State Assembly

Strange bedfellows: Moderate Mark Farrell endorses progressive David Campos for Assembly


Political moderate Supervisor Mark Farrell announced his endorsement of Supervisor David Campos for Assembly today. It’s a real shocker, here’s why. 

A bastion of Marina district politics and part of the city’s neoliberal to fiscal conservative faction, Farrell is about as ideologically opposed to Campos’ brand of progressive politics as you can get in this city. If Campos is a firebrand with a picket sign, Farrell is a tie-wearing venture capitalist with his nose in a budget book. But still, Farrell has found an ally in Campos, and vice versa. 

“From working to close loopholes in San Francisco’s universal healthcare law to enhancing public safety and reducing homelessness by helping to implement Laura’s Law, David has proven his commitment to finding solutions through cooperation and compromise,” Farrell said in a press statement. “I trust his dedication to the public interest and know that he will find ways to bridge his progressive ideals with the pragmatic realities facing our state. I firmly believe he will be an effective leader for San Francisco in the State Assembly.”

The two worked together to find compromise solutions on a number of measures, including a deal to save St. Luke’s Hospital. But few deals were more controversial than Laura’s Law, which worried advocates for the homeless community, and Campos. The problem? The community felt that if homeless people would be forced into mental health treatment, their care and mental well-being would be threatened. On Farrell’s side, he was concerned for public safety, and felt those with mental health problems weren’t getting the treatment they needed.

There was an ideological split on how to help those with mental health problems. 

But Campos and Farrell eventually forged an agreement, allowing for interventions offering voluntary care from family and peer advocates, before involuntary treatment was invoked. Wrap around services would also be available to help alleviate the real life stressors that contribute to mental health issues, another win.

Farrell got Laura’s Law, and Campos and homeless advocates won vital protections. That’s the kind of compromise Board President David Chiu, Campos’ opponent in the Assembly race, has said time and time again that Campos is not capable of due to his staunch progressive values.

Clearly, Farrell disagrees, hence his endorsement.  

“I’m honored to have earned Mark’s endorsement,” Campos said, in a press statement. “We have worked together on a number of significant projects and pieces of legislation, from the CPMC rebuild project to small business tax legislation, and through community-minded negotiations, we have been able to find common ground on a number of issue critical to the residents of San Francisco.”

Although Chiu has passed much legislation, and brands himself as the “compromise candidate,” many political insiders noted that’s an easy political position when you maneuver yourself into becoming a key swing vote. When the board is split and you are the lone vote that could make or break legislation, people have to compromise with you. There’s a hammer over their heads. 

But Campos and Farrell are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as far to either political pole on the Board of Supervisors as you can get. So the two talk, compromise, and make deals that help all their constituents win. 

No matter which Assembly candidate eventually goes to Sacramento, neither Chiu nor Campos will walk in wielding a hammer. The new Assemblyperson will be a freshman lawmaker, the back of the pack, as it were.

When we brought up that point with Farrell, he echoed the sentiment. 

“As a new legislator you don’t come up there with a ton of authority,” Farrell told us. “It’s about forging relationships and working for compromise. David Campos did that with me on the Board of Supervisors, and I believe he could do that in the Assembly.”

UPDATE 12:31 PM: David Chiu’s campaign consultant, Nicole Derse, got back to the Guardian with some observations from Chiu’s camp. 

“I don’t know why Farrell decided to endorse Campos, but when you look at endorsements that affect the district, Kamala Harris or Dianne Feinstein, those are what really affect the state,” Derse said. “This is one random supervisor. The deep support [for David Chiu] from statewide and elected officials is really strong.” 

The endorsement of Campos by Farrell is unique for its aisle-reaching quality. It’s as if the late, well-known Republican Warren Hellman endorsed the progressive anti-speculation tax. To that point, Derse said Chiu had an aisle-crossing endorsement as well. 

“Debra Walker is a pretty good comparison, she ran for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democractic Club and she came out really early for Chiu right out the gate,” Derse said.

Walker was appointed to the Building Inspection Commission by Chiu near the time she endorsed him. Even then, she told the Bay Area Reporter she was considering a dual endorsement.

Alerts: Sept. 24 – 30, 2014




The Free Speech Movement — 50 Years Later

First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin Street, SF. 7pm, free. Join three veterans of the Free Speech Movement — Lynne Hollander Savio, Mike Smith, and Jack Weinberg — as they discuss their participation in the monumental events that took place in Berkeley 50 years ago, with emphasis on how the movement retains its relevance in the 21st century. The event is sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America San Francisco in connection with the 50th Anniversary Free Speech Celebration in Berkeley, beginning Fri/26.



Women Walk for Campos

Dolores Park, Dolores and 19th, SF. 10am, free. Join in a walk in support for David Campos for California State Assembly, who is seeking to represent the 17th District in the upcoming election. Start the day with a little exercise and spread the word about Campos’s campaign for issues such as women’s health, LGBT rights, affordability, and public safety.


47th Birthday Beer Bust for Community Housing Partnership

SF Eagle, 398 12th St., SF. 3-6pm, $12. Enjoy beer, food and music at a fundraiser for the Community Housing Partnership. Featuring performances by Degentrified, a ukelele percussion band with Jason Smart (aka Frieda Laye) and Glendon Hyde (aka Anna Conda). DJ set by Dirty Knees of Charlie Horse and Hot Rod. San Francisco Black Leadership Forum Endorsement Meeting 5126 Third Street, SF. 10am-4pm, free. Join the San Francisco Black Leadership Forum, local candidates, and ballot measure representatives for a full day of interviews and discussion on how the issues will impact the black community in San Francisco and beyond. Eligible members will be asked to stay and vote on BLF Endorsements for the November election.

Artists say vote for Campos


By Sara Jean Yaste

OPINION David Campos stands up for the underdogs. And in this current state of capitalism U$A, we the people need to give power only to leaders who won’t abuse it for personal profit. Foucault once said "society must be defended." Campos defends that society, and was granted a valid power from the people of San Francisco, based on actually helping us and being trusted, not just being a political yes person, like so many other modern politicians seem to be. Most politicians are all too eager to grant favors in exchange for shiny objects.

As some of you may or may now know, Campos is running for the 17th State Assembly District seat, which would enable him to create legislation at the state level. Campos shows that he is a man of the people by creating legislation that increases payouts for folks unjustly displaced by Ellis Act evictions, as well as giving displaced residents priority for affordable housing units as they become available. He champions the underdogs of the art scene by supporting legislation that enables emerging promoters to continue operating, without having to purchase $1 million insurance policies that are currently required of larger concert promoters. Basically, Campos is on the side of ensuring good times may still be had in SF, and that we don’t fall into the culturally disadvantaged realms of whitebread blandness that strangled vitality in suburbia for decades.

Campos is running against Divide Chiu for this seat. Seemingly, both candidates uphold progressive ideals, but in today’s tepid political waters, trying to stay informed often feels more like watching a bloated puppet show with talking heads, rather than participating in a genuine process of civic engagement. The solution? In my humble opinion, in order to really separate the fakers from the real, one must follow the money. Case in point, Campos proves his integrity and commitment to everyday people from all walks of life, in his refusal to accept cash from the financial industry (read: banks). He also has accepted only $82,000 from locally based real estate developers, who have committed to building affordable housing as well as market-rate housing (ex: the old Mission Theater project). Chiu, on the other hand, shows his true colors (they always say "money talks" right??) by accepting $34,000 from the finance industry, and $143,000 from out-of-state real estate developers.

Chiu promotes himself as being someone who can "get things done" in office. But that’s a pandering tired cliché at this point and it’s offensive that someone would insult our intelligence by using such tired rhetoric as a means to gain our trust and confidence. Yet Campos’ background alone (he was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala’s civil war, who arrived speaking no English as a child, then later went on to graduate from Stanford University and later Harvard Law), shows that he is a true underdog who overcame adversity and has the capacity, resolve, and integrity to continue fighting on our behalf (yes, this writer identifies as a non-commodified emerging artist, aka underdog).

Campos represents those who actually pulling themselves up by their boot straps, as the saying goes, in reality. He demonstrates strength of character and values in not accepting funds from shady interests (unlike Chiu) and continues to help the people who truly need it, those who are unjustly displaced and in desperate need of housing in the community that is their long-term home. He supports emerging artists by being in touch with our needs, and crafting legislation that enables us to stay in our homes, and helps the current law become more just (because let’s face it, justice is always ahead of the law; for example, see: slavery being sanctioned in colonial U$A and marriage discrimination in California by Proposition 8).

