Volume 42 Number 44
Two years after Lennar Corp. reported that asbestos dust had neither been monitored nor controlled during major grading and earthmoving operations on its Parcel A construction site on Hunters Point Shipyard last year (see "The corporation that ate San Francisco," 3/14/08), the fallout from these failures continues.
On June 19 a dozen BayviewHunters Point residents and workers sued Lennar, as well as international environmental consultant CH2M Hill and Sacramento-based engineering consultant Gordon N. Ball, in Superior Court on behalf of their preschool and school-age children. The parents allege that their children suffered headaches, skin rashes, and respiratory ailments during Parcel A excavations, which occurred next to a predominantly African American and Latino community.
The plaintiffs charge Lennar, CH2M Hill, and Ball with public nuisance, negligence, environmental racism, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and battery. They are asking for monetary damages, a jury trial, and court costs.
But Lennar is apparently seeking to deflect the blame for these problems at the site entirely onto CH2M Hill through a new federal lawsuit, despite revelations in the Guardian (see "Question of intent," 11/28/07) that Lennar reprimanded its own staffer, Gary McIntyre, when he tried to bring Ball to heel for the company’s failure to properly control the toxic asbestos dust.
On June 23, Lennar BVHP LLC sued subcontractor CH2M Hill for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, express indemnity, and unfair business practices in connection with its work on Parcel A.
"Lennar seeks to recover for the significant economic harm it has suffered in addressing the ramifications of CH2’s gross and reckless misconduct in failing to provide competent asbestos air monitoring services for Lennar’s redevelopment of a portion of Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco," states the suit, which seeks damages, restitution and indemnity, attorney fees, court costs, and a jury trial.
"Lennar’s economic harm vastly exceeds $75,000," the suit notes. "CH2 has provided no compensation to Lennar and no other relief for its failures. Indeed, CH2 has never publicly acknowledged its clear responsibility for these failures."
CH2’s Oakland-based vice president, Udai Singh, who signed a $392,600 contract with Lennar in January 2006 for asbestos dust monitoring services, told the Guardian, "Unfortunately I’m not working on that, so I have no clue what you are talking about.
"I thought I might have seen something about that, but since I have been working mostly on EPA stuff, I haven’t been involved in this one," continued Singh, who has been project manager for remedial projects on Superfund sites for the federal EPA’s Region IX, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.
Singh referred us to CH2’s Denver-based counsel Kirby Wright, who referred us to CH2’s public relations director, John Corsi, who did not return the Guardian‘s calls as of press time.
But while Lennar BVHP continues to contract with Gordon N. Ball at the shipyard, local resident Christopher Carpenter has sued the Sacramento-based contractor in Superior Court for whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination, racial discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As the Guardian reported, ("Green City: Signs of asbestos," 8/29/07), Carpenter was fired shortly after he complained about dust that was kicked up by a Ball backhoe excavating the Parcel A hillside on Oct. 2, 2006.
"Carpenter became surrounded by a cloud of dust that was caused by Gordon Ball’s failure to water the ground prior to commencing grading," the suit alleges, noting that Carpenter complained about Ball’s unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, some of which violated Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulations and the city’s Health Code, before he was fired.
At City Hall, Sup. Sophie Maxwell is seeking to amend the city’s Building Code to require more-stringent dust control measures for demolition and construction projects. (The Building Inspection Commission opposed Maxwell’s proposal in December 2007, in a 43 vote).
On July 22, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support Maxwell’s dust legislation.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Christopher Muhammad, who represents the Muhammad University of Islam adjacent to Parcel A, asked the San Francisco Health Commission to investigate why it took until July 14 for the local community to learn of an asbestos-level violation that occurred at Lennar’s Parcel A site just four days before the June 3 election.
Muhammad suspects the infraction was hushed up because Lennar was engaged in the most expensive initiative battle in San Francisco’s history, plunking down a total of $5 million to support the ultimately successful Proposition G, which gives the developer control of Candlestick Point and the shipyard.
