Alison Hawkes, SF Public Press/Way Out West — Sep 1 2010 - 3:07pm
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has come out swinging on environmental causes, linking the nation’s longer term economic prospects to growth in the green energy industry. She railed against corporations for sending jobs overseas, vowing to eliminate their tax breaks and reward those who build an environmentally benign economy at home. She is running a high-profile race against GOP opponent Carly Fiorina.
A team of local biotech researchers may have found a way to avoid using essential food crops for fuel by genetically modifying harmless strains of a bacteria most people associate with human food poisoning. The result is an extremely expensive fuel — hardly competitive with fossil fuels at $25 per gallon — but marks the beginning of a new look at green energy.
Even as classes began last week for San Francisco’s 55,000 public school students, nearly 50 teachers and other staff remained out of a job as the school district struggled to find openings to rehire them after a summer of budget cutting. Previously laid-off staff continued to get recall notices, with the most recent rehires announced Thursday. The majority of recalls were made in the last month. Still, eight teachers and 40 paraprofessionals remained laid off.
Which has a bigger carbon footprint, flying or driving from SF to LA? Can I compost my old clothing? Can a Safeway really be wind-powered? What’s the deal with the ozone layer? Writer Jon Mooallem digs into quandaries both weighty and lightheaded.
Nonprofit art organizations are big business in San Francisco, employing 28,000 people and providing tens of millions in state and local revenues. And they want politicians to pay attention. “There is nothing more important we can do than advancing art in America,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of local arts advancement at Americans for the Arts. He said the arts have a large impact on job creation and state and local government revenue.
A local organization that promotes environmental consciousness through hip-hop culture is going on hiatus this fall after losing major funding from the city of San Francisco. Grind for the Grind hosted its first — and final — “eco-music festival” of the year in Oakland last weekend. The event, FreshFest, brought local hip-hop musicians, artists and sustainable food producers together for a day of solar-powered live jamming, healthy eats and green-themed crafts. After losing its San Francisco grant, the festival was free to move from Yerba Buena Gardens, where it had been for two years, to Oakland’s Mosswood Park. But there still wasn’t enough money to put on the usual four summer festivals.
Alison Hawkes, SF Public Press/Way Out West — Aug 18 2010 - 1:58pm
When activists dumped processed sewage compost on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in March, the stunt was meant to draw national attention toward a supposed hypocrisy afoot in the greenest city in America. The city immediately stopped the giveaway of sewage sludge, a mixture of treated sewage and yard wastes, and ordered a series of expensive tests to prove its safety. The Public Utilities Commission said the compost was no worse than commercial fertilizers. But opponents say the fight is far from over.
It could have been the plot of a science fiction novel, or perhaps “Rip Van Winkle.” Thirty-five years after its first meeting, the Community Congress awakens in 2010 to find its city and the world transformed — and perhaps a new reason for being. Many things in San Francisco have changed since the first such gathering in 1975. The first Community Congress was held that June and is credited for several major political changes to the city, including rent control and district elections.
After a string of environmental groups and Treasure Island redevelopment critics requested more time to analyze the San Francisco project’s complex and lengthy draft environmental impact review last week, the Planning Commission granted them an additional two weeks. The public now has until Sept. 10 to submit written comments about the 2,000-plus-page report, first released in mid-July, which discusses environmental concerns ranging from transportation and greenhouse gas emissions to accommodating sea level rise and girding for earthquakes.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.