Gulf residents doubt government committed to working with communities to fix spill damage

Kevin Stark, SF Public Press — Dec 9 2010 - 12:01pm

Some fear money won't go to restoring ravaged coastline

As the federal government promotes initiatives to ensure long-term recovery for the oil-spill-beleaguered Gulf Coast region, officials are attempting to court marginalized community groups whose members say their suggestions have been disregarded or they have been left out of discussions entirely. But the reaction has been skeptical, with residents saying they have been deceived by low-ball official assessments of environmental and health threats. Residents say they are increasingly anxious about the economic and environmental viability of life along the shoreline. As many as one-quarter of the region’s residents say they are thinking of moving away.

Effort to choose new mayor includes social network

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Dec 6 2010 - 5:20pm
UPDATE: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano issued a statement saying he will not accept any nomination to be interim San Francisco mayor, according to SF Weekly. As the San Francisco Board of Supervisors prepares to hear nominations to pick a new mayor, one member of the board is turning to the Web to push his candidate. Chris Daly posted a petition on the social network site to draft Assemblyman Tom Ammiano into seeking the mayor’s office that Gavin Newsom’s election to lieutenant governor will leave vacant.

Judge and media navigate claims of gay bias

Kristine Magnuson, SF Public Press — Dec 4 2010 - 11:17am

Same-sex marriage appeal puts spotlight on personal lives of those judging — and reporting on — the issue

Same-sex marriage opponents complained that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker — who this summer overturned Proposition 8, a 2008 state constitutional amendment banning the practice — should have recused himself because he is gay (a suggestion Walker has declined to discuss). Walker’s sexual orientation will be front and center in arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday. This puts journalists, too, in a funny position. Who will believe a gay reporter covering the question about whether a gay judge should be disqualified?

Iraq veteran’s new battle: defeating ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Dec 2 2010 - 3:35pm

Back in war zone as contractor, decorated sergeant yearns for return to military life

Anthony Loverde joined the military at 22 because he needed money for school, and because he felt a deep love for country. But the real reason, he said, was to gain discipline — to “fight being gay.” Starting as an Air Force radio technician, he climbed quickly to the rank of staff sergeant, and then served as a cargo loader flying missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. His close crew of six did everything together — ate, slept, fought a war. While the team built camaraderie, Loverde had to lie about his personal life constantly. One summer day in 2008, a battle buddy asked what was wrong. Loverde had to let his secret out: he was gay. Military procedure required his friend to tell their commander. After seven years of service, Loverde was discharged under the military’s long-standing “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

SF finds revenue under every rock

Conor Gallagher, SF Public Press — Dec 1 2010 - 5:05pm

From the mundane to the taboo to the absurd, city leaders hike any fee they can think of to balance city budget

The cost of living and doing business in San Francisco increased this year in hundreds of little ways. Though they didn’t garner as much attention as the city’s massive budget cuts, a series of new and increased fees emerged from the Board of Supervisors from late May to early July. The goal was to generate revenue beyond taxes, reducing city departments’ reliance on an anemic general fund. The following list was compiled from records from the board. It includes all new and increased fees introduced with the 2010-11 fiscal year. The supervisors enacted more than 400 fee hikes, some for rare activities with small constituencies, such as hosting a masked ball or shooting off a cannon. (Seriously.)

City assessor running for mayor next year

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Dec 1 2010 - 4:58pm

San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting filed for papers Wednesday morning to start organizing his campaign to become the city's next elected mayor. He will join other candidates state Sen. Leland Yee, City Attorney Herrera and Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

“Politics is too important to leave to politicians alone. We need to engage the whole population to identify problems, to help fix them and most of all to hold government officials accountable for results,” said Ting in a statement.

He also said the city needs a mayor who can solve the ongoing budget problems, which he believes has the credentials to do so. He said his office has generated $245 million in new revenue without raising taxes.

