Enclosed 49ers stadium in Santa Clara?


Text by Sarah Phelan

The draft EIR for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara states that the proposed construction will result “in significant cumulative transportation, air quality and global climate change impacts.”

According to the study, the significant unavoidable impacts of the proposal include a substantial increase in ambient noise levels during large stadium events, temporary noise impacts from construction, regional air pollutants in excess of established thresholds, significant impacts on 17 intersections on 8 weekday evenings a year, and on two local intersections on 42 weekend days.

It could also result in the abandonment of active raptor nests or the destruction of other migratory birds’ nests.

And expose construction workers and future site users to contaminated soil, airborne asbestos particles, and lead-based paint.

The proposed site is located within the worst-case release impact zone for two toxic gas facilities and thus, “could expose event attendees to toxic chemicals.”

Then there is the fact that it could impact “unknown buried prehistoric and/or historic resources.”

And numerous BBQ activities within 700 feet of neighboring residences “could result in odor complaints”

What impact this draft EIR will have on Santa Clara voters when they go to the ballot next March remains unclear.

But a quick skim through this 336-page report finds it concluding that other alternatives, including Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed site at Hunters Point Shipyard, are mostly deemed inconsistent with the 49ers objectives.

“The costs and time required for hazardous materials clean up, infrastructure and roadway/transit improvements, and permitting make the Hunters Point site inconsistent with the following objectives: locate the stadium on a site that can be readily assembled and that enables the development of the stadium within budget and on schedule; locate the stadium on a site that is served by existing streets and highway infrastructure adequate to reasonably accommodate local and regional game-day automobile circulation.”

The existing Candlestick Point site, as well as Pier 70, Pier 80, Pier 90-94 backlands, Baylands, San Francisco Airport, Moffett Airfield, Zanker Road, San Jose State, Santa Clara Fairgrounds, a reduced stadium size alternative and an enclosed stadium alternative are also evaluated.

Ultimately the report concludes that “the enclosed stadium alternative would meet all of the project proponent’s objectives.”

“In addition, this alternative would reduce impacts from crowd noise in the stadium…and would eliminate the visible light increases,” the draft EIR continues. ” Energy use would increase to some extent with the enclosed stadium because it would require more of the stadium area to be climate controlled. An enclosed stadium would, however, allow for a variety of design features that would at least partially offset energy consumption. This alternative is environmentally superior to the proposed project.”

Prison report: The laws are wrong


Editors note: Just A Guy is an inmate in a California state prison. His blogs typically run on Mondays and Thursdays, although it’s sometimes hard to communicate from prison.

By Just A Guy

Today Brett Pedroia, the brother of Boston Red Sox all-star Dustin Pedroia, received one year in jail and eight years probation for the molestation of a nine-year-old boy.

Last month, Dante Stallworth received 30 days in jail, community service, and probation for killing a man inFlorida while driving while intoxicated.

And here I sit, among many others, serving multiple years in prison for possession of a controlled substance — which is a victimless crime. Yes, I know that friends and family get hurt by our behavior if we’re addicts, but let’s face it – the emotional pain an addict causes to friends and family is not too different that caused by a verbally abusive spouse, parent or boss. Yet those people aren’t generally considered criminals.

Now that the governor has signed the budget, and part of the budget cuts more than $1 billion from corrections, it’s likely that a lot of us will be released. Remember thought, we are only released from prison, not from the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. We will be on parole, which is change in custody status.

Let me ask you, would you rather have Brett Pedroia living next to you (a convicted child molester) or me, a recovering addict clean and sober for two years and eight months?

And what about Stallworth? Sure, he isn’t likely to rob you or molest your child, but will he drive drunk and kill your kid or someone else?

City Hall’s collaborators



As the Board of Supervisors prepared to give final approval to the city budget July 21, Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, told his colleagues the budget deal that he and President David Chiu negotiated with Mayor Gavin Newsom is "ushering in a new spirit of cooperation and collaboration at City Hall."

But at the end of the day, frantic last-minute revisions and indignant criticism from Avalos’s progressive colleagues felt more like a family feud than the culmination of a team effort. Avalos and Chiu were able to restore $44 million of Newsom’s proposed cuts and got the mayor to promise to fund progressive priorities, such as public health and social services. Progressive supervisors, however, voiced deep skepticism about whether Newsom can be trusted.

To make matters more complicated, the messy conclusion of San Francisco’s budget process coincided with the news that Sacramento officials had finally struck a state budget deal that proposes borrowing more than $4 billion from local government coffers. So the city’s spending plan, balanced with no small amount of pain, may already be thrown out of balance.

Compounding that problem, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that San Francisco voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on new tax measures that could help soften the blow of rapidly declining city revenues this fall, a situation that could quickly test this "new spirit of cooperation."

The tension at the July 21 meeting stemmed from Newsom’s decision last year to close a massive cash shortage by making midyear cuts aimed at the heart of the progressive agenda — even after giving his word that he would not do so.

In some cases, the money was never allocated to begin with. According to a report prepared by the city’s budget analyst, "The Board of Supervisors approved $37,534,393 in monies that were restored in the FY 2008-2009 budget, which include $30,657,078 in General Fund monies and $6,877,315 in non-<\d>General Fund monies. Yet $15,627,397 in restored monies were either cut to meet mid-year reductions or never expended."

The mistrust generated by this episode and others prompted Sups. Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, and David Campos to push for a series of last-minute changes that were designed to shield critical services from future cuts and give the board some power in its dealings with the Mayor’s Office.

"We need a hedge. We need a contingency. If we put a number of items on reserve … it gives us leverage," Mirkarimi noted. A Campos motion to place $45 million on reserve from the city’s seven largest departments was approved by the progressives on a 6-5 vote. Mirkarimi also succeeded in winning approval for a motion to move $900,000 from the trial courts to restore cuts to the Public Defender’s and District Attorney’s offices.

Other proposals failed to win over Avalos and Chiu, such as Mirkarimi’s pitch to target reserve funding for mayoral projects, including the Community Justice Center, 311 call center, and Newsom’s bloated communications staff. Daly’s suggestion to put $300 million on reserve also went nowhere.

"We are on the border of tearing apart a lot of goodwill," Avalos warned. "A $300 million reserve gets to toxic levels. I would be remiss in not saying that the mayor did give us his word. I believe that there was a new Board of Supervisors elected and … a new spirit of negotiation and collaboration in City Hall."

But Daly, making scathing references to "Gavin Christopher Newsom" as he fumed about budget cuts, clearly wasn’t buying it. Also on the afternoon’s agenda was his proposal to place a charter amendment on the ballot that would force the mayor to fund board-approved programs in the budget.

"Without it, we only have blunt instruments at our disposal," Daly said. "A blunt instrument is to take a significant fund, put it on reserve and have a hostage to make sure the administration doesn’t use this most significant loophole. This is crafted to allow a majority of the Board of Supervisors to place a special marker on an appropriation that the board feels strongly about."

But Daly’s idea went down in flames after Chiu and Avalos voted no along with Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sophie Maxwell, Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu. Afterward, Daly left the chambers and later returned to circulate a letter addressed to Chiu reading, "I am no longer interested in serving as Chair of the Rules Committee or Vice Chair of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee."

Daly wasn’t the only one not feeling this new spirit of collaboration. All the last-minute changes clearly exasperated Elsbernd, who paced his corner of the room for much of the meeting, rubbing his forehead, and looking irritated. Eventually, Elsbernd and Chu were the only two votes against the final budget.

The prospect of new revenue measures also dimmed at the meeting. A proposal to place a measure on the November ballot calling for a 0.5 percent sales tax hike fell short of the eight votes it needed (Alioto-Pier, Chu, Dufty, and Elsbernd voted no). And it’s still too early to say whether a move to place a vehicle tax on the ballot can move forward because it’s contingent on state legislation.

The state’s funding raid could also hit the city hard. Leo Levenson, budget and analysis director with the San Francisco Office of the Controller, told the Guardian the city stands to lose $71 million in General Fund dollars and $32 million in other funds, although those numbers were still in flux at press time.

"The state must repay these funds within three years with interest," Levenson explained. "It is likely that San Francisco could be able to borrow money to mitigate the short-term financial impacts of this proposal, since the state is legally obligated to repay the funds within three years."

If the state goes after the gas tax, it could impact the city’s General Fund by an additional $18 million, Levenson noted, "so the city would need to backfill this reduction to sustain basic street cleaning operations."

So budget season isn’t over yet.

Gabrielle Poccia contributed to this report.

Best of the Bay 2009: Shopping






Sure, you can buy anything you want on the Internet, but there’s still a certain charm in entering a store whose items have been carefully chosen to delight the eye in three dimensions. That’s the idea behind Perch, Zoel Fages’s homage to all things charming and cheeky, from gifts to home décor. Do you need a set of bird feet salt-and-pepper shakers? A rhinoceros-head shot glass? A ceramic skull-shaped candleholder that grows "hair" as the wax drips? Of course not. But do you want them? The minute you enter the sunny, sweet Glen Park shop, the obvious answer will be yes. And for those gifty items you do need — scented candles and soaps, letterpress greeting cards, handprinted wrapping paper — Perch is perfect too. We’d recommend you stop by just to window-shop, but who are we kidding? You can’t visit here without taking something home.

654 Chenery, SF. (415) 586-9000, www.perchsf.com


How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? None: LED light bulbs last longer than environmentalists. If you think that joke’s funny — or at least get why it’s supposed to be — you might just be the target market for Green Zebra. Based on the idea that environmentally aware consumers like to save money as much as their Costco-loving neighbors, this book melds the concept of a coupon book with the creed of environmental responsibility. It’s a virtual directory of deals at local businesses trying to work outside the world of pesticidal veggies and gas-guzzling SUVs. Anne Vollen and Sheryl Cohen’s vision now comes in two volumes — one for San Francisco, and one for the Peninsula and Silicon Valley — featuring more than 275 exclusive offers from indie bookstores, art museums, coffee houses, organic restaurants, pet food stores, and just about anywhere else you probably already spend your money (and wouldn’t mind spending less).