From one concerned and civilly engaged resident of San Francisco to the next, I urge you to vote for David Campos in the upcoming primary on June 3.

Sara Jean Yaste is a writer, musician, and creative social interventionist living and breathing in San Francisco. Her band, Future Twin, performs May 31 from 3-6pm at a Happy Hour for David Campos at DNA Lounge.

The strange, unique power of San Francisco mayors


Mayor Ed Lee wields a strange and unique power in San Francisco politics, passed down from Mayor Gavin Newsom, and held by Mayor Willie Brown before him.

No, we’re not talking magic, though mayors have used this ability to almost magically influence the city’s political winds. 

When elected officials leave office in San Francisco and a seat is left vacant, the mayor has the legal power to appoint someone to that empty seat. A study by San Francisco’s Local Agency Formation Commission conducted March last year shows out of 117 jurisdictions in California, and ten major cities nationwide, only seven jurisdictions give their executives (governors, mayors) the ability to appoint an official to a vacant seat. The other jurisdictions hold special elections or allow legislative bodies to vote on a new appointment. 

The power of a San Francisco mayor then is nearly singularly unique, the report found, but especially when seen in the context of the nation’s major cities.

“Of the 10 cities surveyed here,” the study’s authors wrote, “no other city among the most populous grants total discretion for appointments.” 

The study is especially relevant now, as Sup. John Avalos introduced a charter amendment to change this unqiuely San Franciscan mayoral power, and put the power back in the hands of the electorate.

His amendment would require special elections when vacancies appear on public bodies like the community college board, the board of education, or other citywide elected offices. He nicknamed it the “Let’s Elect our Elected Officials Act,” and if approved by the Board of Supervisors it will go to this November’s ballot.

Avalos touched on the LAFCo study while introducing his amendment at the board’s meeting on Tuesday [5/20]. 

“One of the striking results is how unique San Francisco’s appointment process is,” Avalos said. “There’s no democratic process or time constraint when the mayor makes these appointments.”

He pointed to then-Assessor Recorder Phil Ting’s election to California Assembly in 2012. Camen Chu, his successor, was not appointed by the mayor until February 2013, he said, a longstanding vacancy.

So what’s the big deal? Well, voters notoriously tend to vote for the incumbents in any race, so any official with their name on the slot as “incumbent” come election time has a tremendous advantage. In fact, only one supervisor ever appointed by a mayor was ever voted down in a subsequenet district-wide (as opposed to city-wide) election. This dataset of appointed supervisors was culled from the Usual Suspects, a local political-wonk blog:





Terry Francois




Robert Gonzalez




Gordon Lau




Jane Murphy


Didn’t run


Louise Renne




Donald Horanzy


Lost in 1980

Switched from District to

Citywide elections.

Harry Britt




Willie B. Kennedy




Jim Gonzalez




Tom Hsieh




Annemarie Conroy


Lost in 1994


Susan Leal




Amos Brown




Leslie Katz




Michael Yaki




Gavin Newsom




Mark Leno




Alicia D. Becerril


Lost in 2000

Switched from Citywide to

District elections.

Michela Alioto-Pier




Sean Elsbernd




Carmen Chu




Christina Olague


Lost in 2012

Only loss by a district

appointed supervisor.

Katy Tang



So mayoral appointments effectively sway subsequent elections, giving that mayor two prongs of power: the power to appoint someone who may agree with their politics, and the power to appoint someone who will then owe them.

A San Francisco Chronicle article from 2004 describes the power derived from appointees former Mayor Willie Brown infamously enjoyed.

Once at City Hall, Brown moved quickly to consolidate power, and using the skills he honed during his 31 years in the state Assembly, gained control of the Board of Supervisors. Before the 2000 election, he appointed eight of the 11 members, filling vacancies that he helped orchestrate, as supervisor after supervisor quit to run for higher office or take other jobs.

The board majority was steadfastly loyal, pushing through Brown’s policies and budget priorities with little debate. In a 1996 magazine article, he was quoted as likening the supervisors to “mistresses you have to service.”

Voters may soon choose what elected officials they want in offices. The mistresses of the mayor, or the mistresses of the people.

Graph of the LAFCo study produced by Guardian intern Francisco Alvarado. LAFCo looked at California jurisdictions as well as ten major cities nationwide.

Chiu for Assembly



San Francisco is at a crossroads. While some residents benefit from prosperity, an affordable housing crisis coupled with income inequality make this a time of struggle for other San Franciscans.

Our inclusive, diverse culture that has historically made San Francisco a haven for artists, immigrants, and innovators is at stake. Given this, effective progressive leadership is critical to ensuring that our city remains a place where all San Franciscans can afford to live and prosper. That’s why I urge you to vote for my friend, President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu, to represent San Francisco in the California State Assembly.

As president, David has demonstrated an inclusive, unifying leadership style that has had a transformative impact at City Hall. He really listens to everyone, and brings people together to address our city’s most critical challenges. He combines rock solid progressive values with a fervent drive to do more than talk — to actually get the big stuff done.

The proof is in the pudding: he’s passed more pieces of legislation than any other current supervisor in every major policy arena, and his colleagues have elected him president three times.

David has delivered consistently on our city’s most critical issue: affordable housing. A tenant in San Francisco himself for the past 18 years, David has fought to protect and expand affordable housing across the city, leading efforts to build more housing for homeless veterans, transitional age youth, and seniors.

He supported rebuilding dilapidated public housing projects that have been in total disrepair. He has supported the strengthening of habitability standards in housing across the board. He led the charge to create a 10-year moratorium on condo conversions and to prioritize victims of Ellis Act evictions for our city’s affordable housing opportunities.

After multiple failed attempts by supervisors over two decades, he passed legislation to finally legalize in-law units, preserving one of our city’s largest existing stocks of affordable housing. David will continue to work to stem San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis in the Assembly, including pushing hard to reform the Ellis Act.

David has been a leader on a host of other important issues. An avid biker who doesn’t own a car, David has spearheaded groundbreaking environmental legislation, banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city property, expanding urban agriculture, and prohibiting the delivery of unwanted Yellow Pages. He’s increased funding for community arts, an issue close to my heart as an artist. He has championed language access for our city’s immigrants, and fought for the reunification of LGBT immigrant families.

Under his leadership, San Francisco is the first city in the country to establish the right to civil counsel for low-income residents being denied basic human rights such as housing, as well as to give workers the right to request flexible and predictable working arrangements to take care of their families. He passed progressive business tax reform that will bring $300 million of new revenues over the next decade.

When it comes down to it, we have two Assembly candidates, David Chiu and David Campos, who share the strongly held progressive values of the Guardian’s readers. I am a longtime supporter of the Guardian and have valued its endorsement in my previous races. The difference lies in style and effectiveness.

I know how urgently San Francisco needs a leader in the Assembly who can bring people together to get significant things done. The challenges and opportunities our city faces demand it. I know David Chiu can do this because he has done it, over and over again, in five and a half remarkably effective years of progressive leadership on the Board of Supervisors.

Please join me in supporting David Chiu for State Assembly.

Debra Walker is an artist who serves on the Building Inspection Commission, recently reappointed to that seat by David Chiu. to hold Campos political fundraiser with exotic dancers


Looks like the heat in the Assembly race is about to turn up a notch, but not in the way you’d expect.

State Assembly candidate and San Francisco Supervisor David Campos’ newest fundraiser will be hosted by the local pornographers,, at the infamous Armory Club, the SF Examiner recently reported.

The porn-purveyors known for ball-and-gag videos, submission wrestling and sex robots, is located within the boundaries of Campos’ supervisoral district 9. 

But’s reputation for delightful perversion begs a question: Just how kinky will the political fundraiser get?

We went straight to CEO Peter Acworth for the answer, and it’s a bit hotter than we expected. An exotic dancer will be gyrating away in the Armory Club’s VIP area, Acworth confirmed for the Guardian. They dancer will be scantily clad, he noted, but won’t be nude. 

The $300 VIP tickets will also grant a “stimulating private tour” of the historic Armory building and cocktails.

Acworth said he’s backing Campos because he’s a politician who “isn’t afraid of a little kink.”