Amy Brownell of the Department of Public Health told the Guardian that the violation, which registered at 138,800 structures per cubic meter of air (the city’s work shutdown level is set at 16,000 structures) did not trigger a work suspension because there was no work planned at Lennar’s site May 31 or June 1, which was a weekend.
PREVIEW I read those articles in Vanity Fair blathering on about a woman’s ability to be funny. First, Christopher Hitchens says women can be witty, but since they issue children, ours is a dignified, cerebral kind of humor. Unless we’re fat or gay. Then along comes Alessandra Stanley’s article, which fixates on how all the new funny ladies are smokin’ hot, and if you’re not, you won’t ever get on MTV, or something. Well, long before those stories, I saw Carole and Mitzi, a local female comedy duo who combine a powerful sexual magnetism with down-in-the-dirt, clit-tickling humor. So I find it shocking that the pair who are hotsy-totsy (especially when naked), kinda gay, and possibly pregnant still haven’t managed to get their big break on cable not even local access, really. They are, of course, the alter egos of Beth Lisick and Tara Jepsen, two bizarrely funny bosom buds whose kindred spiritship dates back to their days on the 1999 Sister Spit tour, when their imaginations gave birth to the failed child pop stars Miriam and Helen. On her own, Lisick has penned a number of semi-autobiographical novels among them Everyone into the Pool (William Morrow, 2005) spent eight years keeping a weekly nightlife column for the Chronicle called "Buzz Town," formed the sketch comedy group White Noise Radio Theatre, actually had a kid … with her husband … and started the popular Porchlight Storytelling series. Meanwhile Jepsen organized the long-running queer spoken word night, K’vetch, and teamed up with Jenny Hoysten of Erase Errata to form the issues-centric rock band, Lesbians. I know, it still hasn’t really quite sunk in how women can be funny, gorgeous, and not on TV. Go figure. And go see the show. (Deborah Giattina)
PREVIEW The Lumerians have landed, and with frequent local gigs and one EP under their belt, the band is poised for maximum impact on the Bay Area psych scene. Take a listen to the group’s self-titled recent disc on the Subterranean Elephants imprint: there, they’ve produced five great tracks of hypnotic rhythms warmed up by droning keyboards and weirded up by synthesized noise squiggles.
"Corkscrew Trepanation" drills your brain with its kick- and bass-drum stomp, and layers organ on top of keyboards to cool hypnotic effect. Other tracks slow a bit but then take off into space via those eerie, vacilutf8g synths. "Orgon Grinder" shines a light on a warm and dreamy female vocal that boosts the song into memorable melody territory. Most numbers stretch out for five to seven minutes, propelling this ensemble into the now-crowded electronic and prog-rock family tree that’s home to a certain cluster of oft-referenced German bands. The upside of that propensity for lengthy jams: Lumerians takes the listener on an extended trip into deep headspace.