(415) 346-2361, www.thegreenzebra.org


So you need a salad spinner, some kitty litter, a birthday card for your sister, and a skein of yarn, but you don’t feel like going to four different stores to check everything off the list? Face it, you’re lazy. But, you’re also in luck. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Standard 5 and 10, a one-stop wonderland in Laurel Village that caters to just about every imaginable whim, need, and desire of serious shoppers and procrastinators alike. Don’t be fooled by the large red Ace sign on the storefront — this is not merely a hardware store (although it can fulfill your hardware needs, of course). It’s an everything store. Walking the aisles here is a journey through consumerism at its most diverse. Greeting cards and tabletop tchotchkes fade into rice cookers then shower curtains, iron-on patches, Webkinz, motor oil…. It’s a dizzying array of stuff you need and stuff you simply want.

3545 California, SF. (415) 751-5767, www.standard5n10.com


Maybe we don’t have flying cars yet, but with video chatting, iPhones, and automated vacuum cleaners, we’re pretty close to living in the imaginary future The Jetsons made magical. Is it any wonder that, while loving our new technologies (hello, Kindle), we’ve also developed a culturewide nostalgia for simpler times? A perfect example is the emergence of steampunk — perhaps familiar to the mainstream as jewelry made of watch parts and cars crafted to look like locomotives. There also seems to be a less expensive, less industrial trend for the pastimes of yore: Croquet. Talk radio. And board games. The last of which is the basis of Just Awesome, the Diamond Heights shop opened by Portland escapee Erik Macsh as a temple to old-fashioned charms. Here you can pick up a myriad of boxes full of dice, cards, and plastic pieces. Head home with Clue, one of the Monopoly iterations (was Chocolate-opoly really necessary?), or a new game that came out while you were distracted by Nintendo Wii. You can even open the box and try a round or two in the shop. How’s that for old-world service?

816 Diamond, SF. (415) 970-1484, www.justawesomegames.com


The nice thing about having a sister, a roommate, or a tolerable neighbor who’s exactly your size is that there’s always someone else’s closet to raid when your own is looking dismal. But what to do when you live alone, your neighbor’s not answering your calls, and you desperately need an attention-getting outfit right now? Make a new best friend: Shaye McKenney of La Library. The friendly fashionista will let you borrow a pair of leather hot pants for a Beauty Bar boogie or a German knit couture gown for that gold-digging date to the opera, all for a small pay-by-the-day price. You can even bring your makeup and get ready for the evening in front of the antique mirrors in her socialist street shop. It’s all the fun of sharing, without having to lend out any of your stuff.

380 Guerrero, SF. (415) 558-9481, www.la-library.com


Need clothes a rockstar would wear but a starving musician can afford? Look no further than Shotwell, whose blend of designer duds and vintage finds are worthy of the limelight and (relatively) easy on your budget. Think jeans with pockets the size of guitar picks, sculptural black dresses, handpicked grandpa sweaters, and reconstructed ’80s rompers that can be paired with lizard skin belts or dollar sign boots, all for less than the cutting-edge designer labels would suggest they should cost. And it’s not just for the ladies. Michael and Holly Weaver stock their adorable boutique with clothing and accessories for all chromosomal combinations. The concept’s become such a success that Shotwell’s moving from its old locale to a bigger, better space. All we can say is, rock on.
320 Grant, SF. (415) 399-9898, www.shotwellsf.com


The best stores are like mini-museums, displaying interesting wares in such a way that they’re almost as fun to peruse as they are to take home. Park Life takes this concept one step further by being a store (wares in the front are for sale) and a gallery (featuring a rotating selection of local contemporary artists’ work). No need to feel guilty for window-shopping: you’re simply checking out the Rubik’s Cube alarm clock, USB flash drive shaped like a fist, and set of "heroin" and "cocaine" salt-and-pepper shakers on your way to appreciating the paintings in the back, right? And if you happen to leave with an arty coffee-table book, an ironic silk-screen T-shirt, or a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, that’s just a bonus.

220 Clement, SF. (415) 386-7275, www.parklifestore.com


In a world replete with crates, barrels, Williams, and Sonomas, it’s easy to forget there’s such a thing as an independent cooking store. But Cooks Boulevard is just that: an adorable, one-stop shop for reasonably priced cooking paraphernalia, from a pastry scale or Le Creuset to a candy mold or stash of wooden spoons. And if the shop doesn’t have what you need, the friendly staff will order it for you. In fact, this Noe Valley gem has everything the big stores have, including online ordering, nationwide shipping, and a well-kept blog of missives about the foodie universe. It even offers cooking classes, on-site knife sharpening, community events such as food drives and book clubs, and CSA boxes of local organic produce delivered to neighborhood clientele. With knowledgeable service and well-stocked shelves, the Boulevard makes it easy for home cooks and professional chefs to shop local.

1309 Castro, SF. (415) 647-2665, www.cooksboulevard.com


No sleep ’til Brooklyn? Fine. But no style ’til you reach the Big Apple? We just can’t give you license for that kind of ill, especially since the Brooklyn Circus came to town last July. With its East Coast–style awning, living room vibe, and indie hip-hop style, this boutique might just be the thing to keep those homesick for NYC from buying that JetBlue ticket for one … more … week. Want to save your cash just in case? You’re welcome to chill out on the leather sofas and listen to Mos Def mixtapes. At the store you can soak in the charm of the Fillmore’s colorful energy and history, while checking out the trends that blend Frank Sinatra and Kanye West almost seamlessly. Sure, you could visit the Chicago outpost before going to the original in the store’s namesake city, but why bother? Next year’s selection will include an expanded line of locally produced goodies — all available without having to brave a sweltering Big City summer.

1525 Fillmore, SF. (415) 359-1999, www.thebkcircus.com


I know. It’s July. The last thing you want to do is think about that stupid holiday shopping season that’ll dominate the entire universe in about three months. But the gift baskets at La Cocina are worth talking about year-round, not only because purchasing one supports a fantastic organization (dedicated to helping low-income entrepreneurs develop, grow, and establish their businesses) but because the delightful packages really are great gifts for any occasion. Whether it’s your boss’s birthday, your friend’s dinner party, or simply time to remind your grandmother in the nursing home that you’re thinking of her, these baskets full of San Francisco goodness are a thoughtful alternative to flower bouquets and fruit collections ordered through corporations. Orders might include dark chocolate-<\d>covered graham crackers from Kika’s Treats, spicy yucca sticks, toffee cookies from Sinful Sweets, roasted pumpkin seeds, or shortbread from Clairesquare, starting at $23. Everything will come with a handwritten note and a whole lot of love.



Aqua Forest Aquarium has reinvented the concept of fish in a bowl. The only store in the nation dedicated to a style of decorating aquariums like natural environments, Aqua Forest boasts an amazing display of live aquatic landscapes that seem directly transplanted from more idyllic waters. With good prices, knowledgeable staff, a focus on freshwater life, and a unique selection of tropical fish, the shop is not only proof that aquarium stores need not be weird and dingy, but that your home fish tank can be a thriving ecosystem rather than a plastic environment with a bubbling castle (OK, a thriving ecosystem with a bubbling castle). Part pet store, part live art gallery, Aqua Forest is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a sailfin leopard pleco.

1718 Fillmore, SF. (415) 929-8883, www.adana-usa.com


Remember when we all joked that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck? Little did we realize the joke would be on us when the only paper in our purses would be a Whole Pink Slip. In the new economy, some of us can’t afford the luxury of deciding between organic bananas or regular ones — we’re trying to figure out which flavor of ramen keeps us full the longest. Luckily, Duc Loi Supermarket opened in the Mission just in time. This neighborhood shop is big, bright, clean, well stocked, cheap, and diverse, with a focus on Asian and Latino foods. Here you can get your pork chops and pig snouts, salmon and daikon, tofu and tortilla chips — and still have bus fare for the ride home. In fact, young coconut milk is only 99 cents a can, a whole dollar less than at Whole Foods.

2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772


Some people go their entire lives buying replacement 20-packs of tube socks from Costco, socks whose suspicious blend of elastic, petroleum products, and God-knows-what signals to wearers and viewers alike: Warm, shwarm! Fit, shmit! Style, shmyle! Other people, even if they keep their socks encased in boots or shoes, want to know that their foot coverings are just one more indicator of their fashion — and common — sense. Those people go to Rabat in Noe Valley, where the sock racks look like a conjuring of the chorus of "Hair": "curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied; bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied." Furthermore, the socks are mostly made from recognizable materials like wool, cotton, or fleece. As for you sensible-shoe and wingtip types, not to worry. Rabat also stocks black and white anklets and nude-colored peds.

4001 24th St., SF (415) 282-7861. www.rabatshoes.com


Don’t let the small storefront at Alexander Book Company deter you — this three-story, independent bookstore is packed with stuff that you won’t find at Wal-Mart or the book malls. We’re particularly impressed with the children’s collection — and with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you’re looking for a birthday present for your kid’s classmate, or one for an out-of-town niece or nephew — or you just generally want to know what 10-year-old boys who like science fiction are reading these days — ask for Bonnie. She’s the children’s books buyer, and not only does she have an uncanny knack for figuring out what makes an appropriate gift, chances are whatever the book is, she’s already read it.

50 Second St., SF. (415) 495-2992, www.alexanderbook.com


If you think Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are the only places to trade your Diors for dollars, you’re missing out. Urbanity, Angela Cadogan’s North Berkeley boutique, is hands down the best place to consign in the Bay. The spot is classy but not uppity, your commission is 30 percent of what your item pulls in, and, best of all, you’d actually want to shop there. Cadogan has a careful eye for fashion, choosing pieces that deserve a spot in your closet for prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Want an even better deal on those Miu Miu pumps or that YSL dress? Return every 30 days, when items that haven’t sold yet are reduced by 40 percent. But good luck playing the waiting game against Urbanity’s savvy regulars — they’ve been eyeing those Pradas longer than you have.

1887 Solano, Berk. (510) 524-7467, www.shopurbanity.com


Ever wish you could be a character in a period piece, writing love letters on a typewriter to your distant paramour while perched upon a baroque upholstered chair? We can’t get you a role in a movie, but we can send you to the Perish Trust, where you’ll find everything you need to create a funky antique film set of your very own. Proprietor-curator team Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa have dedicated themselves to making their wares as fun to browse through as to buy, carefully selecting original artwork, vintage folding rulers, taxidermied fowl, out-of-print books, and myriad other antique odds-and-ends from across the nation. As if that weren’t enough, this Divisadero shop also carries Hooker’s Sweet Treats old world-<\d>style gourmet chocolate caramels — and that’s definitely something to write home about.

