The 1 Percent

Luxy! The dating app for the 1 percent is NOT a prank


I got a press release announcing a new app yesterday that immediately set off my “hoax” radar. Not only is Luxy not a prank, but actual people are signing up for it.

In the press release, Luxy is advertised (in all caps) as TINDER MINUS THE POOR PEOPLE.

Finally — an app guaranteed to ensure Greg Gopman’s pool of dating prospects won’t be infected with the grotesque human trash he so despises.

“Tinder was pretty awesome when it came out,” according to a quote from an unnamed user included in the press release, “but there’s a lot of riff raff on there.”

“It’s Tinder without low-income dating prospects,” according to the description. “In fact, the average income of male users on LUXY is over $200k and those who are unable to keep up financially are immediately removed from the service.”

So far, this doesn’t actually appear to be true. I downloaded Luxy to find out if it was real, and listed my income as above $1 million. So far I’ve managed to escape detection as riff raff.

Here’s the formal description from the (poorly copy-edited) website: “Our members include CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, millionaires, beauty queens, fitness models, Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes, doctors, lawyes [sic] and successful people, juast [sic] name a few.”

“Haha good prank,” I wrote in response to the press release. “Who’s behind it?”

Darren Shuster of Pop Culture Public Relations responded almost immediately.

“Why a prank?” He wrote in an email. “It’s a dating site for rich folks — Have you ever heard of companies like, and These companies have been around for 10 years+ and this ‘Tinder-like’ platform just brings it too a whole new level.”

A whole new level indeed. “Sites / apps like my client’s are probably just a sign of the times,” Shuster mused. “While narrowcasting replaced broadcasting years ago (getting only the news you’re interested in receiving), maybe we have something happening like ‘narrowmatching’ where people only seek to match within certain population pools / segments (i.e., dog owners only, Conservatives or Liberals only, Christian only, rich only)?”

Interesting sociological analysis, Mr. public relations spokesperson.

All I can say is that I cannot wait to see what happens when the Occupy Wall Street set discovers Luxy.

Three upcoming events on housing in San Francisco

There are a few upcoming opportunities to have your say in the ongoing dialogue about the San Francisco tenants’ struggle as long-term renters grapple with rising rents and the threat of displacement.

Amid the housing pressure, a thriving tenants’ rights movement has unfolded in the city to spur multiple legislative pushes for reform. These conversations (and the art exhibit to piece these issues together on a deeper level) are timely.

Wed/12: San Francisco Neighborhoods on the Brink: A Panel Discussion on Displacement, Gentrification, Rising Rents & the Loss of Affordable Housing

Hosted by San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia, this panel discussion will feature comments by District 11 Sup. John Avalos, Public Policy Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center Gen Fujioka, and SFUSD teacher and Ellis Act target Sarah Brant.

An announcement description says the discussion will focus on the “dilemma facing long-time residents and renters of modest means — and the gutting and gentrification of San Francisco — as real estate speculation and a quickly widening income gap drive rents to dizzying heights while the rental supply dwindles.”

Details here.

“There’s a difference between a neighborhood changing—which is natural and organic—versus the destruction of a neighborhood, its history and legacy, which is what is happening right now in the Mission District.” Alejandro Murguía

Wed/12: “Sólo Mujeres: HOME / inside out” – An interdisciplinary exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts

Curated by Susana Aragón and Indira Urrutia, this exhibition features 24 women artists in exploring the symbolic space of home through a variety of mediums, including installation, painting, photography, sculpture, poetry, video and mixed media. Artists include Yolanda Lopez, Xuchi Eggleton, Ximena Sosa, Windsong, Susana Aragón, Sofía Elías, Tina Escaja, Tanya Marie Vlach, Rebeca García Gonzales, Solange Bonilla Leahy, Natalia Anciso, Melanie Lacy Kusters, Marta R, Zabaleta, Mariella Zevallos, Indira Urrutia, Gabriela Luz Sierra, Flor Khan, Fan Warren, Cristina Ibarra, Clara Cheeves, Carmen Lang, Camila Perez-Goddard, Anna Simson, Alejandra Rassvetaieff, Adriana Camarena.

From the announcement: “A home is a place that is close to our heart, it triggers self-reflection, thoughts about who someone is or used to be or who they might become. Each room or space is connected to memories, feelings, ideas, dreams, etc. As part of the exhibit, the gallery will be transformed into a house which rooms will be delimited by see through fabric to show the fragility of housing in The San Francisco’s Mission District.

It opens at 7pm with a live performance by María José Montijo and Diana Gameros. Details here.

Wed/19: Affordable housing from multiple perspectives

The Noe Valley Democratic Club is hosting what it calls “a distinguished and authoritative panel of experts” who will speak about affordable housing in the Bay Area. What’s interesting about this event is that it will bring together folks who are leading a citywide push at the grassroots level to strengthen tenants’ rights, as well as people from more developer-friendly entities such as SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and   Research Association) and the San Francisco Housing Action Committee.

The panelists will include:

Sarah Karlinsky, (panel moderator), Deputy Director of SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and   Research Association)

Douglas Shoemaker, President of Mercy Housing California, a non-profit dedicated to affordable      housing development, fundraising and services.

Teresa Yanga, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing

Tim Colen , Executive Director of San Francisco Housing Action Committee

Fernando Martí, Co-Director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO)

Sara Shortt, Executive Director of the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee 

Details here.

One final tidbit, tangentially related at best. Salon has a great article, Gentrifying the dharma” How the 1 percent is hijacking mindfulness, which thoughtfully examines a trend that has led Buddhists to fear that their religion is turning into a designer drug for the elite.”

(A few weeks ago activists with Eviction Free San Francisco disrupted a Google panel about mindfulness, triggering a decidedly unenlightened onstage tug-of-war over a banner.)

Best quote is from the Dalai Lama, who sees things this way: “Capitalism only takes the money. Then, exploitation.”

Can we rediscover radical action on this marriage equality anniversary?


San Francisco’s political establishment will rightly celebrate itself this afternoon [Wed/12] at 5pm with a ceremony in City Hall marking the 10th anniversary of the unilateral decision to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, kicking off what became known as the Winter of Love.

It was the greatest thing that then-Mayor Gavin Newsom did during his seven-year tenure in Room 200, a bold and principled stand for civil rights that started California down the long and arduous road toward marriage equality.

“It was a proud moment for San Francisco, and some of my most meaningful moments in public service,” Mayor Ed Lee wrote in a guest editorial in today’s Examiner, referring to the minor role that he played as a city administrator at the time.

But that kind of political leadership and willingness to take radical action in the face of injustice — or even the recognition during this kumbaya moment that what Newsom did far exceeded his actual legal authority — seems to be absent in today’s City Hall, which overvalues civility and compromise.

Real estate speculators and greedy capitalists are rapidly changing the face of San Francisco, killing its diversity and some would say its very soul, and the Mayor’s Office hasn’t done anything of any real substance to address the problem. While Mayor Lee gives lip service to protecting the city “for the 100 percent,” it is his supporters from the 1 percent that are acting with impunity to evict our workers, artists, and valued cultural institutions.

So as San Francisco officials pat themselves on the back this afternoon at City Hall, celebrating what was indeed an important and historic effort, our hope is that they will remember the radical spirit of that fateful moment and apply it to the pressing problems that have ignited such populist outrage today.   

How San Francisco should really be helping the Philippines


There were a couple good stories in today’s San Francisco Chronicle related to concerns the Guardian and its readers have sounded in recent months: Mayoral appointees blocking CleanPowerSF against the will of the elected Board of Supervisors, and the massive scale of the proposed Warriors Arena, which is now getting slightly downsized.

It was getting a little lonely beating the drum over the anti-democratic actions of the Mayor Ed Lee and his minions to undermine the only plan San Francisco has to substantially decrease its greenhouse gas emissions and meet its own ambitious goals for addressing climate change. Glad to see the Chronicle turn up the heat, at least in its news section (unlike the neocon neanderthals that write the paper’s editorials).

While the mainstream media sometimes does good work, it usually fails to connect the dots, which is an important journalistic function. So if I would find fault with the otherwise solid and long overdue story by reporters Marisa Lagos and David R. Baker, it would be with its failure to note that CleanPowerSF is really the only plan for seriously addressing climate change, which is one of the biggest and most impactful challenges we face.

This morning on KQED’s Forum, while discussing the devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines — one of the strongest ever recorded — they did connect the dots between the severity of that storm and the warming oceans of the world, albeit in fairly detached and non-urgent way.

So please allow me to connect another dot.

“Our hearts go out to all of those who have suffered in the Philippines from possibly the world’s strongest storm. The people of the Philippines are in our thoughts and prayers today, and we will continue to support them in the days and months ahead as we learn the true impact caused by Typhoon Haiyan,” Mayor Lee said Friday in a prepared statement sent to the media. “San Francisco stands ready to aid in the rebuilding and recovery efforts. The work of rebuilding communities begins immediately, and San Francisco understands how important a sustained, vigorous recovery effort is. Our City stands ready with the Bay Area Filipino-American community to assist today and into the future to help in the rebuilding efforts in the Philippines.”

