole thing — besides the colorful faux-funeral outside Foreign Cinema restaurant, or the “assless chaps” takeover of the Skylark bar (both at one point identified as villains in the Eagle saga)? Beyond the banding together of the community to save an actually cool place that is a huge and drunken part of my life (also, DJ Don Baird on Sundays was secretly the best DJ in the city)?

At one point it was announced that the Eagle was to become a fancy pizza place with a wood-fired oven on the back patio. Glendon turned to me and hissed: “I always knew the straights wanted to put us in the oven!” 

D5, Mirkarimi, and 8 Washington


Everybody knows that the timing of the Board of Supervisors vote on ousting the sheriff for official misconduct is bad for Ross Mirkarimi. We’re talking about a huge, high-profile decision just weeks before some of the key board members are up for re-election, two of them in hotly contested races. For Sups. Eric Mar and Christina Olague, it’s going to particularly difficult: Mar’s in a moderate district, and he’ll be attacked from the more conservative David Lee if he supports Mirkarimi. Olague’s in a progressive district where Mirkarimi was a popular supervisor, so no matter what she does, she’ll take heat.

But I was a little surprised by Randy Shaw’s analysis, which suggests that Olague will be motivated entirely by political spite:

D5 Supervisor Christina Olague once faced a tough decision on Ross, but since Mirkarimi allies have attacked her on a number of issues it would be very unlikely for her to support him.

That’s pretty insulting. Shaw, who has supported her in the past, is saying that Olague won’t make up her own mind based on the actual issue and case in front of her. She was pretty clear when I called her: “I will vote on the merits of this issue,” she said. “If I was motivated to vote based on who had pissed me off I’d have a hard time voting on anything.”

I’ve disagreed with Olague quite a few times, and one could easily argue that she’ll be under immense pressure from the mayor. (“The mayor doesn’t want a lot from Christina, but he does want this,” one insider told me.) But is it impossible for Shaw to imagine that, in one of the toughest matters she will ever have to handle, the supervisor might actually listen to the testimony, consider the merits of the case, and vote to do what she thinks is right?

Meanwhile, Joe Eskenazi at the Weekly has already announced the Guardian’s endorsement in D5 — which is interesting, since we’re barely started interviewing the candidates. Eskenazi calls Julian Davis “the Guardian’s fair-haired boy” (which, speaking of insults, is not a terribly appropriate way to refer to an African American man), indicating that he’s already our candidate.

For the record: We have not made an endorsement in District Five. We plan to endorse a slate of three candidates for the ranked-choice ballot, and we’ll publish that endorsement the last week in September or the first week in October.



Davis snags a trio of top progressive endorsements


District 5 supervisorial candidate Julian Davis is emerging as the progressive standard-bearer in that competitive race after today receiving the endorsements of a trio of top progressive politicians: Sups. John Avalos and David Campos and attorney Matt Gonzalez, the former board president, mayoral candidate, and D5 supervisor.

Gonzalez had endorsed appointed incumbent Sup. Christina Olague – who he appointed to the Planning Commission in 2004 – but he withdrew that endorsement last month after being frustrated by a series of actions in which she sided with Mayor Ed Lee, moderates, and developers over her longtime progressive colleagues and constituents.

Avalos and Gonzalez are endorsing just Davis, at least for now, while Campos added to his early endorsement of Olague by today endorsing Davis and John Rizzo, who had earlier snagged the other prized progressive endorsement by winning the support of Assembly member Tom Ammiano.

Davis, who was already endorsed by former supervisor and local Democratic Party chair Aaron Peskin, said he’s thrilled with today’s triple endorsement. While some have questioned his anemic fundraising so far, raising less than $10,000 as of June 30, Davis notes that he had been in the race for less than a month before that deadline and that he expects to have more than $150,000 to get his message out.

“What these endorsements signal is a confidence from San Francisco’s progressive leaders, not only in the vision of this campaign, but in our capacity to win,” Davis told us.

