Volume 45 Number 01

Appetite: 3 recent food books pique our palates


These three books (one factual journey, one memoir, one cookbook) have two things in common: they’re all new this year and centered around food.

TWAIN’S FEAST by Andrew Beahrs — Andrew Beahrs, an East Bay local, displays his affection for the great Mark Twain in this thoroughly researched book. Twain’s Feast explores the history of foods Twain waxed eloquent about that are either gone entirely or slowly making their way back into the American landscape.  Experiencing food and coffee in his European travels “as tasteless as paper”, Twain found American cooking of his time “generous”, “genuine”, “real”. Of course, the prairie hens he grew up with, fresh possum and raccoon, New Orleans’ sheep-head and croakers, and the “heaven on the half shell” of San Francisco’s own oysters and mussels, are largely extinct or rare nowadays.

The book is, yes, a poignant ode to the pre-mass-produced, homogenized, dangerously grown American “food” we now know. It’s also a hopeful challenge to the reader, worded gently in the epilogue: “… choices about what we eat help to determine which American landscapes survive and thrive.”

There are many worthy stories here, both for the Twain aficionado and food historian. What I came away with, besides a reminder to support the craftswomen and men making food and growing animals with care (which we’re heavily blessed with in the Bay Area), was Twain’s insataible passion for robust flavor, a hunger to drink life to the dregs. I relate to the way he eats… and heartily writes about it.

As Beahrs says, “… Twain’s love for a dish was inseparable from his love of life.” Amen.

HUNGRY TOWN by Tom Fitzmorris — Make no bones about it, I have a mad love affair with New Orleans, a city you hear me go on about often enough. Naturally, I ate up (no pun intended) Tom Fitzmorris‘ new Hungry Town, a leading Nola restaurant reviewer both in print and on the radio for decades.

He knows the city’s food scene intimately: its history, key players, essential recipes (included in the book), and the post-Katrina struggle that has brought the culinary magic of the ultimate Southern city back to even greater heights (and more restaurants) than before the storm. His post-Katrina assessments are honest insights into just how torn apart families and businesses were, including his own. But he unabashedly claims: “Food Saves New Orleans”.

I value his commitment to Creole and Cajun as the “default” styles of cooking in New Orleans, essential to the city’s future. He states: “The genius of New Orleans cooking is not that we cook better than anyone else. It’s that nobody in the world cooks our local specialties – except when they consciously imitate us (usually badly, I’ve found). The day that our food fails to be flagrantly distinctive… is the day we become Anywhere, USA. That’s also the day I’m leaving town.”

THE SUNSET COOKBOOK — Cooks take note: 10/19 is the release date of the massive, 1000+ recipe tome that is the latest edition of the Sunset Cookbook. It’s a fine one. Not only are the clean, bright photos dangerous to peruse on an empty stomach, but the book manages to be both approachable and widely comprehensive, with sections on every aspect of a meal you can think of from bread to cocktails to preserves and pickles.

Sunset magazine‘s food editor, Margo True, is also the book’s editor and she maintains a cohesive standard of ‘farmers-market-fresh’ ingredients with regional Western foods. Yes, Sunset magazine is based in the Bay Area, so California ethos displays prominently with international influences married to a rich range of produce. But the styles of cooking cover the world, showcasing food of the West as what it truly is: global.

Many recipes tempt me here, including this snack and shake:

Avocado Fries
SERVES 6 | TIME 30 minutes

Canola oil for frying
1⁄4 cup flour
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 eggs, beaten to blend
11⁄4 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
2 firm-ripe medium Hass avocados, pitted, peeled, sliced into 1⁄2-in. wedges

1. Preheat oven to 200°. In a medium saucepan, heat 11⁄2 in. oil until it registers 375° on a deep-fry thermometer.

2. Meanwhile, mix flour with salt in a shallow plate. Put eggs and panko in separate shallow plates. Dip avocado wedges in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, then panko to coat. Set on two plates in a single layer.

3. Fry a quarter of the avocado wedges at a time until deep golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer wedges to a plate lined with paper towels. Keep warm in oven while cooking remainder. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

California Date Shake
One of the great foods of the Sunshine State, the date shake is exactly what you want to be slurping while visiting baking-hot date country near Palm Springs. Our favorite shake is the one at Shields Date Gardens, in Indio. Shields uses its own date “crystals”—dehydrated Deglet Noor and Blonde dates (the latter is one of its signature varieties). You can order these online or substitute fresh, as we’ve done here. This shake is sensational with a shot of rum stirred in.

Makes 1 shake (11⁄3 cups) | TIME 10 minutes

4 pitted Medjool dates (about 3 oz.), coarsely chopped
1⁄4 cup very cold milk
11⁄4 cups high-quality vanilla ice cream

In a blender, blend dates and milk until smooth and super-frothy. Add ice cream and pulse a few times, until just blended.

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On the way


ODC Founder and Artistic Director Brenda Way put it best when, toasting the crowd at the end of the premiere of her Architecture of Light, she said: “If you don’t leave a footprint, you will be forgotten. If you tread lightly, you’ll fly away. So here’s to you who hit the ground running.”

It was indeed a gala — festive, fancy, and fun — as ODC opened its new 36,000-square-foot facility. Elaine Buckholtz’s masterful lighting transformed the exterior into a glistening jewel without obliterating the solidity of architect Mark Cavagnero’s X-beam trusses that so solidly anchor the building on the ground.

But the real action happened inside, as small groups of audience members — high heels clacking — traipsed through the three-story structure for a series of installation performances. From my group’s perspective, Architecture built a beautifully logical trajectory. Others might have experienced the sequences differently. It started with Corey Brady’s index finger gently tracing on a studio floor and ended with him at the center of a huge gathering of professional and audience member dancers in which he partnered the mother of Bay Area dance, Anna Halprin.

In his intimate solo, the bare-chested Brady, an impressively nuanced and athletically nimble dancer, explored his sense of self as he became familiar with the terrain around him. Tracing geometric patterns or slithering through them, he happened upon unexpected frozen moments of frozen balance. Several times Brady appeared to sniff the air around him. At the next location, Vanessa Thiessen — strong, fast, and assertive — put a tie on Brady. A gift? A challenge? Initially the two engaged each other in what looked like a private sign language, then they began to connect more directly. At times they circled and engaged like boxers, though without the violence, finishing with only their fingertips gently touching.

In an adjacent area that could only partially be seen, a quintet — three dancers and two others who reshaped the space around them by means of white strings — looked at perspective, both the one in front of us and in a “parallel universe.” I am not sure that this concept worked. Architecture also somewhat clumsily tried to include “ordinary folks” by having some streak through at the end of episodes. The effect was akin to a joke that missed its punch line.

A ground floor episode made good use of the area’s physical space. Dancers poured in from the street, alternately melting into what probably is a closet or slinking out of sight down a hallway. The dancing had an ambling, relaxed quality about it, with the performers responding to the music’s tick-tock beat with shakes of heads, hands, and shoulders. At one point they even engaged in a stick-out-your-tongue competition.

An audience-involvement section divided dancers and visitors into two groups. Led by the dancers, we learned simple five phrase patterns that then were juxtaposed with each other. Often these exercises can look forced and awkward. This one worked because the moves were simple, the “teachers” good humored, and the audience willing to participate.

The grand finale in the theater proper — a space with the same footprint but twice the height — brought everyone together. Twenty-five dancers each partnered a lay performer while the rest of us watched. Either these unison duets had been rehearsed ahead of time or this city abounds in some very good recreational dancers. At the end of the smartly-timed, one-hour gala, there were chocolates, toasts, and champagne. The festivities continue this month with “JumpstART” on Oct. 16, a free, daylong celebration of dance, theater, and music curated by local artists including Joe Goode and Mark Jackson.


Oct. 16, noon–11 p.m.

ODC Theater

351 Shotwell, SF

(415) 863-9834



No brains required


Dead Rising 2

Blue Castle (Capcom)

Xbox 360/PS3/PC

GAMER If Dead Rising was a videogame homage to Dawn of the Dead (1978), then Dead Rising 2 has taken a big leap forward in the George Romero zombie timeline, landing somewhere near the patchy neighborhood of 2005’s Land of the Dead.

Set a few years after the events of the original, the sequel depicts a society well past the shock and dismay of the zombie outbreak: it’s begun to make money off it. At the game’s outset, motocross driver Chuck Greene is a contestant on a competition TV show called Terror is Reality, where the goal is to slice up zombies on a motorcycle outfitted with chainsaws. This is not a game that takes itself terribly seriously. The original Dead Rising had plenty of goofy material, from Mega Man costumes to psychopathic clowns, but it was also grounded so strongly in its homage to the Romero film that the goofiness felt like icing on a cake. Here, goofiness takes center stage. This isn’t quite a criticism, mind you, and the silly fun you have in Dead Rising 2 beats the pants off watching 2007’s Diary of the Dead any day.

After his appearance on Terror is Reality, and an apparent terrorist attack that caused zombies to break into the show’s studios, Chuck finds himself quarantined on a patch of the Vegas strip with three days to solve mysteries and make sure that his daughter receives her daily shot that prevents her from turning into a member of the undead. As in the original, you’re largely free to go where you like for the three days, but dilly-dallying comes at the expense of saving other survivors. That clock is always ticking down, and it quickly becomes clear that it’s impossible to do everything the game offers in the time given, forcing you to make choices about whom to save and which mysteries to investigate.

This isn’t some complex moral exercise: the real reason to play Dead Rising 2 is to kill lots of zombies. We’re talking thousands upon thousands, filling every screen. Luckily, Las Vegas is packed with the tools of zombie disposal, from lawnmowers to novelty foam fingers, and the game introduces a new system of combining items to make them doubly efficient and doubly hilarious. Grab that rake and attach a car battery and you have an electric rake — perfect for zapping zombies at a safe distance.

Other than the new location and the combo items, developer Capcom didn’t mess much with the formula; in fact, a number of the game’s sections are indistinguishable from the first title. The option to play cooperatively with a friend is welcome, but the multiplayer portion is more afterthought than anything. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but there aren’t a lot of games in the “zombie sandbox” genre and the overwhelming wealth of stuff to do in Dead Rising 2 suggests you’ll be slicing up zombies and making yourself laugh for a long time to come.

Now is the time



STAGE The recent appointment of L. Peter Callender as artistic director of the African-American Shakespeare Company is exciting news, and not only for the San Francisco–based operation founded in 1994 by Sherri Young. With the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre recently rocked (though thankfully not tumbled) by the untimely deaths this year of its founding directors, Stanley E. Williams and Quentin Easter, the revitalization of a serious theater devoted to “coloring the classics” comes as especially welcome and timely. Moreover, the arrival of Callender — who, as a preeminent Bay Area actor for two decades, brings excellent experience and connections — promises a broadening of AASC’s programming as much as an overall increase in proficiency.

Case in point is AASC’s first outing under Callender’s leadership, IPH …, Irish playwright Colin Teevan’s 1999 adaptation of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. The U.S. premiere, directed by Dylan Russell, proves an uneven production, but it offers energy, invention, and, not least, Callender himself in a central role. Indeed, whatever its limitations, IPH … has no trouble expanding to fit the cavernous Brava Theater (coproducer for this season opener), which says something about the heft of the company now and going forward.

Callender plays King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces assembled at Aulis, en route to make war on Troy, whose Prince Paris has made off with Greek beauty Helen, wife of Agamemnon’s brother and Sparta’s king, Menelaus (Dorian Lockett). It’s a family affair, in other words, to which whole nations of people are unfortunately tied. But before the slaughter commences on the battlefield, Agamemnon must sacrifice one of his very own: beloved daughter Iphigenia (a warm and spirited Traci Tolmaire). A soothsayer has told him it is the condition under which the goddess Artemis will release his ships, now stranded in a dead calm.

In Russell’s expansive staging — which includes effective use of Matt McAdon’s gracefully sloping three-level set and Wesley Cabral’s large video backdrop — Callender’s Agamemnon stirs in nightmares at center stage, haunted and agitated like a giant unused to helplessness. Confronted by the bullying of his humiliated brother and facing the wrath of his proud, outraged, and grief-stricken wife, Queen Clytemnestra (an elegant and imposing C. Kelly Wright), Agamemnon musters all his regal strength. Only before his adorable and adoring daughter does he seem barely up to the task at hand. Callender excels as a leader of men brought to the very brink of emotional collapse by this cruel test of allegiance, responsibility, and resolve. (At times, however, disparities in acting ability can make it seem as if the actors onstage are in separate productions, as when Callender and Lockett’s kingly brothers square off.)

Of course, leaders of state rarely sacrifice their own in waging war — very much to the contrary. All too easy to have other, far less powerful people sacrifice theirs, hence the importance of ideas of “sacrifice” on behalf of a “nation,” whatever that is. (Interestingly, Jon Tracy’s In the Wound, currently making its premiere in a production by the Shotgun Players, is an adaptation of the same Greek myth that takes heated exception to this notion of national sacrifice). The drama as adapted by Teevan emphasizes familial conflict and presents us with the ultimately willing figure of Iphigenia, accepting her own death out of paternal love and a sense of civic obligation and a greater destiny. But the play’s very title suggests an underlying ambivalence, and Teevan frames the story from the world- and war-weary perspective of an old servant (Peter Kybart), who gives us the tale as a flashback, seen from the other side of 10 years of bloody and pointless conflict.

The playwright also balances all with a strain of mischievous humor, centered in a chorus of four catty, flirty women (Natalia Duong, Lisa Tarrer Lacy, Marilet Martinez, Sarita Ocon) who sing their narration to familiar melodies from the “classics” of American pop music — for instance, discoursing ravenously on the manly attributes of Achilles (Luke Taylor) to the tune of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” The gambit has a generally crowd-pleasing effect, though as presented here it goes on a bit long, diluting the central emotional content of the play.