“He is one of the rare politicians who has ever reached out to me,” Acworth said, “and is unafraid of the association.”

And that association could prove beneficial for down the road. New proposed legislation could create a state-level condom requirement on porn film sets. As Acworth told us last month, if that legislation passes he’d pack up his porn empire and move to Nevada, as many Los Angeles based porn companies already have before him. Notably, was fined by CAL/OSHA for allegedly not using condoms on set.

Having a friend in the Assembly may be one way to put the breaks on the condom requirement legislation. 

“I believe he is more likely to listen and seek to understand our issues,” Acworth said. Beyond condom use though, the CEO said he believed Campos’ would be a staunch advocate for the LGBT community.

We contacted Campos to see if he’d combat the condom ban if elected, but didn’t hear back from him before publishing.

Campos isn’t the only Assembly candidate to have a good time on the campaign trail. To give credit where credit is due, candidate and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu had his own fun fundraiser (and birthday party) recently, hosting a roller disco.

Political power play unseats SF Police Commissioner who fought Secure Communities


Police Commissioner Angela Chan fought the federal government as they unjustly tried to deport undocumented San Franciscans who were guilty of no crimes, and won.

She fought to arm the SFPD with de-escalation tactics instead of Tasers, and won again. 

But at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Chan lost.The board denied her reappointment to the Police Commission, and seven supervisors voted to appoint her opponent, Victor Hwang, instead.

I can see the writing on the wall and the way the votes are coming down,” Supervisor Eric Mar said to the board just before the vote. “It’s a sad day for the immigrant rights movement when a strong leader cannot be reappointed. Its a a sad day when a woman standing up for immigrant justice is not reappointed.”

The decision came after heated backdoor politicking by Chinatown political leader Rose Pak, insiders told us. Politicians involved would only speak on background, for fear of reprisal from Pak, but openly told the Guardian that Pak felt Chan spent too much time advocating for other communities of color, instead of just focusing on issues affecting Chinatown.

Chan gained national recognition for her work against Secure Communities, or S-Comm, a program that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented persons they’d later like to deport, often indefinitely.

Pak came out swinging against Chan in the wake of those battles, we were told, because they diverted from efforts relating to Chinatown. Public records requests also show that Pak’s allies operated against Chan, demonstrating Pak’s influence.

A series of public records requests from the Guardian confirmed that Malcolm Yeung, a well-known “hatchet man” for Pak, emailed the Board of Supervisors with scores of support letters for Chan’s opponent, Hwang. One of those support letters came from noted Reverend Norman Fong, a powerful voice in the Chinatown community and the executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. 

For a full recap of the nasty politics that came out to slam Chan, check out our post from earlier today.

Sup. Katy Tang introduced the motion to strike Chan’s name from the appointment, and replace it with Hwang’s. 

We are lucky when we have such strong candidates,” Tang said. “However it is because of Victor’s sense of criminal justice and civil rights experience that we bring to a full vote to put Victor to the Police Commission.”

But other supervisors noted the obvious elephant in the room — there was not only one vacant seat on the police commission, but two. One appointed by the supervisors, the other appointed by Mayor Ed Lee.

Supervisor John Avalos suggested the Board of Supervisors make a motion to request the mayor appoint Hwang himself, allowing for both Chan and Hwang to be appointed, a compromise move that would benefit everyone.

[Mayor Ed Lee] could appoint Victor to the committee,” Avalos said to the board. “There’s room for both of them to be on the commission.”

But Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said he asked Mayor Lee that very question, and that he was denied.

“It’s something I asked,” he said. “It is not something that will happen.” He went on to note that both candidates were very well-qualified, but did not explain why he would support one over the other, saying: “It is not the practice of the mayor to solve difficult decisions of the board. It’s up to us.” 

Then Chiu said he would vote for Hwang, a surprising move. Chiu is running for state assembly on the notion that he is the compromise candidate, yet was unable to broker a compromise that was clearly in front of him: there were two vacant police commission seats, and two candidates. 

Chiu’s support for Hwang was especially surprising considering Rose Pak is oft-described as Chiu’s political enemy. One must wonder what political favors he gained for his support of Hwang. 

Kim repeatedly referenced her friendship with Hwang in the discussion leading up to the vote.

In the end, Supervisors Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen, London Breed, Jane Kim, Tang and Chiu voted to strike Angela Chan’s name from the appointment, and to vote to appoint Hwang instead.

I had a good four years on the commission,” Chan told the Guardian in a phone interview afterwards. “I was able to accomplish a lot, along with the many people who came out today to support me. People from the mental health, African American, Asian American and Latino communities. Hopefully with this experience they will become more organized and powerful as a community.”

After Victor Hwang’s victory, the Guardian stopped him outside of the board chambers to ask him: If Rose Pak helped you get your seat, are you beholden to Rose Pak?

The simple answer is no,” he told the Guardian. “She’ll have no more sway than anyone else. She’s a leader in the community, and there are many leaders in the community. I’ll make independent decisions for myself.”

His first priorities as a Police Commissioner, he said, would be what he called “the little things” — pedestrian safety by the Broadway tunnel, graffiti enforcement, and making sure calls for matters like break-ins are enforced in a timely manner. 

Hwang doesn’t want to start new projects right away, he said, because there are already big issues with the SFPD on the table. He said the Alejandro Nieto shooting would be a focus moving forward.

In our last story covering the shady politics behind Hwang’s appointment, we likened the political machines supporting him to the Game of Thrones House Lannister (the purported villains of the show). Hwang wanted to set the record straight. 

I think Ivy [his partner and Sup. Kim’s legislative aide] took one of those personality tests for me,” he said, “it came back as Jon Snow.”

Jon Snow is the closest thing Game of Thrones has to a hero.

Image below: A Guardian file photo of Victor Hwang, newly appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Police Commission.


Alerts: March 5 – 11, 2014



Debate: Supervisors Campos and Chiu Run for Assembly Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro, SF. 7:30pm, free. Potrero Hill Democratic Club presents what promises to be a lively debate between two members of the Board of Supervisors running to succeed Tom Ammiano in the State Assembly, District 17: David Campos and David Chiu. The two Davids, both Harvard-educated attorneys, agree on a lot — but the debates are a forum where their differences can be brought into sharp focus. Which David do you want to represent you in Sacramento?




Trans in the Tenderloin since the 1960s The GLBT Historical Society, 4127 18th St., SF. 7-9pm, $5 general admission, $3 for students. Hear about San Francisco’s transgender Tenderloin history, from the era when “screaming queens” acted up at the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot to today. Stories will be shared by four individuals with decades of firsthand experience in the neighborhood: a former sex worker, an ex-hair fairy and veteran transwoman activists. Moderated by GLBT History Museum curator Don Romesburg, this roundtable will feature Tamara Ching, Felicia Elizondo, Ronnie Lynn and Veronika Fimbres.


Where has all the water gone? Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists’ Hall, 1924 Bonita, Berk. 7pm, $5-$10 suggested donation. Join Transition Berkeley will host this evening of film and conversation about water. Watch part of “Last Call at the Oasis,” and join in on a discussion about solutions. Speakers will include Matt Freiberg of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition as well as experienced gardeners and homeowners who have mastered water conservation techniques.



Protest Against The Nudity Ban Jane Warner Plaza, Market and Castro, SF. 12pm, free. Please join us for another protest against the nudity ban on International Women’s Day. We will be focusing on women’s rights to body freedom and lack thereof. Please join us naked, dressed, or top-free. It is legal for women to be top-free in San Francisco.



Day of Action: Third Anniversary of Fukushima Meltdowns Japanese Consulate, 50 Fremont, SF. 3-4:30pm, free. Three years ago, an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan. The after effects are still felt today, as radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant continues to threaten lives. We are taking to the streets to demand action against the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which has been bungling the remediation efforts. Join for an assembly of short speeches and delivery of a letter to the Consul, then march to Union Square to rally in support of Japan.

Petition to name Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton gains 1,000 signatures

San Francisco freelance writer John Lumea disagrees with California state legislators who want to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Nothing personal against Brown, says Lumea. He just believes that honor belongs instead to 19th century San Francisco eccentric Joshua Abraham Norton (1819-1880), the Scotsman who proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States in 1859 and printed his own currency.

