City College of San Francisco

Alerts Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2013



March to protect City College CCSF Civic Center Campus, 750 Eddy, SF. 3:30pm, free. Join supporters of the embattled City College of San Francisco for a major mobilization to protect this critical educational resource. A week of action will culminate with this march to deliver several thousand postcards to Mayor Ed Lee, urging him to protect City College. Advocates say City College is crucial and must be preserved to protect educational access for low-income and immigrant communities, veterans, older adults, displaced workers, and so many others.




Conference on media and democracy University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton, SF. 9am with sessions through Sun/3, $125 registration. More than 200 radical media activists, scholars and students will convene for “The Point is to Change It: Media Democracy and Democratic Media in Action,” a three-day conference sponsored by The Union for Democratic Communications, Project Censored and the Department of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. Researchers, activists and media-makers will present their investigations of the most pressing problems with top-down corporate- and government-controlled media; showcase exemplars of independent, alternative media; and share some of the latest methods in media education. This conference represents a unique partnership, bringing together academic and independent researchers, educators, students, and media justice activists from across the U.S. and Canada, the Middle East, China, Africa and Latin America.



What is Social Justice? Art Internationale Gallery, 963 Pacific Ave., SF. 7pm, free. November is social justice month, and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade is hosting this event to explore some key questions. What is Social Justice? What is Social Injustice? Speakers include Jack Hirschman, former SF poet laureate, Ethel Long-Scott of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project, John Curl, author of For all the People, and poets Sarah Page, Sarah Menefee, Ayat Jalal-Bryant and Aja Couchois Duncan. SUNDAY 3 Hottest bike party of the year City View at the Metreon, 135 Fourth St., SF. 6-10:30pm, $20–$60. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Winterfest celebration will bring thousands of bike-loving people together for a bash in celebration of cycling. Festivities will include an art auction, a bike auction and a community silent auction.

In charge … sort of


Former Compton Community College Special Trustee Dr. Arthur Q. Tyler was formally announced as City College of San Francisco’s new chancellor on Oct. 16. The decision ends a months-long search and comes at a time when CCSF is under state control and facing the loss of its accreditation.

As everyone fears for the future of City College, the key to understanding its new chancellor may lie in his history with similarly troubled community colleges, and to CCSF’s own turbulent history.

City College is in the fight for its life as the deadline of July 2014 looms, at which point the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges says it will revoke CCSF’s accreditation. But Tyler has been in a similar position before, in Compton.

Tyler held the same position overseeing the troubled Compton Community College that Special Trustee Bob Agrella held as CCSF lost its accreditation. But more importantly, Tyler was at the helm when it was told its accreditation was revoked in 2005.

In a letter to the community, Compton’s Board of Trustees outlined what they’d need to do: regain their footing and win an appeal to the accreditation commission. They filed for review, much like City College of San Francisco recently did. And they lost.

Compton Community College never regained its accreditation. It was absorbed into a neighboring district, El Camino College, and is now known as The El Camino Compton College Center, essentially another campus in the El Camino system.

“They had problems with integrity,” he said at the Oct. 16 press conference, addressing Compton’s failure under his watch. “It was a different situation.”

Tyler is now tasked with saving San Francisco’s only community college. At the ceremony, Tyler was told that he’d be held liable for CCSF’s future.

“Dr. Tyler, you have many people here, whether they’re students, faculty, staff, and administrators… to stand behind you as you take on this important responsibility,” said Hydra Mendoza, Mayor Ed Lee’s education advisor. “We’re also here to hold you accountable.”

After CCSF was notified it would lose accreditation in a year, the state gave Agrella the full powers of City College’s Board of Trustees, leaving San Francisco’s elected board powerless.

Just exactly how much power and influence Tyler will have while the state-appointed trustee remains at City College is still a mystery. But then again, the history of leadership of CCSF has been cloaked in secrecy and dubious dealings.




Former Chancellor Philip Day was head of City College in 1998, and he left under a criminal indictment, pleading guilty and later convicted of misuse of $100,000 of college funds. His chancellorship ended in 2008, but his scandal was not his only contribution to the school.

“In a lot of ways he was a great chancellor. He had some vision,” Fred Teti, who was City College’s Academic Senate president under Day, told the Guardian.

Day was a divisive figure, and the politics around him has split the college to this day. Teti said that rightly or wrongly, Day’s legacy was mainly tied to the construction boom at City College.

“When the state Legislature passed (a law allowing) bonds for schools, he jumped on it immediately. It was really him that got all those buildings up,” Teti said.

The construction boom built the college’s new Multi-Use Building, and the towering Chinatown Campus. Many we talked to attributed this to Day’s coalition style leadership, bringing together disparate groups of the college to a single purpose.

It was also what led him to falter, as Day’s misuse of funds conviction was directly centered around funding he was using to promote more bonds for City College. He put laundered district money into an ad campaign for a facility related bond measure, and he was caught.

Even after Day was gone, the legacy of bitter divisions among trustees and lack of proper fiscal checks-and-balances that Day fostered contributed to CCSF’s downward spiral — and now, the hiring of a hobbled new chancellor to try to pick up the pieces.

Tyler may not have the chance to enact his own City College vision for awhile, and when asked at his introduction to the school “What can and will you do here?” he said “I’ll make recommendations to the board, in this case to Dr. Agrella, on the things we believe… will heal and fix this institution.”

Former City College administrator Stephen Herman, who shared a criminal conviction with Day over the misuse of district funds, told us that Tyler will have few powers until Agrella steps aside.

“Dr. Tyler is going to be a little hamstrung to begin with,” Herman said. “Ultimately, if the college gets its accreditation and is able to survive, then (Tyler) can spread his wings and take over some policy decisions.”

But the history around Tyler’s policy decisions are equal parts heartening and worrisome.



Tyler was charming and self-effacing at his press conference, saying “I’m privileged to stand before you as your new chancellor,” building on what he called “the legacy” that the interim-chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman will leave for him: “I know I’m filling a large pair of lady shoes.”

Tyler’s resume seems to glow. He’s an anti-terrorism expert who served in the US Air Force, was vice president at Los Angeles City College, and was in charge at Sacramento City College. He also speaks Farsi.

But it was his time as deputy chancellor of Houston Community College where he walked through fire, allegedly resisting bribes and sexual advances from contractors in the corruption-plagued district. Dave Wilson, 66, runs the investigative website “Inside HCCS” in Texas that’s a tell-all about alleged dirty dealings at Houston Community College.

One gold mine of documents he obtained came when the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was investigating alleged corruption at HCC. Family members and friends allegedly helped questionable construction contracts get approved by the HCC Board of Trustees, according to the Houston Chronicle’s stories at the time.

Ultimately, those accused had to take ethics training courses, but it’s the investigation itself that’s really revealing.

Law Firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka interviewed college officials at the behest of HCC’s board in 2010. Its goal was to get to the bottom of who had anything to do with getting the dirty contracts passed. Houston Community College’s attorney turned investigator, Larry Veselka, interviewed Tyler as part of this investigation and Wilson obtained Veselka’s notes.

When looking into a construction project, Tyler told Veselka he found about $14 million in questionable spending. The interview details allegations that Tyler was receiving vague promises of sexual favors and bribes from a pair of would-be contractors, which he refused.

Veselka would not return phone calls from the Guardian, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which was involved in the investigation of Houston Community College, confirmed that it had documents regarding the college from Veselka’s law firm but would not release them to the Guardian.

The documents paint a rosy picture of Tyler, who cleaned house, and even claimed to have shrugged off shady dealers at Houston Community College.

“I can tell you I did speak to the law firm,” Tyler said when the Guardian asked him about the alleged attempted bribe. “Because that was a violation of trust. Anyone who knows anything about me can confirm that I’ve been about trusting my own instincts about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s a keynote of my value set that I will never compromise, now and in the future.” But in the same documents that confirmed Tyler talked to attorneys about the alleged bribe, one trustee was concerned enough about Tyler’s close relationship with another trustee that Tyler’s future authority regarding contracts was limited. And while different news outlets reported that Tyler resigned from Houston Community College, that’s not exactly the story the Houston Chronicle told in July. “The trustees agreed Thursday to a settlement with Deputy Chancellor Art Tyler for $600,000, confirmed his attorney, Vidal Martinez. Tyler relinquished all duties Friday,” the paper wrote. “Art is part of the old chancellor’s team. This was part of finishing the past,” Vidal Martinez, Tyler’s attorney, told the Houston Chronicle. Ultimately, they reported, the buyouts of the two administrator’s contracts cost Houston Community College over a million dollars. Tyler would not return follow-up phone calls on the matter. When asked if he was worried about Tyler’s history, CCSF Board President John Rizzo said that none of it came up in the chancellorship interviews — but even if there was truth to it, he wasn’t worried. “He’s going to have a lot of eyes on him,” Rizzo said. “He’ll have the state chancellor and special trustee looking over his shoulder, more than a normal chancellor would.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Brown signs legislation creating two tiers of college tuition, for the rich and the poor


For six California community colleges, when the classes get crowded, those with money will get in, and the poor will struggle. 

On Oct. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 955, allowing six allegedly overcrowded community colleges to charge $200 per unit instead of the state-mandated $46 for their most in-demand classes. 

The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Das Williams (D- Santa Barbara), and would effect College of the Canyons, Crafton Hills College, Long Beach City College, Oxnard College, Pasadena City College, and Solano Community College. But state officials and local activists fear this is the first step towards steeply increasing community college fees.

At a California Community College Board of Governors meeting last month, state Chancellor Brice Harris said the tuition hikes could lead to less funding from Sacramento.

“The next time the budget goes in the tank, they’ll tell (us), ‘we can’t give it to you, tell your colleges to raise fees,’” he said. “We have had historically free and open equal access. This bill fundamentally changes that equation.”

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Harris said he was unavailable.

Shanell Williams, student trustee at City College of San Francisco and an activist who’s fought student inequality at the state level before, echoed Harris’ sentiments back when AB955 was first on the table. “AB955 creates a system of haves and have nots,” she said. “Students that cannot afford to pay more will essentially be denied access.”

A two-tiered payment system was tried once before at Santa Monica College last year. Students protested and were pepper sprayed in an incident that blew up in the news media.

In light of the new tuition hike, we’ve created an infographic to help put the new costs in context. Check it out below, and link to it directly here.

For our previous coverage on AB955, click here.



Bruce Brugmann, Jean Dibble, and Tim Redmond

The San Francisco Bay Guardian — which has had a significant impact on the Bay Area’s cultural and political dynamics and dialogue over the last 47 years — was largely the creation of three people with complementary skills and perspectives, an amalgam that gave the Guardian its voice and longevity.

Although they are no longer involved with running the paper, we’re honoring their contribution and legacy with a form of recognition they created: a Local Hero Award in our Best of the Bay issue, an annual edition that has been adopted by almost every alt-weekly in the country.

Bruce Brugmann and Jean Dibble launched the Guardian in October 1966 after years of planning by the married couple, and they ran it as co-publishers until the paper’s sale to the San Francisco Newspaper Co. last year, with Dibble running the business side and Brugmann in charge of editorial and serving as its most public face.

“We were one of the few husband and wife newspaper teams, a real mom and pop operation,” Brugmann told us. “We couldn’t have done it without the two of us, we needed both of our skill sets.”

They met in 1956 at the University of Nebraska, where Brugmann studied journalism and served as editor of the Daily Nebraskan, starting his long career as journalistic rabble-rouser. Dibble studied business, which she would continue in graduate school at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College while Brugmann got a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.

As graduation neared, they started talking about forming a newspaper together, an idea that percolated while Brugmann served in the US Army, where he wrote for Stars and Stripes, and Dibble moved to San Francisco with their two kids to work in personnel and administrative positions.

After the Army, they settled in Wisconsin, where Brugmann worked as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal before moving to the Bay Area to work on launching the Guardian while Brugmann supported the family working for the Redwood City Tribune.

“We came out here with the idea of doing it and we immediately started planning. Jean did the prospectus, a damn good prospectus,” Brugmann said.

The Guardian published sporadically in the beginning, but it tapped into a vibrant counterculture that was clashing with the establishment and began publishing important articles highlighting inequities in the Vietnam War draft and exposing local political scandals, including how Pacific Gas & Electric illegally acquired its energy monopoly.

