Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Updates and Disembodied Heads

On October 5th, a day after we'd had over 150 people out walking precincts and ID'ing voters, was the 6th annual Excelsior Festival. The year before, the nascent Avalos for Supervisor campaign organized close to 80 of John's supporters in the neighborhood to turn up, put on a now-classic Avalos 08 t-shirt and spread some D11 love.

This year, we decided to do something a little different. Not only did over 200 people show up to support John's campaign, we gave each of them a hand-made Dia de Los Muertos-themed shirt, our field organizer, Nate Miller who doubles as a youth science educator, brought a mini-petting zoo with snakes, geckos and turtles. There was also a sea of Avalos masks, signs, and balloons.

The Excelsior Festival is a relatively new event, spearheaded by the Excelsior Action Group and various hard-working and dedicated neighborhood leaders. This year there were loads of fun activities for the whole family, music, food, arts and crafts, informational booths from all sorts of neighborhood groups and service providers, a children's play area and even Sumo wrestling! Its a source of pride for our community and every year it gets bigger and better. In my opinion, this was the best yet!

I'll let these amazing photos, courtesy of the brilliant Luke Thomas, speak for themselves. Thanks to everyone who came out.
By the way, even though John didn't fare so well in the Sumo ring, that's not at all an indication of how hard he will fight for us at City Hall!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just a Kiss Away

In the absence of clear leadership from the City, Excelsior District residents and students are taking to the streets to demand peace and justice for our youth and families.

Three years ago, the Marquez family lost their son and brother, Brian Marquez, murdered at 24th and Alabama in the Mission. Since that time they have been struggling day in and day out an uphill battle to bring the murderer to justice. Last week, the Marquez family unveiled billboard announcing the witness reward of $250,000 for evidence that could lead to the capture of the murderer. While the he is still at large, the billboard represents a triumph and a milestone in their painful journey for peace.

Similarly, June Jordan School for Equity students and their many allies across the city marched on City Hall to demand leadership to end the senseless violence that is plaguing our streets of the Excelsior, Lakeview, Bayview and Mission neighborhoods. Their stand on City Hall was one of the most positive releases of outrage that I have ever witnessed. They sang, drummed and honored the life of a remarkable youth named Joshua Cameron who was senselessly gunned down last week.

On the steps, Joshua's mother and sister called for a revolution in our hearts and unity in our communities. Student leaders demanded accountability and action from City Hall. One by one, they called elected officials to come before the podium to answer the simple question: "What will you do in the next three months to end the violence?"

Rather than pay lip service to the problem or take the SF Chronicle path of scapegoating our immigrant families and youth, the City needs to work hand in hand with our communities' family and youth leaders to create the peace we all yearn for.

Next Saturday, September 20th at 10am at Monroe Elementary School (corner of Excelsior and Madrid, entrance on Madrid), Excelsior District residents will be hosting a community forum to call for solutions to the violence . I'm hoping the forum will lead to more gathering and planning across our community and will foster the kind of leadership that will bring the change we need.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Speaking of great local businesses...

For weeks since we've opened our new office, I've been riding my bike up and down Mission Street, running errands and meeting new people. One of the many things I enjoy about the Excelsior is the myriad of locally-owned businesses that provide invaluable every-day services to the neighborhood.

I love getting the best sandwiches in the City from Sorrento Deli (this is just my opinion, not trying to detract from Roxie or Chick n Coop), fresh bread from Royal, the coffee at both Martha's and Mama Art Cafe and slices of pizza from Joe's. How many neighborhoods can boast having such an abundance of fruit-sellers, offering fresher and less-expensive fruits and vegetables than you'll find at any grocery store in the City? All these establishments are treasures and add to our quality of life. They're also signs of a healthy community. They attract new residents and entice current residents to stay. Its a simple thing that is so easy to forget but we should all take the time to patronize and promote our local shopkeepers. Like John's earlier post about Cornelius Thorne, I'd like to profile another local business owner who makes his living by making us look good.

I've been needing a haircut for some time. Every day I ride past Executive Barber Shop on the corner of Mission and Leo. There's an old-school barber pole out front and always a crew of guys from the area inside getting their hairs snipped by Daniel, the owner since 1987. I figured I had nothing to lose and the steady stream of business was a good enough endorsement for me.

Daniel was kind enough to fit me in without an appointment. He knew exactly how I like my head shaved and trimmed, with very little inquiry. And he is a master with the straight razor, a first for me!

This isn't a review of the man's barbering skills, which are extensive, or the low cost of such a fine service. What struck me most was Daniel's encyclopedic knowledge of the community, his attachment to his home and the pride he takes in his craft. His shop has windows that give a sweeping view of the district and he truly sees it all. There are few places in today's society where a man like Daniel can have a business such as his, that hearkens to a bye-gone era, and still be successful. In modern San Francisco, only in the Excelsior.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hats and History

Want to buy a hat and learn about Black History? Visit Cornelius Thorne, owner of Thorne Hats at 1552 Ocean Ave. Mr. Thorne moved to San Francisco from Texas in 1963. He didn't just learn about Black History, he lived it, having served in the military during integration and taken part in the Civil Rights struggle in San Francisco. Don't let me tell you, though. Pay him a visit and don't forget to check out the great hats that he custom designs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We've been so busy gathering signatures, I forgot to mention...

that last Saturday, July 19th, we proudly opened the Avalos '08 headquarters to the public!
We had well over 100 District 11 residents from the Ocean View to the Outer Mission join us for coffee, pastries and a chance to meet John and talk to their neighbors. We had activities for the young ones and, this being a grassroots campaign totally dependent upon volunteer labor, put the rest of our guests to work walking precincts to collect the additional signatures we needed to get John on the November ballot without paying a filing fee. Did you hear? We submitted our petitions today with over 1200 valid signatures!

