Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This Blog is Brought to you by the Letters A, E, J and the Number 11

I've been looking forward to November for a long time. The whole summer actually. November is one of my favorite months due in large part to Thanks Giving and the color orange. I love a feast, pumpkin pie, squash, turning leaves, wine, family, etc...

Not to mention my brother comes home in November, ending his first tour of duty as a full time soldier. We are all thankful for that.

But, I also look forward to the voting season. California likes to do it up right, with strange convoluted measures and the strangest elections you ever did see. I mean the whole country was witness to our gubernatorial weirdness. Arnold Schwarzenegger is still the Governor! It blows my mind.

Unfortunately, the nation is not a party to the San Francisco local politics as often. Sure, everyone has heard about Newsom and his Valentine to the Gay community, his affair with his best friend's wife, and have witnessed the awesome power of his hair gel. But few know that he is running unopposed. It doesn't even feel like there is a Mayoral election coming up in November. There are no ads on TV. Hardly any news stories about people running for Mayor. And there are few political flyers featuring Newsom's handsome face...which is the weirdest thing of all.

There are more than a few people in this city who believe our pretty boy mayor is a front for the millionaires who put him in office. That cooperations like Google and Rupert Murdock are really running this city and they allow the Mayor his pet projects like Gay rights and Care Not Cash because they make good headlines. To ensure that the wizard behind the curtain is never seen, the Mayor is seen everywhere all the time. The PR behind everything the Mayor does is amazing. Nothing is done in this city if it isn't also a photo op or a grandstand or yet another chance for there to be a picture of the Mayor with pretty hair surrounded by a perfect city full of people who are perfectly happy with him.

When the library down the street from us reopened, the Mayor was there to be photographed and to say something about the importance of books and congratulate himself on an excellent resolution created by the board of supervisors and passed by the voters before he got to office that ensured the city's neglected library's would be spiffied up. But wouldn't you know it, more workers were out there that morning before the mayor got there painting over graffiti, shooing away the homeless and killing weeds then I'd ever seen out there before...or again.

All the flash and bang that is the office of the mayor is often more show than action. Yes, he did make a stand for Gay rights by making an issue that was never front and center an issue that could make or break a presidential candidacy. When the hotel workers when on strike, he marched with them. And hallelujah, when you call 311 now it totally works. But Care not Cash has degenerated into Matrix...oh I'm sorry. Are you not a San Franciscan? Not up on the lingo?
Care Not Cash was the platform Newsom ran on in his first bid for Mayor. Created when he was a Supervisor and passed by voters in 2002, Care Not Cash is a simple idea that says if you provide homeless people with the things they need (a real roof over their heads, food, medical support and job training) instead of cash (which they will use for things they don't need like alcohol, drugs and such) then there will be fewer perpetually homeless people on our streets. Sort of give a man one fish and then teach him how to fish for more instead of give him the money that you assume he'll use for fish but will really use for drugs which is why he's on the street in the first place.

It's a good idea in theory. Except for the fact that there was no housing, no food, no medical support and no job training available for the hug numbers of people who received cash from the government before Care Not Cash was put in place. So people who had been receiving about $400 a month suddenly only got $50 a month. Not all of those people were on drugs or living on the street. Also there are a large number of people living on the street and addicted to drugs in part due to mental instability. The city doesn't want to trust them with $400, but they want to trust them to sign up for the program, get themselves to food distribution centers located in odd places around the city (not near the hotels which have been set up as "shelters") and get themselves into and regularly to rehabilitation programs. And most of those rehabilitation programs have to do with drugs, not the mental health problems. And the last problem, and a really important one in my mind, it is dehumanizing to a degree. The loss of independence for a lot of these people, who in some cases choose to live on the fringes, must be an incredible blow. Yes, one can argue that they are not truly independent if they are living off the government and charity, but there is more independence with cash in hand then there is in the Care Not Cash program.

Worst of all the program in the hands of it's creator, the illustrious stiff haired Mayor, has degenerated in to a program that was instituted under former Mayor Willie Brown called Matrix. It too is a simple sounding solution to a big problem. When homeless people do things that are illegal, like pee on the sidewalk, charge them with a crime. The punishment is almost always a small fine.