What he didn’t mention was climate change. While it’s great that San Franciscans stand ready to address the effects of this and other natural disasters — which all the global warming models show will become stronger and more frequent — why aren’t we willing to show more leadership in addressing the root cause of this problem?

Instead of collaborating with developers on ever more ambitious schemes to build expensive buildings on a waterfront that will already be challenged by rising seas, the Mayor’s Office should be channeling its energies into making San Francisco a role model for other 21st century cities to follow.

The real challenges that we and other cities around the world face now are how to address poverty, the energy and transportation needs of a growing population, and a planet in peril; instead, this Mayor’s Office is focused on poaching Oakland’s basketball team and building more housing for the 1 percent.

If Mayor Lee is serious about the sympathies he’s expressing for vulnerable populations in the developing world, then he and allies should do more than send care packages when they are devastated by the byproducts of the wasteful and overly consumptive economic policies that they are promoting.  

‘Money is a tool’


Jack Abramoff says “legalized bribery” is corrupting our political system, and as a lobbyist who went to prison for taking the practice of buying favors from Congress to obscene new depths, he should know. But if we’re relying on him to help reform that system, a cause he’s now taken up, we could be in real trouble.

Watching Abramoff address “public ethics” at a University of San Francisco class of aspiring political professionals on June 6 was a little surreal. Part charming rogue, part penitent reformer, Abramoff told inside tales of how easily money corrupts even well-intended people who work in Congress.

“I didn’t create a new way of lobbying, I just did more of it,” Abramoff told the students, noting that while some lobbyists had a few good tickets to Washington Redskins or Wizards games to give away to members of Congress, he had 72 of them. And while some lobbyists would take members golfing, “I would put them on a Gulfstream and fly them to Scotland. What’s the difference? It’s still playing golf.”

It was particularly strange for someone of Abramoff’s obviously questionable moral fiber to be addressing political students at this Jesuit-run academic institution, whose local advertising slogans include “How to succeed in business and still go to heaven” and “Wicked smart without the wicked part.”

Yet forgiveness is supposed to be divine, and the instructor who lured Abramoff to speak with his class, local lobbyist and political consultant Alex Clemens, was certainly pleased to attract someone with Abramoff’s inside knowledge, avoiding Abramoff’s usual speaking fees of up to $20,000 by piggybacking on a Southern California speech he gave and paying only his airfare.

I was a bit more skeptical of a guy who equates political donations with bribery while hawking a book and narrow reform proposal — while at the same time soliciting corporate lobbying clients and telling the San Francisco Chronicle that Silicon Valley should be spending far more money to influence politicians.

“It needs a much bigger view of political involvement,” Abramoff told the Chron. “It should be spending much more. They’re not playing as smart as they should, and they could lose big.”

That’s part of the muddle of contradictions that defines Abramoff and his advocacy today, which is consistent with the anti-government, wealth-worshipping conservatism he has pushed with missionary zeal since his college days, along with pals Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, who still play key roles in keeping religious fundamentalists and the rich in the Republican Party fold.

“I’m not against money in the system, I’m against money being used the wrong way in the system,” Abramoff told me after the talk, as I probed the contradictions in his statements and views. My efforts to pin him down caused him to scornfully brand me a “socialist,” the old bully replacing the affable face he showed the students.

“Money is a tool,” Abramoff told me.

Abramoff is also a tool, I decided as I listened to him, although it’s still tough to discern who is wielding him now and where this effort may be headed.


Abramoff told the students that even after he got busted in 2005, for a long time he indignantly wondered why he was being prosecuted for the same sorts of actions that were endemic to Washington DC. Eventually, he began to realize he had done something wrong.

“I thought maybe some of this [the charges against him] is right,” he said. “I decided to be honest with myself. Am I the saint I always thought I’d been, or the devil they said I was?”

Yet in the end, Abramoff never did really rethink his own worldview and history — from his early days of shilling for the South African government against efforts to end apartheid to later bribing members of Congress to oppose regulation of sweatshops and sex trafficking in US territories — he just blamed the political system.

“I thought this system is maybe not right,” he told students studying to be a part of that system. “I thought when I got out, I should probably try to help.”

So he wrote a book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist, and he says that he’s been developing political reform legislation that he intends to start pushing next year along with unnamed others.

Abramoff has consulted with Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who founded Rootstrikers to push political reforms, but Abramoff doesn’t support many of the central tenets of that and other reform groups, including public financing of elections and overturning “corporate personhood” court rulings that deem political spending by the rich to be a free speech right.

In fact, Abramoff is still a right-winger who shows little interest in limiting the ability of wealthy corporations and individuals to freely spend their money on political candidates and issues, placing him at odds with pretty much the entire political reform movement.

Phillip Ung, a spokesperson for Common Cause — which has been working on these political reform efforts for decades — was a little skeptical about getting help from someone who once embodied the most corrupt and excessive aspects of the current system.

“As much as we enjoy his newfound support for political reform, we also understand that he has a debt to pay, and not just to society,” Ung said of the $44 million in restitution that Abramoff still owes to his victims.

Ung said that a stark example of political corruption like Abramoff represents does help the cause, but that has little to do with his current advocacy. “The reform flag at the federal level goes almost nowhere if there’s not a political scandal,” Ung said, although even that isn’t saying much because, “Congress and DC only have tolerance for political reform one every 10 years or so.”

With Democrats now overwhelmingly controlling California’s Legislature and executive offices, Ung sees opportunities for important reforms here. The most promising is Senate Bill 27, which would require political groups that raise more than $500,000 to disclose their donors.

By contrast, Abramoff’s proposal seems tepid at best, and his strategy for selling it relies on using political spending to elect sympathetic people to Congress, which would seem to undermine his reform message almost as much as pitches to corporate clients to hire him for lobbying consulting services (see

“He seems to be going back to his old ways,” Ung said of Abramoff.

Abramoff said his legislation would broaden the definition of lobbyist, limit their campaign contributions to $500 per election cycle, and prevent public officials from working as lobbyists for 10 years after they leave government.

Then Abramoff said that he and his unspecified “we” will dump money into six contested Congressional races in 2014, trying to elect three Democrats and three Republicans who pledge to support his legislation, following that up in 2016 by targeting 25 to 50 races.

“Then and only then will Congress take it seriously,” Abramoff concluded, arguing that politicians respond to losing their jobs more than other means of persuasion. He’s going to use aggressive political spending to win the reforms he seeks, which don’t really do anything to limit political spending.

When I asked Abramoff how increased political spending can reform a political system corrupted by money, he replied, “You play with the tools and the battlefield you’re on.”


Abramoff blames Congress for corruption far more than the lobbyists or wealthy special interests who are doing the corrupting, noting how difficult it is to get political reforms approved by legislators who want to later cash in on their public service.

“The lobbyists are a response to the system set up by Congress,” he told the students, building on his earlier point that “99 percent of everything I did was legal, and that’s a bigger deal than the 1 percent that was illegal. That’s what has to change.”

But he acknowledges that reforming the system will be “impossibly difficult” because those who are invested in the current system will always find loopholes to any new regulation. “They’re extremely brilliant people and their goal is to get around things,” he said.

Omitted from Abramoff’s recitation of what’s wrong in Washington are the people doing the corrupting, that other 1 percent, the very rich. When I asked him about how he can really attack institutionalized political corruption without going after the cash that feeds that corruption, he told me, “I tend to be nervous about a political approach that says, ‘It’s the rich.”

Abramoff actually supports the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling, which ended controls on the political spending of wealthy individuals and corporations, telling the students, “We all want certain corporations to have the rights that we individuals have.”

Abramoff also seems to dismiss the possibility of a grassroots political reform effort, saying that any change in the system would need support from both the left and the right, and the latter will kill any effort to actually removes private money from political campaigns.

“You’re not going to have federal financing of elections. The right will die before they let that happen,” Abramoff said.

That might have been the most insightful thing that Abramoff said to the students, although he certainly didn’t intend it the way that I heard it: maybe the right needs to die, in the political sense, before the system that Abramoff both decries and supports will change.

The adulation of the technoriche


It’s hardly news at this point that billionaire tech mogul Sean Parker tore up a public campground to build the sets for his $10 million fantasy wedding in Big Sur. And it’s been widely reported that Parker paid a $2.5 million fine to the Coastal Commission, which he tried to spin as a wonderful environmental gift to improve the state park system.

But I read with interest in the Chron that both Lite Guv Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris were reportedly at the wedding. Both are very smart people; both have the ability to observe the world around them. So I have to wonder:

Didn’t either Newsom or Harris think it was a little bit odd to see all this new development in a protected area? Did it occur to either of them that their richy-rich-rich pal, who has a history of snubbing laws he doesn’t like, might have done the same thing here?

Could the state’s top law-enforcement official and a member of the state Lands Commission really look at artificial ponds and large new structures, which involved bulldozers to create, and not say:

Huh? Aren’t there rules against this sort of thing?

Okay, it was a wedding, and nobody wants to be the one to throw the turd in the punchbowl. The politician guests were there to celebrate with a person who is capable of helping to fund future campaigns (and since both Harris and Newsom are considered possible candidates for governor when Jerry steps down, I bet they had a great time together).

But didn’t either of them feel at least a little weird about it?

