Sarah Phelan

How to Make a Pigeon Burrito

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By Sarah Phelan

No, this isn’t my secret recipe for surviving life in the city on a tight budget. Instead, this is my not-so-secret recipe for helping get wild birds out of spaces they’d rather not be in—like trapped in the bay window of Farley’s coffee house on Potrero Hill, which is what happened last week when I was having lunch in the famed establishment and a pigeon flew through the door, then tried to escape, but hit the window, instead.

Understandably, everyone panicked at the sight of a pigeon flying into a window. People screamed, customers ducked and it looked like things could rapidly turn nasty, especially for the pigeon.
At which point I surprised even myself by standing up, picking up my ratty old black jacket which was hanging on the back of my chair, instructing those sitting in the bay window to “Move!” and swiftly throwing ratty jacket over the bird so it was completely engulfed.

Immediately, the bird stopped moving, and I was able to roll it up, in one gentle move, thereby transforming bird and coat into a pigeon burrito, in which the bird was the filler and the coat was the soft shell. With the bird firmly secured, I walked to door, opened my coat and, the bird immediately spread its wings and flew up and away, over the rooftops of Potrero Hill and towards the Bay, like my soul escaping its body.

To my embarrassment, everyone clapped and a man, who was sitting on the bench that wraps around the tree outside Farley’s, shouted, “You’re a hero!”

So, next time you see a bird trapped, surprise yourself by stripping off your coat, sweater, shirt, or whatev, and making a bird burrito. You’ll be glad you did.
ps In case you’re wondering, what’s this doing on the politics blog, I figure bird rescue is a political statement of sorts…
pps I learned this trick from the fine folks at Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz

How to Make a Pigeon Burrito

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By Sarah Phelan No, this isn’t my secret recipe for surviving life in the city on a tight budget. Instead, this is my not-so-secret recipe for helping get wild birds out of spaces they’d rather not be in—like trapped in the bay window of Farley’s coffee house on Potrero Hill, which is what happened last week when I was having lunch in the famed establishment and a pigeon flew through the door, then tried to escape, but hit the window, instead. Understandably, everyone panicked at the sight of a pigeon flying into a window. People screamed, customers ducked and it looked like things could rapidly turn nasty, especially for the pigeon. At which point I surprised even myself by standing up, picking up my ratty old black jacket which was hanging on the back of my chair, instructing those sitting in the bay window to “Move!” and swiftly throwing ratty jacket over the bird so it was completely engulfed. Immediately, the bird stopped moving, and I was able to roll it up, in one gentle move, thereby transforming bird and coat into a pigeon burrito, in which the bird was the filler and the coat was the soft shell. With the bird firmly secured, I walked to door, opened my coat and, the bird immediately spread its wings and flew up and away, over the rooftops of Potrero Hill and towards the Bay, like my soul escaping its body. To my embarrassment, everyone clapped and a man who was sitting on the bench that wraps around the tree outside Farley’s shouted, “You’re a hero!” So, next time you see a bird trapped, surprise yourself by stripping off your coat, sweater, shirt, or whatev, and making a bird burrito. You’ll be glad you did.

New Year’s Eve letter from Josh Wolf:

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12-31-06
Dear Sarah
Thanks for sending me information about the latest on the BALCO leak. I remember the morning that this bit of news broke quite well as the information itself arrived to me from a number of convict sources who had just seen it on the news. Everything from telling me that the reporters had come forward with their sources to the nonsensical take that the FBI had come forward to tell the journalists who their source was. Needless to say, I spent the next 40 minutes glued to the morning news waiting for the story to come back around. When it did air again, I was still somewhat confused but at least had some idea what was going on.

Several weeks later and after having read both your letter and the Chronicle’s coverage, I am still quite a bit confused. For starters, where does Larry McCormack fit in? What exactly would Troy Ellerman gain by leaking the documents and

Mayor Chicken

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› news@sfbg.com

The format is always the same: Mayor Gavin Newsom shows up at a carefully scouted location somewhere in the city with his perfect tie and perfect hair. He brings a cadre of department heads in tow, sending the clear message that he can deliver government services to the public. He takes a few questions from the audience, but the format allows him to deflect anything tough, to delegate any problems to department heads, and to offer a thoughtful “we’ll look into that” when the need arises.

There is no substantive discussion of anything controversial — and no chance for anyone to see the mayor debate contentious issues.

This, of course, is by design.

Newsom has made it very clear during his first term as mayor that he can’t take the heat. He is the imperious press release mayor, smiling for the cameras, quick with his sound bites, and utterly unwilling to engage in any public discussion whose outcome isn’t established in advance.

He has become Mayor Chicken.

So don’t expect any leadership from Newsom during an upcoming series of what the Mayor’s Office is calling “policy town hall meetings” that have been hastily scheduled this year, beginning Jan. 13 in the Richmond District with a discussion of homelessness. The town hall meeting is just politics as usual for Newsom. Since taking office in 2004, he’s held eight of these stage-managed events.

“He does a good Phil Donahue shtick,” says Sup. Chris Daly, recalling one such town hall meeting Newsom held in Daly’s District 6 after he was elected mayor. “Scripted town hall meetings are smart politics for Newsom.”

Scripted events weren’t what Daly had in mind when he wrote Proposition I, which calls on the mayor to appear before the supervisors once a month to answer questions. And these campaign-style events certainly weren’t what voters had in mind Nov. 7, 2006, when 56.42 percent of them approved the Daly legislation, which asks the mayor in no uncertain terms to appear “in person at regularly scheduled meetings of the Board of Supervisors to engage in formal policy discussions with members of the Board.”

Examiner columnist Ken Garcia — a conservative hack who regularly sucks up to Newsom — recently dismissed the voter-approved measure as “a silly, obvious stunt to play rhetorical games with the mayor,” which is how the Newsom camp would like to spin things. But Daly recalls how when he first mentioned the idea of a mayoral question time — back when Willie Brown was still in Room 200 — he was sitting next to then-supervisor Newsom, “who thought it was a great idea.”

It’s hardly an unprecedented concept. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, meets with his city’s assembly 10 times a year and presents a detailed report on initiatives and progress. But now Newsom is mayor, suddenly Daly’s idea doesn’t strike him as all that great any more.

While it’s easy to accuse Daly of playing political games, it’s not so easy for Newsom — who loves to talk about the “will of the voters” — to dodge Prop. I. Newsom’s decision to snub voters and avoid real debate was so obvious that he got beat up on both the Chronicle and Examiner editorial pages, on several prominent local blogs, and in television broadcasts. Perhaps that’s why he decided this week to show up and give a speech at the Board of Supervisors inauguration Jan. 8, the first time in years he’s set foot in those chambers. He’s trying to look like he’s complying with voters’ wishes when he’s really doing nothing of the sort.

 

THE “KUMBAYA MOMENT”

It didn’t have to be this way. As board chair Aaron Peskin’s legislative aide David Noyola told the Guardian, immediately after Prop. I passed, Peskin tried to “depoliticize the issue” by becoming the sponsor of a motion to amend board rules.

