Tom’s Town: Finally, we win a name change

By Tom Temprano

APRIL 18 — Willie Brown may have his bridge, Dianne Feinstein may someday have her airport (or terminal), but I’m thrilled to say that I’ve finally come out on the right side of a naming battle!

48hillstomstownOn Tuesday, the Board of Supervisor’s Land Use committee unanimously recommended adding “Vicki Mar-Lane” to the 100 Block of Turk Street. Many of you may be familiar with both Vicki and the 100 Block of Turk thanks to the successful drag shows she threw at Aunt Charlie’s for more than a decade.

I lived nearby for years, and whenever I had out-of-town guests staying with me I would tell them to skip the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower and to go see Vicki instead. “The Lady With The Liquid Spine” was my kind of San Francisco landmark, having performed in drag here since the 1980’s and continuing to do so until her death at age 76.

The street renaming, a first for a member of San Francisco’s transgender community, was no breeze. It took a couple years of organizing by Vicki’s friend Felicia Elizondo (aka Felicia Flames), Harvey Milk Club member Sue Englander, and others to rally property owners on the block and other community organizations to get on board. Ultimately the leadership of D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, as well as our two gay supervisors David Campos and Scott Weiner, saw this one through to its rightful, and successful, conclusion.

The street will be re-christened at the end of this year’s Trans March, a fitting scenario that will not only honor Vicki, but the legacy of trans activism on the block that began with San Francisco’s stonewall (which actually happened three years before Stonewall – take that New York!), the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.

Vicki Mar-Lane wasn’t the only good thing to come out of Tuesday’s Land Use meeting as a packed house of nightlife and transportation advocates rallied to increase San Francisco’s late-night transit options. As someone who works in bars, and who, when not working, occasionally stays out at bars until their 2am closing times, I can attest to the dearth of ways to get home safely.

Having been mugged and nearly mugged on several late-night occasions, it causes me serious panic whenever a friend tells me that he or she spent 20 minutes unsuccessfully searching for a cab and was forced to take a 30-minute solo walk home after a night of drinking. Our lack of safe and affordable options for getting home between the hours of midnight and 6am are a public safety hazard for workers and patrons alike, and I was happy that Supervisor Wiener convened everyone from transit agencies to party professionals to try and get some changes made.

The lack of reliable Muni Owl busses, which ought to be added to whatever endangered species list their disappearing cousins, the Northern Spotted owl are on, as well as the absolutely ridiculous lack of late-night BART trains, were addressed numerous times by department heads and members of the public.

While much of the hearing was focused on safety concerns, taxi operators showed up en masse to air their grievances with the also present ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. It made for an off-topic, though entertaining diversion from the issue I would have rather been focusing on, but I was happy to sit through the hours of testimony on an issue that I feel personally involved in.

Here’s to getting the Owl off the endangered species list, getting rid of BART’s bed time and getting drunk folks, and those who serve them, home more safely.

My suit got to make a rare public appearance this past Saturday at the EQCA Equality Awards at the mind-boggling fancy Palace Hotel. But seriously – I can see why Willie Brown throws his parties here. It seemed like money was literally dripping from the ceilings.

Kudos to event co-chair Bevan Dufty for throwing a hell of a fete. The party (and the after party) was a blast and seemed to raise a boatload of money for Equality California. My personal highlights included seeing David Campos give DPH’s Barbara Garcia a much-deserved award, a Katy Perry cover by American Idol’s Frenchie Davis — and an open bar that included scotch. Scotch!

MOVIE TIME: After several failed attempts at watching House of Cards something finally clicked last night. WHERE HAVE I BEEN? I’m going to have to cut the rest of this column short, cancel my weekend plans and see how the hell Frank is going to salvage this education reform bill.

 TOM’S TOP TWO THINGS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

1)    Hunky Jesus in Golden Gate Park. With Dolores Parklet half-closed for the holiday’s the Sister’s will be moving there beefcake crucifixion contest to Golden Gate, which should magically coincide with the park’s regular 4/20 activities. Just be sure to pick up after yourselves and be cool because the City won’t put up with any hijinks. Take it from Police Chief Suhr whose lead quote in the Chronicle may as well have come from straight from the mouth of Spicoli.