I called Newsom’s office and left a message for Dierdre Hussey, his press person. She hasn’t called back. Nick Pacilio in Harris’s office told me someone would get right back to me; hasn’t happened yet. So we don’t know what the two were thinking.
But I do know this: The level of adulation of the technoriche has reached levels we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age.

Technology columnist James Temple puts it this way:

To the outside observer, Parker’s actions look like contempt for the piddling rules that we non-billionaires can’t buy our way around. And they certainly do nothing to alter the increasingly popular local view of the tech class as selfish and aloof, conspicuously relishing their venture capital rounds and IPO winnings, as a growing portion of the Bay Area population struggles to make the skyrocketing rents.

And politicians seem to adore the most selfish and aloof (and clueless) among them.

Take Mayor Ed Lee’s comments about Airbnb. The company is clearly cheating on its taxes. The city treasurer investigated the situation and ruled unequivocally that airbnb needs to collect and remit the Transit Occupancy Tax money that should be charged on its rooms.
When Michael Krasny asked the mayor on Forum about the issue, Lee defended airbnb (which is funded by his buddy Ron Conway), saying that the company is just “making arguments” about whether it owes the tax.

But that’s just false: The arguments are over. The company argued with the tax collector and lost. And it isn’t arguing anywhere anymore — not in court, not in the political sector. It’s just …. not paying. And because it’s a tech company, and Conway is nurturing it, the mayor seems just fine with that.

It appears that big corporations are big corporations. They may claim that they won’t be evil, and they may be headed by people in their 20s who dress like hipsters, and they may make really cool products — but their operating just like the robber barons of old. And the great wealth they’ve created has, to a great extent, also created great arrogance.

Before the trolls accuse me of fomenting class warfare, let me repeat: I didn’t start this war. I didn’t rig the political and tax systems so that the middle class would be wiped out as all of the net new wealth in a generation goes to the top 1 percent. I’d much prefer we all share in the bounty, as the middle class and working class did in the post-War era.

Meanwhile: Does anyone really need a $10 million wedding in a state park?

The inauguration and the economic divide


Second inaugration speeches are hard; you have to be political without sounding partisan, inspiring without being divisive — and promise change and progress even if you haven’t accomplished what you wanted in the first term. The Obama address surprised me: He went left, making clear that he wants economic and social equality to be his final legacy. It’s getting rave reviews in the lib-blogosphere, where it’s been described as the speech liberals have been begging him to give for years. You can’t argue with the content — he mentions gay rights, global climate change, equal pay, protecting social security, economic inequality, the need for collective effort … he even talks about reforming the tax code.

So now comes the hard part: The struggle for economic justice has to go beyond a compromise plan that limits higher tax rates to people earning more than $400,000 a year.

In fact, the best thing I read this weekend was a NY Times piece by Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who argues forcefully that continued economic inequality is prolonging the recession. It’s also destroying the nation’s future:

Our skyrocketing inequality — so contrary to our meritocratic ideal of America as a place where anyone with hard work and talent can “make it” — means that those who are born to parents of limited means are likely never to live up to their potential. Children in other rich countries like Canada, France, Germany and Sweden have a better chance of doing better than their parents did than American kids have. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty — the second worst of all the advanced economies, putting us behind countries like Bulgaria, Latvia and Greece. Our society is squandering its most valuable resource: our young.

Stiglitz says what few in Washington want to admit: We can’t get the economy going again without rebuilding the middle class, and we can’t do that without higher taxes on the rich and a lot more public investment in education. Oh, and all this talk of how it’s out of our control is bullshit:

There are all kinds of excuses for inequality. Some say it’s beyond our control, pointing to market forces like globalization, trade liberalization, the technological revolution, the “rise of the rest.” Others assert that doing anything about it would make us all worse off, by stifling our already sputtering economic engine. These are self-serving, ignorant falsehoods. Market forces don’t exist in a vacuum — we shape them. Other countries, like fast-growing Brazil, have shaped them in ways that have lowered inequality while creating more opportunity and higher growth. Countries far poorer than ours have decided that all young people should have access to food, education and health care so they can fulfill their aspirations.

Makes me think about some of what I hear out of San Francisco City Hall. Oh, we can’t do anything about economic inequality; that’s a national issue. Or maybe it’s a state issue. I bet there’s not an elected official in town today who woudn’t proclaim complete agreement with everything Obama just said — and there are very few of them who are trying to bring that message back home.

In San Francisco, we give tax breaks for businesses that create high-end jobs that drive poor people out of town. We happily seek development without considering the impact it will have on existing vulnerable populations. We even struggle over free Muni for low-income youth. We do nothing — nothing — to reclaim wealth from the 1 percent and put it into local housing, public education, and job-training that could make a dent in our local economic inequality.

Mr. Mayor: Are you even paying attention?







Lee ducks tough questions about Alvarez and diversifying SF’s economy


For a career bureaucrat who was appointed mayor supposedly as a sort of straight-shooting un-politician, Mayor Ed Lee today once again demonstrated a real talent for addressing tough questions with a whole lot of words that don’t seem to say much at all. First came his non-responsive answers during Question Time at the Board of Supervisors meeting, followed by the hollow filibuster with reporters asking about the Housing Authority scandal as he briskly walked back to his office.

Asked why he continued to stand by Housing Authority Director Henry Alvarez despite the scandals and accusations of mismanagement and unethical conduct on the job that have placed a cloud over the agency, Lee said he’s just waiting for the investigations and lawsuits to play out, dismissing “the so-called cloud that you referred to.”

Given the obvious problems that Alvarez is now having running an agency whose employees and clients have such a problem with his leadership, I asked whether Lee has considered suspending him, to which he responded that Alvarez hasn’t been convicted of any crimes. So, apparently professional misconduct is a personal matter, but personal misconduct unrelated to one’s job warrants suspension. This is all very confusing.

Even more bewildering was Lee’s answer to the question from Sup. John Avalos. He prefaced his question with one from constituent/comedian Nato Green asking what the city is doing to diversify its economy beyond “the highly paid finance or tech jobs and their low wage servants,” noting that City Economist Ted Egan also recently asked that question in a report calling for “a more balanced distribution of job opportunities.”

So Avalos asked, “What is your plan to create living wage jobs in local-serving industries to prevent the City’s working and middle classes from being displaced by people moving to the city for new upper income jobs in the creative (including high tech), financial, and professional services industries?”

It’s a great and important question that has been increasingly raised by those who understand the risks of placing all our eggs in one economic basket, particularly given this city’s experience with the last bubble bursting.

But even though Lee had plenty of time to think about the issue and develop an answer, he clearly didn’t have a good one, instead singing the praises of the booming tech industry and his Tech.SF program for training new tech workers, just like his main financier, tech mogul Ron Conway, wants.

Now, Lee did cite industry studies that every tech job sustains four other jobs in the city, mostly in restaurants and tourism-related sectors (ie the “low wage servants” Green mentioned). And Lee touted the construction jobs created by his developer buddies, praising Avalos for his local hire ordinance.

But even the much-praised local hire standard of 25 percent means that 75 percent of those workers are living outside the city. It’s a similar story for the restaurant, retail, and bar jobs that the influx of well-heeled new residents are creating demand for, none of which answers Avalos’ questions about how to diversify our economy and create good jobs for most San Franciscans.

“Trickle down economics can only get us so far and without a specific and far-reaching plan to create local living wage jobs for San Francisco’s working and middle classes, we’ll see us falling behind,” Avalos told the Guardian after hearing the mayor’s “answer.”

But instead of a plan or a direct answer, we got political platitudes from Lee such as, “We’ll be investing in the greatest asset of our city and that’s the residents, our people, and ensuring San Francisco stays a city for the 100 percent.”

To which Avalos responded, “His comment about the 100 percent really means that by favoring the 1 percent, the 99 percent benefit. Well, as a country, we’ve been doing that for years and wealth disparities have only widened.”

Olague attacks led by billionaires and a consultant/commissioner with undisclosed income


Understanding how political activists are being paid is important to understanding what their motivations are. For example, is Andrea Shorter – a mayor-appointed former president of the Commission on the Status of Women – leading the campaigns against Sup. Christina Olague and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi out of concern for domestic violence, or is it because of their progressive political stands, such as supporting rent control and opposing corporate tax breaks?

As a city commissioner who is required under state law to report her income on annual financial disclosure forms to the city, the public should be able to know who is paying this self-identified “political consultant.” But we can’t, because for each of the last five years, Shorter has claimed under penalty of perjury on Form 700 to have no reportable income, which means less than $500 from any source – an unlikely claim that was the source of complaints filed today with the Ethics Commission and Fair Political Practices Commission.

Shorter led efforts to have her commission support Mayor Ed Lee’s failed effort to remove Mirkarimi from office for official misconduct, and now she’s become one of the main public faces leading an independent expenditure campaign called San Francisco Women for Accountability and a Responsible Supervisor Opposing Christina Olague 2012, funded with more than $100,000 by Lee’s right-wing financial supporters: venture capitalist Ron Conway and Thomas Coates (and his wife), who has also funded statewide efforts to make rent control illegal.

