SF Chronicle

Now that Willie Brown is a lobbyist, will the SF Chronicle finally cut him loose?


Years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle handed Willie Brown a megaphone, but now that he’s officially recognized as a paid lobbyist, isn’t it time to yank it back?

Weekly Chronicle columnist and former Mayor Brown’s newest Ethics Commission filings show he’s been paid $125,000 to lobby the city on behalf of Boston Properties, negotiating for the developers who are threatening to sue the city over a tax deal worth up to $1.4 billion to San Francisco. Boston Properties were told going into the deal they’d pay taxes based on property values in the South of Market district, where the high-rise Salesforce Tower (formerly the Transbay Tower) and other developments will soon be built.

The loss of funding in the special tax zone known as a Mello-Roos District (which, in a twist of another sort, was created when Brown presided over the California Assembly) could jeopardize the high-speed rail extension from the Caltrain station at 4th and King streets to the new Transbay Terminal, possibly downgrading it into a very expensive bus station. We left an interview request with Brown’s assistant for this piece, but received no reply.

Brown has long sold his influence to the highest bidders, although he claimed to be their lawyer and not their lobbyist, but now Brown is legally out in the open as an advocate against the city’s interests. He’s now officially a registered lobbyist (finally).

But the Chronicle still publishes Brown’s column, Willie’s World, giving “Da Mayor” a weekly space in its prominent Sunday edition to charmingly joke away his misdeeds (which raised the eyebrows of the Columbia Journalism Review for its maddeningly obvious ethical concerns). In his newest column, Brown kiddingly brags about taking bribes:

“John Madden got off a great line the other night when we were sitting in the St. Regis lobby.

I was reading off my itinerary for the evening when he stopped me, turned to another guy and said, pointing my way, ‘He’s the kind of politician who goes everywhere. As a matter of fact, he’ll show up for the opening [sic] an envelope.’

It all depends on what’s in it.”

In his column the week before, he trumpeted a potential political ally while taking pot-shots at high speed rail, the very same project that Boston Properties seeks to defund by depriving the city of tax dollars for the Salesforce Tower project:

“There is a very impressive star on the horizon. Her name is Ashley Swearengin. She is the mayor of Fresno, and she’s running for controller against Democrat Betty Yee.

She is also a Republican who is being pilloried by other Republicans for her support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail project. Unlike some politicians, Swearengin has a concrete reason for backing what some are calling the ‘train to nowhere.’ It means a ton of construction jobs for Fresno.

Supporting high-speed rail, however, has cost her in the fundraising department because many potential Republican donors hate the project.”

And maybe because he’s digitally disinclined to use Twitter, in July he used the Chronicle as his own personal communications service to contact federally indicted and alleged-gun-running Sen. Leland Yee:

“Where’s Leland Yee? I’ve got everybody in town looking for our indicted and suspended state senator, and no one can find him. Leland, if you read this, call me.”

We reached out to Chronicle Managing Editor Audrey Cooper to ask her if San Francisco’s paper of record would consider retiring Brown’s column now that he’s a registered lobbyist, but didn’t hear back from her before we published. But you know, they could always go the other way: Why stop with Willie? Just give up guys, and give editorial space to BMWL (who are pushing against the Soda Tax), to Sam Singer (the high-powered public relations flak), or Grover Norquist (he could write about the virtues of libertarianism and Burning Man at once!).

But Brown is a special case all on his own. He’s no ordinary lobbyist: He has the ear of the mayor (and helped elect the mayor), and his influence cuts a swath through the city’s biggest power players, from PG&E to Lennar Corporation. He helped many current city politicians and staffers get their jobs in the first place.

The average reader not steeped in wonky political backdoor deals may not understand why giving him a column is such a bad idea. Journalist Matt Smith has long-written on Brown’s SF Chronicle conflict of interest, first for the SF Weekly and then for the now-defunct Bay Citizen. In 2011, an anonymous Chronicle staffer told this to Smith:

“‘Should the newspaper be in the business of helping an influence peddler peddle?’ the journalist asked.

‘If you believe him even 50 percent of the way, Willie Brown has a big say in San Francisco politics, which he reminds us of every week. He has a certain self-deprecating style that makes him even more charming, which kind of hides the fact that what he is really doing is bragging about all the people he knows, and all the influence he peddles. What that does is it has a multiplier effect.'”

That multiplier effect works in a few ways. First, it works almost as information-laundering: When Brown “jokes” about taking bribes, it makes any accusations of impropriety seem quaint. After all, it’s just Willie Brown, we already know he’s a wheeler-and-dealer, right? What harm could he do?

Second, it amplifies his already formidable position as a kingmaker in San Francisco politics, possibly allowing him to charge even more cash to special interests for his influence. Since he registered as a lobbyist, Brown has met five times with Mayor Ed Lee over the Salesforce Tower tax issue. And until the Chronicle’s surprising and incredibly rare editorial stance against Mayor Ed Lee’s deal, Brown almost succeeded in negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars out of city coffers and into the pockets of Boston Properties.

The Chronicle wrote scathingly in their editorial:

“The deal is baffling — and infuriating. The group of developers had already gotten special favors from City Hall.”

Swap the words “the group of developers” with “Willie Brown,” and you could say the exact same thing about Brown’s Chronicle column.

Brown even used his San Francisco Chronicle headshot in his lobbyist registration with the Ethics Commission. If that’s not a “fuck you” to the Chronicle’s sense of journalistic ethics, I don’t know what would be. The Chronicle’s photo editor told us in an email that Brown did not have permission to use the photo.

I don’t think he cares.



Anti-war groups take to the streets of SF to protest US bombing campaign UPDATED


With the US military now bombing targets in both Syria and Iraq, and the Islamic State that we’re targeting threatening to retaliate against US citizens, the Bay Area’s anti-war movement is taking the streets today [Wed/24] and in the coming days (although the SF Chronicle apparently didn’t get the memo).

Two of the Bay Area biggest anti-war groups, the San Francisco chapters of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition and The World Can’t Wait, have called for a march and protest today at 5:30pm starting at Market and Powell streets.

“[President Barack] Obama owns this immoral and illegal action, the ultimate war crime — invasion of a sovereign nation that poses no imminent threat to the aggressor. “We” did not ask for or approve this war. NOTHING good can come from U.S. bombing, and we need to say so immediately and widely,” The World Can’t Wait said in a statement calling for people to show up with sign and something to say.

Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, put out a statement that included this: “Let’s tell the fundamental truth that the Obama Administration conceals from the people. The so-called Islamic State or ISIS wouldn’t exist today as a major force either in Syria or Iraq except for the U.S. military aggression that smashed the secular, nationalist governments in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 followed by its catastrophic support for the armed opposition against the similarly organized government in Syria.”

But hey, nothing solves problems created by US militarism like the US military, right? No? Yeah, probably not, so get out there and be counted as a voice for peace.

[UPDATE Thu/25]: The turnout and energy level at yesterday’s anti-war rallies seemed a little lackluster, which was probably more of an indicator of the disempowerment people feel and their grim resignation toward our state of neverending war than actual support for the current military operations. I reflected on this phenomenon in 2008, five years after our military invaded Iraq, in an award-winning piece called “Resistance is Futile — or is it?” and I think it’s work another read in light of current events.  

Guardian Intelligence: Sept. 24 – 30, 2014



Beck brought his endlessly funky band to the new Masonic Sept. 19 for opening night, where they ran through melancholy new tunes from this year’s Moon Phase before switching gears toward his more upbeat hits for a serious dance party (there was caution tape involved). See a full review and more photos on our Noise blog at SFBG.com PHOTO BY ERIN CONGER


Bay Guardian film festival correspondent Jesse Hawthorne Ficks returned from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, having deployed his usual tactic of seeing as many films as possible — and then writing about them at length on the Pixel Vision blog at SFBG.com. Visit the Pixel Vision blog for his series of posts, including takes on the trend toward ultra-long films (FYI, he’s a huge Lav Diaz fan…), Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence (pictured), Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, and other buzzed-about titles. PHOTO COURTESY OF TIFF


The Bay Area’s edition on the Sept. 21 Global Climate Convergence was held on the edge of Lake Merritt in Oakland, where some of the best speakers went full-on commie in connecting capitalism to the climate crisis, calling for revolutionary change. Socialist Action’s Jeff Mackler brought the old-school Trotskyite class analysis while up-and-coming Socialist Alternative (the party of Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant) had a strong presence. The Coup’s Boots Riley opened with an a cappella “Love for the Underdog,” followed by some fiery oratory and a couple more strong songs, including the militant anthem “Ghetto Blaster.” Power to the people!