“A lot of it was just keep your head down and keep going,” Dibble said. “We never talked about alternatives, it was just what we were going to do.” The Guardian covered the successful revolts against new freeways in the city and plans to build Manhattan-style skyscrapers, publishing the book The Ultimate Highrise in 1971. In the mid-’70s, the Guardian won a successful unfair competition lawsuit against the Chronicle and the Examiner over their joint operating agreement, allowing the paper to become a free newsweekly. “Eventually, things got better, and we got some large advertisers in the ’80s and they really helped kick us off,” Dibble said. That was also when Tim Redmond, a journalist and activist steeped in radical politics, started writing for the Guardian, going on to serve as the paper’s executive editor and guiding voice for more than 30 years. “Tim was always more radical than I was,” Brugmann said, giving Redmond credit for the Guardian’s groundbreaking coverage of tenant, environmental, and economic justice issues. “Every publisher needs an editor who was more radical than they are to push them.” The two journalists had a prolific partnership, mentoring a string of journalists who would go on to national acclaim, turning the Guardian into a model for alt-weeklies across the country, exposing myriad scandals and emerging arts and cultural trends, and helping to write and pass the nation’s strongest local Sunshine Ordinance. “We always wanted to make things better,” Brugmann said of what drove the Guardian. “Even the battles that we lost, we got major concessions. Yerba Buena is much better because of the stories we did at the time, same thing with Mission Bay…San Francisco is much better that we were here. And we’re really proud and we appreciate the work of the current Guardian staff in keeping the Guardian flame alive.”


LOCAL HEROES: Kate Kendell

The night Proposition 8 passed was one of the hardest of Kate Kendell’s life. She remembers it with startling detail — and she should, because she was one of the most prominent opponents of the measure to overturn marriage equality in California.

“I was hopeful right up until the end that Prop. 8 would be defeated,” she said, speaking slowly as she pulled her thoughts from what sounded like a dark place. “Our initial polling numbers said we’d probably lose, but I really hoped in the deepest heart of my heart that when people got in there that they’d punch their vote in favor of the person they knew.”

But as the voters of California showed in that 2008 election, sometimes the good guys lose.

Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, fought the good fight since she started there in 1994. The NCLR litigates, creates policy, and performs outreach for LGBT civil rights on a national level, with headquarters in San Francisco. After years of anticipation, she poured herself into the campaign against the proposition that would make her marriage illegal, and then the measure passed.

That night she hung her head in disbelief. She felt physically ill, and her mind roiled in grief equaled only by the death of one of her parents. “It felt like that,” she said.

Kendell and her wife, Sandy, went home without speaking a word, and when she got in the door she tried to pull it together. Steeling herself to face her family, Kendell walked out of the bathroom and burst into tears. Her son said simply “this just means we have to fight more.”

So she did, and we all won.

That led to the moment for which Kendell may be remembered for a long time to come. When Prop. 8 was overturned by the US Supreme Court this year, a flock of San Francisco politicians descended the steps inside the rotunda at City Hall. Kendell took to the podium and spoke to the nation.

“My name is Kate Kendell with the National Center for Lesbian Rights,” she said, “and fuck you, Prop. 8!” The crowd erupted into cheers.

She regrets saying it now, but history will likely forgive her for being human. For someone whose own marriage’s validity was threatened and who spent two decades fighting for equality, she earned a moment of embarrassing honesty.

Kendell’s infamous declaration may be how she’s known, but one of her key decisions behind the scenes shaped the LGBT equality movement as well. When then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration wanted a couple to be the first in his round of renegade gay marriages in 2004, it was Kendell who suggested Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

The two were in a relationship since 1953, pioneers of LGBT activism in San Francisco. Kendell said it was only right that they were first to read their vows in the city they helped shape. “Were it not for their contributions, visibility, and courage in the ’50s and ’60s, we wouldn’t be in that room with Newsom contemplating marriage licenses,” she said. “I’m just happy they said yes. It was absolutely appropriate.” And it’s with that sense of history that she herself pioneers forward, pushing in states across the US what Harvey Milk fought for in California — workplace protections for the LGBT community. “In 38 states, you can be fired from your job or being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That has to change,” she said. “When the next chapter of history is written, it will be about a nation that treats the LGBT community as equals.”


Theo Ellington

Last year, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee floated the idea of implementing stop-and-frisk, a practice that many civil rights advocates say amounts to racial profiling, Theo Ellington stepped up to create a petition to oppose the idea — and won.

The policy would have given San Francisco police officers the authority to stop and search any individual who “looks suspicious,” in an effort to get guns off the streets.

“I found it was basically a predatory policing practice that didn’t belong in a city like San Francisco,” Ellington told us. His petition garnered a little more than 2,300 signatures, “enough to show policymakers we were paying attention,” he guesses. Faced with mounting pressure and a community outcry, Lee ultimately abandoned the idea.

“That was a win, I think, for everyone fighting for what’s really a civil right,” the 25-year-old, native San Franciscan told us in a recent phone interview. “It’s not a black issue or a white issue,” but it did strike a nerve and provide Ellington with some momentum for coalition building.

Ellington was born and raised in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, home to a significant portion of the city’s dwindling black population. The campaign against stop-and-frisk helped catalyze his still-evolving political organization, the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco, of which he is president.

Go to BYDSF’s website and you’re confronted with some startling statistics about the experience of black San Franciscans: In the last 20 years, the African American community has dwindled to only 6 percent of the city’s population; meanwhile, the high school dropout rate stands at 38 percent, the unemployment rate is 18 percent, and the level of poverty stands at a disheartening 20 percent.

To tackle these looming challenges, BYDSF now faces the hurdle of getting local elected officials to care. “Since then, we have been trying to build our membership and figure out where we fit in the political climate of SF,” Ellington says.

His group’s chief concerns include closing the achievement gap in San Francisco public schools, doing something about the escalating cost of housing, and finding better solutions for public transit. “There’s the housing need, obviously. It’s a need that working class folks in general are facing,” he said.

He’s pursing a master’s degree in urban affairs at the University of San Francisco, and says he’s taken it upon himself to learn everything he can about how cities operate. To that end, he often ponders vexing questions: “How do you figure out a way to give those same opportunities to everyone? How do you provide opportunities for all income levels?”

His successful opposition campaign to stop-and-frisk didn’t stop Mayor Lee from appointing him to the Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure, which oversees the successor to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. A major project under that body’s purview is the Hunters Point Shipyard development, a massive undertaking led by construction firm Lennar Urban, practically in Ellington’s backyard. Having grown up in the neighborhood, he sees himself as being in a unique position to ensure that the developers are providing jobs for local residents as required under the agreement. “It allows me to speak to both sides — on the community level, and in City Hall,” he said. “There are certain social dynamics you won’t understand unless you have lived in the community.” Ultimately, Ellington says, his goal is to push local politicians to find ways of making San Francisco a place where people of all income levels can find their way. “There’s a lot more work to do,” he said. “I think San Francisco is at a real pivotal point, where we can choose to go in the right direction … or we can choose the opposite.”


LOCAL HEROES: Shanell Williams

Shanell Williams is a chameleon activist, spearheading the effort to save City College of San Francisco from many fronts.

When City College fought off a statewide initiative to save money by stigmatizing struggling students, she defended the school as an Occupy activist. With a banner raised high, she faced down the California Community College Board of Governors, shouting their wrongs aloud at a meeting attended by hundreds. The board was stunned but her fellow activists were not, because that’s who Williams is: an uncompromising defender of San Francisco.

Now, as City College faces a fight for its existence, Williams is defending it again, this time as a duly elected CCSF student trustee.

Williams is at the forefront of Save CCSF, an Occupy-inspired group publicly protesting the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, the body trying to shut down City College. San Francisco is holding its breath until next July to hear if the accrediting commission will close the city’s only community college — and Williams was one of the key organizers helping students’ voices rise up to decry the decision to close the school.

She has reason to fight hard, growing up watching her community ravaged by those in power who purported to do good. She is a black woman and San Francisco native raised in the Fillmore and the long history of redevelopment and its role in the flight of The City’s African American population shaped her ethos. To Williams, there are forces that care about money at the expense of communities and those forces need to be fought.

“How are we supporting people to have a decent quality of life?” she said, and that’s the way she’s approached saving her community since a young age.

In 2003, while in high school, Williams got a taste of politicking as a member of San Francisco’s Youth Commission, appointed by then-Mayor Willie Brown. “I think he’s a very interesting character with a lot of influence over the city,” she said, with just an edge of steel to her voice.

As a teenaged politician, she discovered the work of the Human Rights Commission and was inspired. While a student of Washington High School and then Wallenberg High, she had a tough home life and entered the foster care system, getting a firsthand look at how the state takes care of its youth.

It galvanized her, honed her, and made her yearn for change. “I just innately had a sense of wanting to see justice and fairness,” she said.

Energized, she joined the Center for Young Women’s Development, the Youth Treatment Education Court, Urban Services YMCA, the Youth Leadership Institute, and more. She joined so many organizations and taught so many youth and government officials that even she can’t remember all of them off the top of her head.

At one point, she even taught judges across the country about cultural competency. “We had this whole spoken word performance thing we did,” she said, laughing.

In 2010, as Williams took classes at City College, she waved the banner defending San Francisco’s community college students. She pushed for city-level minimum wage requirements for City College workers, who earned dollars less. She also pushed back against state requirements to cut off priority registrations to those who took too long in the community college system — because she’s been there herself.

“They need a few chances to get it right and become a good student,” she said. When the struggle to save City College is done, win or lose, Williams sees herself remaining an advocate for students for years to come. At 29 years old, she’s still a student herself, and she eagerly awaits the day she’ll transfer to Cal or Stanford as an Urban Studies major. It all comes back to defending her city. “We have to broaden the movement,” she said. “The enemy is not about color, it’s about wealth inequality. It’s not just about City College either. It’s about the austerity regime that doesn’t care about working class people and poor folks.”


San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice

When the San Francisco Mayor’s Office cut a deal with Sutter Health and its California Pacific Medical Center affiliate for an ambitious rebuild of hospital facilities — which would shape healthcare services in San Francisco for years to come — community activists began to find serious flaws in the proposal.

So they organized and banded together into a coalition to challenge the powerful players pushing the plan, eventually helping to hash out a better agreement that would benefit all San Franciscans. Representing an alliance between labor and community advocates, the coalition was called San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice.

When the whole affair began, it seemed as if the CPMC rebuild would incorporate a host of community benefits — but those promises evaporated after the healthcare provider walked away from the negotiating table, unhappy with the terms.

Then a second agreement, with much weaker public benefits, came out of a second round of talks between CPMC and the Mayor’s Office. But by then, so much had been given up that “we were stunned,” said Calvin Welch, who joined the coalition on behalf of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. “We met with [Mayor Ed Lee] and told him, this is absolutely unacceptable.”

But the mayor wasn’t willing to address their concerns at that time. When the deal failed to win approval after a series of hearings at the Board of Supervisors, however, “the unacceptable deal that the mayor created melted in the sun of full disclosure,” Welch said.

That plan would have allowed St. Luke’s Hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, to shrink to just 80 beds with no guarantee that it would stay open in the long run. CPMC’s commitment to providing charitable care to the uninsured was disappointingly low. And while the project was expected to create 1,500 permanent jobs in San Francisco, the deal only guaranteed that 5 percent of those positions would go to existing San Francisco residents.

Enter the movers and shakers with San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice. The coalition took its place at the negotiating table, along with CPMC, a mediator, and an unlikely trio of supervisors that included Board President David Chiu and Sups. David Campos and Mark Farrell. Over several months, the coalition put in some serious time and energy to push for a more equitable outcome.

“We pushed so hard for a smaller Cathedral Hill [Hospital] and a larger St. Luke’s,” Welch said, describing their strategy to safeguard against the closure of St. Luke’s. They also pushed for CPMC to make a better funding contribution toward affordable housing, a stronger guarantee for hiring San Franciscans at the new medical center, and improvements to transit and pedestrian safety measures as conditions of the deal.

Under the terms that were ultimately approved, St. Luke’s will remain a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 “charity care” patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal patients per year.

CPMC also agreed to contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and promised to pay $4.1 million to replace homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill. Under the revised deal, 30 percent of construction jobs and 40 percent of permanent entry-level positions in the new facilities would be promised to San Francisco residents.

One of the greatest victories of all, Welch said, was how well coalition members worked together. “This was the most straight-up equal collaboration with labor and community people, equally supporting one another, that I’ve ever been involved with,” Welch said. Even though they were motivated to participate by different sets of concerns, the two sides remained mutually supportive, Welch said. During the long, grueling hearings, “The nurses never left,” he noted in amazement. “The nurses stuck around for all the community stuff.”


Photos by Evan Ducharme

CCSF’s new chancellor has a history running other troubled colleges


Former Compton College Special Trustee Dr. Arthur Q. Tyler will be City College of San Francisco’s new chancellor, sources tell the Guardian. The decision ends a months-long search and comes at a time when CCSF is under state control and facing the loss of its accreditation. 

City College is in the fight for its life as the deadline of July 2014 looms ahead, at which point the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, may revoke its accreditation. But Tyler has been in a similar position before — as the special trustee of Compton Community College.

Tyler held the same position overseeing the troubled Compton Community College that Special Trustee Bob Agrella held before CCSF lost its accreditation. But more importantly, Tyler was at Compton Community College when it was told its accreditation was revoked in 2005.

In a letter to the community, Compton’s Board of Trustees outlined what they’d need to do: regain their footing and win an appeal to the accreditation commission. They filed for review, much like City College of San Francisco recently did. And they lost.  

