D5 shakeups flip the dynamics of that wild race


[UPDATED AND CORRECTED] Wild and unsettling political dynamics have rocked the District 5 supervisorial race, with three major candidates having prominent endorsements withdrawn, the most significant being this week’s mass exodus of support from the campaign of Julian Davis following his bad handling of allegations that he has mistreated women.

Those withdrawing their endorsements of Davis since Saturday include Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, and Jane Kim, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, and the League of Pissed-Off Voters. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has scheduled a vote for Monday on whether to withdraw its sole endorsement of Davis.

Avalos gave his endorsement to Sup. Christina Olague over the weekend, and she seems to be getting more progressive support in the wake of Davis’ flame-out and her Oct. 9 vote in favor of reinstating Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. That vote triggered a strong backlash against Olague from Mayor Ed Lee and his allies, with San Francisco Police Officers Association withdrawing its endorsement.

But former Mayor Art Agnos reached out to Olague – who he didn’t know previously – after the Mirkarimi vote and is rumored to be considering offering her his endorsement and support. Agnos didn’t confirm or deny the rumor, but he did tell us, “I was very impressed by her commitment to the progressive issues we share.”

Olague has a long history of progressive activism and was a consistently good vote during her tenure on the Planning Commission, but many progressives were concerned by her early support for Lee, who then appointed her to the District 5 seat vacated by Mirkarimi’s election as sheriff, and by some of her votes and behaviors since then.

But now that she’s been viciously attacked by Lee’s staffers and allies over the Mirkarimi vote – and iced out by Lee himself, who she says won’t return her calls and who bailed out on a planned campaign appearance – Olague seems to have a newfound independence. “At the end of the day, we serve constituents and the city, and that’s who we should answer to,” Olague told us, agreeing that she feels freed up by recent developments, as difficult as they’ve been. “You don’t become an indentured servant.”

She told us that her decision last year to co-chair the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign to convince Lee to break his promise and run for a full term to the office he’d been appointed to was based on her belief that “we’d see an infusion of new energy and some more diversity” of both ideology and demographics in the Mayor’s Office.

“Sadly, I’m not seeing those changes happening really. I didn’t sign up for another four years of Gavin Newsom and those thugs, and I’ve seen a lot of that same behavior,” she said. “People who played prominent roles in the Newsom administration continue to play prominent roles in this administration.”

Olague said the schism with the administration began this summer when she supported Avalos in trying to bring in new revenue as part of the business tax reform measure that became Prop. E, which Lee had insisted be revenue neutral before compromising with progressives. That was when Olague said she got her first nasty message from Tony Winnicker, the former Newsom press secretary who now works for Lee and wrote Olague a text during the Mirkarimi hearing telling her “you disgust me and I will work night and day to defeat you.”

Some prominent progressives privately worried that schism was an election ploy designed to help Olague win the race for this progressive district given that Davis had captured most of the influential progressive endorsements. But with Lee and his allies continuing to be openly livid over the Mirkarimi vote – and with solid progressive John Rizzo running a lackluster campaign that has less than $5,000 in the bank – there is growing progressive support for Olague.

The big fear among many progressives is that London Breed will win the race, a concern that has been exacerbated by the support that Breed has been receiving from real estate and development interests, both directly and in independent expenditures by the Association of Realtors, which has spent more than $225,000 in this election cycle hoping to knock out progressives in Districts 1 and 5 and tip the balance of power on the board.

Breed told us that she doesn’t know the Realtors or why they’re offering such strong support, pledging to be an independent vote. “I’ve never made any promises to anyone that I would help anyone or that I would be this way or that,” she told us. “I’m not here to do anyone’s bidding, whether it’s Aaron Peskin or Willie Brown or anyone else.”

Brown helped launch Breed’s political career by [CORRECTED recommending then-Mayor Gavin Newsom] appoint her to the Redevelopment Commission, where Breed supported Lennar and other big developers, but she had a falling out with him earlier this year and made impolitic comments about him to the Fog City Journal, causing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to withdraw her endorsement of Breed.

Brown, Lee, and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak helped raise money for Olague, who has received the maximum $500 donation from such powerful inside players as venture capitalist Ron Conway (and his wife, Gayle), Michael Cohen, Victor Makras, Lawrence Nibbi, Mark Mosher, and John Whitehurst.

But that was before the Mirkarimi vote, which Lee’s allies seem to see as a litmus test on Olague’s loyalty to them. As Tenderloin Housing Clinic director Randy Shaw, who helped engineer the progressive split that brought Lee to power, put it on his Beyond Chron blog, “Olague’s vote was an act of profound disloyalty not only to the mayor who appointed her, but also to those who pushed the mayor to do so.”

Olague says she’s disturbed by that viewpoint, and by those so blinded by their efforts to demonize Mirkarimi “and exploit and politicize issues around domestic violence” that they have failed to consider the price he has already paid for his actions or the legal standards for removing an elected official. “On something like this, it’s not a question of loyalty. It’s about principles,” she said.

Breed says that she has seen an increase in support since the Mirkarimi vote and the Davis meltdown, but she said that she doesn’t want to talk about those cases or exploit them politically. “I don’t take pleasure in the misery of someone else,” she said, adding her hope that the furor about Mirkarimi will die down. “The decision has been made and it’s time for the city to come together.”

Progressive leaders have made similar calls, but Mirkarimi’s critics are showing no signs of letting the issue go. San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee members Zoe Dunning and Matt Dorsey have put forward a resolution condemning the reinstatement vote and calling for Mirkarimi’s ouster, which the DCCC will consider on Wednesday evening, Oct. 24.

[CORRECTED At that meeting, the DCCC will also consider a motion] to reopen the D5 endorsement process, hoping to change the DCCC’s previous “no endorsement” vote, and sources tell us there is currently a strong backroom effort to give the endorsement to Breed. That vote will be a big test for progressives, which lost their majority control over the DCCC in the June elections.

Meanwhile, D5 candidate Thea Selby – who snagged one of the three endorsements by both the Guardian and the Examiner – continues to run a strong and well-funded campaign that has avoided the carnage taking place in the other campaigns. “I feel like I’m in the middle watching out for flying beams,” she told us, adding that both she and Rizzo have been “the grown-ups in the room, so there’s an opportunity there and I’m hopeful.”

But unlike Rizzo, who has seems strangely absent and didn’t return Guardian phone calls [see UPDATE below], Selby has plenty of money in the bank – nearly $60,000 as of the last official report two weeks ago – and could benefit from voter disgust with the ugly politics at play. “It’s my experience that is driving this,” says this small-businessperson, “and not my lifelong desire to be a politician, and that may ring some bells.”

How the ranked-choice voting system will play out in this mess is anyone’s guess, and even Davis seems to be hoping that he still has a shot, resisting calls by the Guardian and others to withdraw from the race. Poorly funded candidates Andrew Resignato and Hope Johnson this week announced they were joining forces for the “People’s Ticket” after being excluded from a University of San Francisco candidates forum.

But most political observers seem to think this race will come down to a two-person contest between Breed and Olague – who each have more than $45,000 in the bank with which to make a strong final push – and the distinctions between them are becoming clearer as more progressives get behind Olague and the moderates and monied interests get behind Breed.

Olague said she’s still “willing to work with anybody,” but that, “I’m worried that moderate forces will seize this moment to try to destroy us.”

UPDATE 4:45: Rizzo just got back to us and said he’s been actively campaigning and feeling good about his chances. “We have a great team and we’ll have enough resources to reach voters,” Rizzo said. He said that he’s had a stong fundraising push in the last couple weeks since the last campaign financing statement was released, and he noted his endorsements and active support by influential progressives including Ammiano, Campos, and Carole Migden. “We’re doing a lot of retail campaigning, meeting voters and getting the message out.”

Win tickets to see First Aid Kit tonight, Wed/17, at the Fillmore!


First Aid Kit are a Swedish duo comprised of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Hailing from suburban Enskede, the siblings began composing songs as young teenagers in 2007. The home-recorded “Tangerine” enjoyed airplay on Swedish radio later that summer, and the debut EP Drunken Trees helped expand the girls’ audience upon its release in April 2008. The London-based Wichita Records reissued Drunken Trees one year later, bolstering its track list with a reverent Fleet Foxes cover and three additional songs performed live in a Swedish forest. The duo then set to work on a full-length album, balancing schoolwork with the recording sessions. The Big Black & the Blue was released in 2010, followed by Lion’s Roar in early 2012. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi

See First Aid Kit perform tonight for free! Email your full name to with the band’s name in the subject. One lucky winner will receive confirmation via email at 3pm today, Wed/17!

Live Shots: Treasure Island Music Festival 2012


Music nerds talk lineups the way sports fans manage fantasy teams, particularly with festivals, where suddenly strategy becomes a part of catching a show. Treasure Island Music Festival, is sort of an exception, since in theory you can catch every single act, given the two alternating stages. At the same time, this means that unless you head to the silent disco or take a nap, one of those geeks will be standing behind you during a set, obsessively talking about how the lineup should be slotted differently.

Day 1
SF’s Dirty Ghosts had the challenging task of being a rock band opening the festival on the traditional hip-hop/electronic day. K. Flay followed, and told the crowd “I know it’s early, but we can still party,” and the local MC proceeded to give a hair tossing performance that had her drummer breaking a snare. It was a decent lead in for Oakland’s the Coup. Boots Riley has been off my radar for a bit, but it appears our ambassador of P-funked rap has been keeping more than his afro tight – pulling from now-more-appropriate-than-ever classics like “5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O” and the upcoming Sorry to Bother You.

At 2:31pm, a guy in a tie-dye Quicksilver shirt was vomiting near where Grimes was playing: the festival had started. Like Matthew Dear and Porter Robinson, Grimes is a returning acts from this year’s Noise Pop. Maybe it was just her bandmate’s flowing iridescent ponchos, but Grimes’ sound seemed lighter than at the Rickshaw Stop. I decided I preferred this side of Grimes, but the Euro bubblegum quality of the creepily infantile “Phone Sex” was pushing it. Matthew Dear seemed out of place in full sun on the Bridge Stage, fog machines pumping. His set was similar to what I heard at Public Works, but progressed slowly. Nearing the end of his set the band got into a groove with “You Put a Smell on Me” but it’ was a little late.

Toro y Moi sounded just like when I saw it a couple years back, but would probably have fit in better somewhere on Sunday. Near the end you could hear a DJ on the other stage playing snippets and raising the crowd, partly using soundcheck to hype for Public Enemy. When actually starting, Chuck D arrived on stage, introducing the whole support crew but saved Flavor Flav for last.

The hyperbolic performance took me back to a time before reality TV. Chuck D was outspoken (Fuck BET. Fuck urban radio. Fuck Viacom.) but used time well. Flavor was Flavor, and rambled for five minutes after his time is up. AraabMusik, waiting on the Tunnel Stage didn’t seem to mind: he gave an impressive, sample stuttering finger drumming MPC performance, after having a smoke with his crew.

At 6:01 I saw the guy who’d been throwing up earlier, walking arm in arm with a girl, both smiling and probably holding each other up.

Things started to blur, the time between switching stages seemed to decrease. Porter Robinson left no impression on me. Tycho sounded like a person making slow, thoughtful love to a synthesizer, but whereas it could have been a great lead-in to the xx, suffered from being between Robinson and a high energy performance from the Presets.

Speaking of which, I’ve had an aversion to the Presets (largely stemming from issues I have with Australian pop), but their performance, particularly “If I Know You” won me over. An awkward soundcheck delay for the following band, SBTRKT, meant the worst thing I could say about it is that it felt too short. Producer Aaron Jerome and singer Sampha played to their strengths, closing with “Wildfire” and having what seemed like the whole crowd leaning back and strutting like they were the sexiest, smoothest motherfuckers on the field.

Girl Talk opened with the awesome (and oft utilized) “International Player’s Anthem” by UGK before quickly triggering “Dancin’ in the Dark.” I hear the Boss at least once more before I leave twenty minutes later. I’m sure there was confetti.  

Day 2

Between openers Imperial Teen and Joanna Newsom, things were rather low-key, just all around relaxing, emotional, sunny music (including my returning favorites, Hospitality.) The crowd trickled in steadily and the field fills up with blankets faster than the day before. It’s a rather sedate afternoon, aside from one thing.

Who scheduled Ty Segall – noted garage thrasher, guitar mangler, and kick drum stomper – in that mid-afternoon slot? Love the dude, he sounded great, but he was not much appreciated outside the pit. The blanket crowd? It didn’t dig that. Particularly right between Youth Lagoon’s indie emo Bob Dylan and Gavin’s second cousin. That’s prime time nap time, especially when the first half of Joanna Newsom’s performance can’t be heard past the soundbooth. (Seriously, can Nap Time with Joanna Newsom be a real thing? On Nick Jr. after Yo Gabba Gabba?) The collective bombast of Los Campesinos picked things up – back to back with Segall would have been a hell of a way to wake up.

And bake up. Because Best Coast was playing with the sun going down. When this festival is at its best, the music and the environment seem to play into one another, and from there out, it basically went perfect. I haven’t seen the band since a sloppy show at Regency Ballroom with Wavves a few years back. The basic sound is still the same – beachy guitar pop with a stony edge – but has developed since then. Part of it’s lineup changes, as the new drummer is a lot tighter than before (and has easily the loudest snare of the weekend), part of it’s just improvement. Bethany Consentino apologized for singing a slow song, but there’ was no reason. She can definitely carry a ballad now.

Anticipation iwas high for Divine Fits, the “supergroup” featuring Dan Boeckner, Britt Daniels, and Sam Brown. Mainly I’m sure because a lot of fans were there for the Bay Area debut, but also because of the glorious, Hollywood matte painting skyline waiting for them behind the Tunnel Stage. As soon as they hit the chorus of “Baby Get Worse,” complete with the ’80s throwback keyboard, I was sold. Halfway through the set someone up front was apparently amped enough for Boeckner to ask, “Dude, are you on PCP?” Elsewhere in the crowd people pleasantly remarked, “Hey, this sounds like Spoon.”

Previously I’d thought the crowd seemed thicker due to all the blankets, but when I walked back towards the Bridge Stage, I realizes that simply way more people turned out for some combination of the last three bands.

M83 – returning to the Bay for the first time since their sold out Fillmore shows in the spring – opened with an alien, had lots of lasers, and played that one song. One thing I now know for sure: it is possible to play percussion while doing the running man.

The last act on the Tunnel Stage, Gossip was one of the only real surprises for me this festival. Punk diva Beth Ditto opened by welcoming the audience to comedy night, later commenting that the band hadn’t toured the US in three years, because the Euro is stronger. Crowded at the front of the stage were possibly the most intense fans I saw all weekend, clearly attached not only to Ditto’s vocal talent, but also her empowering, Aretha Franklin-esque sense of Pride. Pointing to the already crowded photo pit, Ditto said cruelly, “I wish there was a lot less space. And a lot more photographers.”

You couldn’t really have more photographers than there were in the pit at the end of the night for the xx, stopping in the Bay Area for the last festival date on their current tour, supporting the sophomore album Coexist.

It was clear that in their live performance the xx tries to capture the same sort of intimacy as their albums, with a stark and stripped down stage and singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim in the front. Either singer could do well alone, but together there’s an undeniable chemistry, like lovers in dialogue.

In their live show they definitely play into that, while producer Jamie XX stays literally more in the shadows; Sunday night he was up a level behind the pair, manning a series of controllers, cymbals, and drum pads to creates the fundamental beats that the guitars wash over. The resulting music takes its time – I’d call it shoegaze dance if that weren’t such an idiotic concept – and the xx did as well, opening with the enrapturing “Angels,” setting a sensual mood that stayed till then end.

Earlier Ditto had called them, obviously, the Sex Sex. Anyone who really felt that way – or just wanted to get to John Talabot and Jamie XX at Public Works – hopefully caught a cab, as the wait for shuttles off the island at the end of the night were upwards of an hour and a half. Note to self: work that factor into the TIMF strategy next year.

Gascón’s challenge to Mirkarimi belies his own official shortcomings


The backlash against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s reinstatement by those who oppose him has often been biting and bitter – an indicator that coming together around real solutions to domestic violence, something most supervisors pledged, could still be difficult – but the most hypocritical reaction came yesterday from District Attorney George Gascón.

“Ross is now reinstated as our Sheriff and I accept that. What I will not accept is any compromise of public safety as a result of his reinstatement. Ross Mirkarimi is on probation in this county for a crime of domestic violence. He is, at a minimum, incapable of adequately performing the functions of his office that relate to crimes of domestic violence,” Gascón said in a public statement, calling for Mirkarimi to “wall himself off” from all domestic violence programs and inmates and hire an independent special administrator to oversee them.

Gascón didn’t explain why he believes Mirkarimi can’t oversee these functions, although that’s been a common refrain among Mirkarimi’s critics, almost an article of faith that to them needs no explanation. I understand the sentiment, but as a practical matter, it still doesn’t make sense to me (I’d welcome comments that could offer insights or explanation). I’ve also posed that and other questions to both Gascón and his spokesperson, Stephanie Ong Stillman, and I’ll include an update when I hear back.

Maybe the issue is a conflict of interest, the belief that Mirkarimi will either be too easy or too hard on domestic violence inmates or programs, which seems to be stretch. But if that’s the case, Gascón should get off his high horse. Gascón was the police chief when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him as DA, and there were many voices in the community who questioned such an unconventional move, one that raised obvious questions about whether Gascón could be objective about cases of police abuse, evidence tampering, or assorted other cases in which he would be called upon to make tough judgments about the SFPD. There were calls for Gascón to wall himself off from such cases, which he refused to do, even though that was arguably a more serious and direct conflict of interest than Mirkarimi overseeing the jail.

Also, let’s not forget that it was Gascón who started this whole ordeal by deciding to charge Mirkarimi with domestic violence crimes, accept the plea bargain to misdemeanor false imprisonment, and recommend the punishment that the court accepted – which included the highly unusual requirement that Mirkarimi issue a public apology to his neighbor, Ivory Madison, who went to police against the wishes of Mirkarimi’s wife. At the time, Mirkarimi was serving as sheriff and overseeing all the department’s functions – and he wasn’t letting the batterers run free or battering them himself – and Gascón didn’t raise this issue of then or make it a condition of Mirkarimi’s plea, which he certainly could have.

Finally, there was this sanctimonious statement by Gascón: “As the chief law enforcement official in this City and County, I will stand unapologetically with the victims. I will work tirelessly to be sure both victims and witnesses know this city does not tolerate domestic violence.” Yet the record of his office indicates something that falls far short of tireless efforts to combat domestic violence.

As a San Francisco Public Press investigation revealed last month, San Francisco has by far the lowest rate of domestic violation prosecutions of any Bay Area jurisdiction, a terrible record that has gotten even worse since Gascón took over. Whether judged by the number of domestic violence cases filed per capita (29.5 per 10,000 residents, compared with 58.5 in the region) or the number cases it received that it declined to prosecute (it dropped 6,200 of the 8,600 cases that it received from police), Gascón has no business claiming to show zero tolerance for domestic violence. His prosecution of Mirkarimi was more aberration than rule.

We’ve been trying to get a comment out of the DA’s Office on this issue for weeks, and they still haven’t replied (Stillman told me today that “we’re still working on it”). Gascón was also asked about his office’s poor record on domestic violence recently on KQED’s Forum and gave only a deflective non-answer. Perhaps he’d be better off figuring out how his office could so consistently fail the victims of domestic violence rather than worrying so much about the too-few of them that he’s managed to send to jail.