Peskin’s motion aimed to make space on the board’s agenda for the mayor every third Tuesday so he could address the supervisors on policy matters — a matter he planned to discuss at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Rules Committee.

But two days earlier the mayor took his first jab at ducking the intent of Prop. I. He sent the supervisors a letter in which he claimed that to truly serve the public interest “we should hold these conversations in the community.”

Next, Newsom sent staffers to the Rules Committee hearing, where members discussed how not to force the implementation of Prop. I down the mayor’s throat — and the mayor’s staff claimed they’d be happy to work with the committee to that end.

As a result of this “kumbaya moment,” as Noyola calls it, the Rules Committee decided to continue the item to the following week to have more productive conversation. Meanwhile and unbeknownst to them, 19 minutes into the hearing, the Mayor’s Office of Communications issued a press release outlining Newsom’s intent to hold a town hall meeting in the Richmond District on Jan. 13 — which the mayor said would substitute for complying with Prop. I.

“The Rules Committee was blindsided by the mayor’s press release,” Noyola says.

The mayor, of course, said that all the supervisors were welcome to attend his town hall event and participate in the discussion, giving the appearance he was happy to debate but wanted to do so out in the neighborhoods. But that was a lie: Newsom and his staff knew very well that under state law, the supervisors were barred from participating in any such event.

According to the Brown Act, if a quorum of supervisors wants to be somewhere to discuss business that may be before the board in the future — such as homelessness — and if it wants policy interactions, the clerk must give notice that the supervisors intend to hold a special meeting.

The board actually discussed Newsom’s invitation, and board clerk Gloria Young estimated it would cost $10,000 to $15,000 to staff. It also raised serious procedural and legal questions for the board.

In other words, Newsom knew the supes couldn’t just show up and ask questions.

“But if the mayor wants people to just sit and attend a presentation in the background, like at a speech or a Christmas event, then special meeting notice isn’t needed,” notes Noyola, explaining why Peskin ultimately dismissed the mayor’s invite as “childish” — and why Peskin now says he’d support making question time a charter amendment, thereby forcing the mayor to comply with the will of the voters.

 

WHO’S PLAYING GAMES?

While the Newsom camp continues to dismiss the Daly-authored Prop. I as “political theater,” the supervisor is quick to counter it’s the Mayor’s Office that’s playing games.

“They claim political theater, but if that’s what it takes to get serious policy discussions going, then so be it,” says Daly, noting he has had one private discussion with the mayor in two years, while Sup. Geraldo Sandoval has not talked to him at all. “Newsom claims he has an open door to his office, but so do I — and he’s never been to mine. For the mayor to refuse to discuss important policy items and hide behind ‘I’m afraid of Chris Daly’ is pathetic. Willie Brown probably would have come.”

Daly also observes that San Francisco’s government is structurally unique within California because it represents a city and a county.

“It’s an awkward setup in which there is little formal communication between the board and the mayor,” Daly says, “other than when the board forwards legislation to the mayor for him to approve or veto.”

It’s a structural weakness that hasn’t been helped by the fact that in the three years since he was elected, Newsom only appeared before the board twice — this week and for the board inauguration two years ago — both times giving a brief speech but not engaging in dialogue. It’s an anomaly without precedent in the history of San Francisco. (It’s customary for mayors to deliver their State of the City speeches in the board chambers, but Newsom has done all his at venues outside City Hall.) Most mayors also make a point of occasionally appearing at board meetings (Willie Brown would sometimes even take questions from the supervisors).

On Jan. 8, Newsom slipped in at the last minute and sat next to Peskin until it was his turn to make some brief remarks, an opportunity that immediately followed public comment, during which a baseball-capped woman pleaded with the supervisors to “please kiss and make up with mayor.”

After Peskin welcomed “the 42nd mayor, Gavin Christopher Newsom, to these chambers where you are always welcome,” Newsom rose — and was hissed by a few members of the audience.

“This is a city that’s highly critical of its leadership and that expects greatness from its leaders,” the mayor said. “I have great expectations of 2007…. The key is to work together on the things that unite us…. I look forward to engaging with each and every one of you.”

 

WORKING TOGETHER

This isn’t just politics — there are serious issues involved. Without the monthly question time the Board of Supervisors requested and the voters approved, it’s hard for the city’s elected district representatives to figure out if this mayor actually supports or even understands the issues he claims to champion.

Last year, for example, Newsom was happy to take credit in the national press for the universal health care package that actually came from Sup. Tom Ammiano. But when Ammiano got blasted by business leaders, Newsom didn’t rush to defend the plan; it was hard to tell if he even still supported it.

Business leaders didn’t like that the proposal required employers to provide health care insurance. But Newsom’s own staff recognized that without that mandate, the plan would never work. Did the mayor support it or not?

The situation prompted Sup. Ross Mirkarimi to characterize the mayor’s proposal as “a one-winged aircraft that doesn’t fly,” and it was left to Newsom’s public health director, Dr. Mitch Katz, to confirm that both the voluntary and mandatory pieces of the legislation are joined at the hip. “One can’t successfully move forward without the other,” Katz said at a July 11 board meeting, which Newsom, of course, did not attend.

Since then, the mayor’s commitment to the amalgamated health care package has been thrown into question once again, this time thanks to a lawsuit the Golden Gate Restaurant Association filed only against the employer mandate aspect of the legislation.

The GGRA, which filed its suit the day after the election, is a Newsom ally that funneled more than a half million dollars in soft money into Rob Black’s unsuccessful campaign against District 6’s Daly and into Doug Chan’s coffers for his disastrous fourth-place showing in District 4.

Asked if he knows where the mayor stands on the city’s universal health care plan, Ammiano told the Guardian, “We’ll be meeting with Newsom in the new year and asking for a press conference in which we both pledge to give our continued support for all aspects of plan, but that’s not yet been nailed down.”

Ammiano’s experience is one example of repeated communication breakdowns between Newsom and the board, which have severely hindered policy discussions and the cause of “good government” to which Newsom so frequently pledges his fealty. As a result, Newsom has often ended up vetoing legislation only to reveal in his veto letter that all the legislation needed was a few minor tweaks — changes he might have just asked for had he been more engaged.

Consider how a year ago, Newsom vetoed legislation designed to limit how much parking could be included along with the 10,000 units of housing that were to be built in downtown San Francisco. The legislation was proposed by Newsom’s planning director, Dean Macris, and supported by every member of the Planning Commission but one.

When Newsom caught heat from downtown developers over the measure (see “Joining the Battle,” 2/8/06), he sent surrogates to muddy the waters and make his position unclear until after it was approved by the board. Newsom vetoed the measure, then proposed a couple prodeveloper amendments that hadn’t been brought to the board discussions.

“I’m trying to get the political leaders to come to an agreement because the city needs this,” a frustrated Macris told the Guardian at the time.