Compton Community College never regained its accreditation. The college was absorbed into a neighboring district, El Camino College, and is now known as The El Camino Compton College Center. It’s essentially another campus in the El Camino system.   

The letter Compton Community College sent students when it first learned it would soon lose accreditation.

Tyler’s is now tasked with saving San Francisco’s only community college. And you have to admit, attracting candidates to a school that’s on the edge of closure couldn’t have been easy. After City College was notified it would lose accreditation in a year, the state gave Agrella the full powers of City College’s Board of Trustees, leaving San Franciscos elected college board powerless. Just exactly how much power and influence Tyler will have while the state-appointed trustee remains at City College is still unclear. 

But its Tyler’s experience working with the community college accreditation agency and the California state chancellor’s office is that made him a strong candidate, said Alisa Messer, president of City College’s faculty union AFT 2121. When asked if it worried her that Tyler led Compton college while it lost its accreditation, she said “I’m not going in with preconceived notions.” 

Tyler’s resume is seemingly glowing. He’s an anti-terrorism expert who served in the US Air Force, was vice president at Los Angeles City College and was in charge at Sacramento City College. He also speaks Farsi.

But it was his time as Deputy Chancellor of Houston Community College where he walked through fire — from allegedly resisting bribes to sexual advances from contractors. Dave Wilson, 66, runs the investigative website “Inside HCCS” in Texas that’s a tell-all about alleged dirty dealings at Houston Community College, based on the many public records requests he’s made over the years. 

One gold mine of documents Wilson obtained came when the Harris County District Attorney’s office was investigating alleged corruption at HCC. Family members and close ties allegedly helped questionable construction contracts get approved by the HCC board of trustees, according to the Houston Chronicle’s stories at the time. 

Ultimately, those accused had to take ethics training courses, but it’s the investigation itself that’s really revealing.

Law Firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka interviewed college officials at the behest of HCC’s board in 2010. Their goal — get to the bottom of who had anything to do with getting the dirty contracts passed. Tyler, who was deputy chancellor at the time, and Houston Community College’s attorney, Larry Veselka, took extensive notes on the interview.

When looking into a construction project, Tyler told Veselka he found about $14 million in questionable spending. The interview details allegations that Tyler was receiving vague promises of sexual favors and bribes from a pair of would-be contractors, both of which he refused. But one trustee was concerned enough about Tyler’s close relationship with another trustee’s friends that Tyler’s procurement authority was limited.      

The Guardian tried contacting Tyler as well as the law firm, but has so far received no response. His appointment is expected to be announced in the morning (Wed/16), so check back later for any updates.

When asked if he was worried about any of the allegations about Tyler, John Rizzo, City College’s board of trustees president, said that none of it came up in the chancellorship interviews — but even if there was truth to it, he wasn’t worried.

“He’s going to have a lot of eyes on him,” Rizzo said. “He’ll have the state chancellor and special trustee looking over his shoulder, more than a normal chancellor would.”

And though we couldn’t get Tyler to respond to our calls, he did speak about why he’s interested in working at City College of San Francisco in his public interview there on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

“I love helping. This is not a job,” he said. When he “saw the need here” and learned that San Francisco was ailing, he thought “I hate this. I can absolutely help. I shouldn’t sit on the sidelines. I have the right skillsets and the right experiences. I know how to organize people and at least talk and listen to each other so they’re communicating.”

Government shutdown puts thousands of SF veterans’ benefits at risk


More than 7,000 employees in Veterans Benefits Administration offices nationwide were furloughed today (Tues/8), the newest casualty of the federal government shutdown.

As the Republicans in Washington hold the nation hostage over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, federal employees are leaving their offices in droves. Now the veterans who rely on the federal government for healthcare and education checks have nothing to do but wait on word of their uncertain futures. 

The furlough of veterans benefits workers comes at an especially awful time as they struggle to meet an enormous backlog of health benefit claims, revealed this year by the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting.

“VA’s ability to make significant progress reducing the disability claims backlog is hampered without the increased productivity gained from overtime for claims processors,” the Veterans Benefits Administration said in a statement released today. The agency has reduced the disability claims backlog by more than 190,000 claims over the last six months, it wrote.  

But even worse, it said that if the government shutdown persists into late October there would be no funding available to supply veterans with their November support checks — money many rely on for rent and food.

In the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted,” the office wrote in a release.

San Francisco has veterans of many stripes who depend on federal benefits: Students paying tuition, ex-soldiers getting housing benefits, the disabled seeking health care, all would be left without support.

The loss can be felt keenly at City College of San Francisco, where the employees of its pioneering Veterans’ Resource Center wait in fear of Nov. 1. 

 “With the government shutdown we’re going to have a massive amount of people coming in asking questions,” said Adam Harris, a student worker at CCSF’s Veterans’ Resource Center. The 25-year-old is a veteran himself, and served in the Navy for six years as a petty officer second class in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.  

“If people aren’t paid on the first when they’re expected to you get a wave of people asking ‘where’s my money at?’” he said. The GI Bill pays for full tuition for student veterans who have completed their service, and those still serving. But it’s not just tuition. 

“It’s pretty much a living allowance,” he said. In addition to tuition the the GI Bill pays for housing, food and living expenses. City College of San Francisco alone has over 1,200 student veterans according to their own data, many of whom attend full time. 

The state community college chancellor’s office, which oversees California’s 112 community colleges, said the loss of benefits would be dire for its student veterans.

“Should this come about, our student veterans would be left without education benefits and basic housing allowances,” said Paul Feist, a spokesperson for the Community College Chancellor’s office.  “It’s probably safe to assume that many student veterans would be forced to drop out of school should this occur.”

They noted that the VA’s educational benefits hotline is inaccessible during the government shutdown, cutting off a vital counseling service as student veterans navigate their tuition payments.

The CA Community College Chancellor’s Office most recent data shows that as of the 2011-12 school year, there were over 44,000 community college student veterans receiving benefits statewide, many of whom are in the Bay Area. All would be affected. 

Rachel Maddow announcing the shutdown of veteran benefits offices, which give advice and aid for veterans seeking help with their education, lhousing and health benefits.

Student at the state level colleges will fare no better, though, and there are just over 700 student veterans at San Francisco State University, according to their website. The head of SFSU’s veterans center, Rogelio Manaois, said that his office was sending regular updates to SFSU students and that they were prepared for the possible delay of benefits.

Notably not all veterans depend on the GI Bill to live. Some vets the Guardian spoke to at City College said that they had part time jobs and would not be in hardship if there were a drop in payments. Also, the VA Medical Center in the Outer Richmond announced on its website that it will not be affected by the government shutdown. Not all veterans are in the same boat, however.

Bobby Hollingsworth served as a Criminal Investigations Divisions investigator in the US Army from 1999 to 2010. Though he’s now a graduate of SFSU, he and his family depend on disability payments from the VA to live. 

Hollingsworth injured his his leg in basic training, and the repeated stress through the years required multiple surgeries that he never fully recovered from. His disability payments also cover PTSD, as through his decade of service he spent over a year listening to the explosions of mortar shells peppering his Containerized Housing Unit in Iraq. 

He remembers those days vividly.

“I heard commotion and opened my door and looked up and to the side of our CHU’s. The sky was lit up like a scene in Star Wars” he said. “We got hit with seven mortars that night and a few airmen were rushed to the hospital with unknown injuries. We just never really followed up on those things. At the time maybe we thought best not to know.”

To say he earned his benefits is an understatement, he said, and the same goes for all of his fellow Veterans. 

As a documentary filmmaker, he is investigating other Veterans who have been denied their education benefits. Now the government shutdown may delay Hollingsworth’s payments as well. 

His wife depends on them for college, he said, and without his disability payments he may be unable to make his first mortgage payment on their new house. His wife and four-year-old son will be fine for now, he said, but if the payments are delayed for long he’ll be worried.

“I can hold out for a month because of emergency savings and the food bank,” he said. “But by December, it will be a nightmare.”

Yesterday the VA posted their “Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown,” which can be read here.  

Endorsements 2013


We’re heading into a lackluster election on Nov. 5. The four incumbents on the ballot have no serious challengers and voter turnout could hit an all-time low. That’s all the more reason to read up on the issues, show up at the polls, and exert an outsized influence on important questions concerning development standards and the fate of the city’s waterfront, the cost of prescription drugs, and the long-term fiscal health of the city.




Note: This article has been corrected from an earlier version, which incorrectly stated that Prop A increases employee contributions to health benefits.

Throughout the United States, the long-term employee pension and health care obligations of government agencies have been used as wedge issues for anti-government activists to attack public employee unions, even in San Francisco. The fiscal concerns are real, but they’re often exaggerated or manipulated for political reasons.

That’s one reason why the consensus-based approach to the issue that San Francisco has undertaken in recent years has been so important, and why we endorse Prop. A, which safeguards the city’s Retiree Health Care Trust Fund and helps solve this vexing problem.

Following up on the consensus pension reform measure Prop. B, which increased how much new city employees paid for lifetime health benefits, this year’s Prop. A puts the fund into a lock-box to ensure it is there to fund the city’s long-term retiree health care obligations, which are projected at $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.

“The core of it says you can’t touch the assets until it’s fully funded,” Sup. Mark Farrell, who has taken a lead role on addressing the issue, told us. “The notion of playing political football with employee health care will be gone.”

The measure has the support of the entire Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Labor Council. Progressive Sup. David Campos strongly supports the measure and he told us, “I think it makes sense and is something that goes beyond political divides.”

There are provisions that would allow the city to tap the fund in emergencies, but only after it is fully funded or if the mayor, controller, the Trust Board, and two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors signs off, a very high bar. So vote yes and let’s put this distracting issue behind us.




Well-meaning people can arrive at different conclusions on the 8 Washington project, the waterfront luxury condo development that was approved by the Board of Supervisors last year and challenged with a referendum that became Prop. C. But Prop. B is simply the developer writing his own rules and exempting them from normal city review.

We oppose the 8 Washington project, as we explain in our next endorsement, but we can understand how even some progressive-minded people might think the developers’ $11 million affordable housing and $4.8 million transit impact payments to the city are worth letting this project slide through.

But Prop. B is a different story, and it’s something that those who believe in honesty, accountability, and good planning should oppose on principle, even if they support the underlying project. Contrary to the well-funded deceptions its backers are circulating, claiming this measure is about parks, Prop. B is nothing more than a developer and his attorneys preventing meaningful review and enforcement by the city of their vague and deceptive promises.

It’s hard to know where to begin to refute the wall of mendacity its backers have erected to fool voters into supporting this measure, but we can start with their claim that it will “open the way for new public parks, increased access to the Embarcadero Waterfront, hundreds of construction jobs, new sustainable residential housing and funding for new affordable housing.”

There’s nothing the public will get from Prop. B that it won’t get from Prop. C or the already approved 8 Washington project. Nothing. Same parks, same jobs, same housing, same funding formulas. But the developer would get an unprecedented free pass, with the measure barring discretionary review by the Planning Department — which involves planners using their professional judgment to decide if the developer is really delivering what he’s promising — forcing them to rubber-stamp the myriad details still being developed rather than acting as advocates for the general public.

“This measure would also create a new ‘administrative clearance’ process that would limit the Planning Director’s time and discretion to review a proposed plan for the Site,” is how the official ballot summary describes that provision to voters.

Proponents of the measure also claim “it empowers voters with the decision on how to best utilize our waterfront,” which is another deception. Will you be able to tweak details of the project to make it better, as the Board of Supervisors was able to do, making a long list of changes to the deal’s terms? No. You’re simply being given the opportunity to approve a 34-page initiative, written by crafty attorneys for a developer who stands to make millions of dollars in profits, the fine details of which most people will never read nor fully understand.

Ballot box budgeting is bad, but ballot box regulation of complex development deals is even worse. And if it works here, we can all expect to see more ballot measures by developers who want to write their own “special use district” rules to tie the hands of planning professionals.

When we ask proponents of this measure why they needed Prop. B, they claimed that Prop. C limited them to just talking about the project’s building height increases, a ridiculous claim for a well-funded campaign now filling mailers and broadcast ads with all kinds of misleading propaganda.

With more than $1 million and counting being funneled into this measure by the developer and his allies, this measure amounts to an outrageous, shameless lie being told to voters, which Mayors Ed Lee and Gavin Newsom have shamefully chosen to align themselves with over the city they were elected to serve.

As we said, people can differ on how they see certain development deals. But we should all agree that it’s recipe for disaster when developers can write every last detail of their own deals and limit the ability of professional planners to act in the public interest. Don’t just vote no, vote hell no, or NO, No, no!




San Francisco’s northeastern waterfront is a special place, particularly since the old Embarcadero Freeway was removed, opening up views and public access to the Ferry Building and other recently renovated buildings, piers, and walkways along the Embarcadero.

The postcard-perfect stretch is a major draw for visiting tourists, and the waterfront is protected by state law as a public trust and overseen by multiple government agencies, all of whom have prevented development of residential or hotel high-rises along the Embarcadero.