We all understand what an emotional and important issue domestic violence is, and even how unsettling it may be to many to have Mirkarimi as sheriff. But the members of the Domestic Violence Consortium and La Casa de las Madres – those who have led the campaign to oust Mirkarimi – aren’t the only people who care about this issue.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, there were many domestic violence victims who expressed more outrage over the failure of these domestic violence groups or the DA’s office to support them than they were about Mirkarimi continuing to be the sheriff. The city just spent $1.3 million trying to remove Mirkarimi and another [[CORRECTED FIGURE: $140,000]] paying his interim replacement, Vicky Hennessy – money that could have been better spent directly responding to domestic violence than this fruitless symbolic stand.

But that’s over now, just like their efforts to remove Mirkarimi, and we all need to move on instead of trying to re-fight this difficult battle over and over again. People can still disagree with what happened and vent and be angry – and from what we’re hearing from City Hall, many of the messages have been quite savage, some even threatening violence. They can even work on a recall campaign or take other political actions.

Yet we all still share a city – a wonderfully diverse city with a wide range of perspectives and opinions – and we’re all forced to accept things about it that we don’t like. Gascón doesn’t get to decide who the sheriff is or how he plays that role any more than Mirkarimi got to tell Gascón how to do his job – despite suffering far more direct impacts.

We each have our roles to play, and we’ll all be better off if we do them well and accept that we live in a rainbow city, not a black-and-white world.

The Mirkarimi vote: Will there be some profiles of courage?


(See the postscript for the Chronicle’s shameful crucifixion coverage of Mirkarimi and a timely, newsworthy oped it refused to run by Mirkarimi’s former girl friend. And how Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders ran the Nieves piece on her blog. Damn good for you, Debra Saunders.)

On Jan. 6, 2011, the Bay Citizen/New York Times broke a major investigative story headlined “Behind-the-Scenes Power Politics: The Making of Ed Lee.” The story by Gerry Shih detailed how then Mayor Gavin Newsom, ex-Mayor Willie Brown, and his longtime political ally Rose Pak orchestrated an “extraordinary political power play” to make Ed Lee the interim mayor to replace Newsom, the lieutenant governor-elect.

The story also outlined the start of a chain of events that leads to the vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday on whether Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi keeps his job.

Shih reported that “word had trickled out” that the supervisors had narrowed the list of interim candidates to three—then Sheriff Michael Hennessey, former Mayor Art Agnos, and Aaron Peskin, then chairman of the city’s Democratic party.  But the contenders “were deemed too liberal by Pak, Brown, and Newsom, who are more moderate.”

Over the next 48 hours, Pak, Brown, and the Newsom administration put together the play, “forging a consensus on the Board of Supervisors, outflanking the board’s progressive wing and persuading Lee to agree to become San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor, even though he had told officials for months that he had no interest in the job,” Shih wrote.

The play was sold on the argument that Lee would be an “interim mayor” and that he would not run for mayor in the November election. The Guardian and others said at the time that the play most likely envisioned Lee saying, or lying, that he would not run for mayor and then, at the last minute, he would run and overpower the challengers as an incumbent with big downtown money behind him.  This is what happened. That is how Ed Lee, a longtime civil servant, became the mayor and that is how the Willie Brown/Rose Pak gang won the day for the PG&E/Chamber of Commerce/big developer bloc and thwarted the progressives.

Let us note that the other three interim candidates would most likely never have done what Lee did and suspend Mirkarimi for pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in an arm-bruising incident with his wife Eliana. In fact, Hennessey supported Mirkarimi during the election and still does and says he is fit to do the job of sheriff. 

This was a political coup d’etat worthy of Abe Ruef, the City Hall fixer at the start of the century. “This was something incredibly orchestrated, and we got played,” Sup. John Avalos told Shih. Sup. Chris Daly was mad as hell and he voted for Rose Pak because, he told the Guardian, she was running everything in City Hall anyway. Significantly, the San Francisco Chronicle missed the story and ever after followed the line of its columnist/PG&E lobbyist Willie Brown and Pak by supporting Lee for mayor without much question or properly reporting the obvious power structure angles and plays.

This is the context for understanding a critical part of the ferocity of the opposition to Mirkarimi. As the city’s top elected progressive, he was a politician and force to be reckoned with. His inaugural address as sheriff  demonstrated his creative vision for the department and that he would ably continue the progressive tradition of Richard Hongisto and Hennessey. That annoyed the conservative law enforcement folks. He could be sheriff for a good long time, keep pushing progressive issues from a safe haven, and be in position to run for mayor when the time came. So he was a dangerous character.  

To take one major example, the  PG&E political establishment and others regard him as Public Enemy No. 1. Among other things, he managed as an unpaid volunteer two initiative campaigns during the Willie Brown era. They were aimed at kicking PG&E out of City Hall, enforcing the public power provisions of the federal Raker Act, and bringing  the city’s cheap Hetch Hetchy public power to its residents and businesses for the first time. (See Guardian stories since 1969 on the PG&E/Raker act scandal.)

He then took the public power issue into City Hall when he became a supervisor and aggressively led the charge for the community choice aggregation (cca) project.  His work was validated in the recent 8-3 supervisorial vote authorizing the city to start up a public power/clean energy program. This is the first real challenge ever to PG&E’s private power monopoly.

Significantly, Willie is now an unregistered $200,000 plus a year lobbyist for PG&E. He writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle promoting, among other things, his undisclosed clients and allies and whacking Mirkarimi and the progressives and their issues on a regular basis.  And he is always out there, a phone call here, an elbow at a cocktail party there, to push his agenda.   The word is that he’s claiming he has the votes to fire Mirkarimi.

The point is that the same forces that put Lee into office as mayor are in large part the same forces behind what I call the political assassination of Mirkarimi.  And so, when the Mirkarimi incident emerged, there was an inexorable  march to assassination. Maximum resources and pressure from the police on Mirkarimi. And then maximum pressure from the District Attorney. And then maximum pressure from the judicial process (not even allowing  a change of venue for the case after the crucifixion media coverage.)  And then Lee calls Mirkarimi “a wife beater” and suspends him with cruel and unusual punishment: no pay for him, his family, his home, nor legal expenses for him or Eliana for the duration.

And then Lee pushes for maximum pressure from the City Attorney and the Ethics Commission to try Mirkarimi and force the crucial vote before the election to put maximum pressure on the supervisors. Obviously, the vote would be scheduled after the election if this were a fair and just process.

Lee, the man who was sold as consensus builder and unifier, has become a polarizer and punisher on behalf of the boys and girls  in the backroom.  

And so the supervisors are not just voting to fire the sheriff.  Mirkarimi, his wife Eliana, and son Theo, 3, have already paid a terrible price and, to their immense credit, have come back together as a family.

The supervisors got played last time and voted for a coup d’etat to make Lee the mayor, rout the progressives, and keep City Hall safe for Willie Brown and Rose Pak and friends.   This time the stakes are clear: the supervisors are now voting on the political assassination of the city’s top elected progressive and it’s once again aimed at helping keep City Hall safe for PG&E, the Chamber, and big developers.

The question is, will there be some profiles of courage this time around? b3

P.S.1  Julian Davis for District 5 supervisor: “Supes mum on sheriff,” read the Sunday Chronicle head. Nobody would say how he/she would vote. And poor Sup. Sean Elsbernd claimed that he would be “holed all Sunday in his office reading a table full of thick binders of official documents related to the case plus a few that he’s prepared for himself containing some case law.”  (Anybody wonder how he’s going to vote? Let’s have a show of hands.)  

The last time I saw Julian Davis he was holding a “Stand with Ross” sign at a Mirkarimi rally on the City Hall steps. With Davis, there would be no second guessing and hand wringing on how he would vote. That’s the problem now with so many neighborhood supervisors who go down to City Hall and vote with Willie and downtown. Davis would be a smart, dependable progressive vote in the city’s most progressive district (5), and a worthy successor to Matt Gonzalez and Ross Mirkarimi. If Davis were on the board now, I’m sure he would stand with Ross and speak for Ross, no ifs, ands, or buts. And his vote might be decisive.  

P.S. 2 The Chronicle’s  shameful crucifixion of Mirkarimi continues  The Chronicle has refused to run a timely and  newsworthy op ed piece from Evelyn Nieves, Mirkarimi’s former girl friend. She  wrote an op ed piece for the Chronicle four days before the Tuesday vote.  Nieves is an accomplished journalist who for several years was the San Francisco bureau chief for the New York Times.  She told me that she was notified Monday morning that the Chronicle didn’t have room for the op ed in Tuesday’s paper. I sent an email to John Diaz, Chronicle editorial page editor, and asked him why the Chronicle couldn’t run her op ed when the paper could run Willie Brown, the unregistered $200,000 plus PG&E lobbyist who takes regular whacks at Mirkarimi, as a regular featured column in its Sunday paper.  No answer at blogtime.

This morning, I opened up the Chronicle to find that the paper, instead of running the Nieves piece today or earlier,  ran an op ed titled “Vote to remove Mirkarmi,” from Kathy Black, executive director of the Casa de las Madres, the non profit group that advocates against domestic violence. It has been hammering Mirkarimi for months. On the page opposite, the Chron ran yet another lead editorial, urging the supervisors to “Take a Stand” and vote for removal because “San Francisco now needs its leaders to lead.” It was as if Willie was not only directing the Chronicle’s news operation but writing its editorials–and getting paid both by PG&E and the Chronicle.  And so the Chronicle started out with shameful crucifixion coverage of  Mirkarimi and then continued the shameful crucifixion coverage up until today. Read Nieves on Ross.

Well, the honor of the Chronicle was maintained by columnist Debra Saunders, virtually the Chroncle’s lone journalistic supporter of Mirkarmi during his ordeal. Many Chronicle staffers are privately supportive of Ross, embarrassed by Willie’s “journalism,” and critical of the way the Chronicle has covered Mirkarimi. Saunders posted the Nieves column her paper refused to print on her Chronicle blog. Damn good for you, Debra Saunders.  



Heads Up: 8 must-see concerts this week


With the xx – at Treasure Island Music Festival – and Nouvelle Vague both in town this week, there’s a whole lot of sexy, sex-making music coming. Also popping up in the Bay in the next few days: Dinosaur Jr., Grave Babies with 2:54, Saint Vitus, and Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.

These shows, as of press time, still have tickets. Lucky you. There is another band in town, however, whose Bay Area stop is long-sold out: Grizzly Bear, the Brooklyn act that was featured in the much-discussed New York Magazine cover story last week, “Is Rock Stardom Any Way To Make A Living?”

The main crux of the story’s thesis is that more than ever, bands have to tour (and license songs) to make ends meet. So, go support your favorite musicians live, their livelihood depends on it. Also, actually buy the album. As Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste puts it in the article, a record costs about as much as “a fucking appetizer, a large popcorn at the movie theater, and you’ll have it forever, and they took two years to make it.”

Here are your must-see Bay Area concerts this week/end:

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby
English rocker Wreckless Eric first found Amy Rigby when he happened upon the singer-songwriter covering his classic, whisper-to-shout post-punk love song, “(I’d Go the) Whole Wide World.” (She was playing in the wrong key, but he got up on stage and joined in.) They’re now married and play adorable acoustic sets together and are about to release another joint record, A Working Museum (Southern Domestic, Oct. 30). 
Tue/9, 8:30pm, $10 
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk, SF
(415) 923-0923

Saint Vitus
The legendary LA doom metal band, Saint Vitus, comparatively molasses slow and full of despair, has played together in some form or another since 1978. This week, it plays the Independent, which is so out of wildly character for the venue, it’s got to be good. There will be headbanging.
With Weed Eater, Sourvein
Tue/9, 8pm, $25
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Il Gato
This week, local baroque pop trio Il Gato released Tongues and Teeth (self-released), a folkier follow-up to last year’s All Those Slippery Things EP, and 2010’s All These Slippery Things LP. “The main themes are regarding the truth we hold inside us — from our bodies internal wisdom, to our intuition, to our patterns and rituals — and the beauty and struggle of being able to both think and feel,” says spiritual singer Daimian Holiday Scott.
With Immanu El, Wolf and Crow
Wed/10, 8pm, $10
Rickshaw Stop,
155 Fell, SF.

Dinosaur Jr.
“We don’t need to tell you that Dinosaur Jr. was one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the 1990s or that these dudes can really shred. We’ll just let their 28-year career attest to that. What we will tell you is that their new album is not to be overlooked or underestimated. I Bet on Sky, their 10th full-length, is a loudmouthed snarl of a record. It features all the best quirks of Dinosaur Jr.’s extensive catalogue: frightening amounts of fuzz, weirdly engaging hooks, and deep dark lyrics in J Mascis’ disengaged nasal yowls. Don’t forget to bring earplugs.” –Haley Zaremba
Wed/10, 8pm, $32.50
1805 Geary, SF
(415) 346-3000

Grave Babies
Seattle’s “scuzziest goth rockers,” Grave Babies, recently got the remix treatment for their haunting new wave song “Fuck Off” by Total Control and Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young, which resulted in an even spookier, deeper-in-to-outer-space trip.
With 2:54
Thu/11, 9pm, $10-$13
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 371-1631

Sic Alps
The best and biggest surprise from local garage rock band Sic Alps on its newest self-titled full-length (Drag City, Sept. 18) was the inclusion of a string section. It adds a sparkly additional layer to an already textured and loopy blanket, er, release.
With Thee Oh Sees, Sonny and the Sunsets, the Mallard.
Fri/12, 8:30pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Treasure Island Music Festival
This year, I’m most curious about luminous Beth Ditto’s Gossip, to see how they work this glossy new dance-pop sound live, Grimes, to hear if her tiny voice can carry, and Public Enemy, because, it’s Public Enemy. There’s also M83, Joanna Newsom, and Divine Fits. Also, Sunday’s headliners the xx just released shimmering new LP, Coexist, which should create a sexy, foggy atmosphere. Though the best part about Treasure Island — besides the outstanding views — is the lack of set-time conflicts.
Sat/13-Sun/14, noon, single day $75; two-day, $129.50
Treasure Island, SF

Nouvelle Vague
Nouvelle Vague has the ability to turn anything – moody ’80s new wave (the band’s namesake), post-punk grinders, Dead Kennedy’s “Too Drunk to Fuck” – into a sexy French pop classic. Everything they rework and perform turns into Françoise Hardy over bossa nova arrangements. Past covers include “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” “Heart if Glass,” and “Master and Servant.” This makes it difficult not to purse your lips and sing along in a faux-Francophone tribute; but you’d look silly, please leave it to these experts.
Sun/14, 8pm, $25-$28
1025 Columbus, SF
(415) 474-0365

Endorsements 2012: San Francisco propositions





The scathing accreditation report by the Western Association of Schools talks about governance problems at the San Francisco Community College District — a legitimate matter of concern. But most of what threatens the future of City College is a lack of money.

Check out the accreditation letter; it’s on the City College website. Much of what it says is that the school is trying to do too much with limited resources. There aren’t enough administrators; that’s because, facing 20 percent cuts to its operating budget, the college board decided to save front-line teaching jobs. Student support services are lacking; that’s because the district can barely afford to keep enough classes going to meet the needs of some 90,000 students. On the bigger picture, WASC and the state want City College to close campuses and concentrate on a core mission of offering two-year degrees and preparing students to transfer to four-year institutions. That’s because the state has refused to fund education at an adequate level, and there’s not enough money to both function as a traditional junior college and serve as the training center for San Francisco’s tech, hospitality and health-care industry, provide English as a second language classes to immigrants and offer new job skills and rehabilitation to the workforce of the future.

It’s fair to say that WASC would have found some problems at City College no matter what the financial situation (and we’ve found more — the nepotism and corruption under past boards has been atrocious). But the only way out of this mess is either to radically scale back the school’s mission — or to increase its resources. We support the latter alternative.

Prop. A is a modest parcel tax — $79 dollars a year on each property lot in the city. Parcel taxes are inherently unfair — a small house in Hunters Point pays as much as a mansion in Pacific Heights or a $500 million downtown office building. But that’s the result of Prop. 13, which leaves the city very few ways to raise taxes on real property. In the hierarchy of progressive tax options, parcel taxes are better than sales taxes. And the vast majority of San Francisco homeowners and commercial property owners get a huge benefit from Prop. 13; a $6 a month additional levy is hardly a killer.

The $16 million this tax would raise annually for the district isn’t enough to make up for the $25 million a year in state budget cuts. But at least the district would be able to make reasonable decisions about preserving most of its mission. This is one of the most important measures on the ballot; vote yes.




There are two questions facing the voters: Does the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department need money to fix up badly decrepit, sometimes unsafe facilities, and build out new park areas, particularly in underserved neighborhoods? Has the current administration of the department so badly mismanaged Rec-Park, so radically undermined the basic concept of public access to public space, so utterly alienated neighborhoods and communities all over the city, that it shouldn’t be trusted with another penny?

And if your answer to both is yes, how the hell do you vote on Prop. B?

It’s a tough one for us. The Guardian has never, in 46 years, opposed a general obligation bond for anything except jail or prisons. Investing in public infrastructure is a good thing; if anything, the cautious folks at City Hall, who refuse to put new bonds on the ballot until old ones are paid off, are too cautious about it. Spending public money (paid by increased property taxes in a city where at least 90 percent of real estate is way under taxed thanks to Prop. 13) creates jobs. It’s an economic stimulus. It adds to the value of the city’s resources. In this case, it fixes up parks. All of that is good; it’s hard to find a credible case against it.

Except that for the past few years, under the administrations of Mayors Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee and the trusteeship of Rec-Park Directors Jared Blumenfeld and Phil Ginsburg, the city has gone 100 percent the wrong way. Parks are supposed to be public resources, open to all; instead, the department has begun charging fees for what used to be free, has been turning public facilities over to private interests (at times kicking the public out), and has generally looked at the commons as a source of revenue. It’s a horrible precedent. It makes us sick.

Ginsburg told us that he’s had no choice — deep budget cuts have forced him to look for money wherever he can find it, even if that means privatizing the parks. But Ginsburg also admitted to us that, even as chief of staff under Newsom, he never once came forward to push for higher taxes on the wealthy, never once suggested that progressive revenue sources might be an option. Nor did any of the hacks on the Rec-Park Commission. Instead, they’ve been busy spending tens of thousands of dollars on an insane legal battle to evict the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council’s recycling center — entirely because rich people in the Haight don’t want poor people coming through their elite neighborhood to cash in bottles and cans for a little money.

So now we’re supposed to cough up another $195 million to enable more of this?

Well, yes. We’re not happy to be endorsing Prop. B, but the bottom line is simple: The bond money will go for things that need to be done. There are, quite literally, parks in the city where kids are playing in unsafe and toxic conditions. There are rec centers that are pretty close to falling apart. Those improvements will last 50 years, well beyond the tenure of this mayor of Rec-Park director. For the long-term future of the park system, Prop. B makes sense.

If the measure fails, it may send Lee and Ginsburg a message. The fact that so many neighborhood leaders are opposing it has already been a signal — one that so far Ginsburg has ignored. We’re going Yes on B, with all due reservations. But this commission has to go, and the sooner the supervisors can craft a charter amendment to give the board a majority of the appointments to the panel the better.+




This measure is about who gets to live in San Francisco and what kind of city this will be in 20 years. If we leave it up to market forces and the desires of developers, about 85 percent of the housing built in San Francisco will be affordable only by the rich, meaning the working class will be forced to live outside the city, clogging regional roadways and transit systems and draining San Francisco of its cultural diversity and vibrancy. And that process has been accelerated in recent years by the latest tech bubble, which city leaders have decided to subsidize with tax breaks, causing rents and home prices to skyrocket.

Mayor Ed Lee deserves credit for proposing this Housing Trust Fund to help offset some of that impact, even if it falls way short of the need identified in the city’s Housing Element, which calls for 60 percent of new housing construction to be affordable to prevent gentrification. We’re also not thrilled that Prop. C actually reduces the percentage of housing that developers must offer below market rates and prevents that 12 percent level from later being increased, that it devotes too much money to home ownership assistance at the expense of the renters who comprise the vast majority of city residents, and that it depends on the passage of Prop.E and would take $15 million from the increased business taxes from that measure, rather than restoring years of cuts to General Fund programs.