I can't fully express how honored I felt that day, to see so many people representative of the wonderful, diverse communities that make District 11 such a great place to live and raise a family, willing to give up most of their Saturday to come help spread the word about the difference John can make in District 11 and the entire City once we get him elected in November.

We are so lucky to have this space. Its huge (1400 square feet - almost twice as big as John and Karen's house!), is located in the middle of the commercial corridor, and has big inviting windows so passers-by always want to look inside. We are blessed to have a landlord who cares about this district and agrees that John is the best choice in November. A talented local artist, Chris Lux, blessed us with painting two murals depicting his love for District 11, John's message and a belief in the power of "many voices, one community."

We're making the place more inviting everyday. People are bringing us furniture and supplies, we have some comfy couches to rest our weary bones after long days of campaigning, snacks, and a box full of toys for all the children who frequent the office. But don't just take my word for it. Please, stop by anytime! We're at 4802 Mission at Onondaga. You can get here easily on the 14, 14x or 49. Its also close to Balboa Bart. Stop by, we'd love to talk to you.

Over 1000!

I just got a call from the Department of Elections, we went over the 1000 signature threshold to offset the $500 filing fee. Congratulations to us all and thank you to everyone in the community who supported us by knocking on doors and working it for every signature! Onward toward November!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Proper Use for Park Land?

Here's a photo of the a little corner of John McLaren Park that is the site of a proposed trash and recycling center. The yellow building adjacent to the site belongs to the Girls After School Academy, an after school program for Sunnydale girls ages 8 to 18. Just down the hill and next to the academy starts the Sunnydale public housing projects. In the background of the photo are the magnificent trees, trails of the park as well as the Gleneagles International Golf Course. Across the street from the proposed site is the John McLaren Child Development Center, a school my wife and I visited for my daughter who has been struggling with developmental delays. Also across the street is one the most beautiful natural areas of John McLaren Park.

After Golden Gate Park, John McLaren Park is next largest park of the city. It has the most natural areas, trees, trails and scenery of any other park in the city. Scattered throughout are many other recreational uses including playgrounds, tennis courts, amphitheaters and golf courses. We need to be encouraging use of this fine park not making it a site for waste and recycling, uses which may very well dampen the park's appeal to people from the Visitacion Valley and Sunnydale community.

The trash and recycling center is being proposed by the Newsom administration and Norcal waste as a solution to the SF Housing Authority's utter failure to provide dignified and clean housing for Sunnydale residents, many of whom have not been properly separating their recycling and putting out and retrieving their garbage and recycling bins.

The administration's proposal will offer recycling jobs for Sunnydale residents who will be able to use the jobs as a pathway into the waste management industry. The workers will help other residents sort their garbage and properly use their bins. They will also transport the bins to the trash and recycling compactors at the center next to the Girls After School Academy.

At Monday night's joint Rec and Park and SFHA committee meeting, I spoke in favor of the jobs and against the proposal to site the recycling center within the park. I spoke of a win-win solution that would use the City and Norcal's recycling facility on Tunnel Ave which is only 1.3 miles away from Sunnydale instead of the John McLaren Park site. In this way, the Norcal and the SFHA could still create the jobs for the Sunnydale residents who can work their neighbors to create better handling of trash and recycling .

The solution seems simple enough, but the Rec and Park and SFHA commissioners who were present at the meeting made no indication of what was to happen next. They need to hear from us. Follow this link to contact the SFHA commission and next one for the Rec and Park Commission.

Scores of residents and park advocates spoke against the proposal and offered many alternatives for the site including a garden and nursery for small plants. Many other people, including Newsom Administration insiders and the President of the Sunnydale Tenants Association, spoke in favor of the proposal.

All of our communities should have access to jobs and good park land.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On the Picket Line with Striking UC Workers

(July 18, 2008) In the early mornings of Monday and Friday of this week, I joined striking University of California service workers and members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union Local 3299 at UC Hospital on Parnassus. The strike is statewide and involves tens of thosuands of workers from across California. After a week of the strike Friday's picketers were still lively and spirited.

UC service workers do everything from transportation services and staffing the cafeterias to cleaning operating rooms and campus dorms. Many of them make poverty wages as low as $10 an hour that still qualify them for food stamps and other benefits for very low income people. Other hospitals and California's community colleges pay an average of 25% higher for the same work.

AFSCME had been negotiating a contract for over a year and has repeatedly reached impasse with UC who has refused to significantly increase wages nor allow for steps in pay for length of time working. For the past few years, turnover and recruitment difficulties have been common at UC campuses and hospitals. Meanwhile the UC Executives earn huge salaries with outrageous perks and bonuses.