Through Oct. 16; $15–$35

Brava Theater Center

2781 York, SF

(415) 647-2822


Scroll of sound



MUSIC One of the singular ironies among the speedy online dissemination of sounds has to be the rediscovery of so many 1960s- and ’70s-era women singer-songwriters who came, sang, and seemingly disappeared in the wake of Joni, Judy, and Joan. Singular among Judee Sill, Vashti Bunyan, Karen Dalton, and those other ladies of the canyon is Linda Perhacs, the maker of Parallelograms, an achingly beautiful ode to nature and an all-too-brief testament to one young woman’s life, first released on Kapp in 1970 and most recently re-released in 2008 by Sunbeam.

From the start, psychedelic and folk-rock aficionados have been swept away by Parallelograms‘ opener "Chimacum Rain," as Perhacs’ overdubbed harmonies pour down like a sweet shower in the Olympic Peninsula while she tenderly pieces out, "I’m spacing out, I’m seeing/ Silences between leaves." But the title track is the heart of the album. A child of both Joni Mitchell and Free Design, with its jazzy washes of atonal color, circling Celtic guitar figure, and exploratory electronic effects, "Parallelograms" is a genuinely haunting masterpiece of experimental psychedelia — a future-folk madrigal that has inspired artists as disparate as Daft Punk (which used her "If You Were My Man" demo in 2007’s Electroma) and Devendra Banhart (who sang with Perhacs on "Freely," from 2007’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon).

It’s a recording informed by the natural world of Perhacs, born Linda Jean Arnold in Southern California, raised among the the redwoods of Mill Valley, and relocated once more to Topanga Canyon as a young dental hygienist. By day, she’d work on the teeth of the famous and talented in Beverly Hills, and on the weekend, she and her husband, artist Les Perhacs, would venture into the "very raw wilderness" of Big Sur, Mendocino, and Alaska, she tells me today from LA, where she continues to apply her healing powers to celebrated smiles. "I’d walk the beaches in Baja, California, or the Sea of Cortez, Canada or the Pacific Northwest. I’d spend a lot of time alone walking — that’s when I started to write songs. It just seemed to come naturally in the middle of such beauty. I was just describing what I was seeing."

That vision — and its sonic incarnation — was recognized by Oscar-winning film composer Leonard Rosenman, a patient who had studied with Arnold Schoenberg and befriended Perhacs. Once he heard her rough demo and saw her "scroll" — her sketchlike notation for the song "Parallelograms," which she saw as a "moving sound sound-sculpture" — Rosenman decided he had to record her. "He said, ‘I could live a lifetime and only come up with two ideas this good,’" recalls Perhacs. The composer gave Universal Records a demo of two of her more conventional songs, secured funding, and assembled such ace players as guitarist Steve Cohn and percussionists Shelley Mann and Milt Holland to play on the LP, telling Perhacs, "If you see the executives from Universal walking in with suits, switch to another song because they’ll never understand this piece." In Perhacs’ words, "He supported me, but let the creativity of a young person come through."

Perhacs’ rare vision continues to shine through, though she never tried to replicate Parallelograms‘ many-layered vocals and effects live until recently. In fact, her forthcoming San Francisco Art Institute concert of new material — and a few songs from the 1970 classic, she promises — is only her third public performance. Rather, after making her powerful, influential sole disc, life — and spirit — called Perhacs, who passionately holds forth on theosophist Annie Besant’s thought forms (which find a place in Perhacs’ SFIAF concert), Paramahansa Yogananda, and Sister Josefa Mendez’s unabridged The Way of Divine Love.

"I’m a trained nurse," explains the songwriter, who remembers making music at age 5. "I know this stuff isn’t good for people. I know I lost a bunch of close friends in the ’70s. "Paper Mountain Man" — we lost him at 33. He was being a space pilot with his mind, and we lost him. I knew the dangers, and I knew from working on entertainment personalities in Beverly Hills. I didn’t want that world. I knew it would have an effect on an unformed personality. My sense of caution told me, ‘Do not go on the road and try to live that kind of life.’ My sense of inner balance told me, ‘Keep your balance.’"

The lack of label promotion and the first pressing of Parallelograms, badly remixed for AM radio, discouraged Perhacs from pursuing music further, until a 2003 visit by Wild Places’ Michael Piper, who first reissued the album on CD using the original LP. Shortly before his visit, Perhacs had almost died of pneumonia, but she soon discovered that her album had found a second life, too: "I was really weak when this guy got a hold of me and said, ‘The Internet has sent the album all over the world. I just felt guilty that you didn’t know what was going on.’" Perhacs had hung on to her own masters as well as demos she made after Parallelograms, and with Piper’s help, the original mix and never-before-heard songs like "If You Were My Man" were finally released. A vinyl version of Parallelograms as it was meant to be heard is due soon on Mexican Summer.

And Perhacs is making new music, inspired and supported by such friends and fans as We Are the World’s Aaron Robinson and Robbie Williamson, and Julia Holter, who performed with her not long ago at Red Cat in LA — a new community akin to her long-ago Topanga Canyon creative milieu. "When we had a budget it went really quickly and was very organized," she says sweetly today. "We all have straight gigs, as you call them, so it’s hard to get us all together to rehearse or record." Nevertheless, she adds, "I felt very comfortable with what I stayed with, which was spiritual pursuit. Going on the road did not feel right to me, but at this stage of my life, I don’t feel vulnerable — you could put me in the middle of a million people and I would feel solid with the choices I made."

With Julia Holter and CLoudS
Sat/9, 7 p.m., $17
San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall
800 Chestnut, SF

Noe thanks



FILM Gaspar Noé wants to share. Yet after three features, it’s still unclear whether what he’s got on his mind is worth sharing, let alone anywhere near as urgent as his need to share it.

I Stand Alone (1998) skyrocketed him to the new Cinema of Misanthropy’s forefront by making us run the A-to-B emotional gamut of a belligerent butcher (Philippe Nahon) who hates everybody but his daughter. He loves her a little too much in the “shocking” finale. Naturally, this horrified a lot of people who expected something provocative but not that nasty. Nonetheless, it was also a movie whose conspicuous straining to frighten the horses could be experienced as pat, pretentious, overgrown adolescent nihilism.

Getting yea further up in yer face, Irreversible (2002) followed a Parisian couple (Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci) over the course of one long day that eventually steps off a cliff and leaves them both splattered to pulp beneath. Its reverse chronology stratagem meant the infamous violent episodes — one prolonged murder, one really prolonged rape-beating — came fairly early, leaving us stunned and vulnerable for scenes of ordinary, pre-catastrophe life more resonant than they would have been otherwise. Noé’s characters have no depth (or only as much as actors can themselves provide), but here the structure actually seemed to encourage our caring about people.

It took him seven more years to drop Enter the Void, a “psychedelic melodrama” that has polarized responses (hypnotized vs. narcotized) since it premiered in preliminary form at Cannes last year. This was Noé’s dream project all along, his big meditation on Life, Sex, and Death.

Oscar (first-time actor Nathaniel Brown) is a young American living in Tokyo with kid sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), dealing (and doing) drugs while she dances at a strip club. Caught delivering goods to a friend (whose mother he’s sleeping with), Oscar is killed by cops. The film’s remaining two hours — set up by blunt nods to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which our hero was reading — follow Oscar’s spirit as it floats through past, present, and future, eventually “escaping the circle” of this life’s consciousness via reincarnation.

Noé has fingered Kenneth Anger, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and classic 1947 noir Lady in the Lake‘s entirely subjective camera as influences. But you could label rave lighting and black-light posters as equally important. Much of Enter the Void would be absolutely great to go-go dance in front of. (Plus then you’d face away from all the irksome strobing bits.) Like the computerized luminescent jellyfish frequently undulating in Oscar’s visions, it’s a colorful, gelatinous mess some will find trippy, others stuporous. The FX work and stealth editing seldom detectible in Irreversible‘s seemingly unbroken shots are more obvious (not to mention endless) here. Repeated sequences stubbornly refuse to grow more meaningful.

As for the oversharing/underlying psychology … oy. Oscar is a blank we could care less about filling in, while women are objects of mammary desire both lactate and lust-based. Noé doesn’t refrain from such Freudosaurus antiques as the “I saw mommy and daddy fucking!” flashback, or the mawkish cliché of orphans vowing never to be separated, though what the Dickens, they are anyway. This being Noé, sibling proximity naturally equals incestuous longing. What if it didn’t? That would be shocking.

Enter the Void does tamp down the prior films’ racist and homophobic invective, which discomfited mostly because it felt like the filmmaker’s personal ranting. (Purportedly he edited himself as a masturbating spectator into Irreversible‘s nightmarish gay sex club — the Rectum! — lest he be taken for a homophobe. It says a lot that this was his idea of a conciliatory gesture.) Still, as attempted transcendence of mortal coil, Void ultimately sits and spins on Noé’s terminal literal-mindedness, no matter how many Day-Glo CGI vapors emit from vaginas.

Noé says his next project will be a love story. Very explicit of course: “We have been watching movies for almost a century {note: it’s been well over a century) and not one movie has gotten close to how love is in real life. I know what my sexual life is made of, and I want to see similar things on screen.”

Oh, great.

ENTER THE VOID opens Fri/8 in Bay Area theaters.


Valley highs



FILM This year’s Mill Valley Film Festival, the 33rd — we’ll refrain from crucifying it — brings the usual assortment of visiting celebrities starting their Oscar thumpage early at an event with a rep for anticipating next February’s Academy winners. Some have local roots (Annette Bening, Sam Rockwell, James Franco), some don’t (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Edward Norton, Julian Schnabel).

All will be happy, or at least willing, to discuss their creative process from the Rafael or Sequoia stages. But insight into the artistic mind is also available in several lower-profile programs about Bay Area innovators in various media, most made by Bay Area filmmakers.

Tom Ropelewski’s Child of Giants: My Journey With Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange is both an appreciation of brilliance — the late, briefly married titans of 20th century Western painting and photography — and a measurement of how difficult it can be to live with. Like many true mavericks, Dixon and Lange drew little distinction between their artistic and personal lives, operating by rules of their own devising that others had to either obey or get the hell out of the way.

Not given much choice in the matter were their two sons, interviewed here. Overshadowed and occasionally neglected by parents (biological and step-) whose notions of progressive upbringing could be dictatorial and harshly critical, one played the passive-obedience card, while the other rebelled to the point of youthful homelessness. Still, they’re forgiving — as a granddaughter puts it, “I can’t pass judgment because I’m not a genius.”

There are no next-generation tattlers in the happier creative vistas of Elizabeth Federici and Laura Harrison’s Space, Land and Time: Underground Adventures with Ant Farm and Emiko Omori’s Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World. The first chronicles the architectural, performance, and media-manipulation of the 1970s SF trickster collective most famously responsible for Amarillo, Texas, automotive cemetery Cadillac Ranch, which one admirer calls “the greatest human undertaking since the Tower of Babel — which failed, and [this] prevailed.” SoCal custom car fanatic and surfer-turned-SF- counterculture-celeb Hardy provides an endearingly modest guide through a career that, perhaps more than any other, revolutionized and popularized U.S. body art.

Among Bay Area narrative features, Scared New World (2005) director Chris Brown’s new Fanny, Annie and Danny hews back to the train-wreck parenting theme. Its three disparately damaged adult siblings seem tragicomedically bad enough company until we meet the monster who made them. Mother Edie (Colette Keen) presides over their climactic Christmas dinner like a lion tamer snapping bullwhip over yelping puppies. Seldom have sing-along carols sounded so hateful.

Ranging farther afield, MVFF 2010 likewise offers a chance to be first on your block to see this year’s Oscar bait (The King’s Speech, 127 Hours) and A-list festival favorites (Blue Valentine, Tiny Furniture). But since those will be coming round soon enough to regular theaters, you’d be better off sampling some of the many features unlikely to be seen again hereabouts.

Several happen to be beautifully photographed foreign titles sharing a certain religious-allegorical dimension. Based on a Gabriel García Márquez story, Hilda Hidalgo’s Costa Rican-Colombian Of Love and Other Demons finds a teenage, early colonialist-era noble dragged to a nunnery, where her rabies symptoms are taken for demonic possession — and where she awakens a priest’s well-buried sensual side. Vardis Marinakis’ Greek Black Field finds a 17th century novice fleeing her convent with a wounded military deserter; in the forest primeval, their own sensual awakening hits a surprising major hurdle. Adán Aliaga’s gorgeous black and white Estigmas follows a burly gentle giant whose picaresque adventures are cursed and redeemed by bleeding stigmata that mysteriously appear on his hands one day.

Special events include an Oct. 8 concert celebrating what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday; on Oct. 16 Tim Rutili’s eccentric supernatural whimsy All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, with live accompaniment by his band Califone. Then there’s the Oct. 12 revival of 30-year-old The Empire Strikes Back, the best Star Wars movie. (I might also call it the only really good one, but dare not risk the wrath of fanboys.) Who’s to say a certain Marin resident, employer, and longtime MVFF supporter won’t drop by for the occasion? You never know. 


Oct 7–17, most shows $12.50

Various venues in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, and San Rafael



Fantasy girl


It was one of those knockout weekends during which rabid electro kids and throbbing bluegrass fans, twirling gay flaggers and hot-pink breast cancer walkers all blurred into, well, a blur. Hell if I remember most of it. But it’s a dazzling blur, a blur you can really take a shine to, kind of Brazil-shaped with opalescent edges, undulating there in the partially cloudy air, a 4G jellyfish lingering on the event horizon.

I.e., a blackout. So anyway, what’s my favorite multi-gifted, ultra-busty local transsexual performer Cassandra Cass (www.cassandracass.com) doing lately? In case you hadn’t heard, her talents are blossoming every Thursday at midnight on the Showtime network, in an outrageously entertaining reality show called “Wild Things.”