But Prop. C was a hard-won compromise, with the affordable housing folks at the table, and they got most of what they wanted. (Even the 12 percent has a long list of exceptions and thus won’t apply to a lot of new market-rate housing.) And it has more chance of actually passing than previous efforts that were opposed by the business community and Mayor’s Office. This measure would commit the city to spending $1.5 billion on affordable housing projects over the next 30 years, with an initial $20 million annual contribution steadily growing to more than $50 million annually by 2024, authorizing and funding the construction of 30,000 new rental units throughout the city. With the loss of redevelopment funds that were devoted to affordable housing, San Francisco is a city at risk, and passage of Prop. C is vital to ensuring that we all have a chance of remaining here. Vote yes.




There’s a lot of odd stuff in the San Francisco City Charter, and one of the twists is that two offices — the city attorney and the treasurer — are elected in an off-year when there’s nothing else on the ballot. There’s a quaint kind of charm to that, and some limited value — the city attorney is one of the most powerful officials in local government, and that race could get lost in an election where the mayor, sheriff, and district attorney are all on the ballot.

But seriously: The off-year elections have lower turnout, and cost the city money, and it’s pretty ridiculous that San Francisco still does it this way. The entire Board of Supervisors supports Prop. D. So do we. Vote yes.




Over the past five years, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu estimates, San Francisco has cut about $1.5 billion from General Fund programs. It’s been bloody, nasty, awful. The budget reductions have thrown severely ill psych patients out of General Hospital and onto the streets. They’ve forced the Recreation and Parks Department to charge money for the use of public space. They’ve undermined everything from community policing to Muni maintenance.

And now, as the economy starts to stabilize a bit, the mayor wants to change the way businesses are taxed — and bring an additional $28.5 million into city coffers.

That’s right — we’ve cut $1.5 billion, and we’re raising taxes by $28.5 million. That’s less than 2 percent. It’s insane, it’s inexcusable, it’s utterly the wrong way to run a city in 2012. It might as well be Mitt Romney making the decision — 98 percent cuts, 2 percent tax hikes.

Nevertheless, that’s where we are today — and it’s sad to say this is an improvement from where the tax discussion started. At first, Mayor Lee didn’t want any tax increase at all; progressive leaders had to struggle to convince him to allow even a pittance in additional revenue.

The basic issue on the table is how San Francisco taxes businesses. Until the late 1990s, the city had a relatively rational system — businesses paid about 1.5 percent of their payroll or gross receipts, whichever was higher. Then 52 big corporations, including PG&E, Chevron, Bechtel, and the Gap, sued, arguing that the gross receipts part of the program was unfair. The supervisors caved in to the legal threat and repeal that part of the tax system — costing the city about $30 million a year. Oh, but then tech companies — which have high payrolls but often, at least at first, low gross receipts — didn’t want the payroll tax. The same players who opposed the other tax now called for its return, arguing that taxing payroll hurts job growth (which is untrue and unfounded, but this kind of dogma doesn’t get challenged in the press). So, after much discussion and debate, and legitimate community input, the supervisors unanimously approved Prop. E — which raises a little more money, but not even as much as the corporate lawsuit in the 1990s set the city back. It’s not a bad tax, better than the one we have now — it brings thousands of companies the previously paid no tax at all into the mix (sadly, some of them small businesses). It’s somewhat progressive — companies with higher receipts pay a higher rate. We can’t argue against it — the city will be better off under Prop. E than it is today. But we have to look around our battered, broke-ass city, shake our poor bewildered heads and say: Is this really the best San Francisco can do? Sure, vote yes on E. And ask yourself why one of the most liberal cities in America still lets Republican economic theory drive its tax policy.




Reasonable people can disagree about whether San Francisco should have ever dammed the Tuolumne River in 1923, flooding the Hetch Hetchy Valley and creating an engineering marvel that has provided the city with a reliable source of renewable electricity and some of the best urban drinking water in the world ever since. The project broke the heart of famed naturalist John Muir and has caused generations since then to pine for the restoration of a valley that Muir saw as a twin to his beloved nearby Yosemite Valley.

But at a time when this country can’t find the resources to seriously address global warming (which will likely dry up the Sierra Nevada watershed at some point in the future), our deteriorating infrastructure, and myriad other pressing problems, it seems insane to even consider spending billions of dollars to drain this reservoir, restore the valley, and find replacement sources of clean water and power.

You can’t argue with the basic facts: There is no way San Francisco could replace all the water that comes in from Hetch Hetchy without relying on the already-fragile Delta. The dam also provides 1.7 billion kilowatt hours a year of electric power, enough to meet the needs of more than 400,000 homes. That power now runs everything from the lights at City Hall to Muni, at a cost of near zero. The city would lose 42 percent of its energy generation if the dam went away.

Besides, the dam was, and is, the lynchpin of what’s supposed to be a municipal power system in the city. As San Francisco, with Clean Power SF, moves ever close to public power, it’s insane to take away this critical element of any future system.

On its face, the measure merely requires the city to do an $8 million study of the proposal and then hold a binding vote in 2016 that would commit the city to a project estimated by the Controller’s Office to cost somewhere between $3 billion and $10 billion. Yet to even entertain that possibility would be a huge waste of time and money.

Prop. F is being pushed by a combination of wishful (although largely well-meaning) sentimentalists and disingenuous conservatives like Dan Lungren who simply want to fuck with San Francisco, but it’s being opposed by just about every public official in the city. Vote this down and let’s focus our attention on dealing with real environmental and social problems.




If San Francisco voters pass Prop. G, it won’t put any law into effect. It’s simply a policy statement that sends a message: Corporations are not people, and it’s time for the federal government to tackle the overwhelming and deeply troubling control that wealthy corporations have over American politics.

Prop. G declares that money is not speech and that limits on political spending improve democratic processes. It urges a reversal of the notorious Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission Supreme Court decision.

A constitutional amendment, and any legal messing with free speech, has serious potential problems. If corporations are limited from spending money on politics, could the same apply to unions or nonprofits? Could such an amendment be used to stop a community organization from spending money to print flyers with political opinions?

But it’s a discussion that the nation needs to have, and Prop. G is a modest start. Vote yes.

Endorsements 2012: State and national races


National races



You couldn’t drive down Valencia Street on the evening of Nov. 4, 2008. You couldn’t get through the intersection of 18th and Castro, either. All over the east side of the city, people celebrating the election of Barack Obama and the end of the Bush era launched improptu parties, dancing and singing in the streets, while the cops stood by, smiling. It was the only presidential election in modern history that create such an upwelling of joy on the American left — and while we were a bit more jaded and cautious about celebrating, it was hard not to feel a sense of hope.

That all started to change about a month after the inauguration, when word got out that the big insurance companies were invited to be at the table, discussing health-care reform — and the progressive consumer advocates were not. From that point on, it was clear that the “change” he promised wasn’t going to be a fundamental shift in how power works in Washington.

Obama didn’t even consider a single-payer option. He hasn’t shut down Guantanamo Bay. He hasn’t cut the Pentagon budget. He hasn’t pulled the US out of the unwinnable mess in Afghanistan. He’s been a huge disappointment on progressive tax and economic issues. It wasn’t until late this summer, when he realized he was facing a major enthusiasm gap, that he even agreed to endorse same-sex marriage.

But it’s easy to trash an incumbent president, particularly one who foolishly thought he could get bipartisan support for reforms and instead wound up with a hostile Republican Congress. The truth is, Obama has accomplished a fair amount, given the obstacles he faced. He got a health-care reform bill, weak and imperfect as it was, passed into law, something Democrats have tried and failed at since the era of FDR. The stimulus, weak and limited as it was, clearly prevented the recession from becoming another great depression. His two Supreme Court appointments have been excellent.

And the guy he’s running against is a disaster on the scale of G.W. Bush.

Mitt Romney can’t even tell the truth about himself. He’s proven to be such a creature of the far-right wing of the Republican Party that it’s an embarrassment. A moderate Republican former governor of Massachusetts could have made a credible run for the White House — but Romney has essentially disavowed everything decent that he did in his last elective office, has said one dumb thing after another, and would be on track to be one of the worse presidents in history.

We get it: Obama let us down. But there’s a real choice here, and it’s an easy one. We’ll happily give a shout out to Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party, who is talking the way the Democrats ought to be talking, about a Green New Deal that recognizes that the richest nation in the history of the world can and should be doing radically better on employment, health care, the environment, and economic justice. And since Obama’s going to win California by a sizable majority anyway, a protest vote for Stein probably won’t do any harm.

But the next four years will be a critical time for the nation, and Obama is at least pushing in the direction of reality, sanity and hope. We endorsed him with enthusiasm four year ago; we’re endorsing him with clear-eyed reality in 2012.



Ugh. Not a pleasant choice here. Elizabeth Emken is pretty much your standard right-wing-nut Republican out of Danville, a fan of reducing government, cutting regulations, and repealing Obamacare. Feinstein, who’s already served four terms, is a conservative Democrat who loves developers, big business, and the death penalty, is hawkish on defense, and has used her clout locally to push for all the wrong candidates and all the wrong things. She can’t even keep her word: After Willie Brown complained that London Breed was saying mean things about him, Feinstein pulled her endorsement of Breed for District 5 supervisor.

It’s astonishing that, in a year when the state Democratic Party is aligned behind Proposition 34, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, Feinstein can’t find it in herself to back away from her decades-long support of capital punishment. She’s not much better on medical marijuana. And she famously complained when then-mayor Gavin Newsom pushed same-sex marriage to the forefront, saying America wasn’t ready to give LGBT couples the same rights as straight people.

But as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein was pretty good about investigating CIA torture and continues to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. She’s always been rock solid on abortion rights and at least decent, if not strong, on environmental issues.

It’s important for the Democrats to retain the Senate, and Feinstein might as well be unopposed. She turns 80 next year, so it’s likely this will be her last term.



The real question on the minds of everyone in local politics is what will happen if the Democrats don’t retake the House and Pelosi has to face two more years in the minority. Will she serve out her term? Will her Democratic colleagues decide they want new leadership? The inside scuttle is that Pelosi has no intention of stepping down, but a long list of local politicians is looking at the once-in-a-lifetime chance to run for a Congressional seat, and it’s going to happen relatively soon; Pelosi is 72.

We’ve never been happy with Rep. Pelosi, who used the money and clout of the old Burton machine to come out of nowhere to beat progressive gay supervisor Harry Britt for the seat in 1986. Her signature local achievement is the bill that created the first privatized national park in the nation’s history (the Presidio), which now is home to a giant office complex built by filmmaker George Lucas with the benefit of a $60 million tax break. She long ago stopped representing San Francisco, making her move toward Congressional leadership by moving firmly to the center.

But as speaker of the House, she was a strong ally for President Obama and helped move the health-care bill forward. It’s critical to the success of the Obama administration that the Democrats retake the house and Pelosi resumes the role of speaker.



Barbara Lee represents Berkeley and Oakland in a way Nancy Pelosi doesn’t represent San Francisco. She’s been a strong, sometimes lonely voice against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a leader in the House Progressive Caucus. While Democrats up to and including the president talk about tax cuts for businesses, Lee has been pushing a fair minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and an end to subsidies for the oil industry. While Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was struggling with Occupy, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was moving to evict the protesters, Barbara Lee was strongly voicing her support for the movement, standing with the activists, and talking about wealth inequality. We’re proud to endorse her for another term.



Speier’s an improvement on her predecessor, Tom Lantos, who was a hawk and terrible on Middle East policy. Speier’s a moderate, as you’d expect in this Peninsula seat, but she’s taken the lead on consumer privacy issues (as she did in the state Legislature) and will get re-elected easily. She’s an effective member of a Bay Area delegation that helps keep the House sane, so we’ll endorse her for another term.

State candidates



Tom Ammiano’s the perfect person to represent San Francisco values in Sacramento. He helped sparked and define this city’s progressive movement back in the 1970s as a gay teacher marching alongside with Harvey Milk. In 1999, his unprecedented write-in mayoral campaign woke progressives up from some bad years and ushered in a decade with a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors that approved landmark legislation such as the universal healthcare program Ammiano created. In the Assembly, he worked to create a regulatory system for medical marijuana and chairs the powerful Public Safety Committee, where he has stopped the flow of mindless tough-on-crime measures that have overflowed our prisons and overburdened our budgets. This is Ammiano’s final term in the Legislature, but we hope it’s not the end of his role in local politics.



Phil Ting could be assessor of San Francisco, with a nice salary, for the rest of his life if that’s what he wanted to do. He’s done a good job in an office typically populated with make-no-waves political hacks — he went after the Catholic Church when that large institution tried to avoid paying taxes on property transfers. He’s been outspoken on foreclosures and commissioned, on his own initiative, a study showing that a large percentage of local foreclosures involved at least some degree of fraud or improper paperwork.

But Ting is prepared to take a big cut in pay and accept a term-limited future for the challenge of moving into a higher-profile political position. And he’s the right person to represent this westside district.

Ting’s not a radical leftist, but he is willing to talk about tax reform, particularly about the inequities of Prop. 13. He’s carrying the message to homeowners that they’re shouldering a larger part of the burden while commercial properties pay less. He wants to change some of the loopholes in how Prop. 13 is interpreted to help local government collect more money.

It would be nice to have a progressive-minded tax expert in the Legislature, and we’re glad Ting is the front-runner. He’s facing a serious, well-funded onslaught from Michael Breyer, the son of Supreme Court Justice Breyer, who has no political experience or credentials for office and is running a right-wing campaign emphasizing “old-style San Francisco values.”

Not pretty. Vote for Ting.



Mark Leno wasn’t always in the Guardian’s camp, and we don’t always agree with his election season endorsements, but he’s been a rock-solid representative in Sacramento and he has earned our respect and our endorsement.

It isn’t just how he votes, which we consistently agree with. Leno has been willing to take on the tough fights, the ones that need to be fought, and shown the tenacity to come out on top in the Legislature, even if he’s ahead of his time. Leno twice got the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage, he has repeatedly gotten that body to legalize industrial hemp production, and he’s twice passed legislation that would give San Francisco voters the right to set a local vehicle license fees higher than the state’s and use that money for local programs (which the governor finally signed). He’s also been laying an important foundation for creating a single-payer healthcare system and he played an important role in the CleanPowerSF program that San Francisco will implement next year. Leno will easily be re-elected to another term in the Senate and we look forward to his next move (Leno for mayor, 2015?)





San Francisco has been well represented on the BART Board by Radulovich, a smart and forward-thinking urbanist who understands the important role transit plays in the Bay Area. Radulovich has played leadership roles in developing a plan that aims to double the percentage of cyclists using the system, improving the accessibility of many stations to those with limited mobility, pushing through an admittedly imperfect civilian oversight agency for the BART Police, hiring a new head administrator who is more responsive to community concerns, and maintaining the efficiency of an aging system with the highest ridership levels in its history. With a day job serving as executive director of the nonprofit Livable City, Radulovich helped create Sunday Streets and other initiatives that improve our public spaces and make San Francisco a more inviting place to be. And by continuing to provide a guiding vision for a BART system that continues to improve its connections to every corner of the Bay Area, his vision of urbanism is helping to permeate communities throughout the region



This sprawling district includes part of southeast San Francisco and extends all the way up the I-80 corridor to the Carquinez Bridge. The incumbent, San Franciscan Lynette Sweet, has been a major disappointment. She’s inaccessible, offers few new ideas, and was slow to recognize (much less deal with) the trigger-happy BART Police who until recently had no civilian oversight. Time for a change.

Three candidates are challenging Sweet, all of them from the East Bay (which makes a certain amount of sense — only 17 percent of the district’s population is in San Francisco). Our choice is Zachary Mallett, whose training in urban planning and understanding of the transit system makes up for his lack of political experience.

Mallett’s a graduate of Stanford and UC Berkelely (masters in urban planning with a transportation emphasis) who has taken the time to study what’s working and what isn’t working at BART. Some of his ideas sound a bit off at first — he wants, for example, to raise the cost of subsidized BART rides offered to Muni pass holders — but when you look a the numbers, and who is subsidizing who, it actually makes some sense. He talks intelligently about the roles that the various regional transit systems play and while he’s a bit more moderate than us, particularly on fiscal issues, he’s the best alternative to Sweet.

Supervisors advised against Mirkarimi recusals, essentially removing their gags


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Mass at 20


I was in Zeitgeist on a Friday summer evening, at a planning meeting for the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass, when I first heard about the idea of kicking off the celebration week with a renegade bicycle ride over the Bay Bridge.

The people who first shook up the city’s commute two decades ago were going to take the idea of seizing space from cars a step further — and fulfill a longtime cyclist fantasy. They were going to take the bridge.

Chris Carlsson, the author/activist who helped found Critical Mass and has evangelized the concept around the world, reminded me of this super-secret ride last Wednesday when I finally got around to starting my reporting for this story. I was surprised that I’d forgotten about it — but yes, I told him, I still wanted to be there.


“This will galvanize our sense of the week,” Carlsson told me, explaining that Critical Mass has always been about “opening up a space for a conversation,” whether it’s about how urban space is used or who gets to make that decision.

“There is a real necessity to have a place for people to start thinking creatively. That’s Critical Mass’s enduring contribution, 20 years ago and today.”

What started in September 1992 with 48 cyclists pedaling together through San Francisco has become an enduring worldwide phenomenon. On the last Friday of every month, without leaders or direction, this group bike ride simply meanders through the streets, riders smiling and waving at motorists often perplexed at the temporary alteration of traffic laws by a crowd too big to stop or ignore. While views of Critical Mass may differ, the conversation about urban cycling that it started has had an undeniable impact on how people see cities and their power to shape them, placing it high on the list of San Francisco’s proudest cultural exports.

Last Friday evening — a week before thousands of people are expected to show up for the 20th anniversary ride Sept. 28 — I rode over to a meeting in the back of the art gallery at 518 Valencia, the welcome center for the week. The first international arrivals were there: four Europeans who flew to Mexico City, where most of them built tall bikes to cycle up to San Francisco for the anniversary ride, arriving last week after a four-month trek.

They were veterans of Critical Mass events all over Europe, which borrowed the concept from the Bay Area, and they were happy to be going back to its core.

Andrea Maccarone is a 31-year-old Italian who lives in Paris when he isn’t bike touring, which he does quite a bit, last year riding to consecutive Critical Mass events in Paris, Toulouse, Rome, and Madrid. “It began here and spread everywhere,” he said. “A lot of my lifestyle — I’ve been a bike messenger and worked in bike kitchens — is based on what started here.”

His French girlfriend, Marie Huijbregts, described a cultural happening that began when she was 8 years old. “It’s a political movement of cyclists to release the streets from the cars,” the 28-year-old told me. “It’s environmental, do-it-yourself, and a great way to meet people.”

She said she wanted to be here “because it’s supposed to be the biggest one and all the world was invited. It’s symbolic and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Carlsson has watched the event he helped popularize spread to hundreds of cities around the world, from the Biciletada in Sao Paulo to the Cyklojizda in Prague. He loves to see young people who have been energized by Critical Mass and the larger renegade cyclist movement that grew up around it — from DIY bicycle kitchens and art bikes to creative political actions that seize public spaces — “who dream of San Francisco with stars in their eyes.”

But he often feels like we’re the “hole in the donut” of this international urban cycling movement, unable to retain the same intention and energy that it had when Carlsson, Jim Swanson, and a group of their bike messenger and anarchist cyclist friends conceived of the idea (originally called Commute Clot) in the Market Street office of a zine called Processed World.