Avalos said that he has confidence in Davis’ values, experience, and his ability to run a strong race that will help to reinvigorate the progressive movement.

“Julian is a solid candidate who has been around for years on a number of progressive causes. Running for mayor, I was impressed with his connection to neighborhood issues ranging from small business development to urban cycling and youth and worker rights. His campaign has a good buzz about it, one that I expect will resonate with District 5 residents,” Avalos told us.

Olague faces her challengers during first D5 debate


Tonight’s inaugural District 5 supervisorial debate will be a key test for Sup. Christina Olague – who has fallen from favor with many progressives after a series of bad votes and prickly or evasive interactions with one-time allies – and a test for the rival candidates who are seeking to become the main progressive champion in one of the city’s most leftist districts.

The elected incumbents on the Board of Supervisors have ended up with surprisingly easy paths to reelection [8/9 UPDATE: with the exception of Eric Mar in D1], leaving D5 – as well as conservative District 7, where FX Crowley, Norman Yee, and Michael Garcia are part of a competitive field seeking to replace termed out Sup. Sean Elsbernd – as the race to watch this year.

Olague has been trying to execute a tough balancing act between the progressive community that she’s long identified with and the moderates she began courting last year with her early support for Mayor Ed Lee, who returned the favor and appointed her to serve the final year of Ross Mirkarimi’s D5 term. But by most accounts, she hasn’t executed the feat well, usually siding with Lee on key votes, but doing so in a waffling way that has frustrated both sides.

Progressive candidates such as Julian Davis and John Rizzo will have plenty of fodder with which to attack Olague as a turncoat, including her votes on the 8 Washington project and Michael Antonini, her strange antics on repealing ranked-choice voting, and her close ties to power brokers such as Rose Pak, who hosted a fundraiser that provided more than half of the $81,333 Olague has raised this year, much of it from developers and other interests outside of D5.

Matt Gonzalez – the former D5 supervisor, board president (from where he appointed Olague to the Planning Commission), and mayoral candidate – was so frustrated with Olague that he withdrew his endorsement of her last month, a decision that her other progressive endorsers are also said to be mulling.

With Mirkarimi tarnished by his ongoing official misconduct probe, the endorsement of Gonzalez could be the most significant in this race, and he told us that he plans to make a decision by Friday, the deadline for submission of ballot statements and a point at which we may hear about other changed or dual endorsements from prominent progressives. Other key nods in the race so far have been Aaron Peskin endorsing Davis and Tom Ammiano endorsing Rizzo, two candidates each vying to become the favorite of the left, with Thea Selby, Hope Johnson, and Andrew Resignato also courting support from the left.

Yet so far, the strongest challenge of Olague seems to be coming from her right, with moderate London Breed leading the fundraising battle with $85,461 as of late June 30, including the maximum $500 donation from venture capitalist Ron Conway – the main fundraiser behind Lee’s election last year – which may be a sign that Olague’s support among moderates is also soft.

Olague may be trying to get back in good with the progressives, last week introducing pro-tenant legislation sought by the San Francisco Tenants Union. But impressions have formed and the pressure is now on, and so far Olague – who didn’t answer our calls seeking comment, another troubling trend – hasn’t performed well in public appearances, mangling organizations’ names and generally not winning over her audiences.

Will Olague step up now that the campaign in entering its public phase? Will another candidate catch fire with progressives? Find out tonight from 6-7:30pm at the Park Branch Library, 1833 Page Street. It’s sponsored by the District 5 Democratic Club, the D5 Neighborhood Action Committee and the Wigg Party.

Or if you miss it, catch the next one on Tuesday, sponsored by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, starting at 7pm in the Eric Quezada Center, 518 Valencia Street.

When the people lead


By Jon Golinger

OPINION Thursday, July 19, 2012 was an especially gorgeous day in San Francisco. On that warm and sunny summer afternoon, a colorful collection of more than 100 citizens from every corner of the city gathered together on the steps of City Hall to announce they had done something political insiders and powerbrokers had just weeks earlier dismissed as “impossible.”