“You mean my two biggest talents are blossoming,” Ms. Cass breathes into my ear — and I swear I hear her shake her boobs over the phone. Cassandra’s one of those beautiful SF nightlife unicorns you spot whisking through random parties on the arm of a handsome gentleman, or pay good money well-spent to see lip-synch lustily at Harry Denton’s packed Sunday’s A Drag brunch buffets (Sundays, noon and 2:30 p.m., $39.95. Starlight Room, 450 Powell, SF. www.harrydenton.com). She’s fantastical, and now she’s the world’s.

On “Wild Things,” Cass and two other trans bombshells, Maria Roman and Tiara Russell, hit the road in a Winnebago, traveling through the West working odd jobs to raise money for Maria’s brother’s kidney disease treatment. Hair-flipping bronco busting, slaughterhouse mishaps, sexy hotdog sales, half-naked car washes, cop-attracting catfights, flirty lube jobs, and more ensue.

Notably missing on their trips into backcountry? Rampant transphobia. “Sure, here we come, these transgender Amazons with impossible figures into your tiny town. But once people got to know us, they loved us, laughed along with us” Cassandra dished. “That’s why I think the show’s so important. We’re the only trans reality show that’s reaching the nation, our ratings are through the roof. And we’re real people. We’re not just standing on a corner looking bitter.”

Cassandra just auditioned for ABC’s “Wipeout”(!) and is currently working on a 2011 edition of her infamously smokin’ calendar. “Mama’s off the chain for that one — put me in a bikini and I’ll do anything,” she purrs. “My goal is to be someone that people look at and go crazy for. Men, women, gay, straight, whatever — I want them to see me and question why they put themselves in a niche, why they think they have to be just one thing.”



A primo opportunity to check out new performance space Ark221 (www.ark221.com), this monthly “bring your own film” fest — nay, orgy — will open your eyes to great local video talent. Moderators J. Douglas Smith and Gregg Golding, a.k.a. transdimensional rapper Odynophagia, reel you in.

Wed/6, 8 p.m., $3. Ark221, 221 11th St., SF. www.cinemaorgy.com



Eccentric Baltimorean tunesmith has lately specialized in a Chicago-looking brand of burbling, red-lit, obsessively detailed house — so nice. He’ll be headlining the invaluable No Way Back monthly with DJs Conor and Solar.

Sat/9, 9:30, $10. 222 Hyde, SF. www.222hyde.com



Is SF ready for a lounge revival? It is if it’s this aurally sensuous and intellectually stimulating. DJs Delachaux and FACT.50 plumb the depths, from Angelo Badalamenti and Astor Piazzolla to Hooverphonic and Beirut.

Sat/9, 9:30 p.m., $5. Medici Lounge, 299 9th St., SF



Hard to believe one of my favorite dives is twice as old as I am! Celebrate all evening with eats, treats, and beats from rockin’ bands Mighty Slim Pickens, The Ex Boyfriends, Bronze, and tons more.

Sat/9, 3 p.m., free. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com

Capp’s Corner



My first experience of Capp’s Corner was long ago, in college, a melancholy dinner on a damp winter night with my first love. By “long ago,” I mean so long ago that I decline to say how long. By “first love” I mean unrequited love; is there any other kind of first love? I suppose the possibility exists. But for the moony-eyed young, the most real sort of love is the hopeless, thwarted kind, the impossible dream. In that sense, I had won the love lottery at age 20. Lucky me.

It does seem odd, lo these decades later, to associate Capp’s Corner with any form of melancholy. Now, as then, the restaurant is not only a North Beach institution but the very picture of cheerfulness. Its checkertop tablecloths are just like the kind you see in Moonstruck, a not-bad movie about lovelornness, with wonderful glimpses of New York’s Little Italy. There is also a certain saloon feel at Capp’s, lent by the large bar near the entrance; unlike many so-called bars in many of our newer, fancier, and more effete places that seem to have been installed largely for show, this one is the real deal, a working bar where people actually sit and drink.

Elsewhere in the large dining room, people are eating as well as drinking, sometimes in groups of two, often in larger arrays. The restaurant is just down the block from Club Fugazi, longtime home of Beach Blanket Babylon. That’s a show people often attend in sizable groups, and often after having eaten dinner. Capp’s Corner is just the (meal) ticket for these folks; it’s convenient, spacious, practiced in dealing with bigger parties, and it serves many dishes family-style, no matter what kind of family you’re a part of.

The main twist in the family-style service is that the minestrone is presented in a big white earthenware tureen, so you get to serve yourself. This does raise the slop factor, particularly if I happen to be sitting at your table, but it also contributes to festivity. The soup itself was rich in cabbage and cannellini beans, a little lighter on tomato than is usual, and had a savory-sweetness I associate with slow-cooked onion. Our tureen produced eight or nine servings — not a bad yield for a table of six.

Throw in a continually replenished basket of bread and butter, and you have the makings of a small feast. Beyond that was a salad of chopped, chilled lettuces scattered with chickpeas and kidney beans and dressed with what the menu calls a “creamy vinaigrette” — I might call it Thousand Island, Russian, or something similar on the ground that its pinkish-red color implied the presence of tomato in some form.

The family-style dinners are offered at two prices: $18 (for pastas) and $20.50 (for pretty much everything else, including veal and petrale sole). You can get a pair of fleshier dinners (steak and osso buco) for $25.50, and if you don’t want family-style, $15.50 buys you pasta, soup, and salad.

If you like your pasta served in gargantuan portions, you will be happy here — and you’ll be even happier if you like tomato sauces. These, whether marinara or bolognese, are hard to avoid, although a white-wine sauce does pop up here and there. The spaghetti with meatballs was probably typical, though: a huge clump of pasta (cooked a bit past al dente but not mushy) finished with a heavy ladling of bolognese sauce and two orbs of chopped meat the size of a baby’s fist. The meat seemed a bit dry to me, but given all that sauce, it didn’t much matter.

The veal tortellini were better: less daunting in scale, nicely bite-sized, and given a sun-dried tomato cream sauce that was finer than the bolognese. Also satisfying: slices of breaded eggplant baked with mozzarella and marinara and béchamel (or, in Italian, besciamella) sauces. The bitterness of the eggplant had been expertly leached out, and the dish as a whole had a faux-meatiness that might have convinced an omnivore — or at least an omnivore distracted, perhaps, by a value-priced glass, or three, of Chianti ($3.50). I wouldn’t call Chianti my first love, wine-wise, but it tends to be solid. Anyway, it’s the only sort of wine you could drink with a clear conscience in a place like this, with a lovers’ moon peeking through the windows and BBB — the greatest hat show on earth — just a few steps away.


Dinner: Mon.-Fri., 4:30–10:30 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun., 4-11 p.m.

Lunch: daily, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

1600 Powell, SF

(415) 989-2589


Full bar


Noisy but bearable

Wheelchair accessible


Past presence



LIT/MUSIC/VISUAL ART A present from the past — the paradox within that phrase is as close as one might get to pithily describing hauntology. The term was coined in 1993 by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida to describe utopian specters within capitalist society. But more recently, the music writer Simon Reynolds has specifically applied hauntology — literally, ghost logic — to music, using the term to describe the playfully eerie studio-as-séance-site releases on the British label Ghost Box, and similar recordings.

Since his early days as a journalist for Melody Maker, Reynolds has cannily related French theory to musical phenoms in practical and illustrative ways, whether applying the feminism of Hélène Cixous to Throwing Muses, ideas about jouissance to the sonic innovations of My Bloody Valentine, or Deleuze and Guattari to the jones for acceleration in rave culture. With the release of Reynolds’ most recent book, Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews (Soft Skull Press, 464 pages, $16.95), I thought the time was right to turn the tables and interview him about hauntology and the related library music genre — especially since the current Berkeley Art Museum exhibition “Hauntology” cites him while putting forth a hauntological theory of visual art.

SFBG What do you think about the current interest in library music as culture grows ever more digitized? To me it seems there’s an intrinsic push-pull between searches for rare objects in far reaches, and then their incorporation into digital or online spheres.

Simon Reynolds Certainly there are some music bloggers who specialize in library [music] and go about it in an extremely systematic manner — they aim to upload or share or post every single Bruton or Peer International Library or Chappell release. They work their way through the entire catalog, number by number. These are super-obscure records, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of discography for a lot of the labels — I guess they weren’t precious about their own output. That must be both attractive and maddening (attractively maddening?) for a certain kind of obsessive-compulsive collector.

People are building a body of knowledge about library music, in the same way that reggae collectors did with the similarly chaotic and massive output of record labels in the ’70s. But it still has the aspect of an unmapped zone, a zone of discovery, which you can’t say about many other areas of music.

SFBG What aspects of library music appeal to you, and what aspects don’t?

SR I like the electronic stuff done by people moonlighting from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, or by oddball figures like Ron Geesin. Or Eric Peters and Frederick G, who did stuff — electronic weirdness, or effects-laden goofy production-type tracks — for Studio G among other library labels. The Studio G stuff on the Trunk compilation G-Spots is just so luxuriant sounding.

In library music, the weird combination of anything-goes experimentation and un-precious functionalism creates good results, especially when you factor in brevity. Most library tunes are really short. So you get the same alien buzz as from experimental music, but without being detained for 20 minutes to an hour.

I also like the whole mythos and vibe around library music, the idea of all these studios in Wardour Street and thereabouts in central London churning stuff out, with top session players or underemployed composers earning a bit of dough on the side. And of course the packaging, with its uniform artwork for different series and wonderfully distilled evocative track descriptions (“pathetic, grotesque”; “relaxed swing-along”).

The downside is that some library music is just anodyne. A large proportion is sub-music, just splinters of mood or feeling that aren’t developed because they’re meant to underscore or mood-tint brief moments in a movie or TV show. I’m also less interested in the breaks end of library music, the “groovy scene in swinging discotheque” redolent tunes favored by some beat headz.

SFBG How would you characterize or define the relationship between library music and hauntology?

SR What people would consider the classic era of library music — the ’60s and ’70s, when there were groups of musicians in the studio, as opposed to the ’80s and thereafter, when it increasingly became one composer using a digital synthesizer to play all the parts — has heavy associations with the popular culture of that period. Especially TV programs and radio, and particularly children’s TV. Library music was used when there wasn’t a budget to get a soundtrack made, so you got this off-the-peg stuff.

If you’re a child of the ’60s or ’70s, this music has a potent memory-stirring effect, but in a nonspecific way. You hear certain kinds of lite-jazz chords, or melancholic orchestrations, or certain analog synth sounds, and it sets off reverberations inside you, but you can’t place them. (A later generation will probably have the same relationship with digital-era music — we’re maybe getting that with the vogue for video game sounds in a lot of dance music now.)

When hauntologist artists use this material, they can trigger all these emotions. They can also mess with the “science of mood” in library music by making emotions clash and mingle in strange combinations.

The formality and institutional vibe of library releases has a similar appeal to the “benevolent state” stuff that the hauntologist artists are into (like polytechnics, new towns, the BBC when it believed in elevating and educating the common man, etc.). Even though the library labels were commercial ventures, the aura of them is oddly similar to government or educational institutions: kind of stuffy and prim. The artwork relates to the way Penguin and Pelican books looked. It has that “lost Britain” quality.

SFBG Have you heard responses from theorists about your application of Derrida’s concept of hauntology to music?

SR No. I really just stole the word off Jacques because I liked the feel of it. It’s Mark Fisher of k-punk who’s done the more serious mapping of hauntology as a theory onto the music. I think there are definitely some parallels and connections, but Derrida’s thing seems very much bound up with Marxism and philosophy.

SFBG What is particularly hauntological about the Ghost Box label’s recordings, and what are some notable hauntological recordings over time?

SR The “haunty” aspect to the Ghost Box stuff relates to the reverberations I just described. They use samples from the era’s library or incidental music and TV or Radiophonic Workshop scores. Or (in the case of more composed-and-played recordings by Belbury Poly or The Advisory Circle) they write new melodies and motifs that are evocative of that era or in the style of that music.

I think there’s an intrinsic musical appeal and value to this stuff that works on people who don’t have the nostalgic connection. For instance, I know some quite young Americans who really like Ghost Box’s stuff. But if you are of the demographic, it has this extra layer of meaning and effect. It can be bound to a generation, and also to nationality. (Interestingly, it appeals to Australians, who get a lot of the TV from the U.K., and thus have a similar pop cultural matrix of memory).

The Ghost Box artists have a “haunty” aspect in the sense that they’re interested — in a simultaneously playful and serious way — in all kinds of pop culture to do with the supernatural and horror, from the Algernon Blackwood/Arthur Machen tales of cosmic horror, to the Hammer House of Horror movies, to Doctor Who, to ghost stories. Again, there’s a nostalgic aspect in the sense that these things, first encountered as a child, have a profound effect. British children’s TV had some really creepy and macabre stuff on it. In retrospect, you wonder, “What were they thinking broadcasting this stuff to under-10-year-olds?”

Ghost Box has fun with the cultural associations of all this stuff. There is a really pleasing clash of the campy and the genuinely disquieting in the way they handle it. It’s not some goth/industrial scary thing, which I think is where people get confused — they put on the Ghost Box records and discover they’re quite pleasant and enjoyable.

I like the main three Ghost Box groups very much — The Focus Group, Belbury Poly, and The Advisory Circle. And Roj made a cool album, The Transactional Dharma of Roj. The label’s most fully realized, brilliant record is Advisory Circle’s Other Channels. But in terms of individual peaks, I’d say certain tracks on Focus Group’s Hey Let Loose Your Love and Belbury Poly’s The Willows are among the most remarkable music of the past decade. For me they find this place between idyllic and eerie that just presses all my buttons, especially when you add the overall framework — the design and the concepts have this dry, poker-faced humor to them.

A similar vibe is going on in the records by Moon Wiring Club and Mordant Music, who are the other two central hauntologists for me. The Caretaker, a.k.a. Leyland James Kirby, has also done some really great stuff, but it’s more amorphous and drone-y.

