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San Francisco works to prevent ex-convicts from re-offending in city

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 28 2011 - 11:43am
San Francisco is preparing for the October release of state prisoners to the custody of local governments by forming a commission to prevent them from re-offending. Currently about three-quarters of ex-convicts in the city commit new crimes.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen Tuesday introduced an ordinance to establish a sentencing commission in hopes of reducing recidivism. The commission would be led by District Attorney George Gascón and would include representatives from the police and sheriff’s departments, public defender’s office, nonprofits serving victims and ex-prisoners, among others. 

Dissecting the news media's claim of anti-panhandling 'clamor'

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 23 2011 - 9:35am

“Aggressive panhandling” made Page One of the San Francisco Chronicle again recently. But the report, like so many others before it in newspapers, magazines, TV and websites, left readers with more questions than answers about whether the trend indicated by the paper really existed. The Chronicle reported an increase in complaints from tourists and the local hospitality industry at the presence of panhandlers who won’t take no for an answer. While it quoted hoteliers and travelers opining on the city’s homelessness problem, some vital information was missing from the story: When they say aggressive panhandlingwhat activities precisely are they complaining about? How do they know the panhandling problem is growing — are there any statistics? If there is more desperate poverty on the street, what are the causes?

"Visual Aid" offers outlet, insight into artists with AIDS

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Sep 22 2011 - 4:28pm

Group archives, displays works of hundreds from Bay Area

To help artists who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses, a collective of artists, art collectors and gallery owners began convening at local art spaces in the city in late 1980s. Their mission was to find a means to record the existing works of artists with AIDS and provide them with the materials they needed to create new ones. The group grew into a fullfledged nonprofit called Visual Aid in 1989, and the organization has been supporting hundreds of Bay Area artists since then.

Bay Area nonprofit helps develop affordable medicines for Third World patients

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Sep 22 2011 - 3:37pm

Q&A with OneWorld Health CEO Richard Chin

A South San Francisco nonprofit drug development organization, OneWorld Health, is shattering the conventional profit-generating model of pharmaceutical companies by using a social enterprise approach to global health problems. Richard Chin, an internist and CEO of OneWorld Health, said the organization develops new therapies for diseases where there is either no treatment or the cost of treatment is too high.

Black flight from Oakland to suburbs is reshaping makeup of the city

News Partner, KQED — Sep 21 2011 - 2:31pm

Oakland remains the largest African American city in California after Los Angeles. In the last decade, however, the city has had a net loss of 33,000, nearly a quarter of its African American residents. This decline is part of a larger trend seen across cities nationwide.

A 1950s-60s Golden Age for newspapers?

Jay Thorwaldson, SF Public Press — Sep 12 2011 - 4:11pm

MEMORIES: It was more like fool's gold, recalls a veteran Bay Area journalist and teacher

If there was ever a "Golden Age of Newspapers," it was long before my half century in journalism and  if there was, "golden" referred to advertising revenue when newspapers were the primary means of getting out a commercial or personal message. In terms of quality, I don't think there ever was  a "Golden Age," although from our tarnished times of confronting a digital tsunami, looking back may seem brighter than looking forward.

Legislature bans sale of shark fins

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Sep 7 2011 - 3:43pm

Shark fin soup soon will be off the menu in California. A law banning the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins passed in the state Senate on a 25-9 vote on Tuesday. A companion bill that makes exceptions for taxidermy and scientific research passed 28-8. The bill already passed the Assembly in May, and it is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. California follows Washington, Hawaii and Oregon in passing similar legislation.

Muni looking to quicker system for boarding buses

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Sep 7 2011 - 3:16pm

Since installing Clipper Card readers on the front and back doors of Muni buses, riders have wondered if Muni would ever go to an official all-door boarding system. At Tuesday's San Francisco Municipal Board of Transportation meeting, Muni chief Ed Reiskin said it could happen in 2012.

A systemwide all-door boarding would speed up boarding on Muni buses and reduce travel time for riders, according to Muni officials. 

Muni’s on-time performance still not meeting city goal

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Sep 2 2011 - 2:14pm

It’s that time of month again — when the city’s transit agency releases its quarterly performance report card. And it looks like not much has changed from previous reports, which is not good news for Muni officials. For the last three months of the 2010-2011 fiscal year (April through June 2011), on-time performance measured at 72.9 percent, far below the 1999 voter-mandated goal of 85 percent. During the previous quarter for the first three months of 2011, on-time performance was at 74.7 percent.

Fostering fatherhood, one step at a time

News Partner, Mission Local — Sep 1 2011 - 10:19am

Therapy is part of how the fathers become better at their roles

Some might say they aren’t fit to be fathers, with histories of substance abuse and broken homes. But still, the men, diverse in their ages and cultural backgrounds, are trying — trying for healthy relationships with their children. Every Friday afternoon, a group of up to seven such men gather for a class at the nonprofit Homeless Prenatal Program and discuss everything from child custody status to parenting styles and childcare. The fathers are doing all they can to avoid becoming part of a U.S. Census statistic that shows that 1 in 3 children comes from a home where the biological father is absent.

Pensions, infrastructure and public health trimmed in 3rd year of San Francisco deficits

Matthew Santolla, SF Public Press — Aug 31 2011 - 11:58am

City estimates that costs are rising three times faster than tax revenues

Police and firefighter unions will pay more out of pocket toward their pensions. Disease prevention programs and street beautification will be scaled back. At least $37 million in capital projects will be added to a growing deferred maintenance backlog. Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts approved in July forestalled a fiscal day of reckoning for San Francisco, a city that for three years has, like hundreds of local governments across the country, struggled to stay solvent in response to a fluctuating tax base and rising labor costs. City staff estimate that costs are rising three times faster than tax revenues.