A few months later the board was similarly blindsided when it tried to approve legislation that would have created a six-month trial closure on Saturdays of some roads in Golden Gate Park. Newsom’s board liaison, Wade Crowfoot, worked closely with bicycle advocates and sponsor Sup. Jake McGoldrick to modify the legislation into something the mayor might be able to support.

Everyone involved thought they had a deal. Then, for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, Newsom vetoed the measure. One of the reasons he cited was the fact that voters had rejected Saturday closure back in the 1990s, before the construction of an underground parking garage that still never fills up.

“For what it’s worth, what really sells it for me on this issue of the will of the voters was the shit I went through after Care Not Cash, when the voters supported it and [my critics] did everything to put up roadblocks. And I was making a lot of these same arguments, you know, so this hits close to home,” Newsom told the Guardian a few days after he vetoed Healthy Saturdays.

His words seem ironic: he loves the will of the voters when it suits his interest but not when it requires him to act like a real mayor.

This isn’t the first time Newsom’s been selective in honoring what the voters want: he also refused to hold up the Candlestick Park naming deal with Monster Cable, even though voters rejected it through Proposition H in 2004.

Last October, Newsom’s veto of Mirkarimi’s wildly popular foot patrol legislation led to a humiliating 9–2 override in November, but not before he’d dragged San Francisco Police Department chief Heather Fong with him through the political mud and created an unpleasant rift between himself and his formerly loyal ally Sup. Bevan Dufty.

Newsom has tried to spin his refusal to engage in question time as something other than defiance of voters by proposing the upcoming series of town hall meetings.

“Bringing these conversations to the neighborhoods — during nonwork hours — will allow residents to participate and will ensure transparent dialogue, while avoiding the politicized, counterproductive arguing that too often takes place in the confines of City Hall,” Newsom wrote in his Dec. 5 letter.

But even the Chronicle and the Examiner — neither of which have been supportive of progressives in City Hall — have condemned Newsom for ducking this fight. On Dec. 18, Chronicle editorial writer Marshall Kirduff opined, “There is no end of topics to discuss — a Muni overhaul, a new neighborhood coming to Treasure Island, police policies, the ever-with-us homeless. The city could do with more debate even at considerable risk of dopey rhetoric. That means the mayor should step out of his office, walk across City Hall and face the supervisors. It’s time to bring on the questions.”

Meanwhile, Daly notes the mayor has been spending excessive time out of state, not to mention making frequent trips to Southern California. “I think we should subpoena the guy; he doesn’t know what’s going on,” Daly quips.

A classic example of Newsom’s cluelessness about the local political scene occurred live on TV shortly after 59 percent of San Francisco voted to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Asked during a Nov. 16 City Desk News Hour interview with Barbara Taylor about Proposition J’s passage, Newsom said, “I am told Congress is going to come to a halt next week, and they’re going to reflect on this new San Francisco value. Before you impeach the president, you should consider the guy who would become president. Why don’t you start with the top two?”

Yup, it’s definitely time to bring on those questions. *

Newsom’s first town hall meeting takes place Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. in District 1, Richmond Recreation Center, at 251 18th Ave., SF.

 

A reporter stands up to the army

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› sarah@sfbg.com

Oakland freelance writer and radio journalist Sarah Olson has a tall, willowy frame; long silky hair; and a clearly articulated understanding of the reasons she believes that testifying against a source, First Lt. Ehren Watada, would turn her into an investigative tool of the federal government and chill dissenting voices across the United States.

Watada faces a court-martial in February; he’s charged with one count of missing troop movement and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer — charges that stem from interviews he gave Olson along with other reporters in 2006 in which he openly criticized the Bush administration and the war on Iraq.

Olson faces her own legal nightmare: if she doesn’t testify against Watada, the government can charge her with a felony. That’s potentially more serious than the contempt of court charges against freelance videographer Josh Wolf and San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

"My argument for being against having to comply with the subpoena is strictly journalistic, " says Olson, who has been covering the antiwar movement and the conscientious objector movement since 2003. "When the government uses a journalist as its eyes and ears, no one is going to talk to that journalist any more."

Beyond the fear that her own professional credibility will be eviscerated, the 31-year-old Olson objects to journalists, including herself, being asked to participate in the prosecution of free speech.

Although all the Army wants her to do is assert her stories quoting Watada are true, she’s not going along. "The problem I have with verifying the accuracy of my reporting is that in this case the Army has made speech a crime. Watada’s case raises incredibly important speech issues as to what is and isn’t legal for an officer to say. Can Watada’s defense put the war on trial? Can you bring the question of the legality of this war into the discussion? Normally, that wouldn’t be allowed into discussion in a military court, but since he’s been charged with speech issues, shouldn’t he be allowed to have the opportunity to put those statements in context?"

And while her stories and radio broadcasts are readily and publicly available to Army prosecutors, Olson points out, "Once they get you up on the stand, they can ask you anything."

What binds the Olson, Wolf, and Williams–Fainaru-Wada cases are the broader issues of press and speech freedom and the absence of a strong reporter’s shield at the federal level.

"The proposed federal shield laws offers poor protection to journalists, but they probably wouldn’t even cover me, and they probably wouldn’t cover bloggers ever," observes Olson, referring to the legislation currently under congressional consideration.

As for entering into a conversation about who is or isn’t a journalist (as the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office have sought to do in Wolf’s case), Olson says, "[That] is degrading for the whole profession. And what it doesn’t do is stand up for the civil liberties that are constitutionally afforded to everyone, nor does it protect a meaningful and independent press."

"My duty," Olson says, "is the public and its right to know and not to the government. I’m concerned that the Army is asking a journalist to participate in the suppression of free speech." *

Wifi wars

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› sarah@sfbg.com


Representatives of Google and EarthLink showed up at the Glen Park Recreation Center on Dec. 7 to push their plan to blanket the city with a wireless network they claim will provide free Internet for all. It was one of a dozen such dog and pony shows around the city this fall as the proposal heads for a decision by the Board of Supervisors, which will also consider municipally controlled alternatives to this public-private partnership.


Google’s Dan Zweifach kicked off the presentation by describing a world in which "you can make an international call for free, download music in Golden Gate Park, or check the Muni schedule from a bus station."


It’s an intriguing concept that faces challenges unique to San Francisco’s hilly, fog-prone, and built-out topography, which could interfere with wi-fi signals. To address these challenges, EarthLink’s Stephen Salinger told the audience of a dozen, his company plans to affix 40 wi-fi nodes (boxes that exchange signals with computers and other wi-fi devices) per square mile atop 1,500 light poles citywide.


At least that’s the idea. "If the poles aren’t city-owned resources, we have to negotiate with the private owner," Salinger explained, noting that the city owns about half the light poles and Pacific Gas and Electric owns the rest.