2)     Daytime Easter/Reefer Madness. Sunday at El Rio from 3-8pm. Not to be outdone, the monthly party I throw with the lovely Heklina and the dashing Stanley Frank will also be awkwardly combining two of San Francisco’s favorite holidays. Come check us out after your morning of Golden Gate Parking .

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Big battle brewing over funding for children’s programs

 

Chelsea Boilard, children's advocate, wants to see a significant increase in funding for services for children and youth

Chelsea Boilard, children’s advocate, wants to see a significant increase in funding for services for children and youth

By Tim Redmond

There’s a serious battle brewing over the re-authorization of the Children’s Fund and the city’s funding for public schools, possibly pitting the mayor and some of the supervisors against a grassroots coalition that has spent more than a year preparing reports and studies showing how the fund should be expanded.

The Children’s Fund, approved by the voters in 1991 and reauthorized in 2000, sets aside three percent of San Francisco’s property tax money for services for children and youth. It expires next year, and pretty much everyone at City Hall agrees it has been a success and should be extended.

The city also sends money to the public schools through the Public Education and Enrichment Fund, which pays for music, arts, sports, preschool and other programs that the low levels of state support can’t cover. That’s up for re-authorization too.

The Children’s Funding Community Coalition is asking for three major changes to the Children’s Fund: An increase in the fund from 3 cents per dollar of assessed value to 5 cents, the addition of services to some at-risk youth as old as 24 – and a new commission to oversee the Department of Children, Youth and Families and monitor the spending of some $50 million a year.

That would add another $30 million or so the money allocated entirely for children and youth services – and would take some of the authority for spending the money away from the mayor.

The group wants to extend the PEEF and make it more stable.

The coalition has hundreds of people involved, from community-based groups all over the city. It’s a grassroots group that is completely united behind the effort to expand and improve the two funding sources.

But just as the coalition was working on its plan, Mayor Ed Lee and School Superintendent Richard Carranza engaged a company called Learning for Action to conduct a “stakeholder” study of children’s services and needs. The results would be used to frame discussion on the re-authorization of the two funding programs. Continue reading

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Another problem with the accreditors’ plan for City College

By Tim Redmond

Suppose City College went along with the (looney) idea of applying for accreditation as a new institution, as the heads of the accrediting agency are suggesting. Think about what that would mean.

John Rizzo, president of the (deposed) local Community College Board has. And he points out a serious flaw that hasn’t been much in the news.

If City College applied as a “candidate,” it would be in effect saying that it was a new and different institution. And that might mean that all of the existing contracts – including labor contracts – are void.

“The teachers wouldn’t be represented,” Rizzo said. “They’d have to start all over again.”

More than that, what I think ACCJC might want is for City College to become a “charter college,” like a charter school – an institution that takes state money, but can choose its own staff. A charter college might have no elected board; it might not have union contracts. It might not offer anywhere near the range of classes that CCSF offers, and might become exactly what the accreditors want – a much smaller junior college with the only mandate of teaching people who want to transfer to a four-year institution.

Alisa Messer, who runs the City College Teachers’ Union, noted that “it’s become apparent to us that the ACCJC dislikes unions, perhaps even more than it dislikes elected boards.”

Is that part of the plan? Is this what the loss of accreditation was all about? Maybe.

Is it time for the mayor to wake up and take a stand against this madness? Pretty clearly.

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The sugary drinks debate gets crazy


This Columbia School of Public Health chart show how super-super-sized sugary drinks have become.

By Tim Redmond

APRIL 16, 2014 — We’ve all heard the news of how sugary drinks are horrible for you. The public health evidence is pretty clear: Drinking sodas and sport drinks with as many as 30 teaspoons of sugar in them is directly related to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, and all sorts of other bad health outcomes. We know, according to the Department of Public Health, that between $48 million and $61 million is spent on medical treatment in San Francisco that can be attributed to the use of sugar-sweetened beverages, and $10 to $28 million of that comes from the taxpayers.