728 Divisadero, SF. www.theperishtrust.com


If Hayes Valley’s indie-retailer RAG (Residents Apparel Gallery) bedded the Lower Haight’s design co-op Trunk, their love child might look (and act) a lot like Mission Statement. With a focus on local designers and a philosophy of getting artists involved with the store, the 18th Street shop has all the eclectic style of RAG and all the collaborative spirit of Trunk — all with a distinctly Mission District vibe. Much like its namesake neighborhood, this shop has a little of everything: mineral makeup, fedoras adorned with spray-painted designs, multiwrap dresses, graphic tees, and more. Between the wares of the eight designers who work and play at the co-op, you might find everything you need for a head-to-toe makeover — including accessorizing advice, custom designing, and tailoring by co-owner Estrella Tadeo. You may never need to leave the Valencia corridor again.

3458-A 18th St., SF. (415) 255-7457, www.missionstatementsf.com


Beer-shopping at Healthy Spirits might ruin you. Never again will you be able to stroll into a regular suds shop, eye the refrigerated walk-in, and feign glee: "Oh, wow, they have Wolaver’s and Fat Tire." The selection at Healthy Spirits makes the inventory at almost all other beer shops in San Francisco — nay, the fermented universe — look pedestrian. First-time customers sometimes experience sticker shock, but most quickly understand that while hops and yeast and grain are cheap, hops and yeast and grain and genius are not. Should you require assistance in navigating the intriguing and eclectic wall of beer, owner Rami Barqawi and his staff will guide you and your palate to the perfect brew. Once you’ve got the right tipple, you can choose from the standard corner-store sundries, including coffee, wine, ice cream, and snacks. Chief among them is the housemade hummus (strong on the lemon juice, just the way we like it). Being ruined never tasted so good.

2299 15th St., SF. (415) 255-0610, healthy-spirits.blogspot.com


When is a junkyard not just a junkyard? When you wander through its labyrinth of plywood, bicycle tires, and window panes only to stumble upon an intricately carved and perfectly preserved fireplace mantle which, according to a handwritten note taped to it, is "circa 1900." This is the kind of thing that happens at Building Resources, an open air, DIY-er’s dream on the outskirts of Dogpatch, which just happens to be the city’s only source for recycled building and landscape materials. Maybe you’ll come here looking for something simple: a light fixture, a doorknob, a few pieces of tile. You’ll find all that. You’ll also find things you never knew you coveted, like a beautiful (and dirt cheap) claw-foot bathtub that makes you long to redo your own bathroom, even though you don’t own tools and know nothing about plumbing. No worries. That’s what HGTV is for.

701 Amador, SF. (415) 285-7814, www.buildingresources.org


It’s impossible not to be impressed with the selection at Collage, the tiny jewel-box of a shop perched atop Potrero Hill. The home décor store and gallery specializes in typography and signage, refurbished clocks and cameras, clothing, unique furniture, and all kinds of objects reinvented and repurposed to fit in a hip, happy home. But what we like best is owner Delisa Sage’s commitment to supporting the local community and economy. Not only does she host workshops on the art of fine-art collage, she carries a gorgeous selection of jewelry made exclusively by local woman artists. Whether you’re looking for knit necklaces, Scrabble pieces, typewriter keys, or an antiqued kitchen island, you’ll find ’em here. And every dollar you spend supports San Francisco, going toward a sandwich at Hazel’s, or a cup of joe at Farley’s, or an artist’s SoMa warehouse rent. Maybe capitalism can work.

1345 18th St., SF. (415) 282-4401, www.collage-gallery.com


There’s something grandmothers seem to understand that the Forever 21, H&M, Gap generation (not to mention the hippies in between) often miss: the value of elegant, tailored, designer classics that last a lifetime. Plus, thanks to living through the Great Depression, they know a good bargain. Luckily, White Rose got grandma’s memo. This tiny, jam-packed West Portal shop is dedicated to classy, timeless, well-made style, from boiled wool-<\d>embroidered black coats to Dolce handbags. Though the shelves (stacked with sweaters) and racks (overhung with black pants) may resemble those in a consignment or thrift store, White Rose is stocked full of new fashions collected from international travels, catalog sales, or American fabricators. In fact, it’s all part of the plan of the owner — who is reputed to have been a fashion model in the ’50s — to bring elegant chemises, tailored blouses, and dresses for all sizes and ages to the masses. The real price? You must have the patience to sort through the remarkable inventory.

242 W. Portal, SF. (415) 681-5411


It seems you can get yoga pants or Lycra leotards just about anywhere these days (hello, American Apparel). But elastic waists and spaghetti straps alone do not make for good sportswear. SF Dancewear knows that having clothes and footwear designed specifically for your craft — whether ballroom dance, gymnastics, theater, contact improv, or one of the good old standards like tap, jazz, or ballet — makes all the difference. This is why they’ve been selling everything from Capezio tap shoes to performance bras since 1975. The shop is lovely. There are clear boxes of pointe shoes nestled together like clean, shiny baby pigs; glittering displays of ballroom dance pumps; racks of colorful tulle, ruched nylon, patterned Lycra; and a rope draped with the cutest, tiniest tutus you ever did see. The store is staffed by professional dancers who’re not only trained to find the perfect fit but have tested most products on a major stage. And though your salesclerk may dance with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet or have a regular gig at the S.F. Opera, they won’t scoff at middle-aged novice salsa dancers or plus-size burlesqueteers looking for fishnets and character shoes. Unlike the competitive world of dance studios, this retail shop is friendly and open to anyone who likes to move.

659 Mission, SF. (415) 882-7087; 5900 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3608,



We weren’t sure it could get any better — or weirder — than Paxton Gate, that Mission District palace of science, nature, and dead things. But then the owner, whose first trade was landscape architecture, opened up Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids down the street, and lo and behold, ever more awesomeness was achieved. Keeping the original store’s naturalist vibe but leaving behind some of its adults-only potential creepiness, this shop focuses on educational toys, vintage games, art supplies, and an eclectic selection of books sure to delight the twisted child in all of us. From handblown marbles to wooden puzzles, agate keychains to stop-motion booklets, and Lucite insects to Charlie Chaplin paper doll kits, everything here seems to be made for shorties from another time — an arguably better one, when kids rooted around in the dirt and made up rules for imaginary games and didn’t wear G-string underwear.

766 Valencia, SF. (415) 252-9990, www.paxtongate.com


San Francisco sure does love its trunk shows: all those funky people hawking their one-of-a-kind wares at one-of-a-kind prices. The only problem? Shows happen intermittently (though with increasing frequency in the pre-<\d>Burning Man frenzy). Lucky for us, Miranda Caroligne — the goddess who makes magic with fabric scraps and a surger — co-founded Trunk, an eclectic indie designer showcase with a permanent address. The Lower Haight shop not only features creative dresses, hoodies, jewelry, and menswear by a number of artists, but also functions as an official California Cooperative Corporation, managed and run by all its 23 members. That means when you purchase your Kayo Anime one-piece, Ghetto Goldilocks vest, or Lucid Dawn corset, you’re supporting an independent business and the independent local artists who call it home.

544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.trunksf.com


Skate culture has come a long way since its early surfer punk days. Now what used to be its own subculture encompasses a whole spectrum of subs, including dreadheaded, jah-lovin’, reggae pumpin’ riders. And Culture Skate is just the store for those who lean more toward Bob Marley than Jello Biafra. The Rasta-colored Mission shop features bamboo skate boards, hemp clothing, glass pipes, a whole slew of products by companies such as Creation and Satori, and vinyl records spanning genres like ska, reggaeton, dub, and, of course, good old reggae. Stop by to catch a glimpse of local pros — such as Ron Allen, Matt Pailes, and Karl Watson. But don’t think you have to be a skater to shop here: plenty of people stop by simply for the environmentally-friendly duds made with irie style.

214 Valencia, SF. (415) 437-4758, www.cultureskate.com



Best of the Bay 2009: Arts and Nightlife




Editors Picks: Arts and Nightlife


A gut-spewing zombie drag queen roller derby in honor of Evil Dead 2. An interview with The Exorcist‘s Linda Blair preceded by a rap number that includes the line, "I don’t care if they suck their mother’s cock, as long as they line up around the block!" A virtual wig-pulling catfight with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. All this and more have graced the proscenium of the Bridge Theater as part of the jaw-dropping (literally) Midnight Mass summertime B-movie fun series, brought to us by the always perfectly horrific Peaches Christ. Her wigs alone are usually enough to scare the jellybean-bejeezus out of us, but Peaches combines live craziness with wince-worthy flicks to take everything over the top. After this, her 12th season of disembowelled joy, Peaches is moving on from Midnight Mass to become a director in her own right — she just wrapped up filming All About Evil with Natasha Lyonne and a cast of local fleshbots. Look for it in your googleplex soon, and know that Peaches still stumbles among us.



Kids, really, don’t try this at home. Don’t hook up your two-player Dance Dance Revolution game to a row of flamethrowers. Don’t rig said game to blast your dance competitior with a faceful of fire in front of an adoring crowd if they miss a step. Don’t invest in enough propane to fuel a small jet, a flaming movie screen for projecting all those awkward dance moves onto, and a booming sound system to play all the Japanese bubblegum techno you could ever hope to hear. Leave the setup to Interpretive Arson, whose Dance Dance Immolation game has wowed participants and spectators alike from Black Rock City to Oaktown — and will scorch Denmark’s footsies this fall. Do, however, seek out these intrepid firestarters, and don a giant silver fireproof suit with a Robby the Robot hood. Do the hippie shake to the mellifluous tones of Fatboy Slim and Smile.dk, and prepare yourself to get flamed, both figuratively and literally.



Penguins are damn funny when you’re drunk. They’re pretty entertaining animals to begin with, but after a couple martinis those little bastards bring better slapstick than Will Ferrell or Jack Black. But tipsily peeping innocent flightless birds — plus bats, butterflies, sea turtles, and manta rays — is just one of many reasons to attend Nightlife, the stunningly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences’ weekly Thursday evening affair. This outrageously popular (get there early) and ingenious party pairs gonzo lineups of internationally renowned DJs and live bands with intellectual talks by some of the world’s best-known natural scientists. Cocktails are served, the floor is packed, intellects are high — and where else can you order cosmos before visiting the planetarium? Another perk: the cost of admission, which includes most of the academy’s exhibits, is less than half the regular price, although you must be 21 or older to attend. Come for the inebriated entertainment, stay for the personal enrichment.