This grassroots coalition of neighborhood leaders, tenant activists, homeowners, seniors, environmentalists, and recreation enthusiasts had just collected more than 31,000 petition signatures in less than 30 days from San Francisco voters. For the first time in more than 20 year, they had just qualified a referendum for the ballot challenging a Board of Supervisors-approved ordinance. They had just stopped in its tracks the seemingly done-deal to dramatically increase height limits on the waterfront for the proposed 8 Washington luxury condo high-rise project.

This citizen activism was made even more difficult by developer Simon Snellgrove, who went to extraordinary lengths to interfere with the petition drive and prevent it from succeeding, including:

• Using crafty legal maneuvers to require the petition to include not just the five-page city ordinance it challenges, but 515 additional pages of charts and addendums. This created a 520-page “book” that was expensive to print and heavy to carry.

• Spending $30,000 to pay hired “blockers” to encircle petition gatherers wherever they could find them and shout, intimidate, and otherwise interfere with their talking to voters.

• Paying an attorney to hover over the shoulders of workers at the Department of Elections as they counted petition signatures, repeatedly challenging their decisions.

While all of these hurdles and questionable tactics certainly had an impact, the citizen activists and volunteers nevertheless persevered. Soon after the 65 boxes overflowing with signed petitions had paraded through the corridors of City Hall, they were certified as sufficiently valid by the San Francisco Department of Elections. The “impossible” was done.

A recent poll by David Binder Research found that voters citywide would overwhelmingly reject the 8 Washington waterfront height limit increase by a vote of 56 percent to 25 percent if the Waterfront Referendum were put to a vote today. However, before it is officially placed on the ballot, the referendum process offers the Board of Supervisors a “second-chance” to make the right decision at its September 4th meeting.

Supervisors Christina Olague, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and Malia Cohen — who all voted in favor of the waterfront height limit increase in June — now have the opportunity to take some time to talk with their constituents, reexamine their initial decision, and hopefully make a different choice.

But if they fail to do so, the referendum on the proposed 8 Washington project’s “Wall On the Waterfront” will appear on the November 2013 ballot and the people will decide. The people will decide whether a special exemption should be made to give away prime public land to a developer to build multi-million-dollar condos that 99 percent of San Franciscans can’t afford. The people will decide whether to allow the construction of a high-rise luxury condo building on the waterfront that would be 50 feet higher than the old Embarcadero Freeway. The people will decide whether we should protect or neglect our unique and beautiful waterfront. If the leaders fail to lead, the people will lead.

Jon Golinger is the Campaign Director for No Wall on the Northeast Waterfront

Supervisors prepare to receive Mirkarimi case from Ethics


The Board of Supervisors this week adopted a plan for considering ousting their former colleague, suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, on the official misconduct charges brought by Mayor Ed Lee in connection with Mirkarimi grabbing his wife’s arm on Dec. 31. The Ethics Commission is scheduled to make its final recommendation on Aug. 16, after which it will cull together the mountain of documents and evidence developed over the last four months.

Ethics Commission Executive Director John St. Croix tells the Guardian that it will take at least three weeks after the commission votes to compile an official record that already includes documents that now fill three five-inch-thick binders, which will grow with the “findings of fact” and recommendations that the commission will adopt on Aug. 16.

So the board won’t formally get the case until Sept. 6 at the earliest, at which point it will have a City Charter-mandated 30 days to make a decision, which requires at least nine votes from the 11-member board to remove Mirkarimi from office. Board sources say they want to give supervisors some time to review the voluminous record before the hearing, but still allow for a continuance if necessary, making the likely hearing date Sept. 18 if all goes according to schedule.

“Everything we have so far is available online, so if they wanted to get a head start, they’re welcome to,” St. Croix said of the supervisors.