I'm sure you can see the problems in this plan. First and foremost: Where does a homeless man pee if he doesn't have...you know... a home? And if a man is homeless and there for assumed to have no means of income due to the fact that he has no address how does he pay the fine? What else is it illegal to do in this city? It is illegal to loiter, to be publicly drunk, to camp in non-camping areas, to be a nuisance (and lots of things can fall under this category, from yelling to smelling bad), it is illegal to panhandle, illegal to sell stolen or "found" objects on the street, illegal to be too loud, the list goes on and on. All of these things add up to the typical visible homeless person in San Francisco who is mentally unable to control his or her own actions due to post traumatic stress disorder, years of sexual and mental abuse, years of drug addition, and years of living on the chilly streets of our fair city. Thus, Matrix makes it illegal to be homeless. Where do they go if they can't pay up? One of our governor's many fine over crowded jails. Where do they go after jail when they are let out because they are non-violent criminals who are crowding up our jails? Guess. Go on. Guess.

Matrix also has another arm that sweeps the homeless out of Golden Gate Park. Mayor after Mayor has promised to clean up homeless encampments in our parks, and Mayor after Mayor has sent midnight raids into these dens and cleared them out. What happens the next morning? The folk in homes complain about the folk without homes living on their stoops and in front of their Starbuck's. Funny how all those people living in the park didn't just go to their nice lofts in the SOMA. All kidding aside, where do all these mayors the homeless will go? To the wonderful inviting shelters that all these mayors have set up? Oh wait...there aren't any. Not nice ones anyway. Given the choice, would you rather live under a tree surrounded by bushes and your personal property or would you rather share a small closet with someone who you didn't choose to live with, share a bathroom with who knows how many other people, and be under consent threat of violence. Not to mention the noise. Oh and the rules imposed on you like curfews and such. Some people may not see much of a difference. "Beggars can't be choosers, " you'll say. Care Not Cash and Matrix says the same thing.

Why do I mention all of this? Because it's not going to change. Our Mayor is running unopposed...practically. Newsom is so sure of his win, he's already donated his "war chest". And as much as I feel making sure local kids can get into SFSU, it makes me uneasy that he is so sure of himself.

Would you like to see the list of who is running? Here is the list. It is full of political unknowns and oddities. It is not a list of the usual San Francisco weirdos. I can't be sure, but I think there are no strippers on the list this year or people running on an anti-war campaign (which is a trait I can understand in campaigns for congress and presidents...but not in boards of supervisors an mayors.) One name you might recognize is Josh Wolf. Josh is a freelance web journalist who did time because he refused to turn over video of a demonstration that turned violent. He served 226 days, the longest any journalist has served in an effort to protect source material. And he wasn't let out because he did release the video, but because the judge deemed it illegal to hold him any longer.

Who in that list might actually have a chance of making a dent in the Mayor's clean sweep? It's the same man that I'm voting for...Chicken John. He doesn't want to win, he just wants to come in a close second. An entry in Wiki says "Chicken" John Rinaldi is an alleged con artist, leader and organizer of anarchists. This is posted under "showman". I put it here because the entry may not be there for much longer, as is the ever evolving way of the Wiki, but I think it shows something very important. Chicken John has no people who spend hours cleaning up his image. He is the opposite of Mr. Newsom in that he is a working class artist, he has never denied being a showman, and he may in fact be an anarchist. He knows he can't win, but he wants to put independent San Francisco artists a voice. These artists make San Francisco the funky unique place it it and who like to shout at the top of their lungs about change but early run for office. His theory being that if he does win a close second, the Mayor will have no choice but to realize that there is a strong artistic voice in this community and it needs to be heard.

I've heard people say they'll vote for Hillary because she'll win. I'm voting for Chicken John, because he can't.

To hear more about those people running, I suggest the Guardian article where in the Guardian gives it's endorsements on the election and the Propositions.