Thursdays, 6 p.m., $8-<\d>$10. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife


Retain a fond nostalgia for the 1990s swing revival scene? Swing Goth is the event you’ve been waiting for. Not quite swing and not even remotely goth, Swing Goth gives swing enthusiasts the go-ahead to boogie-woogie to modern tunes at El Rio. This isn’t your grandmother’s fox trot: rock, rap, ’80s, alternative, Madchester, Gypsy punk, and almost anything else gets swung. Held on the first and third Tuesday of each month and tailored for beginners, this event draws an eclectic crowd that includes dudes who call themselves "hep cats," Mission hipsters, and folks who rock unironic mom jeans and Reebok trainers. If you’re new to swing, arrive at 7:30 and take a one-hour group lesson with ringleader Brian Gardner, who orchestrates the event, to get a quick introduction to swing basics before the free dance. Lessons are $5, but no extra charge for ogling the cute dykes who call El Rio their local watering hole. Swing? Schwing!

First and third Tuesdays, 7 p.m., free. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.swinggoth.com


Who can take a sunburst of boomer rock inspirations — like The Notorious Byrd Brothers–<\d>era Byrds and Meddle-some Pink Floyd — sprinkle it with dew, and cover it with chocolaty nouveau-hippie-hipster blues-rock and a miracle or two? The fresh-eyed, positive-minded folks of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound can, ’cause they mix it with love and make a world many believed had grown hack and stale taste good. Riding a wave of local ensembles with a hankering for classic rock, hard-edged Cali psych, Japanese noise, and wild-eyed film scores, the San Francisco band is the latest to make the city safe once more for musical adventurers with open minds and big ears. What’s more, the Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound’s inspired new third album, When Sweet Sleep Returned (Tee Pee) — recorded with help from Tim Green at Louder Studios — has fielded much press praise for space-traveling fuzzbox boogie blowouts like "Drunken Leaves" and blissed-out, sitar-touched jangle rambles such as "Kolob Canyon." Consider your mind burst.



You can’t miss him. He has legs like tree trunks and arm muscles that ripple like lava. When he leaps you think he’ll never come down, and his turns suggest the power of a hurricane. He is dancer Ramón Ramos Alayo, Six years ago he founded the CubaCaribe Festival that now packs in dance aficionados of all stripes, and he’s one of the shaping forces behind the wild San Francisco Carnaval celebration. He runs Alayo Dance Company, for which he choreographs contemporary works with Afro-Cuban roots, and he teaches all over the Bay Area — as many as 60 people show up for his Friday salsa classes at Dance Mission Theater. But Ramos is most strikingly unique as a performer. Ramos is as comfortable embodying Oshoshi, the forest hunter in the Yoruba mythology, as he is taking on "Grace Notes," a jazz improvisation with bassist Jeff Chambers. No wonder Bay Area choreographers as radically different as Joanna Haigood, Sara Shelton Mann, and Robert Moses have wanted to work with him.



Toshio Hirano packs a mean sucker punch. At first glance he’s a wonderfully eccentric Bay Area novelty, a yodeling Japanese cowboy playing native songs of the American heartland. Yet upon further inspection, it becomes as clear as the skies of Kentucky that Toshio is the real deal when it comes to getting deep into the Mississippi muck of Jimmie Rodgers-<\d>style bluegrass. Enchanted by the sound of American folk music as a Japanese college student, Toshio soon ventured stateside to spend years traveling and playing from Georgia to Nashville to Austin before finally settling in the Bay Area. Today, Toshio plays once a month at Amnesia’s free Bluegrass Mondays to standing-room-only crowds. Stay awhile to hear him play Hank Williams’s "Ramblin’ Man" or Rodgers’s "Blue Yodel No. 1(T for Texas)." It’ll clear that Toshio’s novelty is merely a hook — his true appeal lies in his ability to show that there’s a cowboy lurking inside all of us.



A collective howl went up in 1995 when it was announced that the annual festival Black Choreographers: Moving into the 21st Century at Theater Artaud was ending due in part to lack of funding. But two East Bay dancers, Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes, actually did something about it, working to ensure that African-American dancers and dance-makers received attention for the range and spirit of their work. It took 10 years, but in 2005, Ellis and Kimbrough Barnes helped launch Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now, which takes place every February in San Francisco and Oakland. The three-week event is a fabulous way for a community to celebrate itself and to invite everyone to the party. While the choreographers’ range of talent and imagination has been impressive — and getting better every year — the performances are merely the icing on the cake. Master classes, mentoring opportunites for emerging artists, and a technical theater-training program for local high school and college students are building a dance infrastructure the next generation can plug into.



San Francisco can always use another all-female band — and Grass Widow satisfies that need beautifully, cackling with brisk, madcap rhythms and rolling out a happy, crazy quilt of dissonant wails. Drummer-vocalist Lillian Maring, guitarist-vocalist Raven Mahon, and bassist-vocalist Hannah Lew are punk as fuck, of course — in the classic, pre-pre-packaged noncodified mode — though many will instead compare the trio’s inspired, decentered pop to dyed-in-the-bluestockings lo-fi riot grrrl. Still, there’s a highly conscious intensity to Grass Widow’s questioning of the digital givens that dominate life in the late ’00s, as they sing wistfully then rage raggedly amid accelerating rhythms and a roughly tumbling guitar line on "Green Screen," from their self-titled debut on Make a Mess: "Flying low into trees. We exist on the screen. Computer can you hear me? Understand more than 1s and 0s?" Grass Widow may sweetly entreat the listener, "Don’t make a scene," but if we’re lucky, these ladies will kick off a new generation of estrogen-enhanced music-making.



Karaoke is one of those silly-but-fun nightlife activities that always has the potential to be awesome but usually isn’t. The song lists at most karaoke bars suck, the sound systems are underwhelming, and no matter where you go there’s always some asshole bumming everyone out with painful renditions of Neil Diamond tearjerkers. Well, not anymore! Steve Hays, a.k.a. DJ Purple, is a karaoke DJ — or KJ — who has single-handedly turned the Bay Area’s once tired sing-along scene into a mother funkin’ party y’all. DJ Purple’s Karaoke Dance Party happens every Thursday night at Jack’s Club. Forget the sloppy drunks half-assing their way through Aerosmith and Beyoncé songs. DJ Purple’s Karaoke Dance Party is all about Iron Maiden, Snoop Dogg, Led Zeppelin, and Riskay. No slow songs allowed. An actual experienced DJ, Hays keeps the beats running smooth, fading and blending as each person stumbles onstage, and even stepping in for saxophone solos and backup vocals when a song calls for it. And sometimes even when it doesn’t.

Thursdays, 9 p.m., free. Jack’s Club, 2545 24th St., SF. (415) 641-5371, www.djpurple.com


In this age of continual retro, it comes as a surprise that listening to mainstream ’90s alternative rock can give you, under the right inebriated circumstances, the kind of pleasure not experienced since heroin went out of vogue. Debaser at the Knockout has become one of the best monthly parties in San Francisco, largely because it gives ’80s babies, who were stuck playing Oregon Trail in computer class while Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland were rocking it out in Portland, the chance to live out their Nirvana-era dreams. Debaser promoter Jamie Jams is the only DJ in San Francisco who will spin the Cranberries after a Pavement song, and his inspired mixology is empirically proven to induce moshing en masse until last call, an enticingly dangerous sport now that lead-footed Doc Martens are back in style. Sporting flannel gets you comped, so for those still hung up over Jordan Catalano and the way he leans, Debaser is rife with contemporary, albeit less angsty, equivalents.

First Saturdays, 9 p.m., Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994, www.myspace.com/debaser90s


The shaky economy’s probably put your $60 concert plans on hold and relegated those high-rolling VIP nights to the back burner. So it’s a great time to return to the simpler forms of social interaction, such as shaking some dice and screaming, "Yahtzee, bitches!" or guffawing maniacally every time some poor fool attempts to pass your two hotels on Boardwalk. Fortunately, game night at On the Corner café on Divisadero fills your staid Wednesday evenings with enough card-shuffling, Pop-o-matic popping, I-want-to-be-the-thimble classics to sink your battleship blues. Plus, there’s coffee and beer. Working in collusion with the colossal collection of neighboring Gamescape, On the Corner provides a plethora of gaming options to fit its large tables and vibrant atmosphere. Stratego, Scattergories, and other trivial pursuits are all available, and the 7 p.m.-<\d>to-<\d>closing happy hour includes $2.50 draft beers and sangria specials. The tables fill up quickly, though — arrive early so you won’t be sorry.

Wednesdays, 7–10 p.m., free. 359 Divisadero, SF. (415) 522-1101, www.sfcorner.com


Perfect moments are never the ones you work hard to create. Too much effort kills the magic. Instead, the moments we treasure are those that steal up on us, slipping past our defenses to reveal, for just an instant, the sublime wonder of the universe. This is precisely what happens during one’s first encounter with the Lexington Street disco ball, innocuously spinning its multifaceted heart out on a quiet neighborly block in the heart of the Mission District. One moment you’re just walking down the street minding your own business — perhaps rehashing the "should have saids" or the "could have beens" in the muddled disquiet of your mind — when suddenly you spot it, the incongruously located disco ball suspended from a low-hanging branch, throwing a carpet of stars across the sidewalk for anyone to enjoy. All is still, but the music in your heart will lead you. Hold your hands in the air, walk into the light, and dance.

Lexington between 20th and 21st streets, SF


Amandeep Jawa’s bright blue, sound-rigged party-cycle — Trikeasaurus — is our bestest Critical Mass compadre and bike lane buddy, and an essential component of his impromptu FlashDance parties. This three-wheelin’, free-wheelin’, pedal-and-battery-powered funk machine has been bringing the party to the people — and leading spontaneous Michael Jackson tributes — from the Embarcadero to the Broadway tunnel for the past two years. Even if you’re just out for a stroll or a bit of that ephemeral San Francisco "sun"-bathing, when Trikeasaurus comes rolling along you just have to boogie on down the road, bust a move, get your groove thing on, let your freak flag fly, and insert ecstatic cliché here. We can pretend all we want in the privacy of our own hip sancta sanctorum that Destiny’s Child or OutKast will never move us, but somehow when Trikeasaurus comes bumping by, we just can’t help but bump right back. Don’t fight the feeling! Join the 500-watt, 150-decibel velolution today.