San Francisco pushed the envelope in building cycletracks, bike lanes physically separated from cars, before state law allowed them. But on Sept. 20, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1193, a bill by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) that inserted cycletrack standards into state transportation codes, they suddenly became a legal, easy option for cities around the state to start building, just like they already do in Europe. So as cyclist safety improves in California, they can have San Francisco to thanks. You’re welcome.


Major kudos to actor and local hero Danny Glover for his recent visit to the San Francisco County Jail Reentry Pod. “With that great smile and laid-back style, Danny connected with inmates about preparing to get out and staying out,” said Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who spent some time with Glover and inmates preparing for release. “Be the example.” The reentry pod stems from a collaboration between the Sheriff’s Department and Adult Probation, to prepare AB109 prisoners from state realignment for their release. PHOTO COURTESY SF SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT


Now you can don condoms against evictions! At Folsom Street Fair, activists handed out condoms adorned by the face of Ellis Act evictor (and leather lover) Jack Halprin. Why are the protesters equating him with an ejaculate receptacle? Halprin purchased a San Francisco property on Guerrero two years ago and filed to evict the tenants under the Ellis Act, one of whom is a San Francisco elementary school teacher with a 2-year-old son. From the condom wrapper: “Jack be simple, Jack’s a dick! Jack’s evictions make us sick!”


This issue of the Guardian is all about delicious travel — here’s something close to home that will have beer lovers gripping their steins. The new Tri-Valley Beer Trail lights up Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon, Dublin and Danville with foamy craft goodness — reinstating that area as one of the original homes of California beer (the region formerly contained one of the largest hops farms in the world). Fifteen stops, innumerable beers to try, and warm weather all the way. See www.visittrivalley.com for more details.


Art Explosion Studios, the Mission’s largest artist collective, prides itself on supplying affordable studio space to local painters, sculptors, photographers, jewelers, fashion designers, and other creative types. An affordable situation for artists? In the Mission? What is this, 1994? Support this organization and meet the artists (over 100 in total) right where they do their makin’ at the annual Art Explosion Fall Open Studios. Hit up the opening gala Fri/26, 7-11pm, or stop by Sat/27-Sun/28 from noon-5pm. 2425 17th St, SF; 744 Alabama, SF; www.artexplosionstudios.com.


A wonky tale of woe just got a happy ending. Developers looking to make big bucks from the construction of the new Transbay Terminal tower, now the SalesForce tower, were looking to skim money off San Francisco by reneging on their required taxes, possibly costing the city $1.4 billion dollars. After the developers hired slick ex-Mayor, lobbyist, and SF Chronicle columnist Willie Brown to smooth the deal, they almost got away with saving hundreds of millions of dollars that would go to Muni, pedestrian safety, and infrastructure. At the last minute, the city changed its tune, and now the SoMa area will get the funding it was promised. The people win, and the fat cats lose.


Alerts: September 3 – 9, 2014




Panel: Agriculture and Journalism

SF Commonwealth Club, 595 Market, SF. tinyurl.com/agriculturebeat. 6pm, $20 nonmembers, $8 members, $7 students. Cutbacks in reporting staff have decreased the amount of agriculture related journalism, yet in today’s foodie world, there is a growing demand for new information about where consumer’s food is coming from. Join Tara Duggan of the SF Chronicle, Naomi Starkman of Civil Eats, Andy Wright of Modern Farmer, and Sasha Khokha of KQED to discuss journalism’s changed and changing relationship with agriculture. Bi-Rite Catering will provide food for the event.



Public Forum: Police Tasers in Berkeley

1939 Addison, Berk. coalitionfortaserfreeberkeley.org. 7-10pm, free. Is the militarization of the police force unnecessary? The Berkeley police force is asking for Tasers, but the City Council is hesitant. Discuss the issue with panelists such as Aram James, activist and former Palo Alto Public Defender; Barbara Ann White, Berkeley NAACP vice president and community mental health professional; James Chanin, founding member of the Police Review Commission and civil rights lawyer; and Jeremy Miller, program director of the Idriss Stelley Foundation and co-organizer of the successful campaign to stop San Francisco from getting Tasers. The Coalition for a Taser Free Berkeley is sponsoring the forum.



Police Violence Teach-In

Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck, Berk. 510-465-9414. 2-4:30pm, free. In light of the recent Ferguson and St. Louis events, join speakers Anita Wills, Chris Kinder, and Carol Denney to learn about police violence and political protest in America, and how Ferguson relates to the Bay Area. The event is put on by the Alameda Peace and Freedom Party.


Film & Fundraiser: Connected By Coffee

2868 Mission, SF. tinyurl.com/connectedbycoffee. 4pm, $10 suggested donation. Coffee is important to a large percentage of the SF population. However, many coffee farms are threatened by leaf rust fungus. All donations will go to Cooperative Las Marias 93 in El Salvador — a cooperative farm that lost 80 percent of its crop to the fungus, and has been unable to export coffee since. There will be a Q&A with local coffee roasters from the Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative, and coffee samples at intermission. The documentary — Connected By Coffee — looks into the multibillion dollar industry of coffee.

Residents vs. tourists



Evictions and displacement have become San Francisco’s top political issues, amplified by protests against tech companies that are helping gentrify the city. Yet Airbnb, which facilitates the conversion of hundreds of San Francisco apartments into de facto hotel rooms, has so far avoided that populist wrath.

Tenants use the online, short-term rentals to help make rent in this increasingly expensive city, a point that the company often emphasizes.

“For thousands of families, Airbnb makes San Francisco more affordable,” Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas wrote to the Guardian by email, citing a company survey finding that “56 percent of hosts use their Airbnb income to help pay their mortgage or rent.”

But it’s also true that Airbnb allows hundreds of rent-controlled apartments to be removed from the permanent housing market — in violation of local tenant, zoning, tax, and other laws — something that has united tenant, landlord, hotel, and labor groups against it (see “Into thin air,” 8/6/13).

“The problem is Airbnb is so easy and attractive that you can take a unit out from under rent control forever,” San Francisco tenant attorney Joseph Tobener told the Guardian.

“We’re getting 15 calls a week on Airbnb,” he said, describing four categories of complaints: landlords evicting tenants to increase rents through Airbnb, tenants complaining about neighbors using Airbnb, tenants being evicted for getting caught illegally subletting through Airbnb, and Airbnb hosts who can’t get guests to leave (city law gives even short-term residents full tenant rights, except in hotels).

There isn’t good public data on how many units are being taken off the market, but Airbnb generally lists well over 1,000 housing units in San Francisco at any given time, with its smaller competitors (such as Roomorama and VRBO) adding hundreds more.

The San Francisco Rent Board listed 326 no-fault evictions (Ellis Act, owner move-in, capital improvement) in its 2012-13 annual report. That number is almost certain to rise in the 2013-14 report due out in March, and it is compounded by an unknown number of buyouts that pressure tenants to voluntarily leave, all of it creating a displacement crisis that has galvanized the city.

“Isn’t it far more likely that more units are being lost [from the rental market] through Airbnb?” San Francisco Magazine recently quoted a UC Berkeley professor as saying in an article questioning whether Ellis Act evictions are really a “crisis.”

So Airbnb is clearly having a big impact on the city’s affordable housing crisis. Yet Airbnb is largely flying under the political radar in its hometown and ducking questions about its impacts.

“Airbnb has all the statistics we need to assess its impacts on the city’s housing market,” Tobener said. The company refuses to disclose such data. Airbnb’s customers need to consider their impacts to the city’s affordable housing crisis, Tobener added, because “there are social consequences to the decisions we make.”



Last year I discovered Airbnb was flouting a ruling that it should be paying the city’s 15 percent transient occupancy tax (“Airbnb isn’t sharing,” 3/19/13), a nearly $2 million per year tax dodge.

Yet Airbnb, which has quickly grown from a small start-up into a company worth nearly $3 billion, has some powerful friends in Mayor Ed Lee and venture capitalist Ron Conway, who invests in both Airbnb and Mayor Lee’s political campaigns and committees.

So the company has stonewalled Guardian inquiries for the last year as it has worked with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu on legislation that tries to bring the company’s business model into compliance with local laws. That hasn’t been easy, as Chiu told us.

“It has been difficult to corral the different stakeholders to get on the same page,” Chiu said. “Airbnb has been like unraveling an onion. The more progress we make, the more issues come up.”

Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, says it shouldn’t be so hard. “They need to enforce the law. They need to collect the hotel tax. They don’t need new laws,” she told us.

While the city is unlikely to simply follow New’s advice, the displacement issue adds another layer to Airbnb’s onion, one that sources say has become an issue of growing concern within the company, which has finally begun to respond to Guardian inquiries.

Those concerns have also been compounded as Airbnb is now being sued by one of Tobener’s clients, Chris Butler, who says he was evicted from his rent-controlled Russian Hill apartment so the landlord could make more money through Airbnb (see “Airbnb profits prompted SF eviction, ex-tenant says,” SF Chronicle, 1/22/14).