SFBG Inside and outside of a deployment of library music, does hauntology appeal to you more than “retrofuturism” as an idea and a practice?

SR They are similar, or they overlap. The Ghost Box guys and Mordant Music are into the whole nostalgia for the future trip. Part of the appeal of something like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is the futurism of it, the alien impact it had on impressionable ears, now inevitably filtered through a scrim of bygone charm and quaintness.

SFBG What future forms might hauntology take?

SR It may well be that every generation will come up with some kind of working-through of its recent past, the stuff that affected it most intensely as children. If you look at Ariel Pink and all the people he’s influenced who’ve come through recently, it’s bound up with a different memory-set: ’80s pop, MTV, and radio.


Through Dec. 5

(Oct 29, 6-9pm “Hauntology at L@te Event with Interdisciplinary Intro Panel and musical performances Indignant Senility, Barn Owl, and Jim Haynes)

Berkeley Art Museum

2626 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-0808



Her band



MUSIC Mention the name Corin Tucker, and for many people, what comes to mind is a voice: the charged vibrato that was one of the signature elements of the sound of Sleater-Kinney. But before Tucker formed Sleater-Kinney, she’d sung differently in other bands, such as riot grrrl pioneers Heavens to Betsy, where her guitar was tuned lower in a manner that made it possible to tap into submerged feelings and experiences.

The new album by Corin Tucker Band, 1,000 Years (Kill Rock Stars), makes it clear that Tucker is more than just the tell-tale voice of Sleater-Kinney — she’s a songwriter who can add another wrinkle of emotion to a song with a change in tone, as on “It’s Always Summer,” where the annoyance that briefly grips her voice on the line “It’s always something” makes the hope in the chorus of the song that much sweeter. Working with producer-arranger-instrumentalist Seth Lorinczi and drummer Sara Lund, Tucker has fashioned a record that moves through different themes and sounds, evoking everything from Carole King piano ballads to acoustic Led Zep to Nuggets-worthy guitar riffage.

To a degree, the heart of 1,000 Years can be found just before the halfway mark with the one-two punch of “Handed Love” and “Doubt.” According to Tucker, the first song is the sort of just-divorced scenario Tracey Thorn explores in different ways on her recent solo album Love and Its Opposite (Merge). There’s something a little wilder and darker to Tucker’s approach to the subject, with the past’s failed pleasures as alluring as a drug, and a sense of menace in the spaces and silent moments around her voice’s quiet, minimalist dance with a keyboard. The same tension between restraint and abandon tells a different story in “Doubt,” a love song to rock ‘n’ roll that affirms that no worthy responsibility can fully kill off a love of the boogie and the beat. I recently talked with Tucker about the new album.

SFBG You’ve been based in Portland for around 15 years now. How has it changed?

CORIN TUCKER It’s so different. If you went down the street where I used to live, Alberta, it’s completely different. It’s unrecognizably built up. Sometime I wonder, how do people make their money here? The recession has been brutal in Portland and Oregon because we don’t make something concrete. The timber industry was our industry and that’s gone now. I guess we make Nike and Adidas.

But in terms of culture and film and arts, Portland is growing. The music scene has totally grown.

SFBG One thing the Sara Marcus book Girls to the Front (Harper Perennial, 384 pages, $14.99) re-reminded me of is the fact your lyrics with Heavens to Betsy had more of a storyline than a lot of riot grrrl recordings. While your new album doesn’t sound like Heavens to Betsy, it also feels rich in narrative.

CT That’s something I enjoyed about making this record. I relate to storytelling in songs and working on the lyrics to paint a little picture. That’s is sort of my natural songwriting style, and it’s something I return to easily.

SFBG Was it difficult to choose the sequencing of the songs? I wonder because the album moves through different terrain and different sounds, including your voice — you sing differently from song to song.

CT The record wound up having more variety than I expected when we began. I expected it to be quieter and acoustic — a straightforward solo album. But as Seth [Lorinczi] and I worked on it, we naturally drew on our different musical backgrounds.

SFBG In a way, the way the guitars were tuned in Sleater-Kinney seemed to place your voice in a certain elevated spot. On 1,000 Years you might have a wider ground to stand on as a singer.

CT I wanted to use different voices on the record. Not necessarily different characters, but different sides of my voice that I didn’t think people had heard before — or if they had, in Heavens to Betsy, that was so long ago. Part of the challenge and opportunity of making a solo record is figuring out how to give it enough variety so that you can take people through a journey.

SFBG One song I want to ask about is “Handed Love.” I like that it’s elliptical, and I get a dark feeling from it.

CT I think that might be one of my favorite songs. It has an interesting evolution. I started writing it on guitar and vocals, and it was pretty flat and straightforward. It was a mid-tempo rocker.

The song is sort of looking at relationships from the point of being a little bit older and being a female. I have a couple of friends who are newly divorced and I just kinda put myself in their shoes. It seemed like a difficult thing to navigate, when you have your heart broken and have to keep it together.

Seth had this idea [laughs], ‘What if we do this song with only ‘ooo’ vocals in the background?’ There’s this really beautiful choir part that comes in at the end, and that’s where we began recording it. He stripped away all the guitar and we had this vocal chorus and a drum machine. Then it kept evolving. Finally, he tried a Wurlitzer organ and I loved it.

SFBG That song and the follow-up track, “Doubt,” both have great moments where the sound is sort of stripped away. I get the sense that you had fun working with Seth.

CT It was a really enjoyable process. We just set it up as this project we were working on, and there was a lot of tinkering. The door was wide open in terms of what we could do and how we would look at things. He’s talented as a musician and as a producer and arranger.

SFBG Because it was a solo project and because you were working with him, was there a sense that songs could change as you worked on them?

CT Definitely. When I wrote “Half a World Away,” it was a ballad on guitar — very quiet and super slow. Seth had this idea that we should rock out. We started working on it, and he had this idea of taking the guitar parts and making them sparse and prickly and fast. Then when we started playing with Sara Lund, she brought a whole new dynamic to the song with the percussion. She brought in these African bells, because the song is about Lance [Bangs, Tucker’s husband] going away to Africa, and she had all these ideas about illustrating angst with percussion. That song became something I really love that is completely different from the original demo.

SFBG One other song I wanted to ask about is “Riley” because it has such a classic rock riff. Do you know a Riley?

CT No. He’s more of a fictional character.

SFBG I know a Riley.

CT You do? Is he down and out?

SFBG No, he’s a funny Filipino queen.

CT [Laughs] In 2007 and 2008, it just felt like such a dark time — so many friends had lost their jobs, or were getting divorced. Seth and I talked about Patti Smith literally every day while we were recording. Just Kids (Ecco, 320 pages, $16) came out while we were making the record, and she’s such a great inspiration. She’s one of those people who can write songs that are about friendship and helping your friends through something difficult. That song is really inspired by her and Lenny Kaye.

SFBG “Thrift Store Coats” starts out a lot like most people’s idea of what a solo recording would sound like — a voice and a pretty piano arrangement. But then suddenly it turns loud and powerful.

CT I have to give credit to Seth. He thought we could draw people into the story and the lyric and then have the whole band come to the stage and add power and a sense of protest.

SFBG I know your son is named Marshall in part because of Marshall Tucker Band — is Corin Tucker Band a nod to Marshall Tucker Band?

CT Yes, it is. The funny thing is that my daughter Glory thinks that every mom has her own band. At soccer practice the other day she started a band with her friend — who is one — called Glory Tucker Band.


With the Golden Bears

Mon/11, 8 p.m., $17

859 O’Farrell, SF

(888) 233-0449




On every level — federal, state and local — the Nov. 2 election is critical. Californians will decide whether a billionaire with no political experience and a failed business executive with right-wing views should be the next governor and senator. They’ll address a long list of major ballot measures. In San Francisco, voters will decide the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors, weigh in on ballot measures that could deeply affect the local budget, and decide whether this city wants to allow a harsh crackdown on the homeless.

Absentee ballots are already in the mail. Vote early, vote often, and vote like your city and state depended on it. We’ll publish our Clean Slate clipout guide to take to the polls on October 27. Click below for our endorsements. (East Bay endorsements will be added next week.)







Listen to our Endorsement Interviews with local candidates here

get the single page printable PDF in color or black and white

Endorsements 2010: San Francisco ballot measures





Proposition AA would add $10 to the existing annual fee for vehicles registered in San Francisco, which would bring in about $5 million a year in desperately needed funds for public transit and other environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Proceeds would help to fund new bike infrastructure, pedestrian crosswalks, and transit reliability projects. Some would also be spent on street repairs — with top priority given to streets with bikeways and public transit routes. Unless Muni and bike infrastructure improves, it’s hard to persuade drivers to leave their cars at home and choose greener ways of getting around. Prop. AA is in line with the city’s transit-first goals, and it will be a step toward reducing traffic congestion and helping public transit. Vote yes.





This $46.15 million general obligation bond to support seismic upgrades for wood-framed buildings is an important means of protecting San Franciscans in an earthquake and preserving affordable housing. A 2009 report by the Department of Building Inspection found that 151 buildings that received government affordable housing support — 8,247 units in all — could be destroyed in the next big earthquake.

Unfortunately, most of these buildings are break-even ventures for their owners, who have no incentive to put the money into needed seismic upgrades. This measure would fund those improvements with grants and deferred loans, which would accrue interest but would only need to be paid back if the owner makes a profit or tries to convert the building to another use, providing further guarantees that the housing will remain affordable even after an owner’s obligation to the state or federal governments ends. Vote yes on Prop. A.





Back when the great national health care reform debate was raging, the Guardian advocated for a single-payer system, which would have cut out health insurance companies altogether. What we got instead was a bill that requires everyone to buy health insurance. Now endlessly rising health insurance costs pose a problem for the city — in years of financial stress, it must make ever-larger payments to cover public employees’ health benefits. The blame for this dysfunctional system should be pinned on health insurance companies, not public employees. After all, the industry spent millions lobbying federal lawmakers to preserve a system in which they are solidly guaranteed to make millions off the backs of taxpayers.

But Prop. B, introduced by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, asks public employees to bear the brunt of these ballooning costs. It would also require them to contribute up to 10 percent of their pay to fund retirement benefits. One of the most compelling arguments against Prop. B was articulated by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano in a recent Guardian editorial: “A single mother will be forced to pay up to $5,600 per year for her child’s health care — in addition to the $8,154 she already pays.” That cost would be the same whether the employee earns $40,000 or $100,000 annually — and that’s just unfair. Prop. B would deal the greatest blow to the people who have the least. But there’s a broader consequence, too — take this kind of money out of the pockets of working people and you’ve done just the opposite of stimulating the economy.

Adachi wrote and circulated his measure without negotiating with city employee unions or seeking a solution that would be less harsh and regressive. We’re all for reviewing the city’s pension and health care costs. But making the lowest-paid city workers take the same hit as the overpaid managers is no answer. Vote no on B.





If you feel like you’ve seen this measure before, that’s because you have — an advisory measure asking the mayor to show up once a month and answer questions at the Board of Supervisors passed overwhelmingly in 2006. But Mayor Gavin Newsom ignored it, and a tougher measure failed the next year after Newsom raised $250,000 to defeat it.

Now the problem is worse than ever. In a year in which back room negotiations and underhanded political tactics marred the city budget approval process and other legislative initiatives, progressive supervisors are again trying to get Newsom and future mayors to engage in a political dialogue, in public, to determine what’s best for the city. This is precisely how the people’s business should be done, in an open and transparent way that respects the role that these two branches of government are supposed to play in running the city. Besides, won’t it be fun to watch? Vote yes.





Sponsored by Board President David Chiu and Sups. David Campos, Eric Mar, John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi, Sophie Maxwell, Chris Daly, and Bevan Dufty, this charter amendment would extend the right to vote in local school board elections to San Francisco residents who are parents, guardians, and caregivers of children who attend school in San Francisco, regardless of whether these residents are U.S. citizens.

One-third of San Francisco residents are foreign-born. Parental involvement has been determined as a critical factor in children’s education — and this measure only applies to elections for the Board of Education. Vote yes.





In an era of growing political apathy and cynicism, anything that draws more people into the electoral process is a good thing. So this common sense measure by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi to remove one more barrier to participation in elections is a positive step.

Current state law requires eligible voters to register at least 15 days before an election. Prop. E would allow any city resident to simply show up at a polling place on Election Day, register to vote, and participate in a municipal election. Eight other states currently offer same-day voter registration. Vote yes.





Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who sponsored this measure, says it will save the city money be consolidating elections for the board that oversees the city employee health care fund. But it won’t save much — $30,000 a year, at most — and the unions that represent the people who are served by this board say risks turning board elections into more expensive and complex political contests. Vote no.





We understand the motivations behind this measure — Muni drivers are the only city employees who don’t have to engage in collective bargaining for wages and work rules. Instead, the City Charter guarantees them the second-highest salary level of all comparable transit systems in the nation. Although that’s not an unreasonable salary level given that Muni is perhaps the country’s most challenging transit system and San Francisco has one of the highest cost of living price tags in the country, no city workers should have their salaries set this way.

We also agree that many of Muni’s work rules need to be changed and that removal of the salary guarantees would give the city more leverage to make those changes. We even agree that Transport Workers Union Local 250 hasn’t done itself any favors and should have been a better partner in this year’s difficult city budget process.

But we oppose Prop. G, which inappropriately seeks to blame Muni’s problems on its drivers and would set a new standard for collective bargaining that could hurt workers and perhaps make Muni more dangerous to pedestrians and others.

Like all city employees, Muni drivers are banned from going on strike. In exchange, the city agrees to binding arbitration if contract talks reach an impasse. But this measure adds a factor that exists in no other city union contract: the arbitrator would have to consider whether a proposed contract could negatively affect service.