If you’ve done ketamine, you know what it’s like to get lost in the cosmic K-hole. To those who have entered the mystical D-hole, however, your ketamine story is child’s play. The Donuts dance party, thrown at various times and locations throughout the year by DJ Pickpocket and visual artist AC, provides adventurous club-goers with that most delicious of drugs: donuts, given away free. First timers, be careful: these potent little sugar bombs are highly addictive and can often lead to an all-night binge of ecstatic power-boogie, which can result in terrible withdrawal symptoms. Like many other popular club drugs, donuts are offered in powdered form, though they can also be glazed, which leaves no tell-tale residue around the mouth. But as long as you indulge responsibly, entering the Hole of the Donut is perfectly safe. Amp up your experience to fever-pitch perfection with Donuts’ pulse-pumping Krautrock, new wave, retro disco, and dance punk live acts and beats.



If there’s one thing all Slovenians have in common, it’s that they know how to deck a muthafunkin’ hall, y’all. It stands to reason then that Slovenians run one of the biggest and best halls in town. The Slovenian Hall in Potrero Hill is available for all your partying needs — birthdays, anniversary bashes, coming-out fests, etc. The rooms inside the hall are spacious and clean, the kitchen and bar spaces are outfitted to serve an entire army, and there are plenty of tables and chairs. But it’s the decor that makes this place unique: Soviet-era and vintage tourism advertisements are sprinkled throughout the place and banners promoting Slovenian pride hang from the ceiling. The hall also hosts live music events — recently an Argentine tango troupe took up residence there, making things border-fuzzingly interesting, to say the least.

2101 Mariposa, SF. (415) 864-9629


Odds are you’ve not yet heard of East Bay teen hip-hop talent Yung Nittlz — but one day soon you will. The ambitious, gifted Berkeley High student has already amassed five albums worth of smooth and funky material that he wrote, produced, and rapped and sang on. In August 2007, when he was just 13, the rapper born Nyles Roberson scored media attention when Showtime at the Apollo auditions came to town and he was spotted very first in line, having camped out the night before. And while Yung Nittlz wasn’t among the lucky final few to be picked, he did make a lasting impression on the judges with his strong performance of the song "Money in the Air" and choreography that included him strategically tossing custom-made promo dollars that he designed and made. The gifted artist also designed the professional-looking cover for his latest demo CD, which suggests fans should request the hit-sounding "Feelin’ U" on KMEL 106 FM. Stay tuned. You’ll likely be hearing it soon.



The crappy economy has ruined many things. It’s the reason both the Parkway and the Cerrito Speakeasy theaters — where you could openly drink a beer you’d actually purchased at the concession stand, not smuggled in under your sweatshirt — closed their doors this year. But even a bummer cash crunch can’t dampen a true cult movie fan’s love of all things B. Deprived of a permanent venue for his long-running "Thrillville," programmer and host Will "The Thrill" Viharo adjusted his fez, brushed off his velvet lapels, and started booking his popular film ‘n’ cabaret extravaganzas at other Bay Area movie houses, including the 4-Star and the Balboa in San Francisco, and San Jose’s Camera 3. Fear not, devotees of film noir, tiki culture, the swingin’ ’60s, big-haired babes, Aztec mummies, William Shatner, the Rat Pack, Elvis, creature features, Japanese monsters, and zombies — the Thrill ain’t never gonna be gone.



Much like travel agents, beepers, and modesty, pinball machines are slowly becoming relics of the past. But it’s difficult to understand why these quarter-fed games would fall by the wayside, since they’re especially fun in a bar atmosphere. What else is there to do besides stare at your drink, hopelessly chat up the bartender, constantly check your phone, and try to catch that one cute patron’s eye. At the Castro’s Moby Dick, pinball saves you from such doldrums. Sure, the place has the requisite video screens blaring Snap! and Cathy Dennis chestnuts, and plenty of hunky drunkies to serve as distractions. But its quarter-action collection — unfortunately whittled down to three machines, ever since Theater of Magic was retired due to the difficulty of finding replacement parts — is a delightful retro rarity in this gay day and age. So tilt not, World Cup Soccer, Addams Family, and Attack from Mars fans. There’s still a queer home for your lightning-quick flipping.

4049 18th St., SF. www.mobydicksf.com


Founded in 2002, the many-membered Brass Liberation Orchestra has been blowing their horns for social justice all over the Bay Area — from the San Francisco May Day March and Oakland rallies for Oscar Grant, to protests against city budget cuts and jam sessions at the 16th Street BART station. Trombones out and bass drums at the ready, this tight-knit organization of funky folk recently returned from New Orleans, where they played to support community rebuilding projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. With a membership as diverse as they come, the BLO toots their horns specifically to "support political causes with particular emphasis on peace, and racial and social justice" — especially concerning immigrants’ rights and anti-gentrification issues. But the most joyful part of their practice is the spontaneous street parties they engender wherever they pop up, and their seemingly impromptu romps through neighborhoods and street festivals. Viva la tuba-lution!



Is your idea of hell being trapped in a room with a white, collegiate, spoken-word "artist" — or worse yet, being forced to wear an Ed Hardy t-shirt? Are you a veteran of the 30 Stockton and the 38 Geary, with the wounds and the stories to prove it? Can you just not help but stare at someone who somehow can’t resist an act of street corner masturbation? Then you’re ready to lend an ear to Ali Wong, the funniest comedian to stomp onto a San Francisco stage in a long time. Some people get offended by Wong, which is one reason she’s funny — comedy isn’t about making friends, and she’s not sentimental. She draws on her family history and writing and performing experience in implicit rather than overt ways while remaining as blunt as your funniest friend on a bender.



Take a picture, it’ll last longer. Especially if you take it to — or even at — RayKo Photo Center, a large SoMA space that boasts a studio, a shop stocked with new and used cameras, a variety of black-and-white and color darkrooms, a digital imaging lab (with discount last-Friday-of-the-month nighttime hours), and classes where one can learn the latest digital skills as well as older and arcane processes such as Ambrotype (glass plate) and Tintype (metal plate) image-making. Devoted in part to local photographers, RayKo’s gallery has showcased Bill Daniel’s panoramic yet raw shots of a post-Katrina Louisiana and has likely influenced a new generation of shutterbugs affiliated with groups and sites like Cutter Photozine and Photo Epicenter. One of its coolest and truly one-of-a-kind features is the Art*O*Mat Vending Machine, an old ciggie vendor converted into a $5-a-piece art dispenser. And of course RayKo has an old photo booth, so you can take some quick candid snapshots with or without a honey.

428 Third St., SF. (415) 495-3773, www.raykophoto.com


The great myth about cab drivers is that they’re a bunch of underappreciated geniuses who write poetry and paint masterpieces when they’re not busy shuttling drunks around. Most cabbies, however, aren’t Picassos with pine-scent air fresheners. They clock in and out just like we all do, and then they go home and watch reality TV. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule: true artists who have deliberately chosen the cabbie lifestyle because it allows them the freedom to pursue their passions on the side. MC Mars is such a cabbie. A 20-year veteran on the taxi scene, Mars is also a hip-hop performer, a published author, and an HIV activist. You can check his flow every Wednesday night at the Royale’s open-mic sessions. Or, if you’re lucky enough to hail his DeSoto, you can get a free backseat show on weekends. And don’t forget to pick up his latest CD, "Letz Cabalaborate," available on Mars’ Web site.



The Bay Area knows poetry. And people in the Bay Area who know poetry today realize that the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the Language poets, and even the New Brutalists might inspire contemporary writers, but they don’t own them. You can encounter proof in places like Books and Bookshelves, and read it in publications like Try. As the Bay Area Poetics anthology edited by Stephanie Young made clear in 2006, Bay Area verse is enormous and ever-changing. One year earlier, David Larsen established a space for it in Oakland with his New Yipes Reading Series, which frequently paired poets with filmmakers. He’s since moved to the East Coast, but Ali Warren and Brandon Brown re-energized the concept, simplifying its name to The New Reading Series and refining its content to readings with musical interludes. It’s the best place around to hear Tan Lin and Ariana Reines and confront notions of the self through Heath Ledger. It’s also hosted a kissing booth, for all you wordsmiths who aren’t above romantic trappings.

416 25th St., Oakl. www.newyipes.blogspot.com


For 15 years, the much-loved and lovable warm weather Sunset parties have shaken various hills, isles, parks, patios, and boats with funky, techy house sounds. Launched by underground hero DJ Galen in 1994, the outdoor Sunset gigs have amassed a huge following of excited party newbies and familiar old-school ravers — and now even their kids. Early on in the game, Galen was soon joined by fellow Bay favorite DJs Solar and J-Bird, and the three — collectively known as Pacific Sound — have kept the vibe strong ever since. This year saw a remarkable expansion on the Sunset fan base: attendance at the season opener at Stafford Lake reached almost 4,000, and Pacific Sound just launched an annual — and truly moving — party on Treasure Island that had multiple generations putting their hands in the air. The recent Sunset Campout in Belden drew hundreds for an all-weekend romp with some of the biggest names in electronic music — true fresh air freshness.


According to murky local legend, sometime in the early ’90s a Finnish archaeologist named Mr. Floppy passed through Oakland on a quest to find an inverted pyramid rumored to hold the secret to eternal life. He didn’t find anything like that, of course, but he did discover a really cool apartment complex run by an obsessive builder named George Rowan. The sprawling place, which housed multiple dwelling units as well as an outdoor dance area and an out-of-use bordello and saloon famously frequented by Jack London in the 1800s, was an interconnected maze of rooms decorated with found objects and outsider art. It was a perfect spot to throw underground raves, which is exactly what Floppy and Rowan did until the day they got slapped with a fire-hazard citation. Nobody really knows what happened to the psychedelic archaeologist after that, although his spirit lives on: Mr. Floppy’s Flophouse has recently re-opened as a venue for noise shows, freaky circuses, and all-night moonlit orgies.
1247 E. 12th St., Oakl



What went wrong


EDITORIAL David Dayen, a political blogger at Calitics, had the best line on the California budget crisis.

"Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins," he wrote July 20. "If you don’t care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated … you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that."

In the end, the Republicans largely carried the day because they had all the power: they could block any budget deal, they refused to raise any taxes, and they don’t really care if the state goes bankrupt. In fact, Gov. Schwarzenegger was happy to draw the crisis out as long as necessary — it helped his poll rating.