“We strongly support rules that keep people in their homes, and the vast majority of Airbnb hosts are regular people just trying to make ends meet,” Airbnb told the Guardian. “Whatever happened in this case, we certainly do not support unscrupulous landlords who evict long term tenants solely to turn their apartments into short-term rentals, but it is important to note that experts have found such cases to be extremely rare.”

Airbnb didn’t respond to our follow-up questions, but those “expert” findings appear to be a reference to a study the company commissioned late last year from Berkeley-based Rosen Consulting Group entitled “Short-Term Rentals and Impact on Apartment Market.”

But that study of Airbnb’s impact to rental housing in San Francisco doesn’t really draw the conclusions that company seems to think and hope it does.



One number that the study and Airbnb have repeatedly sought to highlight is the claim that “90 percent of Airbnb hosts in San Francisco use Airbnb to occasionally rent out only the home in which they live,” as the company put it to us.

“Airbnb users generally do not identify themselves as utilizing short-term rentals as a business. In fact, 90 percent of Airbnb hosts [in San Francisco] indicated that they live in the home listed on Airbnb,” was how the study put it.

“It’s trash. They pick and choose the data they want to share,” Tobener said of the study and the 90 percent figure, which he says was derived from a 2011 user survey before the local housing market exploded. Rosner Consulting told us it stands by the study but won’t discuss it.

The figure also lumped in those with multiple rooms in their homes that have traditionally been rented by local residents and covered by rent-control laws. It also discloses that 10 percent of Airbnb hosts are renting out outside units simply as a business, a figure that has likely risen over the last three years.

The study does disclose that there were 1,576 properties booked through the company in August 2012, which the study notes was just 0.4 percent of the 378,000 homes in San Francisco, which Airbnb uses to dismiss its impacts on the market.

But the study includes only macroeconomic data, rather than looking at the company’s impact on certain socioeconomic groups — such as those making 120 percent or less of median area income, the people being evicted from and priced out of the city — or the supply of rent-controlled housing.

“The average gross income per Airbnb property in the previous 12 months was $6,722, or an average of $564 per month,” the study discloses, choosing to use average rather than median figures even though they’re considered less accurate gauges of income and housing data.

Customers who only use Airbnb once or twice will skew those averages way down. Yet the study then compares that number to the “average market-rate apartment rent in San Francisco, which was $2,498 per month in mid-2013. The average income generated is insufficient to cover monthly rental expenses in full.”

Which tells us nothing about how Airbnb is impacting either rent-controlled housing or the median income San Franciscans who rely on it. According to the US Census Bureau, the median rent in San Francisco was $1,463 in 2012 and 64 percent of San Franciscans rent their homes.

“The study is bullshit,” Tobener said. “They could pull data and tell us how many people are renting full units on Airbnb, but they don’t.”

Yet the company claims that it is concerned about these issues and working with the city.

“We believe our community of hosts should pay applicable taxes and we are eager to discuss how this might be made possible. We’ve reached out to officials in San Francisco and we continue to have productive discussions with city leaders,” Airbnb told the Guardian. “These issues aren’t always easy, but if we work together, we can craft fair, responsible, clear rules that ensure San Francisco continues to benefit from home-sharing.”

Yet neither Airbnb nor its political supporters seem to want to have this public discussion. The company has stopped responding to our inquiries, again, and when we asked the Mayor’s Office about Airbnb’s impacts to the affordable housing market, we got this response and a refusal to directly answer either the original or follow-up questions: “The Mayor has prioritized preserving, stabilizing and growing the City’s housing stock. His policy priorities include protecting residents from eviction and displacement, including Ellis Act reform and stabilizing and protecting at-risk rent-controlled units, through rehabilitation loans and a new program to permanently stabilize rent conditions in at-risk units.”

Yet Airbnb continues to have an impact on those “at-risk rent-controlled units” that few people seem to want to discuss.

City College loses accreditation, throwing its future into doubt


City College of San Francisco will lose its accreditation, it was announced today, and the venerable local college may not survive. With its impending death, the future of thousands of San Franciscans seeking education and a better life are in limbo.

The loss of accreditation becomes effective in one year, and the decision is being appealed, during which time local control is being transferred to a state trustee. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has not yet named the trustee that it will appoint, and officials say the trustee will be given full authority to make decisions in the place of the current Board of Trustees.

“I think state intervention is going to be necessary,” said Mayor Ed Lee told reporters this afternoon.

“It’s imperative City College stay open for business and education the 85,000 students it serves” Lee said in a conference call with reporters. “I’m concerned about the devastating impact City College’s termination would have on our great city.”

The long-awaited decision was expected sometime around this long holiday weekend, and officials knew losing the accreditation was a possibility, but most said privately that they didn’t think the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges would actually pull the trigger. So right now, everyone is still reeling from the news.

“It’s too soon to say who that special trustee will be at that point,” State Community College Chancellor Brice Harris said. 

Locally elected Trustee Rafael Mandelman said that the locally elected board will continue operating until July of 2014, when the termination of the accreditation becomes effective, but it’s unclear what authority it will now have. 

“It’s disappointing, it’s outrageous, I don’t think it’s called for. I don’t think it’s the right outcome. I don’t think the state is going to do a better job running the school than a local board could,” he told us.

“We believe that the best way to bring the college from certain closure is to put the college under trusteeship of certain powers,” Harris said, adding that the search for a new chancellor for CCSF will now be accelerated. The current chancellor is an interim chancellor, the second one in a year after chancellor Don Griffin left the school due to an illness.

“We are disappointed in the Commission’s decision. We will be filing a request for review and will do everything in our power to have this decision reversed,” Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman said in a prepared statement. “What is of utmost importance at this time is that City College remains open, and instruction and services will continue. We want to assure our students and their families that we will serve them and continue to provide the high quality education that they expect from City College. We will continue to register new and returning students for the Fall semester and look forward to their arrival on campus in August.”

City College was put on sanction by the commission back in July of 2012 after allegedly failing to fix issues identified by the commission six years prior. Since then, the college has been in panic mode. 

The threat of closure brought drastic changes at whip lash speed over the past few months: two campuses shuttered, over 40 counselors and support staff were laid off, faculty took a 7 percent pay cut and student enrollment has plummeted.

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Peter Goldstein put the college’s finances this way, “This has been a nightmare of a fiscal year.”

But there were positive improvements as well, said Alisa Messer, an English teacher and faculty union president of City College’s local AFT 2121. 

“Faculty have banded together and worked hard to address the requirements around student learning outcomes,” Messer said. SLOs, as they’re commonly known, measure student learning over the course of a class and in a student’s college career. 

“The accrediting commission felt it wasn’t integrated throughout the college, but they would be hard pressed to say it isn’t now,” she said.

Despite City College’s improvements the California Federation of Teachers is set on fighting the accreditation commission’s decision. They filed a massive 280-plus page complaint to the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the accreditation commission violated many of its own rules in evaluating CCSF.


The commission responded by locking out over 30 faculty and concerned citizens from its most recent public meeting, even barring a reporter from the SF Chronicle from entering.  

Now the commission has asked visiting accreditation teams, who evaluate colleges on site, to shred their documentation to make such complaints harder to research, which was originally reported on by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The work you do here is a position of trust, the documents you receive are given to you in that light.” said a faculty member who had served on prior accreditation teams, but did not wish to be named because they are not approved to speak on behalf of the accreditation commission. “When you’re done fulfilling your responsibility its good policy to dispose of them, and its the commission’s expectation.”

Some of the documents are proprietary information at for-profit colleges, such as Heald. It makes sense to protect that private information. The visiting team has “a look behind the curtain,” the faculty member said. 

But Messer isn’t buying it. “We’ve asked they be more transparent, they’ve done the opposite of that,” Messer said.

On the college’s Ocean campus, just outside the Chancellor’s office in a retro brown speckled hallway, Dennis Garcia walked by with his City College registration info in hand.

He’s ready for his next semester, and unlike the thousands of students that didn’t enroll in City College this year, he forged ahead.  

“I decided to come because I’m not scared or nervous about the school going down,” he said.

Garcia is an 18-year-old criminal justice major and SF native who dreams of transferring to San Francisco or San Jose State Universities. He wants to be a star soccer player while in school.

But why did he stay when so many others fled? 

“Why City College? It’s home,” he said. “People say, coming here is not successful, but I mean, sometimes you don’t have money and you’re not an A or B student, but you get your math and English done and you go from there. College is college.”

Now, whether City College remains a college this time next year is still an open question.