Despite the fact that the commission spent lots of painstaking hours ruling on the admissibility of evidence – including cutting out most of the 22-page declaration of Lee’s star witness, Mirkarimi neighbor Ivory Madison, with commissioners ruling it was a prejudicial attempt to “poison the well” – St. Croix said the entire record will be passed on to supervisors, with strike-throughs or similar indicators for evidence ruled irrelevant or prejudicial.

“It’s got to be easy to understand because once the board gets it, the 30-day clock is ticking, so it needs to be clear,” said St. Croix, who says he is still weighing how much of the evidence can be transmitted electronically versus in paper form.

The Ethics Commission opted not to explore accusations that Mayor Lee committed perjury on two separate issues during his live testimony, but the issue of whether he consulted with any supervisors is likely to come up again as it goes to the board. Supervisors, who essentially act as jurors in these proceedings, have been legally barred from discussing the case, particularly with Lee.

Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker said her friend Sup. Christina Olague told he that Lee once asked her about filing charges against Mirkarimi. Olague denied it, but then told reporters that she may recuse herself from the case. One other supervisor is also rumored to have discussed the case with Lee (who denied it under oath).

When Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner addressed the board on Tuesday, he asked them to affirmatively declare they have not discussed the case with anyone before deliberating. Any supervisors who recuse themselves would become de facto votes to keep Mirkarimi in office because doing do still takes nine votes, no matter now many supervisors actually vote.

Waggoner also objected to the short schedule – which includes a 10-minute presentation by a representative from Ethics, 20 minutes by the Mayor’s Office, 20 by Mirkarimi’s side, a five-minute mayoral rebuttal, and unlimited questions from supervisors and public comment – saying that it belies the serious and unprecedented decision to override voters and remove an elected official.

“This proceeding is extraordinary in its nature,” he said, objecting to the board adopting essentially the same procedures it uses for appealing routine Planning Commission project approvals.

But St. Croix said he welcomed the board’s shortening of his agency’s presentation, saying its recommendation and the record it compiled should speak for itself. “I don’t even know what the commission would present,” he said. “To try to sell it is not seemly.”

Antonini, quarterback for development interests, wins the game


If there was any doubt about the loyalty to developers of Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini, he put them to rest yesterday shortly after finally winning reappointment to a fourth, four-year on a 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors. Afterward, in comments to Examiner reporter Joshua Sabatini, Antonini likened his role on the commission to that of a successful football team’s quarterback.

“You want to knock out the quarterback for the other team,” Antonini said. “It’s a tribute in a way – backhanded.”

The five supervisors who opposed Antonini – Sups. David Chiu, John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim, the board’s most progressive members – seemed to understand that Antonini saw himself playing for the developers and big corporations that see San Francisco mostly as a place to make money, even at the expense of eastern neighborhoods and the city’s long-term interests.

The voting record of this Republican dentist – an elected member of the San Francisco Republican County Central Committee who advocates for right-wing causes (such as crackdowns on the homeless) and candidates – makes clear which team Antonini plays for, and it isn’t the same team as the vast majority of people in San Francisco, where Republicans constitute less than 10 percent of the electorate.

It says a great deal about the corporatist politics of Mayor Ed Lee for re-appointing him, as well as the politics and integrity of the swing votes, Sups. Malia Cohen and Christina Olague, the Lee appointee now running for election in District 5, one of the city’s most progressive districts.

Both supervisors mouthed meaningless platitudes and justifications for their votes, but in reinstating the developers’ quarterback just as the progressives were about to remove him from the game, one wonders what team they’re playing for – or whether they even understand the dimensions of the game they have unexpectedly found themselves playing.

But Antonini clearly understands. And despite the ridiculous statements that Cohen and Olague made about holding him “accountable,” Antonini now has four more years to continue leading a team that is rapidly gentrifying San Francisco, making it more inviting to the Google-busers and Twitterati and their landlords, but less so for the average teacher, clerk, and social worker.

Why should a Republican dentist decide what gets built in San Francisco?