San Francisco should have had a very different situation and a very different outcome. The progressives control the Board of Supervisors and the mayor is in a tight spot — he’s running for governor and wants to show that he can manage San Francisco better than anyone in Sacramento is managing the state. It’s part of his campaign theme. A prolonged budget standoff was not in his interest.

And while the city budget is far, far better than the state budget, and the progressives managed to get a few concessions, the bottom line remains: this is a no-new-taxes budget, balanced largely with cuts and regressive new fees. In fact, for all the mayor’s talk of working with the board on possible tax measures, it now appears likely that there will be no revenue proposals whatsoever on the November ballot.

And the mayor is going to make another deep round of cuts soon, when the figures on what San Francisco will lose in state funding (almost certainly more than $150 million) become available.

It took last-minute efforts by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, supported by Sup. David Campos, to win back funding for the Public Defender’s Office and at least a shot at funding the public finance system for the next local elections.

The supervisors, frankly, should have pushed harder. The message to Newsom should have been: no budget without new revenue. And as the board approaches the next fiscal year — projections already call for a $300 million deficit — that absolutely has to be the bottom line. Critical services have been cut too deeply already.

The process needs to be better too. Allowing two supervisors — the budget committee chair and the board president — to negotiate a closed-door deal with the mayor without briefing their colleagues or letting the other stakeholders know what was going on was a big mistake that can’t be repeated.

The New York Times ran a front-page story July 21 describing in bleak terms how California has abandoned its safety net and given up the ambitious dreams that for so long defined the state. "At no point in modern history," reporter Jennifer Steinhauer wrote, "has the state dealt with its fiscal issues by retreating so deeply in its services, beginning this spring with a round of multibillion-dollar budget cuts and continuing with, in total, some $30 billion in cuts over two fiscal years to schools, colleges, health care, welfare, corrections, recreation and more.

That can’t be the model for San Francisco to follow. *

Newsom loses Crowfoot, Coloretti, and Arata


Text by Sarah Phelan
Images by Sarah Phelan and Luke Thomas

Remember the time the mayor’s office locked its door and sent out Wade Crowfoot to receive a copy from then school board member Eric Mar of the school board’s unanimous resolution that asked Newsom for a temporary shutdown of Lennar’s Bayview development until health testing could be done at the site? Crowfoot promised to “pass the message along to Newsom.”

Well, news is just in that Wade Crowfoot,who was appointed a couple of years ago as Newsom’s climate change initiative director, is headed for the Environmental Defense Fund.

And remember the time that Newsom’s budget director Nani Coloretti was left to face the press after Newsom made a shocking surprise visit to the Board of Supervisors to tell them that the budget was seriously messed up, then fled?

Well, news is just in that Coloretti, Newsom’s budget director, is going to be deputy assistant to the U.S. treasury secretary.

I don’t have any great pix or memories of political fundraiser Paige Barry Arata, but feel free to share them here, as news is also just in that Arata is quitting as the finance director of Newsom’s gubernatorial bid and returning to City Hall.

“Legalization is not the answer?” Huh?


By Tim Redmond

Bizarre story in the Chronicle today about gangs of pot growers using state and federal land for their crops. First of all, this is nothing new — there’s been pot growing on public land for years. And for years, it’s caused environmental problems (and also safety problems; nasty operatives defending crops have been known to shoot at innocent hikers walking through national forests).

But the strangest part was the line at the conclusion. After exlplaining how budget cuts have damaged enforcement efforts and Mexican gangs are getting $3,200 a plant for good bud, writer Peter Fimrite tosses in this:

Legalization is not the solution, Johnson said, given that most of the pot is being grown illegally on public parkland by foreign citizens who cannot be taxed.

Huh? Why, exactly, do these cops and Chronicle reporters think the Mexican gangs are here? Why do they think these guys are getting $3,200 a plant? Isn’t this exactly what happened during Prohibition, when rum-running created the Mob?

“It was the falsest conclusion possible,” Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who has a bill to legalize marijuana, told me this morning.

Folks: Legalization is the quickest and surest way to get rid of the drug gangs screwing up public land. Think about it: We don’t really have a problem with illegal moonshine in this country. We don’t have a major problem with criminal gangs growing and selling tobacco on public land. Make pot legal and this problem goes away, too.

Obama and the California schools


By Tim Redmond

A lot of us have been worried about Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Education Secretary; he’s been way too close to the testing-is-all and charter schools camp. And now the impacts are starting to show. Robert Cruickshank has an interesting post at Calitics on this:

I am curious to hear how Arne Duncan and Barack Obama believe California test scores will rise when you have classes of 30-35 students. When instructional days are being cut. When school buses are being cut (meaning many students will have a harder time getting to school, or will have longer travel times, leaving less time to study and do homework).

So California schools, which just took a huge budget hit, will now have trouble getting federal money because teachers, through no fault of their own, have a harder time getting students to do well on tests that are of dubious value anyway.

Editorial: What went wrong in Sacramento


In the end, the Republicans largely carried the day because they had all the power and could block any budget deal, refuse to raise taxes, and don’t really care if the state goes bankrupt

EDITORIAL David Dayen, a political blogger at Calitics, had the best line on the California budget crisis.
“Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins,” he wrote July 20. “If you don’t care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated … you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that.”

In the end, the Republicans largely carried the day because they had all the power: they could block any budget deal, they refused to raise any taxes, and they don’t really care if the state goes bankrupt. In fact, Gov. Schwarzenegger was happy to draw the crisis out as long as necessary — it helped his poll rating.

Avalos on the budget process


Editors note: Sup. John Avalos sent this letter in response to criticism (including criticism from the Guardian) of the city budget process.

By John Avalos

Responding to Tim Redmond’s editor’s notes posted on July 22: Robocop is one of my favorite movies too, especially for its anti-privatization message. Over the last 5 years that I worked in City Hall, I have actively opposed efforts to privatize City services like the security at the Asian Art museum and custodial work at City Hall. This year, when Jail Health Services were threatened to be contracted out to a for-profit corporation, I led the effort to push back, visiting both jails and meeting directly with those most impacted by the move.

As of June 29th, the night of the last Budget and Finance Committee hearing on the mayor’s budget, the Budget Committee had freed up only $20 million in cuts to prevent the massive cuts imposed by the Mayor. This was nowhere near enough to stop all the Prop J’s, the Mayor’s effort to contract out services, and restore cuts to essential services. Stopping the Prop J’s alone cost over $20 million.

Late that night, I met with a broad array of budget constituent representatives: seniors, youth, SRO tenants, city workers, homeless advocates, to get their input on priorities and strategies before President Chiu and I went headlong into negotiations with the Mayor’s office.

By the night of July 1st, we had $43 million to stop ALL the Prop J’s and restore over 23 million in other priorities.
We kept shelters open 24 hours, restored substance abuse and mental health services such as the single standard of care for mental health, continued immigrant rights and tenant services, protected seniors from losing meal programs and having to pay social workers to help them with their finances, prevented cuts to family support and violence prevention services, restored rec director jobs, rejected charging families for their child’s detention at YGC, reoriented the Mayor’s administration towards community development, promoted transit first parking policies, and set aside millions of dollars for job programs at the airport, port and PUC.

But I would not credit two newbie supervisors’ negotiating skills for restoring an unprecented $43 million in restorations in the worst year possible.

Prison Report: The magical zip gun


By Just A Guy

Editors Note: Just A Guy is an imate in a California state prison. His blogs run twice a week, typically on Mondays and Thursdays, although it’s sometimes hard to communicate from behind bars. You can read his last post here.

I am going to write about the budget deal and cuts to education, corrections and program spending. But I have to talk first about what’s happening at California State Prison, Solano yet again: The magic roaming zip gun.

About ten days ago officers in Building 6 “discovered” a note saying that “the blacks have a zip gun and three shells.” The entire institution was put on modified program and a search was conducted of Building 6, but no sip gun was found. Imagine that!

This morning we learned that Building 22 on Facility 4 is going to be searched because there’s a zip gun there now. We don’t know all the details yet, but do know that all programs have been shut down — except, of course, the programs that make money for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, like the Prison Industry Authority and the Substance Abuse Program, which receives money from the federal government.

This is at least the fifth time since March, 2008 that the magical roaming zip gun has made its presence known. The fifth time that programs beneficial to the inmates have been shut down — and likely the fifth time that no zip gun will be found. You can’t find what doesn’t exist.

It’s rather like the state passing a budget cutting $9 billion from education and only $1.2 billion from corrections. Wait! The schools will get the money back when times are better. Of course, by the times things are better, a lot of these could-have-been educated people will be in prison as they resorted to crime to make a living without a degree.

A messy wrap for city budget


By Rebecca Bowe

Emotions run high and things get messy when there’s so much less cash to go around. Just as San Francisco’s 2009-2010 fiscal year budget was finally approved at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the news from Sacramento was that the long-awaited state budget deal bridges California’s gaping budget deficit in part by raiding local-government coffers.

San Francisco’s own hacked-up budget went through a round of last-minute changes at yesterday’s meeting before approval, marking last-ditch efforts by Sups. Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos to try and preserve add-backs to critical services and safeguard against future cuts. By the time a roll call vote was held on the final budget package, the document had been tweaked enough by last-minute revisions that Sups. Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu voted against it. And while those last-minute efforts might preserve some critical services, there’s no guarantee at this point that any new revenue measures will move forward to soften the blow of the cuts that were already made.

WiFi at City Hall — but no electricity


By Tim Redmond

Okay, so we finally have WiFi at City Hall. This is something some of us have been talking about for years; at one point, Alex Clemens and I even offered to buy and install the routers ourselves. The first step is a pilot project, currently limited to the Board of Supervisors Chamber, but it’s a start. The wireless has unlimited bandwidth at 54G and sppeds of up to 10 megabits.

Only one problem: Unless you’re a reporter in the press box (which has limited space), there’s no way to plug in your laptop. And if you want to live-blog or post video from a board meeting, you’re going to run out of battery time –meetings often go for many more hours than even the best batteries can handle.

Kimo Crossman has asked about the possibility of using one of the electrical outlets in the room; here’s what he got back, from Nilka Julio, administrative deputy director for the board:

We strive to keep everyone safe, including minimizing tripping hazards for the public and employees.
We want to avoid any disruption for the Board, public and staff who attend the meetings and that includes, no one other than the Supervisors having access to the outlets in the well in the Board Chamber or Committee room or the press having access to the outlets in the press box.