THE LUMERIANS With Darker My Love and Eulogies. Tues/5, 9 p.m., $9.99. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421, www.independentsf.com
PREVIEW That fact that Dolly Parton simply exists makes me happy. Of course, if the now-62-year-old lady from Locust Ridge, Tenn., didn’t exist, it’s likely she would have been invented by some lonesome trucker with a Venus of Willendorf complex or by Merle Haggard. (Witness Redding’s Cali–country legend crushing hard in 1981’s Sing Me Back Home [Times Books]: "I didn’t just fall in love with the image of Dolly Parton. Hell, I fell in love with that exceptional human being who lives underneath all that bunch of fluffy hair, fluttery eyelashes, and superboobs.") The mythology is firmly in place: the dirt-poor upbringing as the fourth of 12 hungry mouths to feed in a broken-down, one-room cabin in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. There’s the idea that despite the protestations of so many smitten suitors, including the Hag, Parton has remained wedded to Carl Dean, raising and playing "Aunty Granny" to younger siblings and filling in as godmother to Miley Cyrus. Her accomplishments as a songwriter and vocalist almost seem like mere frosting next to the C&W tales and Tinseltown efforts, though numbers like "Coat of Many Colors" match many tunes in Haggard’s catalog in their economy, storytelling, and resonance, while such cover turns as mentor Porter Wagoner’s "Lonely Comin’ Down" still possess an emotional power more than three decades along, thanks to Parton. And the moths still flutter toward her flame: Parton recently contributed vocals to a new song written for Jessica Simpson ("Guess you could say it’s the ‘blonde leading the blonde’," Parton has quipped), and a 9 to 5 musical, for which Parton wrote the music and lyrics, premieres in Los Angeles Sept. 20. Word has it that back problems kept the Tennessee Mountain thrush from South By Southwest this year, but one can only hope her recent, wildly successful European tour supporting Backwoods Barbie, her first self-released long-player, will smooth the way to the Greek’s stage. So say hello.
DOLLY PARTON Tues/5, 8 p.m., $39.50$125. Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, Hearst and Gayley, Berk. (510) 809-0100, www.apeconcerts.com
REVIEW This first feature by the Jacobson brothers director Clayton and leading actor Shane, also coscenarists is about a beleaguered working-class stiff. His disgraceful (to everyone but him) job is delivering and maintaining rental portaloos (read: portable toilets) to various public events, many attracting patrons who can’t keep their aim straight or food down. Kenny has a bratty son, a vicious ex-wife, unreliable coworkers, an endlessly criticizing father, and myriad other woes. But this being an underdog comedy and a mockumentary to boot we know that somehow he will come out on top, and maybe even find Ms. Right en route. I know what you’re thinking: either (a) this sounds like (pun intended) crap, and/or (b) what, they let Rob Schneider make another movie? But take a deep breath and overcome those very reasonable fears, because no kidding Kenny is one of those films that sneaks up on you, at first seeming "not so bad," then "pretty cute, actually." Then before you know it, you’re grinning ear-to-ear, pants duly charmed off. Its pudgy, pincushion protagonist, with his hilariously tossed-off bits of wisdom, for a while seems to have the odds stacked almost too cruelly against him indeed, we see him having to eat shit from just about everyone. But when fate unexpectedly sends him on a far-flung business trip, luck starts turning around for Kenny in ways that are raffishly funny and surprisingly sweet. A lot of folks have tried doing the semi-improv Christopher Guest thing in recent years, usually badly. This Aussie effort not only pulls it off, it manages better results than Guest himself has managed since 2000’s Best in Show.
KENNY runs Fri/1Sun/3 at the Red Vic Movie House. See Rep Clock for times.
REVIEW Some early Bay Area figurative painting, wrote Peter Selz in 2002, encountered "the human figure by means of the physicality and the gestural performance of abstract expressionism." More explicit figures later emerged from this abstract cauldron. Ana Teresa Fernández, however, would rather start with the explicit body and work backward. Fernández, who grew up in Mexico, isn’t a figurative painter, performance artist, videographer, feminist, or Latina artist although she assumes all of these roles from time to time. The best work at her 2008 Headlands Center for the Arts Tournesol Award exhibition, "Tela Araña Tela" (a mirroring of the Spanish for spider web), is so powerful, the movements in her work so difficult to look away from, that she acts as a detective, an intuitive investigator of the emotions embedded in human muscle tone and media complacence an exposer of the skin-tight, commonplace untruths of so-called manual labor.