There are eleven propositions on the local ballot this year, A-K. I have a love hate relationship with propositions. A lot of them are dumb. Like the one last year about no handguns in San Francisco city limits. Genius. First of all, there is no way to enforce something like this. There are not enough police officers on the streets. There is no way to search every car that comes across the bridges or up the 101. San Francisco is seven miles by seven miles and holds almost a million people...do you want to be the one who goes door to door looking for guns? But that wasn't the purpose of who ever put that law out there for the stupid yet hopeful peace lovers in San Francisco to vote on. No their purpose is clear...a court battle. The NRA immediately took the law to court and brought the constitution with it. Where it died the death most people knew it would.

But what is most fun about the propositions? Seeing the news paper's endorsements and how widely they differ.

In this corner we have the liberal progressive free newspaper The San Francisco Bay Guardian! And in this corner we have the conservative sensationalist The Examiner, founded by our favorite war profiteer William Randolf Hearst!

Round 1

(DING!)

A - Transit Reform

SFBG: Yes. It gives MUNI (our transit system) more money, fixes labor disagreements, includes Taxi's as part of transportation, and works to decrease air pollution levels. It also nullifies prop H. which would increase parking in the city.
Ex: No. A change is needed, but this isn't the right approach. (They don't mention why.)

The winner: SFBG. Now, the Examiner doesn't explain it's recommendations and the SFGB does, which makes this whole thing a little unfair. But in this case, I think that it makes a big difference. What change to they want exactly if not these changes? What approach do they want? Most importantly, why doesn't this one work? In later arguments they say "this isn't the best way...but we'll go for it." Why not on this one? The world may never know. And personally, any time a MUNI improvement measure comes around I go for it. This one has pros and cons, but it's better then what's been happening...nothing.

Round 2

B - Commission Hold-overs
SFBG: Yes.
Ex: Yes.

Winner? Tie. Everyone I've read seems to agree on this. It is a complicated one about commissioners who are allowed to continue serving after there term is over. Meaning the Mayor doesn't have to work to find a replacement, the dude just continues to be held over (supposedly until a replacement is found) indefinably. Everyone agrees this is dumb. There should be a hold over limit.

Round 3

C - Public Hearings on Proposed Measures
SFBG: No. It sounds good, the supervisors and the Mayor have to hold a public hearing about new measures at least 45 days before they can put that measure on the ballot. But SFBG says that this prop is supported by Big Business and downtown developers. Meaning it takes time and money to get a measure on the ballot and C would ensure that, but the way it works now the little guy could get a measure through in a hurry and get it passed. (Hello controlling downtown development...good...hello gun control laws that have no way of working...bad).
Ex: Yes. Basically because it sounds good.

Winner: SFBG. San Francisco set up this voting system where we all get together and read over these propositions to ensure that the voting public, for better or worse, is informed about what the government/business are doing and vote on it. If this is our way, then we can't put more red tape in front of measures. They need a clean road to the ballot, more or less. The good the bad and ugly. Why? Because, for better or worse, that is democracy.

Round 4 (Ok, screw it...there are 11 rounds and this is already annoying.)

D - Library Provision Fund
SFBG: Yes.
Ex: Yes.

The Winner: Libraries. Come on, this city loves it's books. Everyone loves this measure.

E - Mayoral Attendance at board of supervisors meeting.
SFBG: Yes. Yes. Yes. Actually a policy measure (not a law) already passed last year stated that the Mayor should go to Supervisors meetings once a month. Would it be a forum for grand standing? Yes. Is that bad? No. The public should know exactly how our pretty pretty princess of a Mayor feels about an issue and he should have to argue it out with those people who represent the public.
Ex: NO WAY! The mayor is busy enough without added City Hall gimmicks.

The Winner: SFBG. Come on. The mayor is busy enough without once a month meetings that we asked him politely to attend last year? Yes, we know all that hair gel takes time, but don't give me the added City Hall gimmicks crap. Our Mayor invents new gimmicks everyday. He can make time for another one. Besides, if he really was a good politician he'd find a way to turn this in his favor.

F - Police Pensions
SFBG: Yes
Ex: Yes

The Winner: Retired Police. Come on. Only evil people don't want to make sure police don't get pensions.

G - Golden Gate Park Stables
SFBG: Yes. Why not? The GG Park Stables are historical and falling apart. It's a small amount of money to keep it going, and the stables would stay in public hands, which means the public can participate in a fun activity.
Ex: No. Not the best fiscal approach to recreation needs.