The Board of Supervisors is almost evenly divided on confirming Mayor Ed Lee’s appointment of Republican dentist Michael Antonini to his fourth four-year term on the city’s powerful Planning Commission. After delaying its decision at each of its last two board meetings, the board is expected to finally decide this Tuesday.

Sup. Malia Cohen appears to be the swing vote between the progressive-to-neoliberal bloc of supervisors that would rather see new blood that is more reflective of San Francisco’s values and priorities, and the board’s moderate-to-conservative bloc that wants to keep Antonini there as a sure vote for whatever developers want (a bloc that strangely includes progressive-turned-mayoral-shill Sup. Christina Olague, a former planning commissioner who said during the July 17 discussion that she doesn’t agree with Antonini’s politics and that more diversity was needed on the commission, but that she’s voting for him anyway while offering this hollow threat: “This may be the last time I’ll support this kind of move that doesn’t support a diverse body.”)

Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who led the charge for Antonini, fairly effectively picked apart some of the vague and misleading “diversity” arguments made by some supervisors who oppose the nomination, a discussion that Examiner columnist Melissa Griffin dramatized in yesterday’s paper. And everyone praised Antonini as a hard worker.

But almost the entire discussion skipped over what should be the main point: Why the hell is San Francisco even considering appointing a Republican dentist with no particular land use expertise to a fourth term on the Planning Commission?!?! Shouldn’t someone else – preferably not a rubber stamp for developers – be given a chance to serve the city? And why isn’t Mayor Lee – whose main political benefactor and economic adviser, venture capitalist Ron Conway, is also a longtime Republican – paying a political price for this ridiculous appointment?

While supportive supervisors praised Antonini as thoughtful and fair, I can’t gauge that for myself because this supposed public servant hasn’t returned my phone calls. But I’m not sure it would have mattered because his voting record shows he is a consistent vote for developers and their interests, as even Griffin acknowledged in an otherwise supportive column.

Board President David Chiu came the closest to telling it like it is when he said, “Every person who has reached out to me from the northeast neighborhoods has asked me to oppose this nominee.” And for good reasons: Antonini is a right-winger who votes against neighborhood interests every single time. Not just neighborhood interests, but city interests as well, as shown by the commission’s approval earlier this year of a CPMC project that was found to have fatal flaws that were then exposed by supervisors.

Elsbernd argued that the board should give deference to the appointing authority, noting that he’s often voted for nominees whose politics he doesn’t agree with, including Olague. And there certainly is some value to have different perspectives on appointed bodies. But when we grant a Republican dentist tenure in shaping what this embattled city will look like for generations, and pretend that his ideology is less important than his work ethic, we make a mockery of the political system that is supposed to reflect the values and interests of city residents.

Feeling the heat, Olague kills RCV repeal for now


After reviving a controversial effort to repeal the city’s ranked-choice voting (RCV) system and paying a political price for her shifting stands on the issue, Sup. Christina Olague today made the motion to send all three competing reform proposals back to the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, effectively killing efforts to place them on the November ballot.

“The public would benefit from more public discussion on the issue,” Olague said, adding that she doesn’t think the measures should be on the crowded fall ballot competing with other important priorities.

Olague had been torn between supporting the desires of Mayor Ed Lee (who appointed her to the seat) and downtown interests to repeal RCV and those of her longtime allies in the progressive community who sought to defend it from total repeal – and she hadn’t been returning calls or indicating where she now stood before today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

But after hearing more than 30 minutes of impassioned public comments on both sides of the issue, she made the motion to end the controversy for now, which was unanimously approved by the board. Olague also addressed the heat she felt indirectly, saying RCV “should not be a litmus test for whether someone is progressive” and “sadly, the discussion had degenerated to be about personalities.”