Then along came developer Simon Snellgrove, who took advantage of the Port of San Francisco’s desperate financial situation, offered to buy its Seawall Lot 351 and adjacent property from the Bay Club at 8 Washington St., and won approval to build 134 luxury condos up to 12 stories high, exceeding the city’s height limit at the site by 62 percent.

So opponents challenged the project with a referendum, a rarely used but important tool for standing up to deep-pocketed developers who can exert an outsized influence on politicians. San Franciscans now have the chance to demand a project more in scale with its surroundings.

The waterfront is supposed to be for everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive condominiums in the city, costing an average of $5 million each. The high-end project also violates city standards by creating a parking space for every unit and an additional 200 spots for the Port, on a property with the best public transit access and options in the city.

This would set a terrible precedent, encouraging other developers of properties on or near the waterfront to also seek taller high-rises and parking for more cars, changes that defy decades of good planning work done for the sensitive, high-stakes waterfront.

The developers would have you believe this is a battle between rival groups of rich people (noting that many opponents come from the million-dollar condos adjacent to the site), or that it’s a choice between parks and the surface parking lot and ugly green fence that now surrounds the Bay Club (the owner of which, who will profit from this project, has resisted petitions to open up the site).

But there’s a reason why the 8 Washington project has stirred more emotion and widespread opposition that any development project in recent years, which former City Attorney Louise Renne summed up when she told us, “I personally feel rich people shouldn’t monopolize the waterfront.”

A poll commissioned by project opponents recently found that 63 percent of respondents think the city is building too much luxury housing, which it certainly is. But it’s even more outrageous when that luxury housing uses valuable public land along our precious waterfront, and it can’t even play by the rules in doing so.

Vote no and send the 8 Washington project back to the drawing board.




San Francisco is looking to rectify a problem consumers face every day in their local pharmacy: How can we save money on our prescription drugs?

Prop. D doesn’t solve that problem outright, but it mandates our politicians start the conversation on reducing the $23 million a year the city spends on pharmaceuticals, and to urge state and federal governments to negotiate for better drug prices as well.

San Francisco spends $3.5 million annually on HIV treatment alone, so it makes sense that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the main proponent of Prop. D, and funder of the Committee on Fair Drug Pricing. Being diagnosed as HIV positive can be life changing, not only for the health effects, but for the $2,000-5,000 monthly drug cost.

Drug prices have gotten so out-of-control that many consumers take the less than legal route of buying their drugs from Canada, because our neighbors up north put limits on what pharmaceutical companies can charge, resulting in prices at least half those of the United States.

The high price of pharmaceuticals affects our most vulnerable, the elderly and the infirm. Proponents of Prop. D are hopeful that a push from San Francisco could be the beginning of a social justice movement in cities to hold pharmaceutical companies to task, a place where the federal government has abundantly failed.

Even though Obamacare would aid some consumers, notably paying 100 percent of prescription drug purchases for some Medicare patients, the cost to government is still astronomically high. Turning that around could start here in San Francisco. Vote yes on D.




With residential and commercial property in San Francisco assessed at around $177 billion, property taxes bring in enough revenue to make up roughly 40 percent of the city’s General Fund. That money can be allocated for anything from after-school programs and homeless services to maintaining vital civic infrastructure.

Former District 4 Sup. Carmen Chu was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to serve as Assessor-Recorder when her predecessor, Phil Ting, was elected to the California Assembly. Six months later, she’s running an office responsible for property valuation and the recording of official documents like property deeds and marriage licenses (about 55 percent of marriage licenses since the Supreme Court decision on Prop. 8 have been issued to same-sex couples).

San Francisco property values rose nearly 5 percent in the past year, reflecting a $7.8 billion increase. Meanwhile, appeals have tripled from taxpayers disputing their assessments, challenging Chu’s staff and her resolve. As a district supervisor, Chu was a staunch fiscal conservative whose votes aligned with downtown and the mayor, so our endorsement isn’t without some serious reservations.

That said, she struck a few notes that resonated with the Guardian during our endorsement interview. She wants to create a system to automatically notify homeowners when banks begin the foreclosure process, to warn them and connect them with helpful resources before it’s too late. Why hasn’t this happened before?

She’s also interested in improving system to capture lost revenue in cases where property transfers are never officially recorded, continuing work that Ting began. We support the idea of giving this office the tools it needs to go out there and haul in the millions of potentially lost revenue that property owners may owe the city, and Chu has our support for that effort.




Dennis Herrera doesn’t claim to be a progressive, describing himself as a good liberal Democrat, but he’s been doing some of the most progressive deeds in City Hall these days: Challenging landlords, bad employers, rogue restaurants, PG&E, the healthcare industry, opponents of City College of San Francisco, and those who fought to keep same-sex marriage illegal.

The legal realm can be more decisive than the political, and it’s especially effective when they work together. Herrera has recently used his office to compel restaurants to meet their health care obligations to employees, enforcing an earlier legislative gain. And his long court battle to defend marriage equality in California validated an act by the executive branch.

But Herrera has also shown a willingness and skill to blaze new ground and carry on important regulation of corporate players that the political world seemed powerless to touch, from his near-constant legal battles with PG&E over various issues to defending tenants from illegal harassment and evictions to his recent lawsuit challenging the Accreditation Commission of Community and Junior Colleges over its threats to CCSF.

We have issues with some of the tactics his office used in its aggressive and unsuccessful effort to remove Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office. But we understand that is was his obligation to act on behalf of Mayor Ed Lee, and we admire Herrera’s professionalism, which he also exhibited by opposing the Central Subway as a mayoral candidate yet defending it as city attorney.

“How do you use the power of the law to make a difference in people’s lives every single day?” was the question that Herrera posed to us during his endorsement interview, one that he says is always on his mind.

We at the Guardian have been happy to watch how he’s answered that question for nearly 11 years, and we offer him our strong endorsement.




It’s hard not to like Treasurer/Tax Collector Jose Cisneros. He’s charming, smart, compassionate, and has run this important office well for nine years, just the person that we need there to implement the complicated, voter-approved transition to a new form of business tax, a truly gargantuan undertaking.

Even our recent conflicts with Cisneros — stemming from frustrations that he won’t assure the public that he’s doing something about hotel tax scofflaw Airbnb (see “Into thin air,” Aug. 6) — are dwarfed by our understanding of taxpayer privacy laws and admiration that Cisneros ruled against Airbnb and its ilk in the first place, defying political pressure to drop the rare tax interpretation.

So Cisneros has the Guardian’s enthusiastic endorsement. He also has our sympathies for having to create a new system for taxing local businesses based on their gross receipts rather than their payroll costs, more than doubling the number of affected businesses, placing them into one of eight different categories, and applying complex formulas assessing how much of their revenues comes from in the city.

“This is going to be the biggest change to taxes in a generation,” Cisneros told us of the system that he will start to implement next year, calling the new regime “a million times more complicated than the payroll tax.”

Yet Cisneros has still found time to delve into the controversial realm of short-term apartment sublets. Although he’s barred from saying precisely what he’s doing to make Airbnb pay the $1.8 million in Transient Occupancy Taxes that we have shown the company is dodging, he told us, “We are here to enforce the law and collect the taxes.”

And Cisneros has continued to expand his department’s financial empowerment programs such as Bank on San Francisco, which help low-income city residents establish bank accounts and avoid being gouged by the high interest rates of check cashing outlets. That and similar programs are now spreading to other cities, and we’re encouraged to see Cisneros enthusiastically exporting San Francisco values, which will be helped by his recent election as president of the League of California Cities.




With just six months on the job after being appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, Sup. Katy Tang faces only token opposition in this race. She’s got a single opponent, accountant Ivan Seredni, who’s lived in San Francisco for three years and decided to run for office because his wife told him to “stop complaining and do something,” according to his ballot statement.

Tang worked in City Hall as a legislative aide to her predecessor, Carmen Chu, for six years. She told us she works well with Sups. Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener, who help make up the board’s conservative flank. In a predominantly Chinese district, where voters tend to be more conservative, Tang is a consistently moderate vote who grew up in the district and speaks Mandarin.

Representing the Sunset District, Tang, who is not yet 30 years old, faces some new challenges. Illegal “in-law” units are sprouting up in basements and backyards throughout the area. This presents the thorny dilemma of whether to crack down on unpermitted construction — thus hindering a source of housing stock that is at least within reach for lower-income residents — look the other way, or “legalize” the units in an effort to mitigate potential fire hazards or health risks. Tang told us one of the greatest concerns named by Sunset residents is the increasing cost of living in San Francisco; she’s even open to accepting a little more housing density in her district to deal with the issue.

Needless to say, the Guardian hasn’t exactly seen eye-to-eye with the board’s fiscally conservative supervisors, including Tang and her predecessor, Chu. We’re granting Tang an endorsement nevertheless, because she strikes us as dedicated to serving the Sunset over the long haul, and in touch with the concerns of young people who are finding it increasingly difficult to gain a foothold in San Francisco.

Tim’s San Francisco


Longtime Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond, who left the paper in June, is launching a new media project, continuing more than 30 years of work as one of San Francisco’s premier progressive voices by starting an online publication under a new nonprofit organization.

The San Francisco Progressive Media Center promises to deliver original news, arts, and cultural reporting on a daily basis, differentiating itself from local blogs that serve mostly to aggregate stories written by other media outlets and offer commentary on that reporting.

“Democracy can’t survive without reporters and I want to have reporters out there covering the news everyday. San Francisco has always needed a liberal daily newspaper,” Redmond told us, predicting that online reporting outlets representing various perspectives will eventually rise to compete with the limited local coverage offered by the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.

“I will focus on all the things I care about in San Francisco,” Redmond told us, listing land use issues, housing costs, and media criticism as some examples of his interests.

Redmond has remained remarkably upbeat and positive since his clash with the San Francisco Print Media Co. — whose purchase of the Guardian he engineered last year to save the financially troubled, locally owned newspaper — ended his long run with the Guardian (see “On Guard,” June 19).

“I’m just moving on and doing my own thing. I’m excited about my new project and I’m raising a lot of money for it,” Redmond said. “I’m getting a tremendous amount of community support. I hope to have 50-60 grand on hand by the end of the month.”

To help reach that goal, Redmond and his supporters will throw a fundraiser on Sept. 26 at the El Rio. Despite being a stalwart of the left, Redmond said he’s getting support from across the ideological spectrum. “I have spent 30 years building a reputation in town as someone who doesn’t take cheap shots and I’m fair,” was how Redmond explained his broad support.

Although he’s still awaiting IRS approval of his nonprofit status, Redmond has already assembled a board of notable progressive luminaries to help him, including Eric Weaver, Laura Fraser, Calvin Welch, Alicia Garza, Gen Fujioka, Gabriel Haaland, and Giuliana Milanese.

“I wanted a board that reflects the diversity of San Francisco’s left,” Redmond said, noting that board explicitly has no editorial control.

Haaland said that Redmond has long been an important progressive voice in San Francisco and he’s happy to see that voice continue, particularly under the new nonprofit model that he’s creating.

“Having an independent, progressive media is more important than ever, and being a nonprofit takes it to another level of independence,” Haaland told us.

Welch said the new publication is arriving just in time to help expose important issues that will affect the future of San Francisco.

“I think we’re at a critical point in this city’s history,” Welch told us, citing the growing public unease with intensified waterfront development and other economic and sociopolitical trends. “The timing is impeccable and people would be interested to read online what Tim and others’ takes are on what’s happening in the city.”

San Francisco Progressive Media Center will be the latest effort to expand the city’s media landscape amid the downsizing of the once-dominant Chronicle and Examiner (see “Media experiments,” 5/25/10). Those ventures have included the San Francisco Public Press, SF Appeal, and the Bay Citizen, which had a high-profile launch in 2009 followed by being folded into the Center for Investigative Reporting last year (see “Compressing the press,” 2/22/12).

Redmond is finalizing details of his new project and has yet to announce the name for his new publication, which he plan to launch next month. [UPDATE: At the Sept. 26 event, Redmond announced that his new publication will be called 48 Hills: The Secrets of San Francisco.” There are 47 named hills in San Francisco – and as those of us who have spent their lives fighting for social and economic justice know, there’s always one more hill to climb.“]

In the meantime, he’s been blogging at Tim’s San Francisco ( and preparing to teach an investigative reporting class at City College of San Francisco. On the new site, Redmond plans to feature some video and other multimedia content, but he said “this is not a techie venture, this is a content-driven venture.” And while seeking to showcase a variety of voices, Redmond will set the tone for the publication, telling us, “I’m interested in working with anyone in this city, but I’m the editor.”

Redmond said he still supports the Guardian, even if he has concerns about its parent company’s growing list of media holdings, which also includes the San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly, and a large share of the Bay Area Reporter. Redmond said that media consolidation works for the community only when there is a diversity of other voices.

“I’m glad Todd [Vogt, CEO of San Francisco Print Media Co.] bought the Guardian and kept it going, and I’m glad the Guardian is still alive,” Redmond said. “I’ve been working for someone else my whole life…and it’s time for me to move on and do something new.”