Lumea has drafted and launched a petition asking the California Legislature to rename the iconic thoroughfare “The Emperor Norton Bay Bridge.” The petition cleared its initial goal of 1,000 signatures on Aug. 12. The Bay Bridge, the petition argues, fulfills Emperor Norton’s “140-year-old vision” of a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland “that has shaped the lives of generations.”

In 1872 Emperor Norton famously proclaimed the need for a suspension bridge between San Francisco, Goat Island (now Yerba Buena), and Oakland. While the Bay Bridge matches the literal proclamation, it also matches Emperor Norton’s social vision for the area, according to Lumea. 

“Emperor Norton was an early visionary of a regional economy,” said Lumea, “and a herald of the whole idea of a Bay Area as a region that shares ideas and relationships beyond economics.” A harbinger of Bay Area progressivism, Emperor Norton also used his local notoriety to advocate on behalf of women’s suffrage and the rights of marginalized populations. 

Past attempts to commemorate Emperor Norton’s special relationship to the Bay Bridge never got off the ground. In 2004, former San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution to name the entire Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton, but the Board of Supervisors passed a modified version to dedicate just the new additions to the bridge. To date, Oakland and Alameda haven’t obliged.

This June, California State Assembly members had a completely different public figure in mind for the bridge’s name, and introduced a resolution to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after the former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. In answer to that proposal, an online petition surfaced in July calling for state legislators to name that span of the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton instead.

Less than two weeks ago, Lumea’s petition took things a step further, calling on the Legislature and the Governor to name the entire bridge after Emperor Norton.

“As for Willie Brown,” said Lumea, “surely any number of buildings in California could be used for his honor.”

Prison hunger strike enters month two

As a hunger strike staged across California prisons enters its second month, inmates and their advocates are mourning the loss of Billy “Guero” Sells, a Corcoran State Prison inmate who committed suicide on July 22 after 14 days of fasting.

Advocates with the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition counts Sells as the first casualty of the mass protest. Donna Willmott, a member of the coalition’s media committee, told the Bay Guardian that “people who knew him  believe that [suicide] was very uncharacteristic of him. As a coalition, we’re not saying, ‘no he didn’t commit suicide,’” Willmott added, “but we still think that the CDCR is responsible for what happened to him.”

State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano noted in an Aug. 1 statement that “although the death of a prisoner who had participated in the hunger strike has been ruled a suicide, I can’t be comforted by the knowledge that conditions in taxpayer funded institutions have led to unusual rates of suicide instead of reasonable rates of rehabilitation.”

Ammiano said he “remain[s] concerned about the hundreds of prisoners still participating in a hunger strike to protest conditions. These are not minor prisoner complaints; they are violations of international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts
of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept.”

On August 8, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released a tally of 349 inmates in seven prisons who had skipped the last nine consecutive state-issued meals, including 193 who hadn’t eaten at all since the strike began on July 8.

Strike leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison have demanded reforms surrounding solitary confinement. They have asked the CDCR to address the unreliable method by which inmates are flagged for segregated housing, conditions in confinement, indeterminate and long sentences, and the lack of clear and fair guidelines on how inmates can work towards being released back into the prison’s general population.

Activists have organized a number of recent events to demonstrate support for the inmates. Demonstrators picketed outside of San Quentin State Prison recently. On Aug. 5, seven protesters were arrested after locking themselves to the front doors of the Elihu M. Harris State Building in Oakland.

The loss of Sells spurred a renewed sense of urgency amongst prisoners’ rights advocates. Danny Murillo, a formerly-incarcerated student at UC Berkeley, told the rallying crowd in Oakland that “as time progresses, we do need to put pressure, because we’ve already seen one of our brothers fall.”

Sanyika Bryant, a Civic Engagement Organizer at Causa Justa, added that “when people are going to go on a hunger strike, that’s really a last stand. The conditions are just so bad that you have to take your life on the line to stand up.” He added, “this is for real life and death.”

District 11 Supervisor John Avalos participated in a day of action on July 31 by forgoing meals. “I’m fasting today in solidarity,” he told the Guardian on that day, and went on to describe long-term solitary confinement as “completely inhumane. You take away so much liberty. You shouldn’t take away their humanity. People should have the ability for self-actualization.”

So far, a team of mediators has made little progress in reaching an agreement with state prison officials that could put an end to the strike. In the meantime, California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) says it’s adhering to a care guide crafted by CDCR, outlining the protocol for dealing with inmates who reach the point of starvation.

Care providers are required to conduct body-mass index (BMI) determinations, and after 14 days of striking, fasting prisoners receive informational notifications from CDCR staff, informing them of their options if they reach a critical medical condition. Some inmates have reported not receiving BMI determinations, and being subjected to increased isolation or excessive heat or air conditioning, to the point of severe discomfort.

Ron Ahnen, Associate Professor of Politics at St. Mary’s College and President of the human rights non-profit California Prison Focus, expressed concern about “the coming tsunami of people collapsing and having serious medical issues. Especially all at the same time.”

Inmates have the right to refuse medical treatment, explained Joyce Hayhoe, Director of Legislation and Communications for CCHCS. “We cannot force them to eat or take measures to force them to eat without a court order. We do have inmates that fill out advance directives. If, for some reason, an inmate lost consciousness and there was not an advance directive, doctors would take whatever steps were necessary to preserve their life.” This could include feeding tubes, she said.

Melissa Guillen, who is 22, said her father Antonio Guillen is a strike organizer who has spent a decade in solitary at Pelican Bay. She’d heard from his counselor that “he’s doing okay. That he’s strong. He’s not planning on stopping anytime soon. But, you know, they’re getting weak.” She added, “We know he’s strong. I hope he gets what he wants out of this.”

Surrounded by kids, David Campos files to run for State Assembly

On the morning of Aug. 1, San Francisco District 9 Sup. David Campos joined a group of parents and kids at the 24th Street BART station, climbed aboard the 49-Mission/Van Ness, and rode to City Hall, where he filed paperwork to run for the California Assembly.

“Running for office is not an easy thing. It’s a very personal decision,” he said. “And thinking about it, I am where I am because I was given a lot of opportunity as a kid coming in, as an undocumented kid. It was the opportunity of getting a quality education, the opportunity to really get a degree,” and to stay motivated by the idea that “if you really work hard and play by the rules, that you can really fulfill your potential.”

Campos was elected to represent San Francisco’s District 9, which spans the Mission, Bernal Heights, and surrounding areas, in November of 2008. The gay Latino elected official is regarded as one of the most progressive members of the Board of Supervisors, and he is credited with spearheading Free Muni for Youth, a city program offering free public transit access to some 40,000 low-income kids.

Campos stressed that many of the policies he’s tackled on the Board of Supervisors have been aimed toward aiding low-income families and youth, “whether it’s helping families who are struggling with free Muni for low-income kids, to improving the quality of schools in the Mission, to focusing on public safety in a progressive way that tries to build a relationship between the police and the community.”

Naturally, Muni took longer than expected.

Some of the kids amused themselves with a clapping game while they waited.

Many of the parents were monolingual Spanish speakers, and their kids were Free Muni for Youth participants. Raul Foneza (pictured in the first shot, with his thumbs up), spoke to the Guardian through a translator and said he had come out for the supervisor that day because he respected Campos’ support for the city’s young people and was there with his friend and her two kids.

When the bus arrived at City Hall, another group of kids was there awaiting Campos’ arrival, with signs. So was Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, who has already granted Campos his endorsement.

Ammiano spent a few moments on the steps of City Hall speaking to the kids. “I hope you tell people to vote for David Campos, I hope you all do your homework, be good to your teachers, and go to college. How does that sound?” After they cheered, “yeeeah!” in unison, Ammiano half-jokingly added something about how then they could all get good-paying jobs, so they could afford an apartment.

Once inside, the crowd of kids and parents squeezed into the basement-level Department of Elections office, where Campos filled out the paperwork to make his candidacy for State Assembly official. He turned to face his supporters, most of whom will have to wait eight years till they’re old enough to vote, and explained that he had decided to run “because we want to make sure our state makes you the top priority.”

Jazzie Collins: forever fighting the good fight


Dedicated trans rights and economic equality activist Jazzie Collins passed away this week. She was honored in June in the State Assembly for LGBT History Month, and was on the board of the annual Trans March, among many other honors and activities. There will be a legacy party and fundraiser for Jazzie’s end-of-life expenses at El Rio tomorrow, Sat/13, 3pm-8pm. Below is a remembrance from her good friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

Some people die, but they remain with you for the rest of your life. Death just can’t keep them away.