Her colleagues seemed happy to be done with this fight for now as well. Sup. Mark Farrell, who sponsored the measure to repeal RCV for all citywide offices, said it would be a “huge mistake” to have competing voting system measures on the fall ballot. Olague had previously offered an alternative to repeal RCV for just the mayor’s race, like Farrell’s measure using a September primary election and November runoff. Board President David Chiu responded to the RCV repeal effort by proposing another alternative, that one using RCV in the November election but having a December runoff between the top two mayoral finishers.

Chiu said he was happy to delay his proposal, saying, “I have thought the system we have is working quite well.”

Gonzalez withdraws his endorsement of Olague


Matt Gonzalez – the attorney and former president of the Board of Supervisors whose 2003 run for mayor galvanized the city’s progressive movement – has withdrawn his endorsement of Sup. Christina Olague for his old District 5 supervisorial seat, citing her positions on the 8 Washington project and replacing ranked-choice (RCV) voting with a September mayoral primary election.

It is perhaps the biggest political blow that Olague has suffered since being appointed to her first elective office by Mayor Ed Lee in January, and a sign that she may be siding more solidly with Lee and his pro-development allies than with the progressive political community she has long identified with – and that could complicate her race in one of the city’s most progressive districts.

Gonzalez, who helped launch Olague’s political career by appointing her to the Planning Commission in 2004, confirmed his decision and the reasons for it, but he told the Guardian that he didn’t want to make a formal public statement yet. That could come later in the week, possibly coupled with a new endorsement in the race.

But he did say that he’s been frustrated with Olague’s actions on both 8 Washington – a housing project for the super-rich on the Embarcadero – and with her recent antics on RCV. In both cases, it wasn’t just the votes, but the way they were made that have raised doubts about Olague with Gonzalez and other progressives.

Olague and Sup. Jane Kim (another former Gonzalez protege who has disappointed many of her one-time progressive supporters on several high-profile issues) not only voted for the 8 Washington project, but also for a series of amendments that made the already lucrative project even more profitable for the developers and costly to the city.

On RCV, as I reported on Friday, Olague surprised progressives by giving new life to efforts by the most conservative supervisors to repeal the system, then has made a shifting series of statements and pledges on the issue, in the end supporting a system that will repeal RCV only for the mayor and create a September election.

The fear is that election would be extremely low turnout, and Lee could win it outright with at least 65 percent of the vote and avoid the normal November election, and Olague has been unwilling to fully explain her position or address concerns that she is simply doing Lee’s bidding. Olague hasn’t returned our calls on that issue or for her reaction to Gonzalez’s decision to withdraw his endorsement.

Olague’s antics on RCV alarm her progressive supporters


As Sup. Christina Olague was being appointed to the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors by Mayor Ed Lee in January, we noted how difficult it might be to balance loyalty to the moderate mayor with her history as a progressive and someone running for office in one of the city’s most progressive districts.

By most indications, Olague doesn’t seem to be handling that balancing act — or the pressure that goes along with it — very well at all, to the increasing frustration of her longtime political allies. And that’s never been more clear than on the issue of repealing the city’s ranked choice voting (RCV) system.

As you may recall, earlier this year the board narrowly rejected an effort by its five most conservative, pro-downtown supervisors to place a measure repealing RCV on the June ballot. So chief sponsor Sup. Mark Farrell tried again in March with a ballot measure for November, this time just for citywide offices, and Olague surprised progressives by immediately co-sponsoring the measure, giving it the sixth vote it needed.

Since then, she’s offered shifting and evasive explanations for her actions, telling RCV supporters that she would withdraw her support then going back on her word. Sources close to Olague say that she’s been taking her marching orders on the issue directly from the Mayor’s Office, even as she tries to appease her progressive supporters.

Even trying to get a straight answer out of her is difficult. Two weeks ago, as the Farrell measure was coming to the board for a vote, I called her on her cell phone to ask whether she still supported the measure, and she angrily complained about why people care about this issue and said “you’re going to write what you want anyway” before abruptly hanging up on me.