The cost of running UC's hospitals and schools includes a living wage, health care, step increases and pensions for workers. Shame on UC for skimping on the workers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Tragedy That Must Never Be Repeated

My heart and prayers goes out to the Bologna family. As a parent, I shudder to even think of losing my son or daughter but to lose three members of one’s family is pain and mourning beyond imagination.

The murders of the Anthony, Michael and Matthew Bologna have shaken San Francisco and especially Excelsior District to its core. The Bologna family is known and loved by many in the community. This working class family has given so much to the neighborhood to its youth and schools. Anthony Bologna grew up in this neighborhood and many long term Excelsior residents went to school, coached and played ball with him. He and his sons, Michael and Matthew were truly respected and loved by peers and adults alike. How can such horrible things happen to such good people?

This terrible tragedy has left the neighborhood with a palpable sense of outrage, hurt, fear and disbelief. Many of us feel helpless at the senselessness of these killings. However, there is much that we can do.

The best thing we can do at this moment is happening. People are talking to one another in affirming ways. Folks across the Excelsior are expressing compassion and sympathy for the Bologna family and acknowledging our common fears for our own loved ones. This communication is a great step towards making lasting change. People are generally asking the following questions: How do we best support the Bologna family in their suffering? How do we protect our family members against such senseless violence? How do we talk to our kids about it and when is it appropriate to discuss it with young children? What should the city’s do and who is responsible? How will the city ensure that this never happens again?

The city has been grappling with such terrible violence for at least four years now. It’s high time to come up with a plan to deal with it.

First off, it’s important to know that policing is only one part of the solution to public safety and violence prevention, a major part but not the only part. There is a great need for police suppression efforts and investigations to clear cases for prosecution. Police and community working better together in a closer more trusting relationship is a vital ingredient to overall public safety.

We also need to ensure there are opportunities for people to have better choices away from criminal activity, for community serving organizations to support people with greater access to education and employment -- two major pathways out of these mean streets. District 11 lacks these services and many others.

What we do not lack are neighborhood organizations like Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, the San Francisco Organizing Project and ACORN as well as institutions like our schools and churches that can play a vital role in bringing about change. We have many kinds of artists from painters, writers and hip hop musicians and dancers. We have people who volunteer like crazy in our schools and community based organizations, but we have not always come together to ask the big questions about how we can improve our communities and neighborhoods. Such comprehensive discussions are important first steps for developing long-term plans for community building and overall public safety.

Here are is my vision for increased public safety for all of District 11:

Strengthen Community Policing and Community Police Relations
  • Strengthen community policing efforts by fostering more trustful relations between the community and police.
  • Set high standards for interaction between foot beat officers and neighborhood organizations, merchants and residents.
  • Create a neighborhood community police relations plan with a public/police committee oversight on staffing levels and deployment.

Increase Neighborhood Participation
  • Hold annual neighborhood violence prevention summits to craft and update an overall violence prevention plan.
  • Involve organizations and institutions from across the district in the summit and the formation of the plan.
  • Share ways neighborhood residents can increase communication and neighborhood watch programs. The city must ensure support across ethnic divisions which all too often exist and may impede such efforts.
  • Share techniques and skills for residents to recognize the signs of activities that may lead to violence.
  • Provide schools with information regarding violence prevention strategies; involve school site councils in planning efforts.
  • Increase greater coordination among community groups and community based organizations.

Provide Reentry and Criminal Justice Services and Reduce Recidivism
  • Provide adequate levels of supervision and case management for people on probation or at risk of involvement in the justice system.
  • Provide greater access to jobs and vocational training for people on probation and at risk of involvement in the justice system.
  • Provide adequate resources for probation officers and set high standards for outcomes and accountability for juvenile and adult probation officers working with people on probation.
  • Increase supports for people on probation to finish education such as high school equivalency or to seek higher education.
  • Strengthen restorative justice responses to graffiti and petty criminal activity that can lead to greater criminal activity including violent crime.

Increase Street Outreach Efforts
  • Intensify street outreach effort for youth at risk of involvement in criminal and violent activity.

Provide Greater Opportunities for Youth and Young Adults in District 11
  • Provide more recreational and educational opportunities for District 11 youth such as sports, after school programs and college prep programs. Ensure that girls are served as much as boys.
  • Provide greater arts and musical outlets for District 11 youth. Such outlets must be known and accessed by youth across the district.
  • Provide greater connection to jobs and job training for District 11 youth. Create a one stop to serve youth in the Ingleside and Excelsior neighborhoods.
Strengthen Educational Facilities and Involve the School District
  • Provide early childhood education that can have lasting impact on academic performance. Invest in childcare facilities and center-based childcare.
  • Provide conflict mediation classes in all public schools K-12.
  • Involve students in neighborhood services programs from clean and beautification efforts to neighborhood outreach and tutoring younger students.
  • Welcome faculty and administrators' involvement in community events and services.
  • Convene neighborhood school administrators in violence prevention planning efforts.

Provide Greater Family Support
  • Acknowledge that many families are struggling with parenting, many for lack of time, and provide greater access to parenting classes and family support services.

