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Run down? Pay up — a list of San Francisco blighted properties

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Aug 16 2010 - 3:49pm

More than half a year after the Department of Building Inspection launched an ambitious effort to catalog unused and blighted properties in the city — a process that ultimately could bring in millions of dollars in property and transfer taxes and developer fees — the effort has been hobbled by layoffs in the department.

The Board of Supervisors passed an anti-blight law unanimously in November 2009. It requires property owners whose buildings are vacant or abandoned to register them with the city and fix up their dilapidated exteriors. The law is intended to reduce crime, clean up neighborhood blight and stimulate economic and social activity.

Google and the question of ‘evil’: former allies question hometown company’s motives

Kevin Hume, SF Public Press — Aug 16 2010 - 3:09pm

Google, the Silicon Valley startup that quickly dominated the global search engine business, gained credibility early on with users by invoking its informal motto: “Don’t be evil.” But consumer groups last week turned the slogan against the company, saying the economics of the digital world have obscured its moral compass. Earlier last week, Google united with Verizon to bring before the Federal Communications Commission a list of proposals that consumer groups said seemed to water down the principle of network neutrality — the concept that all Internet traffic should be handled equally, regardless of who provides it or how much they can pay.

Prop. 8 backers file appeal, want stay against weddings left in place

Kristine Magnuson, SF Public Press — Aug 13 2010 - 4:21pm

Backers of Proposition 8 have filed an appeal to keep a stay in force to prevent gay marriages from resuming. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker earlier ruled the measure unconstitutional and has placed a stay on same-sex marriages that is set to expire on Wednesday. Late Thursday backers of the measure filed their appeal with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge says same-sex marriages can resume on Aug. 18

Kristine Magnuson, SF Public Press — Aug 12 2010 - 1:16pm

A federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples will be able to marry on Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. The ruling could be reversed if opponents of gay marriage appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The decision will lift the stay that last week he placed on his own judgement that a statewide ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. On Thursday morning scores of people gathered on the front steps of San Francisco City Hall to mark the occasion, with some same-sex couples hoping to get married on the spot if the stay were lifted immediately. There were also supporters of Proposition 8, the initiative that ended gay marriage in 2008. (READ THE RULING BY JUDGE VAUGHN R. WALKER — PDF)

‘Socially responsible outsourcing’ takes tech jobs to developing world

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Aug 12 2010 - 11:41am
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A local nonprofit group is making a name for itself in the tech world by providing U.S.-based companies with low-priced online labor in developing countries. While thousands of for-profit companies have been offshoring tech jobs for years, San Francisco-based Samasource says it wants to turn online work into a tool to alleviate poverty.

Book Review: Journalist spins riveting tale of murder and intrigue along the California coast

Leslie Guevarra, Special to SF Public Press — Aug 11 2010 - 1:37pm

Colm MacCay, the anti-hero of Paul McHugh's novel "Deadlines" (Lost Coast Press, $16.95), is a besotted, arrogant and wildly insecure newspaper columnist beyond his prime, who swaggers and staggers onto a story of abused personal and private trust and wants to make it his own. Unraveling a seaside murder before the competition scoops him could resuscitate MacCay’s faltering career -- and, of course, bring a measure of justice to the victims.

Getting schooled in post-racial America

Rachel Swan, SF Public Press — Aug 10 2010 - 3:47pm

Any artist who promises to end racism in about an hour will earn his fair share of cynics. Comedian W. Kamau Bell was well aware of that when he launched his solo comedy show, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve,” in fall 2007.

Solar waste recycling: can the industry stay green?

Erica Gies, SF Public Press — Aug 9 2010 - 12:11pm

Solar modules contain some of the same potentially dangerous materials as electronics, including silicon tetrachloride, cadmium, selenium and sulfur hexafluoride, a potent greenhouse gas. So as solar moves from the fringe to the mainstream, insiders and watchdog groups are beginning to talk about producer responsibility and recycling in an attempt to sidestep the pitfalls of electronic waste and retain the industry’s green credibility.

Athletes vie with birds in Golden Gate Park’s environmental turf war

Dan Hirsch, SF Public Press — Aug 9 2010 - 12:05pm

A swath of ground at the western end of Golden Gate Park has stirred debate among soccer players, neighborhood residents, astronomers and environmentalists. The disputed turf is the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields. A plan to replace the grass surface with artificial turf has been put on hold by the Recreation and Park Commission which has ordered an environmental impact report on the project.