I left her a message noting that it was her support for repealing RCV that had raised the issue again, that I was merely trying to find where she now stood, and that we expect accountability from elected officials. She called back an hour later to say she was still deciding and she denied hanging up on me, claiming that she had just run into someone that she needed to talk to.

At that week’s board meeting, she offered an amended version of Farrell’s proposal – which would replace RCV with a primary election in September and runoff in November for citywide offices – repealing RCV only for the mayor’s race. She has not directly addressed the question of why she supports a September election, which is expected to have even lower voter turnout than the old December runoff elections that RCV replaced.

So RCV supporters worked with Board President David Chiu to fashion an third option, this one maintaining the ranked-choice election for all offices in November, but having a December runoff between the top two mayoral finishers.

Going into this week’s board meeting on the issue, nobody was quite sure where Olague stood on that proposal or the overall issue, again because she’s been making different statements to different constituencies. And as the issue came up and various supervisors stated their positions, Olague stayed silent, as she has remained since then, refusing to return our calls or messages on the issue.

But because of technical changes to the three measures requested by the City Attorney’s Office – which Farrell made to Olague’s option, which he said he would support if his is defeated – consideration was delayed by a week to this coming Tuesday.

RCV supporters and Olague’s progressive allies didn’t want to speak on the record given that she is still the swing vote on the issue, but privately they’re fuming about Olague’s squirrely temperament, lack of integrity, and how she’s handling this issue (as well as her bad votes on the 8 Washington high-end housing project and her role in the Lee perjury scandal).

But rival supervisorial candidates like Julian Davis – who came to the hearing at City Hall Tuesday and proclaimed his unqualified support for RCV – are less reticent.

“Silence or avoidance are not acceptable, so we’re calling for her to explain why a low-turnout, plurality election in September is good for San Francisco. Help us understand,” he said, noting that such a election especially hurts minority groups and other progressive constituencies that don’t vote as reliably as conservatives. “Why should Christina Olague have anything to do with it? You and the rest of San Francisco deserve an answer.”

Meanwhile, Davis recently won the endorsement of local Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin, while fellow progressive candidate John Rizzo announced his endorsement by Assembly member Tom Ammiano. And there are rumors that some prominent progressives who have already endorsed Olague are considering withdrawing their endorsements because of her recent behavior.

All of which make for some interesting dramas going into Tuesday’s RCV vote.

What if the mayor lied?


EDITORIAL The case Mayor Ed Lee is presenting to the Ethics Commission is no longer about whether Sheriff Ross Mirkarmi injured his wife, Eliana Lopez, or whether his actions were atrocious and unacceptable. Those facts are not in dispute — although Mirkarimi pled guilty to a less-serious misdemeanor, he has not denied that he grabbed Lopez’s arm and squeezed hard enough to leave a bruise. Even his strongest defenders aren’t condoning that or dismissing the seriousness of this incident of domestic violence.

Much of the evidence Lee has presented goes to different issues — for example, the allegation (so far, without any proof) that Mirkarimi sought to dissuade witnesses from coming forward .

And formally, the question Lee is raising is a larger one: Did Mirkarimi’s action rise to the level of official misconduct — or, in the words of Lee’s testimony, did his conduct “fall below the standard of decency, good faith, and right action that is impliedly required of all public officials?”

Now Lee is facing that same question. It’s something the commission needs to address — not only because it goes to the heart of this particular case but because the public has a right to know if the mayor of San Francisco lied under oath on the witness stand.

In fact, now that two credible witnesses — one a city commissioner, the other a former supervisor — have made public statements that indicate Lee was dishonest in his testimony, the District Attorney’s Office should open an investigation. Perjury is a felony crime — and while it’s hard to prove, there are critical facts that are missing. The only witnesses who have direct (non hearsay) corroboration have been unwilling to discuss the matter in detail, and only the DA and Ethics have the ability to issue subpoenas and ask them the key questions under oath.