Carlsson still hears the stories from people whose lives were changed by Critical Mass. But it was only in the last year or so, as the 20th anniversary approached, that he started regularly riding Critical Mass again, with a new generation of participants often drawn by confrontational yahooism, riding well-trod routes and rejecting efforts to suggest destinations as counter to its leaderless ethos.

“It’s extremely predictable now and I’m sick of it,” Carlsson admitted to me, a less diplomatic version of what he wrote in the introduction to the newly released book of essays he edited, Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20, writing that the “euphoria of cooperative, joyful reinhabitation of urban space is hard to sustain after a awhile.”

Yet that powerful central idea is still there, and it remains as relevant as ever in cities dominated by fast-moving cars. People working together to create “an organized coincidence” can still change the rules of the road, opening up all kinds of new possibilities.

“It is an unpredictable space and you never know what’s going to happen,” Carlsson told me. That’s true of the history of Critical Mass around the world — with its storied clashes with cops and motorists, and its glorious convergences and joyful infectiousness — and it was true of our quest to take the Bay Bridge the next day.




We weren’t just being daredevils. The idea of fighting for a freeway lane against six lanes of fast-moving cars, drivers distracted by that epic view of San Francisco, was conceived by Carlsson as a political statement protesting current plans to rebuild the Bay Bridge with a bike lane going only from Oakland to Treasure Island, leaving out that final 2.5-mile stretch into The City.

And for years, the Bay Bridge had been out there as a symbol of where bikes couldn’t go — and in dozens of demonstrations, riders have sought to make it up those ramps, particularly during the Bikes Not Bombs rides protesting the US invasion of Iraq, only to be blocked by police.

Carlsson handed out flyers headlined “A Bay Bridge for Everyone,” harking back to the early pre-Internet “xerocracy” that used flyers to promote Critical Mass ideas or suggest routes. A local historian, Carlsson included photos and descriptions of the Bay Bridge with three lanes of cars in each direction on the top deck, back when the lower deck had trains.

Why couldn’t we have one lane back for bikes? Well, it’s actually under consideration — sort of.

The idea of creating a bicycle/pedestrian lane on the western span is the subject of an ongoing $1.6 million study by Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority, which are looking at attaching paths to the sides of the bridge. That would likely require replacing the decks on the bridge with a lighter new surface to compensate for the added weight, all at a cost of up to $1 billion.

Carlsson thinks that’s ridiculous overkill, and probably intended to scuttle the idea (or else put the blame on bicyclists for the cost of resurfacing the bridge). “For five grand, in three hours it could be done,” he said, arguing that all cyclists need is a lane, a protective barrier, perhaps a lowering of the speed limit — oh, and the political will to recognize that we have as much right to this roadway as motorists.

“It is a sad commentary on the nature of our government that the only way the state transit agency will take bicycling seriously as everyday transportation is when pressured by demonstrations and organized public demands,” Carlsson wrote on the flyer. “Why don’t they take the lead in opening space for cycling instead of doing everything to obstruct, deny, and prevent cycling?”

Even getting to Treasure Island for a bike ride isn’t easy for the car-free. Muni only allows two bikes at a time on its 108 bus, so Carlsson borrowed a van to shuttle almost 20 of us out there in multiple trips. Among the crew were the group that rode up from Mexico City, a Peruvian, and many regular local Critical Mass riders, including Bike Cavalry founder Paul Jordan and LisaRuth Elliott, a 10-year Critical Mass rider who helped edit Shift Happens and coordinate volunteers for the anniversary week, along with a couple of its very early adherents: Hugh D’Andrade and Glenn Bachmann.

“Nobody knew what we were doing,” Bachmann said of that first ride. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. But displacing cars left us this intense euphoria.

Elliott said she was drawn to Critical Mass shortly after she got into urban cycling, attracted by the sense of community that had developed around her transportation choice. She was later inspired to visit Paris and Marseille and other cities that adopted Critical Mass rides.

“They have taken charge and are leading their movements to better bicyclable cities. It’s an adaptable idea,” she told me as we prepared to load our bikes on the van bound for Treasure Island.

Once we were out there, we gathered for a picnic on the beach in Cooper Cove, where we got some sobering news from David Wedding Dress, who talked us through the ride and was going to be trailing our crew in his Mercedes as a safety measure.

“Prepare to be in jail until Monday morning,” he told us. There were also the high winds and dangerous gaps to contend with, offering a bleak prognosis.

A veteran radical activist and bicyclist, Dress has ridden the bridge before and been arrested most times, and he didn’t share Carlsson’s view that we were most likely to get away with it. When Carlsson arrived, he tried to shore up our spirits, saying we’d probably be okay if we maintained the element of surprise.

“We have a right to do this and make that point,” Carlsson said.

Elliott, who was already a wobbler going in, decided not to ride, but 16 of us decided to do it anyway, feeling nervous but excited. When a CHP patrol pulled over a car near our spot and it turned into an hour-long arrest and towing ordeal, which we were forced to wait out, we had plenty of time to think about what we were doing.

As D’Andrade told me as we waited to ride up to the bridge entrance, “What feels to me like the early days of Critical Mass is how scary this is.”



In the beginning, the Critical Mass activists say their battle for space was a safety issue infused with a political message, delivered with a smile derived from the joyous new discovery that riding with friends made it much easier. San Francisco streets were designed for automobiles, and to a lesser extent public transit, with cycling relegated to the bike messengers and a few renegades seen by most as simply refusing to grow up.

Even the nascent San Francisco Bicycle Coalition of that era — which grew in numbers and power on a similar trajectory as Critical Mass, despite its policy of maintaining a defensible distance from that outlaw event — was initially dominated by the philosophy that urban cyclists should ride quickly with car traffic and didn’t need separate lanes.

“That’s what I like to remind people is how scary bicycling was in San Francisco in the early ’90s,” D’Andrade said.

I first encountered Critical Mass in 2001 when I was the news editor for the Sacramento News & Review, and Berkeley resident Jason Meggs brought the movement into automobile-centric Sacramento. My reporters and I covered those early rides, which were met with a harsh crackdown by police, who often cited every minor traffic violation.

But Meggs was committed to the concept, as he wrote in his Shift Happens! essay entitled, “The Johnny Appleseed of Critical Mass,” a role he has played over the last 19 years. “Critical Mass made me a video activist and filmmaker; it sent me to jail and then to law school, and again to graduate school for healthy cities. It provided us the space to build a vibrant bicycle culture, and to feel free and alive in cities that otherwise felt hostile, caustic, and alien,” he wrote.

Meggs calculates that he’s been arrested more than 20 times and received more than 100 traffic tickets during Critical Mass events, beginning with the Berkeley Critical Mass that he started in March of 1993, in part to protest plans to widen I-80.

“Those early rides were legendary — moment to moment ecstatic joy and street theater,” he remembered. “The combination of bike activists and freeway fighters with anarcho-environmentalists on wheels was a combination that couldn’t be beat. Like a newscaster once said of Critical Mass, back then we were drunk with power.”

Yet in almost city where it’s sprouted, Critical Mass has had to battle through crackdowns by police, which are often met with greater determination by the cycling community. San Francisco fought through a showdown with Mayor Willie Brown in 1997, when his threats to shut Critical Mass down turned out thousands of cyclists for the next ride.

In 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle sensationalized a conflict between a motorist and Critical Mass, beginning a media campaign that led Mayor Gavin Newsom to order a heavy police presence on subsequent rides — a show of force, but one without any apparent plan or directive — again increasing number of cyclists.

Each time, San Francisco city officials were forced to accept the inevitability of Critical Mass, opting to avoid the route of the harsh, sustained, and costly crackdowns employed in New York City, whose police and city officials essentially went to war with Critical Mass in 2004 and have all-but destroyed it. Portland has also had a tumultuous relationship with its Critical Mass, with police there essentially shutting it down.

Yet Carlsson noted in his Shift Happens essay that the bicycle activism that formed along with those rides still prevailed: “Both cities — not coincidentally I think — have implemented extensive and intensive street-level redesigns to accommodate the enormous increase in daily cycling that followed the rapid growth and ultimate repression of their Critical Mass rides.”

San Francisco has seen an even greater explosion in the number of cyclists on the roadways, so many that spontaneous “mini-Masses” of cyclists form up during the daily commutes on Market Street and elsewhere. But despite the near-universal City Hall support for cycling here, and the SFBC’s status as one of the city’s largest grassroots political advocacy organizations, Carlsson said San Francisco’s cyclists still lack the infrastructure and policies needed to safely get around the city.

That’s one reason why the challenge of Critical Mass is still relevant, he said, and one reason why we were determined to ride our bikes into San Francisco on the Bay Bridge.



The cops left a little before 6pm, so we massed up and headed for the Bay Bridge, pedaling single-file up a long hill. Soon, the long western span of the bridge came into view, stretching to the downtown destination that we all hoped to reach without incident or arrest, as we passed a sign reading “Pedestrians and Bicycles Prohibited.”

As we crested the hill and dropped down toward the freeway entrance, our pathway seemed clear, with the only real variable being coordinating with Dress in the Mercedes trail car, but Carlsson was on the phone with him and we all assumed that we were about to ride our bikes onto the Bay Bridge.

We were in a fairly tight pack, Maccarone smiling atop the tall bike that had traveled so far to this point, as we rounded the swooping right turn to the point where even cars make a dangerously quick entrance onto the bridge from a complete stop, merging into loud and dense traffic moving at freeway speeds.

We stopped, looked back for Dress, and he wasn’t there. A minute crept by, then another, as cars drove cautiously past us to get onto the freeway, their drivers giving us the same quizzical, confused looks that we’d seen on Critical Mass so many times. Another minute passed, then another, as Carlsson lit one of the road flares that we planned to use as a secondary safety measure to the Mercedes.

Then, a CHP patrol car rounded the bend, the officer sternly telling us over his PA system, “Don’t even think you’re getting on this bridge with those bikes.”

So we turned around and began to head back when Dress finally arrived in his Mercedes, presenting a moment of truth. Did we proceed anyway, even though we had been warned and knew the officer had probably radioed in our presence, taking away the element of surprise and increasing our chances of arrest?

There was dissension in ranks and a clear division among those urging opposite courses of action, but Carlsson and others continued to ride away after talking the Dress, who proceeded onto the freeway. Later, Carlsson said he was still game to go at that moment, but tried to be responsive to the collective: “I was not comfortable imposing going on the bridge on everyone.”

D’Andrade advocated for going anyway, but most felt it was too risky at that point, siding with Carlsson’s argument that is wasn’t about getting arrested: “I like to do something and get away.”

And so it was decided that we would choose a strategic retreat, some pledging to take the bridge some other day, hopefully with greater numbers. Besides, we all had a big week ahead of us, starting the next day with the first official event of Critical Mass’s anniversary week: the Art Bike/Freak Bike Ride and BBQ.

We gathered the next afternoon on the waterfront under sunny blue skies, our aborted bike crew increased in size 10-fold, joined by underground DIY bike crews from San Francisco’s own Cyclecide to the Black Label crews from Minneapolis, Oakland, and Los Angeles, infusing the ride with a countercultural edge.

Urban bike culture is now vast and varied — from the eco-warriors and urban thinkers to wage slaves and renegade tinkerers — and they’ve all found a regular home in Critical Mass. “Twenty years on, people are kinda nostalgic about it, even if they don’t ride in it or think it’s a good idea,” an activist name rRez told me during that beautiful Sunday ride, the one we were able to take because we weren’t in jail.

Carlsson told me on the ride that he was at peace with our failed mission of the day before, a sign that being radical isn’t the same thing as being reckless. “That was a good strategic retreat moment. It’s very adult,” he said. “It was a good experience for all of us, and nothing bad happened and nobody is in jail.”

In a way, that’s the essence of Critical Mass. It isn’t pure anarchy, and it’s not about fighting with the cops or the motorists, something Carlsson sees as straying from its original intent. It’s a joyful gathering, an exercise in the power of people who are willing to challenge the status quo and take well-considered risks to create a society of their choosing.

“In a modern capitalist society, the roads are the lifeblood,” Carlsson said, “and if you block them, you’re a threat.”




Wednesday 26

East Bay Ride, meet at West Oakland BART station, 11:45am. Ride along the east shore of the bay to the Rosie the Riveter monument in Richmond.

NOIZ Ride, McKinley statue on the Panhandle at Baker Street, noon. Bring food, drink, and layers for a several hour, non-strenuous ride featuring three live bands.

Shift Happens book release party and discussion, Main SF Library, Latino-Hispanic Room, 100 Larkin St, 5:45 p.m. Discuss Critical Mass and this new book with its writers.

Book release concert, Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF, $15, 8pm. Featuring Seaweed Sway, Aaron Glass and Friends, and Kelly McFarling


Thursday 27

Mosquito Abatement Ride, Meeting place TBA near 16th & Valencia, SF, 11am. One-hour rides with a cycling city contractor.

NYC Critical Mass discussion and video, 518 Valencia, SF, 2pm. Hosted by Times Up New York City.

Bike Polo, Jose Coronado Playground, 21st and Shotwell, SF, 7-9pm. Play with locals and visitors, share a beer.

Bikes, Bands, and Brew: CM’s 20th Bday party, CELLspace, 2050 Bryant, 7pm, $10-20. Bike cultural offerings and music by Grass Widow, Apogee Sound Club, The Rabbles, and Future Twin.


Friday 28

20th Anniversary Critical Mass Ride, Justin “Pee Wee” Herman Plaza, Market and Embarcadero, SF, 6pm

Vintage Bicycle Film Festival, Oddball Films, 275 Capp, SF, $10. Saturday 29 International Critical Mass Symposium, California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission, Rooms 303/304, 5-8pm. Event will include an open mic and CM20 Anniversary Week photo contest at 7pm Sunday 30 Farewell Bike Ride and Party, 1pm departure from 518 Valencia, 2pm at Ocean Beach. Bring food and drink to share with your new friends and listen to bands on Rock the Bike’s pedal-powered stage. For more events and details, visit

The historic PG&E/clean energy vote today


And so, after a Guardian campaign that started in 1969 to kick PG&E out of City Hall and bring the city’s own Hetch Hetchy public power to San Francisco residents and businesses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported  in Monday’s edition ( 9/17/2012)  that San Francisco “is on the threshold of taking a major step into the public power realm.”

The lead story by John Cote, under a big front page head “Clean power plan would skirt PG&E,”  nicely laid out the CleanPowerSF program and even said that the plan “would effectively break Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s decades-old monopoly on the consumer power market in its headquarters city.”

He quoted Sup. David Campos, sponsor of the legislation, as saying that “This is about giving consumers a choice. And for the choice to be meaningful, it can’t be dependent on one company deciding the energy future of this city.”  The plan goes before the board on Tuesday (9/18/2012) and public power advocates say they have the votes for passage, despite PG&E’s furious lobbying inside and outside City Hall.

What Cote didn’t say, and what the Chronicle has been blacking out for decades, is the crucial point that this clean energy/ public power plan is no ordinary vote on an ordinary issue.  It is an extraordinary vote that would  start the process to enforce the federal Raker Act of 1913 that mandates that San Francisco have a public power system because the city dammed Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park for its cheap public water and cheap public power.  The city got the cheap Hetch Hetchy water, but it never got the cheap Hetch Hetchy power because PG&E stole it and forced the city to buy PG&E’s expensive private power all these years. The cost: billions of dollars for decades to the taxpayers and enduring structural corruption at City Hall. The Guardian has called this PG&E/Raker Act scandal the biggest urban scandal in U.S. history. It still is.

It’s quite a story and I urge you to check out the hundreds of investigations, stories, editorials, cartoons, and graphics the Guardian has used for years to illuminate the scandal and fight to enforce  the Raker Ac t and bring our own Hetch Hetchy power to our own people in San Francisco.

Buried in the Cote story is a key political point: Mayor Ed Lee, the man who became interim mayor on a phony premise and then lied his way into a full term as mayor, reiterated his “concerns” through a spokesperson that he is, gosh, golly, gee, “concerned about the opt-out provisions, the risks associated with the contract and the cost to residents.”

Marvelous. Simply marvelous. Lee is once again enunciating the PG&E line that mayors before him, notably Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, have used to keep City Hall safe for PG&E and undercut the threat of public power coming to San Francisco and disturbing PG&E’s questionably legal monopoly. Brown, let me emphasize, was under PG&E’s thumb before, during, and after his mayoral tenure and now operates as an unregistered, $200,000-a -year PG&E lobbyist, Chronicle columnist, and key Lee confidant  and ally.

The current public power proposal isn’t as strong as the three public power initiatives that PG&E spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat.  PG&E would still own the lines and network, handle maintenance, and send out the bills.

But the proposal would provide l00 per cent renewable power to residents who want to pay a bit more for it, build a customer base and revenue stream for city-owned renewable power generation, advance the city’s greenhouse-gas reduction goals, and set aside $2 million to study public power options.  Most important, it would be a helluva good first step toward enforcing the public power provisions of the Raker Act and kicking PG&E out of City Hall.

The supervisors and Lee should approve the legislation and move it forward vigorously and without delay.

This is a historic moment and a historic vote in San Francisco history.  The question is, who is going to be on the right side of history and who is going to be on the wrong side of history with a PG&E vote that will live in infamy?  B3

P.S. A tip of the clean energy hat to Ed Harrington, who successfully wrestled  the proposal through the sea of crocodiles and hippos at City Hall.  He delayed his retirement as general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to finish up the proposal.  “This is the single biggest program that is even on the  horizon within the city and county of San Francisco to make any difference toward any of the goals that you have set as board members in terms of having a change in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in San Francisco,” he told the supervisors’ budget committee last week as reported by Cote.  “This program can make a dramatic change.”  

And a tip of the clean energy hat to Sup. Campos, who put the proposal forward up against  fortress PG&E,  More: a tip of the clean energy hat and a  bow to all the many public power advocates who have fought for years to bring clean energy and public power out of the wilderness and to this position. Furthermore, I salute  Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who led the first  two public power initiative campaigns as the unpaid manager and then took on the herculean job of orchestrating the clean energy/cca proposal inside City Hall .when he became a supervisor. Mirkarimi is now paying the price for, among other things, successfully taking on PG&E and the PG&E establishment. His was an enormously courageous and important public service.  On guard,   B3


Why Question Time is boring


So Sup. Jane Kim isn’t sure Question Time is useful. And the press and some other board members think that, to quote Sup. John Avalos, it’s “deadening.”

Well, there’s a reason for that — the mayor doesn’t like the idea of appearing in an unscripted forum with board members, where he could face tough questions he doesn’t expect and engage in some real debate. And led by Board President David Chiu, the supervisors intentionally created a system that guarantees nothing valuable will happen.

The board sets the rules for Question Time. It’s in the law. And the mayor has to follow those rules.

The whole idea, when Sup. Chris Daly first brought this up, was to mandate that the chief executive interact with the board — and to provide an opportunity for the supervisors to engage in public discussion and debate with the occupant of an office that under Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom had become increasinly imperious.

Lee’s nowhere near as bad — but still, what Daly envisioned, and what the voters approved, was an open forum. Instead, we got a farce, a pre-scripted scene where the supervisors submit questions in advance, the mayor reads from a prepared answer, and there’s no follow-up or back-and-forth.

Yeah, it’s boring. No, it’s not useless. It’s just broken, because the supervisors didn’t have the guts to put into practice what the voters wanted. It’s simple: Change the rules. Get rid of the requirement that questions be sumitted in advance. Let the supervisors ask, challenge, debate, follow up. That would be a public service.

And the idea that the mayor can’t handle a few unscripted questions is insulting. Lee handles press conferences just fine. And I suspect the supes would be no worse than those wild, unpredictable hordes in the City Hall press corps.

Full circle


When Mayor Ed Lee suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in March, he publicly took the position that it was an act of official misconduct when Mirkarimi grabbed his wife’s arm during a Dec. 31 argument, subsequently pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, and was placed on probation for three years.