The Chron gets the condo deal wrong


It’s kind of a surprise that the Chron actually likes the (possible) condo conversion deal. That paper typically opposes anything that is good for tenants and supports anything that the landlords like. But it’s annoying that the editorial writers made it sound as if Sups. Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell engineered this whole thing. You need to get beyond the silly paywall to read the full editorial, so I’ll reproduce the key part here:

This week a deal may be struck to end the stalemate. A plan by Supervisors Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener will give owners of tenancies in common the chance to convert under a one-time deal. The yearly lottery will be suspended, the apartment owners will pay from $4,000 to $20,000 each into a subsidized housing fund, and those in the conversion pipeline can go forward. It’s essentially a one-time offer with the lottery system swinging back in place in 10 years.

Actually, Farrell and Wiener weren’t the ones who came up with the proposal that might make this legislation possible. That work was done by tenant and housing advocates — Sarah Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee, Ted Gullkicksen of the Tenants Union, Peter Cohen from the Council of Community Housing Organizations, Gen Fujioka of CCDC — and Sups. Norman Yee, Jane Kim, and David Chiu. The landlord group Plan C didn’t make any effort to negotiate anything in good faith, so the tenant and housing people went and put this together on their own.

It was never included in the Wiener/Farrell bill; if anything, it was prepared as a hostile amendment. Realizing that, with Yee on the side of the tenants, there wouldn’t be six votes for their original plan, Wiener and Farrell had no choice but to accept the tenant alternative.

A lot of hard work, and a lot of give-and-take was involved — but the credit for that goes first and foremost to the activists who fought the original Wiener-Farrell proposal. Let’s be fair here.

The “mystery” of the homeless families


The Chron’s having a hard time figuring out why there are so many more homeless families looking for help.

“It’s been difficult to pin down any kind of trend,” said Elizabeth Ancker, assistant program director at the nonprofit Compass Connecting Point, the group that manages the waiting list and helped find Bailey a shelter room. “We’re really just seeing more of everybody – every demographic, in every situation.”

No shit.

Of course there are more homeless families. The cost of housing is beyong the reach of even many full-time employed people, and anyone who lacks a sizable weekly paycheck is completely out of luck. When dozens of high-paid workers are competing for every single available apartment, there’s no room at all for anyone else.

And more and more families are losing their homes to eviction as landlords seek to cash in on the demand for tenancy-in-common units.

Gavin Newsom calls it “the burden of success.” But it’s not a burden for the successful; it’s a burden for those who are struggling — and this city has never asked the winners in the economic boom to pay a fair share to help those who are being displaced and hurt.

The city’s scrambling to find public-housing and nonprofit alternatives, but there aren’t anywhere near enough places to meet the need. And there won’t be, not for a long time, not without a whole lot more money. Building affordable housing is expensive and time-consuming.

The bottom line: In a crisis like this one, the cheapest affordable housing is existing affordable housing, and the best way to prevent homelessness and keep families off the streets is to prevent evictions and TIC/condo conversions. Why the Chron can’t figure that out is anyone’s guess.

Hearing called on America’s Cup “fundraising fiasco” as Mayor Lee talks about scaling back the event


Amid reports that San Francisco taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $20 million in America’s Cup expenses because of anemic fundraising efforts by the America’s Cup Organizing Committee, today Mayor Ed Lee talked about scaling back the event and offering public naming rights to wealthy donors and Sup. John Avalos called for a Board of Supervisors hearing to look into the matter.

Following his monthly question time appearance before the Board of Supervisors, Lee was questioned about the issue by reporters, and he downplayed the idea that the city will go into the hole for its overzealous sponsorship of billionaire Larry Ellison’s big boat race.

“We’re not in the hole, but we will be if we don’t raise enough money. And I don’t want the pressure on the General Fund, and that would end up being an obligation that we have. By the way, while I’m raising, or helping to raise, some $20 million to cover that, I’m also asking all departments now that we have a, relative to what was going to be a larger race, now we don’t have as many boats, the expenses might be off so we have to kind of update it and reduce it. So with the combination of reducing the expense side and then raising some money as we’re doing from the private sector, we’re getting some new traction,” Lee said.

“We still have plans to spend upwards of $30 million to cover all the expenses, and we’re hoping that gets down to much less than that. But my goal right now is to get reports from all the departments about how to reduce their spending on this. I’m still going to try to raise the $20 million with the help of Senator Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Lt. Gov. Newsom,” Lee said.

He also alluded to public goodies that he may offer to wealthy potential donors, including making a passing reference that “we’ve created some ongoing legacies, naming rights in areas that haven’t been named yet, we’ve cleared that with the Port to make sure it’s a very attractive package for them.” But ultimately, he said that city taxpayers are on the hook to pay for the impacts of this race: “This is a financial obligation that we signed on.”

Earlier in the day, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers – which has been active since the America’s Cup was first proposed in trying to ensure the event makes financial sense for the city – sent a letter to the board calling for a hearing and highlighting the ethically dubious actions by city officials that got us into this mess.

That letter follows in its entirety:

February 12, 2013

Supervisor Carmen Chu, Chair

Supervisor David Campos

Supervisor Malia Cohen

Government Audit and Oversight Committee

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 94102

Re: Request for Oversight Hearing on America’s Cup Organizing Committee “Fundraising Fiasco”

Dear Members of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee:

As a northern waterfront neighborhood leader who has supported bringing the America’s Cup to San Francisco since Day One, I feel compelled to urge you to take urgent action to begin to restore a profound breach of public trust while there is still time left to salvage this event. 

News reports this week revealed the stunning news that San Francisco taxpayers may have to pay upwards of $20 million to subsidize the America’s Cup[1] despite public commitments stating that the event would not be taxpayer-funded and a signed contract designed to make that happen.[2]  In light of such astonishing news this close to the race, I request that you schedule a public hearing now to get answers to this critical question: what happened and how can we fix it?

Specifically, I encourage you to solicit testimony and an appearance before the Committee from the two individuals most responsible for the current $20 million shortfall out of the $32 million in private fundraising that was committed to prevent the need for taxpayer subsidies:  America’s Cup Organizing Committee Executive Director Kyri McClellan and America’s Cup Organizing Committee Chair Mark Buell.  These are the two individuals whose primary job it has been for the past two years to ensure that the America’s Cup Organizing Committee complied with its fundraising obligations.  Both Ms. McClellan and Mr. Buell have made numerous public statements over the past two years aimed at rebuffing all concerns about their ability to raise the $32 million. 

For example:

1)  “I have every confidence we will meet our obligations,” – Kyri McClellan, 6/13/11[3]

2)  “Yep, we are not running behind in the least bit,” – Kyri McClellan, 9/19/11[4]

3)  “I am confident that all the money will be raised,” – Mark Buell, 1/6/12[5]

4) “I’m busting my ass raising (money) for it.” – Mark Buell, 2/7/12[6]

5)  “we are confident that the agreement we have with the (America’s Cup) Event Authority coupled with our continued fundraising successes will ensure we meet our obligations to the city.” – Mark Buell, 2/7/12[7]

6)  “There is definitely more heavy lifting to be done, but we think we’re well-positioned to do that,” – Kyri McClellan, 2/8/12[8]

The role that Ms. McClellan has played in creating what is being referred to as a “fundraising fiasco”[9] should particularly be evaluated in light of the two ethics laws that were waived by the San Francisco Ethics Commission at the urging of members of the Board of Supervisors to enable her to shift seats across the negotiating table from her previous job working as the Mayor’s America’s Cup deal negotiator on behalf of the City into her private role working for the America’s Cup Organizing Committee.[10]  The twin dangers of reduced accountability and lax scrutiny that stem from this kind of “revolving door” between government and the private sector are precisely what the ethics laws that were summarily waived were put in place to prevent.  The question now must be asked whether the decision to waive ethics rules to allow someone playing such a central role to shift sides deserves a significant part of blame for the problems that have begun to come to light.

As a long-time supporter of the America’s Cup, I hope you will take swift action to get answers and correct the course of the event before it is too late.  Thank you very much for your time and consideration. 