Neither Shorter nor Conway responded to our requests for comment, but tenant advocates and Olague supporters are pushing back with an 11:30am rally at City Hall tomorrow (Thurs/1). Organizers are calling on activists “to beat back the attacks on rent control and workers by billionaires Ron Conway and the Coates family. The 1 Percent Club, Coates and Conway want San Francisco to be a playground for the rich. Take a stand to say that these opportunists CANNOT buy elections!”

The Ethics Commission complaint against Shorter was filed this morning by sunshine activist Bob Planthold, who also filed a similar complaint a couple weeks ago against District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee, who also appears to have grossly understated his income of the same financial disclosure form during his service on the Recreation and Parks Commission.

“There’s been too little attention by mayor after mayor after mayor in that the people they appoint are allowed to be sloppy, negligent, unresponsive, and under-responsive to these financial disclosure requirements,” Planthold told us.

Although the Ethics Commission doesn’t confirm or deny receiving complaints or launching investigations, Planthold said Ethics investigators have already notified him that they were investigating the Lee complaint, and he expects similar action against Shorter. “Ethics is pursuing my complaint against David Lee. It’s not one of the many that they decided to ignore,” Planthold said.

The FPPC complaint against Shorter is being filed by former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who told us, “The complaint speaks for itself.”

Although Shorter claims no income on public forms, the political consulting firm Atlas Leadership Strategies lists Shorter as the CEO of Political Leadership Coaching, which works with political candidates and causes. Atlas also represents PJ Johnston, who was press secretary for then-Mayor Willie Brown and now represents a host of powerful corporate clients.

“Her brand of discreet, highly confidential, political coaching works to equip leaders with tools to exercise more effective, impactful, innovative and – where possible – transformative leadership,” was one way Atlas describes Shorter.

Is she working in a discreet and confidential way to elect moderate London Breed to one of the city’s most progressive districts? Is she being paid for that work by Conway or anyone else? Is she doing the bidding of Mayor Lee and his allies in hopes of greater rewards?

Or should voters just take at face value her claim to really be standing up for “accountability” from public officials? Is this really about the statement Shorter makes in the video prominently displayed on the website: “Christina Olague has lost the trust of victims’ advocates. She has set our cause back. I’m profoundly disappointed in her and I can’t support her anymore.”?

With less than a week until the election, voters can only speculate.

Was Realtor-financed attack ad illegally coordinated with Lee?


District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee might have violated election laws prohibiting candidates from coordinating with groups doing independent expenditures after being featured in a pricey attack ad blasting his opponent, incumbent Sup. Eric Mar.

The San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters yesterday filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission requesting an investigation into illegal coordination between Lee and the Association of Realtors, which produced an ad entitled “Send Mar Back to Mars,” in which Lee appears to have participated in the filming.

“Our concern is that Lee’s campaign has collaborated with the San Francisco Realtors Association in providing footage,” says Fabiana Ochoa, a member of the steering committee for the League.  “That’s really a violation of the law.  It’s a concern this year because we see how national super PACs have an influence on campaigns.”

Lee’s direct fundraising and the allegedly independent expenditures on his behalf this week topped $557,486 – more than any other San Francisco supervisorial campaign in history — prompting the Ethics Commission to again raise the expenditure cap on the public financing in Mar’s race. Lee and his campaign have refused to answer questions about this or other issues. 

“No one has ever seen that kind of spending here in San Francisco.  It’s turned into a challenging and nasty campaign,” Ochoa said.  “It’s a small district but the game has changed.”

Progressive groups — including the League, San Francisco Tenants Union, and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club — are fighting back with a rally scheduled for this Monday at 5pm outside the Realtors Association office at 301 Grove Street. They’re urging participants to bring pots and pans, reminiscent of the group of scowling children who were smeared with dirt and banging pots and pans in the video.   

In an email to the Guardian, the Ethics Commission’s Executive Director John St. Croix said, “The Ethics Commission can not confirm, deny or discuss complaints.” If the Ethics Commission does investigate and finds that Lee knowingly participated in this advertisement, it is unclear what exactly the penalty will be and the District Attorney’s office is not jumping to any conclusions yet. “For now it’s still with the Ethics Commission so we can’t comment on it,” says Stephanie Ong Stillman, press secretary for the D.A.’s office.

In a time when corporations are considered people and wealthy interests have unprecedented political influence in elections, all eyes are on the candidates and how honestly they run their campaigns.  Current San Francisco law prohibits candidates from organizing with independent expenditures like this one.

The ad, which cost $50,000 to make, mocks Mar’s efforts to remove toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals by featuring kids protesting his policies.  The glossy 3 ½ minute commercial is high-quality with Hollywood production value, leaving skeptical viewers wondering if Lee’s cameo was staged and his participation deliberate.   If it was, then Lee also violated laws that ban candidates from accepting campaign contributions exceeding $500.

The Association of Realtors clearly has an interest in David Lee, considering Mar supports tenant rights, and the Tenants Union has make its rally and campaign an effort to “save rent control” and called it a “march on the 1 percent” that is trying to buy the Board of Supervisors and remake San Francisco.

Realtors Association President Jeffery Woo would not discuss the issue when reached by phone.  In an emailed press statement to the Guardian, the Association of Realtors wrote, “ We stand by the facts, and humor, of the video we produced on the election in District 1 and do not plan to remove it from YouTube as it has achieved success in raising important issues in San Francisco.”

The Guardian also reached out to the political media expert who produced the film, Fred Davis, but he did not return our calls. 

Davis, who served as chief media strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is a Hollywood-based veteran of campaign marketing and has produced some of the most notorious political ads in recent history including the Demon Sheep video for Carly Fiorina’s 2010 GOP senate campaign.  He also created the highly lampooned 2010 ad featuring Delware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who assured viewers that she was “not a witch.” 

Judge for yourself whether Lee participated in the making of this video:




People who get their information exclusively from mainstream media sources may be surprised at the lack of enthusiasm on the left for President Barack Obama in this crucial election. But that’s probably because they weren’t exposed to the full online furor sparked by Obama’s continuation of his predecessor’s overreaching approach to national security, such as signing the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the indefinite detention of those accused of supporting terrorism, even US citizens.

We’ll never know how this year’s election would be different if the corporate media adequately covered the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause and many other recent attacks on civil liberties. What we can do is spread the word and support independent media sources that do cover these stories. That’s where Project Censored comes in.

Project Censored has been documenting inadequate media coverage of crucial stories since it began in 1967 at Sonoma State University. Each year, the group considers hundreds of news stories submitted by readers, evaluating their merits. Students search Lexis Nexis and other databases to see if the stories were underreported, and if so, the stories are fact-checked by professors and experts in relevant fields.

A panel of academics and journalists chooses the Top 25 stories and rates their significance. The project maintains a vast online database of underreported news stories that it has “validated” and publishes them in an annual book. Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution will be released Oct. 30.

For the second year in row, Project Censored has grouped the Top 25 list into topical “clusters.” This year, categories include “Human cost of war and violence” and “Environment and health.” Project Censored director Mickey Huff told us the idea was to show how various undercovered stories fit together into an alternative narrative, not to say that one story was more censored than another.

“The problem when we had just the list was that it did imply a ranking,” Huff said. “It takes away from how there tends to be a pattern to the types of stories they don’t cover or underreport.”

In May, while Project Censored was working on the list, another 2012 list was issued: the Fortune 500 list of the biggest corporations, whose influence peppers the Project Censored list in a variety of ways.

Consider this year’s top Fortune 500 company: ExxonMobil. The oil company pollutes everywhere it goes, yet most stories about its environmental devastation go underreported. Weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin (58 on the Fortune list), General Dynamics (92), and Raytheon (117) are tied into stories about US prisoners in slavery conditions manufacturing parts for their weapons and the underreported war crimes in Afghanistan and Libya.

These powerful corporations work together more than most people think. In the chapter exploring the “Global 1 percent,” writers Peter Phillips and Kimberly Soeiro explain how a small number of well-connected people control the majority of the world’s wealth. In it, they use Censored story number 6, “Small network of corporations run the global economy,” to describe how a network of transnational corporations are deeply interconnected, with 147 of them controlling 40 percent of the global economy’s total wealth.

For example, Philips and Soeiro write that in one such company, BlackRock Inc., “The eighteen members of the board of directors are connected to a significant part of the world’s core financial assets. Their decisions can change empires, destroy currencies, and impoverish millions.”

Another cluster of stories, “Women and Gender, Race and Ethnicity,” notes a pattern of underreporting stories that affect a range of marginalized groups. This broad category includes only three articles, and none are listed in the top 10. The stories reveal mistreatment of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons, including being denied medical care and shackled during childbirth, and the rape and sexual assault of women soldiers in the US military. The third story in the category concerns an Alabama anti-immigration bill, HB56, that caused immigrants to flee Alabama in such numbers that farmers felt a dire need to “help farms fill the gap and find sufficient labor.” So the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries approached the state’s Department of Corrections about making a deal where prisoners would replace the fleeing farm workers.

But with revolutionary unrest around the world, and the rise of a mass movement that connects disparate issues together into a simple, powerful class analysis — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent paradigm popularized by Occupy Wall Street — this year’s Project Censored offers an element of hope.