Gay-marriage attorney maps out strategy to defeat ‘state-sponsored discrimination’

Kristine Magnuson, SF Public Press — Aug 6 2010 - 1:11pm
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David Boies, one of the two attorneys in the successful case to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage, said the case evoked fights he participated in during the civil rights movement decades ago, calling opposition to equality the “last bastion of official, state-sponsored discrimination in this country.” He spoke at the Commonwealth Club Thursday night.

Minority voters think greener, statewide poll shows

Rosemary Macaulay, SF Public Press — Aug 6 2010 - 1:10pm

A poll of California's voters released last week has revealed disparities between the environmental attitudes of ethnic groups. Asian, black and Latino voters are more concerned about air pollution, more sensitive to the effects of global warming, and more willing to see the government act on environmental issues than white voters. But in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, all ethnic groups reject more oil drilling off the coast of California.

Demographic changes to make life much harder for older women

Katy Gathright, SF Public Press — Aug 5 2010 - 4:16pm

Baby Boomer women are in trouble. Decreased fertility and increased life expectancy have made aging a feminist issue, according to new research from Stanford’s Global Aging Program. “I have some bad news — it’s a mixed story,” said Adele Hayutin, the program’s director.

Muni to restore 61 percent of service by Sept. 4

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Aug 5 2010 - 3:58pm

Sixty-one percent of summertime Muni service cuts would be restored under a financial plan proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The changes could come as soon as Sept. 4, and are higher than the 50 percent restoration promised earlier in the summer. The $15 million one-year funding package includes money shaved from the San Francisco Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The agency also looked at cutting back on hundreds hours drivers are paid while waiting for shift changes.

Prop. 8 gay marriage ban overturned; ruling unlikely to be the last word

Kristine Magnuson, SF Public Press — Aug 4 2010 - 1:42pm

A federal judge Wednesday struck down California’s ban on gay marriage, but that decision is unlikely to be the last word. The case will eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts predicted. Proponents of 2008’s Proposition 8 are expected to appeal judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling that the measure was unconstitutional. The first step to the Supreme Court would be the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

City’s struggle against graffiti tries rewards, murals and profiling

Katy Gathright, SF Public Press — Aug 3 2010 - 9:14am

San Francisco’s ongoing battle against graffiti is finally paying off - at least for those turning in taggers to the city's Graffiti Rewards Program. Anti-graffiti strategies like the reward program have proliferated in the last five years as the Department of Public Works has adopted a mix of law-enforcement and community engagement measures to reduce tagging. City agencies as a whole spend $20 million on graffiti abatement each year.

Report says city’s mandate on local hiring for construction projects isn’t working

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Aug 2 2010 - 6:31pm

A new report from the Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Brightline Defense Project said the city is not meeting its local hiring mandate for construction projects in the city. Vincent Pan, executive director of the Chinese for Affirmative Action, a non-profit organization that advocates hiring local residents, said San Francisco is well below its mandate. The report titled “The Failure of Good Faith,” shows only 24 percent of city work hours are filled by city residents in 29 projects surveyed by the organizations.“We have to change this mandate to make it more solid so that San Francisco residents are getting the jobs,” said Pan.

Ethnic minority voters finding their voices in multilingual polls

Rosemary Macaulay, SF Public Press — Aug 2 2010 - 5:15pm

A new multilingual polls shows that ethnic minority voters are playing a major role in the race for governor and are also shaping the outcome of a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana. In the latest Field Poll, Democrat Jerry Brown polled at 44 percent, just one point ahead of Republican Meg Whitman, in the battle for governor. However, the poll shows that it is the state’s ethnic minority communities that are making it a close race, with 48 percent of white non-Hispanics opting for Whitman and 40 percent for Brown.

At Amybelle’s wash & dry, clean your clothes and work history

Saul Sugarman, SF Public Press — Aug 2 2010 - 10:32am
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Historically, many laundromats have provided cover for seedier operations such as money laundering, gang violence, or more recently in Oakland, marijuana peddling. But a family-run shop in the Richmond District is trying a far different experiment: free Wi-Fi and career counseling.

Chiu and Newsom settle on Muni reforms

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jul 30 2010 - 5:08pm

The mayor and the president of the board of supervisors this week agreed on several Muni reforms to help the transit agency restore services cut in May and to improve oversight of the agency. The proposed reforms include a plan to fully restore May’s Muni service cuts by December.

Women working within Islamic society for change in Middle East

Maryann Hrichak, SF Public Press — Jul 29 2010 - 7:37pm

An Islamic feminist movement is gaining ground in the Middle East and offers hope for the future of women’s rights there. Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, has written a new book, “Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East,” and was in San Francisco recently to discuss her findings.