Jon Golinger


Telegraph Hill Dwellers


[1] America’s Cup could cost S.F. millions, Matier & Ross, S.F. Chronicle 2/10/13

[2] “[T]he [America’s Cup Organizing] Committee will endeavor to raise up to $32 million over a three year period from private sources, to reimburse the City for a portion of the City’s costs (including, without limitation, costs associated with CEQA review), and lost revenues, and City expenditures required to meet its obligations under Sections 8 and 10 (including resources from the police, and public works departments, the Port, DPT and MTA). The Committee’s fundraising targets for the three year period are $12 million for year one, and $10 million for years two and three.” – Section 9.4, 34th America’s Cup Host and Venue Agreement, 12/14/10

[3] America’s Cup Fundraising is Floundering, NBC News, 6/13/11

[4] America’s Cup reach tax exempt status, KGO ABC News, 9/19/11

[5] America’s Cup organizers hit first fundraising goal, SF Chronicle, 1/6/12

[6] America’s Cup needs ‘significant additional fundraising,’ SF Chronicle, 2/7/12

[7]Significant’ fundraising needed for America’s Cup group, SF Business Times, 2/7/12

[8] Controller:  America’s Cup needs more fundraising to cover city costs, SF Examiner, 2/8/12

[9] City Pushes to Fill Fundraising Gap for America’s Cup, KTVU Ch. 2, 2/11/13

[10] “In order to accommodate McClellan, commissioners agreed to waive two post-employment restrictions for city officials.  The first is a yearlong post-employment communications ban, and the second prohibits former city employees from receiving compensation from city contractors for two years. . . . Asked what would happen if ACOC somehow failed to raise the agreed-upon funds, placing McClellan in the position of having to explain the shortfall or re-negotiate with her former coworkers, Ethics Commission Deputy Executive Director Mabel Ng allowed, ‘If something like that happened, there might be a conflict.’ And what justification was given for waiving the ban on former employees receiving compensation from city contractors? “For that one, in the law itself, it says the commission may waive it … if it would cause extreme hardship,” Ng explained. “There would be a hardship, because … this is a great opportunity for her, and there was a short timeline for her to do it.”  Pressed on that point, Ng confirmed that the “hardship” in this case was the possibility of being barred from a great job opportunity, not the threat of financial impact or job loss. The other issue, Ng said, was that without McClellan serving in that post, the committee’s fundraising effort might not be successful. “It just seemed like, you need to have somebody take charge,” she said. “The committee may suffer without her at the helm. If she were not able to do that, the committee — which plays a very crucial role in this — may not be able to meet its obligations.’” Mayoral staff member to direct America’s Cup Organizing Committee, SF Bay Guardian, 4/7/11



Dick Meister: The pioneering black porters


By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

It’s Black History Month, a good time to honor the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, one of the most important yet too often overlooked leaders in the long struggle for racial equality and union rights.

The union, the first to be founded by African Americans, was involved deeply in political as well as economic activity, joining with the NAACP to serve as the major political vehicle of African Americans from the late 1930s through the 1950s.

Together, the two organizations led the drives in those years against racial discrimination in employment, housing, education and other areas that laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the1960s.

The need for a porters’ union was painfully obvious. Porters commonly worked 12 or more hours a day on the Pullman Company’s sleeping car coaches for less than $100 a month. And out of that, they had to pay for their meals, uniforms, even the polish they used to shine passengers’ shoes. And they got no fringe benefits.

In order to meet their basic living expenses, most porters had to draw on the equally meager earnings of their wives, who were almost invariably employed as domestics.

It was a marginal and humiliating experience for porters. They were rightly proud of their work, a pride that showed in their smiling, dignified bearing. But porters knew that no matter how well they performed, they would never be promoted to higher-paying conductors’ jobs. Those jobs were reserved for white men.

Porters knew most of all that their white passengers and white employers controlled everything. It was they alone who decided what the porters must do and what they’d get for doing it.

When a passenger pulled the bell cord, porters were to answer swiftly and cheerfully. Just do what the passengers asked – or demanded.  Shine their shoes, fetch them drinks, make their beds, empty their cuspidors, and more. No questions, no complaints, no protests. No rights. Nothing better epitomized the vast distance between black and white in American society.

Hundreds of porters who challenged the status quo by daring to engage in union activity or other concerted action were fired. But finally, the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted workers, black and white, the legal right to unionize. And finally, in 1937 the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters won a union contract from Pullman.

The contract was signed exactly 12 years after union president and founder A. Philip Randolph had called the union’s first organizing meeting in New York City. It was a long arduous struggle, but it brought the porters out of poverty. It won them pay at least equal to that of unionized workers in many other fields, a standard workweek, a full range of employer financed benefits.  Most important, porters won the right to continue to bargain collectively with Pullman on those and other vital matters.

Union President Randolph and Vice President C.L. Dellums, who succeeded Randolph in 1968, led the drive that pressured President Roosevelt into several key actions against discrimination. That included creation of a Fair Employment practices Commission in housing as well as employment.

FDR agreed to set up the commission – a model for several state commissions – and take other anti-discrimination steps only after Randolph and Dellums threatened to lead a march on Washington by more than 100,000 black workers and others who were demanding federal action against racial discrimination.

Randolph and Dellums struggled as hard against discrimination inside the labor movement . . . particularly against the practice of unions setting up segregated locals, one for white members, one for black members.

Randolph, elected in 1957 as the AFL-CIO’s first African–American vice president, long was known as the civil rights conscience of the labor movement, often prodding federation President George Meany  and other conservative AFL-CIO leaders to take firm stands against racial discrimination.

The sleeping car coaches that once were the height of travel luxury have long since disappeared. And there are very few sleeping car porters in this era of less-than-luxurious train travel. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is gone, too. But before the union disappeared, it had reached goals as important as any ever sought by an American union or any other organization.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Dick Meister: Martin Luther King Jr. — a working class hero


Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, dickmeister.com.


While celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, let’s remember that extending and guaranteeing the rights of working people was one of Dr. King’s major concerns.

 You’ll recall that King was in fact assassinated in 1968 while campaigning for striking sanitation workers who were demanding that the city of Memphis, Tennessee, formally recognize their union.

King had been with the 1300 African-American strikers from the very beginning of their 65-day struggle. He had come to Memphis to support them despite threats that he might indeed be killed if he did.

King considered the right to unionization one of the most important civil rights. And virtually his last act was in support of that right. For his assassin’s bullet struck King as he was preparing to lead strikers in another of the many demonstrations he had previously led.

King’s assassination brought tremendous public pressure to bear in behalf of the strikers. President Lyndon Johnson dispatched federal troops to protect strikers and assigned the Under Secretary of Labor to mediate the dispute. Within two weeks, an agreement was reached that granted strikers the union rights they had demanded.

For the first time, the workers’ own representatives could negotiate with their bosses on setting their pay and working conditions. They could air their grievances. And they got overtime pay, their first paid holidays and vacations, first pensions, first health care benefits.

They got a substantial raise in pay that had been so low that forty percent of the workers had qualified for welfare payments.

And they won agreement that promotions would be made strictly on the basis of seniority. Which assured the promotion of African Americans to supervisorial positions for the very first time.

The strikers’ victory led quickly to union recognition drives –– and victories ––by   public employees throughout the South and elsewhere.

As a strike leader said, the strikers had won dignity, equity and access to power and responsibility.

Those clearly were the lifelong goals of Martin Luther King Jr., whether he was seeking civil rights for African Americans or labor rights for all Americans, black and white alike.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, dickmeister.com.




Dick Meister: Good news for our neediest workers


By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Here’s some good news for the new year: Ten states are set to raise their minimum wage rates on January first.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calculates that the increased rates will boost the pay of more than 850,000  low-income  workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The rates, raised in accord with state laws requiring automatic adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living, will go up by 10 to 35 cents an hour depending on the state. NELP figures that will mean $190 to $510 more a year for the four million workers who are paid at the minimum in those states.

That may not seem like much in today’s economy, but most of the workers are living at or near the poverty level, and it will mean a lot to them and their families. Another 140,000 needy low-paid workers will get indirect raises as pay rates are adjusted upward to reflect the new minimum wage in their states.

Nineteen states, including California, plus the District of Columbia will now have rates higher than the federal minimum. But though the increases in state minimum wages are vital, what’s needed now is also to raise the federal minimum so that all minimum wage workers are paid at a higher and uniform rate.  The federal rate has remained at $7.25 an hour  – about $15,000 a year for the average minimum wage worker – since it was set in 2007, although inflation has continued to erode its purchasing power

A bill now pending in Congress would raise the federal rate to $9.80 an hour by 2014, set the rate for tipped workers at 70 percent of that, and provide for the rates to rise to match future increases in the cost of living.

Federal action is badly needed, notes NELP’s executive director, Christine Owens, to “make sure workers earn wages that will at the very least support their basic needs. But earning an income that meets basic needs shouldn’t depend on the state where a working family lives.”

OK, but won’t increasing the pay of minimum wage workers discourage employers from hiring more workers and thus weaken the economy and hurt jobless workers? That’s often claimed by fiscal conservatives, but it’s simply not so.

NELP cites a large body of research clearly showing that “raising the minimum wage is an effective way to boost the incomes of low-paid workers without reducing employment.” NELP notes in particular research showing that “even during times of high unemployment, minimum wage increases did not lead to job loss.”

On the contrary. NELP estimates that increased spending by workers paid at the new state minimums will pump an estimated $183 million into the economy, creating the equivalent of more than 100,000 full-time jobs. Other estimates indicate that every dollar increase in wages for workers at the minimum rate would trigger more than $3000 in new spending.