Geographies of San Francisco re-imagined

Mineko Brand, SF Public Press — Nov 30 2010 - 2:19pm

Innovative atlas juxtaposes dissimilar items into fanciful maps

On the night that San Francisco Giants fans took to the streets delirious over a World Series championship, a tamer crew of folk including cartographers and poets gathered to mark the release of “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas.” The collection of fanciful maps of the city combines disparate but creatively juxtaposed items such as World War II shipyards and African-American political and musical landmarks, as drawn together in “Shipyards and Sounds: the Black Bay Area Since World War II.” Other maps are called “Death and Beauty: All of 2008’s Ninety-Nine Murders, Some of 2009’s Monterey Cypresses”; and “Graveyard Shift: The Lost Industrial City of 1960 and the Remnant 6 A.M. Bars.”

New Rules on Phone Competition Could Affect Prices for Poor

Conor Gallagher, SF Public Press — Nov 29 2010 - 4:47pm

Basic service would no longer include unlimited local calls

A proposal by state utilities regulators to deregulate basic phone service could open competition to companies using newer technologies, but critics say it could sharply increase costs for more than 2 million low-income Californians who rely on discounted landline service.

All landline rates could rise under the proposed rules, which would increase the companies’ leeway in new charges for services, whose prices are now fixed. Phone rates have been under California Public Utilities Commission oversight since the dawn of phone service in 1915.

The commission, which regulates the state’s telecommunication, energy, water and transportation industries, has proposed ending a requirement that basic phone service include free incoming calls and unlimited local calling for a flat rate.

Treasure Island building plans draw fire

Victoria Schlesinger, Way Out West — Nov 29 2010 - 4:09pm

Foes say development would choke bridge traffic and worsen air

Proposed redevelopment on Treasure Island would increase traffic jams on the Bay Bridge, lengthening commute times and exacerbating Bay Area air pollution, critics say. Residents, environmental organizations and local agencies voiced those concerns this fall in almost 700 written comments on proposed new residential and commercial development that planners have said would make the island a world-class green neighborhood. Comments about the project’s draft environmental impact report submitted by the September deadline expressed deep misgivings with the plan by the city and the developer to limit driving on and off the island.

Decades after Sonoma ‘Running Fence,’ Christo still making art — and waves

Erin Van Rheenen, Special to SF Public Press — Nov 24 2010 - 11:23am

New documentary examines public battles over revolutionary installation.

Bureaucracy has once again issued a daunting challenge to the art of Christo, this time “Over the River,” his proposed temporary installation of shimmering fabric across the Arkansas River in Colorado. The battle, waged this summer, mirrors one that arose just across the Golden Gate Bridge in the early 1970s, when Christo and his French wife/collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, fought government and naysayers to create “Running Fence.”

Outtakes from the filming of ‘The Running Fence Revisited’

Erin Van Rheenen, Special to SF Public Press — Nov 24 2010 - 11:06am

In September 2009, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude returned to Northern California for the 33-year anniversary of their “Running Fence” (1976) installation and to film “The Running Fence Revisited” (2010), directed by Wolfram Hissen and sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

During the filming, author Erin Van Rheenen did double duty as both writer and girl Friday for the crew. Between takes she interviewed Jeanne-Claude and Christo — at the Petaluma Denny's, at a reunion picnic and in the car as they traced the route of where the fence had run. She may have been the last to interview Jeanne-Claude, who died suddenly on Nov. 18, 2009, at the age of 74.

The scenes described in the story first appeared in a slightly different form as the program for the documentary’s West Coast premiere back in June.

Outspoken but outvoted: low turnout at the polls plagues activist hotbed of San Francisco

Theresa Seiger, SF Public Press — Nov 23 2010 - 11:49am

Demographics may play role in low numbers seen on election days

San Francisco voters overall do not have too much in common with defeated GOP candidate Meg Whitman. However, they share one trait: Politically active as they may be, much of the time they cannot be bothered to vote.

The daily street protests forming the backdrop of the city’s life for generations belie a lack of engagement at the ballot box. San Francisco has consistently one of the worst voter turnout records in the Bay Area and even the state.

While press coverage of Whitman’s repeated failure to show up to the polling place forced her to “apologize” to the voters during her first televised gubernatorial debate with Jerry Brown in late September, San Francisco officials are sounding decidedly less moralistic.

Women's comedy groups offer another outlet for humor in San Francisco

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Nov 22 2010 - 5:16pm

For the women running the Monday Night Foreplays comedy group, their short skits are an effort to fill a large void that exists in the female sketch comedy scene.

The group’s creators, Ruth Grossinger and Kate Jones, said that women are in the minority in leading sketch comedy groups in the city.