By meticulously documenting stills from her own performance work which uncovers, overstimulates, and ironically decapitates familiar images of femininity and the female worker Fernández manages to blend forcefulness and stillness into her brand of revelation. The two large, untitled paintings depicting her body in muscular heels, beset I don’t know how else to say it by laundry on a clothesline, show no human face. The face has been smothered, disappearing into a wavering white sheet. The even larger painting shown here between those two, Untitled, a documentation of Jennifer Locke’s 2007 Artists’ Television Access performance in which she covered her body in glue, reveals a lattice or an amorphous web around Locke’s face, making it hard to tell if it’s the skin or the glue that’s melting. The works on paper displayed here also performance documentations lack the forcefulness of the paintings. But don’t miss the video installation, where balloons are popped like they’ve never been popped before.
TELA ARAÑA TELA Through Aug. 9. Wed.Sat., noon5 p.m., and by appointment. Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market, SF. (415) 255-5971, www.luggagestoregallery.org
>>Also in this issue: A quick guide to the new queer Argentine cinema
A father sits at the bedside of his child and, when asked what he is doing, softly answers, "I’m looking after you." Words and tone and eyes convey anxiety, fatigue, and overwhelming tenderness, and this complicated admixture quietly telegraphs, to the viewer and the child on-screen, in the aftermath of trauma and terrifying distress, a heart-calming constant: that, as he tells another character, from the moment of her birth, he has always seen her as perfect.
This flawless child, Alex (Inés Efron), the emotional focal point of Lucía Puenzo’s XXY, is also a moody, unpredictable 15-year-old, and her own complicated admixture is spiked by impetuousness, caprice, casual cruelty, and a tendency to press at the boundaries of those in her orbit. She’s also captivating, forcefully intelligent, and unreservedly herself, even while holding the world at bay to protect a secret, even in the process of feeling her way, via impulse and reflection, toward an understanding of what, exactly, that self is.
Decisions made before Alex’s birth have, in a sense, led to this sweet and sorrowful exchange between father and daughter. She was born intersex, with both male and female sexual characteristics, and raised female (perhaps based on test results and the best guesses of doctors, though this is never stated outright). Her parents, Kraken (Ricardo Darín), a marine biologist, and Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli), decided to forgo a so-called normalizing surgery for Alex: in essence, a dubious attempt to impose a firm gender identity at birth. Without ever fully conquering their own unease and fears for a beloved child, they have left her in possession of the facts and the right to make her own choices an emotional, improvised, and at times visceral process.
The task, grown more difficult with adolescence, takes on a painful new weight when Erika (Carolina Peleritti), an old friend of Suli’s from Buenos Aires; her husband, Ramiro (Germán Palacios); and their teenage son, Alvaro (Martín Piroyansky), come to visit the family’s home on the southern coast of Uruguay, where they moved shortly after Alex’s birth. This other family of three, with its own fraught relationship between father and child, carry with them the social dictates and preconceptions Alex’s parents have sought to shield her from by living in an isolated place. They can’t, of course, shield her, and Alex is changing already, with or without the interference of strangers, but their arrival invests her process of discoveries with a sense of urgency, of necessity. In part this is because Ramiro, a renowned plastic surgeon, has come intending to recommend and advise them on "corrective" surgery. But the attraction that forms between his son and Alex exerts its own force on both of them, and for Alex such a connection inevitably involves the desire to reveal herself (literally and otherwise) and the risk of betrayal that attends such exposure.
Puenzo’s first full-length film, XXY is beautifully shot by cinematographer Natasha Braier and, save for a few false notes, well scripted its silences and ambiguities and transfixing images engaging our imagination and sympathy. However, much of the credit for its successes (it has won numerous international awards, including several at Cannes in 2007 and Frameline 2008’s audience award for best feature) falls to Efron’s portrayal of Alex, whom we come to view with that same potent compound of emotions that she raises in those who watch over her in the film.
Opens Fri/1 at Bay Area theaters
After Burnt Money (2000), Marcelo Pineyro’s conventionally entertaining true crime tale of gay bank robbers, queer blooms began to grow within the wilder garden of new Argentine cinema. Here’s a guide:
Smokers Only (Veronica Chen, 2001) Chen’s debut about a hustler who sometimes tricks in ATM stalls and the goth girl who becomes obsessed with him is probably the first chapter of the new queer Argentine cinema. Unfortunately, it’s boring and pretentious, built around an object of affection who isn’t as compelling as he is cute.