Press Up! San Francisco Progressive Media Center fundraiser and launch party. Fiery speeches, refreshments, music. Sept. 26, 6-9pm, El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. Donations of $25, $50, $100, or $250 can be made at the door or at

Blow your mind


SEX Examples of Americans’ obsession with sex abound. It seemed the mainstream media would never get over Miley Cyrus’ ostentatious twerking at the Video Music Awards. Politician Anthony Weiner managed to live down his sexting scandal, only to mar his comeback with still more sexting. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” broke records for its searing popularity, but its rape-y message inspired a feminist parody, substituting the lyrics “you’re a good girl” with “you’re a douchebag.”

One researcher in the field of human sexuality estimates that 95 percent of all the sexual activity humans have — in every society — is for pleasure, not for reproduction. Despite the fact that almost everyone is apparently having sex for the sake of sex, we still live in a country where certain public schools stick to abstinence-only sex education with zero information about birth control. Meanwhile, right-wing opposition to women’s reproductive rights threatens to send laws governing access to abortion and contraceptives hurtling back to the Dark Ages.

Given the ongoing cultural clash, it’s fitting that San Francisco — famous for its sexual institutions like the Folsom Street Fair,, Good Vibrations, and the Lusty Lady (may she rest in peace) — is poised to lead the way in offering one of the only Ph.D. programs in human sexuality nationwide.

San Francisco already boasts numerous pioneers in sexual education and related studies. City College of San Francisco, for example, began offering one of the first gay literature courses in the country in 1972, leading to the 1989 establishment of the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department nationwide. And the National Sexuality Resource Center at San Francisco State University was created to promote sexual literacy, with the goal of replacing misinformation about sexuality and dispelling negative attitudes with evidence-based research on sexual health, education and rights.

The newest Ph.D. program will be housed at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS,, and is scheduled to get under way in 2014. Gilbert Herdt, an anthropologist who founded SF State’s National Sexuality Resource Center and has been working in the field of human sexuality for some 35 years, is the program director.

Formerly a professor at Stanford and the University of Chicago, Herdt had long dreamed of creating a Ph.D. program with a multidisciplinary approach to human sexuality, an effort he believes would have been stymied a decade ago by political resistance.

“A lot of people are shocked when they realize there is only one Ph.D. program in the United States on human sexuality,” Herdt notes, referencing a program offered at Philadelphia’s Widener University focused on sex education. The CIIS program will be the first accredited doctoral program in human sexuality in the western United States.

It took decades for women’s studies and gender studies to be considered Ph.D.-worthy academic disciplines, Herdt points out. But when it comes to this endeavor, “there’s one big difference: Human sexuality remains a taboo in the United States.”

Consider this. In the Netherlands, Germany and France, sex education in schools can begin as early as kindergarten. Here in the US, states such as Florida still lack comprehensive programs offering in-depth information on sexually transmitted disease or contraception. It might not come as much of a surprise that Western Europe has lower rates of unwanted teen pregnancy, HIV and STDs.

Sex ed was eroded as part of a political backlash. “In the ’70s, there began to be a series of moral campaigns — some were directed against abortion … some were directed against homosexuality,” Herdt notes. “When Reagan was elected, it ushered in a whole new social campaign — and for the first time, opposition to sex education and opposition to abortion was joined, and served as a bridge to connect different groups who had previously never been working together: groups that were against gun control, groups that were against abortion rights, and groups that were against homosexuality.”

All of which has led to the current state of affairs, and as things stand, “I consider the United States one of the most backward countries when it comes to comprehensive sexual education and positive values regarding sexual behavior,” Herdt says. But he’s hoping to play a role in changing that.

The Ph.D. program at CIIS seeks to train a new generation of experts in human sexuality with a pair of concentrations. The first centers on clinical practice for contemporary practitioners, marriage and family therapists or psychiatrists. The current training requirement for clinicians on human sexuality is a measly eight hours, which “just shows the disregard that society has for sexual pleasure, and sexual wellbeing and relationship formation, and so on,” in Herdt’s view.

The second concentration centers on sexual policy leadership. Asked to identify some of the most pressing policy issues of concern to sexologists, the program director said existing gaps in comprehensive sex education is a top priority, and predicted transgender rights would intensify as a major issue. “I also feel that the Republican assault on women’s bodies, women’s contraceptive and reproductive rights — this is a huge and very dangerous area.”

Herdt became involved with CIIS through a conference called Expanding the Circle, which merges the LGBT community with individuals working in higher education from throughout the country. Prior to that, he ran the National Sexuality Resource Center at SF State. Asked why he’d looked to CIIS rather than a major university to house the program, Herdt responded, “these large premier institutions, such as Stanford and Berkeley — you know, they have many, many extremely important programs … But they do have a more traditional emphasis when it comes to disciplines.”

At CIIS, on the other hand, he found openness to the kind of academic program he envisioned. Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, columnist and author of numerous books on sex, will be a professor there along with Sean Cahill, director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute and co-author of LGBT Youth in America’s Schools.

Promoting sexual literacy is just as important of a program goal as influencing policy, Herdt said. “Americans really continue to have very sex-negative attitudes when it comes to the body, the integration of sexuality with all the elements of their lives. So many people feel that sex is fragmented in their lives, and they don’t have a holistic sense of wellbeing.”

While advancements in neuroscience, psychology and other forms of research have all served to further our understanding of sexuality, Herdt bristles at the idea that it is all hard-wired.

“I’m very much aware that Americans continue to have a view that when it comes to the important things in sexuality, they’re all hard-wired in the brain,” he says. “I do not agree with that view. I believe that the most important things in human sexuality are the things we learn in society. The values we learn, the ethics, the way we can form relationships. The way we learn to love. Or not to love, to hate. These are such tremendously important issues in human sexuality and human development.” He added, “Let’s put it in its proper way: It’s interactive.”

Fight to save City College grows teeth and bites back


Saving City College of San Francisco became a bigger battle yesterday when the California Federation of Teachers announced a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court to keep CCSF open.

The suit is directed against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which pronounced the college’s death sentence July 3 by promising to revoke its accreditation in a year, without which a school cannot receive state funding and its students cannot get federal loans. 

Now, the ACCJC finds itself the institution under investigation by the feds and even City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and the CFT lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to the accreditors. 

The CFT charged the accrediting commission with using unfair and illegal business practices in its efforts to abolish City College. When asked for a statement about the impending lawsuit, ACCJC representative Tom Lane declined to comment.

“The ACCJC must be held accountable for their reckless, irresponsible and illegal actions,” CFT President Joshua Pechtalt explained at the Sept. 23 press conference held on the steps of City Hall, where the suit was announced. More importantly, Pechtalt said, winning this lawsuit could potentially stop the closure of CCSF.

A group of students, faculty, and elected officials stood with Pechtalt on the stone steps. One by one, they enumerated the improper activities that will be the basis of their lawsuit against the ACCJC: failing to adhere to its own policies and bylaws, violations of state and federal laws, and sanctioning CCSF without just cause.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano said that the illegal behavior must stop here and now.

“The blatant lack of transparency, the loose interpretation of the rules, all seen through a lens of hubris and elitism, cannot continue,” he said. “San Francisco is our backyard and the college is our treasure.”

While Ammiano admitted that CCSF is not without its flaws and areas in need of improvement, he was quick to assert that closing the college was not the solution. “Stay out of our backyard unless you have something constructive to say,” he declared.

CCSF Student Trustee Shanell Williams assured the crowd that the lawsuit would be won. “The diverse population of the San Francisco Bay Area, including working families, single parents, new immigrants and others, depends greatly on this college being here,” she said. “If we lose City, we are going to be on our way to being an indentured, working class state.”

If the ACCJC succeeds in San Francisco, it will pave the way for identical treatment of other schools across the state, Williams said. Likewise, CCSF triumphing over the commission would be a victory for every community college in California.

Sup. David Campos also recognized the vital importance of CCSF’s continued existence. “We cannot have the American dream alive in San Francisco if City College closes,” he said. “This fight is about the soul of our city. ”

The US Department of Education has cited the ACCJC for failing to follow its own rules and procedures. A month ago, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee began investigating the commission. The following day, Herrera filed a lawsuit against the ACCJC, claiming it had illegally allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards.

A new report released by the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst on Sept. 16 detailed the economic impact to San Francisco if City College were to close. The report was requested by Supervisor Eric Mar. We’ve detailed some of the report’s findings in the infographic below. 

ccsf closure infographic 


Bill on Brown’s desk to make two-tiered system of college tuition: for the rich, and the poor


It seems that one California politician is adapting an old adage for a modern era: If at first students protest and get pepper sprayed, try, try that legislation again. 

AB 955 is a bill that would create a pilot program to raise community college tuition, allowing six allegedly overcrowded community colleges to charge the full cost of their classes during summer and winter sessions. A three-unit class would jump in cost from $138 to roughly $600, depending on the college involved. Authored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D- Santa Barbara), the bill now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature. 

The colleges in the pilot are College of the Canyons, Crafton Hills College, Long Beach City College, Oxnard College, Pasadena City College and Solano Community College.

Local community college advocates said the pilot program could crack open the door to a future where two-tiered access to community college is the norm: The rich will be able to get classes, and the poor will be crowded out. 

Those fears are prompting local San Francisco activists to join in the fray.

“AB 955 creates a system of haves and have nots,” said Shanell Williams, the student trustee of City College of San Francisco (no relation to Assemblyperson Williams). “Students that cannot afford to pay more will essentially be denied access,” she said.

Williams is a staunch advocate for education equality at City College, and led many of the rallies decrying the school’s loss of accreditation. She now plans to lead a rally against the bill here in San Francisco. But she’s not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea.

Santa Monica College tried to make a similar two-tiered system for tuition last year, offering classes that were previously closed due to lack of state funding by sticking the whole price of the class on students. Santa Monica College students were far from pleased.

Protests erupted, students were pepper sprayed, the incident became national news, and the idea was criticized across the board as class warfare. 

The students’ outrage doesn’t just stem from raised tuition, but from a broken promise. 

The idea of “open access” to classes is mandated by California’s educational master plan, which states that all students over the age of 18 should have access to community colleges and that tuition would be free. Part of the Donahoe Education Act of 1960, it was signed into law that year by Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown.

The Master Plan has eroded slowly since the 90s, and the once tuition-free UC and CSU systems now charge their students fees in excess of $3,000 a semester for full time enrollment — inflated prices which so far the community college system has resisted. Classes cost $46 per-unit at each of the 112 community colleges in California.

Assemblyman Williams  justified his bill in an op-ed for The Daily Californian, saying the idea of open access has failed as the California community college system has already shut over 500,000 students from its doors, according to data from the state community college chancellor’s office.

“Yes, $600 is more expensive than $138, but only in the short term,” Williams wrote. “What’s the cost to a student forced by the current lack of classes to have to face one to four more years of living expenses to complete his or her education? It’s a lot more than $600.”

But Jessica Jones, two-year student body president of Santa Rosa Junior College, fears that the pilot program may just be the beginning.

“Who’s to say it won’t go like wildfire across the state?” she said in comments to the Guardian. Unlike the UC and CSU students, she fears the community college students she sees everyday would have more to lose when the fees are hiked.  More often, she said, those students are “working many jobs, many have families, you’ll see less and less students able to take courses.”

It isn’t just activists who fear this will go statewide. The state chancellor of all 112 California Community Colleges, Brice Harris, has also publicly denounced the bill.

“The next time the budget goes in the tank they’ll tell (us), we can’t give it to you, tell your colleges to raise fees,” he said at a recent state meeting. “All of us who believe this is bad public policy for California are going to have to speak out forcefully with the (Brown) administration to make them understand what a huge policy change this is for the state of California,” he said. 

Jessica Jones works with the Student Senate of California Community Colleges, and though their opinion is not uniform, many student leaders statewide are organizing actions against the fee hike pilot program. Crafton Hills College, Modesto Junior College, Pasadena City College, Long Beach City College, Santa Rosa Junior College and De Anza College will all have demonstrations or engage in write-in campaigns by the end of next week.

Williams, the City College Student Trustee is organizing a demonstration in San Francisco as well. The protest will be at Powell Street BART station on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6pm. 

Changing the narrative


Three distinct players with three distinct strategies for saving City College of San Francisco showed their hands last week, all centered around the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which plans to revoke City College’s accreditation in less than a year.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the ACCJC, state lawmakers are revving up to investigate it, and City College Super Trustee Bob Agrella is doing his best to quietly meet the accreditor’s standards.

Whether any of the approaches will save the school is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: In the process of saving City College, its accreditation agency has gone from an unknown bureaucracy to a polarizing political punching bag.



Herrera threw a right hook at the ACCJC on Aug. 22, announcing his lawsuit to stop them from closing City College. It offers a scathing critique of the accreditation agency and those whose agenda it is pushing.

The ACCJC said City College failed to meet certain standards by its deadline last July, leading the agency to order its closure in exactly one year. Since then, enrollment at the college of 85,000 students plummeted and the school is fighting for its very existence. Now Herrera is saying that closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions.