While that might seem benign or even appropriate, the reality is that everything from driver rest breaks to assisting those with disabilities to the expectations of how fast drivers can complete a route all potentially affect service, forcing the arbitrator into positions of agreeing with city officials who have been choosing the politically expedient path of trying to squeeze more out of Muni without trying to give it the resources it needs to operate safely, efficiently, and reliably.

Earlier this year, progressive supervisors tried to craft an omnibus Muni reform measure that removed driver pay guarantees from the charter while also trying to get it more money and make critical changes in how the system is governed, an effort the TWU supported but that the supervisors ultimately abandoned. That’s the kind of balanced approach the system needs and it ought to be revived. In the meantime, vote no on G.





This one’s a pure political vengeance act by Mayor Newsom, who is unhappy that the local Democratic Party is controlled by progressives who oppose his initiatives. The measure would bar elected officials in San Francisco from serving on the Democratic or Republican County Central Committee. It’s almost certainly unconstitutional — the parties get to decide their own membership rules — and has no rationale at all except the mayor’s personal sour grapes. Vote no.





Okay, we’re suspicious of Prop I. The sponsor is Alex Tourke, a political consultant whose client list isn’t exactly a roster of progressive San Francisco. And it’s a little funky — it calls for an experiment in opening the polls the Saturday before the next mayoral election, with the costs covered by private donations. And the idea of private interests paying for an election strikes us as bad policy.

But at its base, the idea is sound. Tuesday voting is a very old idea that makes no sense in the modern age. We’d much rather see Election Day held at a time when most people aren’t working. In fact, we’d rather see the polls open for a week, not just one day. And this is a one-time test to see if weekend voting might increase turnout. Vote yes.




There are two competing hotel taxes on the November ballot: Prop. J and Prop K. Prop. K contains a poison pill: if both measures pass, whichever gets the most votes take effect. Both J and K try to address legal insufficiencies in San Francisco’s existing hotel tax, but Prop. J also asks visitors to pay a slightly higher tax — about $3 a night (the cost of a latte) — for the next three years.

Currently the way hotel taxes are assessed allows some online customers to avoid part of the tax. When a customer books a hotel room through an online booking service like Expedia or Orbitz, the hotel tax is only assessed on the amount that a hotel receives, not the amount that the website charges the customer. In other words, if a website sells a room to an online customer for $150 a night, but only $120 of that goes to the hotel, the customer is charged hotel tax on the lower amount. If Prop. J passes, the customer will have to pay a hotel tax on the full amount paid to the online booking service. The measure would also eliminate a loophole that allows airlines to book rooms for flight crews without paying any tax. Those changes are expected to generate at least $12 million a year. The $3 increase in the hotel tax will generate another $26 million.

The Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau say the measure could hurt tourism — but it’s hard to imagine how somebody will decide not to visit San Francisco because of a $3 a night fee. Vote yes.





Put on the ballot by Mayor Newson at the behest of large hotel corporations, Prop. K also seeks to close loopholes in the hotel tax. But Prop. K doesn’t include a tax increase, meaning that it will contribute millions less to the city’s General Fund at a time when San Francisco is having trouble balancing its budget, leading to ongoing cuts in city staff and services.

Prop. K’s a direct attempt to undermine Prop. J. Vote no.





What kind of a city is San Francisco? If proponents of Prop. L, the Civil Sidewalks Ordinance, were to be believed, it’s a city where nothing is done when uncivil people harass pedestrians, drink on the sidewalk, or pee in public. Even though Prop. L purports to address this kind of behavior, all it really does is outlaw sitting or lying on public sidewalks.

We think San Francisco is the kind of city that is smart enough to reject this dumb idea. The Prop. L proponents like to say it’s about public safety, but there is nothing inherently unsafe about sitting or lying down on the sidewalk. Street poets sit at their typewriters to sell sonnets to tourists. The tamale lady sometimes sits while selling her tasty Mexican treats. Day laborers sit when they get tired of standing around waiting for work. Many people who live on the streets lie down to sleep beside their shopping carts. If Prop. L passes, there is nothing to guarantee that buskers, day laborers, homeless people, partygoers, people with bad knees, or anyone else would not be harassed by police for the simple act of sitting.

But even if there are people squatting on the sidewalk harassing passersby, how is this law going to change that? All they have to do is stand up — which would still be legal. If they persist, and the police arrest them, the city will be on the hook for millions of dollars in costs for prosecution, defense, and incarceration.

The notion that the ordinance would only be used against troublemakers is problematic too, since a law that is selectively enforced could open the door to legal headaches. Prop. L is misguided, draconian, unnecessary, and the wrong direction for San Francisco. Vote no.





Prop. M offers an enlightened alternative to Prop. L. Introduced by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, it would require the chief of police to establish a comprehensive beat patrol program, with cops on the beat, to deal with the safety and civility issues Prop. L seeks to address. It would also direct the Police Commission to adopt a written community policing policy, involving police interactions with the community, focusing police resources on high crime areas, and encouraging citizen involvement in combating crime. Prop. M also has a poison pill: if the voters adopt both M and L and M gets more votes, then the law against sitting or lying down on the sidewalk would not take effect. So a yes vote for Prop. M is kind of like another no vote against Prop. L. Vote yes.





With the city facing a massive structural budget deficit, it’s hard to argue against a measure that would bring in an average of $36 million without hurting anyone except the buyers and sellers of very high-end property — that is, big corporations and exceptionally wealthy individuals. Prop. N would slightly increase the tax charged by the city on the sale of property worth more than $5 million. Vote yes.



Endorsements 2010: San Francisco candidates




Frankly, we were a little surprised by the Janet Reilly who came in to give us her pitch as a District 2 supervisorial candidate. The last time we met with her, she was a strong progressive running for state Assembly as an advocate of single-payer health care. She was challenging Fiona Ma from the left, and easily won our endorsement.

Now she’s become a fiscal conservative — somewhat more in synch with her district, perhaps, but not an encouraging sign. Reilly seems to realize that there’s a $500 million budget deficit looming, but she won’t support any of the tax measures on the ballot. She’s against the hotel tax. She’s against the real estate transfer tax on high-end properties. She’s against the local car tax. She opposed Sup. David Chiu’s business tax plan that would have shifted the burden from small to larger businesses (even though it was clear from our interview that she didn’t understand it).

She talked about merging some of the nonprofits that get city money, about consolidating departments, and better management — solutions that might stem a tiny fraction of the red ink. But she wouldn’t even admit that the limited tax burden on the very rich was part of San Francisco’s budget problem.

Her main proposal for creating jobs is more tax credits for biotech, life sciences, and digital media and more public-private partnerships.

It’s too bad, because Reilly’s smart, and she’s far, far better than Mark Farrell, the candidate that the current incumbent, Michela Alioto-Pier, is backing. We wish she’d be realistic about the fiscal nightmare she would inherit as a supervisor.

On the positive side, she’s a strong supporter of public power and she has good connections to the progressive community. Unlike Alioto-Pier, she’d be accessible, open-minded, and willing to work with the progressive majority on the board. That would be a dramatic change, so we’ll give her the nod.

We were also impressed with Abraham Simmons, a federal prosecutor who has spent time researching city finance on the Civil Grand Jury. But he supports sit-lie, Prop. B and Prop. S, and opposes most new tax proposals and needs more political seasoning.




We’ve always wanted to like Carmen Chu. She’s friendly, personable, intelligent, and well-spoken. But on the issues, she’s just awful. Indeed, we can’t think of a single significant vote on which she’s been anything but a call-up loyalist for Mayor Newsom. She even opposed the public power measure, Prop. H, that had the support of just about everyone in town except hardcore PG&E allies.

She’s running unopposed, and will be reelected. But we can’t endorse her.






CORRECTION: In our original version of this endorsement, we said that Jim Meko supports the sit-lie ordinance. That was an error, and it’s corrected below.

A year ago, this race was artist and activist Debra Walker’s to lose. Most of the progressive community was united behind her candidacy; she’d been working on district issues for a couple of decades, fighting the loft developers during the dot-com boom years and serving on the Building Inspection Commission. Then School Board member Jane Kim decided to enter the race, leaving the left divided, splitting resources that might have gone to other critical district races — and potentially helping to put the most pro-business downtown candidate, Theresa Sparks, in a better position to win.

Now we’ve got something of a mess — a fragmented and sometimes needlessly divisive progressive base in a district that’s key to holding progressive control of the board. And while neither of the two top progressive candidates is actively pursuing a credible ranked-choice voting strategy (Kim has, unbelievably, endorsed James Keys instead of Walker, and Walker has declined to endorse anyone else), we’re setting aside our concern over Kim’s ill-advised move and suggesting a strategy that is most likely to keep the seat Chris Daly has held for the past 10 years from falling to downtown control.

Walker is far and away our first choice. She understands land use and housing — the clear central issues in the district — and has well thought-out positions and proposals. She says that the current system of inclusionary housing — pressing market-rate developers to include a few units of below-market-rate housing with their high-end condos — simply doesn’t work. She supports an immediate affordable housing bond act and a long-term real estate transfer tax high enough to fund a steady supply of housing for the city’s workforce. She told us the city ought to be looking at planning issues from the perspective of what San Francisco needs, not what developers want to build. She’s in favor of progressive taxes and a push for local hiring. We’re happy to give her our first-place ranking.

Jane Kim has been a great SF School Board member and has always been part of the progressive community. But she only moved into District 6 a year and a half ago — about when she started talking about running for supervisor (and she told us in her endorsement interview that “D6 is a district you can run in without having lived there a long time.”) She still hasn’t been able to explain why she parachuted in to challenge an experienced progressive leader she has no substantive policy disagreements with.

That said, on the issues, Kim is consistently good. She is in favor of indexing affordable housing to market-rate housing and halting new condo development if the mix gets out of line. She’s for an affordable housing bond. She supports all the tax measures on this ballot. She’s a little softer on congestion pricing and extending parking-meter hours, but she’s open to the ideas. She supports police foot patrols not just as a law-enforcement strategy, but to encourage small businesses. She’d be a fine vote on the board. And while we’re sympathetic to the Walker supporters who would prefer that we not give Kim the credibility and exposure of an endorsement, the reality is that she’s one of two leading progressives and would be better on the board than the remaining candidates.

Hyde, a dynamic young drag queen performer, isn’t going to win. But he’s offered some great ideas and injected some fun and energy into the race. Hyde talks about creating safe injection sites for IV drug users to reduce the risk of overdoses and the spread of disease. He points out that a lot of young people age out of the foster-care system and wind up on the streets, and he’s for continuum housing that would let these young people transition to jobs or higher education. He talks about starting a co-op grocery in the Tenderloin. He proposes bus-only lanes throughout the district and wants to charge large vehicles a fee to come into the city. He’s a big advocate of nightlife and the arts. He lacks experience and needs more political seasoning, but we’re giving him the third-place nod to encourage his future involvement.

Progressives are concerned about Theresa Sparks, a transgender activist and former business executive who now runs the city’s Human Rights Commission. She did a (mostly) good job on the Police Commission. She’s experienced in city government and has good financial sense. But she’s just too conservative for what remains a very progressive district. Sparks isn’t a big fan of seeking new revenue for the city telling us that “I disagree that we’ve made all the cuts that we can” — even after four years of brutal, bloody, all-cuts budgets. She doesn’t support the hotel tax and said she couldn’t support Sup. David Chiu’s progressive business tax because it would lead to “replacing private sector jobs with public sector jobs” — even though the city’s own economic analysis shows that’s just not true. She supports Newsom’s sit-lie law.

Sparks is the candidate of the mayor and downtown, and would substantially shift the balance of power on the board. She’s also going to have huge amounts of money behind her. It’s important she be defeated.

Jim Meko, a longtime neighborhood and community activist, has good credentials and some solid ideas. He was a key player in the western SoMa planning project and helped come up with a truly progressive land-use program for the neighborhood. But he supports Prop. B and is awfully cranky about local bars and nightlife.

James Keys, who has the support of Sup. Chris Daly and was an intern in Daly’s office, has some intriguing (if not terribly practical) ideas, like combining the Sheriff’s Department and the Police Department and making Muni free). But in his interview, he demonstrated a lack of understanding of the issues facing the district and the city.

So we’re going with a ranked-choice strategy: Walker first, Kim second, Hyde third. And we hope Kim’s supporters ignore their candidate’s endorsement of Keys, put Walker as their second choice, and ensure that they don’t help elect Sparks.




This is by far the clearest and most obvious choice on the local ballot. And it’s a critical one, a chance for progressives to reclaim the seat that once belonged to Harvey Milk and Harry Britt.

Mandelman, a former president of the Milk Club, is running as more than a queer candidate. He’s a supporter of tenants rights, immigrants’ rights, and economic and social justice. He also told us he believes “local government matters” — and that there are a lot of problems San Francisco can (and has to) solve on its own, without simply ducking and blaming Sacramento and Washington.

Mandelman argues that the public sector has been starved for years and needs more money. He agrees that there’s still a fair amount of bloat in the city budget — particularly management positions — but that even after cleaning out the waste, the city will still be far short of the money it needs to continue providing pubic services. He’s calling for a top-to-bottom review of how the city gets revenue, with the idea of creating a more progressive tax structure.

He’s an opponent of sit-lie and a supporter of the sanctuary city ordinance. He supports tenants rights and eviction protection. He’s had considerable experience (as a member of the Building Inspection Commission and Board of Appeals and as a lawyer who advises local government agencies) and would make an excellent supervisor.

Neither of the other two contenders make our endorsement cut. Rebecca Prozan is a deputy city attorney who told us she would be able to bring the warring factions on the board together. She has some interesting ideas — she’d like to see the city take over foreclosed properties and turn them into housing for teachers, cops, and firefighters — and she’s opposed to sit-lie. But she’s weak on tenant issues (she told us there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the conversion of rental housing into tenancies-in-common), doesn’t seem to grasp the need for substantial new revenues to prevent service cuts, and doesn’t support splitting the appointments to key commissions between the mayor and the supervisors.