Involve More Children and Youth in Solutions
  • Children and youth have great ideas for solutions to violence, involve their energy and talent in neighborhood planning and advocacy efforts.
  • Support greater classroom involvement in community projects that can lead to neighborhood revitalization, safety and cleanliness.

Ensure Greater Accountability
  • Set high levels of accountability for police department and community based organizations to show evidence of change in tactics and behaviors to uproot violence.

If District 11 were to do these things in a coordinated way, we could do much to enhance our safety. We could also provide a national model for how neighborhoods can respond to a tragedy and violence in general. We owe it to all the residents of our district but especially to the Bologna family that tragedies like this never happen again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Accomplished Excelsior Community Member Launches Campaign for San Francisco District 11 Supervisor Seat

Okay I realize this is a little late, but the press release did go out well before the event which was high on neighbors from the District 11 community. Check out Luke Thomas photos. Other photos to follow.


For Immediate Release Contact: John Avalos
June 20, 2008

Accomplished Excelsior Community Member Launches Campaign for San Francisco District 11 Supervisor Seat

At 11am on Saturday, June 21, 2008 at the Excelsior Playground (corner of Russia and Madrid), John Avalos will be kicking off his grassroots campaign for the open District 11 Supervisor seat to be vacated by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval.

As a ten year District 11 resident, Avalos has worked for and collaborated with numerous community organizations on civil rights issues and to improve San Francisco and District 11 for working families. Between 1996 and 2002, while earning his Masters in Social Work at San Francisco State, he worked for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth where he focused on neighborhood parks, environmental justice, child care services, youth employment, neighborhood beautification projects, government accountability and school reform.

Mr. Avalos has also been an organizer with SEIU Justice for Janitors Campaign where he served in San Jose and San Francisco and lead efforts to ensure workers contracts with better salaries and affordable health care.

As a legislative aide in City Hall, John Avalos has demonstrated a great understanding of the city budget and how the budget can be an instrumental tool to promote sound public policy. Through his work collaborating with City Hall insiders and labor and community groups alike, he has been able to expand funds for senior citizens, youth, affordable housing, homeless people, immigrants, mental health and substance abuse clients. He has worked on capital improvements to parks, health care centers and city streets.

Mr. Avalos has also drafted legislation ranging from tenant protections and minimum wage policies to setting ethical standards for local campaign law.

Heretofore, John Avalos is endorsed by the San Francisco Labor Council; UNITE HERE Local 2; SEIU Locals 1021, UHW, 1877 and 24/7; the California Nurses Association; the United Educators of San Francisco; AFSCME 3299; the TWU as well as Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, President of the Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Supervisor Chris Daly, Supervisor and soon to be Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, School Board Commissioners Eric Mar, Kim-Shree Maufus, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee.

John Avalos has qualified to receive financial support from San Francisco's public financing program. He has also vowed not to take money from corporate interests, real estate developers and registered lobbyists. "Public financing makes it possible for me to run for office and not have to kowtow to the big downtown political players," said John Avalos. "I'm running as a community member. My wife Karen Zapata is a teacher and my kids are students in the San Francisco Unified School District. I'm running to strengthen the voices of District 11's vibrant communities so that District 11 can get the attention from City Hall that it deserves."

Working it

Here are some images from last week's Community Clean Team event. After tanking up on Mama Art Cafe a la Cruzita, I got to work with other Excelsior residents, dpw workers and Project 20 volunteers on weeding and spreading out soil in the planter boxes next to the Excelsior Boys and Girls Club.

I ran into an old friend, Nino Parker, and made a few new ones before running off to the Civic Center Plaza for an SEIU UHW event. Much thanks to the DPW workers and community volunteers who pitched in at the event.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coming Up

Last Saturday dawned gloriously for the opening of the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center.

Congratulations to the Ward family for their hard work and dreams and to the many OMI residents who struggled against extra long delays and incompetent oversight.

The center is a symbol of a community coming up. It has a great child care room, kitchen, community space bedecked with the names of community leaders, and a brand new gym. The center will certainly make the summer safer for OMI youth and provide ample space that the community has sorely lacked.

It was a great honor to witness the many happy and proud faces at the opening.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Why I'm Taking Public Financing

Joshua Sabatini of the SF Examiner reported the other day in his article, "Potential Supes Tap Public Funds," how 8 supervisors are taking public funds. I agree with the premise that public financing helps level the playing field, helps grassroots candidates compete with candidates with access to deep-pocketed donors and can eliminate the appearance of money having a corrupting influence on our elections. I have chosen to take public financing for all of these reasons.

Moreover, I will not be taking campaign contributions from registered lobbyists, corporate interests and real estate developers. I will meet with them when elected, but do not want any appearance of having to owe them anything after I am elected. Public financing makes it possible to run without going after the big money.