Lee and his allies said that under those conditions, Mirkarimi could no longer effectively function as the city’s top elected law enforcement officer and that his actions clearly violated the City Charter’s ban on "conduct that falls below the standard of decency, good faith and right action impliedly required of all public officers."

The City Attorney’s Office, through deputies Peter Keith and Sherri Kaiser, has maintained that position throughout the investigation and Ethics Commission proceedings over the last five months. On August 16, on a 4-1 vote, the commission agreed and recommend the Board of Supervisors find its former colleague guilty of official misconduct, which would almost certainly result in his removal from office.

But that simple set of facts and interpretations belies the ugly spectacle that Lee and the City Attorney’s Office actually decided to create — at great cost to taxpayers, Mirkarimi’s reputation, and the public’s faith in the proceedings — over the last five months.

Instead of sticking by their initial position, Lee and his attorneys decided to pile on a long list of other official misconduct charges: dissuading witnesses to his crime, impeding a police investigation, abusing his authority in several ways, engaging in a pattern of abuse of women, refusing to cooperate with a city investigation, lying to officers in a scheme to keep a gun, and other charges.

Almost all of those accusations were included in the original written charges that Lee filed on March 21 — before the city had actually begun its investigation to learn whether there was any evidence to support them. Keith and Kaiser continued to make all those accusations right up until the end.

When the Ethics Commission finally deliberated on August 16, going through each of the main factual allegations against Mirkarimi, one by one, it unanimously agreed that there wasn’t enough evidence to support any of those other charges, even using the "preponderance of evidence" standard that is lower than the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard used in criminal cases.

So in the end, the case against Mirkarimi ended at the same place where it began: with the question of whether pleading guilty to a misdemeanor act of domestic violence warrants the removal of an elected official. But the implications and repercussions of what has transpired over these last five months could be felt for many years, in ways that it’s impossible to predict today.


With very few legal precedents to guide them, the commissioners spent most of the nine-hour hearing on Aug. 16 wrestling with how to interpret the city’s untested new official misconduct language, how directly the wrongful behavior must relate to the office, and whether broadly interpreting those two issues gives too much power to the mayor.

Underlying that discussion is the question of whether the statute and the city’s interpretation of it will eventually be struck down as unconstitutionally vague by the courts, which Mirkarimi will likely turn to if the board removes him from office. But the commission pointedly refused to enter that debate, with Commissioner Jamienne Studley saying, "I don’t think determining constitutionality is what I signed on for as a commissioner."

Chair Benedict Hur, the sole dissenter in recommending a finding of official misconduct, expressed far more concern about the precedent they were setting than with the fate of Mirkarimi, whose actions he strongly condemned as "clearly wrongful and unlawful."

"There has to be a direct relationship of the behavior to the office held," Hur said. "If we don’t find a nexus, we are opening this provision up to abuse down the road."

Commissioner Paul Renne led the charge in interpreting misconduct in the broadest possible way, arguing it didn’t even have to be related to his official duties. "There’s nothing in that clause that says the misconduct has to relate to the office," Renne said.

But Hur called that a "dangerous precedent," saying he has "grave concerns" about how such a broad interpretation could be applied in the future. "I have a lot of concerns about where you draw the line if you don’t relate it to official duties," he said.

For example, could members of the Board of Supervisors be removed after getting arrested at demonstrations — as has happened many times before in connections with labor and other disputes — or even for using colorful language with constituents or colleagues that might violate a future mayor’s "standard of decency?"

Mirkarimi attorney Shepherd Kopp said there’s a good reason why recall is the preferred means of removing an elected officials accused of wrongdoing, calling the charter "an imperfect document" that can’t cover all circumstances — indeed, it doesn’t allow for the removal of mayors, even those who commit serious crimes — noting that "this is a rarely brought proceeding and it can have the effect of contravening the will of the electorate."

"These proceedings," Kopp said, "are far too susceptible to the vagaries of politics."


Lee’s decision to overcharge Mirkarimi could be a costly one. The City Attorney’s Office won’t release expenses associated with ongoing legal actions like this one, but most indications are that it will run into the millions of dollars, perhaps many millions depending on how Mirkarimi fares in the courts if he is removed and challenges the city’s actions.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, the official misconduct proceedings against former Sup. Ed Jew in 2007 cost the city $381,505 in legal fees, but that was a relatively short and simple proceeding, with just one Ethics Commission hearing and couple of state court appearances before the case was settled.

By contrast, the case against Mirkarimi has already entailed five months of detailed exchanges between the two sides’ attorneys, covering a wide array of legal issues, and months-long investigations of matters only tangentially related to the core charge. The city has paid out money for expert witness. Mayor Lee cast a wide net to catch the fish that he had already hooked before setting out to sea.

Even if the Jew case had played out to completion, it would likely have cost just a fraction of what Mirkarimi’s will, for a simple reason: Mayor Lee acted quickly and brought a broad array of charges before investigating them. Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom investigated whether Jew really lived in the city and then brought just that narrow charge.

The simple residency question was enough to warrant Jew’s removal, and Newsom didn’t even need to get into the far more serious corruption charges related to Jew being caught with $80,000 in marked bills as part of an FBI extortion sting, for which Jew is still serving a five-year term in federal prison.

Lee has refused to justify his decision to pile on the charges and introduce defamatory declarations unsupported by direct evidence, such as the long declaration of key witness Ivory Madison, most of which was stricken from the record after Commissioner Paul Renne called it "clearly hearsay, clearly having the intention of poisoning the well" and said "a first-year lawyer should know that much of it is inadmissible and it should not have been given to us."

Even though Keith apologized to Renne and the commission, Lee and his lawyers continued to defend much of that declaration and use it as the basis for many of their most incredible accusations.

"You received a great deal of evidence, most of it from the mayor and most of it unchallenged," Keith said in his closing statement, glossing over the multitude of challenges and the fact that most evidence doesn’t support the city’s charges.

Mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey wouldn’t address a list of Guardian questions about overcharging the case and continuing to rely on discredited evidence. Instead, the Mayor’s Office stands by this Aug. 16 prepared statement: "I am pleased that the members of the Ethics Commission, following a careful review of the evidence, and in the face of a sustained campaign to distract and misdirect them from the facts, agreed with me that Ross Mirkarimi’s actions constitute official misconduct and fall below the ethical conduct we expect of the sheriff."

City Attorney’s Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey said his office also stands by the process: "We respect Ethics Commissioners’ differing opinions about the remaining counts. But nothing about the commission’s conclusions would cause us to pursue these charges of official misconduct differently if we had to do it over again."

But Mirkarimi’s team says it is Lee who has repeatedly sought to distract and misdirect the public, whether through unsubstantiated claims in his charging documents or Lee’s public statements that Mirkarimi "beats his wife" and other comments that blow a single arm-grab out of proportion.

"What the commission has effectively done is agreed with us that’s the only issue," Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner told reporters after the hearing, noting that he had offered to stipulate to those facts from the beginning and avoid a prosecution that his closing brief deemed "a dog and pony show." Mirkarimi also told reporters that "the piling on of these charges has weighted us down" and complicated his defense. He added, "I leave this process concerned that the will of the voters is being undermined."


Perhaps it was understandable for the city to use over-the-top tactics on Mirkarimi, who has certainly been weakened by proceedings that generated reams of fodder to be used against him in future elections if he survives the board’s removal vote. But the tactic also seems to have hardened the stance of Mirkarimi’s supporters and fed their conviction that this was a politically motivated prosecution and misuse of public resources.

During more than three hours of public testimony on Aug. 16, with each speaker strictly limited to less than two minutes each, speakers overwhelmingly favored Mirkarimi and condemned the city case as overkill.

"Some of the things done in this case, and the levels this has gone to, is outrageous," said Brenda Barros, who works in the city’s public health clinic and said these resources could be better applied to help the "seriously abused women" she works with. Barros called the city’s case "a political witch hunt."

"I think Mayor Lee has overstepped his boundaries and I think you should find that as well," said Pedro Fernandez, a private investigator and former San Francisco Police officer.

David Elliott Lewis, a member of the city’s Mental Health Board, noted that the Sheriff’s Department has no civilian oversight, making the role of an elected sheriff who is progressive and independent of the city’s good-old-boy police culture all the more important. "Those who claim otherwise are really politically motivated," he said.

One issue left unresolved by the Ethics Commission is whether Mirkarimi should be removed even though the case against him was substantially whittled down. In fact, several commissioners indicated during the hearing that they thought the findings and punishment were separate issues.

"Do you agree that it is a two-step process we have to deal with?" Renne asked Keith, referring to the official misconduct finding and whether Lee abused his discretion by removing Mirkarimi.

"There is a determination of, are the consequences appropriate to the wrongful action," Keith replied.

But later, when attorney Scott Emblidge — who is volunteering his legal services to both the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors on this case — offered his interpretation that the charter language requires removal of officials found to have committed official misconduct, the commission accepted that and opted not to consider recommending a lesser punishment to the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi’s team objected to the commission’s rewriting of new charges based on its evidentiary findings, and things got so confusing by the end that the commission decided to meet one more time in early September to finalize its recommendation.

So the case probably won’t get to the board until mid-September. Nine votes are required to remove Mirkarimi and the charter requires the board act within 30 days, meaning that final vote will be just a few weeks before the Nov. 6 election, timing that will only increase perceptions that politics will largely determine its outcome.

Newsom votes for — and pushes — housing for the rich


I can’t say if the campaign contributions had anything to do with it (in fact, nobody seems to know when campaign contributions become bribery) but for whatever reason, Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom not only voted for 8 Washington on the State Lands Commission — he pushed hard to make sure the project went through.

According to former City Attorney Louise Renne, who was at the hearing making the case against the project, the director of the governor’s office of finance, Ana Matosantos, sent a proxy. So did state Controller John Chiang. Newsom appeared in person.

And when Matosantos’s person reviewed the evidence, he decided that it wasn’t appropriate for the panel to take any action — thanks to a successful referendum effort, the whole matter is in legal limbo in San Francisco until Nov. 2013. But Newsom was having none of it.

“It was very close at first, the controller’s representative went back and forth,” Renne told me. “But the lieutenant governor was very clear that the matter should be addressed today, and he swayed the vote.”

In the end, it was 2-0 to approve the deal, with Matosantos’s rep abstaining.

So as if there were any doubt, we know where Newsom is when it comes to giving public land to a developer to build housing for the top sliver of the 1 percent.



Newsom will vote on campaign donors’ projects


On the front page of the Chronicle Aug. 12, California Watch reported that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has been promoting the interests of campaign donors in San Diego and San Bernardino. It’s nothing criminal, but it looks bad – and it’s just the start.

Newsom, who sits on the state Lands Commission (one of the few critical duties of the Lite Guv) has received thousands of dollars in donations from interested parties looking to exploit San Francisco’s waterfront, public records show. And he will be voting on the future of their projects.

Newsom received $2,000 for his 2014 campaign from two lawyers, Neil Sekhri and Mary Murphy. Both attorneys are at the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and are involved with the controversial 8 Washington project – which comes before the Lands Commission Aug. 14. Since part of the site of the most expensive condos in San Francisco history is state Tidelands Trust property, the state has to approve the deal. Newsom will be one of three members voting.

The future site for the Golden State Warriors arena is along the waterfront. The decision to turn over that land to private investors will come before Newsom’s panel, too – and Newsom has received more than $6,000 from interested parties.
The Strada Investment Group, which is representing the Warriors as a development consultant, gave Newsom $5,000, records on file with the Secretary of State show. Jesse Blout, real estate investor for the group contributed $750. Scott Stafford, principal, contributed $750. Marty Glide, chief executive officer of the Warriors, contributed $2,000 Newsom’s campaign.

Aaron Peskin, former supervisor and a foe of 8 Washington, issued a press release Aug. 13 calling on Newsom to recuse himself from voting on that project. Newsom’s office hasn’t responded to us, but it’s a safe bet that’s not going to happen. Newsom didn’t get where he is by stiffing campaign donors when they need him on a big vote.

There’s another  problem with the Lands Commission vote on 8 Washington. According to former City Attorney Louise Renne, the commission can’t vote on a project that doesn’t actually exist.

Her argument, laid out in an Aug. 7 letter to the commission, is simple: More than 31,000 San Francisco voters signed a petition demanding a vote on the project – and the Department of Elections has certified the referendum for a citywide vote. That can’t happen until November 2013. “Under these circumstances,” Renne wrote, “you do not have a currently valid 8 Washington Street/Seawall Lot 351 project before you for consideration. Approvals of the project are suspended by law.”

Does the commission even care if what it’s doing is legal? Anyone placing bets?

UPDATE: We just got a statement from Newsom’s chief of staff, Chris Garland, who told us that the Attorney General’s Office and the Lands Commission legal staff agreed that none of the panel members have a conflict of interest.  “The lieutenant governor has enjoyed the support of parties on both sides of this issue and is capable of looking at the item impartially and doing what is right for the state,” he said. “This isn’t a matter of contributions; it’s matter of calling balls and strikes on an important project.”

Okay then.

Perspective and proportion


In the eyes of his critics, suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi may never be able to recover from the portrayal by prosecutors and Mayor Ed Lee that he abused his wife, intimidated her with threats to use his power to take custody of their young son if they divorced, and used her and his campaign manager to try to dissuade witnesses and thwart a police investigation.

The tearful video of his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, displaying the bruise on her arm, and the fact that Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor false-imprisonment charge in connection with the incident are all these critics need to condemn him. Indeed, it was all that Lee relied on when he suspended Mirkarimi without pay and launched unprecedented official misconduct proceedings to remove him from office.

But now that the Ethics Commission has gotten through the substance of its inquiry — and past the tedious work of creating from scratch systems and standards for gathering evidence and evaluating whether it warrants an elected official’s removal by the mayor — the testimony has told a very different story of what really happened.

Accusations of witness dissuasion (which had been one of three original criminal charges Mirkarimi faced before agreeing to a lesser plea deal) and abusing his official position haven’t been supported by any direct evidence or testimony, and as the hearings wore on, Deputy City Attorneys Peter Keith and Sherri Kaiser were looking increasingly vindictive as they fruitlessly pursued those angles with witnesses who seemed credible.

There is also no direct evidence that the abuse was anything more than a moment of frustration and bad judgment at noontime on Dec. 31, when Mirkarimi grabbed Lopez’s arm as she tried to walk away from their heated argument about divorce child custody, and she yanked it away, eight days before his swearing in as sheriff.

Whether that incident and its aftermath meets the City Charter’s broad and untested definition of official misconduct — including “conduct that falls below the standard of decency, good faith and right action impliedly required of all public officials” — will be up to the interpretation of the Ethics Commission, which has now accepted all the evidence that it has deemed relevant and credible. All that remains is the fight over its “finding of fact” at an Aug. 16 hearing and its subsequent recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which could begin considering the matter in September.

There won’t be an inquiry into whether Mayor Lee committed perjury on June 29, as outside witnesses said he did on two separate issues. The commission July 19 rejected the argument by Mirkarimi’s attorneys that Lee’s alleged lies under oath would cast doubt over his reasons for launching these unprecedented proceedings and the discretionary judgment he exercised. Commissioners decided that was a tangential issue.

In the final hour of the commission’s laborious work in whittling down the voluminous evidence that the city has presented in this case — which both sides and the commission openly acknowledge will likely be considered by the courts as well as the board — it also made deep cuts into the written testimony of attorney Nancy Lemon, a domestic violence expert who drew damning conclusions about Mirkarimi based on how “batterers” typically behave.

That’s been a big part of the city’s case, reducing Mirkarimi down to a two-dimensional batterer whose every action can be predicted by that distinction, from the manner in which he relinquished his weapons to police to the reasons why Lopez has resisted cooperating with efforts to charge her husband with crimes and remove him from office.

Lemon’s testimony was based almost solely on second-hand descriptions of life in the Mirkarimi household in a 22-page written declaration by neighbor Ivory Madison, who was also the only witness that Lee said he spoke to before removing Mirkarimi from office. But most of Madison’s incredible and fantastical narrative — which painted Mirkarimi as a monster who repeatedly abused Lopez and their son and controlled every aspect of their domestic life, right down to what and whether they ate — had already been discredited and disallowed by skeptical commissioners in June.

“I was disappointed by the content of Ivory Madison’s declaration. A first-year lawyer should know that much of it is inadmissible and it should not have been given to us,” Commissioner Paul Renne told Keith in June. Renne called the declaration “clearly hearsay, clearly having the intention of poisoning the well of this hearing.”

Keith apologized and offered little resistance to much of the declaration’s removal, but the city has nonetheless continued to rely on the second-hand accounts of Madison and another neighbor, Callie Williams, in its descriptions of Mirkarimi’s conduct and the questioning of witnesses.

But that hearsay evidence and speculation was countered on July 18 and 19 with the extended cross examination of two key witnesses in the case: Lopez and Mirkarimi campaign manager Linnette Peralta Haynes, a woman with domestic violence training who Lopez reached out to on that pivotal day of Jan. 4 when Madison called the police. Each woman spent more than three grueling hours each on the stand, questioned by city attorneys and commissioners — and they painted a very different portrait of the events than Lee and Madison had.

As for Madison — having had most of her testimony stricken from the record, and with Lopez testifying about Madison’s sudden zeal for going after Mirkarimi and involving his political opponents in that process — Mirkarimi’s team decided not to call her to the stand for live cross-examination. Attorney Shepherd Kopp told reporters, “I think the neighbor’s testimony is suspect at best.”

The go-between

Haynes was central to the city’s allegation that Mirkarimi dissuaded witnesses and sought to thwart a police investigation. Phone and electronic records revealed that she communicated with both Lopez and Mirkarimi many times on Jan. 4, the day Mirkarimi learned that his wife had been confiding with neighbors about the Dec. 31 incident and that Madison had broken that confidence and called the police.

The city’s apparent theory was that Haynes acted as Mirkarimi’s agent in trying to cover up the incident and do damage control, including coaching Lopez on what to say to Madison and Williams.

But the city has never had any evidence to support its theory, and this was its first chance to question Haynes, who had been at the end of a high-risk pregnancy and resisted cooperating with the investigation.

Yet despite Kaiser and commissioners grilling Haynes for more than three hours — twice as long as she had told the commission that she would need — no smoking gun emerged. Haynes seemed calm and consistent as she described giving Lopez emotional support and probing to ensure that she wasn’t in danger. Kaiser fumbled through technical difficulties and maintained an accusatory and belittling tone even as the answers she was receiving seemed to destroy her line of questioning.

“I think the house of cards that mayor has been trying to establish about witness dissuasion was demolished by Linnette Peralta Haynes, who was absolutely credible,” Mirkarimi attorney Shepherd Kopp told reporters after the hearing.

Haynes has a background in domestic violence, undergoing a 40-hour certification training in the mid-90s when she went to work for a domestic violence center in San Mateo for almost two years, then later helping develop and teach a domestic violence curriculum for the jail in San Francisco.

She’s familiar with the Power and Control Wheel — the basis for many of Lemon’s conclusions — which indicates how physical abuse can be connected to other forms of abuse, such as emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. It was with this background and training that Haynes questioned Lopez about whether she was in danger and being abused when she got an unexpected call on the morning of Jan. 4.

“She let me know she had an argument with Ross and wanted to talk to me,” Haynes said, later answering another question by saying, “She told me she was really worried about custody issues and she was talking to a friend who was an attorney.”

That friend turned out to be Madison, who Lopez maintains had represented herself as an attorney who would keep their conversation and the video they made of her injuries confidential, to be used only in the event of a custody battle. The city has sought to cast doubt on that claim — which the court rejected in Mirkarimi’s criminal case when it admitted the video as evidence — implying that Madison was simply a concerned friend and the attorney argument was developed weeks later.