The Winner: SFBG. I don't know what they mean to not the best fiscal approach to recreation needs. Oh, wait. I do. The Examiner is all for turning it over to a privet firm to handle. And we know what will come of that. Expensive...if any...opportunities for people who just want to take riding lessons. That's dumb, I want to ride horsies!

H - Regulating Parking Spaces
SFBG: No. No. No. The measure says everyone has a right to at least two parking spaces. Which means less bus stops, less bike lanes, and encourages more cars on the road, more traffic which would lead to toll streets in the middle of downtown.
Ex: Yes. Shifts balance back to creating more parking.

The Winner: SFBG. Do I wish it was easier/cheaper to park a car in this city. Yes. Do I think the balance should be shifted to more parking? No. The balance should be MUNI over parking. Why? The roads aren't going to get any wider people. Most of downtown will ALWAYS be two-lane one way roads. More parking, and thus encouraging more driving, isn't going to make that more fun to bare.

I - Small Buisness Center
SFBG: Yes.
Ex: Yes.

The Winner: Me! (I just wanted to win one.) This is not a big box chain store loving town. This is small business wonderland, and there is no organization set up to help.

J - Free Wireless Internet
SFBG: No. Sure, we all want free ice cream. But in this case it means if we want the free ice cream we only get a little of it given to us a drop at a time and if we want more we have to pay three times as much as we do now.
Ex: Yes. It's time for a citywide Wi-Fi network.

The Winner: SFBG. Reluctantly. I want free internet. I really really really want free internet. And wireless or whatever. I just want it free. But, SFBG is right. The Wi-Fi plan they have is slow and would drive up the costs of fast cable service. Which is no good. Imagine almost a million people in a seven by seven area all logging on at the same time. How fast do you think your music down loads will be after that.

K - Street Advertising
SFBG: Yes. It bars any further expansion of street-furniture advertising in the city.
Ex: No. Say no to anti-business, anti-revenue plan.

Winner: I don't know. The advertising is ugly and annoying...and owned by Evil Empire Clear Channel...but it also brings in revenue and ensures the upkeep of bus stops. I'm torn. Down with big bad business...but no one else is stepping up to the plate. But, I think that prop A sort of negates some of this prop...so...I don't know.

(DING!)

And The Examiner lays on the mat and is out for the count. Sure, Ex and SFBG agreed on some points. But over all The Examiner's week and whinny arguments didn't hold up. Sure, some of those arguments were only a sentence long and it really wasn't a fair fight. But I came into this blog knowing what I wanted already, I just wanted a funny way of presenting the side I didn't agree with.

But, if you want to set up your own ringside battle royal, you can check the other endorsements:

SPUR
SFGate

Oh, that's it for now. But there will be more.

For now. I leave you with this: Norman Rockwell's Thanks Giving. Personally, I find this picture creepy as all get out.

Why?

1) The incredible use of clean white. It is over used. This isn't a criticism, it's the truth. He uses it a lot because he puts his fatherly figure at the center in almost all black. He blocks out the window...but no the light. A light which gives the all American family a rather holy appearance. I think we are looking at a joyful tradition that Rockwell knows is passing. The feast is presented by the aged who look not long for this world. Will there be a turkey after they are gone?

2) There is no wine at this table. Only water.

3) The guy looking back at us in the corner. Is this Norman? Who is he? His look says either come on in! Enjoy! Or something else I can't put my finger on. Who are we in this picture? We are at the other end of the table, but somewhere above it. Standing. What does this man in the corner, who's mouth we can't see. Who's eyes maybe smiling, may be sad?

4) That big peice of fruit in the bowl looks like a baby head. Creepy.

I think that it's a powerful picture. There is so much joy in it, in a way. The family happily gathering around the table. Laughing, smiling. The food. The plenty. The hopefulness of it. We are not looking at a reality, but a dream. This is the perfect thanks giving. This is the unattainable hope. This is the turkey we wish we could bake. This is the woman who's ability and love has baked it, and strength as brought it to us. This is the family, the happy laughing family, who will par take in what the old generously and soberly serve.

And it comes with pickles, celery, and a side of baby head.

Creepy.

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