Such a person is Jazzie Collins, African American transgender woman and tireless fighter for social and economic justice for tenants, seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless, those without healthcare, LGBT folks, and so many others. An organizer of the annual Trans March and co-chair of the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, she recently received an award from the LGBT caucus of the state assembly for her many years of activism.

Born in Memphis, Jazzie, 54, died in the early morning hours of July 11 at Kaiser Hospital, leaving a huge hole in the heart of San Francisco.

I don’t remember when I first met Jazzie. I’m pretty certain it was at one of the countless demos in the late 90s we attended to protest the displacement of working-class and poor people during the dot-com boom. She was involved in so much of the incredible activism happening in the Mission at that time, whether it involved feeding people from Mission Agenda’s food pantry, planning direct action with the Mission AntiDisplacement Coalition, or helping elect fellow activist Chris Daly as the neighborhood’s district supervisor.

Our paths crossed often, sometimes at the monthly meetings of Senior Action Network (now Senior Disability Action) where she worked, or a tenants rights demo on the steps of City Hall just before we went inside to take advantage of our two minutes at the mic during public comment. Jazzie was never at a loss for words.

One of the original members of QUEEN (Queers for Economic Equality  Now), she helped organize several protests, including one outside the store run by the Human Rights Campaign in the Castro. We were furious that the national gay rights group pushed to exclude transgender people from ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), the federal gay employment rights bill.

When a call went out from the Board of Supervisors for its newly formed LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, Jazzie called me and told me in no uncertain terms that I had to apply. She had already sent in her application and wanted to make sure another strong housing advocate was on the task force.

We sat together at the hearing, waiting for our chance to sell ourselves to the supervisors. After we were both appointed, and as we left the room, Jazzie started talking about what she wanted the task force to do, especially on housing issues. She was always a woman with a vision. Or a cause.

Jazzie called me whenever there was something to be done. She’d say, “We gotta do something about this.” It didn’t matter how busy I was. I knew I could never say no to her.

Jazzie, my sister, wherever you are now, I know you’ll always be beside me when I’m out there fighting the good fight.

Hungry for reform


Sitawa Jamaa is among the thousands of California inmates who, two years ago this summer, took part in the largest prison hunger strike in US history to protest harsh conditions and their invisibility to those outside prison walls.

Now, Jamaa and other prisoners are about to launch another hunger strike to highlight the system’s unfulfilled promises and the persistence of inhumane conditions.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) counted 6,000 prisoners throughout the state who refused food over several weeks in July 2011. During a follow-up strike that September, the number of prisoners missing meals swelled to 12,000, according to the federal receiver who was appointed by the courts to oversee reforms in the system. At least one inmate starved to death.

As one of four inmates who call themselves the Short Corridor Collective, Jamaa was a key organizer of the hunger strike. The group of inmates drafted a list of core demands calling for the strike when they weren’t met.

That was no easy task for Jamaa, who has spent most of the last 28 years alone in a windowless, 8-by-10 foot concrete cell in Pelican Bay State Prison, a supermax facility not far from the Oregon border, where some 1,200 men are held in similar conditions.

Inmates held in solitary confinement (in government lingo: “Segregated Housing Units”, or “SHU” for short) aren’t supposed to communicate with each other, verbally or through the mail. But they were able to organize with the help of their lawyers, who they are allowed to communicate with, and prison reform advocates outside.

Jamaa and other inmates are planning to launch a second hunger strike on July 8. The Short Corridor Collective has drafted a list of 45 demands, reflecting concerns ranging from inadequate health care to extreme solitary confinement—conditions that prison advocates characterize as cruel and unusual punishment.

The list is an extension of the five initial demands that Pelican Bay inmates presented in 2011 before initiating a hunger strike. Most of those demands were never met, or they were met only with lip service, leading prisoners back to where they started.




High on the list are concerns about conditions in the SHU, the amount of time prisoners can be made to spend in isolation, and the public’s inability to monitor the situation.

“I feel dead. It’s been 13 years since I have shaken someone’s hand and I fear I’ll forget the feel of human contact,” Pelican Bay prisoner Luis Esquivel told attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights in an interview.

Along with Jamaa and others, Esquivel is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state of California that would effectively cap the time someone can spend in solitary confinement to 10 years.

“The hunger strike is an extreme act,” says Terry Kupers, a Piedmont-based psychology professor and clinical psychiatrist who has testified before the California State Assembly on long-term solitary confinement. “It’s very dangerous, and you can die. So when a group of prisoners go on hunger strike, it means they’ve exhausted all ways of expressing themselves and having their demands considered. And that’s very much the case here—some of these guys have been in SHU for 30 or 40 years.”

Kupers believes solitary confinement in California prisons violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, a view echoed by activists who’ve launched a statewide effort called the Stop the Torture Campaign.

United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez, an expert on torture, has called for a ban on solitary confinement where inmates are kept in isolation for 22 hours a day or more, saying the practice should only be used in very exceptional circumstances and for short time periods.

The CDCR has made some concessions and reforms since the 2011 hunger strikes, but critical issues have gone unaddressed. In Pelican Bay’s SHU, the men are now allowed beanie caps for when it gets cold. They can now have wall calendars to track time and bring a human touch to their surroundings.

Some prisoners have received exercise equipment, such as a handball or pull-up bar. Each year, they now have permission to have one photograph of themselves taken to send to family members, and prison administrators have signaled that they are looking into extending Pelican Bay’s visitation hours.

But more pressing issues have yet to be resolved, so the prisoners who drafted the 45 demands are resorting to starvation once again, despite official statements that it will do little to improve their conditions.

“Negotiation is something the department does not do,” says Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for CDCR. But the department has met periodically with a mediation team, consisting of lawyers and prison activists, who have communicated the inmates’ concerns and gone over their demands with prison authorities.




In 2002, the state of California was sued, and lost, in an 8th Amendment class-action lawsuit: Plata v. Davis. The federal judge overseeing the case called the medical treatment in California prisons “horrifying,” sinking “below gross negligence to outright cruelty,” ordering improved treatment and reductions in severe prison overcrowding.

A court-appointed doctor found that out of 193 deaths over the course of one year, 34 were “probably preventable,” but medical staff gave “well below even minimal standards of care.” Eleven years later, the state is still under federal receivership, until it can show that conditions have actually improved.

Court-appointed consultant Dr. Raymond Patterson wrote his 14th annual assessment report last April, blaming high suicide rates behind bars on a lack of “adequate assessment, treatment or intervention.” After it was released, he quit the post in frustration, writing: “It has become apparent that continued repetition of these recommendations would be a further waste of time and effort.”

So inmates are taking in upon themselves to accomplish what the courts and consultants have failed to do: reform conditions in the prisons.

As happened in 2011, in spite of what is planned to be a peaceful protest, prisons housing strikers will be, according to Thornton, on “modified program” (or “lockdown,” as prisoners call it). Generally, that means inmates aren’t allowed to leave their cells, even to shower.

New regulations created after the 2011 strikes call for no visits for striking prisoners, and for their canteen food to be confiscated. In addition, “inmate(s) identified as strike leaders, instrumental in organizing, planning, and perpetuating a hunger strike, shall be isolated from non-participating inmates.”

Since March of this year, the Guantanamo Bay prisoner hunger strike has made news around the world for highlighting alleged violations of international law. There, when a striker goes below 85 percent Ideal Body Weight, regulations dictate that he or she be shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask, and have tubes inserted through their nostrils into their stomachs for up to two hours at a time.

That didn’t happen in California back during the 2011 strikes, but the Division of Correctional Health Care Services devotes five pages of its policy handbook to outlining specific instructions for dealing with hunger strikers, including transfers to prison medical facilities where they could potentially be force-fed, another practice the UN regards as torture.

Prisoners and activists believe the policy was instituted as preemptive attack on the upcoming hunger strike. “We are concerned that, under the pretext of ‘welfare’ checks, prisoners are being harassed, targeted, and deprived of sleep as the date of planned hunger strikes and work stoppages approaches,” said Isaac Ontiveros of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group. “Whatever the case, new CDCR Secretary Jeffery Beard has an opportunity to avoid the strike and begin to undo the indescribable harm that the California prison system has caused.”