Lee testified that he hadn’t discussed the case or his deliberations over filing charges with any member of the Board of Supervisors. But Building Inspection Commission member Debra Walker told reporters that her friend and ally, Sup. Christina Olague, had recounted having a conversation with the mayor on that topic right before the charges were filed. Olague denies that, but has declined further comment.

Then Lee testified that he never offered, or authorized anyone in his office to offer, a job to Mirkarimi in exchange for his resignation. Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says Lee ally Walter Wong approached him and asked him to convey exactly such an offer to the sheriff on behalf of the mayor. Peskin recalls the exact date, time and place of his meeting with Wong, and he mentioned the offer to Guardian reporters long before this trial began. Wong has declined to speak to reporters.

So at the very least, there are grounds for the commission members to allow Mirkarimi’s lawyers to question Olague and Wong — and if either of them contradicts the mayor’s sworn statement, it would raise serious doubts about Lee’s credibility. And that’s central to the official misconduct case: Mirkarimi’s lawyers argue that the sheriff was never given due process and that the mayor never tried to learn Mirkarimi’s side of the story. The mayor says Mirkarimi refused to tell that story. The commission vote could hinge on that dispute — and if Lee lied about other parts of his testimony, it would be fair to question everything he said. And if Lee can’t hold himself to the standards of decency and good faith, the voters need to know that.

And whatever the outcome, it’s clearly time for the supervisors to look at the City Charter section on official misconduct. Because the current law allows the mayor to suspend and charge any elected official in the city, entirely on his or her own discretion — but there’s no way (short of a recall election) to charge, impeach, suspend or remove the mayor. It’s an imbalance that gives the chief executive extraordinary powers with little accountability. That’s not good government.

Gascon comments on Lee perjury allegations


Luke Thomas from Fog City Journal showed up at a press conference District Attorney George Gascon was holding on another topic, and threw in a question about the allegations that Mayor Ed Lee lied under oath before the Ethics Commission. Gascon’s comments were, as I would expect, pretty well couched in political-DA language, but the man who initially filed the domestic violence charges that set off this legal episode came down clearly on the side of having Ethics investigate further:

Luke sent me a transcript of Gascon’s full remarks, to wit:

“I think that the first thing that we have to do is we have to allow the Ethics Commission to continue what they’re doing. This is an ongoing hearing by the Ethics Commission. The voters of San Francisco, through the Charter, gave the Ethics Commission a tremendous amount of power — they wanted a very robust process. The Ethics Commission has the ability to call witnesses and put witnesses under sworn testimony and I think it is appropriate for the Ethics Commission to continue to inquire into this. Once they have completed the process, we will evaluate and, if appropriate, we will move accordingly. If the evidence surfaces that we have sworn testimony to indicate that perjury has taken place then we will certainly evaluate whether that will be appropriate to prosecute. At this point, we need to let the Ethics Commission do its work.”

I got in touch with Gascon’s press person, Stephanie Ong Stillman, and she confirmed that the DA thinks right now Ethics ought to be handling this:

“We don’t want to interfere with the Ethics Commission’s ongoing process.
All we know is what’s being reported in the newspapers.  These allegations
arose in the context of an ongoing Ethics Commission hearing, therefore the
Ethics Commission is the most appropriate body to look into this matter.”

Doesn’t sound like Gascon is eager to launch his own inquiry. But he’s at least interested in hearing what the key witnesess have to say — and he seems to agree that they should be placed under oath.

In fact, Gascon seems to be saying that he will look to Ethics to conduct the initial investigation — which just puts more pressure on the commissioners to allow Mirkarimi’s lawyers to put Walter Wong and Christina Olague on the stand.

I wonder if Lee is starting to regret setting off this whole spectacle. If he’d just demurred and allowed the voters to weigh in with a recall election, he could have avoided what may be a costly political mistake.

Oh, and by the way: Since the Chron made a huge deal out of Ivory Madison’s sworn statement — much of which was tossed out as inadmissible — it’s worth reading the entire statement of Eliana Lopez, which is posted here.