The proposed wi-fi blanket is projected to cost $8 million to $10 million to build and millions more to manage, with EarthLink in charge of the nodes and Google buying bandwidth from EarthLink so it can offer free wi-fi access throughout San Francisco’s almost 50-square-mile service area.


But what exactly does free wi-fi access mean? According to Zweifach and Salinger, access will be "completely free to the city and to taxpayers," just as Mayor Gavin Newsom promised in 2004. Unless, that is, people want faster access, in which case they can shell out $20 a month for EarthLink’s premium service.


"At 300 kbps, the basic service should be fast enough to download music or videos, but it could be a little slower, which is why we have the premium service," Salinger said. "The more people connect, the more speed and quality decreases."


Whether the free service will actually be a bait and switch is just one of many concerns critics of the proposal have raised. Some don’t trust the profit-driven corporations, some don’t like the wi-fi technology, and others criticize the sometimes-secretive process that led to the selection of Google and EarthLink. The supervisors have meanwhile ordered studies for a municipal broadband system and a municipal wi-fi system, both due back early in 2007, about the time when the Google-EarthLink system is expected to come to the board for approval.


The community meetings were designed to address myriad concerns, such as whether the wi-fi system will come with enough training and support so all residents will be able to use it. "We’ll partner with local businesses and individuals who want to get involved," Zweifach said. "We have 109 languages that people will be able to access. We’ll provide multilingual training."


That said, Zweifach noted that Google is only pledging online tech support, meaning those wanting phone support will have to sign up for EarthLink’s premium service.


Grilled about privacy concerns, Zweifach claimed, "We don’t track or look at Web sites that anyone visits, but we do look at the number of computers accessing a node. But there’s not much personal information needed to access the service. Just an e-mail address, a user name, and a password, so it’s more anonymous than most."


"But if you’re using our premium service, we’ll have your billing information," Salinger interjected, adding that with 5.3 million customers, "EarthLink is at the forefront of protecting privacy."

When a self-professed cancer survivor in the Glen Canyon audience accused Zweifach and Salinger of "discussing everything except health effects of blanketing SF with electromagnetic radiation," Zweifach countered that "wi-fi nodes are low-power devices, much like garage door monitors, which, if you were at the same level at a distance of 10 feet, would have 100 times less radiation than a cell phone. At streetlamp level, and therefore not on the same level as people, they have 1,000 times less radiation."


Reached by phone the following week, Ron Vinzon, head of the city’s Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, waxed enthusiastic about free wi-fi, a concept Newsom has promoted since his October 2004 State of the City speech.


"DTIS’s goal is to make sure we have ubiquitous service 24-7, whether you’re on the top of Twin Peaks or over at Cayuga Park," Vinzon told the Guardian. "We’re going to do the necessary testing to make sure it works well in all areas of San Francisco and that the entire city has reliable service. The only issue will be speed, not access."


But while Google-EarthLink hopes to secure a four-year contract with an option to renew three times, Vinzon said the city wants a flexible deal, "so that in four years we can do another needs assessment and the city would have the option to buy out EarthLink’s network at a fair market rate."


Asked about the possibility of an alternative digital universe in which the city would deliver free Internet access via municipally owned fiber-optic lines, Vinzon sounded slightly nonplussed. Specuutf8g that a wi-fi network could be up and running in 12 to 18 months while the municipal fiber route could take four years to roll out, Vinzon asked, "How many generations of kids do we want to see left out? When I talk to teachers, it’s clear who has a computer and Internet access at home. Those without are not doing as well. So we don’t want to address this in four years. We want to address it now. Doing municipal on the back of those who don’t have access right now is unfortunate."


Acknowledging that for wi-fi access to be truly meaningful, residents will need training and hardware — "If you don’t know how to use or even have a computer, obviously you won’t be able to bridge the digital divide," — Vinzon added that the city will release plans in the next couple of weeks to address digital inclusion concerns.


But with an officially commissioned report on municipal fiber set to thud onto the supervisors’ desks in January 2007, questions clearly remain as to whether the city would be better off rushing into a private partnership to put a wireless and not entirely free cloud over the city or taking its time to explore a system that could prove more reliable and ultimately less expensive in the long run. *

A Day in the Life of Inmate # 98005-111 aka Josh Wolf

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By Sarah Phelan
San Francisco freelance journalist Josh Wolf has spent nearly four months in prison for refusing to surrender outtakes of videos he took at an anarchist protest turned violent. Recently, Wolf wrote a letter describing his typical day inside, which should be of interest to Oakland freelance journalist Sarah Olson and Honolulu Star-Bulletin journalist Gregg Kakesako, since they both just received subpoenas demanding testimony about quotes they attributed to 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who faces a court-martial after denouncing the war in Iraq and refusing to deploy with his unit. Wolf’s letter should also be a source of useful tips for San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who face up to 18 months inside for refusing to reveal the source of closed-door grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds and other athletes about drug use. For a transcript of the letter, keep reading…

Public Power in Jeopardy?

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By Sarah Phelan

In the mood for some political fireworks? Head to Dec. 12 meeting of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. A renewable public power project at Hunters Point that has the blessing of the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, SFPUC General Manager Susan Leal and District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell is said to be experiencing opposition from none other than PUC Board President Richard Sklar.
You’d have to be brave to risk being the Man who would stand between Public Power and the Bayview, but Sklar who came to the city from Cleveland in the 1970s, has a history of clashing with the mayors who appoint him, starting with then Mayor Dianne Feinstein when she made him SFPUC General Manager.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, by the end of that tenure, Feinstein and Sklar were feuding over everything from the Muni to high-rise development, with Feinstein calling Sklar “arrogant,’ and Sklar calling her a “lightweight”.

Public Power in Jeopardy?

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By Sarah Phelan

In the mood for some political fireworks? Head to Dec. 12 meeting of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. A renewable public power project at Hunters Point that has the blessing of the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, SFPUC General Manager Susan Leal and District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell is said to be experiencing opposition from none other than PUC Board President Richard Sklar.
You’d have to be brave to risk being the Man who would stand between Public Power and the Bayview, but Sklar who came to the city from Cleveland in the 1970s, has a history of clashing with the mayors who appoint him, starting with then Mayor Dianne Feinstein when she made him SFPUC General Manager.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, by the end of that tenure, Feinstein and Sklar were feuding over everything from the Muni to high-rise development, with Feinstein calling Sklar “arrogant,’ and Sklar calling her a “lightweight”.