But can employers afford to pay a higher minimum? Wouldn’t it be a burden on small businesses, as those opposing a raise often claim? No. NELP found that more than two-thirds of minimum wage workers are employed by large companies, and that many of the companies could easily afford a raise, especially since they “have fully recovered from the recession and are enjoying strong profits.”

There’s no excuse for inaction.  Ten states have done the right thing for their neediest working citizens. It’s time for Congress and President Obama to do their part.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Dick Meister: Michigan is just the beginning


By Dick Meister
Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Be alert, American workers: The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan means serious trouble for unions and their supporters everywhere. Yet there’s legitimate hope that it also could lead to a revitalized labor movement.

You can be sure the action by Michigan, long one of the country’s most heavily unionized states, home of the pioneering and pace-setting United Auto Workers and iconic labor leader Walter Reuther, will inspire anti-labor forces in other states to try to enact right-to-work laws.

They aren’t likely, however, to try in California, where voters rejected a right-to-work proposition in 1958 and this November rejected the viciously union-busting State Proposition 32.  But union foes here as elsewhere are certain to seize on the Michigan vote, and the passage earlier this year of a right-to-work statute in Indiana, as evidence of labor weakness that they will try mightily to exploit, politically and otherwise.

They’re already seeking right-to-work laws in Ohio and Wisconsin and planning other steps around the country to weaken  the economic and political clout of unions and their supporters and thus weaken the basic rights and economic position of all working people.

As contradictory as it might seem, that could lead to a badly needed revitalization of labor. For it should make it unmistakably clear to unions and their supporters that there’s a very serious need for a greatly stepped-up mobilization against their political and economic enemies.

 True, unions lost a major campaign this year in trying to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his attacks on the collective bargaining rights of public employees. But that should not dissuade labor from waging other efforts against union opponents. They came close to recalling Walker and, in doing so, laid the groundwork for future campaigns and proved that unions are quite capable of waging major campaigns against their opponents. That surely discouraged at least some others from taking anti-labor actions that would anger labor and its powerful supporters.

Notably impressive as well was labor’s role in helping elect – and re-elect – President Obama. Labor opponents and supporters alike learned from that, if they didn’t already know it, that unions have the money and the manpower to seriously mount major campaigns. They put millions of dollars and millions of campaign workers into their extraordinary efforts on Obama’s behalf.

Obama has responded by appointing a pro-union secretary of labor, Hilda Solis, and other pro-labor men and women to run the Labor Department, plus issuing executive orders that have strengthened the rights and legal protections of working Americans .

But unions are of course doing less well in Michigan and most other states, and that’s being reflected in Congress, where labor has had a rough time getting approval of national measures such as a higher minimum wage.

Most importantly, labor has been unable to garner the votes for passage of the Fair Employee Free Choice Act that has long topped labor’s political agenda. The act, which has been stalled in Congress for three years, would give workers the absolute right to unionization, by making it easier for them to form and join unions.

Also high on labor’s agenda is the pressing need to modify the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. It has allowed states to enact right-to-work laws, even though the laws, now in Michigan and 23 other states, are clearly designed to weaken – if not destroy – unions by denying them the right to collect the money from members that is essential to effectively represent them in bargaining.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Dick Meister: Home care workers need presidential help


By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

The country’s 2½ million home care workers have been waiting a whole year now for President Obama to make good on his promise to grant them the federal minimum wage and overtime pay protections they so badly need.

The need for immediate presidential action was made abundantly clear in a letter to the White House on Dec. 13 that was released by the National Employment Law Project – NELP, as it’s called. The signers include people who are receiving home care, those who employ them and those who provide the care.

NELP’s figures show that the average national wage of home care workers, including those working at for-profit home care agencies, is $9.40 an hour. Which means that one in five caregivers live at or below the poverty level, even in the 21 states with minimum wage and overtime laws that cover them.

In almost three-dozen states, the average pay is so low the workers qualify for public assistance. And that, of course, seriously harms the workers and adds to the serious financial burdens of the states that provide the assistance.

Unless the president acts, the situation is only going to get worse, with home care jobs expected to increase by well over a million by the year 2020 as the country’s population ages. As NELP says, the home care industry is already one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

Over the next two decades, the population of Americans over 65 will increase to more than 70 million. And the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2050, there will be 27 million Americans needing direct home care.

NELP’s director, Christine Owens, notes that “many families rely on home care workers to get our grandparents out of bed in the morning and insure that our neighbors with disabilities live as independently as possible.”

As Owens says, extending the federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the workers would be a first important step to improving quality within the home care industry. She notes that the reforms “will be perfectly manageable for the industry and will be good for both consumers and workers.”

And, Owens adds, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Dick Meister: A free choice for U.S. workers


By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom,  has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Now that the electioneering and political posturing is done with, it’s time for President Obama and congressional Democrats to finally deliver on their promises to enact the long delayed Employee Free Choice Act that’s at the very top of organized labor’s political agenda.

EFCA, as it’s sometimes called, has been stalled in Congress for three years. It would give U.S. workers the unfettered right to unionization that would raise their economic and political status considerably.  But that would come at the expense of employers, who have been able to block a large majority of workers from exercising the union rights that labor law has long promised workers.

EFCA would in essence strengthen the 78-year-old National Labor Relations Act – the NLRA – to make it easier for workers to form and join unions.  Which is the clearly stated purpose of the NLRA.

The lack of solid legal protection is a primary reason that, despite the higher pay and benefits and other obvious advantages of union membership, only about 12 percent of the country’s workers belong to unions.

 Surveys show that nearly one-third of all U.S. workers want to unionize but won’t try because they fear employer retaliation – and for good reason. Every year, thousands of workers who do try to unionize are illegally fired or otherwise penalized.

Employers faced with organizing campaigns commonly order supervisors to spy on organizers and force workers to attend meetings at which employers describe unions as dues-snatching outsiders, often asserting falsely that unionization will lead to pay cuts, layoffs, outsourcing of work or even force them out of business. Similar messages are delivered to workers one-on-one by supervisors, frequently along with threats of disciplinary action if they support unionization.

In many of the instances in which workers nevertheless vote for unionization, the employer simply refuses to agree to a contract with the union. Workers who strike to try to force employers to reach an agreement or otherwise follow the law face being permanently replaced.

The NLRA is supposed to protect workers from such actions. But employers have been able to blatantly violate the law because the penalties are slight – usually small fines at most, and they’re often not even imposed. Workers fear complaining to the government, knowing it usually takes months – if not years – for the government to act, and that meanwhile they may lose their jobs.

The most important provision of the Employee Free Choice Act would automatically grant union recognition on the showing of union membership cards by a majority of an employer’s workers – unless the workers opted to have recognition decided by an election.

As the law now stands, only employers can decide whether to use a membership card check or an election to determine their workers’ wishes. Employers almost invariably choose elections because of the opportunity the election campaign gives them to pressure workers into opposing unionization.

Other key provisions of the Free Choice Act would fine employers up to $20,000 for each violation of the law and call for arbitrators to dictate the terms of employers’ contracts with unions winning recognition if the employers stalled for more than four months in contract negotiations with the winners.

The act made it through the House shortly after it was originally introduced in 2003, but was blocked from Senate passage by a Republican filibuster. It seems unlikely that the bill would even get through the House now.

Labor, however, has not backed off, and can still expect the support of President Obama, other key Democrats and civil and human rights groups, religious organizations and other influential union allies to back its demand for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act or something very much like it.

But are labor’s political allies willing – and able – to finally do what they have long promised to do? Are they willing – and able – to join labor in assuring American workers the firm union rights that have too long been denied them?

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom,  has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.


Dick Meister: Labor’s big day


By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Now that the election dust has settled, it’s clear that organized labor was a big winner locally, statewide and nationally.

In San Francisco, more than half the winning candidates for local office had labor backing, as did all local candidates for state office and all but two of the winning city propositions.

Labor did as well statewide, with voters soundly rejecting State Prop 32 that would have greatly diminished unions’ political strength.  Defeating the proposition was by far labor’s most important election goal.

Almost as important was Prop 30, which will provide badly needed increases in funding for education and other local services and reduce the state budget deficit.  Funding will come primarily from higher taxes on the wealthy.

Prop 38, which labor successfully opposed, would have provided only increased education funding and that wouldn’t even have included funding for the community colleges that provide vital job training. Funds for Prop 38 would have come from taxes on everyone, including the poor. 

Labor’s campaigning nationally was done largely – and extensively – for President Obama and Democrats who had hoped to substantially increase the party’s narrow margin in the Senate and even regain control of the House.

But though they failed to elect more friendly congressional Democrats who would back labor’s political agenda, unions can correctly assume that Obama will be as friendly to labor in his second term as he was in is first four years in office.  Pro-labor measures that unions might fail to push through Congress could very well be enacted through presidential executive orders, if not through presidential pressures on Congress.