Of course, I realize that I have to work extra hard to raise campaign funds, but fundraising is all part of what I have set out to do on my campaign. So far I've been supported by social workers, lawyers, teachers, community leaders, labor activists, small businesses owners, a few government workers and six politicians, including two supervisors Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly and four school board commissioners, Eric Mar, Mark Sanchez, Jane Kim and Kim-Shree Maufus. By the end of the summer I will achieve my fundraising goals in relationship to the public financing program and the spending cap of $140,000.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

John Avalos for Supervisor

I have been attending different area of District 11 to check out the candidates and John Avalos in particular. This is to see how he presents himself and how he plan to represent District 11. One thing I did find out and I am approving is that he would like to mobilize the entire District 11 and make us ONE. It does not matter which neighborhood we come from if we are District 11 we are one.
I am glad I made the decision to support John Avalos because he is humble, has a heart for the job, and he is professional and has a passion for what he is doing. He has the interest of the community in his hand and he plan to assist us any way that he can. I have also noticed that he is out and about meeting with people getting to know more of the 70,000 people he plan to serve. I am working along side of him because I believe in what he is doing.

Deloris McGee

Friday, May 30, 2008

Downtown's Polling in District 11

It looks like the downtown interests can’t wait any longer and have initiated their campaigning in District 11. I've heard from two unrelated sources, a neighbor and the wife of another D11 candidate who have been polled about the District 11 race.

While many people have asked me whether I will do or have done a poll, polling is simply way out of the price range of a grassroots campaign for it even to be considered, even with the public financing. Why should I bother when when my campaign is really going to be won on people power, neighbors talking to neighbors and people getting involved in their communities, not by the meddling of big businesses who want to shape public opinion to back a candidate who will work for them.

In a text message, my neighbor Emiliano wrote he was asked about three of the leading candidates, what he thought about Newsom, Daly and Peskin, potholes, parks, graffiti, clean streets, parking, and chain stores. He was then asked about whether he would support the creation of a code of conduct for the Board of Supervisors. A similar code of conduct had been proposed by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and other Newsom allies on the Board of Supervisors.

The type of downtown interests who typically employ polling to help them shape public opinion include the Chamber of Commerce, the California Urban Issues Project which represents some small and but mostly big businesses, the Committee on Jobs, the lobbying and political firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners whose clients include some of the Bay Area’s wealthiest businesses, the Building Owners and Managers Association who represent the high rise office commercial office buildings and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association who represents many of San Francisco’s big name restaurants.

All of these entities and their allies would like City Hall to represent their interests and the interests of their big paying partners. One of their methods is to narrow down the political discussion in the City to address “quality of life issues,” getting people to focus more on the annoyances of garbage and graffiti and potholes. They want to us to back candidates who will talk their talk. They want us to be angrier about garbage rather than the fact that the San Francisco developers are building thousands of luxury condos instead of the kind of housing that working people can afford. That’s because the big business political firms are aligned with and bought and paid for by interests who are making a killing on the luxury real estate market.

And while I do believe litter, graffiti and potholes are problems that a Supervisor should be concerned about and work on, they are only a symptom of more pressing needs in the city and District 11. Our main issues are economic ones. Many residents lack access to better paying jobs and affordable housing. For instance, lack of street parking is only a symptom of the high cost of living and the unavailability of local jobs, not to mention the lack of efficient and comprehensive public transit. As housing gets more unaffordable people have little choice but to double up with other folks to cover the rent or the mortgage. As jobs are found more regionally and regional transportation remains mired in the 1940s freeway mentality, households need more than one car to get around to their various places of work. I’ve lived in District 11 since 1999. Even after the dot com boom and bust housing costs have continued to soar and street parking has gotten more scarce and harder to find.

All the District 11 candidates will talk about District 11 not getting its fair share, but as long as we’re focused on the little things, we’re never going to get it. If we don’t think big we’re never going to get the kind of change that’s going to make our communities safer, cleaner and more affordable to working families. My vision for change is based on people getting involved in the democratic process. If everyday people participate in the political process then downtown would have less of an ability to influence our elections. We'd be more able to care for neighborhoods, shape public policy and hold city hall accountable to our needs. Only through neighbors reaching out to neighbors, through communities planning together are we’re going to be able to create the kind of change that District 11 residents are really yearning for.

Let's not let downtown nickel and dime us on the issues in our district!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Under I.C.E.?

The May 1 march and rally was another triumph of one of the most important civil rights movements in the country. Along with the anti-war movement, the same sex marriage movement, the movements for universal health care, environmental justice and women's rights I count the movement for immigrant rights as vitally important.

Last week, my family, children and I marched with thousands of immigrants, both documented and undocumented and their allies in the faith and labor communities. It was one of the more exuberant marches that I have ever participated in.

The next day, President Bush's Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the taquerias of multiple communities across the Bay Area. I.C.E. locked up and detained 73 people, including children andpregnant and lactating women, and has initiated deportation proceedings on many of them, dividing family members and breaking up homes. These well coordinated retaliatory actions have instilled great fear among the immigrant community whose main aspiration is to live a life of dignity and independence, free from political intimidation, military rule, economic and environmental deprivation. Compared to other countries, the United States offers some hope for these aspirations.

Think about it: our nation's armies are able to move freely across the globe. The Bush Administration has sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Iraq in particular, the military has created hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees. Similar estimates count numbers of deaths. Global economic policies allow multi-national corporations and manufacturers to move freely across the globe to find cheaper labor and less stringent worker and environmental standards. This race to the bottom destabilizes communities, forcing workers to compete for insufficient numbers of low wage jobs and concentrate into ghettos that all too often lack basic infrastructure such as safe housing, sanitation, schools, access to clean water and transportation. Many immigrants come from such communities.