Kimo’s response:

A simple policy change to the more contemporary- “all cords should be taped” usually solves the problem.

The SF Library has found this to be a reasonable compromise.

I encourage you to walk around the main branch and see how many people need to plug in their laptops for usage – also when they run on batteries the screens are dimmed to save power so readability goes down.

Look at all the people who plug in their laptops at SFO Airport

Why not try it? that is what Pilots are for – right? How many people are binging their laptops to BOS meetings anyhow?

I get Julio’s point — you can’t have cords running all over the floor. But there has to be a way to solve this, and an easy one comes to mind. The city can purchase a nice extension cord and a power strip (about $40 for the package at Cole Hardware, and I bet Kimo would split the cost with me if it’s too much for the cash-strapped city budget). Plug the cord into the wall, tape it down (I’ve got a full roll of gaffer’s tape I’ll donate to the cause) and set up an area at the back of the chambers where laptop users can plug in. The back row of seats would probably work fine.

Every political convention I’ve been to in the past five years has set aside an area on the floor for bloggers using this exact technique.

I was unable to reach Julio by phone this afternoon, but I’ll keep trying. A lot of things that government seeks to do are incredibly hard; this one’s incredibly easy.

And once we have that settled, we can work to get the WiFi extended to the Light Courts, where reporters work on Election Night.

Destroying the California dream


By Steven T. Jones

A front page story in today’s New York Times correctly notes that California’s political leaders have abandoned the “California Dream” that made this such a great state: a social safety net that prevented the economic system’s losers from falling too far, a high-quality and affordable education system to give people the skills and knowledge needed to succeed, reliable and efficient infrastructure, and an appreciation for diversity.

“The California dream is, for now, delayed, as demonstrated by the budget state lawmakers and the governor agreed upon late Monday,” Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer wrote. “At no point in modern history has the state dealt with its fiscal issues by retreating so deeply in its services, beginning this spring with a round of multibillion-dollar budget cuts and continuing with, in total, some $30 billion in cuts over two fiscal years to schools, colleges, health care, welfare, corrections, recreation and more.”

Anti-government conservatives including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and just about every Republican in the Legislature (and many of the Democrats) have succeeded in destroying California as we know it with their mindless “no new taxes” mantra (which even our own Mayor Gavin Newsom pays fealty to as he runs for governor). They need to be recognized for what they are — a hostile threat to civil society, to the basic bargain among people on which government is based — and I’m happy to see the Times help with this analysis.

Things have already gone too far. It’s time to ease our way out of this abyss, and for San Francisco’s leaders to point the way. Some already are. Assessor Phil Ting is pushing for reform of Prop. 13 so commercial property taxes can be based on what the land is actually worth, Sen. Mark Leno is leading the single-payer health reform fight, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is trying to legalize and tax marijuana, which would bring in about $1.4 billion in annual revenue and save billions more in decreased enforcement costs.

That’s a pretty good start, but it’s just the beginning of a long slog back from oblivion.

How healthy is Healthy SF?



San Francisco is getting national attention for its attempt at universal health care. President Obama even applauded the city’s efforts in a speech: "Instead of just talking about health care, [San Francisco has been] ensuring that those in need receive it."

But Healthy San Francisco — a pioneering effort to do at the municipal level what the federal and state governments won’t — is running into some troubling problems, made worse by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget cuts.

The program was initiated by Tom Ammiano, now a state assemblymember, with backing from organized labor. Ammiano’s goal was to provide easy access to affordable health care for all of S.F.’s 60,000 uninsured. A local version of a single-payer program, he argued, could provide accessible primary and preventative care, alleviating the need for indigent patients to use the overcrowded and expensive San Francisco General Hospital emergency room as their primary medical provider.

Healthy San Francisco was launched on July 2, 2007, at two Chinatown clinics. It has grown dramatically, and now provides services to more than 34,000 residents at 27 clinics.

Although Newsom sat on the sidelines while Ammiano pushed the legislation, the mayor has now unashamedly claimed the program as his own to promote his gubernatorial campaign. On his Web site he boldly declares that "he’s created the only universal health care program in the country" — with no mention of Ammiano.

The $200 million-<\d>a-<\d>year program is partially funded by an employer-mandate requiring businesses with more than 20 employees either to provide health insurance or pay a fee to the city. The fees are broken down according to the size of the business; as of January 2009, employers pay between $1.23–<\d>$1.85 for every hour an employee works.

Like any traditional health insurance program, Healthy SF has annual fees and point-of-service charges paid by participants. The remainder of the program is funded through state grants.

Opposition to HSF surfaced immediately. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association sued the city even before the program started, alleging that the employer-spending mandate is a violation of federal law.

Kevin Westlye, the association’s executive director, claims his beef is not with the health care system, just with the employer mandate. He suggested that the city raise its sales tax to pay for the program — or that the financial burden should fall on the backs of the billionaires that run privatized health care and pharmaceutical companies.

But the city has only a limited ability to raise taxes, and any tax hike would require voter approval. The employer mandates and fees were much more politically feasible.

Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria, who is representing the city on the case, argues, "It is difficult to imagine, in these budget times, that San Francisco could provide universal coverage without employer health care spending requirements."

Federal courts sided with the GGRA initially, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the employer-spending mandate was legal. The GGRA appealed to the United States Supreme Court; the court will announce Oct. 5 whether it will hear the case.

That’s not the only litigation facing HSF. A group of low-income residents are suing the city, saying that the system’s annual fees and co-pays are too high. The program’s fees are scaled to the federal poverty level, which is currently set at an annual income of $10,830. A single person making between 101 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level — that is, between about $11,000 and $20,000 a year — pays $180 a year for HSF membership. People earning between $40,000 and $50,000 pay $1,350 a year.

There are also co-pays of $10 for medical visits and $5 to $25 for prescriptions — again, typical of health insurance plans.

Bay Area Legal Aid and the Western Center on Law and Poverty are representing three San Francisco residents who say those fees violate federal and state mandates, which stipulate that the city must provide free health care to those who can’t afford to pay. Healthy San Francisco is only one element of the lawsuit; it also claims that San Francisco General Hospital charges low-income people too much and that the city’s medical bills and collection practices aren’t fair.

One of the plaintiffs is Robyn Paige, a San Francisco resident with spine, foot, and hip injuries. Paige contends that she can’t afford the co-payments on her multiple medications each month and must either go without pain medication or borrow money. Lisa Qare, 21-year-old resident with MS, had to wait three weeks for medication for an eye condition that developed as a result of her condition.

A $10 co-pay may not seem like much, but when a patient needs several doctor visits a month and must pay $5 to $25 each for multiple prescriptions, it adds up. "As a result," Michael Keys, a Bay Area Legal Aid lawyer, told us, "those who can’t afford the charges are falling into medical debt or skipping services or medication."

And, not surprisingly, the cash-strapped city is having trouble finding enough staff and facilities to meet all the needs. Nancy Keiler, a Mission District resident and HSF participant, complains that clinic visits are too short, and that "the doctor is too hurried and has too many patients." (That’s a common complaint about private health plans, as well.) After waiting three hours, another HSF participant had to leave without her prescription to get back to work on time.

The long lines and waits will only get worse in the face of budget cuts. Pink slips were already handed out to several hundred San Francisco health care workers and 1,000 more may be laid off this fall.

Robert Haaland, who works with the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, told us the staffing cuts will make the situation much worse. Martha Hawthorne, a public-health nurse, said she thinks that there won’t be enough providers to provide good care — and that many health care workers losing their jobs will have to enroll in HSF themselves, putting even more strain on the system.

Ammiano, the author of the plan, is concerned too. "I’m very worried about it," he said. "It seems to me now that if there’s this budget pain, there will be impacts to San Francisco."

Nathan Ballard, the mayor’s press secretary, tersely denied that HSF will feel any budget pain. Asked about critics’ allegations, he said, "They’re wrong. We are going to expand Healthy SF this year."

Earlier this month, insurance giant Kaiser Permanente joined HSF — meaning that the health care giant will now participate as a provider in the program. Haaland voiced concern about that move, calling it "privatizing through the back door."

Mitch Katz, the city’s public health director, agrees there are flaws to the system, but defends its success. "It is by no means a perfect program," he said, "but we’ve made a big impact." With national health care costs rising three times faster than wages (some believe that health care costs are rising five times faster than wages) the nation is starting to seriously talk about overhauling the entire system. San Francisco is being considered as a model for national health care reform.

Labor leaders have lauded the basic formula of HSF and pushed for the federal reforms to use it as a model. As San Francisco Labor Council executive director Tim Paulson said in a prepared statement, "In San Francisco we demonstrated that legislation providing public health access and corporate participation creates a real path to universal health care coverage."

Research assistance by Gabrielle Poccia

Editor’s Notes



All the great sci-fi and comic book movies have some sort of larger social metaphor. Robocop, one of my all-time favorites, was really about the privatization of public resources. Our hero gets mangled in a firefight because Detroit turned its police department over to Omni Consumer Products Corp., which cut staffing to boost the bottom line and there’s no backup available.

So when I was editing this week’s cover package on the battle over health insurance, I couldn’t help thinking about The Incredibles. See, Mr. Incredible is this great superhero, but liability lawsuits force him to retire and he winds up as a claims clerk in an insurance company, where he sits around all day stamping "denied" on health insurance claims. Then he gets in trouble for quietly telling customers how they can appeal.

I’ve always imagined that real health insurance offices look exactly like that. People sit around all day and get paid to make sure that other people don’t get health care. And if they deny enough claims, they get a nice bonus. If they approve too many claims or help the poor customers appeal, they get fired.

The thing is, the bonus part is true. Many insurance companies pay their staff based on how much they have done to keep costs down — that is, to make sure expensive medical treatments are denied. I’ve been through this. The medical insurance won’t pay for the anesthesia my son needs for complicated oral surgery because the procedure happens in a dental office. The dental insurance won’t pay because the drugs are administered by an anesthesiologist, who is a doctor, not a dentist. Someone is smiling in both the medical and dental insurance offices; they just saved $1,000. Bonus on the way.

Sound familiar? I bet you’ve been through it too.

This is why the only way health insurance is going to get better is if the profit is taken out of it. And why it’s absolutely nuts that the insurance industry is still considered part of the solution.

The city budget didn’t come out well. The cops, the mayor’s press office, the mayor’s 311 call center, the places where there is still a lot of bloat, saw no real cuts. Public health and human services, which have already been cut to the bone, got hacked even more. And there is no concrete plan to even try to raise new revenue this fall.

