While big banks sink, microcredit thrives

Ambika Kandasamy, The Public Press — Apr 7 2009 - 2:52pm

While giant financial service institutions in the nation are shirking under the iron hand of the economy, microcredit organizations are seeing an opposite trend — the number of lenders has been steadily increasing.

Kiva, a Web-based microcredit non-profit in San Francisco, had a record month in February as its total monthly lending soared past $3.8 million.

Old-school band first to 'Tweet-cast' a show

Audrey Wong, The Public Press — Apr 5 2009 - 1:42pm

Anyone who attended the self-titled CD release party of Moonalice at Slim’s Friday night would agree the band evoked the 1960s during their performance.

However, the band also mixed in a little 2009 when it incorporated a taste of social media into its lineup. Fans unable to attend the April 3 event were able to follow the show in real time using Twitter in what was billed as the first-ever "Tweet-cast" concert.

Bonds' prosecution turns to persecution

Brenda Payton, KQED — Apr 1 2009 - 12:07pm

Maybe the U.S. prosecutors didn’t make their college baseball teams. Maybe Barry Bonds was rude to their nephews who’d adoringly begged for an autograph.

Whatever the cause, the prosecutors persecuting Bonds have moved from aggressive investigation to obsession.

60 years late, U.S. to compensate WW II Filipino vets

Audrey Wong, The Public Press — Mar 27 2009 - 12:05pm

When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, Jesus Riveria joined the resistance, driving an armored vehicle for the guerrillas. His job was to protect Filipinos and keep the Japanese from advancing. He worked along side the Philippine Commonwealth Army, which President Franklin Roosevelt incorporated into the U.S. armed forces.

Who qualifies for compensation?

Audrey Wong, The Public Press — Mar 27 2009 - 11:44am

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Filipino veterans who served before July 1, 1946, under the Philippine government (which was in the service of the United States Armed Forces Far East) are eligible for the one-time payments. Members of the Philippine Scouts and guerrilla forces recognized by the United States Army can also qualify. Veterans who were discharged dishonorably are not eligible.

U.S. citizens will receive a one-time payment of $15,000 while veterans who are not U.S. citizens will get a $9,000 lump sum. The money is not considered income for U.S. income tax purposes and will not affect any federal assistance a veteran may be receiving.

Guest opinion: Will we miss the Chronicle?

Gray Brechin, The Public Press — Mar 24 2009 - 1:41pm

We seldom think of oxygen unless it’s absent. You’d think about it a lot if it suddenly exited this room; you’d start gasping and writhing, your eardrums would burst, you and your neighbors would do a lot of bleeding on each other, then you’d die. But if we gradually replaced oxygen with nitrous oxide mixed with just a soupcon of cyanide gas, you might not notice that anything was missing at all; you might feel very content as your brain and body gradually turned off and you lapsed into a sleep without end. I’ve frequently criticized the Chronicle for just that — for its lack of the kind of mental oxygen that makes for a healthy democratic polity.

In spite of budget woes, Muni expects to improve commuter service

Tom Prete, Mar 22 2009 - 8:07am

For years, a lack of information left Muni in the dark about what it was doing well, what it had to improve and what its riders actually needed. But a proposed shuffling of resources following the Transit Effectiveness Project, a massive systemwide study, would add more frequent service and extend routes on some express lines serving city commuters.

City looks to make dangerous stretch of Masonic safer for cyclists

Jim Welte, The Public Press — Mar 20 2009 - 1:26am

Every day during rush hours, almost like clockwork, Miranda Blankenship hears screeching tires and honking horns outside her front door on Masonic Avenue.

Commuters and bicyclists share the busy, four-lane street that serves as one of the major north-south veins through the city, funneling traffic to and from Highway 101. More than 35,000 cars traverse Masonic on a given day, and the result is chaotic and dangerous enough that Blankenship avoids it entirely on her daily bike commute from Masonic and McAllister Street to the Mission District.

"It's pretty hectic on Masonic," Blankenship said, noting that most cars are going far faster than the 25-mph limit. "I just stick to side streets."