Despite not benefiting from the same global economic policies, workers are on the move. Deprived of mobility under the law, immigrants are members of a de facto borderless planet. Despite the daily struggle for dignity in the work place, for safer communities and better housing immigrants are in our midst. Throughout U.S. history immigrant workers have made great contributions to our economy. Immigrants are such an integral part of our everyday existence, that anti-immigrant enforcers have as much ability to stop immigration as they have the ability to live without the roofs over their heads that immigrants install, without the food or clothes that immigrants grow and manufacture, the offices that immigrants clean, the restaurants that immigrants run and child care that immigrants provide.

Clearly we need immigration policies that account for the reality of immigrant labor and the immigrant community. We need new policies that provide respite from intimidation and amnesty for the mix of documented and undocumented people who live here. Perhaps with a new administration in Washington we can have these types of policies.

On Monday, I joined again with the labor, faith and immigrant community to denounce these raids and pray for this better day. As a candidate I not only stand behind San Francisco's sanctuary city ordinance, I seek to strengthen it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Homeowners for Rent Control

I wouldn't be living in San Francisco anymore it weren't for rent control. As it is, I've seen apartments like my first apartment, a one bedroom, mouse infested unit on Haight and Webster Street go from $625 a month to $1800 and even $2200 a month.

Thanks to my last landlord who, in the middle of the dot com boom, rented an entire three bedroom Excelsior District house to my wife and me for only $1250 a month, we were able to save enough money to put a down payment on a fixer upper house a few blocks away. We couldn't have done it without our landlord's generosity and understanding.

I'd like to think that our landlord's sense of responsibility is the norm. Unfortunately, many tenants have a completely different experience. For them, rent control is a necessary tool to ward off unfair rent increases, unfair evictions and building code violations that all too often make their units unsafe, unhealthy and uninhabitable.

Enter Prop 98, a doomsday ballot measure to end rent control and environmental regulations in California --all under the guise of eminent domain reform. We've seen such trojan horse deceptions on the California ballot but few propositions compare with how this measure would devastate communities throughout the state. Overnight unscrupulous landlords would be able to raise the rent to any level they see fit. In San Francisco, long-term tenants who have enjoyed the protections that rent control has provided would suddenly find themselves on the street.

Prop 98 could very well be California's Katrina.

I stopped by the Tenants' Convention on Saturday to offer my support against Prop 98. In the coming weeks I will be campaigning hard to turn out the vote against this measure. It's quite clear San Francisco will be on the right side of this one, but we're going to need every vote we can get to neutralize the votes in other parts of the state. San Francisco and other big city homeowners can play a critical role in this effort. We must consider how Prop 98 would hurt us all, tenant and homeowner alike.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

San Francisco Labor Council Endorsement

I am honored and grateful for the early endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council. Last night's vote culminates two weeks of intense campaigning. In this effort, I introduced myself to hundreds of union representatives, made countless calls and appeared alongside the other District 11 candidates before the Labor Council's executive committee and the combined membership SEIU Locals 1000, 1021, 1877 and United Healthcare Workers West.

In a part of the city where every fourth voter is a union member, the Labor Council endorsement will make an enormous difference in District 11.

I want to thank all the members who kept an open mind and recognized my work as an organizer and a great supporter of the labor movement from inside City Hall. Special thanks goes to Conny Ford of Office & Proffessional Employees Union Local 3, Robert Haaland of SEIU Local 1021, Mike Theriault of the Building and Construction Trades, Mike Casey President of UNITE HERE! Local 2 -- the needle trades and hotel workers union, Tim Paulsen President of the San Francisco Labor Council and Giuliana Milanese retired organizer with the California Nurses Association.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Reports of My Running for the Democratic County Central Committee Are Greatly Exaggerated

Contrary to what the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Saturday, I am not running for the Democratic County Central Committee. I did pull papers and I did get over the required 20 signatures to run for a seat representing the 12th Assembly District on the DCCC. In the end, I felt that the the DCCC wasn't the right fit for me and I never turned in the signatures.

I want to focus my energy on my campaign for Supervisor and the needs of District 11.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center Outrage

There are many examples of District 11 residents not getting their fair share of city services and it's safe to say that of all the parts of the D11, the Ocean View, Merced Heights and Ingleside (OMI) neighborhoods get the short end of a very small stick. A case in point: "the Minnie and Lovie Ward Ocean View Recreation Center.

The rec center is a brand new replacement facility for an old and dilapidated center that sat on the site at Ocean View Park. If you happen to drive by the park, your first glance will draw you into an inviting scene, a beautiful public building, a brand new children's playground and a playfield in fairly decent shape. Take a closer look and ask a few questions and things don't look so good: the playground, though fully built is surrounded by yellow tape making it off limits to the many neighborhood kids who are just dying to play on it and the rec center has undergone a series of delays that have lasted over a year and are expected to continue through September.