It’s not easy to succeed at projects that resist corporate dominance, and when it does happen, the corporate media is sometimes reluctant to cover it. Number seven on the Top 25 list is the story of how the United Nations designated 2012 the International Year of the Cooperative, recognizing the rapid growth of co-op businesses, organizations that are part-owned by all members and whose revenue is shared equitably among members. One billion people worldwide now work in co-ops.

The Year of the Cooperative is not the only good-news story discussed by Project Censored this year. In Chapter 4, Yes! Magazine‘s Sarah Van Gelder lists “12 ways the Occupy movement and other major trends have offered a foundation for a transformative future.” They include a renewed sense of “political self-respect” and fervor to organize in the United States, debunking of economic myths such as the “American dream,” and the blossoming of economic alternatives such as community land trusts, time banking, and micro-energy installations.

They also include results achieved from pressure on government, like the delay of the Keystone Pipeline project, widespread efforts to override the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the removal of dams in Washington state after decades of campaigning by Native American and environmental activists, and the enactment of single-payer healthcare in Vermont.

As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed writes in the book’s foreword, “The majority of people now hold views about Western governments and the nature of power that would have made them social pariahs 10 or 20 years ago.”

Citing polls from the corporate media, Ahmed writes: “The majority are now skeptical of the Iraq War; the majority want an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan; the majority resent the banks and financial sector, and blame them for the financial crisis; most people are now aware of environmental issues, more than ever before, and despite denialist confusion promulgated by fossil fuel industries, the majority in the United States and Britain are deeply concerned about global warming; most people are wary of conventional party politics and disillusioned with the mainstream parliamentary system.”

“In other words,” he writes, “there has been a massive popular shift in public opinion toward a progressive critique of the current political economic system.”

And ultimately, it’s the public — not the president and not the corporations—that will determine the future. There may be hope after all. Here’s Project Censored’s Top 10 list for 2013:



President George W. Bush is remembered largely for his role in curbing civil liberties in the name of his “war on terror.” But it’s President Obama who signed the 2012 NDAA, including its clause allowing for indefinite detention without trial for terrorism suspects. Obama promised that “my Administration will interpret them to avoid the constitutional conflict” — leaving us adrift if and when the next administration chooses to interpret them otherwise. Another law of concern is the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order that Obama issued in March 2012. That order authorizes the President, “in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.” The president is to be advised on this course of action by “the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council.” Journalist Chris Hedges, along with co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, won a case challenging the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause on Sept. 1, when a federal judge blocked its enforcement, but her ruling was overturned on Oct. 3, so the clause is back.



Big banks aren’t the only entities that our country has deemed “too big to fail.” But our oceans won’t be getting a bailout anytime soon, and their collapse could compromise life itself. In a haunting article highlighted by Project Censored, Mother Jones reporter Julia Whitty paints a tenuous seascape — overfished, acidified, warming — and describes how the destruction of the ocean’s complex ecosystems jeopardizes the entire planet, not just the 70 percent that is water. Whitty compares ocean acidification, caused by global warming, to acidification that was one of the causes of the “Great Dying,” a mass extinction 252 million years ago. Life on earth took 30 million years to recover. In a more hopeful story, a study of 14 protected and 18 non-protected ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea showed dangerous levels of biomass depletion. But it also showed that the marine reserves were well-enforced, with five to 10 times larger fish populations than in unprotected areas. This encourages establishment and maintenance of more reserves.



A plume of toxic fallout floated to the US after Japan’s tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011. The US Environmental Protection Agency found radiation levels in air, water, and milk that were hundreds of times higher than normal across the United States. One month later, the EPA announced that radiation levels had declined, and they would cease testing. But after making a Freedom of Information Act request, journalist Lucas Hixson published emails revealing that on March 24, 2011, the task of collecting nuclear data had been handed off from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group. And in one study that got little attention, scientists Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman found that in the period following the Fukushima meltdowns, 14,000 more deaths than average were reported in the US, mostly among infants. Later, Mangano and Sherman updated the number to 22,000.



We know that FBI agents go into communities such as mosques, both undercover and in the guise of building relationships, quietly gathering information about individuals. This is part of an approach to finding what the FBI now considers the most likely kind of terrorists, “lone wolves.” Its strategy: “seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity,” writes Mother Jones journalist Trevor Aaronson. The publication, along with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley, examined the results of this strategy, 508 cases classified as terrorism-related that have come before the US Department of Justice since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. In 243 of these cases, an informant was involved; in 49 cases, an informant actually led the plot. And “with three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.”



The Federal Reserve, the US’s quasi-private central bank, was audited for the first time in its history this year. The audit report states, “From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than a trillion dollars… in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system.” These loans had significantly less interest and fewer conditions than the high-profile TARP bailouts, and were rife with conflicts of internet. Some examples: the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served as a board member of the New York Federal Reserve at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. William Dudley, who is now the New York Federal Reserve president, was granted a conflict of interest waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time the companies were given bailout funds. The audit was restricted to Federal Reserve lending during the financial crisis. On July 25, 2012, a bill to audit the Fed again, with fewer limitations, authored by Rep. Ron Paul, passed the House of Representatives. HR459 expected to die in the Senate, but the movement behind Paul and his calls to hold the Fed accountable, or abolish it altogether, seem to be growing.



Reporting on a study by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich didn’t make the rounds nearly enough, according to Censored 2013. They found that, of 43,060 transnational companies, 147 control 40 percent of total global wealth. The researchers also built a model visually demonstrating how the connections between companies — what it calls the “super entity” — works. Some have criticized the study, saying control of assets doesn’t equate to ownership. True, but as we clearly saw in the 2008 financial collapse, corporations are capable of mismanaging assets in their control to the detriment of their actual owners. And a largely unregulated super entity like this is vulnerable to global collapse.



Can something really be censored when it’s straight from the United Nations? According to Project Censored evaluators, the corporate media underreported the UN declaring 2012 to be the International Year of the Cooperative, based on the coop business model’s stunning growth. The UN found that, in 2012, one billion people worldwide are coop member-owners, or one in five adults over the age of 15. The largest is Spain’s Mondragon Corporation, with more than 80,000 member-owners. The UN predicts that by 2025, worker-owned coops will be the world’s fastest growing business model. Worker-owned cooperatives provide for equitable distribution of wealth, genuine connection to the workplace, and, just maybe, a brighter future for our planet.



In January 2012, the BBC “revealed” how British Special Forces agents joined and “blended in” with rebels in Libya to help topple dictator Muammar Gadaffi, a story that alternative media sources had reported a year earlier. NATO admits to bombing a pipe factory in the Libyan city of Brega that was key to the water supply system that brought tap water to 70 percent of Libyans, saying that Gadaffi was storing weapons in the factory. In Censored 2013, writer James F. Tracy makes the point that historical relations between the US and Libya were left out of mainstream news coverage of the NATO campaign; “background knowledge and historical context confirming Al-Qaeda and Western involvement in the destabilization of the Gadaffi regime are also essential for making sense of corporate news narratives depicting the Libyan operation as a popular ‘uprising.'”



On its website, the UNICOR manufacturing corporation proudly proclaims that its products are “made in America.” That’s true, but they’re made in places in the US where labor laws don’t apply, with workers often paid just 23 cents an hour to be exposed to toxic materials with no legal recourse. These places are US prisons. Slavery conditions in prisons aren’t exactly news. It’s literally written into the Constitution; the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, outlaws  slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” But the article highlighted by Project Censored this year reveal the current state of prison slavery industries, and its ties to war. The majority of products manufactured by inmates are contracted to the Department of Defense. Inmates make complex parts for missile systems, battleship anti-aircraft guns, and landmine sweepers, as well as night-vision goggles, body army, and camouflage uniforms. Of course, this is happening in the context of record high imprisonment in the US, where grossly disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos are imprisoned, and can’t vote even after they’re freed. As psychologist Elliot D. Cohen puts it in this year’s book: “This system of slavery, like that which existed in this country before the Civil War, is also racist, as more than 60 percent of US prisoners are people of color.”



HR 347, sometimes called the “criminalizing protest” or “anti-Occupy” bill, made some headlines. But concerned lawyers and other citizens worry that it could have disastrous effects for the First Amendment right to protest. Officially called the Federal Restricted Grounds Improvement Act, the law makes it a felony to “knowingly” enter a zone restricted under the law, or engage in “disorderly or disruptive” conduct in or near the zones. The restricted zones include anywhere the Secret Service may be — places such as the White House, areas hosting events deemed “National Special Security Events,” or anywhere visited by the president, vice president, and their immediate families; former presidents, vice presidents, and certain family members; certain foreign dignitaries; major presidential and vice presidential candidates (within 120 days of an election); and other individuals as designated by a presidential executive order. These people could be anywhere, and NSSEs have notoriously included the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Super Bowls, and the Academy Awards. So far, it seems the only time HR 347 has kicked in is with George Clooney’s high-profile arrest outside the Sudanese embassy. Clooney ultimately was not detained without trial — information that would be almost impossible to censor — but what about the rest of us who exist outside of the mainstream media’s spotlight? A book release party will be held at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph, in Berkeley, on Nov. 3. You can listen to Huff’s radio show Friday morning at 8pm on KPFA.