We know that there are plenty of studies on this. We know that low-income communities are hit particularly hard. We know that if you consume two or more sugary drinks a day, your chance of getting diabetes increase by 26 percent.

We know there’s a diabetes epidemic in San Francisco.

We know that there are a lot of bad things people can eat and drink, but sugary beverages are qualitatively different. At a hearing today, doctors, nurses, and public-health professionals testified that consuming that much sugar (often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) in the short amount of time it takes to drink a soda or sport or energy drink has a particularly detrimental impact. The sugar overwhelms you liver – and tells your brain it’s still hungry, even if you’re eating at the same time. Continue reading

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Politics on Tuesday: City College, Airbnb, and District 8


Will the mayor admit that the city attorney was right?Photo by Luke Thomas

By Tim Redmond

The accrediting commission that’s been trying to shut down City College just warned San Francisco that the school’s appeal will be rejected.

At least, that’s what I got from the oped in Sunday’s Chron by the two top officials of the ACCJC. And the Chron’s Nanette Asimov seems to agree with me.

In essence, Sherrill Amador, chair of the accrediting panel, and Steven Kinsella, the vice chair, are arguing that City College should abandon all hope of winning its appeal and keeping its accreditation. Instead, they suggest the school start over – which would mean giving up accreditation and applying anew.

Why an out-of-control panel that clearly wants to force the state’s largest college to downsize radically would accept a new application, and why it would consider granting accreditation to a college it clearly wants to shut down, is something of a mystery.

But the message is clear: The appeal won’t succeed – which means the only thing keeping City College open for the immediate future is City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit. Continue reading

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Why the private market can never solve SF’s housing crisis

48hillshousingforum2

John Elberling, Dawn Phillips, Brad Paul, and Calvin Welch talk about how we got into this mess — and how we might get out

 

By Tim Redmond

April 14, 2014 — We got a great lesson in the past 30 years or so of San Francisco political history at an Urban IDEA forum last Thursday – and a picture of some astonishing challenges that we face over the next 30.

The forum focused in part on how the city has changed from the late 1970s to the present – and in part on Sup. Jane Kim’s new legislation that aims to set some level of standards for the balance between affordable and luxury housing.

But it was much more than that: Some of the best thinkers about housing policy and politics in San Francisco were batting around the central question of our time: Is there any hope for a non-gentrified city, any path that really ends the displacement of poor and working-class people and creates a long-term sustainable housing policy?

While the mayor and a lot of developers and think-tank types say the city just needs to build a lot more housing – 30,000 units in the next few years, according to Mayor Ed Lee – John Elberling, who has been fighting displacement and building affordable housing for four decades, made the alarming point very clearly:

“The private market,” he said, “will totally gentrify our city’s housing stock. There is no way to stop it.”

In other words, to build a sustainable future for San Francisco, we have to look beyond the private sector. Way beyond. Continue reading

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Will airbnb have to pay for its past violations? Or does tech just get amnesty for everything?

airbnb2

By Tim Redmond

APRIL 14, 2014 — Airbnb has changed its terms of service (which I suspect nobody reads anyway) to warn people that they need to check with the local authorities on possible code violations. Nice that the “sharing economy” pioneer finally noticed that there’s, um, a problem here.

Let me make the problem perfectly clear:

It’s against the law to rent out your apartment, home, or spare bedroom through airbnb in San Francisco.

Period.

San Francisco, like many big cities, bans short-term rentals except in areas zoned for hotels and rooming houses, which have to have permits and licenses. There are quite a few bed-and-breakfast places in the city (Alamo Square, the Castro, and Noe Valley have some) but in every case, the owner went through the process of getting a permit to operate as a hotel.

You can’t ignore that and become a hotel just because there’s a web app for it.

In fact, for better or for worse, the entire airbnb business model – at least as it applies to San Francisco – is based on people breaking the law. Until recently, it was also based on people not paying their taxes. Continue reading

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