Problems associated with solitary confinement are closely connected to CDCR’s most commonly used tool for sending prisoners like Jamaa into the SHU: the controversial “gang validation” process.

Once an inmate is listed in prison records as a gang member, he or she loses multiple rights on the assumption that they’re a threat to the order of the prison. With no disciplinary write-ups since 1995, Jamaa would have been eligible for parole in 2004, except for the gang validation that led to his indefinite SHU sentence.

Getting pegged as a member of a gang can happen easily. Guards can write prisoners up for anything from the possession of artwork deemed to be gang-related, to information obtained from confidential informants whose claims prisoners often aren’t allowed to refute and whose identities remain unknown to the targeted prisoners.

Last year, in the wake of hunger strikes, CDCR announced a “complex retooling” of the gang validation practices. The so-called Step Down process, created in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, is meant to transition inmates out of gangs over the course of four years, with privileges gained over that time.

It might be the most significant of the reforms that followed the last hunger strike, but prisoners and their advocates criticize it as too lengthy of a process, subject to the arbitrary whims of the correctional officers overseeing a given prisoner. In fact, they say it may widen the definition of who counts as a gang member.

Manuel Sanchez, who is participating in the Step Down program at Corcoran State Prison, wrote in a letter that he is “seriously considering returning to SHU, where I’d be less harassed and I’d get more yard access more consistently.”

Compounding the problems in the prisons is a lack of transparency and public accountability.

“It’s like mentioning July 8 is anathema,” says San Francisco Bay View Editor Mary Ratcliff, whose African American-focused newspaper has been a CDCR censorship target.

From January to April of this year, Ratcliff said papers were being returned from Pelican Bay undelivered because they included articles about the hunger strikes, representing “material inciting participation in a mass disturbance,” and “a serious threat to the safety and security” of the prison, according to CDCR Administrator R.K. Swift.

“I think it’s remarkable that hunger strikes are considered a ‘disturbance,'” says Ratcliff. “A disturbance is supposed to mean a fight—something that threatens people. A hunger strike is a threat to no one except the people who are participating in it.”

Just as inmates can’t get news from the outside, they are also walled off from journalists who might cover them and the conditions they live in.

Since 1996, the CDCR has limited reporters to only interviewing prisoners they’ve selected. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have opened up media access to the prisons. “Giving criminals celebrity status through repeated appearances on television will glorify their crimes and hurt victims and their families,” he wrote, citing the media spectacle around Charles Manson.

But activists say the nearly $2 million Brown received from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) during his successful bid for governor in 2010 had more to do with it than infamous serial killers.

Assembly member Tom Ammiano, who authored the most recent bill, stressed that “Press access isn’t just to sell newspapers. It’s a way for the public to know that the prisons it pays for are well-run. I invite the governor to visit the SHU to see for himself why media access is so important.”




Last time around, Jamaa lost 19 pounds. Deprived of sunlight, the Oakland-born man has developed melanin and vitamin D deficiencies that have lightened his normally dark brown skin. He suffers stomach problems and swollen thyroid glands that he didn’t have before prison. Starvation is a possibly lethal proposition. “Make no mistake, none of us wants to die. But we are prepared to, if that’s what it takes to force a real reform,” he and other strike leaders wrote in a statement last December. Jamaa’s sister, Marie Levin, who has organized monthly vigils for the strikers at Oakland’s monthly First Fridays/Art Murmur event, is worried about how her brother’s body will cope this time around. “It’s something that we as family members don’t want them to have to experience again,” she notes with anxiety. Yet both the prisoners and their advocates on the outside say they can’t simply let dehumanizing conditions in California’s prison system continue indefinitely. “I think things have changed, but not substantially in terms of actual conditions,” Kupers argues. “What is changed is the CDCR had to recognize the strikers, and conceded some of the things. And subsequently, the various prisoner groups have come together and made a commitment not to have violence between groups inside the prisons. This is huge advancement.” But unless all 45 demands are met, they say the strike will commence July 8. For now, Jamaa and others are readying their bodies for hunger, for a cause they believe goes far beyond prison walls. “Know this,” he wrote from SHU, words that needed to be smuggled out through unconventional means to get around an official wall of silence. “I am a … Prisoner of War, and I serve the interest of all people.”

Some wins, some losses in Sacto


The state Assembly and Senate passed the usual flurry of bills on May 31, the last day for initial-house approval, with some unusual drama that temporarily sidelined a medical-marijuana bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

By the time it was all over, several other Ammiano bills passed, a measure by Assemblymember Phil Ting to ease the way for a Warriors arena on the waterfront won approval, and state Sen. Mark Leno got most of his major legislation through.

The pot bill, AB 473, would have established a state regulatory framework for medical cannabis, something that most advocates and providers support. Still, because the subject is marijuana, it was no easy sell and at first, a lot of members, both Republicans and Democrats, expressed concern that the measure might restrict the ability of local government to ban or limit dispensaries.

Ammiano, in presenting the bill, made it clear that it had no impact on local control, and that was enough to get 38 votes. Typically, when a bill is that close to passage, the chair asks the sponsor if he or she wants to “hold the call” that is, freeze the vote for a few minutes so supporters can make sure all of their allies are actually on the floor and voting and to try, if necessary, to round up a couple of wobblers.

In this case, though, Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos, of San Jose, simply gaveled the vote to a close while Ammiano was scrambling to get her to hold it. “That’s very unusual, not good behavior,” one Sacramento insider told me.

Ammiano was more respectful toward Campos, simply calling it a “procedural mistake.” He told us he would be looking for other ways to move the bill. “The door is never fully closed up here,” he said.

However that turns out, the veteran Assemblymember, now in his final term, won a resounding victory with the passage of his Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 241. The bill would give domestic workers some of the same labor rights as other employees, including the right to overtime pay and breaks. “These workers, who are mostly women, keep our households running smoothly, care for our children, and enable people with disabilities to live at home and remain engaged in our communities,” Ammiano said. “Why shouldn’t they have overtime protections like the average barista or gas station attendant?”

An Ammiano bill restricting the ability of prosecutors to use condom possession as evidence in prostitution cases also cleared, as did a bill tightening safety rules on firearms.

Ting’s bill, AB 1273, would allow the state Legislature, not the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, to make a key finding on whether the new area is appropriate for the shoreline. Mayor Ed Lee and the Warriors strongly backed the measure, clearly believing it would make the path to development easier. Ammiano voted against it showing that the San Francisco delegation is by no means unanimous on this issue.

Leno had a string of significant victories. A bill called the Disclose Act, which would mandate that all campaign ads reveal, in large, readable type, who is actually paying for them, cleared with the precise two-thirds majority needed and it was a straight party-line vote. Every single Republican was in opposition. “They know that if their ads say “paid for by Chevron and PG&E, the won’t work as well,” Leno told us.

He also won approval for a bill that would ease the way for people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit to receive the modest $100 a day payment the state theoretically owes them. There are 132 people cleared of crimes and released from prison, but the process of applying for the payment is currently so onerous that only 11 have actually gotten a penny. “We victimized these people, and we shouldn’t make them prove their innocence twice,” Leno said.

Bills to better monitor price manipulation by oil companies and to expand the trauma recovery program pioneered by San Francisco General Hospital also cleared the Senate floor.

But Leno had a disappointing loss, too: A bill that would have helped tenants collect on security deposits that landlords wrongfully withheld died with only 12 vote a sign of how powerful the real-estate industry remains in Sacramento.


Pot, domestic worker bills win approval


Two bills that we’ve been following, one to regulate medical marijuana and the other to give domestic workers some basic rights, won approval from a key state Assembly committee and are headed for the Assembly floor.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 473, which would create a division under the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to write statewide regs for dispensaries, cleared the Appropriations Committee (where many good bills go to die) May 24. It’s a big step: For years, most of official Sacramento was afraid even to talk about the devil weed, much less take action on something that might look like a sign of approval. Now that the biggest problem with medical marijuana is zoning (and federal crackdowns) — and frankly, California is only a couple of years away from following Colorado and legalizing pot anyway — it makes sense to have a framework in place to ensure quality control, register dispensaries … and maybe convince the feds to back down.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 241, would require people to treat household workers with the same respect and the same types of benefits as most other workers. It would mandate work breaks, sleep breaks, overtime … pretty basic stuff. But the guv, for reasons known only to him, vetoed it last time around. Perhaps he’ll come to his senses.