The rich, the poor and the state of SF


The latest Forbes 400 is out, the list of the richest Americans, and a record number (according to my annual record-keeping) now live in San Francisco. This is a city with 18 people on the top-billionaires list — and since the list cuts off at $1.1 billion, there are a lot of really, really rich San Franciscans who didn’t quite make it this year. School Board candidate Sam Rodriguez told us his research shows that there are 80,000 millionaires in the city, meaning one in ten San Franciscans is worth a cool mil, and while some of that is just homeowners who bought 20 years ago and now have property worth $1 million — and I haven’t verified his data anyway — it’s hard to argue that this is anything but a very wealthy city.

(It also has, according to Forbes, the second-hippest neighborhood in the nation, and that would be the Mission, which is reaching that fully-gentrified stage where nobody young can afford to live there anymore so it won’t be hip much longer.)

The list comes out at the same time that figures show nearly 7 million Californians are living in poverty, and household income for most people has been stagnant — at best — for more than a decade.

It was a great year for the top 400, though — their median income was up rather dramatically. It seems that, whatever Mitt Romney may say in public or in private, the Obama administration hasn’t been bad at all for the 1 percent.

I keep asking, and I know it’s tiresome, but: Why, in a city with 18 billionaires, do we still have to clear out homeless encampments?

Why are the public schools holding (literally) bake sales to buy paper and pencils? Why have we cut the number of acute psychiatric care beds at SF General from 40 to 10? If San Francisco can’t even talk about taxing the billionaires, is there any hope for the rest of the country?

FYI, here’s The SF 18 (complied by Anna Sterling):

    Riley Bechtel
    $2.9 B
    Chairman and CEO, Bechtel Corp.
    Stephen Bechtel, Jr.
    $2.9 B
    Former Chairman, Bechtel Corp.
    Doris Fisher
    $2.9 B
    Cofounder, Gap
    Dustin Moskovitz
    $2.7 B
    CEO, Asana
    Ray Dolby
    $2.4 B
    Founder and director emeritus, Dolby Laboratories
    John Fisher
    $2.3 B
    President, Pisces, Inc.
    William Randolph Hearst, III
    $2.3 B
    Source of Wealth: Hearst Corp
    Marc Benioff
    $2.2 B
    Chairman and CEO,
    James Coulter
    $2.1 B
    Source of Wealth: Leveraged buyouts, Self-made
    Gordon Getty
    $2 B
    President and Chairman, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation
    Phoebe Hearst Cooke
    $1.9 B
    Source of Wealth: Hearst Corp
    Michael Moritz
    $1.9 B
    Partner, Sequoia Capital
    John Pritzker
    $1.8 B
    Source of Wealth: Hotels, investments
    Robert Fisher
    $1.7 B
    Director, Gap
    William Fisher
    $1.7 B
    Director, Gap
    Peter Thiel
    $1.4 B
    Partner, Founders Fund
    Thomas Steyer
    $1.3 B
    Founder & Co-Senior Managing Partner, Farallon Capital Management
    Jack Dorsey
    $1.1 B
    CEO, Square, Inc.






Thursday 13

Coalition on Homelessness 25 years SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF; 5:30pm, $25-75. The Coalition on Homelessness has been working for the rights on the homeless for 25 years, always with a focus on people defining for themselves what their needs are and how to meet them. San Francisco has the Coalition on Homelessness to thank for more than a thousand supportive housing units, an expanded substance abuse treatment system, rental subsidy programs for poor families to access housing, and so much more. Show them some love back at their anniversary celebration., an art auction and benefit for the organization.

Friday 14

Human be-in Kezar Gardens, 780 Frederick, SF; 3pm, free. Beginning Friday and spanning three days leading up the anniversary of Occupy on Sept. 17, this festival in Golden Gate Park celebrates coming together in pubic spaces and the commons. Musical performances are booked all weekend, a film festival will be screened in the evening, and workshops and skill-shares ranging from rainwater harvesting basics to bread baking to living without conventional currency fill the weekend, as well as yoga and meditation. But don’t just come to check out what the organizers and participants offer. As they put it, “you are invited to teach a workshop, facilitate a discussion, share a skill, play music, make art, cook a meal, or simply be.” They did it in 1967 — come create the modern Human Be-in this weekend.

Saturday 15

Odd couples Modern Times. Author Anna Muraco’s has done loads of interviews with “odd couples” — friends who don’t fit the norms of what genders go with which platonic and romantic relationships. “Odd Couples” examines friendships between gay men and straight women, and also between lesbians and straight men, and shows how these “intersectional” friendships serve as a barometer for shifting social norms, particularly regarding gender and sexual orientation,” say event organizers. So come here Muraco speak and examine the relationships and norms in your life.

Monday 17

Fight foreclosure Spear Tower, 1 Market Plaza, SF; 3pm, free. Occupy Bernal, Occupy Noe, and foreclosure fighters will rally at the offices of Peter Briger, board co-chair at Fortress Investment Group. These anti-foreclosure occupiers have zeroed in on Briger for involvement buying up distressed mortgage bond debt and selling it to turn a profit, a process Briger calls “Financial Services Garbage Collection.” As people resisting foreclosure with these Occupy groups put it, “we’re not garbage!”

Occuanniversary 555 California, SF; 5pm, free. One year ago, “Occupy the Financial District San Francisco” met at this spot, the massive Bank of America San Francisco headquarters and Goldman Sachs offices. The meeting was called in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and the first San Francisco occupiers began camping out at 555 that night. Celebrate a year of resisting the 1 Percent and taking back power with a debt burning. Organizers ask that participants bring copies of debt papers to burn symbolically, and pots and pans for a loud casserole march. There will also be music and guerrilla movie screenings.

Community Not Commodity 18th and Castro, SF; 2pm, free. Community Not Commodity came together to protest commercialization and corporate greed at Gay Pride this year. Join the group today to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Protesters will march on the banks, hold a sit-in at Harvey Milk Plaza to protest the sit-lie ordinance that forbids San Franciscans from sitting or lying on sidewalks during the daylight hours, then meet up with other occupy anniversary events at 555 California at 5pm.

Tuesday 18

Connie Rice book reading Prevention Institute, 221 Oak, Oakl; 4:30-6:30 p.m., free. Civil rights attorney Connie Rice worked to reform the Los Angeles Police Department, filing case after case in an attempt to end police brutality against LA’s communities of color. She’s also Condoleezza Rice’s cousin. She will speak and read from her book, Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones.

Dick Meister: The billionaire’s bill of rights


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, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Billionaire corporate interests and other well financed anti-labor forces are waging a major drive to stifle the political voice of workers and their unions in California that is certain to spread nationwide if not stopped – and stopped now.

At issue is a highly deceptive measure, Proposition 32, on the November election ballot, that its anti-labor sponsors label as an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. But actually, it would limit – and severely – only the spending of unions while leaving corporations and other moneyed special interests free to spend as much as they like.

Unions would be prohibited from making political contributions with money collected from voluntary paycheck deductions authorized by their members, which is the main source of union political funds.

 But there would be no limits on corporations, whose political funds come from their profits, their customers or suppliers and the contributions of corporate executives. Nor would there be any limit on the political spending of the executives or any other wealthy individuals. What’s more, corporate special interests and billionaires could still give unlimited millions to secretive “Super PACs” that can raise unlimited amounts of money anonymously to finance their political campaigns.

The proposition would have a “devastating impact” on unions, notes Professor John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, writing in  the Hill’s Congress blog.  As he says, it would likely all but eliminate political spending by unions while greatly increasing political spending by business interests and wealthy individuals.

 Anti-labor interests are already outspending unions nationwide by a ratio of more than $15 for every $1 spent by unions. Between 2000 and 2011, that amounted to  $700 million spent by anti-labor forces, while unions spent just a little more than $284 million.

 Proposition 32 would even restrict unions in their communications with their own members on political issues. That’s because money raised by payroll deductions pays for the preparation and mailing of communications to union members, including political materials.

Unfortunately, there’s even more – much more –to Proposition 32. It also would prohibit unions from making contributions to political parties and defines public employee unions as “government contractors” that would be forbidden from attempting to influence any government agency with whom they have a contract.

That restriction applies not only to unions. It also would cover political action committees established by any membership organization,  “any agency or employee representation committee or plan,” such as those seeking stronger civil rights or environmental protections.

Proposition 32 seeks to weaken, that is, any membership group which might seek reforms opposed by wealthy individuals or corporations and their Republican allies.  It’s no wonder the measure is actively opposed, not only by organized labor, but also by the country’s leading good-government groups, including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.

Yet the proposition’s sponsors have the incredible gall to bill their measure as genuine campaign finance reform. They obviously hope that claim, which Common Cause accurately describes as a “laughable deception,” will win over the many voters who have been demanding reforms and who, in their eagerness, will fail to recognize the measure’s true nature.

“This is not genuine campaign finance reform,” as San Francisco State’s John Logan says, “but a bill of rights for billionaires.”

The losers would include teachers, nurses, police, firefighters and other union members and those who benefit from the essential services they provide – students, the elderly, and the ailing, the poverty stricken, those who work and live in unsafe conditions and other needy citizens, and consumers, environmentalists and others who also are neglected by the profit-chasing corporate interests that dominate political and economic life.

Make no mistake: Lots of money is being funneled into the Proposition 32 campaign by some of the same wealthy backers who bankrolled such anti-labor efforts as the campaign that blocked the massive attempt to recall virulently anti-labor GOP Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin this year.