For Blankenship, her neighbors, bikers, pedestrians and drivers, relief might be on the way for the nearly one-mile stretch of Masonic between Geary Boulevard and Fell Street. A lengthy campaign by neighborhood and transit-advocacy groups took a big step forward late last month when the Municipal Transportation Authority, which controls the city’s transit funds, allocated $120,000 to study potential improvements along Masonic.

Next month, the Masonic Avenue Traffic Calming Plan will begin counting bikes, pedestrians and ridership on the 43-Masonic bus line. The report will consider eliminating auto lanes to accommodate new bike lanes and building medians at certain intersections to improve pedestrian safety. The MTA hopes to finish the planning and approval process by summer 2010.

Forum: New models needed to save daily newspapers

Bethany Fleishman, The Public Press — Mar 18 2009 - 12:50pm

Journalists, publishers and media innovators who gathered Tuesday evening for a public forum were adamant about finding new journalism models in the wake of the San Francisco Chronicle’s cutbacks and possible closure.

“Journalism is no longer a passive activity,” said David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us, an open-source project that develops “community-funded reporting.” “Journalism is participatory. What we need are thousands of online startups. … One or two will survive.”

Public forum on Chronicle to focus on impact of possible closure

Bethany Fleishman, The Public Press — Mar 16 2009 - 11:22pm

The possible closure of the San Francisco Chronicle and the unavoidable cutbacks it is facing will be the topics of a free public forum Tuesday evening at the Public Library’s main branch.

"A Conversation About The Chronicle," sponsored by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, will give citizens the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a panel of civic leaders, business experts, journalists, publishers, non-profit foundations, media innovators and labor representatives. The forum will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium, on the lower level of the library, 100 Larkin St.

Reversal on stem cell research calls state funding into question

Ambika Kandasamy, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 16 2009 - 12:22pm
Arnold R. Kriegstein/ Christine Jegan

With President Obama’s executive order to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research earlier this week, some think Proposition 71 — California’s answer to funding the controversial issue — now lacks rationale.

Prop. 71, approved by 59 percent of voters in November 2004, was the state’s way of bypassing former President George W. Bush’s restriction on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It provided $3 billion in state bonds to fund research centers specializing in stem cell research.

But the federal reversal, combined with the economic climate that has forced the state to look for savings under every rock, has reignited a debate about whether such a huge investment by the state was a good idea.

Flash mobs get bad rap, organizers say

Audrey Wong, The Public Press — Mar 15 2009 - 3:36pm

When “Sister Sara Femme” and the other “brides” boarded a tourist bus in Union Square Saturday, the passengers broke out in smiles.

“We’re free entertainment,” Femme said, batting her eyes.

A member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – a gay activist organization – Femme and her cohorts were a handful of more than 200 people who dressed in wedding gowns, formal attire and more during the 11th annual Brides of March event in downtown San Francisco.

The women – and men – who take part in the festive celebration, don thrift store matrimonial wear and stroll through the city’s tourist areas drawing stares, grins and waves. This year, Femme sashayed in a pink silk gown altered to fit her broad shoulders.

Raucous, but peaceful, crowd rallies at Prop. 8 hearing

Mar 5 2009 - 7:31pm

By Audrey Wong
The Public Press

Associate Pastor Chauncey Killens argues with demonstrators / Michael Strickland

Opponents and proponents of Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban, gathered at Civic Center early Thursday as California Supreme Court Justices heard arguments about overturning the law.

Inside the courtroom, attorneys argued whether the proposition violates separation of church and state, and whether the law is a constitutional amendment or revision. Justices and counsel also talked about the validity of 18,000 marriages performed before voters approved Proposition 8 in November.

Those who couldn’t get a seat inside the courtroom watched the proceedings on a big screen in front of City Hall. Along McAllister Street, demonstrators congregated in front of the courthouse, trying to drown each other out with their pro and con arguments.

The crowd of about 2,000 people fell short of the 6,000 CHP officials expected.

“Everybody was very cooperative,” California Highway Patrol Lt. Jonathan Mobley said. “Both sides were heard.”

Rebecca Zauderer, 17, skipped classes at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo to attend with her friends. She said she wanted to stand up for her gay friends.