Get Your (Conflict) Rocks Off

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By Sarah Phelan
Diamonds, so the saying goes, are a girl’s best friend, especially during the holiday season, which is when 25 percent of the sales of these gems reportedly take place.
But does it make sense to give your sweetie a diamond as a symbol of your love, when so many of these brilliant sparklers have caused death and destruction for so many African souls?
“Conflict diamonds” are sparklers that are mined in war zones and sold to finance African paramilitary groups. But while that practice is said to be lessening, unethical child labor practices and unacceptable environmental degradation continues unabated in Africa, which is where 49 percent of the world’s diamonds originate. These harsh realities became clear to San Francisco resident Beth Gerstein when she was shopping for an engagement ring. The discovery led her to found Brilliant Earth, which specializes in independently mined diamonds of what she calls “ethical origin,” most of them hailing from Canada, which has some of the toughest labor standards in the world.
“Diamonds are supposed to be a symbol of love and commitment, but the industry has fueled a lot of civil wars, and many workers continue to live in abject poverty and work in dangerous and environmentally degrading conditions,” says Gerstein, noting that the movie Blood Diamond, which premiers Dec. 8, “has created a lot of defensive reaction within the diamond industry.”
“People should be proud to wear diamonds. An ethically-mined, conflict-free diamond will carry a “slight premium, but it’s still competitively priced,” says Gerstein, noting that if the whole notion of wearing diamonds turns you off, you can donate your previously worn diamonds to the Diamonds for Africa Fund, which Brilliant Earth cofounded with the Indigenous Land Rights Fund. Proceeds benefit the San Bushmen in Botswana, improve health conditions and education in villages in the Congo, and help children in Sierra Leone, who’ve been affected by conflict diamonds.

Fiona Ma’s Last Day

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Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisors’ meeting

By Sarah Phelan
Sometimes you have to be thankful that you can only have ONE last day at work.
Take Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisor’s meeting, at which her colleagues variously praised her, waxed misty-eyed, or made some San-Francisco-values jokes:
Sup. Bevan Dufty called Ma “The Energizer Bunny.:
Alioto-Pier bemoaned the loss of a fellow female Supervisors. “Sophie and I are now it!”
Sophie Maxwell recalled how the “boys” on the Budget Committee once tried to push her and Ma’s concerns aside. “Fiona said, ‘I don’t think so’” said Maxwell, who described how Ma then made the committee boys wait.. “I was the good cop, she was the bad cop.”
Sup. Tom Ammiano recalled how Dufty and Ma were sworn in on the same day.“Somebody suggested that one of them was going be late as they were having their hair done. I said, “Damn that Bevan! He doesn’t have that many hairs left.”

Fiona Ma’s Last Day

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Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisors’ meeting

By Sarah Phelan
Sometimes you have to be thankful that you can only have ONE last day at work.
Take Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisor’s meeting, at which her colleagues variously praised her, waxed misty-eyed, or made some San-Francisco-values jokes:
Sup. Bevan Dufty called Ma “The Energizer Bunny.:
Alioto-Pier bemoaned the loss of a fellow female Supervisors. “Sophie and I are now it!”
Sophie Maxwell recalled how the “boys” on the Budget Committee once tried to push her and Ma’s concerns aside. “Fiona said, ‘I don’t think so’” said Maxwell, who described how Ma then made the committee boys wait.. “I was the good cop, she was the bad cop.”
Sup. Tom Ammiano recalled how Dufty and Ma were sworn in on the same day.“Somebody suggested that one of them was going be late as they were having their hair done. I said, “Damn that Bevan! He doesn’t have that many hairs left.”

Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisors’ meeting

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By Sarah Phelan
Sometimes you have to be thankful that you can only have ONE last day at work.
Take Fiona Ma’s last Board of Supervisor’s meeting, at which her colleagues variously praised her, waxed misty-eyed, or made some San-Francisco-values jokes:
Sup. Bevan Dufty called Ma “The Energizer Bunny.:
Alioto-Pier bemoaned the loss of a fellow female Supervisors. “Sophie and I are now it!”
Sophie Maxwell recalled how the “boys” on the Budget Committee once tried to push her and Ma’s concerns aside. “Fiona said, ‘I don’t think so’” said Maxwell, who described how Ma then made the committee boys wait.. “I was the good cop, she was the bad cop.”
Sup. Tom Ammiano recalled how Dufty and Ma were sworn in on the same day.“Somebody suggested that one of them was going be late as they were having their period, and I said, “Damn that Bevan! He doesn’t have that many.”

If Fong goes

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› news@sfbg.com If November has been a bad month for Mayor Gavin Newsom, it’s been worse for his police chief, Heather Fong. The entire battle over police foot patrols has made Fong look terrible. She started off saying that the department simply couldn’t afford to put more cops on the streets in high-crime areas because she didn’t have the troops to do it. She and the mayor fought hard to defeat the legislation. The bill passed anyway, effectively ordering her to do what she claimed she couldn’t do, and it was vetoed by Newsom. But as it seemed likely that the Board of Supervisors had the votes to override the veto, Fong came out with her own foot patrol plan, which wasn’t all that different from what the board had approved. Suddenly, she seemed to be saying that foot patrols really were possible. After the veto override she went in another direction, telling a TV interviewer that she wasn’t sure her captains were going to follow the law anyway. Police Commission member David Campos pushed her on those apparent flip-flops at the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting, and she bobbed and ducked like a wounded quail. In the meantime, at least one Newsom ally, Sup. Bevan Dufty, proclaimed that he had no faith in the chief, and numerous others on the board publicly decried her lack of leadership. Fong sat in the board chambers Nov. 14, looking visibly shaken, and listened to it all. And rumors started swirling that Newsom was ready to fire her. Not a good sign for the city’s first female top cop, who was already under fire for the skyrocketing murder rate and for failing to hold bad officers accountable for abuses of authority. But Fong has one thing going for her: some progressives think that the immediate alternatives are even worse. Campos, a proponent of foot patrols, told us he was critical of the chief’s reaction to the supervisors’ plan — a plan that the board only decided to implement after watching crime levels rise for three years straight and gaining unanimous backing from the Police Commission and significant support from a frustrated public. But he’s not so sure giving Fong the ax will help. “I understand the criticisms,” Campos told us, “but as a progressive, I’m worried what will happen to police reform if Fong is no longer there. Under her leadership we’ve seen a dramatic change in approach from that of her predecessors. There’s been less conflict, and her focus has been on how to get the job done without drama. She’s not a bomb thrower, and that’s been a real positive change.” The politics of the situation are complicated: sure, some progressives are furious at the chief — but a lot of the pressure to get rid of her is also coming from the police union and the old guard at the department. “Some of the people who are critical of her are those who also aren’t keen on reform and have tried to slow down the reform promises contained within Prop. H,” Campos explained. “To me, that raises my concern. I don’t want those people to succeed in their efforts. Their track record has not been good.” Sup. Tom Ammiano added, “You can change the chief, but that won’t address the real problems.” Commission member Theresa Sparks noted that “Chief Fong has brought a strong sense of integrity and a lot of administrative order to the department and made some changes of command staff. My only concern is the willingness of the rank and file to follow her leadership, given that she has such a different leadership style.” Sparks argued that whenever Fong leaves, the commission ought to go beyond the traditional practice of promoting from within. “There’s a number of qualified people within the department who certainly should apply,” she said, “but San Francisco might benefit from looking farther afield, much like Los Angeles did.” There will, no doubt, be tremendous pressure to hire from within the ranks. Dufty — who, to his credit, defied the mayor and voted to overturn the foot patrols veto — is a fan of Deputy Chief Greg Suhr. Yet Suhr was one of the so-called Fajitagate defendants charged with conspiracy, although the charges against him were dismissed in court. He was in command of 100 officers during an anarchist demonstration in the Mission District in July 2005 when patrol officer Peter Shields was overwhelmed by protesters and injured. (That was the demonstration that led to the jailing of journalist Josh Wolf — see Editor’s Notes, on the cover.) Suhr blamed a communications breakdown; Fong said that wasn’t possible. Suhr was exiled to a job with the SF Public Utilities Commission shortly afterward. Police reform activists don’t consider Suhr an ally, but Dufty called him “a very strong cop.” Even so, Dufty agreed that the department might benefit from outside leadership. “We’re at a stage where the balkanization of the department is at a level I’ve never seen,” he told us. “I’ve never thought that there should be a chief from the outside, but at this time I would consider it.” SFBG