It's readily apparent that the Rec and Park Department has utterly failed its responsibility to provide effective oversight. Dan Weaver, the treasurer of the OMI Neighbors in Action community groups reported to me that Rec and Park only received one bid from a contractor with an apparent checkered past and that this project was the first time that the department had ever taken on a project of this magnitude. Usually such projects are overseen by the Department of Public Works.

The latest delay stems from the shoddy installation of the new center's roof which cannot be guaranteed to be safe and leak-proof by the manufacturer. A new roof will have to be installed and the Rec and Park Dept and contractor are mired in negotiations and possible litigation to get the project finished. According to Rec and Park officials as reported by Library Commissioner and OMI activist Al Harris, new parts have to be ordered from the East Coast, a process that will take 11 weeks. Add this to the time it will take to remove the current roof and install the new one and we get an opening date of September, 2008. With all the delays that have already occurred many of us even wonder if this is possible.

Violence Prevention Services Lost

The OMI Safe Haven is a neighborhood program to provide support services and enrichment programs to youth in the neighborhood. It's one of the few programs in the OMI serving local youth and is supposed to be housed in the rec center. Combined with Inner City Youth, it's the linchpin to the city's violence prevention and youth development services in the neighborhood. The City's original plans were to have the Safe Haven programs running in the summer of 2007. But with the delay of the Rec Center, the Safe Haven is being housed off site. The program would not exist any more without the generosity of the Temple United Methodist Church which has offered its halls as a site. Still the Safe Haven lacks the gymnasium and overall space that the Ocean View Rec Center would provide to allow it to run at full capacity. Last summer was a violent one in the blocks surrounding the park. Residents fear that if the park stays closed through September of 2008, the summer will find many youth getting into the wrong kinds of activities that can hurt themselves and those around them. In the words of Terrell Henderson Safe Haven Director the kids will be left "with nothing to do and no where to go".

Rec and Park needs to take immediate responsibility to get this facility open by the summer. Anything less is unacceptable and a shame upon this city. In the next few weeks, neighborhood residents should be stepping up their efforts to have this site operational by the end of the school year.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On New Revenue

While the Mayor's appropriating funds from cash strapped City Departments to pay increases to some of his top aides highlights a double standard within his administration, the bigger problem is the overall budget deficit of $233,000,000. That's a big number and many of us across San Francisco's body politic fear impending cuts. In the past couple of years of decent budgets, we've seen the return of past services like increased Rec and Park employees and public health nurses, we've also seen the growth of new services cut out of whole cloth -- like the 311 Program and the San Francisco Health Plan. Each program has value and its constituency who will fight to preserve it.

There are those who believe that government has gotten too big and that in needs to downsize. I disagree with this point of view. Much of these cost of government is salaries. People make the City run. People make San Francisco livable and people who work need to keep pace with the high cost of living.

All the same, I worry about the kinds of struggle we're going to need to preserve services and jobs.

There is a way out -- raising revenue through progressive taxation. Progressive taxation means scaling taxes so that those who have more (and in the past few years, those who received big tax breaks from the Bush Administration), pay more.

In the past few year's that I've worked at City Hall, I've pursued various revenue options such as doubling the tax on property that is sold over $2 million and "closing the tax loophole" on partnerships -- such as accounting and law partnerships . Together these could yield up to $40 to $45 million during more sluggish economic times and much more during boon years.

I've also looked at bringing back the gross receipts business tax that we lost when some of SF's biggest corporations sued the city to have it eliminated. The gross receipts tax could be adjusted to affect mostly high end businesses that do business transactions that amount to many millions of dollars. The current business tax -- the payroll tax is seen as a job inhibitor. If done properly the city could replace the payroll tax with the gross receipt tax. At the same time, the city could adjust the new gross receipts tax to increase revenue and help get us out of this deficit.

According to Propositions 13 and 218, only the voters can approve local tax increases and only when the elective city council or its equivalent is up for election (in SF when the Supervisors are up for election) can we place a general tax on the ballot for voters to consider. A general tax is a tax that is not dedicated for a specific purpose.

Raising revenue is only one way to balance next year's budget without cutting significant program and services. The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee may have to budget services and have them contingent on the passage of a tax measure on November's ballot. It's not ideal and it's risky, but there may be no other option.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Local Transit Loses out to the Mayoral Bullpen

LinkIt's one of the themes, I hear people grumbling on the campaign trail: When we have such a bad budget year, how is that the Mayor can ask departments to tighten their belts, while he takes funds from the Muni to hire his former campaign web site designer, boost the salaries of his inner circle, keep them ever ready in their new bullpen, and equip them with state of the art technology, including wi-fi and wide screen plasma televisions."

People in this district are hurting. Our Muni service is some of the most unreliable in the city. Our main thoroughfare between Ocean, San Jose, Mission, Geneva and Balboa Park BART has some of the slowest rush hour traffic around. It's best to avoid it all together, that is unless you have some place to go.

At a recent community meeting in the OMI, folks gathered around to discuss the enormous gaps in children, youth and family services. For the same cost of the Mayoral staff's bonuses and the build out of the bullpen, the City could offset the state's cuts to the neighborhood's child care services, provide jobs for young people to beautify the neighborhood, have some great recreation programs when the new Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center finally opens (after a million delays), or provide more outreach services for families, seniors, etc.