Herrera’s suit alleges the ACCJC unlawfully allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards. “It is a matter of public record that the ACCJC has been an advocate to reshape the mission of California community colleges,” Herrera said at a press conference.

The agenda he said it was advocating for is the completion agenda, which was the focus of our July 9 cover story, “Who Killed City College?” Essentially, it’s the move to force community colleges to focus on only two-year transfer students at the expense of so-called “non-credit” classes, which can be lifelong learning skills or English as Second Language classes.

“There’s a reason judges aren’t advocates and advocates aren’t judges,” Herrera said. “We should have a problem when an entity charged with evaluation engages in political advocacy.”


City College avoided those reform efforts from the state for years, and Herrera alleges that the ACCJC tried to sanction City College because of that resistance.

ACCJC President Barbara Beno was not available for comment. In a statement, the agency said it was surprised to learn Herrera filed a suit against the ACCJC, and that the suit appears to be “without merit” and an attempt to “politicize and interfere with the ongoing accreditation review process.”

Herrera may be playing cowboy, guns aimed right at the ACCJC, but he also said he doesn’t want the agency to close, just to clean up its act and be accountable. But on the other side of the OK Corral, an investigation by the California Legislature is under way — and it may be sizing up a coffin for the ACCJC.



Just a day before Herrera announced his lawsuit, the California Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to investigate the accrediting commission. The audit committee is a legislative fact-finding body usually staffed by former investigative journalists, and the senators who asked for the hearing were out for the ACCJC’s blood.

“The stakes are high and the commission’s power is absolute,” Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, told the audit committee. He then outlined the danger of losing community colleges that faced closure at the hand of the ACCJC.

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, was much more direct. “Sen. Beall and I met with (ACCJC) President Barbara Beno in my office,” he said. “In all my career, in my thousands of meetings with agency individuals, representatives, secretaries, etcetera, I have never met with such an arrogant, condescending individual in her response to Sen. Beall and I. That attitude reflected in such a senior person raised huge red flags for me.”


In public comment, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-SF, noted that recently the U.S. Department of Education upheld the California Federation of Teachers’ complaints that the ACCJC process “is guilty of no transparency, little accountability, and conflict of interest.”

Then it was the ACCJC’s turn to defend itself. Beno was unable to attend, but ACCJC Vice President Krista Johns and Commissioner Frank Gornick were there instead.

Gornick defended the accrediting commission, saying it was “rigorously” evaluated every six years. Ultimately, the committee voted 10-1 to investigate a number of mysteries regarding the ACCJC: how it stacks up to the five other accrediting bodies nationwide, determining the ACCJC’s compliance with open meeting laws (it denied public access to a recent “public meeting,” also barring a San Francisco Chronicle reporter), and an evaluation of the fairness in how the agency issues sanctions.



Amid the state and city level battles over City College, one key player prefers to work quietly. Super Trustee Bob Agrella, tasked by the state to take over the power of City College’s Board of Trustees and save the college, feels his hands are tied.

“My job is to play within the rules and regulations of the ACCJC,” Agrella told the Guardian. Sitting in his office at City College’s Ocean Campus, he pointed out that the accreditation agency actually has a rule that says colleges have to be on amicable terms with the ACCJC — or else.

“One of the eligibility requirements is the college maintains good relationship with the commission,” Agrella said. Notably, if City College fails to meet its requirements, it won’t be able to keep its accreditation in its evaluation next July.

So while Herrera and JLAC can blast the ACCJC, Agrella feels like he needs to remain neutral or he could blow City College’s chances at staying open.

If he were to try battling the commission on its rules, Agrella told us, he would do it within the framework of the ACCJC’s own policies. But it’s exactly those policies that Herrera said the ACCJC is violating.

The lawsuit from Herrera’s office alleges, among other things, that the evaluating team that ACCJC sent to review City College was stacked with the school’s political enemies from a body called the California Community College Student Success Task Force, which City College loudly and publicly opposed (full disclosure: as a former City College student, I spoke against the Task Force at a hearing in January 2012, and that public testimony is cited in Herrera’s lawsuit).

The ACCJC’s president, Beno, wrote multiple letters to state agencies in support of the Task Force’s recommendations, the suit alleges. This action contradicts the ACCJC’s conflict of interest policy, according to the suit, which defines a conflict as including “any personal or professional connections that would create either a conflict or the appearance of conflict of interest.”

So if the ACCJC won’t play by the rules, shouldn’t Agrella support the actions of Herrera and JLAC to resist the ACCJC’s decree?

“In fairness to the people taking these actions, they feel time is of the essence,” Agrella said. “I just happen to, respectfully, disagree with it, because my job is not to push the (ACCJC). My job is to try to retain accreditation.”

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the ACCJC may not be the only body that will decide the fate of City College.

Chronicle: Don’t question the City College takeover, just submit to the flawed ACCJC


I have very low expectations from editorials in the San Francisco Chronicle, which generally share a worldview with the Chamber of Commerce and carry water for some powerful Establishment figure or another. But today’s editorial on City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit defending City College is so bad and illogical that it reads like an Onion parody of a Chronicle editorial.

Clearly put up to it by some of the most reactionary figures in the Mayor’s Office, Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz or one his lackeys parrot the submissive stance that Mayor Ed Lee has taken toward outsiders with corporatist agenda that have seized control of City College and sought to make a high-profile example of it.

“The city’s leaders should be calling for tough love, not coddling dysfunction. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has done just that – but, regrettably, the city attorney is going in the opposite direct [sic],” the Chronicle wrote.

And by “tough love,” they apparently mean obedient and unquestioning compliance with an obscure accrediting agency’s demand that City College slash community-based curriculum; close facilities relied on by both students and local nonprofit groups; rip up contracts with faculty and force instructors to live on part-time wages; distill course offerings down to just what serve corporations, universities, and banking interests; and other aspects of an educational agenda that hasn’t been properly vetted in public hearings or approved by any elected body.

Herrera is to be applauded for pointing out the overreach and conflicts-of-interest on the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which were also recently criticized by the US Department of Education. And we’re excited to see what Herrera uncovers during the discovery process in his lawsuit against a secretive, corporate-connected, document-shredding agency that broke its own internal rules in its treatment of City College.

The Chronicle graciously refers to these unavoidable facts in a brief paragraph, writing that the ACCJC “is not without flaws. It’s secretive, and its internal policies drew a rebuke from the U.S. Department of Education after City College faculty filed complaints about its conduct.”

But then it dimisses that and shows a suspicious incuriosity about why the ACCJC is being so secretive and what its agenda might be, instead doubling down on criticizing City College in a way that is so over-the-top that this fine institution is unrecognizable to anyone who is actually familiar with it, which Diaz and company clearly aren’t.   

“The needed changes include hiring a comptroller to organize financial controls, making sure students pay for classes, and overhauling a loose-fit governance system that puts faculty, students and staff in charge of operations with inadequate administrative controls. Lee has strongly endorsed an overhaul of City College’s ramshackle operations,” the Chronicle writes.

Unlike us here at the Guardian, where I’ve written two recent editorials in support of democracy and local control and critical of Lee and others who have been too quick to cooperate with the toppling of the locally elected Board of Trustees, the Chronicle apparently believe in more authoritarian methods of governance.

“The first repairs are now under way. The powers of the elected community college board are on hold, and a special trustee dispatched by state Community College Chancellor Brice Harris is in charge,” the Chronicle writes.

And as we report in our upcoming issue, that special trustee also has no interest in questioning the ACCJC’s process or methods or even allowing the public to review internal communications. It’s a shame that bootlickers like Lee and the Chronicle have sold out such an important local institution to their corporate masters, but luckily for San Francisco, Herrera, the California Federation of Teachers, the Guardian, other progressive media voices, and hundreds of our community partners aren’t giving up so easily, instead pushing for an open, truthful, democratic, and transparent discussion about City College’s mission and its future.

SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera sues to keep City College open


City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit today to block City College of San Francisco’s accreditation agency from closing down the school.

The accreditation agency, the Association of California Community and Junior Colleges, moved to put City College on a sanction last July that would lead to its closure in exactly one year. Since then, enrollment at the college has plummeted and the school has been in the fight for its very existence. Now Herrera is saying that closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions.

Herrera’s suit alleges the ACCJC unlawfully allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards, he said. “It is a matter of public record that the ACCJC has been an advocate to reshape the mission of California community colleges,” Herrera said, and that was the basis of his suit.

The ACCJC cannot be advocates for change in the higher education system, he said. “There’s a reason judges aren’t advocates and advocates aren’t judges,” he said. “Now we have no problem with the right of others to advocate an agenda against the open access mission… but we should have a problem with an entity charged with evaluation engages in political advocacy.”

Notably, the ACCJC wanted City College to shrink its mission, concentrating its money on students who could transfer easily to four year institutions from City College, which many advocates say would leave students learning trades, new English learners, and other disenfranchised students in the dust. You can see our coverage on that here.

Above: Text of Herrera’s suit and a press release with more information, courtesy of Sara Bloomberg, reporter for City College’s newspaper The Guardsman.


Herrera also filed an administrative action against the California Community College Board of Governors, saying they had abandoned their role as the check and balance on community colleges, and left it to a private institution that was unaccountable to the public (for full disclosure, I am named in Herrera’s suit on pages 16 and 18 for my role advocating against the Student Success Act of 2012 to the Board of Governors. I was a student at the time, not a professional reporter, and I have no personal stance on the future of the ACCJC). The Board of Governors oversees the 112 community colleges in California, the largest body of community colleges in the country. 

Alisa Messer, the faculty union president of City College, agreed that the Board of Governors should not be abdicating its policy and oversight role. 

“No outside, unaccountable agency should be making up its own rules or setting policy for our state’s colleges,” she said. 

City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman applauded action against the ACCJC.

“At this point I think it absolutely critical the ACCJC is not in the driver’s seat making these decisions, they’re not fit to do that,” he told the Guardian.

This past Tuesday City College submitted review documents to the ACCJC attesting to why it should be allowed to stay open and accredited, and Therese M. Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney, said that while they sent an order to ACCJC not to destroy documents, they had not yet obtained any documents yet. “We haven’t actually sought documents yet from the ACCJC, we asked them to not destroy documents so that we may seek them later,” she said. “Eventually we will get them.”

City College’s judges get judged


City College of San Francisco had its accreditation revoked by the Accrediting Commission of Junior and Community Colleges in July, and now the ACCJC is getting a taste of its own medicine — its own existence has been threatened over its treatment of City College.

In an Aug. 13 letter to ACCJC President Barbara Beno, the Department of Education found it out of compliance with the Education Secretary’s regulations governing accrediting agencies, as well as the ACCJC’s own internal rules.

“Therefore, we have determined that in order to avoid initiation of an action to limit, suspend or terminate ACCJC’s recognition, ACCJC must take immediate steps to correct the areas of non-compliance in this letter,” the letter reads.

The DOE found the ACCJC noncompliant in four areas: A conflict of interest because Beno’s husband served on the visiting team that evaluated City College, no clear policies on who should serve on those teams (with the letter noting the teams were stacked with administrators rather than educators), no defined distinction between “deficiencies” and “recommendations” or indication of their severity levels, and failure to give CCSF two years to correct those deficiencies, as ACCJC policies call for.

Ironically, the ACCJC has plenty of time to correct its own shortcomings. “The process in this case is that ACCJC will have an opportunity to provide information about the steps it has taken to come into compliance with the cited criteria in its response to the draft staff analysis of the agency’s petition for renewal of its recognition, which is currently under review,” DOE spokesperson Jane Glickman told the Guardian, noting that there will be a hearing in mid-December, with possible actions ranging from limiting the agency’s authority to giving it another year to come into compliance.

But she said the DOE can’t directly help City College: “The Department does not have the authority to require an agency to change any accreditation decision it has made. The agency (ACCJC) needs to amend its policies and procedures and provide documentation that it follows its amended policies and procedures to demonstrate that it is in compliance with the cited criteria.”

The California Federation of Teachers, which filed the appeal with the DOE, wants the ACCJC to reconsider its sanction of City College in light of these validated concerns over its process.

“We are gratified that the U.S. Dept. of Education agreed with us that the process was deeply flawed, and we call on the ACCJC to rescind its unprecedented decision to deny accreditation to CCSF,” CFT President Joshua Pechthalt, wrote in a press release.

But ACCJC Vice President of Policy and Research Krista Johns told us that DOE’s concerns were narrow and shouldn’t affect its actions against City College:”The overall result of the US Department [of Education]’s analysis and study of the documents presented by the CFT about the ACCJC really affirmed that we are in compliance to a very large degree with all of the many regulations that touch on accreditors.”

But it’s still an open question whether the DOE’s findings will affect the decision to revoke City College’s accreditation and turn control over the institution to a state-appointed special trustee.