Margaret Cho on sex, Good Vibrations–and San Francisco’s answer to the 49ers leaving town

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By Sarah Phelan

There’s something deliciously violent about stand-up comedian Margaret Cho’s voice. Even when she picks up the phone in her hotel room in Philadelphia and says, “Hell-low? This is Margaret,” in that familiar Cho twang, you feel the tigress at the end of the line.
OK, maybe I’m just projecting. Because let’s face it: to call Margaret is to risk ending up as fodder in her next comedy act, especially if you have a British accent and work for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
But that’s OK, because I love this bitch, and I’m glad that Good Vibrations, San Francisco’s legendary retailer and distributor of sex toys and sex education, gave me an excuse to interview her by appointing her to be on their Board of Directors.
“I did it for the free vibrators,” jokes Cho, by way of explaining the Good Vibrations gig. “Seriously, I worked a long time ago at another sex store, Stormy Leather, in the retail store. Before it was just a leather company, making dildo harnesses and clothes and S&M gear, and then it opened a retail store. In fact, I think that was my last daytime job, other than stand-up comedy. Through working there, I learned about Good Vibrations, the sisters’ store, which had a different location, but with the same ideas and philosophies about women and sexuality that help empower us and learn. And I bought a lot of stuff at Good Vibrations. I love Carol Queen and I love the diversity of the people who work there. It’s very much my crowd, my queer friends, lovers and people I know. It’s so familiar. The people who work there are my cup of tea. I enjoy just hanging out there.”
Asked about the thumping the Republicans got in the November 2006 election, Cho laughs. “I’m glad. It only took a couple of all-time gay scandals to turn it around. It was about time. It should have happened a lot sooner. Homophobia is something that worked in our favor this time. Americans are so homophobic. They realize that Republicans could be closet gays –and so they don’t want to vote Republican any more. That’s fine right now. If it works in our favor, it’s gotta be OK. Hopefully, it will lead to people understanding the queer culture more, and at least there’s been some shift in balance.”
In light of the news that the 49ers want to leave San Francisco and SF Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier wants to form a sports commission to keep teams in town, I asked Cho if she could think of any sports that might work better for our city, like competitive gay brunching, perhaps, as recently defined by the Bay Guardian’s cultural editor Marke B.?
.“How about a really bad-ass lesbian softball league,” suggests Cho. “No holds barred. Armed with weapons. Something violent, really empowering and kick-ass.”

Margaret Cho on sex, Good Vibrations–and San Francisco’s answer to the 49ers leaving town

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By Sarah Phelan

There’s something deliciously violent about stand-up comedian Margaret Cho’s voice. Even when she picks up the phone in her hotel room in Philadelphia and says, “Hell-low? This is Margaret,” in that familiar Cho twang, you feel the tigress at the end of the line.
OK, maybe I’m just projecting. Because let’s face it: to call Margaret is to risk ending up as fodder in her next comedy act, especially if you have a British accent and work for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
But that’s OK, because I love this bitch, and I’m glad that Good Vibrations, San Francisco’s legendary retailer and distributor of sex toys and sex education, gave me an excuse to interview her by appointing her to be on their Board of Directors.
“I did it for the free vibrators,” jokes Cho, by way of explaining the Good Vibrations gig. “Seriously, I worked a long time ago at another sex store, Stormy Leather, in the retail store. Before it was just a leather company, making dildo harnesses and clothes and S&M gear, and then it opened a retail store. In fact, I think that was my last daytime job, other than stand-up comedy. Through working there, I learned about Good Vibrations, the sisters’ store, which had a different location, but with the same ideas and philosophies about women and sexuality that help empower us and learn. And I bought a lot of stuff at Good Vibrations. I love Carol Queen and I love the diversity of the people who work there. It’s very much my crowd, my queer friends, lovers and people I know. It’s so familiar. The people who work there are my cup of tea. I enjoy just hanging out there.”
Asked about the thumping the Republicans got in the November 2006 election, Cho laughs. “I’m glad. It only took a couple of all-time gay scandals to turn it around. It was about time. It should have happened a lot sooner. Homophobia is something that worked in our favor this time. Americans are so homophobic. They realize that Republicans could be closet gays –and so they don’t want to vote Republican any more. That’s fine right now. If it works in our favor, it’s gotta be OK. Hopefully, it will lead to people understanding the queer culture more, and at least there’s been some shift in balance.”
In light of the news that the 49ers want to leave San Francisco and SF Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier wants to form a sports commission to keep teams in town, I asked Cho if she could think of any sports that might work better for our city, like competitive gay brunching, perhaps, as recently defined by the Bay Guardian’s cultural editor Marke B.?
.“How about a really bad-ass lesbian softball league,” suggests Cho. “No holds barred. Armed with weapons. Something violent, really empowering and kick-ass.”

Josh Wolf’s appeal rejected

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@@http://www.sfbg.com/blogs/politics/2006/11/josh_wolf_petition_denied_to_r.html@@