Should the anti-union forces also prevail, it will undoubtedly lead to what Logan says “will promote a tsunami of ballot initiatives in 2013 at the local level and in 2014 at the state level designed to drive down working conditions in both the public and private sectors.”

Logan adds, “Lacking the ability to oppose these reactionary measures under the new election rules, California’s workers could soon face the weakest labor standards in the country”. But if the measure is rejected, it “may slow the momentum behind other attempts to increase the corrosive impact of money in politics.”

It’s true that some states already have laws and regulations seriously limiting labor’s influence. But it’s certain that victory by the anti-labor forces in California will slow any attempts at reform in other states and lead as well to attempts to impose anti-union measures elsewhere, as well as expanding those that already exist.

The stakes are huge. If the 1 percent have their way in California, the country’s largest state, other states are certain to follow.

For more from John Logan, check his piece in the East Bay Express, “If you liked Citizen United, you’ll love Prop 32.”

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, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Newsom votes for — and pushes — housing for the rich


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

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

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

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

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

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



Trash Lit.: Endless summer reading edition


So much summer trash lit. So little of note.

I’ve been reading as fast as I can, catching up on all of the beach books I can find, looking for the Great Work of Summer, 2012. I still haven’t found it. There’s plenty worth reading, some decent drivel and distractions. But overall, I can’t say anything had my head spinning.

So here’s the first installment of my rundown, the good, the fair and the total waste cases.

Against All Enemies, Tom Clancy, Berkeley Books, 799 (gasp) pages, paperback $9.99.
Tom Clancy doesn’t need to write anymore. He’s 65, firmly ensconsed in the top slice of the 1 Percent, owns part of the Baltimore Orioles, makes a killing off franchising his name for cheap and worthless spin-off books … he can chill. And maybe he should.

Against All Enemies has his name on the top, although there’s a tiny “with Peter Telep” down below. That should have been a warning. The first 100 pages should have been another one. But I soldiered on to the very end, and trust me: It was a struggle.

Say what you want about Clancy’s politics; the guy can tell a story. His characters are interesting, the action crisp, the plots intricate and engrossing … and this one’s a piece of shit. It’s actually boring, deadly dull. And that’s a thriller no-no.

Nice idea: The Taliban and the Mexican drug gangs have formed an alliance and are using tunnels to sneak terrorists into the US. Could be full of fascinating people. But it’s not. The hero is a loser, the drug lords and terrorists are weak parodies of themselves — and it goes on and on and nothing happens. Don’t bother.

Robert Ludlum’s The Borune Imperative by Eric Van Lustbader, Hatchette, 435 pages, $27.99.

Another cheap attempt to profit off a talented (in this case, dead) author, but Van Lustbader’s no slouch himself, and some of his earlier efforts at this have been at least entertaining, so I thought I’d see what he could do with his laterst effort at reviving one of the great thriller characters in history. Shouldn’t have bothered.

There’s an assassin with amnesia (sound familiar?), a Russian spy gone rogue, a terrorist mastermind, a global conspiracy and … what? People going in and out of freezing water while they get shot. This series is getting seriously slow.

The Affair, Lee Child, 405 pages, Delacourte Press $28.

This one’s just coming out in paper, and it’s worth the wait. It’s a bargain at $9.99, a bit of a stretch at full price.

Jack Reacher is one of the best action characters of our time, up there with Spenser and Travis McGee, (and that’s serious). Child came up with a spectacular mix, a former military cop who wanders the world like Kwai Chang Caine, doing good work, sometimes relucatantly, with superior fighting skills that make him a true badass.

The Affair is sort of a prequel, and takes us back to Reacher’s army days. It’s absolutely formulaic, completely predictable, just like all the other Reacher books. There’s a murder that puts Reacher in danger, a gang of thugs who get their butts kicked, a beautiful woman in law enforcement with whom Reacher has what we all know will be a short-lived affair … and plenty of sharp dialogue the keeps the pages turning.

With all the pablum out there, it was a pleasure to sit down and read the work of a master who is still in his prime. At a certain point, like Ian Fleming in the glory days of Bond, Reacher can get away with formula — because it’s such a good formula. It still works, still delivers. He’s just a great writer, and if we sort of know what’s going to happen when half a dozen of the local losers try to attack Reacher in the streets, it’s still fun to see it unfolding.

Don’t expect anything new or dramatic here (except what Reacher fans will realize is the absolutely critical tale of where he got his portable toothbrush), but The Affair won’t let you down.

Stolen Prey, John Sandford, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 402 pages, $27.95.

Put this one up there with The Affair. If you love Lucas Davenport and his world of twisted murder shit in and around the Twin Cities, then Stolen Prey works fine. Again, Mexican drug gangs, which seem to be the Most Evil Fuckers In The World this summer, and in Stolen Prey, they’re particularly horrible, doing a stomach-turning murder that takes place in a nice upper-middle class town. The dead family appears to have no ties to any type of criminal activity — but ah, there is much more here. Again, nothing radically new (except a suprising ending involving Davenport’s adopted daughter, Letty, who apparently has some of the step-old-man in her). But Sandford, like Child, is a master, and you can enjoy this with the guilt of a lazy afternoon of Bud Light and bourbon. Nothing wrong with that.  

The NY Times and class struggle


The NY Times isn’t exactly a revolutionary left-wing publication — and while columnist Paul Krugman routinely talks about the income and wealth divide, it’s not typically a staple of how the Times cover the news. But David Leonhardt is starting a blog on the decline in the middle class and is going to turn it into an article during the later parts of the presidential campaign — and amazingly enough, he’s got it pretty much right:

In addition to the slow growth in overall size of the pie, the share that has been going to anyone but the richest Americans has been declining. The top-earning 1 percent of households now bring home about 20 percent of total income, up from less than 10 percent 40 years ago. The top-earning 1/10,000th of households — each earning at least $7.8 million a year, many of them working in finance — bring home almost 5 percent of income, up from 1 percent 40 years ago. In the simplest terms, the relatively meager gains the American economy has produced in recent years have largely flowed to a small segment of the most affluent households, leaving middle-class and poor households with slow-growing living standards.

It’s simple, and it’s pretty clear — as is the fact that it’s not random but the result of specific policies. From one of the (many intelligent) comments (my trolls, please take note):

The middle class is an artificial construct, something deliberately created through the enactment of policy. It emerged in the U.S. largely because of political, economic and social changes that were imposed: the New Deal, the Great Society, the creation of the suburbs and highway systems, strong unions that demanded fair wages and protections, etc. All of these developments happened only because people willed them and fought to ensure economic expansion benefited regular people. It could have just as easily gone the other way; indeed, it IS going the other way now (and has been for the last 30 years or so). The choices today are different: to let the markets decide, to deregulate and bolster corporations, to exacerbate the wealth divide, to enforce an unfair tax system, to shift essential costs (healthcare, environmental remediation, etc.) to the taxpayer, and so on. And so the middle class erodes. It should come as no surprise.

What’s talked about less in this NYT piece is the role of government in redistributing income. The idea that the US tax system should take more than half of the income people earn beyond a certain point is hardly radical; as early as the 1920s, the highest earners turned over as much as 70 percent to the government — and unlike today’s billionaires, they actually paid it. The JP Morgans of the world got really really rich AND paid high taxes AND gave a lot of money to public enterprises (public libraries, public museums etc.).

That as much as unionization and post-War industrialization created the middle class.

Another interesting comment:

Our “free-market” policies of the last 30 years have favored efficiency and productivity above all else. The result has been sending American jobs overseas on a massive scale. Now we have inexpensive tee-shirts and computers, but vast unemployment and underemployment. Instead, I believe our culture should favor creating as many high paying middle-class jobs as possible without regard to “productivity”. This requires protective trade barriers. Yes, prices will go up, but for a more affluent society, it’s a cheap price to pay.

Obama talks a good line about the middle class, but he’s not offering any specific ideas that would fundamentally change the direction of US economic policy. In fact, the biggest issue in the campaign isn’t even an issue.

Oh, and by the way: I have to note that Randy Shaw at BeyondChron is now talking about the important of “class diversity.” He’s right — there need to be more tenants (and working-class tenants) on the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals. There also needs to be a consciousness of class issues in general at City Hall — and a discussion of how policies that favor high-tech companies, like those of his beloved Mayor Lee, are pretty clearly NOT in the interests of protecting class diversity in the city.



8 Washington’s going on the ballot


San Franciscans are going to get a chance to vote on the most expensive condos in the city’s history and the future of development on the waterfront as soon as this November.

Opponents of the 8 Washington project turned in 31,721 signatures to the Department of Elections July 19, and since only about 19,000 have to be valid, it’s a safe bet the referendum will qualify.

That means no work can be done on the development until after the election — and since the deadlines are tight and it’s possible the DOE won’t get its counting and verifying done in time for November, 2012, the whole thing could be on hold until 2013.

It’s going to be a bitter and expensive campaign: Developer Simon Snellgrove tried to keep this off the ballot — and, since he has about $200 million riding on the outcome, he’s going to spend what it takes to win. The Stop the Wall on the Waterfront folks aren’t going to be able to match Snellgrove by any stretch, but they’ve raised some money and they’ll be able to run an effective campaign.