“We’re still analyzing the letter. There’s a lot in there,” Paul Feist, spokesperson for the State Community College Chancellor’s Office, told us. “I don’t know if it could say there is any reprieve [for City College]. Regardless, there are a number of problems with City College that need fixing.”

But even a cursory analysis of the letter reveals something that raises suspicions about the integrity of the entire process: the DOE letter raises concerns about why the ACCJC chose to go beyond its own policies to sock it to City College.

The college’s appeal ultimately is in the hands of the new Super Trustee of City College, Bob Agrella, who acts with all of the powers of the college’s now defunct board. But Agrella has, in past interviews, agreed with the way the ACCJC is run.

“I think the way the commission operates is okay,” he told City College’s newspaper, The Guardsman. “I’ve dealt with their policies and operating procedures at other institutions where I worked that were dealing with addressing accreditation problems—not to the same degree as here at City College—and the process worked there.”

But Karen Saginor, the ex-City College academic senate president, said the DOE criticism of the process should be taken into account in the appeal of the accreditation revocation decision.

“It’s pretty exciting, that letter,” Saginor told the Guardian. “It’s recognition from an important authority that there are irregularities in the process that put us on show cause. We’ve been saying ‘it wasn’t fair.’ And we’ve been told ‘its a totally fair process, you’re just not happy because you don’t like the result.’ Now we have an important authority verifying what we’ve been saying.”

Protect local power and control


EDITORIAL There’s a growing stench of political corruption — or, at the very least, hidden agendas aimed at subverting popular will in favor of entrenched corporate interests — emanating from the Mayor’s Office these days. And it’s undermining projects and institutions that are vital to the future of San Francisco.

In the last week, a pair of important developments illuminated the shady way business gets done in San Francisco. The first instance concerned City College of San Francisco, which had its accreditation rashly revoked last month, prompting Mayor Ed Lee to enthusiastically support the disbanding of the locally elected Board of Trustees and the takeover of City College by state-appointed outsiders bent on shutting down community-based facilities and classes.

While Lee and the San Francisco Chronicle have been cheerleading this loss of local control and the corporatist agenda behind it — CCSF was criticized for resisting the narrowing of its mission to focus on job training and college prep — we at the Guardian have questioned this process and the motives behind it.

In a cover story (“Who killed City College?” July 9), editorial (“Why democracy matters,” July 23), and other coverage, we’ve highlighted how the attack on CCSF is part of national movement to focus schools on job training rather than broad-based education, and questioned the haste with which CCSF’s local leadership was usurped.

Critics mocked these concerns, as they did those of the California Federation of Teachers, which formally challenged the actions by the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, with Lee and others saying that we need to just accept the death threats against CCSF and do whatever these outsiders are asking.

So on Aug. 13, when the US Department of Education sustained the CFT appeal and found the ACCJC in violation of federal regulations and its own internal standards in its approach to City College, it validated our concerns and called into question Lee’s hair-trigger abandonment of City College’s local leaders.

Frankly, we’re puzzled by Lee’s approach to City College — from his appointment of right-wing ideologue Rodrigo Santos as a trustee last year (who subsequently got trounced in the election) to his resistance to helping the college before the state takeover — but we suspect it’s connected to Lee’s focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” to the exclusion of other issues and values.

But Lee only counts private sector jobs, not those created to serve the public interest like the thousands of jobs that would be created by CleanPowerSF, a program that Lee opposes and that his appointees to the SF Public Utilities Commission are actively subverting.

As we report in this issue, CleanPowerSF is a renewable energy program approved last year by a veto-proof majority on the Board of Supervisors, but it’s being blocked by the SFPUC’s refusal to approve the rates and sign the contracts, with commissioners raising concerns that go well beyond their purview at this point.

It’s time for Mayor Lee to start serving the people of San Francisco instead of the corporate titans and political benefactors who elevated this loyal career bureaucrat into the big chair in Room 200.


Guardian forum sparks lively discussion


We had a packed house last night for our community forum on the future of the Bay Guardian and the progressive movement in the Bay Area, with lots of great input, advice, gratitude, and just a bit of acrimony. It was even more informative and inspiring than we had hoped for and we appreciate everyone coming out and speaking so frankly.

As Sup. David Campos (who just announced his candidacy for the California Assembly) said last night, “The Bay Guardian has been the conscience of the [progressive] movement and I think it’s important for the Guardian to continue to play that role,” and that’s a role that the new generation of Guardian leaders will continue playing while also reaching out to a new generation of Guardian readers.  

We’ll have a full rundown in next week’s paper, along with an extended letters to the editor section to make up for shutting down online comments this week, so for now let me just offer a brief overview. In addition to Campos, the crowd of around 100 people included Sup. John Avalos, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and City College of San Francisco Trustees Rafael Mandelman and Chris Jackson.

The crowd also included Todd Vogt, CEO of the San Francisco Print Media Company, who got an earfull from progressive activists Gabriel Haaland, Chris Cook, and others over the abrupt departure of longtime Guardian Editor Tim Redmond in June, with concerns expressed over the Guardian’s credibility and editorial autonomy.

Both Vogt and those on the Guardian’s panel — which included (from right in the photo above) Publisher Marke Bieschke, Editor Steven T. Jones, Music Editor Emily Savage, Senior A&E Editor Cheryl Eddy, Art Director Brooke Robertson, and News Editor Rebecca Bowe — emphasized that the Guardian has full editorial autonomy and control over what we cover and how, and who we endorse. The mission of the paper — “To print the news and raise hell,” and to be an indispensible guide to Bay Area arts and culture — hasn’t changed.

We’re all still digesting everything what was said last night (both at the forum in the LGBT Center and an informal session afterwards at Zeitgeist that went late), and we will be factoring it into what we do and continuing this ongoing conversation with all of you. We also welcome everyone’s input and advice, which you can send to us at

A special thanks to Alix Rosenthal for moderating the public input — and to everyone who came — for somehow keeping the comments and questions clear, concise, and constructive.


UPDATE: Journalist Josh Wolf has written an excellent summary of the forum here at on the Journalism That Matters website. Check it out.

8/6 UPDATE: We just turned comments back on after shutting them off for a week-long experiment.

Why democracy matters


EDITORIAL There’s a troubling anti-democratic trend taking place in this country, one that’s been recently reflected everywhere from the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act to City College of San Francisco losing its accreditation and being placed under state control.

Maybe you’ve only been passively following the City College story, either because it doesn’t seem to directly affect you or simply because of mid-summer distractions, but here’s why you should care: power has been unilaterally stripped from the Board of Trustees, the people we elect to carry out our will, spend our money (including the parcel tax for CCSF that local voters overwhelmingly approved just last year), and strike the right balance between training students for jobs and universities and offering more community-based programming.

That can be a difficult balance to strike in San Francisco, with its multitude of interests and needs, and we can legitimately criticize how decisions are made or not made by this often dysfunctional board (as we’ve repeatedly done in these pages over the years). Democracy isn’t always the cleanest or most effective way to govern, but we as a country long ago decided that it’s an important experiment worth trying, and that it beats more autocratic alternatives.

But Mayor Ed Lee has been all too eager to give up on that experiment when it comes to City College, as he’s made clear in repeated public statements since the decision. Asked about the issue during the July 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, including the loss of local control over vital public assets and meeting halls, Lee once again praised the move “to save City College through a state intervention.”

Maybe that’s not a surprising position coming from a career bureaucrat who was appointed mayor with the support of powerful economic interests, but it should trouble those of us who haven’t yet given up on democracy, which is the stuff that happens between elections even more than casting ballots every couple years.

It’s about process and protests, coalitions and consensus-building, trial and error. As strange as it may seem to some, the Egyptian military’s recent removal of President Mohamed Morsi, whose unilateral dismantling of democratic mechanisms prompted widespread protests, was essentially a democratic act (albeit an imperfect choice between untenable options). That’s because that unilateral action was driven by popular will and accompanied by strong assurances to rapidly restore democratic institutions and leadership — something that has not yet happened in relation to City College.

Detroit has long been one of the most troubled big cities in the US, thanks to this country’s evaporating industrial sector and other factors. But when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder implemented a state takeover of the city in March, fully half of the state’s African-American population was denied democratic representation. And since then, Snyder and other Republican leaders have magically found the funds that could and should have been offered in the first place to bail this city out. Instead, they’ve begun packaging up Detroit for the capitalist speculators.

If we aren’t vigilant, financially troubled California cities such as Vallejo and Stockton could be next on the urban auction block, and that list could grow from there given the ability of coordinated capitalists to withdraw investments and cripple any jurisdiction that opposes their interests (as writer Naomi Klein compellingly showed in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism).

Are we being a little alarmist about the state takeover of one, small democratic institution? Maybe, but there is good reason to draw bright, clear lines in defense of our experiment in democracy. The conservative-dominated US Supreme Court has already signaled its willingness to grease this slippery slope, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, who clearly is playing the long game and will likely be quarterbacking this effort for decades to come.

As the New York Times and other legal analysts noted after the court’s latest session ended, Roberts has been carefully laying the groundwork for an undermining of democracy, even when issuing rulings that ostensibly side with the liberals, as he did in helping strike down Prop. 8.

While we in San Francisco cheered the resulting legalization of same-sex marriage, what the ruling actually did was limit the power of the people to defend decisions made through the initiative process. And earlier that week, Roberts also wrote the ruling that the racial discrimination guarded against in the Voting Rights Act no longer existed, despite aggressive current efforts by Republicans to disenfranchise African American, Hispanic, and poor voters through disingenuous voter fraud laws, scrubbing voter rolls, and other mechanisms.

It was Thomas Jefferson, the greatest advocate for democracy among our founding fathers, who said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” In other words, we lose our liberty a chunk at a time if we don’t resist those who would trade democracy for efficiency (or in the parlance of Mayor Lee, “getting things done.”).

So the loss of local control over City College is something that should not stand, and we should all put be putting pressure on Lee and other locally elected representatives to demand a clear plan for when and how this important institution will be returned to local democratic control. If the Egyptian military can do it, clearly state education officials can as well.

City College supporters protest state takeover and the agenda behind it


By Dalton Amador

Around 350 students, faculty members and other San Franciscans marched from City College’s downtown campus to the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday afternoon to protest the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s (ACCJC) decision to terminate City College’s accreditation effective July 31, 2014.

The Save CCSF Coalition sponsored the event. “We are not here to mourn, we are here to fight,” Shanell Williams, City College’s newly elected student trustee and one of the leaders of the coalition, told a cheering crowd. “ACCJC is a private, rogue group.”

The coalition sought to convince the Department of Education, which oversees the ACCJC, to immediately reverse the commission’s decision.

Behind Aztec dancers dressed in feathers and loincloths, protesters chanted “No more deception, no more lies, we don’t want to privatize” and held picket signs that read “Stop the corporate overthrow of public education at CCSF” as they marched down Market Street.

The coalition said that revoking City College’s accreditation is part of a systematic effort to undermine affordable education. Eric Blanc, one of the coalition’s leaders and a current City College student, said that the ACCJC’s decision to terminate City College’s accreditation was motivated in part by forcing would-be transfer students to take out student loans for private or for-profit universities.

“It’s clear that from the arbitrary norms the commission is using as its excuse to shut down City College that there is something much bigger going on,” he said. “(Students) are going to go to the University of Phoenix or prison.”

Williams agreed. “Where would I go?” she said, referring to a hypothetical City College student’s hope to transfer to a California State University or University of California campus without first going to a private university.  

City College Board of Trustees members Chris Jackson, Vice President Anita Grier and Rafael Mandelman addressed the crowd in front of the Department of Education.

Grier said that the “democratic process” that elected the Board of Trustees was “replaced by a feudal lord dictator,” referring to the ACCJC-appointed Special Trustee Robert Agrella, who now holds unilateral power over the board following the ACCJC’s decision. He had canceled a meeting scheduled for that day by President John Rizzo.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos also spoke, both saying that many of their constituents depend on City College. “Where is Ed Lee?” the crowd chanted spontaneously during different speakers’ addresses.

Lee did address the City College situation earlier in the day when he asked about it at the Board of Supervisors meeting, reiterating his previous statements supporting a state takeover. “It’s been a difficult decision and we had been hoping the decision of the accrediting commission would be different,” Lee said, going on to praise California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris, who Lee said, “has agreed to save City College through a state intervention.”

But on the streets, protesters rued the loss of local control and the agenda behind it.

Some independent organizations, not part of the Save CCSF Coalition, participated to show their support. Adam Wood, a firefighter of 18 years, held a sign that said, “San Francisco Firefighters support City College.”

“A lot of aspiring firefighters go through fire academy at City College,” he said. “It would be a real loss if it closed.”

City College will remain open for the following fall and spring semesters. It can ask for a review of the decision to the ACCJC. Should the ACCJC affirm its decisions, the college can appeal. The college would remain open during the appeal process.