“In San Francisco, there are a lot of sketch comedy groups, but there aren’t a lot of just female-based groups,” said Jones. “The voice for female sketch comedy, not just in the city, but across the board, could definitely be expanded on.”

State audit: local agencies not providing efficient bilingual services

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Nov 19 2010 - 3:08pm

A state audit released Thursday revealed that many local agencies are not providing proper bilingual service called for in the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act, passed 37 years ago. The audit says agencies need to improve services by providing more staff who are bilingual and translated written materials.

Muni: In elusive quest for 85% on-time performance, computers are displacing eyes on the street

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Nov 18 2010 - 12:11pm

Transit agency says tech will help it turn corner, but money remains tight

Multimillion-dollar vehicle-monitoring technology installed at Muni headquarters is at the heart of a new initiative aimed at solving the transit system’s never-ending performance problems.

By investing $13.6 million in the NextMuni satellite tracking system and a new 24-hour vehicle monitoring center, San Francisco transit officials promise major improvements in keeping the city’s more than 1,000 buses and trains running on schedule. Already this year, Muni Metro trains in the Market Street tunnel are speeding up, they said.

But Muni managers are still struggling with the question of how to get the most out of this new technology to increase performance at a time when budget pressures make it increasingly difficult to do that.

Muni planners say speed to come from untangling messy streetscape

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Nov 18 2010 - 11:55am

Transit planner calls the city's streets and tunnels 'a nightmare'

San Francisco transit planners say a recipe of small fixes could amount to big changes in the nation’s fifth-largest urban transit system. But without new sources of money, many of these ideas, some of which would change the way the city’s streets are configured, will remain on the drawing board.

The system is chronically slow and crowded in part because its diverse fleet of bus and rail lines operates on a rollercoaster terrain in a fully built-out urban grid. Street fairs and demonstrations, ball games and construction routinely clog major arteries, making schedules seem academic.

The Municipal Transportation Agency launched its Transit Effectiveness Project in 2006, to reconfigure the city’s streets and tunnels — where physical constraints notoriously slow basic public transit to what one Muni planner called “a nightmare.”

Finding the slow buses

Eric Fischer, SF Public Press — Nov 18 2010 - 11:53am

This map shows which San Francisco transit routes have the highest ridership and which adhere most closely to their schedules. Color indicates on-time performance; thickness of the lines indicates ridership.

The 1-California and 30-Stockton, traversing San Francisco’s northern flank, are high-ridership lines (green), with 80 percent or better schedule adherence.

The J-Church, K-Ingleside, T-Third, L-Taraval, and N-Judah Muni Metro lines, and the 14-Mission and 38-Geary bus lines, also have high reliability, with 70 percent or better schedule adherence (yellow).

Reporters’ Notebook: En route: 28-19th Avenue often off schedule

Monica Jensen, Jerold Chinn and Sarah Fidelibus, SF Public Press — Nov 18 2010 - 11:50am

Reporter Jerold Chinn, Multimedia Editor Monica Jensen and Social Media Editor Sarah Fidelibus rode one of the Muni bus lines that has the most trouble keeping on schedule — the 28-19th Avenue.

They documented the problems the bus faced while traveling on a recent Wednesday afternoon along the route from Fort Mason to Daly City. The bus travels for much of its route along 19th Avenue, or Highway 1, which leads to the Golden Gate Bridge to the north and Interstate 280 to the south.

Drivers take the heat for discontent of Muni riders

Sarah Fidelibus, SF Public Press — Nov 18 2010 - 11:48am

Operators face long hours, crowded streets and a sometimes hostile ridership

Proposition G, the initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved to change pay and work rules for Muni operators, focused attention on the system’s drivers, painting them as a reason that San Francisco’s Muni transit system is notoriously slow and unreliable.
And the drivers did little to help their cause on the public relations front — rejecting cuts that other city workers agreed to, boycotting the annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest and threatening to strike if the measure passed.
But on the job, drivers work in a high-stress environment, with long hours and, for many drivers, few breaks.

Supervisors announce open house for mayor’s office

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Nov 17 2010 - 8:52pm

Supervisors approved the selection and nomination process for Mayor Gavin Newsom’s successor and decided to hold a series of public meetings to solicit input.