Labor’s election victories included increases in the minimum wage rates in Albuquerque, San Jose and Long Beach, and the defeat of anti-union measures in several states.

Labor Notes’ Samantha Winslow reported, for instance, that unions helped defeat a measure in Illinois that would have changed the state constitution to require a three-fifths majority vote by the legislature to increase public employee pensions, while requiring only a simple majority to make pension cuts. It would have superseded collective bargaining over pension improvements at the state and local levels

Unions also played a major role in helping groups fighting voter suppression in Ohio and elsewhere, and in the successful re-election campaign of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate’s most labor- friendly members.

Labor’s political efforts obviously aren’t going to end with the election over. Unions already are planning drives to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts.

“Some legislators and their backers on Wall Street are already set on reaching a ‘grand bargain’ in the next eight weeks,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He says they’re aiming to raise the retirement age for Social Security and the eligibility requirements for Medicare and Medicaid.

Trumka has a better idea.  He says “Congress must let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2 percent and make no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.”

Those are among the most important of the many tough political issues now facing unions and their supporters in San Francisco, and throughout California and the rest of the country. As the election proved beyond doubt, unions have what’s needed to seriously challenge their opponents and in the process provide important help to us all.

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Dick Meister: We all need a higher minimum wage


By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.

Election’s over, the good guy won, so what now for working people? Labor’s wish list for our re-elected president and the new Congress is long, but certainly the most basic item is raising the pay of our poorest workers by raising the minimum wage.

 About four million workers have been living in poverty or near-poverty at the current minimum of $7.25 an hour – $15,000 a year at most before taxes and other deductions. And that’s assuming the workers manage to find full time, year-round jobs.

There’s been no lack of congressional bills to raise the minimum since it was last raised in 2007, the latest introduced this year by two Democrats, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California.  Their bill would increase the rate to $9.80 an hour by 2014, index the rate to rise automatically with any rise in the cost of living after that, and set the rate for tipped workers at 70 percent of the minimum.

 Raising the minimum would help us all. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that increased consumer spending generated by the proposed raise would create the equivalent of more than 100,000 full time jobs. Other estimates indicate that every dollar increase in wages for workers at the minimum would create more than $3,000 in new spending after a year.

It’s often argued by those opposing a raise that a raise would be mainly a burden on small businesses, but NELP found that more than two-thirds of minimum wage workers are employed by large companies.  There’s no doubt many of the larger employers could easily afford a raise, especially since, as NELP notes, most of them are fully recovered from the Great Recession and are back making strong profits.

It’s not surprising that the opposition to a raise is led by corporate employers, but how does the general public feel about raising the minimum? A poll conducted in February of this year showed that nearly three-fourths of likely voters nationwide would support raising the federal minimum to $10 an hour and indexing it to inflation.

States, counties and cities can set their own minimums, as long as they at least equal the federal rate, and voters in 18 states and several cities have by substantial margins approved minimums greater than the federal rate.

In 2004 and 2006, state wage rates above the federal minimum were approved by voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio. As for a federal raise, President Obama pledged during his initial election campaign in 2008 that he’d seek an increase to $9.50 an hour. But he did not do that, and said nothing about a raise during his re-election campaign this year.

Meanwhile, however, voters have recently raised the minimum rates in three cities, Albuquerque, San Jose and Long Beach.  NELP’s executive director, Christine Owens, hails the raises as a “major victory for workers.”

The rate in Albuquerque jumped a whole dollar to $8.50 an hour and will automatically adjust to future increases in the cost of living. NELP calculates that will affect an estimated 40,000 workers, generate $18 million in new consumer spending and support creation of 160 new jobs as businesses expand to meet the increased demand.

The minimum wage in San Jose rose from $8 an hour, the current California rate, to $10. NELP says that should raise the pay of almost one-fifth of the citywide workforce, boost consumer spending by $190 million and support creation of 200 new full-time jobs.

The raise in Long Beach does not apply to all workers there, but does set a higher minimum for hotel workers, who are essential to the success of the city’s booming hospitality industry. Their minimum pay will rise to $13 an hour from an average of only $10.  They will also get five paid sick leave days per year.

City minimums in California and elsewhere in the country range up to San Francisco’s rate that will reach $10.55 an hour next year.

NELP’s Owens notes that “with growing numbers of working people relying on low-wage jobs to make ends meet, the voters recognize that raising the minimum wage fulfills our basic obligation to ensure that work provides a path out of poverty. Higher wages for the lowest-paid workers in our economy will promote upward economic mobility and help accelerate post-recession recovery.”

It’s time for the president and Congress to recognize that vital truth.

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.

Dick Meister: Your first World Series is always the best


Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Whoopie! Our valiant Giants are in the World Series again, for the fifth time since they moved to the city from New York in 1958. Pretty exciting, but it can’t possibly be more exciting than the first SF Giants series in 1962.
Actually, it was more than excitement that swept San Francisco during that ’62 World Series and the regular season leading up to the series. It was near-hysteria. As a young reporter for the SF Chronicle in those days, I felt it up close and very personal.

It didn’t matter what had happened anywhere in the world during that summer and early fall, the main headline in the Chronicle and the city’s other two daily newspapers, spread in screaming black type 1 1/4 inches high all across the top of page one – day after day – was almost always about them.

Merchants filled the newspapers with ads that offered goods “the Giants look up to,” promised “big league values,” and, of course, congratulated the Giants and their fans for every victory leading to the series.

The hype was too much for some of us at the Chronicle, even me, a former ballplayer. I joined ten others to sign an anti-baseball petition prompted by the airing at the paper – loudly and daily – of the radio broadcasts of Giants’ games.

 “It is not that we have any inherent objection to the Great American Pastime,” the petitioners explained. “Our protest is against the unilateral establishment of an electronic device which broadcasts to a captive city room the trivia associated with the sport. Exhortations like ‘Willie Mays,’ while they obviously provoke a pseudo-religious ecstasy among fans, leave a number of us writhing in embarrassment.”

We gained nothing by our petition. Worse, City Editor Abe Mellinkoff added insult to injury by sending us out, transistor radios in hand, to capture the mood of the “man on the street” during the World Series’ broadcasts. I was the first to get the assignment. I was supposed to rush up to people in the street after particularly exciting plays, get their excited comments and weave them into one of the fluffy page one feature stories my editors favored – “wiggly rulers,” they called them, after the wavy lines used to set them off.

But I stuffed the radio into a jacket pocket and wandered aimlessly around Chinatown, where there were few Giants fans in evidence, returning later to explain lamely that I just couldn’t find any men in the street who cared about the World Series.

The next day, the radio was turned over to another reporter, but he had no more interest in the assignment than I. City Editor Mellinkoff, hinting darkly that he might fire the lot of us for insubordination, got his story on the third try – even though the reporter he sent out that day spent the whole time in his favorite drinking establishment down the street.

The reporter returned to the office barely able to walk, much less type a story or give a coherent excuse for not doing so. We propped him up carefully behind a desk in the far reaches of the city room, safely hidden from the nearsighted city editor, then dictated a story to another reporter at the desk directly in front of his, using the names of friends for our men on the street and quotes we had turns making up to go along with the names.

As he completed a page, the reporter who was typing the story would turn and lay it on the desk of the reporter who supposedly was writing the story, one of us would shout, “Boy!” and a copy boy would grab the page and rush it to the city editor’s desk at the front of the room.

It was a very lively story, quite possibly the best wiggly ruler the Chronicle had run in several months.

Dick Meister: Missing a vital election issue!


By Dick Meister 

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.


Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act!  That’s a cry working people and their unions very much need to hear, but have not heard in this year’s election campaigning.

It’s hardly surprising that Republican candidates are silent, since repeal would be a great boost to labor. But if only for that reason, President Obama and other pro-labor Democrats should demand immediate repeal.

The law was passed in 1947 in response to a wave of strikes that were called just after World War II by workers attempting to make up for pay lost because of wage controls during the war. President Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley, but Congress overrode the veto to enact what unions of the time denounced as “the slave-labor bill.”

Taft-Hartley drastically amended the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which was enacted during the Great Depression to encourage unionization. It reversed the NLRA’s intent by authorizing employers to take a wide variety of anti-union actions.

Most significantly, employers were granted the legal right to intervene in union organizing campaigns. Rather then remaining neutral as before, employers are allowed to wage anti-union campaigns that include requiring workers to listen to their arguments against unionization during working hours, often at mandatory meetings.

Taft-Hartley seriously limits workers’ ability to act in solidarity with others by prohibiting workers from waging sympathy strikes – secondary boycotts – in support of striking members of other unions.

Another key provision outlaws the closed shop, which required workers seeking jobs with unionized employers to join the union representing the workers before they could be hired. The law does allow the union shop, which requires workers to join the union after being hired, but allows states to enact so-called right-to-work laws that ban the union shop.