Haynes said she asked Lopez whether there had been any prior incidents of physical abuse, whether Lopez felt unsafe, and whether she had been subjected to other forms of abuse — defining each form for Lopez — and that she was told “no” to each question.

“I asked if she thought she was in danger and she said no,” Haynes said.

Later on Jan. 4, Lopez told Haynes she had made the video: “She told me a friend had helped me do a video just in case I needed it for custody issues…She did tell me that she really wanted to work on her marriage, that she wanted to make to make it work, but that just in case she wanted to make sure she got custody of Theo.”

Lopez later testified that one reason she sought out Haynes was because Madison had suddenly become aggressive in trying to convince her that she was a domestic violence victim and the incident needed to be reported to the police, and Lopez wanted to get the perspective of someone with a background in domestic violence.

“I said, I have a person telling me this, I want your opinion about it,” Lopez testified.

Around 12:30pm that day, when Madison informed Lopez that she had called the police and they were on the way, she frantically called Haynes from Madison’s house and suddenly put the two women on the phone together, which Madison and the city have characterized as a witness dissuasion effort.

Haynes said she was confused when Lopez suddenly handed the phone to Madison: “She said, ‘help me, help me, help me,’ and I’m on the phone wondering what’s going on.”

“[Madison] told me, ‘I’ve been talking to Eliana for several days and I just called the police,’” Haynes said.

Haynes said she asked Madison if she had called any domestic violence agencies or if she just called the police “and she got very agitated” — adopting a defensive tone of voice — and that reaction seemed “fishy” to Haynes.

Asked whether she tried to dissuade Madison from talking to the police, she responded, “I told her she should maybe talk to her friend about what she wants.” She said that she could hear Lopez telling Madison, “This is not what I want, this is not what I want.”

So Haynes said she tried to extricate herself from the situation: “I told her I really think you need to get off the phone, talk to Eliana, and respect her.” And the phone conversation ended with Lopez getting back on the line and telling Haynes to call Mirkarimi to let him know what was going on.

But Mirkarimi was busy and not answering his phone, prompting Haynes to text at one point that he needed to answer ‘so I can protect you.” What did she mean by that, Kaiser asked.

“My thinking was that something sounded fishy, something wasn’t right, and they need legal help,” Haynes said.

“Your focus had been on Eliana up until then?” Kaiser asked.

“My focus has always been Eliana,” Haynes responded.

Later, asked about the nature of her repeated phone conversations with Lopez, she denied helping her strategize ways to dealing with witnesses or police. “I was just providing support for her, emotional support,” Haynes said, later adding “I wanted to be present for her.”

The victim

Lopez testified that while the grabbing incident was unacceptable and serious — which she conveyed to Mirkarimi — she didn’t consider herself to be in an abusive environment or in need of outside help, except perhaps the marriage counseling she had been seeking and which Mirkarimi finally agreed to.

“An abusive environment is when those kinds of think happen every day or every week,” she said, maintaining — in the face of repeated questioning — that this was the first and only instance of physical abuse.

“At the end of the day on Dec. 31, I told him, that cannot happen, this is wrong, we need counseling,” she said. “He realized it was wrong and he took it very seriously.”

But she said that Madison went from being a supportive friend and counselor on Jan. 1 to suddenly becoming increasingly insistent that Lopez report the incident to police in the days that followed.

“She started trying to convince me to call the police in that email,” Lopez said, answering a question about a Jan. 2 message from Madison, “but that wasn’t our conversation on Jan. 1.”

Lopez said Madison’s approach got more aggressive. “She said, ‘screw him, I have a lot of friends willing to help you,’” Lopez said, noting that Madison offered her the vacant homes of rich friends and offered to bring in journalist Phil Bronstein, DA George Gascon, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom to help her.

“It looked to me suspicious…She was calling Ross’ political enemies,” Lopez said.

When Lopez finally made it clear she didn’t want police involvement, Madison called the police.

“I didn’t expect that my lawyer could call the police on her own. I thought that was my decision,” Lopez said.

Keith tried to tie Lopez’s custody concerns to his status as sheriff, driving at that point with many questions. But Lopez said her concern was that California family courts would favor Mirkarimi simply because he’s an American and she’s from a country that has bad relations with the US.

“In this country, I think he’s in a better position than me,” she said. After he again tried to make it about his official position, she said, “As a sheriff, no; as an American, yes.”

She denied the claim by the city and Madison that it was Mirkarimi who sought to improperly use his position, a key element of removing him for official misconduct. Lopez said her conclusions about Mirkarimi’s advantages in a potential custody battle were the result of conversation that happened much earlier.

“That conversation happened in March 2011. He wasn’t even thinking about running for sheriff at that point,” she said, denying that Mirkarimi ever raised his official position in their custody conversations and claiming the concerns about his power were her own. “He never said that, that was my conclusion of our conversations. He never said, ‘I am a powerful man.'”

Throughout hearings, Mirkarimi’s side has enjoyed strong shows of public support, with many of his supporters wielding signs that read, “I believe Eliana” and “I support Eliana,” both in Spanish and English.

During a recess in the July 18 hearing, Mirkarimi said he appreciated the outpouring of support: “There are scores of people showing their support who think this has gone way too far.”


Guardian Voices: There’s something happening here


There are distinct signs of the rebirth of a grassroots  balanced-growth  movement in San Francisco, and some small indication that it’s even beginning to shift, ever so slightly,  the politics of the Board of Supervisors.  This is very good news for the vast majority of San Franciscans.

First, a little history.

Land use and the approval of major development projects lie at the very heart of San Francisco politics. Developers and their allies (the building trades, contractors, bankers, architects, land-use lawyers, consultants, and  permit expeditors) are the primary source of political money for candidates for local office. Since the freeway and urban renewal fights of the 1960s, the very definition of  progressive  politics in San Francisco has been the attempt to build a political base of  residents to resist that money.  So-called moderates are simply the political extension of the pro-development lobby using its money to consolidate developer control of the public approval process.

In most cities, land-use issues — zoning, permits, urban design — is left to elites. Not so in San Francisco. Here, land use is talked about at neighborhood meetings and on street corners. The heart the reason is our compact size: 46.7 square miles, and the prohibition of filling in any more of the Bay to create new land. There is no vacant land in San Francisco. Any new major development almost always displaces something already there.  Development is a zero sum game, with winner and losers.  And the losers  leave town.

Land-use politics is about staying here — and that creates real interest among San Francisco residents.

The funding for major development in San Francisco has dramatically changed in the 45 years since the freeway and anti-urban-renewal fights of the mid-1960s. Back then, it was public sector money that fueled development. Yet, with that money, due to the actions of  progressive politicians like Phil and John Burton and George Moscone, came its own remedy: votes to not accept the public money for freeways (Moscone) and votes creating either laws that either prohibited displacement or funded legal assistance to the poor, empowering  them to stop government agencies through litigation (the Burtons at both the state and federal level).

Since the money for freeways and urban renewal was from the government, the focus of the early balanced growth  forces was on government itself, through massive lobbying campaigns to affect officials’ votes (the freeway fight), or the use of government-funded lawyers  to protect poor people’s  interests ( the WACO and TOOR lawsuits against redevelopment).

All of that changed starting in the 1970s, when Richard Nixon and later Ronald Reagan deregulated oversight of urban development by creating a system of  block grants and ended funding for legal assistance for the poor.  Large-scale development was effectively privatized, moving it from being designed, funded, and approved at public meetings by government officials following regulations to being designed and funded in private — and having a Kabuki-play-like public approval process with little real oversight. With the passage of Prop 13 in 1978, which limited the main source of local government revenue — property taxes — local governments became even more reliant on private developer money to create new revenue.

The popular response to this change in the development process in San Francisco was the emergence of a politics that relied on the old progressive-era reforms of the initiative, referendum, and recall. Through a series of initiatives, the community sought to impose regulations on the development process, culminating in the 1986 Proposition M, which actually limited the amount of high-rise office space developers could build, completely imposing the popular will over a supine set of local officials and politicians. Indeed, ten years earlier, again through the initiative processes, the very nature of the Board of Supervisors was changed from a developer-friendly at-large system to a district-election system. Hotly opposed by real estate and development interests, district elections in its brief three years of existence (repealed in the wake of the Moscone-Milk assassinations, even though they were both strong supporters of the system and their assassin opposed it…ironies abound in San Francisco politics) saw limits placed on condo conversions and the passage of rent control.

In each of these multi-year efforts, a citywide coalition was formed, including an ever-expanding set of communities and neighborhoods.  Common interests were defined that cut across race, class, and geography and issues of community (neighborhood) control and funding for essential services like Muni, affordable housing, childcare, and employment training were placed on the table – and developers had to address them if they wanted projects approved.

The point is that balanced growth came from community-based political forces, not elected officials.  Broad movements were built — in the end, encompassing elements of labor. These were victories won not by elected officials but by a popular movement.

In 2000, in the wake of  the dot-com bust, another balanced-growth measure, Prop. L, aimed at cutting then-Mayor Willie Brown’s power over development, was paired with the new district election system — and a broad coalition of forces including labor, community and neighborhood organizations won a major progressive victory.

Every candidate for supervisor who supported the balanced-growth measure won. Every candidate who opposed it and supported Brown lost. While Prop L narrowly lost, its policies and objectives were passed as ordinances by the new Board of Supervisors (banning live-work lofts, closing loopholes in the planning code, requiring neighborhood-based plans for the Mission, SOMA, and Potrero Hill).

But as is so often the case, the victory of 2000 led to the slow dissolution of the coalition that created it. Folks had won. Our supervisors could handle all these issues; we no longer had to. By the end of the term of the supervisors elected as the class of 2000, very little of that citywide coalition existed any more.

With the Great Recession of 2008, advances were rolled back.  Fees on local developers for affordable housing, childcare and transit were deferred in order to stimulate development.  A new era of “moderation” was announced by elected officials, led by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Desires to “attract and retain”  business saw new tax concessions in the name of “jobs” and a new willingness to use open space and public facilities for “private/public partnerships” was announced.

By 2012 any concept of balanced growth had been replaced with a new era of “cooperation” between city officials and developers.

Until recently, that is.

It should be clear to all that for the last four years, City Hall has been eager to approve any scheme presented by private developers — from the America’s Cup nonsense to highrise luxury condos on the waterfront. The siren song of the developers — more revenue if you approve our project — has been proven false again and again, as the revenue never really matches the real costs of these projects. The city’s essential services continue to shrink. Transit fees are too low to pay for the actual new costs of Muni. The affordable housing  fees are too little to actually meet the affordable housing needs of the new, poorly-paid workers employed in the retail and service industry that is always a part of these projects.

More and more of our parks and public open spaces are made available to private users, while few if any new public parks or open spaces are being created.  Indeed, the Department of Parks and Recreation often opposes new public parks — because it can’t maintain what it has.

So it is with fondness that these old eyes see the stirring of what appears to be the awakening political  giant of a new controlled-growth movement.

Here’s how it’s happening: The formation of a multi-neighborhood coalition to oppose fee increases at the Arboretum leads to a bigger coalition to oppose artificial turf  fields in western Golden Gate Park, which leads to an even-bigger coalition placing a policy statement against the privatization of Coit Tower on the ballot and winning.

These are important indications of a broad dissatisfaction with the endless private-public-partnership ( in which all the costs are public and all the profits are private) babble from Rec and Park.

The submission by a broad based coalition of more than 30,000 signatures to place the 8 Washington on the ballot — the first land-use referendum in decades — is an incredibly important achievement, and shows the popular sentiment against much of the City Hall happy talk about development on the waterfront.

But it was the unanimous ( yes, unanimous) vote by the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to hold California Pacific Medical Center accountable for its constant shape shifting  on its massive project at Geary and Van Ness that shows, perhaps, the outline of the potential future of the balanced-growth movement in San Francisco.

Six supervisors stated their willingness to turn down the environmental impact report on the project unless Sutter/CPMC committed to a project that addressed not only the promise to keep St. Luke’s open for at least 20 years but also hired more San Franciscans, corrected the traffic nightmare predicted for Geary and Van Ness, provided more affordable housing for its own low-income new workforce, and committed  to cap the city’s health care costs as a result of CPMC’s market control the new project would create.

There is always the possibility that the two-week delay will go nowhere, but this kind of talk from this Board of Supervisors to a huge private developer simply has not occurred in the recent past.  No one from Room 200 showed up to twist supervisors’ arms in favor of Sutter.  Sutter was on its own and got rolled.

The coalition that fought Sutter to a standstill at the board, that defined the inadequacies of  the project listed by the supervisors, was a multi-neighborhood, multi-issues organization composed of community, neighborhoods, and labor. Middle class “Baja” Pacific Heights residents and low income seniors from Bernal Heights, non-profit affordable housing advocates and trade unionists, tenant organizers from the Tenderloin and Sierra Club members from the Haight-Ashbury; single moms from the Bayview and Filipino youth from the South of Market.

It was a San Francisco coalition, one that has been working together for nearly three years, blending issues, making concessions to one another and staying together.  A group like this with a set of demands such as these has not prevailed at City Hall for nearly a decade.  It still may not, indeed the chances are slim that its full demands will be achieved.

But this group moved the Board of Supervisors in a way not seen in years.  If the folks mobilized about our parks and the folks mobilized about our waterfront and the folks mobilized about CPMC get together, we have something very big happening. And it might be just in time to make a real difference.
It reminds me of an old saying: “ The people alone are the makers of world history.”

Under oath


Mayor Ed Lee and suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi each took some lumps on June 29 as they were cross-examined by opposing attorneys in front the Ethics Commission, which is conducting the official misconduct case that Lee brought against Mirkarimi over a Dec. 31 domestic violence incident. But the hearings proved unexpectedly dramatic when the room was suddenly cleared for an undisclosed security threat — following testimony by Lee that a city commissioner alleges included perjury.

The incident raises a number of issues that officials hadn’t yet answered by Guardian press time. Was the security threat real? If so, why wasn’t the room or the rest of City Hall properly secured after the mayor was whisked away? If not, who ordered the room cleared and why?

Undersheriff Paul Miyamoto, who ran against Mirkarimi last year, told the Guardian that the San Francisco Police Department notified his office that a caller claimed to have planted bombs outside of City Hall and on the Golden Gate Bridge. Deputies conducted a search and found nothing, and his office didn’t order the recess of the hearing. “We did not evacuate anyone,” he told us.

Speculation about the incident was heightened during the break when Debra Walker, a Mirkarimi supporter and longtime member of the city’s Building Inspection Commission, told the Guardian that Lee committed perjury when he denied speaking with any members of the Board of Supervisors before filing official misconduct charges. Lee was responding to a direct and pointed question from Mirkarimi attorney Shepherd Kopp — one that that Lee’s attorneys had unsuccessfully objected to.

Specifically, Walker said that her longtime friend and political ally Sup. Christina Olague — who Lee appointed to serve the last year of Mirkarimi’s term for the District 5 seat — had told her repeatedly that Lee had asked her advice before filing the charges against Mirkarimi, and that Olague’s advice was that Lee should ask for Mirkarimi’s resignation but drop the matter if he refused.

That allegation, which was first reported on the Guardian’s Politics blog shortly after the commission went into recess (Olague had not yet returned a call from the Guardian asking whether she had spoken to Lee about Mirkarimi), prompted reporters to confront Olague in the hallway outside her supervisorial office, where she tersely denied the allegation and then took refuge behind closed doors.

When the reporters lingered and persisted, waiting for a more complete answer, Olague finally emerged, reiterated her denial, refused to speculate about why her friend Walker would make that claim, and said, “We’re not allowed to discuss this matter with anyone before it comes to the board…I may have to recuse myself from voting on this.”

It was unclear why she thought recusal might be necessary, but if she does disqualify herself from voting on Mirkarimi’s removal later this summer after Ethics completes its investigation and makes its recommendations to the board, that would hurt Lee’s effort to get the nine votes needed to remove Mirkarimi.

When the Ethics Commission hearing resumed after a couple hours, Lee was again placed in a position of denying specific factual allegations that others have made, again raising the possibility that he committed perjury in his sworn testimony, which could expose him to felony criminal charges while undercutting his moral authority to remove Mirkarimi over the single misdemeanor count of false imprisonment that he pleaded guilty to in March.

The second instance was when Kopp asked Lee, “Did you ever extend any offer through third parties that you would find him another job if he resigned?”

“I don’t recall offering Sheriff Mirkarimi any job,” Lee replied.

Kopp specifically asked whether that job offer had been extended on Lee’s behalf by permit expediter Walter Wong or by San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin, to which Lee replied, “Absolutely not.”

Mirkarimi supporters have told the Guardian that Peskin had made that offer, which Mirkarimi refused, shortly before the party chair publicly called for Mirkarimi’s resignation. The outgoing message on Peskin’s cell phone said he was unavailable and wouldn’t be checking his messages until July 5. Mirkarimi’s attorneys said they’re still figuring out how to respond to the developments and had no comment, but Walker said she’s willing to testify under oath.

But the dramas underscore the treacherous grounds opened up by these unprecedented proceedings, the first involving the Ethics Commission and the broadened definition of official misconduct placed into the City Charter in 1996. As baseball great Barry Bonds and former President Bill Clinton learned, being forced to testify under oath about sensitive topics can be a tough trap to negotiate.



Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith also seemed to be trying to spring that perjury trap on Mirkarimi as he took the stand on the morning of June 29 following an hour on the stand at the previous night’s hearing. Keith reminded Mirkarimi that he was advised not to discuss his testimony with anyone and asked, “Who have you spoken to since last night?”

“My attorneys,” Mirkarimi answered.

“What did you say to them?” Keith asked, drawing objections about attorney-client privilege that Commission Chair Benedict Hur sustained.

“Did you stop for coffee?” Keith then asked, seemingly concerned that Mirkarimi may have discussed his testimony with someone at the coffee shop that morning, which Mirkarimi denied. Keith let the allegation go but maintained an accusatory, hectoring tone throughout the next three hours that he had Mirkarimi on the stand, two more hours than he had told the commission he would need.

Much of the time was spent trying to establish support for the allegation that Mirkarimi had dissuaded witnesses and sought to thwart the police investigation, which was triggered by a call from Ivory Madison, a neighbor to whom Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, had confided. But the testimony yielded little more than the city’s unsupported inference that Mirkarimi must have directed Lopez and his campaign manager, Linnette Peralta Haynes, to contact Madison after she had called the police and urged her to stop cooperating with them.

Mirkarimi has maintained that he did nothing to dissuade Madison or anyone from talking to police, and that he wasn’t aware of the investigation or that Madison had made a videotape of Lopez showing a bruise on her arm until hours after the police were involved. He even sent a text to Lopez saying there was nothing he could do, as he noted.

“It was after 4pm on January 4 when I first learned of any of this,” Mirkarimi testified, later adding, “I was very clear to her in saying you can’t unring the bell, we have to follow through with this.”

Yet Lee and the deputy city attorneys who are representing him also maintain that they needn’t prove witness dissuasion or other allegations they have made, and that the Dec. 31 incident and Mirkarimi’s guilty plea to a single misdemeanor count of false imprisonment are enough to constitute official misconduct and warrant his removal, an interpretation that Mirkarimi’s attorneys dispute.

Keith sought to hammer home how Mirkarimi should have admitted to and publicly atoned for his crime right away rather than telling reporters it was a “private family matters” (which Mirkarimi admitted was a mistake) or fighting the charges by trying to discredit Madison publicly, an allegation he denies.

After unsuccessfully trying to get Mirkarimi to admit to directing efforts to question Madison’s credibility in local media accounts, Keith asked, “Did you ever direct anyone not to attack Ivory Madison?”

“I never directed anyone to attack or not attack,” Mirkarimi replied.