The bills will probably make it to the Assembly floor next week.


Ammiano’s on a roll


Willie Brown, the former mayor and current unregistered lobbyist, has been trying to undermine Assemblymember Tom Ammiano for years. But take a look at two Ammiano bills this spring and you get a sense of how effective San Francisco’s veteran representative can be.

On April 23, the state Assembly Judiciary Committee passed Ammiano’s Homeless Bill of Rights, 7-3. That wasn’t easy; he had to amend the bill and work the committee hard. The League of California Cities, which has a lot of clout in Sacto, doesn’t like the bill; neither does the California Chamber of Commerce. This is a big deal; the bill would ban most “sit-lie” laws and guarantee everyone the right to use public space.

Then the Pubilc Safety Committee approved his marijuana regulation bill, 5-2 (despite Brown and Co. trying to screw it up). And his Domestic Workers Bill of Rights , which the governor vetoed last year, is headed for likely approval at the Labor and Employment Committee.

There’s still a long road ahead for all of these bills — more committees, Assembly floor, Senate, and then the guv (and who the hell knows where Jerry will be on anything these days). But it’s possible that, in his final term, Ammiano could have several landmark bills approved.

(Yeah, it’s his final term. Six years is all you get in the Assembly. Crazy what terms limits has wrought. The minute you get to the point where you really know how to do your job, and you can truly deliver for your constitutents, they shove you out the door.)


Look for a quick decision on D4 appointment


A Democratic Party resolution calling on Ed Lee to appoint a mother to the Board of Supervisors may have driven the slow-moving mayor to fill the seat of departing Sup. Carmen Chu quickly, perhaps as soon as today (Feb. 21), City Hall sources are saying.

Lee appointed Chu to fill the post of Assessor-Recorder vacated when Phil Ting moved to the state Assembly. But he’s been dragging his feet on naming Chu’s replacement.

Alix Rosenthal, a member of the Democratic County Central Committee, has put a resolution on the agenda for the group’s Feb. 27 meeting urging the mayor to name a woman with a family. Her argument:

Political office is often beyond the reach of mothers, because balancing a political life with family and work is often an insurmountable challenge.  Appointing a mother to fill the District 4 seat will demonstrate the Mayor’s commitment to stemming the tide of families leaving San Francisco, and it may serve to inspire women with children to be politically engaged, and to run for office themselves in the future.

That, of course, could put the mayor’s allies on the DCCC in a tough situation. Will they vote to urge the mayor to do something he doesn’t want to — or will they vote against, you know, motherhood?

Of course, if the mayor makes an appointment before Feb. 27, the resolution becomes moot.

Rosenthal and some other politically active women are supporting Suzy Loftus, a member of the Police Commission and a mom. But D4 is more than half Asian, and has always had an Asian supervisor, so it’s unlikely the mayor would appoint a non-Asian to the job.

One obvious candidate: Katy Tang, who is now Chu’s legislative aide.

The mayor will want someone he can count on as loyal — and who he’s pretty sure can win an election. His last two appointees to elective office, Christina Olague and Rodrigo Santos, were both defeated the first time they faced the voters.

But at this point, Lee isn’t saying anything. Look for an announcement soon.




Supes scramble to find TIC deal


Some San Francisco supervisors are scrambling to find an acceptable compromise that would prevent condo-conversion legislation by Sups. Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell from becoming a bitter battle that could be a no-win situation for centrists.

Board President David Chiu is meeting with tenant groups and trying to craft an alternative to the proposal, which would allow some 2,000 tenancy in common units to convert to condominiums. Wiener says the legislation is needed to provide housing stability to people in the almost-but-not-quite-a-condo world of TICs. Tenant activists who have met with Chiu say he’s discussing ways to limit speculation, which might include a five-year ban on the resale of converted condos. But that won’t be anywhere near enough for the tenant groups.

In fact, tenant and landlord groups are both talking to Sup. Norman Yee, who will be one of the swing votes, and who could introduce a series of amendments to the Wiener/Farrell bill that would be more palatable to tenants.

“They’ve had a couple of meetings,” Yee told me. “We’re just examining the issues to see if there’s a compromise. It would be great if we could work something out so the supervisors could feel better about voting on this.”

But any deal, Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union told me, would require “structural reform of the future condo-conversion process.”

Yee could probably get away with that — he’s never relied on landlords or real-estate interests for his campaign money, and there aren’t that many TIC owners in his district, which is largely single-family homes. This won’t be a vote that will make or break his future in District 7.

On the other hand, it could be a huge issue for Sup. London Breed, who represents a district with a huge majority of tenants and the most progressive voting record in the city. Breed insists that she hasn’t made up her mind on the issue, and she told me she agrees she’s on the hot seat here: Much of her political and financial support came from Plan C and real-estate interests that want more condo conversions, but she would face furious policial fallout if she voted against tenants. “I am open to a compromise, but only if it’s good policy for the city,” she said.

Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos are strongly against the TIC bill, and it’s likely that Sups. Eric Mar (who got immense support from tenants in his recent re-election) and Jane Kim (who didn’t support the measure in committee) will oppose it unless it’s altered in a way that tenants can accept.

Naturally, Farrell and Wiener are on the yes side, as is, almost certainly, Sup. Carmen Chu.

That leaves Breed, Chiu, Yee, and Sup. Malia Cohen — and three of them have to vote Aye for the bill to pass. Chiu wants to run for state Assembly from the tenant-heavy side of the city, but, as always, he’s looking for a way to avoid an ugly fight.

The problem is that the tenants aren’t going to sign off on anything modest; if they’re going to accept the conversion of 2,000 units that used to be rental housing, they’re going to want to be absolutely certain it doesn’t happen again — and that there are new rules in place that halt the rampant assault on existing rent-controlled housing.

So either the folks in the center — Yee, Breed, Chiu, and Cohen — are going to have to force the landlords to accept some long-term reforms that they won’t like, or politicans like Breed are going to be forced to take a yes or not vote that could come back to haunt them.





Our freak of a governor


We all know this, but I have to say it again: Jerry Brown is one strange agent.

His State of the State address was blessedly short: Jer doesn’t waste a lot of time. In fact, a few minutes in, the crowd in the state Assembly chambers was applauding for the second or third time, and he told them to stop; “this is my longest speech and we’re not going to get out of here.” I clocked it, applause and all, at about 16 minutes.

But lordy, lordy, what a crazy amalgam of stuff he packed in. From Montaigne to the Little Engine that Could, the Ten Commandments to Pharoh’s dream about the seven cows, Franklin Roosevelt to Gaspar Portola … all over the map would be a gentle way of describing it.

And that was the political message, too: We can do great things, spend billions on a massive underground peripheral canal and high-speed rail — but we can’t backfill the cuts that are leaving tens of thousands in poverty because we have to live within our means. The mandate for renewable energy is great, but we shouldn’t just keep on passing laws:

Constantly expanding the coercive power of government by adding each year so many minute prescriptions to our already detailed and turgid legal system overshadows other aspects of public service. Individual creativity and direct leadership must also play a part. We do this, not by commanding thou shalt or thou shalt not through a new law but by tapping into the persuasive power that can inspire and organize people. Lay the Ten Commandments next to the California Education code and you will see how far we have diverged in approach and in content from that which forms the basis of our legal system.

Serious, Guv? “Constantly expanding the coervice power of government?” That’s channelling your inner Ronald Reagan, no? Oh, and weren’t you the mayor of Oakland who let the cops do pretty much anything they wanted in the name of public safety — and who is the darling and best pal of the prison guards union? Talk about the coercive power of government. And one of the bills you’ve never supported is Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s effort to legalize marijuana — eliminating a particularly troubling “coercive power of government” — because you’re worried that we can’t compete with China if everybody’s stoned.

I like high-speed rail, and investing in education, and I agree that there’s too much emphasis on one-size-fits-all standardized tests and measurement tools in the public school system. The school funding formula is, generally, a good idea. And I am utterly on the side of our tightwad leader in the battle to keep tuition from rising at CSU and UC.

So on some of the substance, Brown’s speech made sense. But I’ve been a Jerry watcher for many, many years, and he never ceases to baffle me. I supose that’s part of his point.

Let’s remember: Brown grew up in a wealthy patrician family, and he’s never had to worry about working for a living or finding an affordable place to live. He’s way out of touch with what millions of Californians face every day — and that’s why it’s easy for him to sit up in Sacramento and talk about “living within our means.”