Laborfest: CCSF’s accreditation crisis City College of San Francisco, Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia, SF. 6-8pm, free. City College serves about 85,000 students and faces threat of closure in July 2014 if its appeals to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which has threatened to revoke the school’s accreditation in a year, aren’t successful. At this forum, Marty Hittelman, former president of the California Federal of Teachers, will speak on accreditation and the ACCJC. Sponsored by Save CCSF Coalition and AFT 2121.


Laborfest panel: The press and the powerful First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF. 7-9pm, free. Gray Brechin, author of Imperial San Francisco, will join Westside Observer publisher George Wooding, former Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman, and former Bay Guardian reporter Savannah Blackwell for a panel talk on the erosion of investigative journalism in the face of commercialization and monopolization of the media.


Panel: The continuing battle for free expression Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF. 3-5pm, $12. Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem, Howl, represented a landmark in the history of freedom of speech, obscenity issues, and the censorship of literary works. This panel talk, led by Peter Maravelis of City Lights Booksellers with panelists Rebecca Farmer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Mark Rumold of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and James Wheaton of the First Amendment Project, will focus on the continuing fight against censorship today. Presented in conjunction with The Allen Ginsberg Festival and the exhibition Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.


Green renters expo Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave, Berk. 7-9pm, free. Who says you have to own a home to live a green and energy efficient lifestyle? The Bay Area offers a myriad of resources for renters who wish to green their living spaces with efficiency upgrades, which can also help save money. Representatives from Rising Sun Energy Center, Community Energy Services Corps, the City of Berkeley Recycling Program,, the Ecology Center and others will be on hand to offer presentations, tips and advice, and to answer questions.


Who killed City College?

The day City College of San Francisco heard it would close was the same day, July 3, that 19-year-old Dennis Garcia signed up for his fall classes.

With a manila folder tucked under his arm, he turned the corner away from the registration counter and strode by a wall festooned with black and white sketches of every City College chancellor since 1935, including a portrait of bespectacled founder Archibald Cloud. In a meeting room on the other side of that wall, the college’s current administrators were receiving the verdict from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

It was their worst fears of the past year realized: City College’s accreditation was being revoked. Accreditation is necessary for the college to receive state funding, for students to get federal loans, and for the degree to be worth more than the paper it’s printed on.

Unbeknownst to Garcia, he walked out of the building just as the college received its death sentence, which is scheduled to be carried out next July unless appeals now underway offer a reprieve. In the interim, CCSF will essentially be a ward of the state, stripped of the local control it has enjoyed since Cloud’s days.

Just a few blocks down Ocean Avenue is the nerve center of City College’s teachers union. Housed in a flat above a Laundromat, the scent of freshly washed clothes wafted up the staircase to an office that instantly became a flurry of ringing phones and rushed voices.

Only an hour later, 10 or so union volunteers were calling their members, contacting nearly 1,600 City College faculty whose responses ranged from sad to furious. The volunteers read them bulleted factoids about accreditation and a call to join an upcoming protest march.

But the woes of City College reach deeper than a three line script could ever cover, and can be traced back to the oval office itself, leading to a really odd question: Did President Obama kill City College?




When the president trumpeted education in his 2012 State of the Union speech, he sounded an understandable sentiment. “States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” Obama told the nation. “And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

But the specifics of how to cut costs were outlined by years of policymaking and a State of the Union supplement sheet given to the press.

The president’s statement said that they will determine which colleges receive aid, “either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results.”

The emphasis is ours, but the translation is very simple: College accreditation agencies can either enforce the administration’s numbers-based plan or be replaced. The president’s college reform is widely known and hotly debated in education circles. Commonly known as the “completion agenda,” with an emphasis on measurable outcomes in job placement, it had its start under President George W. Bush, but Obama carried the torch.

The idea is that colleges divest from community-based programs not directly related to job creation or university degrees, and use a data measurement approach to ensure two-year schools transfer and graduate students in greater numbers. “Community colleges” would quickly become “junior colleges,” accelerating a slow transition that began many years ago.

But its critics say completion numbers are screwy: They discount students who are at affordable community colleges just to learn a single skill and students who switch schools, administrator Sanford Shugart of Valencia College in Florida wrote in an essay titled “Moving the Needle on College Completion Thoughtfully.”

Funding decisions made from completion numbers affect millions of students nationwide — and CCSF has now become the biggest laboratory rat in this experiment in finding new ways to feed the modern economy.

“I think there was a general consensus that the country is in a position that, coming out of the recession, we have diminished resources,” Paul Feist, spokesperson for the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, told us. “Completion is important to the nation — if you talk to economic forecasters, there’s a huge demand for educated workers. Completion is not a bad thing.”

Like dominoes, the federal agenda and Obama’s controversial Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tipped the Department of Education, followed by the ACCJC, and now City College — an activist school in an activist city and an institution that openly defied the new austerity regime.



In the ACCJC’s Summer 2006 newsletter, Brice Harris — then an accreditation commissioner, now chancellor of the state community college system — described the conflict that arose when colleges rallied against completion measurements established by the federal government.

“In the current climate of increased accountability, our regional accrediting associations find that tight spot to be more like a vice,” Harris wrote.

Many of the 14 demands the ACCJC made of City College trace back to the early days of Obama’s administration, when local trustees resisted slashing the curriculum during the Great Recession.

“There’s a logic to saying ‘We don’t want to put students on the street in the middle of a recession,'” said Karen Saginor, former City College academic senate president. “If you throw out the students, you can’t put them in the closet for two years and bring them back when you have the money.”

And they have a lot of students — more than 85,000. Like all community colleges in California, the price of entry is cheap, at $46 a unit and all welcome to attend. But since 2008, the system was hammered with budget cuts of more than $809 million, or 12 percent of its budget.

So programs were cut, including those for seniors, ex-inmates re-entering society, or young people enrolling to learn Photoshop or some other skill without committing to a four-year degree.

“As the recession hit, the Legislature instructed the community college system [to] prioritize basic skills, career technical, and transfer,” Feist said. “That’s to a large extent what we did. That was the reshaping of the mission of that whole system.”

It’s easy to cast the completion agenda as a shadowy villain in a grand dilemma, but as Feist or anyone on the federal level would note, people were already being pushed out of the system, to the tune of more than 500,000 students since the 2008-09 academic year due to the budget crisis. Course offerings have been slashed by 24 percent, according to the state chancellor’s office.

But City College would only go so far. Then-Chancellor Don Q. Griffin raised the battle cry against austerity and the completion agenda at an October 2011 board meeting, his baritone voice sounding one of his fullest furies.

“It was obvious to me when I heard Bush … and then Obama talking about the value of community colleges … they’re going to push out poor people, people of color, people who cannot afford to go anywhere else except the community college,” he said.

But when it came to paying for that pushback, things got tricky.

“No more of this bullshit, that we turn the other way and say it’s fine. We’re going to concentrate the money on the students,” Griffin said at a December 2011 board meeting. “You guys are talking about cutting classes, we don’t believe in that. Cut the other stuff first, cut it until it hurts, and then talk about cutting classes.”

So he slashed his own salary and lost staff through attrition and other means. The college had more than 70 administrators before 2008, and it now has fewer than 40.

“Since the recession in 2009, we’ve been seen as the rebels,” said Jeffrey Fang, a former student trustee on City College’s board. “When most of the colleges went and made cuts in light of the recession, we decided to find ways to keep everything open while doing what we could to eliminate spending.”

But those successes in saving classes put City College on a collision course with its accreditor.



Seven years ago, the ACCJC found six deficiencies that it asked City College to fix, finding it had too many campuses serving too many students, fiscal troubles, and hadn’t enforced measurement standards. Last year, it faulted City College for resisting those changes and tacked on eight additional demands, threatening to revoke its accreditation.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official who worked closely with ACCJC as a member of one of the visiting accreditation teams told us there was pressure to crack down on all the Western colleges.

“The message they’re hearing from (ACCJC President) Barbara Beno is that Washington is demanding, ‘Why are you not being more strict with institutions with deficiencies that have lasted more than two years [and taking action] to revoke their accreditation?'” the source said.

This official said this may soon ripple to other accreditation agencies. “What’s anomalous about California is we’re getting to where everyone will be in a few years.”

The ACCJC’s next evaluation is this December, where it will be reviewed by the Department of Education. It wants to be ready, says Paul Fain, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, a national trade publication.

“Washington writ large … is pushing very hard on accreditors to drive a harder line,” Fain told us. “There’s a criticism out there that accreditation is weak and toothless.”

The U.S. Department of Education declined to comment on the issue, saying only that it will formally respond to all officially filed complaints about ACCJC.

But the numbers speak volumes. As an ACCJC newsletter first described federal pressure back in 2006, seven community colleges in California were on probation or warning by the ACCJC. By 2012 that number leapt to 28.

But the California Federation of Teachers is fighting back, and recently filed a 280-page complaint about the ACCJC with the Department of Education.

The allegations were many: Business conflict of interest from a commission member, failure to adhere to its own policies and bylaws, and even the commission President Beno’s husband having served on City College’s visiting team, which the unions said is a clear conflict of interest.

Some people think it’s a waste of time, that City College has already lost.

“That process of fighting accreditation won’t succeed, it just forestalls the problem,” said Bill McGinnis, a trustee on Butte College’s board for over 20 years. He’s also served on many ACCJC visiting teams.

But the unions are making some headway. The Department of Education wrote a letter to the ACCJC telling them to respond in full to the complaints by July 8, as this article goes to press. The accreditor will soon be the one evaluated.



In the meantime, City College has exactly one year to reverse its fortunes: The loss of accreditation doesn’t actually kick in until July, 2014. A special trustee appointed by the state will be granted all the powers of the locally elected City College Board of Trustees to get with the federal program. Without voting power, the elected body is effectively castrated.

No one knows what that will mean for the college board, not even Mayor Ed Lee, who issued a statement supporting the state takeover and criticizing local trustees for not cutting enough. “The ACCJC is fundamentally hostile to elected boards and they’ve made that clear,” City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman told us. “The Board of Trustees should and may look at all possible legal options around this.”

Although officials say classes will proceed as normal for the next year, some aren’t waiting around to see if City College will survive.

At its last board meeting, the CCSF Board of Trustees grappled with how to address dwindling enrollment. As news of its accreditation troubles spread, City College has been under-enrolled by thousands of students, exacerbating its problems. Since the state funds colleges based on numbers of students, City College’s funding is plummeting by the millions.

A frightening statistic: When Compton College lost its accreditation in 2005 and was subsequently absorbed by a neighboring district, it lost half its student population, according to state records.

Even the faculty is having a hard time hanging on, said Alisa Messer, the college’s faculty union president.

“People are looking for jobs elsewhere already. Despite everyone’s dedication to see the college through, it has tried everyone and stretched them to the limit,” she told us.

The college has two hopes — that the CFT wins its lawsuit and can reverse the ACCJC decision, or that the new special trustee can somehow turn the college around by next July. But either way, something will be lost. “City College is definitely changing,” Saginor said. “What it will change into, and if those changes will be permanent, that I don’t know.”

Opponents of City College takeover to march through SF


Opponents of last week’s decision to revoke the accreditation of City College of San Francisco and place the district under state control until that death sentence becomes official in July 2014 plan to rally and march through San Francisco today [Tues/9] at 4pm.

The procession will begin at the CCSF’s downtown campus at 88 Fourth Street and end outside the U.S. Department of Education — whose policy of coercing colleges to focus on job training and university prep led to the crackdown on CCSF, as we report in tomorrow’s Guardian — at 50 Beale Street.

Among the local officials who will join the march are Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Central Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, and Alisa Messer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, who this morning issued statements condemning the decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

“This decision is nothing less than an attack on the people of San Francisco,” Ammiano said. “All of us benefit from having this great 78-year-old institution, whether we take courses or not. San Francisco voters recognized that at the polls just last fall when they passed Proposition A to support the college financially. In addition, the appointment of a state official to manage the school takes away the local voice of CCSF’s duly elected trustees.”

“The quality of education at City College is not in question,” said Messer, who is also an English teacher at the college. “For the last year this institution has turned itself upside down to address the recommendations of the Commission, with employees putting in thousands of hours of effort and making huge sacrifices. To be told at the end of this process that the effort has had no impact is simply outrageous.”

“City College is vital and has made major progress in turning around many of the shortcomings identified by the Commission,” said Paulson. “The actions of the ACCJC – an organization accountable to no one — have unnecessarily put at risk the livelihoods of the nearly 2,500 hard-working men and women at the college. What’s more, their move to deny CCSF accreditation has imperiled the future of San Francisco’s working people, who rely heavily on a CCSF education for workforce training, language learning, and a pathway to better futures for themselves and their communities.”

“The Accrediting Commission’s handiwork has not improved educational quality at CCSF,” said Messer. “We want a stronger, better college, but in many instances direction from the ACCJC has moved us in the wrong direction. The Accrediting Commission should be accountable for the impact of its actions.”

 “The accrediting agency has only worked half-heartedly to support City College, and instead seems bent on tearing it down,” Ammiano said. “The decision needs to be reversed so we can all go to work building on the successes and fixing the few problems, instead of spending our time starting over from scratch because the school was destroyed by naysayers.”