Scott Wiener, a deputy city attorney, is a personable guy who always takes our phone calls and is honest and responsive. He’s done a lot of good work in the district. But he’s on the wrong side of many issues, and on some things would be to the right of the incumbent, Sup. Bevan Dufty.

He doesn’t support public power (which Dufty does). He says that a lot of the city’s budget problems can’t be solved until the state gets its own house in order (“we can’t tax our way out of this”) and favors a budget balanced largely by further cuts. In direct contrast to Mandelman, Wiener said San Franciscans “need to lower our expectations for government.” He wants broad-based reductions in almost all city agencies except Muni, “core” public health services, and public safety. He doesn’t support any further restrictions on condo conversions or TICs. And he has the support of the Small Property Owners Association — perhaps the most virulently anti-tenant and anti-rent control group in town.

This district once gave rise to queer political leaders who saw themselves and their struggles as part of a larger progressive movement. That’s drifted away of late — and with Mandelman, there’s a chance to bring it back.






District 10 is the epicenter of new development in San Francisco, the place where city planners want to site as many as 40,000 new housing units, most of them high-end condos, at a cost of thousands of blue-collar jobs. The developers are salivating at the land-rush opportunities here — and the next supervisor not only needs to be an expert in land-use and development politics, but someone with the background and experience to thwart the bad ideas and direct and encourage the good ones.

There’s no shortage of candidates — 22 people are on the ballot, and at least half a dozen are serious contenders. Two — Steve Moss and Lynette Sweet — are very bad news. And one of the key priorities for progressives is defeating the big-money effort that downtown, the police, and the forces behind the Van Ness Avenue megahospital proposal are dumping into the district to elect Moss.

Our first choice is Tony Kelly, who operates Thick Description Theater and who for more than a decade has been directly involved in all the major neighborhood issues. He has a deep understanding of what the district is facing: 4,100 of the 5,300 acres in D10 have been rezoned or put under the Redevelopment Agency in the past 10 years. Planners envision as many as 100,000 new residents in the next 10 years. And the fees paid by developers will not even begin to cover the cost of the infrastructure and services needed to handle that growth.

And Kelly has solutions: The public sector will have to play a huge role in affordable housing and infrastructure, and that money should come from higher development fees — and from places like the University of California, which has a huge operation in the district and pays no property taxes. Kelly wants to set up a trigger so that if goals for affordable housing aren’t met by a set date, the market-rate development stops. He supports the revenue measures on the ballot but thinks we should go further. He opposes the pension-reform measure, Prop. B, but notes that 75 percent of the city’s pension problems come from police, fire, and management employees. He wants the supervisors to take over the Redevelopment Agency. He’s calling for a major expansion of open space and parkland in the district. And he thinks the city should direct some of the $3 billion in short-term accounts (now all with the Bank of America) to local credit unions or new municipal bank that could invest in affordable housing and small business. He’s a perfect fit for the job.

DeWitt Lacy is a civil-rights lawyer and a relative newcomer to neighborhood politics. He speaks passionately about the need for D10 to get its fair share of the city’s services and about a commitment to working-class people.

Lacy is calling for an immediate pilot program with police foot patrols in the high-crime areas of the district. He’s for increasing the requirements for developers to build affordable housing and wants to cut the payroll tax for local businesses that hire district residents.

Lacy’s vision for the future includes development that has mixed-use commuter hubs with shopping and grocery stores as well as housing. He supports the tax measures on the ballot and would be willing to extend parking meter hours — but not parking fines, which he calls an undue burden on low-income people.

He’s an outspoken foe of sit-lie and of gang injunctions, and with his background handling police abuse lawsuits, he would have a clear understanding of how to approach better law-enforcement without intimidating the community. He lacks Kelly’s history, experience, and knowledge in neighborhood issues, but he’s eminently qualified and would make a fine supervisor.

Chris Jackson, who worked at the San Francisco Labor Council and serves on the Community College Board, is our third choice. While it’s a bit unfortunate that Jackson is running for higher office only two years after getting elected to the college board, he’s got a track record and good positions on the issues. He talks of making sure that blue-collar jobs don’t get pushed out by housing, and suggested that the shipyard be used for ship repair. He wants to see the city mandate that landlords rent to people with Section 8 housing vouchers. He supports the tax measures on the ballot, but also argues that the city has 60 percent more managers than it had in 2000 and wants to bring that number down. He thinks the supervisors should take over Redevelopment, which should become “just a financing agency for affordable housing.” He wants to relocate the stinky sewage treatment plant near Third Street and Evans Avenue onto one of the piers and use the area for a transit hub. He’s still relatively unseasoned, but he has a bright political future.

Eric Smith, a biodiesel activist, is an impressive candidate too. But while his environmental credentials are good, he lacks the breadth of knowledge that our top three choices offer. But we’re glad he’s in the race and hope he stays active in community politics.

Malia Cohen has raised a lot of money and (to our astonishment) was endorsed No. 2 by the Democratic Party, but she’s by no means a progressive, particularly on tenant issues — she told us that limiting condo conversions is an infringement of property rights. And she’s way too vague on other issues.

Moss is the candidate of the big developers and the landlords, and the Chamber of Commerce is dumping tens of thousands of dollars into getting him elected. He’s got some good environmental and energy ideas — he argues that all major new developments should have their own energy distribution systems — but on the major issues, he’s either on the wrong side or (more often) can’t seem to take a stand. He said he is “still mulling over” his stand on sit-lie. He supports Sanctuary City in theory, but not the actual measure Sup. David Campos was pushing to make the policy work. He’s not sure if he likes gang injunctions or not. He only moved back to the district when he decided to run for supervisor. He’s way too conservative for the district and would be terrible on the board.

Lynette Sweet, a BART Board member, has tax problems (and problems explaining them) and wouldn’t even come to our office for an endorsement interview. The last thing D10 needs is a supervisor who’s not accountable and unwilling to talk to constituents and the press.

So we’re going with Kelly, Lacy, and Jackson as the best hope to keep D10 from becoming a district represented by a downtown landlord candidate.






Three seats are up on the School Board, and three people will get elected. And it’s a contested race, and in situations like that, we always try to endorse a full slate.

This fall, it was, to put it mildly, a challenge.

It’s disturbing that we don’t have three strong progressive candidates with experience and qualifications to oversee the San Francisco Unified School District. But it seems to be increasingly difficult to find people who want to — and can afford to — devote the time to what’s really a 40-hour-a-week position that pays $500 a month. The part-time school board is an anachronism, a creature of a very different economic and social era. With the future of the next generation of San Franciscans at stake, it’s time to make the School Board a full-time job and pay the members a decent salary so that more parents and progressive education advocates can get involved in one of the most important political jobs in the city.

That said, we’ve chosen the best of the available candidates. It’s a mixed group, made up of people who don’t support each other and aren’t part of anyone’s slate. But on balance, they offer the best choices for the job.

This is not a time when the board needs radical change. Under Superintendent Carlos Garcia, the local public schools are making huge strides. Test scores are up, enrollment is increasing, and San Francisco is, by any rational measure, the best big-city public school district in California. We give considerable credit for that to the progressives on the board who got rid of the irascible, secretive, and hostile former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and replaced her with Garcia. He’s brought stability and improvement to the district, and is implementing a long-term plan to bring all the schools up to the highest levels and go after the stubborn achievement gap.

Yet any superintendent and any public agency needs effective oversight. One of the problems with the district under Ackerman was the blind support she got from school board members who hired her; it was almost as if her allies on the board were unable to see the damage she was doing and unable to hold her accountable.

Our choices reflect the need for stability — and independence. We are under no illusions — none of our candidates are perfect. But as a group, we believe they can work to preserve what the district is doing right and improve on policies that aren’t working.

Kim-Shree Maufas has been a staunch progressive on the board. She got into a little trouble last year when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that she’d been using a school district credit card for personal expenses. That’s not a great move, but she never actually took public money since she paid back the district. Maufas said she thought she could use the card as long as she reimbursed the district for her own expenses; the rules are now clear and she’s had no problems since. We don’t consider this a significant enough failure in judgment to prevent her from continuing to do what she’s been doing: serving as an advocate on the board for low-income kids and teachers.

Maufas is a big supporter of restorative justice and is working for ways to reduce suspensions and expulsions. She wants to make sure advanced placement and honors classes are open to anyone who can handle the coursework. She supports the new school assignment process (as do all the major candidates), although she acknowledges that there are some potential problems. She told us she thinks the district should go back to the voters for a parcel tax to supplement existing funding for the schools.

Margaret Brodkin is a lightening rod. In fact, much of the discussion around this election seems to focus on Brodkin. Since she entered the race, she’s eclipsed all the other issues, and there’s been a nasty whisper campaign designed to keep her off the board.

We’ve had our issues with Brodkin. When she worked for Mayor Newsom, she was part of a project that brought private nonprofits into city recreation centers to provide services — at a time when unionized public employees of the Recreation and Parks Department were losing their jobs. It struck us as a clear privatization effort by the Newsom administration, and it raised a flag that’s going to become increasingly important in the school district: there’s a coming clash between people who think private nonprofits can provide more services to the schools and union leaders who fear that low-paid nonprofit workers will wind up doing jobs now performed by unionized district staff. And Brodkin’s role in the Newsom administration — and her background in the nonprofit world — is certainly ground for some concern.

But Brodkin is also by far the most qualified person to run for San Francisco school board in years, maybe decades. She’s a political legend in the city, the person who is most responsible for making issues of children and youth a centerpiece of the progressive agenda. In her years as director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, she tirelessly worked to make sure children weren’t overlooked in the budget process and was one of the authors of the initiative that created the Children’s Fund. She’s run a nonprofit, run a city department, and is now working on education issues.

She’s a feisty person who can be brusque and isn’t always conciliatory — but those characteristics aren’t always bad. Sup. Chris Daly used his anger and passion to push for social justice on the Board of Supervisors and, despite some drawbacks, he’s been an effective public official.

And Brodkin is full of good ideas. She talks about framing what a 21st century education looks like, about creating community schools, about aligning after-school and summer programs with the academic curriculum. She wants the next school bond act to include a central kitchen, so local kids can get locally produced meals (the current lunch fare is shipped in frozen from out of state).

Brodkin needs to remember that there’s a difference between being a bare-knuckles advocate and a member of a functioning school board. But given her skills, experience, and lifetime in progressive causes, we’re willing to give her a chance.

We also struggled over endorsing Hydra Mendoza. She works for Mayor Newsom as an education advisor — and that’s an out-front conflict of interest. She’s a fan of Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, whose policies are regressive and dangerous.

On the other hand, she cares deeply about kids and public education. She’s not a big supporter of charter schools (“I’ve yet to see a charter school that offers anything we can’t do ourselves,” she told us) and while she was on the wrong side of a lot of issues (like JROTC) early in her tenure, over the past two years she’s been a good School Board member.

There are several other candidates worth mentioning. Bill Barnes, an aide to Michela Alioto-Pier, is a good guy, a decent progressive — but has no experience in or direct connection to the public schools. Natasha Hoehn is in the education nonprofit world and speaks with all the jargon of the educrat, but her proposals and her stands on issues are vague. Emily Murase is a strong parent advocate with some good ideas, but she struck us as a bit too conservative (particularly on JROTC and charter schools.) Jamie Wolfe teaches at a private school but lacks any real constituency or experience in local politics and the education community.

So given a weak field with limited alternatives, we’re going with Maufas, Brodkin and Mendoza.




The San Francisco Community College District has been a mess for years, and it’s only now starting to get back on track. That’s the result of the election of a few progressive reformers — Milton Marks, Chris Jackson, and John Rizzo, who now have enough clout on the seven-member board to drag along a fourth vote when they need it.

But the litany of disasters they’ve had to clean up is almost endless. A chancellor (who other incumbent board members supported until the end) is now under indictment. Public money that was supposed to go to the district wound up in a political campaign. An out-of-control semiprivate college foundation has been hiding its finances from the public. The college shifted bond money earmarked for an arts center into a gigantic, expensive gym with a pool that the college can’t even pay to operate, so it’s leased out to a private high school across the street.

And the tragedy is that all three incumbents — two of whom should have stepped down years ago — are running unopposed.

With all the attention on the School Board and district elections, not one progressive — in fact, not one candidate of any sort — has stepped forward to challenge Anita Grier and Lawrence Wong. So they’ll get another term, and the reformers will have to continue to struggle.

We’re endorsing only Rizzo, a Sierra Club staffer who has been in the lead in the reform bloc. He needs to end up as the top vote-getter, which would put him in position to be the board president. Rizzo has worked to get the district’s finances and foundation under control and he richly deserves reelection.




It’s about time somebody mounted a serious challenge to James Fang, the only elected Republican in San Francisco and a member of one of the most dysfunctional public agencies in California. The BART Board is a mess, spending a fortune on lines that are hardly ever used and unable to work effectively with other transit agencies or control a police force that has a history of brutality and senseless killing.

Fang supports the suburban extensions and Oakland Airport connector, which make no fiscal or transportation sense. He’s ignored problems with the BART Police for 20 years. It’s time for him to leave office.

Bert Hill is a strong challenger. A professional cost-management executive, he understands that BART is operating on an old paradigm of carrying people from the suburbs into the city. “Before we go on building any more extensions,” he told us, “we should take care of San Francisco.” He wants the agency to work closely with Muni and agrees there’s a need for a BART sunshine policy to make the notoriously secretive agency more open to public scrutiny. We strongly endorse him.




San Francisco needs an aggressive assessor who looks for every last penny that big corporations are trying to duck paying — but this is also a job that presents an opportunity for challenging the current property tax laws. Phil Ting’s doing pretty well with the first part — and unlike past assessors, is actually stepping up to the plate on the second. He’s been pushing a statewide coalition to reform Prop. 13 — and while it’s an uphill battle, it’s good to see a tax assessor taking it on. Ting has little opposition and will be reelected easily.