Suddenly (Diego Lerman, 2002) B. Ruby Rich (as quoted on Michael Guillen’s Web site the Evening Class): "A queer empathic … lesbian romantic escapade. If you’ve never seen or heard of [Suddenly], you’re missing your chance to see a young woman abducted at knifepoint by the lesbian street punks that desire her."
Ronda Nocturna (Edgardo Cozarinsky, 2005) A veteran director who fled Argentina in 1974 following the reelection of Juan Perón, Cozarinsky returned from exile to make this film. At least partly inspired by Chen’s Smokers Only, he borrows from that film’s night-in-the-life-of-a-hustler scenario. But Ronda Nocturna is hotter, wiser, and more far-reaching in its bottoms-up view of corruption in urban Argentina.
Agua (Veronica Chen, 2006) Chen’s follow-up to Smokers Only isn’t queer in story line, but its gaze at the male body in motion and masculine psyche is a beyondClaire Denis case of female eye for the straight guy in turn for the queer guy. Handsome lead actor Rafael Ferro builds on his memorable appearance in Ronda Nocturna. A burst of pure athletic cinema with moments that match 2005’s Zidane (on a much lower budget) in their intense interiority, Agua refreshes.
Glue (Alexis Dos Santos, 2006) A triumph of intimate collaboration between a trio of young actors and a new director, Alexis Dos Santos’s first movie takes the bi-way to becoming maybe the best or at least most honest and deep teen movie of the 21st century so far. Lead actress Inés Efron’s brave gawky beauty reveals what’s been lacking from American cinema since the heydays of Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall.
La Leon (Santiago Otheguy, 2007) Perhaps influenced by Lisandro Alonso, this handsome black-and-white feature scopes out alienation, attraction, and phobic intolerance in the Paraná Delta.
XXY (Lucía Puenzo, 2007) Efron returns in the role of an intersex teenager, delivering another superb performance.
By Andrea Nemerson
My husband had been a secret methamphetamine user since the mid-1980s. He had issues with depression and repressed anger, but I had no idea that drugs had so much to do with everything that’s happened in our lives. We’ve always allowed each other a lot of space, so it was easy for him to hide his use and the spending that went with it.
Six months ago he finally got tired of the lies and the fear (random drug testing at work) and started rehab, and I feel I’m starting to get the man I married back. However, his confidence, libido, erections, and our sex life are all gone. He recently confessed that he was high every time we had sex for the past 10 years or so, and now that juice is gone. Blood pressure medication is compounding the problem.
Considering the number of people who never had sex without drugs and are now sober, there is precious little information about sex after sobriety. Most of what I found was along the lines of "You just need to get over the fear." It was all pretty much about having to figure it out for yourself, and nothing mentioned prescription meds. Maybe everyone really does have to find his or her own way back?
Despite some of the drug- and depression-related behaviors my husband has exhibited over the years, he is a wonderful man with many wonderful qualities, and I love him very much. I could live without the sex my libido isn’t what it used to be either but it does make me sad to think of leaving this world without ever making love with him again. The fact that it was drug enhanced didn’t make it any less great.
Is there any good information out there about sex after sobriety, especially after uppers? My husband is afraid he burned out his circuits with the drugs. I don’t know what to think. Maybe six months isn’t enough time to expect a transition to "normal" functioning. Going back to drugs is certainly no solution. Is there anything that can help in this situation? Trying to have a sex life without meth and with high BP meds … maybe it’s too much to ask.
I could answer this myself but why bother when My Friend the Therapist, whose practice consists largely of men whose sex lives were first fueled and then derailed by meth and subsequent sobriety, is willing to take it on? I warn you that My Friend is not given to sugar-coating things, but he does know what he’s talking about.