Twenty-two states, including Texas, the country’s second largest, have such laws. They greatly weaken unions by allowing workers to reap the benefits that unions get in negotiating contracts with unionized employers, but without having to help pay the unions’ costs by joining the unions and paying dues.

Taft-Hartley denies union rights to workers designated by employers as “supervisors,” a category of workers that has been growing steadily. What’s more, employers can fire supervisors who nevertheless try to unionize.

Employers also can use a wide assortment of devices to delay for months, sometimes for years, negotiating contracts with unions that win representation elections.  They also have the right to call for new elections to take away the union rights of election winners.

Unions calling strikes with potentially great national impact face the prospect of the federal government moving in to require an 80-day cooling off period while mediators try to bring about a settlement.

There’s more, none of it designed to further the basic civil right of unionization, but rather to hinder it. Repealing Taft-Hartley obviously should have been a prime issue throughout the 2012 election campaign.

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.




Dick Meister: Labor’s wise election choices


By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

No issue on the November election ballot anywhere is of greater importance to working people and their unions than Proposition 32 on the California ballot.

As the State AFL-CIO notes in its call for an all-out campaign against Prop 32, it’s “a brazen power play” by billionaire corporate interests and other anti-union forces to all but silence labor’s political voice, while at the same time greatly increasing the political strength of labor’s wealthy opponents.

Prop 32’s corporate sponsors deceptively call their measure an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. Yet it would only limit – and severely limit – the political spending of unions. There would be no limit on the political spending of corporations and other wealthy interests.

A Prop 32 victory would have a serious national impact, since passage of the measure in the country’s largest state would certainly lead to attempts to enact similar measures elsewhere.

California Propositions 30 and 38 also could have major, though less direct, effects nationally.  Both measures would raise badly needed new funds for education.

Prop 30, which is widely supported by unions and a broad base of community organizations, would do it through a tax increase that would be levied on wealthy Californians with annual incomes of $250,000 or more.

But Prop 38, bankrolled by some of the same billionaire interests that are contributing heavily to the Yes on 32 campaign, would raise money by taxing everyone, including the poor. And while Prop 30 specifically calls for added education funds to go to schools at all levels, including the community colleges that train workers for jobs that are heavily unionized, Prop 38 does not apply to community colleges.

There are, of course, other state as well as local and national issues and candidates that are of particular interest to labor. That includes, as it very well should, labor-friendly President Obama and just about any other Democrat.

Although the odds are heavily against Democrats regaining control of the House or adding to their narrow margin in the Senate, that has not kept labor and its supporters from trying to beat the odds.

National Democratic strategists are relying on California to be a leader in raising funds to make that happen. They’re sending out an unprecedented barrage of requests to Californians for money for Democratic candidates in general and especially for candidates in battleground states.

Unions are playing an important role in that effort and in many local elections as well. That naturally includes the voting in San Francisco, long one of the country’s premier labor cities and national pacesetter for labor.

As usual, the SF Labor Council and SF unions generally have endorsed all of the Democrats running for national and state offices. It would be hard to quarrel with that or with most of labor’s other choices of who and what to back and oppose on the city’s election ballot.

Locally, labor is backing incumbent Supervisors Eric Mar (District One) and David Campos (District Nine) and newcomer F.X. Crowley, a longtime union leader and activist who’s running in District Seven. All have consistently supported labor.

Labor is rightly eager to defeat Crowley’s opponent, Mike Garcia, a candidate of the downtown interests that have consistently opposed labor.

Voters would be wise to follow the guidance of the teachers union on candidates for the SF Board of Education. The union has endorsed Matt Haney, Beverly Popek, Sam Rodriguez and Shamann Walton. All would be new to the board.

The teachers union and the Service Employees Union local that represent SF City College workers agree that the best candidates for the Community College Board that governs City College are Hanna Leung, Rafael Mandelman and incumbents Natalie Berg and Chris Jackson.

As far as local propositions go, labor’s support for a parcel tax to raise badly needed funds for City College (Prop A) and for a trust fund to help lower and middle income families secure affordable housing (Prop C) makes very good sense.

Unfortunately, labor did not take an official position on Prop G, the policy statement that calls for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that has allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Otherwise, however, labor has provided voters with an invaluable election guide.

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Much ado about nudity


There was no public outcry when Pedro Villamore, a 44-year-old homeless gay man, was found dead in a doorway in the 500 block of Castro Street last December, a couple of weeks before Christmas and across the street from the holiday tree that the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro puts up every year to welcome big spenders into the neighborhood.

MUMC, which in years past opposed three homeless queer youth shelters and a free meals program at a local gay church, did not decry the fact that a member of our community died on the street — and where were the city’s homeless outreach teams? Nor did any of the residents of the neighborhood express any concern that others who have a problem with methamphetamine, the area’s drug of choice, might meet a similar fate — and shouldn’t the community be doing something about it?

Of course, if he had been one of the nudists who hang out naked in the Castro these days Villamore would’ve found himself on the front-page of Bay Area Reporter, the city’s gay weekly, while he was still alive. Not to mention the target of diatribes from the SF Chronicle’s chronically right-wing columnist C.W. Nevius.  

Sadly enough, a neighborhood that once stood for sexual and personal freedom has succumbed to anti-nudism hysteria, even to the point of echoing Anita Bryant’s old rallying cry, “Save the children!”

Hysteria it is, of epic proportions. Some Castro residents and MUMC merchants actually persuaded their elected official, Supervisor Scott Wiener, to introduce anti-nudism legislation because a few naked men prance around the hood au natural, even sometimes sporting (horrors!) cock rings on their dicks. In a neighborhood where there’s no dearth of cock rings or any other sex toy, not to mention every variety of gay porn imaginable, and where guys walk around bars in underwear, residents don’t want public nudity. Huh? The neighborhood’s historic live-and-let-live attitude has obviously gone the way of Halloween and being able to walk into Pink Saturday without being scanned by a metal detector.

Has gay marriage and the freedom to “be all that you can be” in the military afflicted residents of the Castro with assimilation fever? What’s next — fundraising parties for Mitt Romney or a Castro chapter of the Moral Majority?

In a community that, according to a recent Williams Institute study, is rampant with poverty and suffers a serious lack of full-time employment for transgender people (75%, according to a report from this paper and the Transgender Law Center), not to mention a major drug and alcohol problem that makes gay men easy targets for muggings as they leave the bars at night, you’d think that public nudity would the last thing on anyone’s mind.  

People with AIDS continue to be pushed out of apartments in the Castro so that landlords and realtors can make tons of dough and LGBT seniors are forced to live with little economic or social support, regular cuts to services and benefits, and discrimination and isolation in nursing care facilities.

Yet from the volume of letters in the BAR and the number of calls Wiener says he’s received, you’d think that public nudity is the biggest problem in the world.

Pedro Villamore might disagree with that.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca has been a queer activist for the past 42 years, and a Castro resident for 20. He is editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation (City Lights).

Chauvinism: Not a good tool for fighting chauvinism


I know we’re all feeling a little queasy from all the Tampa tidings, but let’s remember why we’re here.

Mark Morford’s column on SFGate on Tuesday should have been another smart, snarky putdown of anti-feminist Republican platforming. But it turned out to be even more of a bummer than Condoleeza Rice hiding her pro-choice-ness under a podium.

Here is Morford on Lulli Akin, wife of Todd, a fact which automatically means we should probably just leave the poor woman alone:

Let us move on to… Akin’s wife. There is Lulli, standing next to her man as if dipped in concrete, tight-lipped and hard as a frying pan, looking for all purposes like someone removed her heart 40 years ago and replaced it with a brick.

Akin’s wife appears to us as a wan facsimile of a vibrant, authentic female, something not altogether real, unmoving and unblinking as her husband tries to backpedal violently, saying “No no no, of course rape is a terrible thing, of course women should never get raped, and that’s why I sure hope they stop asking for it very soon because angry Jesus does not like it one little bit.”

Male journos: please erase the phrase “authentic female” from your lexicon. Trust me.

Afterwards, it is AkIn’s two teenage daughters turn, who appear to be at the age least capable of handling critiques of performance on national TV. Morford has this to say: 

Oh my God, the daughters. Just look. Look at the two Akin managed to drag on stage with him. It is they who inspired this column. It is they who have a look in their eye like they’ve just been made to swallow a fistful of broken glass. Again.

I hate agreeing with a website whose banner reads “exposing and combating liberal bias,” but Morford, sir! Assessing the female offspring of politicians (really, any gender) based even slightly on their physical appearance is best left to expert assholes like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

The column goes onto give condescending well wishes to the girls in their escape from Dad’s ethos system.

Shall we repost the palate cleanser of the week? Take it away Samantha Bee.