And we can have an important public debate: Should the city continue to build housing for the very rich when it can’t keep up with its existing affordable-housing requirements? And what will happen to San Francisco if the people who work here can’t afford to live here and the people who live here don’t work here (or in many cases, don’t work at all because they’re stinking rich)?

Is $11 million in affordable housing money enough for a project that will make a $200 million profit?

Gonna be a good one.

Developer hires crew to block signature gathering


The developer of 8 Washington has taken an unusual if not unprecedented step to prevent a referendum on his waterfront condo project from succeeding: He’s hired a crew of people to surround signature-gatherers and try to drive away anyone who might sign a petition to put the project before voters.

[UPDATE: Sup. Sean Elsbernd called to let me know that this isn’t unprecedented — he says opponents of his Muni reform initiative, including bus drivers, also tried to discourage people from signing petitions. ]

The pro-condo team, whose members were paid a reported $20 an hour, were visible July 14, 15 and 16 at Fort Mason Center, at the Safeway on Church and Market, at Dolores Park, at Duboce Park and elsewhere in the city, according to accounts from signature gatherers and from Guardian staffers.

The team, usually made up of several people, typically surrounds the signature gatherer, waves signs talking about jobs and parks, and loudly seeks to disuade passers-by from signing the referendum petition.

There is, of course, nothing illegal about two sides of a political debate expressing their First Amendment rights on the sidewalk. Some of the people gathering signatures for the referendum are getting paid, too.

But I can’t think of another time when crews were hired to convince people not to sign a petition.

It’s gotten serious enough the Simon Snellgrove, the developer behind 8 Washington, was out himself. He appeared in Dolores Park after the Mime Troupe performance, where Brad Paul, a foe of the project, saw him debate with a signature gatherer who was leaving the area. He was also at Fort Mason, where, according to one account, a person gathering signatures confronted him and complained that his workers were harassing her.

“That’s their job,” Snellgrove reportedly said.

I couldn’t reach Snellgrove at his office. But Jon Golinger, the campaign manager for the stop 8 Washington effort, said the tactic was a sign of desperation. “They are worried about a public vote on this,” Golinger told me.


We can stop 8 Washington


There’s a week left to stop the sale of San Francisco’s waterfront to the 1 percent.

The Board of Supervisors approved the 8 Washington project, and a coalition that (for various reasons) opposes this giant pile of housing for the very, very rich is trying to put the issue on the ballot. That takes a lot of signatures, and there’s only one week left to collect them.

I could tell you the story of why this project sucks, or you could just read it here. In my mind, it’s simple: If we are using public land to build housing for the richest people in the country, allowing a developer to clear a couple hundred million dollars while offering the city only $11 million for affordable housing — nowhere near enought to equalize the housing imbalance inherent in this deal — then we’re losing the city’s future.

But there’s still time. If you want to help, go here. Stop by 15 Columbus Ave or call 415-894-7008.

Hell, I’m willing to have a discussion this fall about the really, really dumb idea of tearing down the Hetch Hetchy dam. Let’s at least give the voters a chance to look at the future of the city’s housing policy.





Students organizing for CCSF Student Union upper level lounge, CCSF Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan, SF; 5-8pm, free. At an emergency community meeting concerning the threatened closure of City College of San Francisco July 9, many meetings were called, including the organizing to form a student union, to campaign for the parcel tax initiative to get money to CCSF, and to organize in solidarity with labor. This meeting is discussing support for the parcel tax, which could send $15 million City Colleges way if it passes in November. Come organize with labor on this issue. This meeting is a working group on student response to the accreditation report.


It calls you back 826 Valencia, SF; A book reading and film screening with Luis Rodriguez, a poet, journalist, and fiction writer and author of the best-selling memoir Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. He will read from his new sequel and screen Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community, documenting how Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore is bringing art and community to the once devastated post-industrial San Fernando Valley.

Happiness Happiness Institute, 1720 Market, SF; An afternoon of yoga and a workshop on community building. This event is presented by a collaboration between the Bay Area Community Exchange Time Bank, the San Francisco Free School, and the Happiness Institute- three of the organizations that work on spending time and energy in the gift economy.


4 days for Kenneth Harding Jr. around Bayview-Hunters Point, July 13-16; On July 16, 2011, 19-year-old Kenneth Harding Jr. was killed. He was stopped by police and asked for his transfer when off-boarding the Muni T train—he ran, and police began shooting. As far as the SFPD is concerned, the case is settled; they say Harding drew a gun and shot back at them, and the fatal bullet was his own. His family, friends, and the movement resisting police murder of black youth disagree. On this anniversary of his death, commemorate Kenny with four days of events. On July 13, a community speak out at NOI Mosque at 26a 3rd & Revere at 7pm. On July 14th, a free community hip hop show. On July 15th a free community meal at 3rd and Palou St from 10am-2pm. And on July 16th, join Kenneth Harding’s mother and a broad coalition of community and labor to shut down Muni in honor of Kenneth Harding.


Occupy Bohemian Grove Monte Rio Amphitheater, 9925 Main, Monte Rio; Noon, free. What, you’ve never heard of Bohemian Grove? It’s just the private club of CEOs, politicians, and their favorite performers that meet every year for debauchery and rituals such as the “Cremation of Care” at the Owl Shrine. The rich and powerful go camping among the redwoods every year, and although business talk is frowned upon, they often make deals, including, notoriously, a 1942 Manhattan Project planning meeting that led to the atomic bomb. Many anti-war activists and others who are pissed off that the 1 percent meets in this strange private camping party to plot acts of war and environmental destruction will be setting up their own protest encampment outside Bohemian Grove this year. The kick-off on Saturday will include musical performances and speakers, including the Fukushima Mothers and Cindy Sheehan.

Tardeada/ women’s social for women’s rights, 2969 Mission, SF; 2pm, $3-10. Women Organized to Defend and Resist are planning a nationwide protest August 26 to defend women’s rights. This Saturday, come share food, entertainment and political conversation to meet and bond with others who won’t stand for attacks on women’s rights.

Davis launches D5 campaign with fortuitous timing


When progressive activist Julian Davis formally launched his District 5 supervisorial campaign late last week with a well-attended kickoff party at the Peacock Lounge in Lower Haight, timing and circumstances seemed to be on his side.

Days earlier, Quintin Mecke – a rival for the progressive vote in this staunchly leftist district – announced to supporters that he needed to care for his ailing mother and wouldn’t be running after all. At the same time, appointed incumbent Christina Olague seemed to be rapidly falling from favor with many progressives.

First came the viral video of Olague gushing over all the support she’s received from Chinatown power broker Rose Pak during a fundraiser where she raised nearly $50,000, then her squirrely role in helping the moderates repeal ranked-choice voting, and finally the bizarre episode of clashing with a close progressive ally and friend to defend Mayor Ed Lee from perjury allegations.

Davis has sought to capitalize on the rapidly unfolding developments, today sending out a press release blasting Olague for having “joined the conservatives on the Board of Supervisors to repeal ranked choice voting for mayoral elections,” and telling the Guardian that Mecke’s exit will help clarify the choice D5 voters face.

“The fact that he’s out allows us to consolidate the progressive base,” Davis said, not mentioning that candidates John Rizzo and Thea Shelby will also be vying for the progressive vote.

At his kickoff party, Davis also demonstrated that he has substantial support from another significant D5 voting block – African Americans – for which he’ll be competing with political moderate London Breed, director of the African American Arts & Cultural Complex.

Davis said that with Olague’s support by Mayor Ed Lee and the city’s economic and political establishment, he’ll need to run a strong grassroots campaign based on “people power and shoe leather,” an approach that he’s also displaying with regular street corner campaigning.

“We’re at an economic, social, and political crossroads in San Francisco,” he said at his launch party. “Rogue developers are corrupting City Hall with a vision of luxury condos, corporate tax breaks, chain stores, and parking garages. It’s a vision of San Francisco that doesn’t include us. Everyday, progressive reforms are being dismantled and progressive values are being abandoned.”

Davis is hoping that Olague’s ties to Lee will drag her down in a district that voted almost 2-1 in favor of progressive John Avalos (whose campaign Davis actively worked on) over Lee in last year’s mayor’s race.

“Look what’s happening on the waterfront where Olague voted to approve the 8 Washington development. These are condos for the Kardashians, vacation homes for the ultra rich and the 1 percent. That’s not keeping it real for San Francisco,” he said at the kickoff. “So we’ve got to ask ourselves: how do they get away with it? The only way they can. By choosing your leaders for you. Over the past two years in San Francisco, we’ve had an appointed mayor, an appointed district attorney, an appointed sheriff, and an appointed District 5 supervisor. Does that sound like participatory democracy to you? Does that sound like your vote counts?”

And as Avalos also tried to do in his mayoral campaign, Davis says he wants to use his campaign to help restart the city’s progressive movement, which has been in tatters since being divided and nearly conquered by the politicians and political operatives who helped elevate Lee into Room 200 18 months ago.

As he told supporters, “We can re-launch the progressive movement in San Francisco from this district. We can take back City Hall. We will win this election with people power, street by street, block by block, neighbor to neighbor, shop by shop.”