Adachi’s done a great job of running the office that represents indigent criminal defendants. He’s been outspoken on criminal justice issues. Until this year, he was often mentioned as a potential progressive candidate for mayor.

That’s over now. Because Adachi decided (for reasons we still can’t comprehend) to join the national attack on public employees and put Prop. B on the ballot, he’s lost any hope of getting support for higher office from the left. And since the moderate and conservative forces will never be comfortable with a public defender moving up in the political world, Adachi’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Which is fine. He’s doing well at his day job. We wish he’d stuck to it and not taken on a divisive, expensive, and ill-conceived crusade to cut health care benefits for city employees.





To hear some of the brahmins of the local bench and bar tell it, the stakes in this election are immense — the independence of the judiciary hangs in the balance. If a sitting judge who is considered eminently qualified for the job and has committed no ethical or legal breaches can be challenged by an outsider who is seeking more diversity on the bench, it will open the floodgates to partisan hacks taking on good judges — and force judicial candidates to raise money from lawyers and special interests, thus undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

We are well aware of the problems of judicial elections around the country. In some states, big corporations that want to influence judges raise and spend vast sums on trial and appellate court races — and typically get their way. In Iowa, three judges who were willing to stand on principle and Constitutional law and declare same-sex marriage legal are facing what amounts to a well-funded recall effort. California is not immune — in more conservative counties, liberal judges face getting knocked off the bench by law-and-order types.

It’s a serious issue. It’s worth a series of hearings in the state Legislature, and it might be worth Constitutional change. Maybe trial-court elections should be eliminated. Maybe all judicial elections should have public campaign financing. But right now, it’s an elected office — at least in theory.

In practice, the vast majority of the judicial slots in California are filled by appointment. Judges serve for four-year terms but tend to retire or step down in midterm, allowing the governor to fill the vacancy. Unless someone files specifically to challenge an incumbent, typically appointed judge, that race never even appears on the ballot.

The electoral process is messy and political, and raising money is unseemly for a judicial officer. But the appointment process is hardly pure, either — and governors in California have, over the past 30 years, appointed the vast majority of the judges from the ranks of big corporate law firms and district attorney’s offices.

There are, of course, exceptions, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been better than his predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis. But overall, public interest lawyers, public defenders, and people with small community practices (and, of course, people who have no political strings to pull in Sacramento) have been frustrated. And it’s no surprise that some have sought to run against incumbents.

That’s what’s happening here. Michael Nava, a gay Latino who has been working as a research attorney for California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, was going to run for a rare open seat this year, but the field quickly got crowded. So Nava challenged Richard Ulmer, a corporate lawyer appointed by Schwarzenegger who has been on the bench a little more than a year.

We will stipulate, as the lawyers say: Ulmer has done nothing wrong. From all accounts, he’s a fine judge (and before taking the bench, he did some stellar pro bono work fighting for reforms in the juvenile detention system). So there are two questions here: Should Nava have even filed to run against Ulmer? And since he did, who is the better candidate?

It’s important to understand this isn’t a case of special interests and that big money wanting to oust a judge because of his politics or rulings. Nava isn’t backed by any wealthy interest. There’s no clear parallel to the situations in other areas and other states where the judiciary is being compromised by electoral politics. Nava had every right to run — and has mounted an honest campaign that discusses the need for diversity on the bench.

Ulmer’s supporters note — correctly — that the San Francisco courts have more ethnic and gender diversity than any county in the state. And we’re not going to try to come to a conclusion here about how much diversity is enough.

But we will say that life experience matters, and judges bring to the bench what they’ve lived. Nava, who is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and the first person in his family to go to college, may have a different perspective on how low-income people of color are treated in the courts than a former Republican who spent his professional career in big law firms.

We were impressed by Nava’s background and knowledge — and by his interest in opening up the courts. He supports cameras in the courtrooms and allowing reporters to record court proceedings. He told us the meetings judges hold on court administration should be open to the public.

We’re willing to discuss whether judicial elections make sense. Meanwhile, judges who don’t like the idea of challenges should encourage their colleagues not to retire in midterm. If all the judges left at the end of a four-year term, there would be plenty of open seats and fewer challenges. But for now, there’s nothing in this particular election that makes us fear for the independence of the courts. Vote for Nava.



Endorsements 2010: State ballot measures


PROP. 19



The most surprising thing about Prop. 19 is how it has divided those who say they support the legalization of marijuana. Critics within the cannabis community say decriminalization should occur at the federal level or with uniform statewide standards rather that letting cities and counties set their own regulations, as the measure does. Sure, fully legalizing marijuana on a large scale and regulating its use like tobacco and alcohol would be better — but that’s just not going to happen anytime soon. As we learned with the legalization of marijuana for medical uses through Prop. 215 in 1996, there are still regional differences in the acceptance of marijuana, so cities and counties should be allowed to treat its use differently based on local values. Maybe San Francisco wants full-blown Amsterdam-style hash bars while Fresno would prefer far more limited distribution options — and that’s fine.

Other opponents from within marijuana movement are simply worried about losing market share or triggering federal scrutiny of a system that seems to be working well for many. But those are selfish reasons to oppose the long-overdue next step in legalizing adult use of cannabis, a step we need to take even if there is some uncertainty about what comes next. By continuing with prohibition Californians and their demand for pot are empowering the Mexican drug cartels and their violence and political corruption; perpetuating a drug war mentality that is ruining lives, wasting resources, and corrupting police agencies that share in the take from drug-related property seizures; and depriving state and local governments of tax revenue from the California’s number one cash crop.

Bottom line: if there are small problems with this measure, they can be corrected with state legislation that Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has already pledged to carry and that Prop. 19 explicitly allows. But this is the moment and the measure we need to seize to continue making progress in our approach to marijuana in California. Vote yes on Prop. 19.


PROP. 20



Prop. 20 seeks to transfer the power to draw congressional districts from elected officials to the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the state agency created in 2008 to draw boundary lines for California state legislative districts and Board of Equalization districts.

Supporters argue that Prop. 20, (which is backed by Charles Munger Jr., the heir to an investment fortune) would create more competitive elections and holds politicians accountable. And indeed, there’s been some funky gerrymandering going on the the state for decades.

But the commission is hardly a fair body — it has the same number of Republicans as Democrats in a state where there are far more Democrats than Republicans. And most states still draw lines the old-fashioned way, so Prop. 20 could give the GOP an advantage in a Democratic state. States like Texas and Florida, notorious for pro-Republican gerrymandering, aren’t planning to change how they do their districts.

That’s why former state Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), who lost his recent bid for the State Senate thanks to gerrymandering and an August special election, calls Prop. 20 “the unilateral disarmament of California.”

It could also create a political mess in San Francisco, Laird said. “An independent commission could end up dividing the city north/south, not east/west. Or it could throw Sen. Mark Leno and Leland Yee into the same district.” Vote no.


PROP. 21



Part of the reason California is in the fiscal crisis it is now facing — underfunding schools, slashing services, and considering selling off state parks — is because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for office on a pandering pledge to deeply cut the vehicle license fee, costing the state tens of billions of dollars since then. It was the opposite of what this state should have been doing if it was serious about addressing global warming and other environmental imperatives, not to mention encouraging car drivers to come closer to paying for their full societal impacts, which study after study shows they don’t now do. This measure doesn’t fully correct that mistake, but it’s a start.

Prop. 21 would charge an $18 annual fee on vehicle license registrations and reserve at least half of the $500 million it would generate for state park maintenance and wildlife conservation programs. As an added incentive, the measure would also give cars free entrance to the state parks, a $50 million perk. Of the remaining $450 million, $200 million could be used to back-fill state general fund revenue now going to these functions, which means most of this money would go to parks and wildlife.

We’d rather see funds derived from private car use go to mass transit and other alternatives to the automobile, but we’re not going to quibble with the details on this one. California desperately needs the money, and it’s time for drivers to start giving back some of the money they shouldn’t have been given in the first place.


PROP. 22



This one sounds good, on the surface: Prop. 22 would prevent the state from taking money from city redevelopment agencies to balance the budget in Sacramento. But it’s not so simple: Sometimes it actually makes sense to use redevelopment money to fund, say, education — and only the state can do that. Besides, this particular bill only protects cities, not counties — so San Francisco will take even more of a hit in tough times. Vote no.


PROP. 23



Think of Prop. 23 as a band of right-wing extremists orchestrating a sneak attack on the one hope this country has for removing its head from the tarball-sticky sand and actually doing something, for real this time, about global warming. Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, imposes enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 — and now, Big Oil is drilling deep into its pockets in an effort to blow up those limits.

Funded by Texas oil companies Tesoro Corporation and Valero Energy Corporation in conjunction with the Koch brothers, billionaires who have been called the financial backbone of the Tea Party, Prop. 23 would reverse a hard-fought victory by suspending AB32 until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters — not likely to happen anytime soon. In truly sleazy fashion, proponents have dubbed Prop. 23 the “California jobs initiative.”

The environmental arguments for rejecting Prop. 23 are obvious, but this time there’s a twist — even the business community doesn’t like it. Take it from Rob Black of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which is actively opposing Prop. 23. “There is a fear that clean energy policy is a communist plot,” Black explained. “We actually think it’s a good capitalist strategy.” To most business leaders, AB32 is like the goose that laid the golden egg — it encourages investment in green technology, which is probably California’s best future economic hope. Vote no on 23.


PROP. 24



Prop. 24 repeals some special-interest tax breaks that the Legislature had to accept as part of the latest budget deal. In essence, it restores about $1.7 billion worth of taxes on corporations, particularly larger ones that hide income among various affiliates. Vote yes.


PROP. 25



Prop. 25 would be a step toward ending the budget madness that defines California politics every year. It would allow the state Legislature to pass a budget and budget-related legislation can be passed with a simple majority vote.

It’s not a full solution — a two-thirds vote would still be required to pass taxes. But at least it would allow the majority party to approve a blueprint for state spending and help end the gridlock caused by a small number of Republicans. Vote yes.


PROP. 26



Prop. 26 would require a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature and at the ballot box in local communities to pass fees, levies, charges and tax revenue allocations that under existing rules can be enacted by a simple majority vote

It’s supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, the Wine Institute, and Aera Energy.

Opponents argue that Prop. 26 should be called the “Polluter Protection Act” because it would make it harder to impose fees on corporations that cause environmental or public health problems. For example, it would be harder to impose so-called “pollution fees” on corporations that discharge toxics into the air or water. It would also make it nearly impossible for San Francisco to impose revenue measures like the Alcohol Fee sponsored by Sup. John Avalos. It’s another in a long line of attempts at the state level to block local government from raising money. Vote no.


PROP. 27



We opposed the 2008 ballot measure creating the redistricting commission, arguing that, while allowing the state Legislature to draw its own seats is a problem, the solution would make things worse. The panel isn’t at all representative of the state (it has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats) and could be insensitive to the political demographics of California cities (it makes sense, for example, to have Senate and Assembly lines in San Francisco divide the city into east and west sides because that’s how the politics of the city tend to break).

This measure abolishes that panel and would allow the Legislature to draw new lines for both state and federal offices after the 2010 census. We don’t love having the Legislature handle that task — but we like the existing, unaccountable, unrepresentative agency even less. Vote yes.



Endorsements 2010: State races




We have issues with Jerry Brown. The one-time environmental leader who left an admirable progressive legacy his first time in the governor’s office (including the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the California Conservation Corps, and the liberal Rose Bird Supreme Court) and who is willing to stand up and oppose the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has become a centrist, tough-on-crime, no-new-taxes candidate. And his only solution to the state budget problems is to bring all the players together early and start talking.

But at least since he’s started to debate Republican Meg Whitman face to face, he’s showing some signs of life — and flashes of the old Jerry. He’s strongly denouncing Whitman’s proposal to wipe out capital gains taxes, reminding voters of the huge hole that would blow in the state budget — and the $5 billion windfall it would give to the rich. He’s talking about suing Wall Street financial firms that cheated Californians. He’s promoting green jobs and standing firm in support of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions limits.

For all his drawbacks (his insistence, for example, that the Legislature shouldn’t raise any taxes without a statewide vote of the people), Brown is at least part of the reality-based community. He understands that further tax cuts for the rich won’t solve California’s problems. He knows that climate change is real. He’s not great on immigration issues, but at least he’s cognizant that 2 million undocumented immigrants live in California — and the state can’t just arrest and deport them all.

Whitman is more than a conservative Republican. She’s scary. The centerpiece of her economic platform calls for laying off 40,000 state employees — thereby greatly increasing the state’s unemployment rate. Her tax plan would increase the state’s deficit by another $5 billion just so that a tiny number of the richest taxpayers (including her) can keep more of their money. She’s part of the nativist movement that wants to close the borders.

She’s also one of the growing number of candidates who think personal wealth and private-sector business success translate to an ability to run a complex state government. That’s a dangerous trend — Whitman has no political experience or background (until recently she didn’t even vote) and will be overcome by the lobbyists in Sacramento.

This is a critically important election for California. Vote for Jerry Brown.





Why is the mayor of San Francisco running for a job he once dismissed as worthless? Simple: he couldn’t get elected governor, and he wants a place to perch for a while until he figures out what higher office he can seek. It’s almost embarrassing in its cold political calculus, but that’s something we’ve come to expect from Newsom.

We endorsed Newsom’s opponent, Janice Hahn, in the Democratic primary. It was hard to make a case for advancing the political career of someone who has taken what amounts to a Republican approach to running the city’s finances — he’s addressed every budget problem entirely with cuts, pushed a “no-new-taxes” line, and given the wealthy everything they wanted. His immigration policies have broken up families and promoted deporting kids. He’s done Pacific Gas and Electric Co. a nice favor by doing nothing to help the community choice aggregation program move forward.