Democratic Party tries to block non-Democrats


Once again, the San Francisco Democratic Party is considering ousting local Democratic clubs that endorse non-Democrats in nonpartisan races. It’s crazy, and it goes back to the Matt Gonzalez era, and I don’t understand why somebody keeps bringing it up. But there it is.

The local party operation, run by the Democratic County Central Committee, has to rewrite parts of its bylaws this year anyway, thanks to changes in state election law. (For one thing, terms on the DCCC will now run four years, not two, and elections will coincide only with presidential primaries.)

And among the proposed changes is an item to ban chartered Democratic clubs from endorsing, say, a candidate for San Francisco supervisor or school board who isn’t a registered Democrat.

Now: It’s always been pretty clear that if you’re a part of the Democratic Party, and your club has official party sanction, you shouldn’t be endorsing Republicans (or even Greens) over Democrats. So Dem clubs have to support Dems for president, Congress, etc. (Of course, with our top-two primaries it’s possible, if highly unlikely, that a race for state Assembly could now feature a pair of candidates neither of whom is a Democrat, which would make things sticky. And under the proposed bylaws, a Democratic Club could still chose one of them.)

But never mind that — the real issue is local government. Local races, by state law, are nonpartisan, and there ahve been plenty of progressive candidates who weren’t registered Dems. In fact, this all goes back to the anger the establishment ginned up after Matt Gonzalez, a Green, very nearly toppled Gavin Newsom for mayor — with the support of a lot of progressive Democrats. The Harvey Milk Club went with Gonzalez and some Newsomite tried to make an issue of the Club’s charter.

Jane Kim was a Green when she was first elected to the School Board. Ross Mirkarimi was elected supervisor as a Green. And while the Green Party is in something of a state of disarray right now, it could make a comeback. And perhaps more important, the fastest-growing group of voters is decline-to-state — and it’s pretty likely that we’ll see someone who isn’t a member of any party run for office in the next few years.

There’s a reason the state Constitution made local races nonpartisan — and there’s no reason Democrats can’t endorse the candidates they think are the best in those races, without regard to party affiliation. The Milk Club, not surprisingly, is strongly against this, and so am I. It comes up Dec. 23; let’s shoot it back down.


White men behaving (very) badly


Could it be — the worst year ever?

I keep asking. And every time the Offies come around, I find myself boggled yet again. Our awards for the very worst — the dumbest, the most tasteless, the most truly offensive acts of the year past — keep sinking lower and lower.

But what can we do? There are still Republicans, and this year a lot of them ran for high office, and every single one made a fool of himself. There are still politicians who think you can run for San Francisco supervisor even if you live in Walnut Creek, and elected leaders who find the courage deep in themselves to prevent a bunch of old men from walking around with their sagging asses and limp dicks out.

There are still entertainers who punch psychics, and gun nuts who blame mass murder on TV sex, and … well, a whole lot of people who have made this a banner year for the Offies.



The audience at a Republican presidential primary debate booed a gay solider who called in from Iraq with a question about don’t ask, don’t tell.



Rush Limbaugh attacked law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified that health-care plans should cover contraceptives.



Mitt Romney said he really liked Michigan because the trees were all the right height.



Herman Cain proclaimed that for every woman who claimed he sexually harassed her, there were a thousand others who didn’t.



An American Airlines pilot kicked a woman off a flight for wearing a shirt that said “if I wanted the government in my womb I’d fuck a senator.”



Rick Perry proclaimed in a debate that he was going to do away with three agencies of the federal government, but after listing Commerce and Education, he couldn’t remember what the third one was, identifying it only as “oops.”



Rick Santorum said that he’d listened to John F. Kennedy’s speech on the separation of church and state and it made him want to throw up.



Donald Trump, mistakenly believing Romney won the popular vote but lost the election, called the election “a sham and travesty” and called for “revolution.”



Romney insulted the British by saying the nation didn’t appear ready to host the Olympics.



More than 50 thousand people signed a White House petition asking for permission for Texas to secede.



On the same day that a gunman opened fire at a showing of the Dark Knight movie in Colorado, the National Rifle Association’s magazine sent out a tweet that read: “Good morning, shooters! Happy Friday.”

A Congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmert, argued that the Dark Knight shootings happened because of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”

Mike Huckabee blamed the massacre in Newtown, CT on atheism. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Timothy Bordnow at Tea Party nation said the shooting was caused by too much sexual stimulation in the media . “There is a reason why young people commit these sorts of crimes, and sex plays no small part. Their passions are eternally inflamed, and they wander the Earth with no outlet for their overstimulated glands.”

Megan McArdle, the Daily Beast writer, urged the victims of mass shootings to gang-rush the shooter so he wouldn’t kill as many people.

The head of the National Rifle Association said the only way to stop mass murders of school children is to post armed guards in every school.



Sup. Scott Wiener promoted a ban on public nudity in San Francisco.



Michael Breyer, who has never been elected to anything, spent roughly $1 million trying to win a state Assembly seat as the candidate of “traditional San Francisco values,” and lost badly.



Confetti thrown in the Giants parade turned out to be lightly shredded internal police documents that included home addresses and social security numbers of officers.



Mayor Ed Lee testified under oath that he’d never discussed the Ross Mirkarimi case with members of the board of Supervisors, although friends of Sup. Christina Olague said she’d been open about her talks with the mayor on the topic.



A San Francisco bicyclist who was allegedly trying to beat a speed record crashed into and killed a 71-year-old man in the Castro.



Political consultant Enrique Pearce oversaw perhaps the worst district election campaign in history, helping Olague become the first incumbent ever to lose in ranked-choice voting in SF.



Union official Leon Chow dropped his challenge to Sup. John Avalos when the SF Appeal revealed that he didn’t live in District 11, or even in San Francisco.




1. Divine providence rape (Rick Santorum): “The right approach is to accept this horribly created .. gift of life, accept what God is giving to you.”

2. Honest Rape (Ron Paul): “If it was an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room.”

3. Forcible Rape (Paul Ryan): Federal law should prevent abortion except in the case of “forcible rape.”

4. Emergency Rape (Linda McMahon): “It was really an issue about a Catholic Church being forced to issue those pills if a person came in with an emergency rape.”

5. Legitimate Rape: (Todd Akin): “If it was a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”



After a Justin Bieber concert, Lindsay Lohan punched a psychic in the face at a New York nightclub, then threw her personal assistant out of the car.



Romney’s campaign manager said that his candidate would change his right-wing positions for the fall campaign: “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”



Newt Gingrich proposed sending 13,000 Americans to the Moon and creating a new state there.



After Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win the Olympic gold medal in all-around gymnastics, the news media reported on problems with her hair.



Justice Antonin Scalia, in defending his argument that sodomy is legally equivalent to murder, told law students at Princeton that the Constitution is not a living document, it’s “dead, dead, dead, dead.”



Kim Kardashian fell 90 places, to 98, on AskMen Magazine’s list of the worlds 100 most desirable women.



Herman Cain said his life’s philosophy came from a Pokemon song.



Romney said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”



Romney said he didn’t remember beating up a gay student at his prep school and cutting off his long hair.



A full 78 percent of Americans thought Ryan Seacrest was doing a good job broadcasting from the Olympics, although most of them couldn’t figure out what he was actually doing.



Karl Rove on election night kept insisting the Romney still had a chance to win.



David Petraus resigned as CIA director after an affair with a woman who was threatening another woman who might have had a thing for him.



A petition to allow every American to punch Grover Norquist in the dick was removed from the White House website.



One-time software mogul John McAfee fled Belize claiming the cops would persecute him after he was sought for questioning in the shooting death of his neighbor — using a body double, faking a heart attack, pretending he was crazy, and winding up in Miami.



Ann Romney was deeply depressed that her husband didn’t win the election, telling friends she though it was their fate to move into the White House.



Marco Rubio, when asked about the age of the Earth, said “I’m not a scientist, man.”



After Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held overnight in Lille to be questioned about possible connections between a prostitution ring and orgies he attended in Paris and Washington, his lawyer said: “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other woman.”



Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan lied about his time in the marathon.



Surprise guest speaker Clint Eastwood addressed GOP convention delegates for 12 minutes, during which he carried on an imagined dialogue with an empty chair he identified as President Obama.



Santorum told a gathering of conservatives in Washington, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”