There’s a huge public health effort to convince people that sex without meth is great: "It’s so much more (intense, intimate, meaningful, etc.) without drugs." The truth is that, for many folks, post-meth sex will be less compelling than sex on meth, and that’s just the way it is. Brain chemistry versus ad campaigns: brain chemistry wins. If you start with that, you’ll have better chances of having a satisfying (though possibly never again as mind-blowing) sex life. Modest expectations = better odds of success.
For some people, this improves after the first year or so. It takes about that long for your brain to get back on track making the appropriate endogenous chemicals, and once they’re back on their own internal meds, a lot of folks experience a return of libido. If your partner is only six months sober, don’t expect much yet.
I usually recommend starting really, really slowly. He can try jacking off a little, work up to jacking off together, and eventually do some oral. Go slow, and leave the intercourse until he really, really wants it.
Viagra can be helpful in a reverse kind of way. Viagra itself won’t help with low sexual desire, but absence of libido plus Viagra plus calm environment plus stimulation = hard-on, which often leads to some kind of sexual activity, which then often leads to a return of some level of desire. If a heart condition is a factor, no Viagra without doctor’s permission. Try some alprostadil (a prescription erection aid that doesn’t affect blood pressure) if needed.
Short version: start with gentle, no-expectations stimulation, don’t expect much for the first year, and see how it goes. Adam Zimbardo, MFT
I would also suggest that your husband talk to his doctor about the meds; it’s possible an adjustment might make a difference. And I do think it’s worth asking for Viagra or something similar. The worst that can happen is the doc says no. I promise the doctor will not recoil with horror, gasping, "Sex with your wife? Why ever would you want me to help you have that?"
I think it’s kind of criminal that people are expected to get and stay sober with so little warning that their entire sex, love, and intimacy pyramid might collapse, crash, and burn in the aftermath, and with so little information on how to rebuild it. Hope this helps.
Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.
OPINION Has Nancy Pelosi signed off on the George W. Bush administration’s covert CIA operations in Iran? Yes, according to Seymour Hersh’s July 14 New Yorker article, "Preparing the Battlefield." Late last year, the White House submitted a Presidential Finding, a highly classified document signed by the president, to be cleared with the leaders and ranking intelligence committee members of both parties in both branches of Congress a group that, by dint of her position as Speaker of the House, includes Pelosi.
According to a Hersh source, "Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding … the funding for the escalation was approved" noting that congressional leaders authorized up to $400 million for increased efforts to destabilize Iran’s government.
When some Democrats became uncomfortable with the prospect of approving "potential defensive lethal action by US operatives in Iran," they conferred with CIA Director Michael V. Hayden who, Hersh writes, "reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm."
Nothing more than to shoot their way out? If President Bush were to reveal evidence of Iranian agents dropped into this country and authorized to kill Americans, we can well imagine Pelosi speaking forcefully about the outrage she and the House delegation would feel about such an egregious breach of our sovereignty. But how in the world does the representative of perhaps the most antiwar city in the country sign off on the United States doing this to another nation?
Then there’s the question of whom we’re funding. According to a former Middle East CIA operative, one beneficiary, the Baluchis, a Sunni Muslim group in the majority Shiite country, are "fundamentalists … you can also describe … as Al Qaeda." Another, Mujahideen-e-Khalq, has been on the State Department terrorist list for more than 10 years.
That the Bush White House would resort to arming known enemies in its frantic effort to create new ones is bad. Democrats signing off on it is even worse. But the fact that a representative from San Francisco, a city that has time and again demonstrated its opposition to these sorts of policies, might approve them is about as gross a distortion of the public will as you’re likely to find.
Hersh quotes an aide to one of the four Democrats notified of the Finding predictably arguing that it was "just that notification, and not a sign-off on activities." But he accurately points out that Congress "has the power to withhold funding for any government operation," but chose not to.