Nevertheless, we’re endorsing Newsom over his Republican opponent, Abel Maldonado, because there really isn’t any choice. Maldonado is a big supporter of the death penalty (which Newsom opposes). He’s pledged never to raise taxes (and Newsom is at least open to discussion on the issue). He used budget blackmail to force the awful open-primaries law onto the ballot. He’s a supporter of big water projects like the peripheral canal. In the Legislature, he earned a 100 percent rating from the California Chamber of Commerce.

Newsom’s a supporter of more funding for higher education (and the lieutenant governor sits on the University of California Board of Regents). He’d be at least a moderate environmentalist on the state Lands Commission. And he, like Brown, is devoting a lot of attention to improving the state’s economy with green jobs.

We could do much worse than Newsom in the lieutenant governor’s office. We could have Maldonado. Vote for Newsom.





California has had some problems with the office that runs elections and keeps corporate filings. Kevin Shelley had to resign from the job in 2005 in the face of allegations that a state grant of $125,000 was illegally diverted into his campaign account. But Bowen, by all accounts, has run a clean office. Her Republican opponent, Damon Dunn, a former professional football player and real estate agent, doesn’t even have much support within his own party and is calling for mandatory ID checks at the ballot. This one’s easy; vote for Bowen.





Chiang’s been a perfectly decent controller, and at times has shown some political courage: When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to cut the pay of state employees to minimum-wage level, Chiang refused to go along — and forced the governor to back down. His opponent, state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Los Angeles), wants to use to office to promote cuts in government spending. Vote for Chiang.





Lockyer’s almost certain to win reelection as treasurer against a weak Republican, Mimi Walters. He’s done an adequate job and pushed a few progressive things like using state bonds to promote alternative energy. Mostly, though, he seems to be waiting for his chance to run for governor — and if Jerry Brown loses, or wins and decides not to seek a second term, look for Lockyer to step up.





This is going to be close, and it’s another clear choice. We’ve had our differences with Harris — she’s trying too hard to be a tough-on-crime type, pushing some really dumb bills in Sacramento (like a measure that would bar sex offenders from ever using social networking sites on the Internet). And while she shouldn’t take all the blame for the problems in the San Francisco crime lab, she should have known about the situation earlier and made more of a fuss. She’s also been slow to respond to serious problem of prosecutors and the cops hiding information about police misconduct from defense lawyers that could be relevant to a case.

But her opponent, Los Angeles D.A. Steve Cooley, is bad news. He’s a big proponent of the death penalty, and the ACLU last year described L.A. as the leading “killer county in the country.” Cooley has proudly sent 50 people to death row since he became district attorney in 2001, and he vows to make it easier and more efficient for the state to kill people.

He’s also a friend of big business who has vowed, even as attorney general, to make the state more friendly to employers — presumably by slowing prosecutions of corporate wrongdoing.

Harris, to her credit, has refused to seek the death penalty in San Francisco, and would bring the perspective of a woman of color to the AG’s office. For all her flaws, she would be far better in the AG’s office than Cooley. Vote for Harris.





Jones, currently a state Assemblymember from Sacramento, won a contested primary against his Los Angeles colleague Hector de la Torre and is now fighting Republican Mike Villines of Fresno, also a member of the Assembly. Jones is widely known as a consumer advocate and was a foe of Prop. 17, the insurance industry scam on the June ballot. A former Legal Aid lawyer, he has extensive experience in health-care reform, supports single-payer health coverage, and would make an excellent insurance commissioner.

Villines pretty much follows right-wing orthodoxy down the line. He wants to replace employer-based insurance with health savings accounts. He argues that the solution to the cost of health insurance is to limit malpractice lawsuits. He wants to limit workers compensation claims. And he supports “alternatives to litigation,” which means eliminating the rights of consumers to sue insurance companies.

Not much question here. Vote for Jones.





The Board of Equalization isn’t well known, but it plays a sizable role in setting and enforcing California tax policy. Yee’s a strong progressive who has done well in the office, supporting progressive financial measures. She’s spoken out — as a top tax official — in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana. We’re happy to endorse her for another term.





We fully expected a November runoff between Torlakson and state Sen. Gloria Romero. Both Democrats had strong fundraising and political bases — and very different philosophies. Romero’s a big charter school and privatization fan; Torlakson has the support of the teachers unions. But to the surprise of nearly everyone, a wild-card candidate, retired Los Angeles educator Larry Aceves, came in first, with Torlakson second and Romero third. Now Aceves and Torlakson are in the runoff for this nonpartisan post.

Aceves is an interesting candidate, a former principal and school superintendent who has the endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Green Party. But he’s too quick to take the easy line that the teachers’ unions are the biggest problem in public education, and he wants the unilateral right to suspend labor contracts.

Torlakson wants more charter-school accountability and more funding for primary education. He’s the far better candidate.





Leland Yee

Yee’s got no opposition to speak of, and will easily be re-elected. So why is he spending money on a series of slick television ads that have been airing all over San Francisco, talking about education and sending people to his website? It’s pretty obvious: The Yee for state Senate campaign is the opening act of the Yee for San Francisco mayor campaign, which should kick into high gear sometime next spring. In other words, if Yee has his way, he’ll serve only a year of his next four-year term.

Yee infuriates his colleagues at times, particularly when he refuses to vote for a budget that nobody likes but everyone knows is necessary to keep the state afloat. He’s done some ridiculous things, like pushing to sell the Cow Palace as surplus state property and turn the land over to private real estate developers. But he’s always good on open-government issues, is pushing for greater accountability for companies that take tax breaks and then send jobs out of state, has pushed for accountability at the University of California, and made great progress in opening the records at semiprivate university foundations when he busted Stanislaus State University for its secret speaking-fees deal with Sarah Palin.

With a few strong reservations, we’ll endorse Yee for another term.





A clear hold-your-nose endorsement. Ma has done some truly bad things in Sacramento, like pushing a bill that would force the San Francisco Unified School District to allow military recruiters in the high schools and fronting for landlords on a bill to limit rent control in trailer parks. But she’s good on public power and highly critical of PG&E, and she has no opposition to speak of.





Ammiano’s a part of San Francisco history, and without his leadership as a supervisor, we might not have a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors. Ammiano was one of the architects of the return to district elections, and his 1999 mayoral campaign (against Willie Brown) marked a turning point in the organization, sophistication, and ultimate success of the city’s left. He was the author of the rainy day fund (which has kept the public schools from massive layoffs over the past couple of years) and the Healthy San Francisco plan.

In Sacramento, he’s been a leader in the effort to legalize (and tax) marijuana and to demand accountability for the BART Police. He’s taken on the unpleasant but critical task of chairing the Public Safety Committee and killing the worst of the right-wing crime bills before they get to the floor. He has four more years in Sacramento, and we expect to see a lot more solid progressive legislation coming out of his office. We enthusiastically endorse him for reelection.





Skinner’s a good progressive, a good ally for Ammiano on the Public Safety Committee, and a friend of small business and fair taxation. Her efforts to make out-of-state companies that sell products in California pay state sales tax would not only bring millions into the state coffers but protect local merchants from the likes of Amazon. We don’t get why she’s joined with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to try to get rid of Kriss Worthington, the most progressive member of the Berkeley City Council, but we’ll endorse her for re-election.





Swanson’s a good vote most of the time in Sacramento, but he’s not yet the leader he could be — particularly on police accountability. The BART Police murdered Oscar Grant in Swanson’s district, yet it fell to a San Franciscan, Tom Ammiano, to introduce strong state legislation to force BART to have civilian oversight of the transit cops. Still, he’s done some positive things (like protecting state workers who blow the whistle on fraud) and deserves another term.



Endorsements 2010: National races




The San Francisco Chronicle made a stunning — and utterly irresponsible — statement when it refused to endorse either candidate in this race, saying that neither Boxer, the three-term incumbent, nor challenger Carly Fiornia, was qualified for the job. That’s insane — this one’s as clear and obvious a choice as you could ask for in American politics.

Boxer’s one of the leading voices for the progressives in the U.S. Senate. She was an early and stalwart foe of the war in Iraq; she’s been good on immigration (even when other Democrats have been ducking); and she’s a leading voice for accountability in financial companies. She’s finally come around on same-sex marriage and has a perfect record on reproductive rights and labor issues.

Fiornia’s chief claim to fame is that she ran one of the nation’s top companies, screwed up its history of excellent labor relations, outsourced 30,000 jobs, orchestrated a train wreck of a merger, and was fired. She left with enough of a golden parachute to help finance her campaign for Senate.

Fiorina’s anti-choice. She strongly supported Prop. 8 and opposes marriage equality. She’s so rabidly seeking the support of the gun nuts that she actually said that people on the federal “no-fly” list should be able to buy handguns. She supports the Arizona anti-immigration law. She’s for tax cuts for the rich and can’t even figure out if she’s supporting or opposing Prop. 23.

This one is a no-brainer. Vote for Boxer.




Woolsey was against the war when her colleague to the south, Nancy Pelosi, was still waffling. She’s a consistent voice against cuts in the safety net (and has the distinction of being the only member of Congress who was once on welfare). We’re happy to endorse her for another term.




Miller’s an East Bay institution, now seeking his 18th term. He’s been good and bad on issues — weak at first on the war, bad on education (he supported No Child Left Behind), but generally sound on environmental issues. And this spring, he was willing to publicly challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on a terrible water bill.




It’s odd that Pelosi’s become such a symbol of liberal Democrats and fodder for the right-wing attack machine. When you look at her record, she’s hardly a San Francisco liberal and certainly no progressive. She’s not even a strong supporter of same-sex marriage. She was bad on the war for too long and seems far more interested in raising money than representing her constituents. But she did salvage the health care bill, and she’s held up as Obama’s chief Capitol Hill ally under enormous pressure, and if the Democrats survive with control of the House, she’ll stay speaker. If not, she should think about retiring.




Lee became a hero to the peace movement worldwide when she refused after 9/11 to vote to authorize then-President Bush to go to war. She was the only member of either house willing to stand up against what would become the costly and bloody invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But she’s also been a strong supporter of HIV funding, is one of the few members of Congress to show much leadership on poverty issues, and has been elected to chair the Progressive Caucus. We’re happy to endorse her for another term.




Stark is the Sup. Chris Daly of Congress, a fearless progressive who’s not afraid to ruffle feathers — or even insult the president — when he thinks it’s necessary. At 78, he’s an outspoken atheist (the only one in Congress), a staunch foe of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a progressive on all the major issues. He’s not terribly popular among his colleagues, who allowed him to serve for only one day as chair of the Ways and Means Committee before dethroning him for his inflammatory statements. But on balance, we’re glad he’s around.



Ducking a lull



CHEAP EATS He wouldn’t be ready for “a good 30 minutes,” my brother said.

This left me with time to kill. To be precise, it left me with 30 minutes. And not just any minutes — good ones.

But how does one differentiate? How can you be sure that the minutes you are fixing to kill are good, quality, law-abiding minutes? And then, once convinced, how do you do the dirty deed cleanly? How do you kill those minutes? Not to mention: in Glen Park.

On a heat wavy day.

A Sunday. Everyone else is at the beach, or out of town, on one last camping trip. I could, I suppose, have walked for 14.5 minutes into Glen Park Canyon, stood behind a rock and yipped like a coyote, then turned around. I love Glen Park Canyon and have never spent nonquality time there; but my right knee was the size of a pomelo and the color of a Concord grape. It had been this way for a week, and honestly, I didn’t know why.

The day before I had attended me a wedding, one of the funnest ones ever, and since it was way too hot for tights, I found myself for the first and hopefully last time ever putting makeup on my legs.

It’s not that they are exactly grotesque, or even necessarily hideous. In fact, I might have the prettiest legs in the Bay Area, just for all the wrong reasons. Instead of sexy, they are breathtaking. Like the Painted Hills region of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument at sunset, I achieve colors nobody ever knew were possible.

But excepting my National Monumentous knee, all the other disfigurements of both of my legs can be named, catalogued by type, and attributed. The scabbed over scratches and little red dots are Stoplight’s. (Kittens climb you if you stop moving. Who knew?) That yellow-centered black-and-blue supernova on my right shin is from a pliers mishap, taking apart my old bed at my ex shack. All the other-colored bruises are soccer specific.

I’m not sure what I’m driving at. I just know that I’m driving, because for the moment my knee won’t let me walk or ride a bike. Problem: I don’t have a car. Well, I did, but it was on loan from my brother, and he was back from Ohio, and in half an hour I was going to see him, and then we would be together for a couple days, and then his van would be his again. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, kill that time by just driving around. Could I?

No, and this is where Hong Ling Restaurant comes in, or, technically I guess, I come in to Hong Ling Restaurant. In spite of the heat wave, I ordered my favorite thing in the world, duck soup, because, like I said, I wanted these minutes to be the best possible minutes, so that afterward my brother would for sure be ready.

While I was killing my duck soup, which was very good, I thought about how I would thenceforth be a pedestrian. Not just in my writing, thenceforth, but in the world. So tomorrow a sports medicine cat is checking out my grape-colored pomelo, because I want to be good. I want to walk well, and get back on my bike, and the soccer field, and probably hopefully pain killers.

This duck soup, it had wontons in it, a lot of wontons. And roast duck, a lot of bones. And everything was juicy besides for being soup.

And cheap. Only $6 for duck soup! That’s good, and you can get it with noodles too, but the wontons have pork and shrimp in them, so that’s duck plus pork plus shrimp. In a desperate attempt to balance out all that meat, they also placed four sprigs of bok choy in the deep-dark broth, so in the end I felt not only happy, but healthy.

So now I have officially been to all the restaurants in Glen Park, except maybe some of them. This one is my favorite, because not just every Chinese restaurant makes a roast duck soup. In fact, very few. And it was cool and very basic in there.

But I think most people get it to go, crazy them. There’s a steam table near the door, with all the ready-mades. Me, I’d rather sit.

And wait. *


Sun.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

2794 Diamond, S.F

(415) 333-1331


Beer and wine