Josh Wolf, petition denied, to remain in jail until July

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By Sarah Phelan
It looks like Josh Wolf, the jailed freelance videographer and blogger, will be stuck inside Dublin Federal Correctional Institute until July 2007.
That at least is the word from Wolf’s lead attorney Martin Garbus today, following news that the 9th Circuit has denied Wolf’s petition for a rehearing in USA v Josh Wolf.
Wolf’s legal team asked for a rehearing on the basis that the 9th Circuit court, which previously ruled that Wolf does not the right to withhold video outtakes of a July 8, 2005 anarchist protest turned violent, had however granted that privilege in the Jaffee case, when a police officer didn’t want the family of a fatal shooting victim to access notes from a series of counseling sessions that the officer in question underwent following the shooting.
Evidently, the 9th Circuit didn’t agree. Not only did it deny the petition and rule that the motion to reinstate bail is moot, it also wrote that “no further filings shall be accepted in this case.”
Sounds like Wolf will be playing lots of Scrabble and reading lots of books until next summer.
Meanwhile, Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wade have yet to serve any jail time for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury that’s investigating who leaked them secret testimony of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and others in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal.
What’s ironic about this discrepancy between how the BALCO reporters and Wolf are being treated is that the feds could at least argue a connection to the BALCO case, whereas the protest that Wolf covered and which subsequently sparked their interest took place in San Francisco and should, by all rights, have been investigated locally.
Could it be that these differences are purely a case of the corporate media getting preferential treatment over freelancers? Perhaps. But questions as to whether reporters are shielded from revealing their sources date back to 1972, when US Supreme Court Justice Byron White ruled, in Branzburg v. Hayes, that reporters must answer relevant questions that are asked in a valid grand jury investigation.
Since then, judges largely ignored Branzburg, believing that it’s important to balance the First Amendment rights of journalists against the public right’s to know. But then came Bush, 9/11 and the “war on terror,” at which point First Amendment freedoms began to take a back seat.
Consider that in 2003, a federal appeals court, citing Branzburg, ordered Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reporters to divulge recordings of interviews of a witness in a terrorism case. The same case was made in the federal investigation as to who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to testify in that case, which resulted perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby. And this year, the US Justice Department has been investigating whether classified information was illegally leaked to the Washington Post about the secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, as well as who told the New York Times about President Bush’s secret plan to eavesdrop on Americans. All of which could be seen as an effort to suppress leaks to journalists.
To add to the confusion, accusations have been made in the BALCO case that it was the federal government which leaked the testimony to the Chronicle reporters. While those accusations have not been proven to date, the truth is that the feds certainly have benefited from the Chron’s revelations, given that Major League Baseball have subsequently adopted stricter steroid rules and the feds have been able to push through harsher penalties for steroid dealers.
What’s striking about the path to Josh Wolf’s incarceration is how he became the target of a federal investigation although his case had no obvious connection to the feds. So far, the feds have trotted out disturbingly vague arguments about how they should be involved because of alleged arson to a squad car that may or may not have been purchased with federal funds. But the truth is that arson was never proven and all the SFPD reports mention is a broken rear taillight, which Wolf’s mother has repeatedly offered to pay for, if that would get her son out of jail.
In fact, court filings show that the police’s real interest is finding out who attacked and seriously hurt an SFPD officer in the course of the protest—a valid concern and one that SF District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office should be handling. Instead, the feds were called in, triggering justifiable fears in Josh Wolf, who the FBI has questioned about his anarchist tendencies, that the real reason that he’s sitting in jail, is that the feds want him to release his video outtakes and identify the anarchists, who lifted up their ski masks and spoke directly into Josh’s camera, before the violence went down. And then there’s the fact that the portion of Wolf’s tape that he posted online at his blog and got picked up by several TV stations does not paint a flattering portrait of the police.
Interestingly, while Wolf has argued that journalists should not be forced into becoming investigative tools of the government, both the SFPD and the US Attorney General’s Office have voiced doubts to the Guardian as to whether Wolf is a “real” journalist, citing his direct involvement with the anarchist cause as well as the fact that he is not employed by a media outlet. These arguments should sound the alarm bells of freelancers nationwide.
Meanwhile, Wolf sits in jail, where he is only allowed 15-minute phone interviews with the media, thereby preventing live visual images and recordings of his voice to be aired across the nation, effectively blacking him out of the consciousness of all those who don’t get their news from the print media. And when the federal grand jury expires in July, there’s a chance that a new grand jury might demand that Wolf release his outtakes and testify or rot in jail for another year.
It’s a sad day for journalists, corporate and freelance, and the First Amendment.

The PUC gives a shit about your shit

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By Sarah Phelan
The SF PUC opened its Nov. 14 Sewer System Master Plan update with a cautionary tale: a sewage spill at Ocean Beach occurred when a manhole cover blew out, affecting about 150 ft of the beach from beneath the Cliff House going west, and further proving the need for major upgrades to its system.
The good news: PUC officials claim the thousands of gallons of shit that spewed across the Great Highway onto the beach during heavy downpours of rain never reached the ocean. All of which means that surfers can continue to hang ten with their eyes and mouths wide open.

The PUC gives a shit about your shit

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By Sarah Phelan
The SF PUC opened its Nov. 14 Sewer System Master Plan update with a cautionary tale: a sewage spill at Ocean Beach occurred when a manhole cover blew out, affecting about 150 ft of the beach from beneath the Cliff House going west–and further proving the need, according to PUC officials, for major upgrades to the city’s sewer system.
The good news: PUC officials claim the thousands of gallons of shit that spewed across the Great Highway onto the beach during heavy downpours of rain never reached the ocean. All of which means that surfers can continue to hang ten with their eyes and mouths wide open.

The Business of Dirty Nukes

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By Sarah Phelan
In the war on terror, even cats are suspect. Or at least their kitty litter is.
That’s because of trace amounts of uranium and other suspect stuff that apparently triggers alarms at ports worldwide
But now comes news of better technology–and bigger profits—in the war on terror.
Today, the Bay Area-based Veritainer unveiled equipment at the Port of Oakland which can, according to Veritainer CEO John Alioto, detect “dirty bombs” in shipping containers

Yes, we know that Oakland is a domestic port, and thus less likely to be the site of smuggled nukes, but the Veritainer folks say they are using Oakland as a test case.

No, that doesn’t mean they’ll be bringing in dirty bombs to Oakland so they can test their technology. Instead, they’ll be bringing in small sources of naturally occurring nuclear material, such as americium, which is found in smoke detectors (and was, ironically enough, named for the Americas).

“This is to protect ports around the world from the low probability but high impact of nuclear smuggling,” said Veritainer Chairman and CEO John Alioto, who plans to charge $20 per container to screen for dirty bombs, provided his company gets certified by the Department of Homeland Security in January 2007.

In other words, Veritainer stands to make oodles of bucks, given that Oakland handles 2 million containers a year, L.A. handles 6 million and Rotterdam handles 20 million. Add to that the fact that radiation screening is now required at international ports, thanks to the Safe Port Act which President Bush signed in October, and you get the picture.
Right now, according to John Alioto, the customer is the government, with the National Nuclear Safety Agency setting aside $2.5 billion to cover initial costs.

Alioto also told me that there’ll be no danger to port workers from this technology,
“The equipment is purely passive,” he said. “Unlike dentists’ X-ray equipment, this is passive, purely detective equipment. So, there’ll be no shooting of radiation at the waterfront!” (The International Longshoremen and local residents will be happy to hear that.)

“Unlike radiation portal monitors, which were called kitty litter detectors because they couldn’t differentiate between dangerous and non-dangerous sources, these devices can identify isotopes, and say, yes, it americium. At which point, port officials can check the ship’s manifest and see if it’s certified to carry smoke detectors. And eventually, the machine will be able to do manifest comparison itself, too.”
So, next year, if you’re riding a ferry to Jack London Square, chances are port officials will be monitoring radioactive levels at the port, 24/7. So, leave the kitty litter at home.