The burden of persuading Nancy Pelosi that the Democratic Party should not approve such policies may lie primarily with her House colleagues. But if she, or they, think that this is what the Speaker needs to do, then she needs to leave that job behind because funding a covert war in Iran simply does not represent the interests or the will of California’s 8th Congressional District.
Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts state legislator who lives in San Francisco.
GREEN CITY The San Francisco Clean Energy Act isn’t the only charter amendment on the November ballot, but it’s already shaping up to be the political lightning rod of this fall’s election.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. sent out mailers opposing the measure even before the Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 on July 22 to place it on the Nov. 4 ballot. Mayor Gavin Newsom also announced his opposition to the act moments after Assemblymember Mark Leno, former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Susan Leal, and a cadre of progressive supervisors announced their support for it on the steps of City Hall.
Authored by Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin, the Clean Energy Act requires San Francisco to fulfill 51 percent of its electricity needs through renewable sources by 2017. That requirement rises to 75 percent by 2030, and to 100 percent, “or the greatest amount technologically feasible or practicable,” by 2040.
The SF Clean Energy Act also mandates that a feasibility study be undertaken to look at the best way to provide clean, green energy, which could lead to PG&E losing its stranglehold on energy if the study finds public power to be the best option.
Explaining the importance of mandating a feasibility study, Mirkarimi said, “Otherwise PG&E has a monopoly here until the planet dies.”
Supporters say it is important for San Francisco to set up a model that others can follow. “As goes San Francisco, so goes the state of California, and so goes the nation,” Peskin said at the July 22 rally, just before the Board voted to place the act on the ballot. “This is a time when people can change the destiny of the planet.”
Moments after that rally ended, Mayor Newsom took a minute to explain his opposition.
“We have other things we should be focusing on,” Newsom told reporters at a press conference at the War Memorial Building to announce housing bonds for veterans. “Let’s call it what it is. It’s a power takeover of PG&E,” he said.
But the elected officials and myriad organizations who showed up at City Hall to support the Clean Energy Act say that public vs. private power is not the main issue.
“The public power considerations have been drafted in a thoughtful and reasonable way,” Leno told the crowd. “It would involve study after study after study, and testimony from experts.”
Leno noted that 42 million Americans have public power, and if San Francisco did turn to public power, it would be embracing something as American as mom and apple pie. “Unlike their private power company counterparts, public power systems serve only one constituency: their customers,” Leno said.
Sup. Gerardo Sandoval opined that government is better able to assume renewable energy risks. “The private industry is not going to take that risk,” Sandoval said. “It’s always going to take the cheap way out, which is fossil fuels.
Others warned the audience not to be swayed by PG&E’s anti–Clean Energy campaign, which Newsom’s chief political consultant Eric Jaye is working on.
“This is not some crazy takeover scheme,” Leal said. “It’s about protecting the environment and the rights of San Franciscans and their rate payers.”
The Clean Energy Act has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, ACORN, the San Francisco Green Party, the League of Young Voters, Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice, the San Francisco Green Party, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Mark Sanchez, president of the San Francisco Board of Education and a supervisorial candidate in District 9, described showing “An Inconvenient Truth” to the eighth-grade science class he teaches. “What can I say to my kids — we don’t have the policies in place to mitigate the damage they see?”
The Sierra Club’s John Rizzo noted, “This act insures that San Francisco is at the center of this economy. Not in Japan, China, or Germany. It will be here.”
Aliza Wasserman of the League of Young Voters stated that “PG&E is not investing $1 in renewable energy beyond state mandates, and they lobby against measures to raise those mandates.”
It’s not an easy time to be celebrating. The Bush administration has driven the economy into the toilet. After more than five years, the nation is still fighting a foolish, unnecessary war in Iraq. Unemployment is rising, and so is the cost of living.
But it’s also been a banner year for grassroots democracy. Barack Obama, the antiwar candidate, the upstart, took on and defeated the vaunted Clinton operation, and did it in large part with little pieces. He raised millions from small donors and mobilized activists on the ground in a way we haven’t seen in too many years.