Keith also clarified that Mirkarimi denies the allegation Madison made that the physical abuse on Dec. 31 went beyond grabbing Lopez’s arm once in the car, as the couple has maintained. “It’s your testimony there was no punching, pulling, or grabbing in the house?” Keith asked, which Mirkarimi confirmed.

Yet Keith said that given the totality of what happened, Mirkarimi should have known he couldn’t continue on as sheriff. “Under those circumstances, wouldn’t resigning be the honorable thing to do?” Keith said, to which Mirkarimi replied that it’s a hard question and that he’s doing what he thinks is right.

Faced with friendlier questions from his own attorney, David Waggoner, Mirkarimi apologized for his actions, saying “I feel horrible and ashamed,” but that he was “sad and scared” to have his family torn apart against their will. He also said that he believes he can still be effective as sheriff because “what makes San Francisco special is our forward-thinking approach to criminal justice.”

Longtime Sheriff Michael Hennessey — who endorsed Mirkarimi and continues to support him — established a variety of programs emphasizing redemption and rehabilitation, hiring former convicts into top jobs in the department to emphasize a belief in restorative justice that Mirkarimi ran a campaign promising to continue.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be an example of what this redemption process looks like,” Mirkarimi said, choking back tears.

But Keith had the last word before Mirkarimi left the stand, belittling the idea that Mirkarimi offers an example to follow by noting how much probation time and court-ordered counseling he still has to undergo and asking, “The process of redemption doesn’t happen overnight, right?”



Under questioning by Kopp, Mayor Lee admitted that he doesn’t have a written policy on what constitutes official misconduct, that his decisions are made on “a case by case basis,” and that he’s not sure whether conviction of a crime would always constitute official misconduct “because I’ve never confronted this before.”

“Were you aware that many members of the Sheriff Department have criminal convictions?” Kopp asked. Lee said he was not aware. Asked whether he was aware that Sheriff Hennessey had hired a convicted murderer into a top command staff position (see “The unlikely sheriff,” 12/21/11), Lee said he wasn’t.

Lee’s insistence that Mirkarimi’s crime makes him unable to deal effectively with other officials was also attacked by Kopp, who asked, “Isn’t it true that people get elected who have disagreements with other city officials?” He pointed out that City Attorney Dennis Herrera had nasty conflicts with Lee when they ran against each other for mayor last year, but that they’re working well together now.

Kopp also drilled into Lee about his decision to bring official misconduct charges before conducting an investigation or speaking with any witnesses besides Madison — an answer Lee blurted out just as city attorneys objected to the question. Much of Madison’s written testimony has been rejected by the commission as prejudicial hearsay evidence (see “Mayor vs. Mirkarimi,” July 27).

But the public’s perception of this case, if not it’s outcome, could turn on whether Lee is holding Mirkarimi to standards that he himself — as someone appointed mayor on a later-broken promise not to run for a full term — couldn’t meet. It was what Kopp seemed to be driving at before the bomb scare.

“You have asserted in your written charges that Sheriff Mirkarimi’s conduct fell below the standard of decency, good faith, and right action that is impliedly required of all public officials, correct?” Kopp asked.

“Yes,” Lee replied.

“We expect certain things of our elected officials, right?” Kopp asked.

After a long pause, in which Lee appeared to be thinking through his answer, he replied, “That’s generally true, yes.”

“And when the charter speaks of official misconduct, it doesn’t say we expect a certain standard for the sheriff, a different standard for the mayor, a different standard for the DA, a separate standard for the assessor, it just speaks in general terms about official misconduct for public officials, right?” Kopp asked.

Kaiser objected to the question on three counts, sustained on the grounds that it calls for a legal conclusion.

“Do you yourself believe there’s a separate standard for sheriff than for other elected officials?” Kopp asked, and this time the city’s objection was overruled and Lee replied, “It should be the same standard.”

“And would you agree with me that one of the things that is expected of elected officials is for them to be honest and forthright when dealing not only with their constituents, but with other elected officials?” Kopp asked, his final question before Chair Benedict Hur announced that the hearing would be suspended and the room would need to be cleared.

After the hearing reconvened, Kopp drew parallels to other city officials who remained on job after scandals, including former Mayor Gavin Newsom (who had an affair with a subordinate who was married to his campaign manager), former Sheriff Dick Hongisto (who was jailed for refusing to carry out a court’s eviction order), and current Fire Chief Joanne Hayes White (whose husband reported that she hit him in the head with a pint glass).

Asked about the latter case, Lee responded, “I don’t know all the circumstances around that and I don’t believe I was mayor at the time.”


Heads Up: 7 must-see concerts this week


There must be something about living in California that makes people want to pick up an instrument and strum, pluck, or smash. Be it surf-infused rock’n’rollers in San Diego dedicated to the Church of John Swami Reis (Mrs. Magician), illustrious weirdo harpists (Nevada City, Calif. born Joanna Newsom), San Francisco psych poppers (Magic Trick) or sticky LA streets punks (the Shrine), the sounds of the state continue to boil.

Sure, California boasts hundreds of miles of beachy coast, Hollywood streets lined with gold flecked stars, the bubbling Disney-pocalypse, camp-friendly mountainous ranges, and craggy tourist pits. It’s endless and sunny, (even when it’s foggy). And in different cities throughout this unwieldy giant of a region, scenes of sound have popped up decade after decade. It’s all rather inspiring and decadent if you take a step back and listen.

Here are your must-see Bay Area concerts this week/end:

Joanna Newsom & Philip Glass
It’s a (likely) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch the revered composer and the tree-fairy harpist with pipes of chirping gold, together, in concert. And of course, the show is a benefit for Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library, which typically hosts forested indie concerts throughout the summer months.
Mon/25, 8pm, $62.50-$140
982 Market, SF
(415) 345-0900

To be in a k-hole is essentially to remain stuck in a drugged, spaced-out soup of one’s own mind. So is all that all that rage funneled into punishing, grinding guitar lines and scratchy howls necessary for K-Holes, the NYC five-piece named after such a state, but which sounds more like an extrovert coke binge than an introvert k-hole? Perhaps not, but it gets the point across. K-Holes (a.k.a Jack Hines of Black Lips, Julie Hines, Sarah Villard, Cameron Michel, and Golden Triangle’s Vashti Windish) have a dragged-from-the-pits-of-hell sonic spark and the anti-capitalist lyrics to back the sludge punk ambiance.
With Dirty Ghosts, Blasted Canyons
Tues/26, 9pm, $8-$10
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 371-1631

Gallery Crawl Nightlife: Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick
Here’s yet another win in the brilliant series of Thursday nightlife events at the Cal Academy of Sciences. This time, the earthly sciences wonderland gets transformed into a pop-up museum with guest curators picking the best things to see and hear. Use your senses, friends. Along with a whole lot of bold pop-up art, there’ll be a performance by San Francisco’s own moony rock’n’roll treasure trove Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick, and additional music by folkYEAH! founder-DJ Britt Govea.
Thu/28, 6pm, $10-$12
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive, SF
(415) 379-8000

Mrs. Magician
Check dystopic Zombies-esque single “There’s No God” off this year’s salty Strange Heaven (released by Swami – John “Swami” Reis’ label; FYI, Reis also produced the record). The rolling waves of fuzz, upbeat melodies matched to deathly serious lyrics, and classic surf guitar wobbling should draw you in quick. “There’s no god/la la la la.”
With Mantles, Kids On A Crime Spree
Fri/29, 10pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Dent May
“With his new release, Do Things — a slice of sun that sounds like the product of playing with a drum machine after listening to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” on repeat/acid — May proves that the party is wherever he goes.” — Ryan Prendiville
With Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Fri/29, 9pm, $9-$12
New Parish
579 18th St., Oakl.

Sat/30 9:30pm, $10-$12
With Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Shannon and the Clams
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-7788

The Shrine
LA’s the Shrine just signed to Tee Pee Records, and is about to release growly punk sophomore album Primitive Blast (July 10). From a preliminary and rudimentary listen, I gather the LP is steeped in shredding and skating on sticky Los Angeles nights, which makes sense – the band’s debut album was recorded with the help of pal Chuck Dukowski, he of hardcore punk/City of Lost Angels skateboarders Black Flag fame.
With Glitter Wizard, Hot Lunch
Sat/30, 9:30pm, $8
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk Street, SF
(415) 923-0923

Lower Dens

“The Baltimore outfit’s breakthrough record, Nootropics, doubles down on thick, Krautrockabilly grooves, with the Zen-like propulsion of Lou Reed cruising the Autobahn. The production aesthetic is fascinating, in its ability to sound dry, and soaked in reverb, both at once, and the album’s second half reveals a newfound interest in musique concrete, giving the material an artieredge.” — Taylor Kaplan
With No Joy, Alan Resnick
Sun/1, 8pm, $15
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Glass on Glass: an extended interview with the composer


Few living composers can claim more influence over the landscape of modern classical music than Philip Glass. A glance at his expansive discography — comprised of symphonies, operas, ballets, film scores, and a broad range of collaborative efforts — reveals a restlessly creative artist, with little regard for categorization. Even after turning 75 earlier this year, Glass continues to work as prolifically as ever.

The latest installment in Glass’ storied career finds the composer joining forces with acclaimed singer-songwriter-harpist Joanna Newsom, for an exclusive, one-off performance Mon/25 to benefit Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library.

In a phone conversation with the Guardian last week, from his home in Manhattan, Glass detailed the evolution of his creative alliance with Newsom, his burning desire to work with Ornette Coleman and Wynton Marsalis, his likeness to Brian Eno, and his refusal to be labeled a “minimalist”, among a host of other topics.

Our interview was much too extensive for Wednesday’s feature to contain, so read on for more words of wisdom from Glass.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Are you working on any of your own material recently? Anything you can share with us, that you’re working on for your own purposes?

Philip Glass I finished an opera for Linz, Austria, based on a story about [Austrian novelist-playwright Peter Handke], and now I’m working on another opera, based on… well, that’s a Walt Disney. Besides that, I’m working with Godfrey Reggio on one of his new movies. He’s the one who made Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi. Besides that, I’m doing concerts. The one [in San Francisco] of course… and I have three in New York this week, and one in Chicago next weekend.

SFBG Solo piano performances?

PG They’re mostly ensemble concerts with my own group. There will be one in New York called the River to River Festival. That’s a group that’s been together for about 35 years or so, and we’re playing pieces that are retrospective of music from those years. Then, I will be doing some collaborative pieces. One concert I’m doing, I’m playing with Laurie Anderson. And I did one last night with Stephin Merritt. The concert in Chicago, which is next weekend, I’m doing with a wonderful violinist named Tim Fain [accompanying Glass and Newsom Mon/25], which is mostly chamber music of mine.

So, I tend to do a variety of things. It keeps everything very interesting for me. It means I’m always practicing and rehearsing [laughs], but it’s more fun to do that than to just play the same thing over and over again. I don’t do that very much.

SGBG Moving on to the show in San Francisco coming up: I spoke with [Magnus Toren, executive director of the Henry Miller Memorial Library] on the phone the other day, and said he’d heard that your rehearsals with Joanna Newsom and Tim Fain are going very well.

PG Yeah, we got along very well, and I’ve known Tim a long time. I knew Joanna from her records when we met for the first time. She spends a lot of time in New York. We met very recently, and we had two sessions here. We’re going to have another rehearsal out there.

What we’re doing, basically… it’s her music and my music. I’m playing one of her new songs, and then she and Tim are playing a number of songs together. Then, we’re playing some of my trios that I adapted for harp, piano, and violin. We’re also doing solo pieces. Violin, harp, and piano: it’s kind of a classic combination. They’re instruments that go very well together, and we found … she’s an excellent player, anyway, and a wonderful singer. But, we found that our music works very well together.

SFBG Are there any songs of [Newsom’s], or just elements of her music that you really connect to?

PG She has a unique way of approaching the harp. I’m not a harpist, so I can’t give you the technical details, but when you hear her play, she has her own style. The way that certain pianists have a certain way of playing the piano. You know, you hear them, you say, “Oh, that’s so-and-so.” You know right away who it is.

She has a bigger tonal range than harp players usually use, because she can change keys very easily, very rapidly. And so, that gives her a lot of flexibility in terms of the tonality. That’s the one thing that I noticed right away. She has a command of the whole range of the instrument, and she can adapt her voice to it very, very well.

SFBG In a recent interview, you said, “all the collaborations I’ve done, have been a way for me to put myself in a place where I haven’t been before.” Based on the time you’ve spent rehearsing with Joanna and Tim, where is this collaboration taking you, that you’ve never been before?

PG I’ve used the harp a lot in orchestral music, where it becomes part of the orchestra. It might not stand out that much. But now, with a harpist right in front of me, there were parts of the instrument that worked very well with parts of my music, and I was able to hear it. Although I knew the instrument, in terms of a large ensemble, I’ve never been in such an intimate relationship with it. It brings out a texture in the music I write, which I’m hearing almost for the first time.

SFBG Besides Newsom, are there any other new artists you’ve been listening to recently, or any currently working musicians who you admire, or take inspiration from?

PG I’m going back to working with a wonderful kora player named Foday Suso. He’s from the Gambia. We toured a lot in the late ’90s, and the early part of this decade, and we’re just trying to start touring again. We haven’t played in a few years. There will be a new percussion ensemble, and we’re going to be playing with them. But, we have concerts coming up in Seattle, and Mexico City, and actually one in Carmel.

I would guess, in terms of a new player, I think Joanna is the newest of the new, given the people I know. I just, last night, was doing a concert with, and played one piece with, Stephin Merritt. I liked playing with him. He’s a very good singer. Do you know his work?

SFBG Magnetic Fields, right?

PG Yeah, that’s right. So, he’s another person I’ve just worked with very recently, who I enjoyed working with.

SFBG So, you’re really known for your collaborations. You’ve done a lot of them. Is there any kind of consistent contribution that you feel you bring to collaborative projects?

PG One of the things that interests me the most is when I work with people who don’t have a background in Western music, as such. Wu Man, who is a wonderful pipa player (it’s like a Chinese mandolin, you could say), we’ve done work together. I’ve worked with Mark Atkins from Australia. He’s a didgeridoo player.

A percussion group from Brazil called Uakti. What I really like, is going outside of my home base. You know, my home base is basically central European art music, as it grew up in Europe and then took root in America. I find, when I’m playing with people from Africa, or Australia, or China, or Japan, or Korea, I find it very stimulating.

SFBG Are there any artists in particular who you’d love to collaborate with?

PG I did a very extensive piece with Leonard Cohen recently [The Book of Longing], and I liked that. I could go back to that collaboration again. But, it’s been four or five years since we did that piece. There are two people I’ve talked to, we’ve never had the time to do it: one is Ornette Coleman, and the other is Wynton Marsalis. We keep on talking about it, but you have to get in the same room long enough to do some work [laughs].

I’d love to go back and do some more pieces with Ravi Shankar, who is still alive, and still writing. I got to know his daughter, Anoushka. Wonderful sitar player. So, that’s a young person I would like to work with. But, she knows that. Ever since she was eight years old. She’s become a wonderful player, these days.

SFBG A few other questions about your music. You seem to reject the “minimalism” tag…

PG Well, here’s the problem: if you would like people to come to a concert of minimalism, and they come to the concert, you’re not going to hear it [laughs]. The reason I object to descriptions that are not going to be found [is that] instead of helping the audience, it creates a kind of obstacle.

The pieces I wrote in ’73, ’74, ’75, ’76: yeah, sure! But, I’m not playing any of those pieces in the concert in San Francisco. I can, and I have. I played Koyaanisqatsi with Godfrey Reggio’s film at the Hollywood Bowl last year. And, that’s close to that period. It was written in 1979. So, it wouldn’t be so outlandish to call it minimalist, but actually, the pieces I’m writing today … it’s misleading.

I don’t know what your situation is, but often, editors will try to find something to sum it up and make a headline of a piece: “Minimalist composer arrives with Joanna Newsom.” But, that’s not going to happen! [Laughs]. So, those are catchy lines, and they’re maybe good journalism, but they’re actually poor preparation.

Look: I’ve been writing music for 40 years. It’s not the same music. So, when people ask me about that, I say, “well, let’s talk about what the concert’s going to be.” Now, in this particular concert, I’m doing pieces with Joanna, and with Tim, that have been written in the last ten years. So, there’s no minimalism in it at all.

When people talk about [Einstein on the Beach]: of course. It resonates with reality. That was the heartland of minimalism in the mid-’70s, and Einstein was one of the apotheosis pieces of that time, that caught that spirit, caught that technique. But, we’re not doing Einstein. We will be doing Einstein at Berkeley, at the Zellerbach, in October.

SFBG Do you have a way, maybe a shorthand, to classify what you’re doing now?

PG You kind of brought it up, yourself. I work with musicians from many different areas, so I’ve become a collaborator. In a way, that informs more about what I do than almost anything else. I don’t care how I’m remembered, in a way, but how I might be remembered as someone who worked with a lot of different people, from Allen Ginsberg, to Twyla Tharp. [That’s the distinctive thing], and it’s definitely reflected in the form of the work.

SFBG A lot of people who were brought up on popular music, even jazz, see a certain exclusivity in classical music. But, looking at your body of work, in contrast, you’ve produced a wide range of work on commission, from operas…

PG Yeah, I got over that label right away! [Laughs].  I’m not even a new music composer anymore. I’m just a composer.

I mean, part of my agenda was to get out of the ghetto, get out of the new music ghetto, into a bigger musical world, where I could work with David Bowie, or Emmylou Harris, or Joanna Newsom. I could work with anybody, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. No one’s going to say “what is he doing now?” because I’ve done it so much that it’s more like, “there he goes again!” [laughs]

SFBG You’ve collaborated with Brian Eno in the past.

PG Yes, that was part of the collaboration with David Bowie, because during the days where they were doing pieces like Heroes and Low (I turned those into symphonies) Brian was a collaborator, for sure.

Also I had a record company at one time [Point Records], and we produced a new performance of Music for Airports [with Bang on a Can]. So, I’ve been involved with his music more than casually. I mean, I’ve actually been involved in recordings, and working on scores with his music. Very interesting composer. Very interesting guy.

SFBG Along those lines: he’s is another artist who’s really made a reputation on versatility, on working within a lot of musical settings. So, do you feel like you might have more in common with, perhaps, someone like Eno, than some of the more traditional figures in Western art music?

PG Well, I think that’s a very good point, because Eno crosses lines very casually, very easily. He wasn’t interested in being in any particular [genre]. I came up at Juilliard, and then [I had] a very high-end academic teacher in Paris called Nadia Boulanger. People who come from that background don’t usually do a lot.  [Pauses]. Trying to think. There was a great producer who produced some Michael Jackson [Quincy Jones]. He was a student of Nadia Boulanger as well. People turn up, but it’s not that common, to be truthful.

SFBG Another quotation from a recent interview, concerning your philosophy on music: you said, “music is a place, and is as real as Chicago, or Indianapolis, or the city you live in. It’s an absolute place, and once you know where that place is, you can go there.” Do you try to bring your audience, your listeners, to a certain place with your music?

PG Well, it’s not that I try to. I’m there already, so if they’re coming to my concerts, they’re going to be there, too. I think that it’s not so much the intention. It’s, more or less, a result of how I work, and who I am. If I tried to do it, I couldn’t do it any better than just, naturally doing what’s natural to me.

I think that’s not uncommon among musicians. We live in this world. It’s not a pastime. It amounts to, almost, an obsession for most musicians. They almost can’t think of anything else, to be truthful. They’re probably boring people to be around if you’re not a fellow musician [laughs]. But, the allure of the world of music is very powerful, and when you’re caught up in it, that’s what it is.

SFBG The place in music that you occupy: do you form any visual associations with it?

PG Not really, though in dreams, I can see things. The language of music is aural. It’s not about seeing; it’s about hearing.