Door may soon close on local public-access television

Sam Chapman, The Public Press — Mar 5 2009 - 6:03pm

Supervisors urge Sacramento to reverse law that de-funds community stations this year

A state law passed two years ago that has already killed public-access television stations across California is slated to end funding this summer for San Francisco’s Access SF, which runs channels 27 and 29.

A franchise fee of about $600,000 that supports the station will be eliminated June 30, and is unlikely to be replaced by the city, which is facing its worst financial crisis in a generation. The fee, most of which comes from Comcast Corp., makes up most of the station’s annual $900,000 budget.

San Francisco’s supervisors, urged by vocal fans of public-access TV, are fighting the anticipated loss of funding. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi asking San Francisco’s congressional and state legislators to restore the funds under laws governing public, education and government cable access.

Stacey’s Bookstore writes final chapter

Sam Chapman, The Public Press — Mar 4 2009 - 7:57pm

After 85 years in business – selling millions of books during that time – a San Francisco landmark soon will close its doors to the public.

Stacey’s Bookstore, located at 581 Market St., held its final lunchtime author event Wednesday as hundreds of faithful supporters, former employees, local authors and more walked the aisles of the shop for what may be their last time. The bookstore will close for good the week of March 16.

“I can remember coming here 20 years ago and my book would always make the best-seller list because of what Stacey’s would do in business bestseller lists,” local author Susan RoAne said. “When I read the news, I gulped … this is just heartbreaking for all of us. Stacey’s has been wonderful to me.”

Shanty towns rise in the Central Valley as poverty levels climb

Thea Chroman, Mar 2 2009 - 11:51pm

Fresno, Calif. has the highest levels of concentrated poverty in the nation. In some neighborhoods, nearly half of all residents are living below the federal poverty line. Over the past year, many of those poor residents have slipped out of housing completely. Now shanty towns are springing up along the railroad tracks, an image that recalls shanty towns of a different era: the so-called Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. KALW's Thea Chroman reports.

Hearst Corp. threatens to close Chronicle

Bethany Fleishman, The Public Press — Feb 24 2009 - 7:56pm

The Hearst Corp. announced Tuesday that it would be forced to sell or close the San Francisco Chronicle if it could not make needed “critical” cost-cutting measures, including job cuts, in coming weeks.

The company said the paper lost $50 million in 2008. A memo to employees from the publisher, Frank Vega, said the paper could no longer bear the “staggering losses,” which he said were worsening in the current recession.

“Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve,” said a statement from Hearst quoting two top executives, Frank A. Bennack, Jr., vice chairman and chief executive officer, Hearst Corporation, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers.

The return of Hooverville: car and tent cities on the rise in San Francisco

Thea Chroman, The Public Press — Feb 10 2009 - 7:13pm

San Francisco’s per capita homeless rate has long been the highest in the country. But in the past year, it has shot up 40 percent, by some measures. The increase came as foreclosures put pressure on the rental market, the budget crisis slowed aid, and the job market tightened up.

When the Longevity Revolution Hits Your Town: A Gray Wave Hits Home

Cecily O'Connor, RedwoodAge — Jan 30 2009 - 2:21pm

Changes in cities over the next two decades will be driven by the "longevity revolution" as the ranks of US adults over 60 soar and many more lifespans stretch past the century mark. While these changes present challenges to cities that are ill-equipped or unprepared, they also serve as a wake-up call to tap into the skill and expertise of older adults. These elders represent a key to the solutions, whether it's through volunteer work, sharing professional experience or helping families with childcare.

When the longevity revolution hits your town: a three-part series

Jan 30 2009 - 11:49am

By Cecily O'Connor, RedwoodAge.com

Stella Gerson rides a Whistlestop shuttle to a senior center in San Rafael, Calif. (RedwoodAge.com)

It's no problem for Stella Gerson to walk down to the bus stop. Getting home is the hard part.

"I have to go up a hill to my house," said the 89-year-old San Anselmo, Calif., resident, who suffers from macular degeneration, a disease that blurs her vision.

In Northern California where Gerson lives, transportation is one of several pressing needs for a rapidly graying population. Age-friendly housing, affordable healthcare, walkable neighborhoods, crime-free streets and social activities are others. 

As they age, many residents think about these needs by asking themselves, "Is my community a great place to grow old?" 

Read the Entire Series