And that energy is alive and well in San Francisco. The city that defied Washington and forced the legalization of same-sex marriage, the city that remains the heart of the antiwar movement, will be leading the way toward a more sustainable energy policy this fall. District supervisorial campaigns are well underway, with the mobilizations and energy coming not from big campaign donors and powerful interests but from ordinary people who live here and care about their community.
That’s the spirit we celebrate in this Best of the Bay issue.
There’s a lot more democracy in our selections this year more selections and ideas from our readers, more input from our community. Our cover art and the illustrations inside reflect the activist traditions and inspirations of this city.
It’s bleak out there in America, but hope lives in places like San Francisco. And that’s a great reason to be proud of all that is the Best of the Bay.
EDITORIAL There are some clear and compelling things San Francisco needs to be doing to protect the environment and reduce its carbon footprint, such as converting to renewable electricity sources and promoting alternatives to the automobile. But as the past couple of weeks at City Hall have demonstrated, city officials are letting petty politics interfere with working together to do the right thing.
Obviously, the most important step toward combating climate change is to convert the power portfolio of city residents to renewable energy sources. Nobel laureate Al Gore challenged the entire country to move toward 100 percent renewable power sources within 10 years during a landmark speech July 17.
But days later, when Gore appeared at the Netroots Nation convention in Austin, Texas, to repeat the challenge to the assembled bloggers, fellow guest speaker Mayor Gavin Newsom came out against the San Francisco Clean Energy Act, which would set even more modest goals for conversion to green power sources.
Newsom’s reason, as Sarah Phelan and Janna Brancolini explain in this week’s Green City column, is fear of provisions in the legislation that call for studying just studying public power options for achieving these goals. Considering Newsom has repeatedly told the Guardian that he supports public power, it’s disgraceful that he’s so beholden to Pacific Gas and Electric and so mindlessly adversarial toward the Board of Supervisors that he would oppose setting high green power standards.
But Newsom isn’t the only one playing this game. Board president Aaron Peskin is trying to scuttle Sunday Streets, which would temporarily close six miles of roadway to cars as part of an international trend to promote carfree spaces, simply because it was Newsom who proposed it (see "Pedal power," 7/23/08).
True, Newsom is a newcomer to the carfree movement having spent years blocking proposed street closures in Golden Gate Park but his conversion was warmly embraced by progressive groups such as Livable City and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and should have been supported by Peskin and other supervisors.
Meanwhile, the city is doing little to fight the ongoing court injunction against bicycle projects even as required environmental work on the Bicycle Plan falls behind schedule. In connection with a July 21 hearing on that delay, both Planning Director John Rahaim and City Attorney Dennis Herrera have called for reform to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and for changes in how the city interprets traffic impacts under the act.
"It’s truly ironic that an activity that is inherently environmentally friendly is being challenged under an environmental law," Rahaim said of bicycling as he testified before the Land Use Committee. He’s right. City officials should aggressively move forward with the local reforms under consideration and push the bureaucracy to keep the Bike Plan on the fast track.
Meanwhile, our state legislators should work to amend CEQA to exempt pedestrian and bicycle improvements from costly and time-consuming environmental impact reports and our federal representatives should start laying the groundwork now to ensure next year’s big transportation bill reauthorization promotes alternatives to the automobile.
As a gesture of cooperation and goodwill, Newsom should come out and support Sup. Chris Daly’s latest proposal to close Market Street to automobiles, which would greatly speed up public transit, improve pedestrian safety, and create an attractive bicycle boulevard in the heart of the city.
The idea was first pitched by former mayor Willie Brown and has already been studied and vetted by the city bureaucracy. This could be the first big cooperative project between the board and the Mayor’s Office, a team effort against the forces of the status quo. And if it is successful, just imagine what they could take on after that.