Restoring Presidio’s native plants is painstaking process

Erica Gies, SF Public Press — Aug 29 2011 - 3:07pm

Extreme biodiversity, coupled with the surrounding extreme urbanism, makes the Presidio arguably the epicenter of native plant restoration in the West. The 2.3 square mile park, formerly an Army base, is home to 600 plants, more variety than in most states. It owes this biodiversity to its San Francisco location, a city at a biogeographic crossroads. At the Presidio, Betty Young leads a team of botanists that collect and grow native plants as part of a painstakingly precise attempt to restore the park’s native habitat.

An appreciation: Eric Quezada, 1965-2011, a champion for social and economic justice

Christopher D. Cook, SF Public Press — Aug 26 2011 - 8:59pm

When Eric Quezada — for decades a community organizer and widely respected leader on housing and economic justice and immigrants’ rights — died Wednesday after a seven-year struggle with cancer, there was an immediate outpouring of grief, love and appreciation from progressive friends and allies across San Francisco and the nation. The lonlongtime executive director of Dolores Street Community Services was a leading candidate for District 9 supervisor in 2008 and an accomplished grassroots community organizer.


Japan nuclear crisis calls future of atomic energy into question

News Partner, World Affairs Council — Aug 25 2011 - 6:17pm

World Affairs Council panelists say U.S. facing big demand for clean source of power

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, caused by the magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami, has opened a dialogue about nuclear energy policy and safety of reactors in the U.S. 

Safe Harbor

News Partner, Bay Nature — Aug 23 2011 - 2:46pm

Welcoming porpoises back to San Francisco Bay

Cavallo Point at Fort Baker is not just a place to watch sailboats go by as the morning sun illuminates the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also a great place to watch the water surge in and out with the tides. And with a little patience, you might see a black dorsal fin cut the swirling water, followed by another, smaller fin. 

San Francisco abounds in digital open-government tools, though many appeal only to hackers

Matthew Santolla, SF Public Press — Aug 22 2011 - 3:03pm

Digital tools aim at increasing access to government information

This story appeared in the fall print edition and was part of the Building a Better Budget package of stories.

Squeezed to the point of cutting vital social services and deferring maintenance, local governments and nonprofit groups are turning to the Internet and other digital tools to increase transparency. Perched on the edge of Silicon Valley, San Francisco can’t help but be a hotbed of this good-government “hactivism.”

Facing cuts, nonprofits forced to lobby City Hall to save immigration program

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Aug 17 2011 - 4:33pm

Year after year, private organizations strategize and line up clients to push for last-minute ‘add-backs’

For clients at Self-Help for the Elderly, the citizenship classes taught by volunteer instructor Joanne Lee are a perfect fit: Classes are held at a convenient Chinatown location, senior clientele are easily accommodated and the material is taught in both English and Chinese. It has worked out well for students Sammie Xu, 69, and Nancy Zhang, 64, Chinese immigrants who are studying for their naturalization exam. Before enrolling in classes at the social services agency, the married couple tried others in which teachers only provided instruction books without guidance or taught classes only in English.

Millions in savings unclaimed; after audits, Muni revealed $20 million excess overtime

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Aug 15 2011 - 4:25pm

UPDATE 8/19/11: Hear reporter Angela Hart discuss her story with KQED News, a Public Press reporting partner (fast-forward to second item)

San Francisco could have saved at least $33.5 million over the last two years’ budgets if departments, commissions and contractors had acted on advice from regular audits pointing out government waste and inefficiencies. The savings, much of it coming out of transit and police employee overtime, could have reduced the need to cut some vital services this summer as local government agencies faced $380 million in projected deficits over the next year.

Some of the audits produced by a unit of the controller’s office have been implemented swiftly. Yet as many as 40 audit reports out of 70 performed since 2009 linger officially unresolved. The problem is, there’s no recourse if departments choose to ignore auditors. And after two years, the office is not required to follow up on the reports, which could explain why 14 additional audits highlighting potential savings of $700,000 were not indicated on a list produced by the controller’s office.

Game Designers Become Activists in San Francisco’s Battle Over Taxes

Katie Lewin, SF Public Press — Aug 12 2011 - 9:04pm

‘Yay Taxes’ shows where the money goes, but some conservatives call it propaganda

In San Francisco, which closed a $380 million budget deficit in July, the question of whether the city can get any more money to fund essential services in the long term is at the top of everyone’s mind. Even game developers are getting into the act — with a particular agenda.

S.F. Was Key Juncture for Chinese Immigrants

Justin Allen, The Creosote Journal — Aug 11 2011 - 4:32pm

Conversation with the author of ‘American Chinatown’

In her new book “American Chinatown,” Bonnie Tsui charts the changing landscapes of five American neighborhoods. They are ethnically Chinese, hosting other Asian communities, and often share a tough history of exclusion and poverty, tempered from the beginning with resilience and savvy self-presentation. The five Chinatowns Tsui describes — San Francisco (the oldest), New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Las Vegas (the newest) — have been places of constant reinvention: immigrants coming to build new lives and identities, urban neighborhoods in economic and cultural flux. Today more than ever, they’re a portrait of changing urban dynamics and intergenerational complexity.