Now the police are all on foot patrols, pass the pot, huh?

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By Sarah Phelan

Moments after the Board of Supes overode the mayor’s veto of their foot patrol legislation, Sup. Tom Ammiano got an 8-3 vote to make marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. Phwew! Because there we were worrying about all those police walking beats and busting hippies for rolling up big fat ones in the park. Close one.

Board overrides Mayor’s foot patrol veto

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By Sarah Phelan
It hasn’t exactly been a good couple of weeks for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
His picks for Board of Supervisors got thumped.
The 49ers said they’re running away with Santa Clara but keeping San Francisco’s name.
Newsom nix sayed the city’s Olympic bid
And then the Board of Supervisors overrode Newsom’s veto of police foot patrol legislation in a 9-2 vote that means the city will go ahead with a one-year citywide pilot project.
Worse, the nine sups that defied his veto got to explain their reasons, which included slamming the mayor and the police chief for lack of leadership..
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi talked about giving the mayor and Chief of Police plenty to time to take action. When they didn’t, and the Board took the lead, Mirkarimi says he was surprised by the mayor’s veto.
As for SFPD Chief Heather Fong’s hastily announced counter plan, which was made public on Monday, Mirkarimi said, “An acute difference between the two plans is that ours calls for accountability.”
Sup. Bevan Dufty, citing increased incidences of violent crime and inadequate response in the Castro, said “the visible presence of foot patrols is helpful.”
“No one is higher than the chief of police but the chief needs to speak up and to speak clearly without regard for where the chips may fall,” said Dufty, alluding to a lack of morale in the SFPD. “This vote is not offered as a criticism of the Mayor or the Chief. This is the best we can do as a Board right now. Let us rise above that and recognize that we need leadership.”
Sup. Chris Daly couldn’t resist asking how the increased number of officers under the Chief’s plan (44 isntead of the 33 specified in the Board’s plan) “isn’t playing politics.”
Sup. Tom Ammiano wondered what kind of cooperation will be forthcoming, and Sup. Fiona Ma noted that if there was a garbage problem or a flu epidemic, this board would propose a plan, which is why the board reacted to crime wave with foot patrols.
Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, who along with Sup. Sean Elsbernd voted to uphold the mayor’s veto, said one of the problems was the way the ordinance was written.”
Elsbernd argued that the mayor and police chief should make policing decisions, not the Board of Supervisors.
But Sup. Gerardo Sandoval was upset that SFPD Chief Heather Fong had said that if the Board overrode the mayor’s veto, she didn’t want to disobey the Board’s legislation, but her captains might ignore it.
“We need to be very protective of our roles in this city,” Sandoval told his colleagues.
“To have a Chief of Police say something like that should not go unnoticed.”
Sup. Sophie Maxwell, noting that she probably has the highest incidence of gun violence in her district, recalled walking the precincts this fall and people telling her that they wanted to see the police,
“I have no choice. I have to do this,” said Maxwell of supporting the legislation.
Board Chair Aaron Peskin, who previously voted against the Board’s legislation, but ultimately voted to support it found it ironic that the legislation embraced by the police and the mayor “supports the Board’s idea.”
Sup. Jake McGoldrick found the SFPD’s counter proposal, “a day late, a dollar short.”
“For 5 months, 7 months, 18 months , we were looking for tools, all we got was reaction, not action. But there’s something hopeful about this dialogue.”
After the historic vote, SFPD Chief Heather Fong told the assembled media that she would disagree about their being a morale problem in the department.
Acknowledging that the SFPD is currently 300 officers under its mandated staffing levels, Fong said, “ I believe the captains have to have flexibility.”
Noting that the SFPD’s plan would kick in Nov. 24 and involve 44 officers, Fong added,” I believe the deployment plan will be incompliance with the legislation.”
As for the mayor, it would have been interesting to be a fly on the proverbial wall of his office.

Newsom fights veto override

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By Sarah Phelan

With the Board of Supervisors set to vote Tuesday on the mayor veto of Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s foot-patrol legislation, the mayor ‘s office has reportedly gone into overdrive to try to ensure his veto will hold .

The math is tough for Mayor Gavin Newsom: Supes Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano and Gerardo Sandoval are solidly behind the legislation. That’s four votes. Bevan Dufty, Sophie Maxwell and Fiona Ma all voted for it the first time around, when it passed 7-3, and all have spoken loudly in support of getting the cops out of their cars and into the neighborhoods. Jake McGoldrick was out of town for the vote, but he tells us he’ll side with the majority – which adds up to eight votes, enough to sustain a veto and deal the mayor an embarrassing political setback.

So Newsom is trying hard to get one of the eight to switch sides. Among the plays: Chief Heather Fong held a hastily arranged press conference Monday to announce her own, slightly watered-down foot-patrol plan, in a clear effort to undercut the supes. And we’re told that Senator Dianne Feinstein has been calling board members to lobby against the plan.

McGoldrick and Maxwell both told us that they were planning to vote to override the mayor’s veto, and chided Feinstein for getting involved. “If Feinstein wants to be mayor, she oughta run,” he said.

As for the police’s hastily announced foot patrol plan, Maxwell said, maybe it would be fine, but it was coming too late for her to backpedal.

“The mayor and Heather Fong had ample time. Why did we even get to this point? Because we’ve been asking and asking and finally we came up with legislation. The police have promised things before and didn’t do anything, so this isn’t the time for me to be backpedaling.”

Reached Friday Nov. 10, Dufty told the Guardian that he’s “always supported foot patrols” and has “no confidence” in Fong. But three days later, when Fong was promoting her alternative, all Dufty would say about his vote was, “no comment”

The wildest rumor had Newsom offering to fire Fong if some of the supes would back away from the veto override. The Mayor’s spokesperson, Peter Ragone insisted to us that “There’s no truth to that.” Then his line mysteriously went dead.

So who else could be the swing vote the mayor needs to keep his vanity intact?

Well, on Oct. 24, when the bill was approved, Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, along with BOS chair Aaron Peskin voted against it.

Elsbernd and Alioto-Pier are known to be solidly in the mayor’s court. But what about Peskin?

Reached Monday night, Peskin wasn’t about to give up his voting plans, but he did say that he found it disingenuous of the mayor to veto the measure on the grounds that the board shouldn’t tell a paramilitary organization what to do, then turn around and say that he, the mayor, was planning to go ahead with foot patrols anyway.

Either way, Tuesday’s 2 pm board meeting will be worth watching.

As Sup. Mirkarimi told the Guardian, “People have told me that the police’s press conference was surreal, strange and desperate. The only reason we’re even in this position is because of an absence of leadership on the part of the chief of police and the mayor. And now they have the audacity to say that their plan is better than ours.
Public safety should never be compromised because of the Mayor’s vanity and the chief’s inaction. It’s an unreal, practically juvenile situation.”