There are some lessons here, and let me start with an obvious one. The final deal went down with two people — Sups. John Avalos and David Chiu, both new to the board — in the room with the mayor’s staff. Same thing in Sacramento — five people cut the deal. There’s got to be a better way. *

Why the budget deal really sucks


By Tim Redmond

Calitics, which has done an outstanding job covering the state budget mess from the beginning, has the best line on the rotten deal that the Big Five reached yesterday:

Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins.

If you don’t care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated… you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that.

If on the other hand you claim to care, you will concede and concede and concede so you can at least play the responsible part and say at the end that you didn’t completely eliminate the social safety net, though what you did get in return will be totally unclear.

And you will do it every single time.

On Forum this morning, the talk of course was all about the budget, and of course some of the callers were curious about the prospects for a state Constitutional Convention to rewrite the rules for approving a budget. The California Democratic Party is already on board with eliminating the two-thirds requirement, which is a fine thing and may wind up on the ballot soon. The Constitutional Convention is a bit more tricky.

See, the problem is how you decide who gets to be in the room; who will be the delegates to this convention? And one of the very bad ideas out there is to choose the delegates more or less at random, the same way we choose jurors.

What you will wind up with, I guarantee, is a majority of people who don’t want to raise taxes.

A large part of what has to happen in California is the education of the population, and that’s where the Democratic Party and the other stakeholders ought to be taking the lead. Perhaps the candidates for governor and the senior elected officials can all help raise money for a major statewide campaign explaining to people how the cut of the vehicle license fee, the lack of an oil-severance tax, the corporate loopholes and Prop. 13 have led directly to the cuts that are preventing qualified kids from getting a college education, preventing sick people from getting care, destroying public schools and the like.

Ever few years the Dems, the unions and the other activists have to raise big chunks of money to fight some ballot measure or another. How about, say, $50 million now to try to show the voters what’s really going on, so we don’t have to keep doing this dance over and over and over?

The SF budget battle continues


By Tim Redmond

The full Board of Supervisors votes on the San Francisco budget tomorrow (Tuesday), and there are still some serious issues on the table. Among other things, the budget doesn’t include adequate money for public financing of the upcoming supervisorial and mayoral elections, and that’s big deal: Public financing is a crown jewel in San Francisco’s political reform efforts. The Public Defender’s Office is way underfunded (which is silly since criminal defendants are guaranteed legal representation, and hiring outside counsel is more expensive than funding the PD). Key social services are still taking a huge hit. There are still plans for 1,500 layoffs of city employees this fall — and that means a lot of what people depend on San Francisco for won’t get done. (Among the most painful: The loss of recreation directors, who are mentors for hundreds of kids.)

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi wants to find another $4 million to $6 million to fund public financing and some other services — and he’s looking to take that from a few areas that haven’t exactly been sharing the pain. For example, thanks to a push from Budget Committee Chair John Avalos, the Fire Department actually took some cuts. But the Police Department didn’t. While the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 gave back $40 million and is facing 1,500 layoffs, the Police Officers Association gave back nothing.

The problem with that, of course — besides the fact that it isn’t fair — is that the next time the city faces a budget crisis, which is probably going to be next year, the firefighters won’t want to give up a penny. Hey, they took the hit last time, and there was no parity from other public-safety areas. And if you think Local 1021 is going to be coming to the table with more cuts, you’re crazy.

So Mirkarimi told me he thinks that between the police, the Hotel Tax funding for the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the big arts organizations (the opera and symphony, whose patrons by and large can afford to buy tickets without as much city subsidy) there’s enough to fill some critical gaps in the budget.

It’s going to be tricky — Avalos and Board President David Chiu negotiated the budget deal with the mayor, and it will be hard for them to push at this late date for more changes. But Avalos told me he’s “open to” Mirkarimi’s proposals and will give them all due consideration. So, by the way, did Sup. Bevan Dufty: “I’m open to it,” he told me. “I have some concerns about the budget and will listen to any ideas.”

So the budget battle still isn’t over — and tomorrow’s meeting will be fascinating.

Problems with the BART police plan


By Tim Redmond

The final draft of a civilian oversight plan for the BART police is headed for the full BART Board — and while it’s a whole lot better than what we have now (and BART director Tom Radulovich praises it as “the second strongest police oversight system in the Bay Area”), there are some distinctly funky things about it that the board needs to revisit.

The proposal would create a police auditor, who would investigate complaints of BART Police misconduct and recommend discipline. The auditor would report to an 11-member civilian oversight board, with each of the nine BART directors appointing one member, the full BART board appointing an at-large member — and the BART police unions appointing the final member.

That’s unprecedented, in my knowledge. I don’t think any police union anywhere in California gets to name a representative to the police oversight panel. That part of the plan has got to go.

The other problem: The final decision on discipline will be up to the BART Police chief — and if the chief (as is highly likely) refuses ever to impose effective discipline, then the auditor will be stifled.

Yes, the auditor can appeal — the the general manager, who hires the chief. Not much luck there. Beyond that, it would require a two-thirds vote of the civilian oversight board, AND a two-thirds vote of the entire BART Board, to overrule the chief and impose discipline on a cop.

That sort of supermajority requirement hasn’t worked very well at the state-budget level, and there’s a good reason: It means that a small minority (four of the 11 oversight board members, four of the nine BART Board members) can block any action.

And let’s face it — the BART Board is not a bastion of progressive thought. Just getting a majority of those folks (or their appointees) ever to agree to crack down on police misconduct will be a tough job. Getting two-thirds of both bodies is going to be almost impossible.

And since state law pretty much mandates that all police disciplinary procedures are kept secret, there won’t be any public pressure in any individual cases.

Oddly enough, BART — which is fighting bitterly to stop Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s bill mandating tough police oversight and has got the measure bottled up — now needs state legislation to make its weaker plan work. BART isn’t currently authorized to hold disciplinary hearings or impose discipline on rank-and-file employees. So this whole issue is going to come up before the state Legislature anyway.

Which means Ammiano will have a chance to push for stronger reforms. Perhaps he could offer a few amendments to the enabling legislation that BART is proposing.

And right now, Ammiano’s office isn’t in the mood to accept the current BART plan. “It’s as if the whole Oscar Grant thing never happened,” Quintin Mecke, Ammiano’s press spokesperson, told me.

This is the way the budget deal ends — badly


By Tim Redmond

We all know that the main reason we don’t have a budget deal is that everyone — but particularly the governor and the Republicans — wants to escape from this mess with his or her political hide intact. The GOP members all signed a moronic pledge never to raise taxes, and the ones who wind up voting for even minor tax hikes get slammed in their home districts. The Democrats don’t want to cut education or health or other essential services, but have been far more willing to compromise. The governor just wants to look tough.

Seriously — he just wants to look tough, and the longer the standoff continues, the more he gets this sort of press, and the more his abysmal poll numbers go up.

So now the talks are still stalled and the state is losing $25 million a day just to make a washed-up action-movie star happy with his image.

Even after the “big five” — the leaders of the Legislature and the guv — come to a deal, it’s no sure thing. Because in the past, all of the Republicans have refused to vote for deals that their own leadership and their own governor have put together.

And some Democrats may not vote for it, either. Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco told me he won’t vote for any cuts to education. “The Republicans have drawn a line and said no new taxes,” he told me. “We need to draw a line and say no more cuts to health care and education.”

In fact, in the famous late-night session that almost led to a budget deal last week, Yee was holding out, refusing to go along with the cuts until State Sen. President Darrell Steinberg called the lobbyists from the teacher’s unions at 11:30 pm and told them to tell Yee it was okay to accept the leadership plan.

Yee, of course, wants to be able to say after the dirty deal is done that he refused to accept the cuts. So do a lot of the other Dems — but at some point, most of them will bit the bullet and accept some kind of bad deal to end the IOUs and keep the state afloat. Yee wants to see the GOP take some of the heat, too: “If the governor wants us to vote for a bad budget deal, he needs to make the Republicans vote for it, too,” he said.

Which also won’t happen.

So the most likely outcome is that the Democrats will be the ones voting for a shitty deal that screws all of the traditional Democratic constituencies.

I’m sick of being held hostage by Orange County. It’s time to split up this state.

Newsom figures out what a tax is (sort of)


By Tim Redmond

This is a fun little gotcha moment from the SF Appeal. Newsom loves to say that he balanced the SF budget withour raising taxes — but then he admits that all those fees he raised (to avoid raising taxes) were actually … taxes.

Prison report: It’s all secret


By Just A Guy
“Roast beef” (or so they say): It’s what’s for dinner in the state prisons (Photo by Just A Guy)

Something that successful businesses, successful people and all types of successful organizations do to gain the trust of employees, associates and citizens is to operate with transparency. Transparency opens the door to trust and keeps it ajar, as those that are able to see that an entity operates within a framework of transparency has no hidden agendas or ulterior motives that destroy(s) trust, which is the foundation of any successful relationship, be it personal, corporate or governmental.

As I watched the news last night, the reporter was discussing California’s budget deficit and I was startled to hear the reporter say that the “big five” — the governor and four Legislative leaders — realized that there were cuts that had to be made. Are you telling me that the leadership of California has not discovered that there are going to have to be cuts — detrimental reductions in myriad programs to make up for the $26 billion budget gap? I’m hoping it was just bad reporting!

But what really stunned me is when I learned that the big five were meeting behind closed doors.

Considering the state of the state and the multitude of the problems that our state leaders in the governor’s office, legislature and all public constituencies face, you would think that an attempt would be made to build trust in this state government that is already the least trusted of all 50 states.

Trust can not be built without transparency in government. Yet the budget negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and to my knowledge no one is making any waves or questioning the lack of visibility about our state’s fiscal future. This is appalling!

Also, this is a microcosm of the how the people of California have been deceived by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the politicians via the lies that are given to the media and reported as fact. There is no transparency to the farce that is the institutionalization of California.

Just as the big five are hiding the budget negotiations with your money (behind your back), those that are responsible are making sure that California’s prison machine is well oiled. And they are not telling the public the whole truth. They hide behind the veil of security about the truth of the failure of CDCR.

Until you, John Q, start to question your elected government and demand transparency, you will be subject to the whims of mediocrity that your apathy has endeavored to strengthen.

There’s a book called The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey the our government may do well to read.

Until Monday, this is Just A Guy, keeping it really real…