SFBG Is there a piece, or even a section of a piece of yours, that you feel really succinctly encapsulates your approach to music, or what you strive for?

PG Einstein was the piece in the ’70s that captured that for me. But then, six years later, I was doing Koyaanisqatsi. Before Einstein, there was Music in Twelve Parts. Then, after that, there were three operas I did, to the work of Jean Cocteau. These are things that come up throughout my life. Certain pieces kind of sum up everything you’ve been thinking about, and you become aware of it afterwards. It’s hard to know it when it’s happening.

When I look back on certain pieces, [in the mid-’90s there was] Symphony No. 2, which, I didn’t think very much of when I wrote it. And the violin concertos from that time. They both became emblematic pieces of a certain kind.

I can see pieces that way: pieces that seem to sum up a period of search and work, and they seem to be the contestants of those ideas. And then, you move on to, then maybe three, four years of experimentation, of working through things. And then, another piece will pop up, that kind of sums it up. That happens to everybody.

A Benefit for Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library
Philip Glass and Joanna Newsom with Tim Fain
Mon/25, $62.50-$140
982 Market, SF
(415) 345-0900

Philip Glass and Joanna Newsom’s one-off concert to save the Henry Miller Memorial Library


He’s worked with the likes of Ravi Shankar, Leonard Cohen, Woody Allen, and Allen Ginsberg. Next week, one of the most influential living composers, Philip Glass, will add singer-songwriter-celebrated harpist Joanna Newsom to his list of collaborators.

On Monday, they will take the Warfield stage, along with violinist Tim Fain, in a one-off performance to benefit Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library.

A fixture of Northern California’s artistic heritage, the library will face closure this fall unless it manages to raise $150,000 to upgrade its water system to existing code. Glass and Newsom, both proponents of the library, have joined forces to secure its future.

Dedicated to the acclaimed author of Tropic of Cancer, who moved to Big Sur in 1944, the Henry Miller Memorial Library isn’t a library in the conventional sense.

The small wooden cabin, serving as a bookstore and community center, is nestled in a redwood grove on the Big Sur coastline, right beside a grassy area where concerts are held. The stage has drawn performers as varied as Laurie Anderson and Fleet Foxes, all of whom have found something special in its intimate, picturesque setting.

According to executive director Magnus Toren, the library “ties into what Big Sur represents for many people, which is… getting out of the hustle-bustle of regular life, oftentimes urban life. It’s a little bit of a sanctuary… As soon as you enter through the gate, you feel transported into a different kind of world.”

Glass, a Manhattanite, was inspired by the library’s setting when he gave his first concert there in 2008, describing it as, “a very, very idyllic place to perform.”

Yet, his attachment to California didn’t stop there. In 2011, Glass established the Days & Nights Festival, a two-week multimedia arts showcase held in Carmel Valley, which will present the upcoming benefit at the Warfield, along with folkYEAH!.

Given their respective backgrounds, the thought of a collaboration between Glass and Newsom has raised some eyebrows.

Credited alongside Steve Reich and Terry Riley for radically altering the direction of 20th century classical music, Glass is celebrated for his early minimalist works (Einstein on the Beach; Music in Twelve Parts) his film scores (Koyaanisqatsi), an immense collection of symphonies, operas, and ballets, and of course, his many collaborative projects.

Glass’ symphonic renditions of David Bowie’s Low and Heroes are a testament to his “maverick” status in the world of composition.

Newsom too has an individualist appeal. The native Californian has garnered a large following over the past decade for her innovative, highly percussive approach to the harp.

Noted for her eccentric, high-pitched voice (she can recall a young girl and an elderly woman in the same breath) and genre-bending songwriting methods, Newsom is esteemed as any singer-songwriter of her generation. “She has a command of the whole range of the [harp], and can adapt her voice to it very well,” Glass explained during a phone call last week.

On her most acclaimed album, Ys, (co-written with revered pop-collagist Van Dyke Parks) Newsom filtered extensive “songs” through a flowing set of dynamics, more befitting of a classical composition than an indie-folk record.

“Artistically, and musically, [the collaboration is] just so interesting,” Toren says. “They’re both iconoclastic. They’re both on the outer edge of certain areas in music. And so, I felt… there could be some synchronicity, some kind of chemistry. And, I think that’s what’s happening.”

Based on the success of several rehearsals in New York, Glass speaks enthusiastically about the collaboration, and the new places it has taken him as an artist. “[Although] I’ve used the harp a lot in orchestral music, I’ve never been in such an intimate relationship with it… It brings out a texture in the music I write… which I’m hearing, almost for the first time.”

Next Monday, the audience should expect solo material from Newsom, Glass, and Fain, in addition to collaborative renditions of Newsom’s songs and Glass’ trios.

When asked if he accepts the title of “classical composer”, Glass was quick to identify himself as a collaborator, above all.

“Part of my agenda,” he explained, “was to get out of the new-music ghetto, into a bigger musical world, where I could work with David Bowie, or Emmylou Harris, or Joanna Newsom… and it wouldn’t be a surprise. No one’s going to say ‘what is he doing now?’ because I’ve done it so much that it’s more like, ‘there he goes again!'”

A Benefit for Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library
Philip Glass and Joanna Newsom with Tim Fain
Mon/25, $62.50-$140
982 Market, SF
(415) 345-0900

Music Listings


Music listings are compiled by Emily Savage. Since club life is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to call ahead or check the venue’s website to confirm bookings and hours. Prices are listed when provided to us. Visit for venue information. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.



Brian Bergeron Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick Great American Music Hall. 8pm, $29.

Dot Punto, Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Syphony, Greening, Tall Sheep Elbo Room. 9pm, $7.

Samantha Fish Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $15.

Graffiti6, Yuna Cafe Du Nord. 8:30pm, $15.

Indigo Girls, Shadowboxers Slim’s. 8pm, $31.

Jeff vs. JC Rockit Johnny Foley’s Dueling Pianos. 9:30pm.

Amy La Vere Hotel Utah. 9pm, $10.

Parlotones, Ryan Star, Silent Comedy Independent. 8pm, $14.

Pins of Light, Hot Victory, Lozen Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $7.

Hélène Renaut, Bramble and Briar Lost Church, 65 Capp, SF; 8pm.

Matt Skiba & the Sekrets, Case in Theory Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $20.

Stone in Love: A Tribute to Journey Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $25.

Tu Fawning Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 9pm, $9-$12.

Vardensphere, W.A.S.T.E., E.S.A., End: The DJ DNA Lounge. 9pm, $14.


Cat’s Corner with Nathan Dias Savanna Jazz. 9pm, $10.

Cosmo AlleyCats Le Colonial, 20 Cosmo Place, SF; 7-10pm.

Dink Dink Dink, Gaucho, Michael Abraham Amnesia. 7pm, free.

Ricardo Scales Top of the Mark, 999 California, SF; 6:30pm, $5.


Carlos Aldama with Umi Vaughan City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm.

Amy LaVere Hotel Utah.


Booty Call Q-Bar, 456 Castro, SF; 9pm. Juanita MORE! and Joshua J host this dance party.

Coo-Yah! Som., 2925 16th St, SF; (415) 558-8521. 10pm, free. DJs Daneekah and Green B spin reggae and dancehall with weekly guests.

Mary Go Round Lookout, 3600 16th St, SF; 10pm, $5. Drag with Suppositori Spelling, Mercedez Munro, and Ginger Snap.

Megatallica Fiddler’s Green, 1333 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. Heavy metal hangout.



Baby and the Macks, Dresses, Phoebe Hunt, DAD Amnesia. 9pm, $5-$10.

Brad Wilson Blues Band Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $15.

Capital Cities, Gemini Club, popscene DJs Rickshaw Stop. 9:30pm, $13-$17.

Clamhawk Manor Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 8pm, $5-$8.

Fuckaroos, Pillars and Tongues, Joseph Childress, Grace Cooper Hemlock Tavern. 8pm, $10.

Gunshy Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Lisa Hannigan, Joe Henry Great American Music Hall. 8pm, $26.

HowellDevine, Aaron Leese & the Panhandlers Cafe Du Nord. 8:30pm, $10-$12.

Radio Noise, H is 4 Hector, Insecurities Grant & Green. 9pm, free.

Randy vs. Jeff Johnny Foley’s Dueling Pianos. 9:30pm.

Rose Royce Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $30; 10pm, $20.

Scene of Action, Pavement Sea, Gold Medalists Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $8.

Spider Heart 50 Mason Social House, SF; 10pm, free.

Van Hunt, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist Independent. 8pm, $20.

Younger Lovers, School Knights, Grandma’s Boyfriend Thee Parkside. 9pm, $7.


Stompy Jones Top of the Mark, 999 California, SF; 7:30pm, $10.

Ned Boynton Trio Bottle Cap, 1707 Powell, SF; 7-10pm.

Stephanie Mills Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $60.


“Summer Solstice Soiree with Musica Delira” Bissap, 3372 19 St, SF; (415) 826-9287. 8pm.

Twang! Honky Tonk Fiddler’s Green, 1330 Columbus, SF; 5pm. Live country music, dancing, and giveaways.


Afrolicious Elbo Room. 9:30pm, $5-$7. With DJ-host Pleasuremaker spins Afrobeat, Tropicália, electro, samba, and funk.

Base: Lee Burridge Vessel, 85 Campton, SF; $10-$15.

SF Riot Grrrl “Mine” Knockout. 9pm, $5. Benefit for Lyon-Martin.

Arcade Lookout. 9pm, free. Indie dance party.

Get Low Som., 2925 16th St, SF; (415) 558-8521. 10pm, free. Jerry Nice and Ant-1 spin Hip-Hop, ’80s and Soul with weekly guests.

SkisM DNA Lounge. 8pm, $15.

Thursdays at the Cat Club Cat Club. 9pm, $6 (free before 9:30pm). Two dance floors bumpin’ with the best of 80s mainstream and underground with DJ’s Damon, Steve Washington, Dangerous Dan, and guests.

Tropicana Madrone Art Bar. 9pm, free. Salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, and more with DJs Don Bustamante, Apocolypto, Sr. Saen, Santero, and Mr. E.



Cool Ghouls, Cigarette Burns, Courtney and the Crushers, Glitz Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $7.

Death to All, Gorguts Regency Ballroom. 9pm, $32.

Jenni & the Jerks 50 Mason Social House, SF; 10pm.

Joe Krown/Walter Wolfman/Russell Batiste Trio Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 9pm, $15-$20.

Last Ambassadors, Cash Pony, 3 Ring Simian Cafe Du Nord. 9:30pm, $10.

Larry McCray Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $20.

Rahsaan Patterson Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $26; 10pm, $22.

Retroz, Funkery, Raya Zion Collective Slim’s. 8pm, $14-$16.

Sister Crayon, Sea of Bees, Jhameel Bottom of the Hill. 9:30pm, $12.

Sole Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Spyrals, Poor Sons, Wild Wild Wets, Arabs Thee Parkside. 9pm, $6.

THEESatisfaction Independent. 9pm, $14.

Rags Tuttle, Jeff, Jason Marion Johnny Foley’s Dueling Pianos. 9pm.


Audium 1616 Bush, SF; 8:30pm, $20. Theater of sound-sculptured space.

Black Market Jazz Orchestra Top of the Mark, 999 California, SF; 9pm, $10.

Terry Disely Bottle Cap, 1707 Powell, SF; 5:30-8:30pm, free.


David Berkeley SFO Airport, Terminal Three. 10am-2pm, free.

Ozark Mountain Music Show Plough and Stars. 9:30pm, $8-$10. With Chapmans.

Taste Fridays 650 Indiana, SF; 8pm, $18. Salsa and bachata dance lessons, live music.


Baxtalo Drom Amnesia. 9pm, $7-$10. Live music, gypsy punk, belly dance.

Drag Yourself to Pride: Disney Prom Rickshaw Stop. 9:30pm, $5.

Joe Lookout, 3600 16th St.,SF; 9pm. Eight rotating DJs, shirt-off drink specials.

Old School JAMZ El Rio. 9pm. Fruit Stand DJs spinning old school funk, hip-hop, and R&B.

Original Plumbing Elbo Room. 10pm, $7-$10. Trans March after-party with DJs Rapid Fire and Average Jo.

Paris to Dakar Little Baobab, 3388 19th St, SF; (415) 643-3558. 10pm, $5. Afro and world music with rotating DJs including Stepwise, Steve, Claude, Santero, and Elembe.

Pledge: Fraternal Lookout. 9pm, $3-$13. Benefiting LGBT and nonprofit organizations. Bottomless kegger cups and paddling booth with DJ Christopher B and DJ Brian Maier.



Curumin Slim’s. 9pm, $16-$18.

Dark Hollow Riptide, 3639 Taraval, SF; 9:30pm, free.

Fast Times Maggie McGarry’s, 1353 Grant, SF; www.maggiemcgarryscom. 10pm, free.

Foreverland, Planet Booty Bimbo’s. 9pm, $22.

Fusion Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Mark Gardener, Sky Parade, Silent Pictures Cafe Du Nord. 9:30pm, $12-$15.

“Go Van Gogh Celebrates the Sexual Revolution” Revolution, 3248 22 St, SF; 9pm.

Hammers of Misfortune, Grayceon, Wild Hunt Elbo Room. 9pm, $10.

It Gets Indie, It Gets Better and the Trevor Project’s Princeton, Local Great American Music Hall. 8pm, $25.

Jeff, Randy, Jason Marion Johnny Foley’s Dueling Pianos. 9pm.

Kicker, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S., Modern Pets, Rock Bottom Thee Parkside. 9pm, $8.

Locos Por Juana, Bang Data Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 9pm, $9-$12.

New Position, American Professionals Thee Parkside. 3pm, free.

Otis Heat, Quick & Easy Boys, Caldecott Bottom of the Hill. 9:30pm, $12.

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $20.

“Vans Warped Tour” McCovey Cove at AT&T Park, SF; Noon, $42. With Taking Back Sunday, All Time Low, Used, New Found Glory, and more.

Whirr, Lorelie, Moonbeams, Half String Hemlock Tavern. 8pm, $8.


Audium 1616 Bush, SF; 8:30pm, $20. Theater of sound-sculptured space.

Citizen’s Jazz Red Poppy Art House. 8:30pm, $10-$15.

May’n Yoshi’s SF. 1:30pm, $50.

Pat Martino Organ Trio Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $25; 10pm, $20.


“Fete de la musique” Alliance Francaise, 1345 Bush, SF; With Tod Hamilton and Jerry Kiernan, Zu Zed, Safe Under the Tree, Helene Renaut, Hot Six, and more.

Craig Ventresco & Meredith Axelrod Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St, SF; 4-6pm, free.


Black Glitter 50 Mason Social House, SF; 9pm.

Bootie SF: Lady Gaga vs Madonna DJ DNA Lounge. 9pm, $10-$20. Resident DJs A Plus D, Smash-Up Derby, with Lindsay Slowhands, MJ Paul and La Femme.

Cockblock’s Dyke March After-Party Rickshaw Stop. 9pm, $10-$20. With DJs Natalie Nuxx, Chelsea Starr, and Kidd Sysko.

J Rocc, Shortkut, Beat Junkie Sound, Triple Threat DJs Mighty. 9pm.

Paris to Dakar Little Baobab, 3388 19th St, SF; (415) 643-3558. 10pm, $5. Afro and world music with rotating DJs including Stepwise, Steve, Claude, Santero, and Elembe.



Amaral Independent. 8pm, $20.

Anita Baker, Family Stone, Glide Ensemble Stern Grove Festival, Stern Grove, SF; 2pm, free.

Future Twin, Modrag, Cruel Summer Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

J. Geils & Friends Yoshi’s SF. 6pm, $25; 8pm, $30.

John Lawton Trio Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Men, Wax Idols, Burnt Ones Bottom of the Hill. 9:30pm, $12.

Lisa Marie Presley Slim’s. 8pm, $22.

Shady Maples, Blind Willies Cafe Du Nord. 8:30pm, $10.

Viola Booth Group, Mike Bloom, Alan Semerdjian Amnesia. 9pm, $7-$10.


Linda Zulaica, Brad Buethe, Chris Amberger Bliss Bar, 4026 24 St, SF; 4:30pm, $10.


Kata-vento Brazilian Ensemble Red Poppy Art House. 8pm, $10-$15.

Twang Sunday Thee Parkside. 4pm, free. With Famous.


Aesthetic Perfect, X-RX, BlakOpz DNA Lounge. 9pm, $19.

Dub Mission Elbo Room. 9pm, $6. Dub, roots, and classic dancehall with DJ Sep, Vinnie Esparza.

Jock Lookout, 3600 16th St, SF; 3pm, $2. Raise money for LGBT sports teams while enjoying DJs and drink specials.

La Pachanga Blue Macaw, 2565 Mission, SF; 6pm, $10. Salsa dance party with live Afro-Cuban salsa bands.



“An Evening with Philip Glass and Joanna Newsom and Tim Fain” Warfield. 8pm, $62.50-$150. Benefit for Big Sur’s Henry Miller Memorial Library.

“Blue Bear School of Music Showcases” Cafe Du Nord. 7:30pm.

Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $30; 10pm, $18.

Damir Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.

Friends, Splash!, Young Digerati Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $12.

Scott Lucas & the Married Men Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 9pm, $7-$10.

2:54, Widowspeak Independent. 8pm, $12.


Bossa Nova Tunnel Top, 601 Bush, SF; (415) 722-6620. 8-11:30pm, free. Live acoustic Bossa Nova.


Earl Brothers Amnesia. 6pm.

Anna Fermin Osteria, 3277 Sacramento, SF; 7pm.


Death Guild DNA Lounge. 9:30pm, $3-5. Gothic, industrial, and synthpop with Joe Radio, Decay, and Melting Girl.

Krazy Mondays Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, SF; 10pm, free. Hip-hop and other stuff.

M.O.M. Madrone Art Bar. 6pm, free. DJs Timoteo Gigante, Gordo Cabeza, and Chris Phlek playing all Motown every Monday.

Vibes’N’Stuff El Amigo Bar, 3355 Mission, SF; (415) 852-0092. 10pm, free. Conscious jazz and hip-hop from 1960s-early ’90s with DJs Luce Lucy, Vinnie Esparza, and more.



Arcadio Residency: Dedications, Brendan Thomas Amnesia. 9:15pm, $5.

“Blue Bear School of Music Showcases” Cafe Du Nord. 7:30pm.

Daniel Castro Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $15.

Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band Yoshi’s SF. 8pm, $30; 10pm, $18.

Hundred in the Hands, Silver Swans, Teenage Sweater Rickshaw Stop. 8pm, $10-$12.

K-Holes, Dirty Ghosts, Blasted Canyons Brick and Mortar Music Hall. 9pm, $8-$10.

KWJAZ, Aloonaluna, Aja Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

Queen Extravaganza Regency Ballroom. 8pm, $32-$45.

Stan Erhart Band Johnny Foley’s. 9pm, free.


Trini Lopez “Mr. La Bamba” Rrazz Room. 8pm, $40-$45.


Gumbo Lab Little Baobab, 3388 19 St, SF; (415) 643-3558. 7-10pm, free. Hip-hop, reggae, and improv open mic hosted by MSK.FM and Chris-B.

Eclectic Company Skylark, 9pm, free. DJs Tones and Jaybee spin old school hip hop, bass, dub, glitch, and electro.

Post-Dubstep Tuesdays Som., 2925 16th St, SF; (415) 558-8521.10pm, free. DJs Dnae Beats, Epcot, Footwerks spin UK Funky, Bass Music.

San FraNOLA Public Works. 7pm, free. With DJ Brice Nice, Lagniappe Brass Band, and Cook Me Somethin Mister jambalaya. Study Hall John Colins Lounge, 138 Minna, SF; 9pm. Hip-hop, dancehall, and Bay slaps with DJ Left Lane.