When it comes to city budget and the services it provides, people want the Mayor to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sutter/CPMC's Multimillion in Tax Breaks for Dubious Charity Care

Last week, I wrote about what it would do to working people in SF's southern neighborhoods like the Excelsior, OMI and Bayview, if California Pacific carried out its plans to shut down St. Luke's Hospital. This week a Dept of Public Health report shows that despite garnering tens of million in tax breaks for providing charity care, CPMC's real delivery of such care is nothing more than an accounting trick.

Mile of city blocks and unequal services separate California Pacific's campuses. It is commonly known that CP's Laurel Heights, Pacific Heights and Castro campuses serve mostly people from more white and affluent communities. These hospitals provide the least in charitable care, well below what they gain in tax breaks. Disastrously, for SF's southern neighborhoods, St. Luke's, the one hospital that is truly serving low income communities of color, is also the one hospital that CPMC has threatened to downsize.

We need greater access and more comprehensive services, especially here on the south side of San Francisco. Unfortunately, I can think of few worse examples of how our health care and tax system can join together to uphold separate and unequal services.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Shutting Down St. Luke's NICU

It is appalling that profit continues to drive our health care system. Sutter Health’s decision to close St Luke’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is not one to strengthen access for San Francisco residents. The closure will simply force families who live in the more outlying neighborhoods of the Bayview, Excelsior and OMI to seek newborn intensive care across town or outside of San Francisco. The reality is people do not always have easy choices for where to find lifesaving care. Lifesaving care is either there or not there, close or far away. And if it’s not there or far away the outcomes can be disastrous.

Take my family’s story: In 2001, while on the road to Los Angeles, something went terribly wrong with my wife’s pregnancy. Minutes after getting off the freeway and finding an emergency room she was whisked off to labor and delivery where two days later our daughter Rene was born.

Rene was four months premature and weighed 1 lb 3oz. Her skin had the appearance of cellophane and broke apart at the touch. After 6 days she had a heart operation. And for the first two months of her NICU stay she lay prone in an incubator with a
breathing tube down her throat, struggling to stay alive. She was so fragile that transferring her here to San Francisco was out of the question.

Rene survived the ordeal. She had a strong spirit, but even with that she could never have survived without the round the clock care of talented NICU doctors and nurses. Because we were so fortunate to have a NICU blocks away from the exit we took off of Highway 101, our daughter has been able enjoy her first six years like most other children her age.

Infant deaths and the complications of traumatic birth are unthinkable for expecting parents. At the hospital we witnessed other babies who despite capable and compassionate NICU care, die or who left the hospital with lifelong disabilities. We know two families who have lost babies at childbirth.

Because emergency births are all too common, parents feel infinitely more secure knowing that reliable hospital services are minutes away. But once the time is doubled, successful outcomes become much more unattainable. That is why deliveries at St Luke’s without the safety net of NICU will come with great risk.

No child should suffer for lack of access to newborn intensive care services. Sutter must rethink its plan to close vital services at St. Luke’s Hospital. San Franciscans throughout the city need close access to full service hospitals, but this is especially true in Districts 10 and 11 where most of the major hospitals are far across town.

Monday, January 21, 2008

From Madrid to Munich, Moscow and Milk

So it's been three months now since we made the move from Madrid to Munich, four blocks towards Geneva and six blocks towards McLaren Park. We're on the 500 block of Munich Street. It runs down a gradual hill and dead ends at Crocker Amazon Park. Living on a dead end street offers lots of advantages. It's pretty easy to get to know all your neighbors. After all, no one but the locals use the block. On our block it's quite likely that if you start a home improvement job on the outside of your house, one of your neighbors is going to come out to lend a hand. Last month, Karen, Rene, Emiliano and I spent our first holiday season here. It was about as neighborly as you can get. Cookies, pies, candies, wrapped and unwrapped presents and wrapped tamales crossed willy nilly along the street. The 200 block of Madrid was never so lively. While we made friends with our Madrid neighbors we never stood with them in the middle of street getting to know them or bantering away about nothing in particular.

This part of San Francisco -- District 11 -- is pretty much overlooked by the rest of the city. Many people spend their entire existence in San Francisco never quite getting any further south than Bernal Heights, let alone Cesar Chavez. District 11 is not known as a destination spot. You won't see adds in the Bay Guardian for trendy restaurants; no active theaters, only converted ones now packed with faithful evangelical congregations; few bookstores. But we do have our share of parks, some in better states of repair than others and some like the Oceanview Rec Center in seemingly perpetual states of repair. We have some nice homey spots, like Mama Art Cafe where you can get a coffee, listen to live music and chop it up with friends. City College's main campus is right on our border.

We've got our own form of diversity here too. Since most everyone here is either working class or middle class, we don't have the huge disparities you might find in other neighborhoods like in the SoMa where the jet setters might sleep 25 stories above homeless people on the street. On my block alone quite of bit of San Francisco's diversity represented. We have elder Italian immigrants whose numbers have dwindled rapidly over the past couple of decades, Chinese, Filipinos, Latinos, European American, queer folk, African American, etc. Most of us are homeowners. A good part of us are struggling just to keep up with the house payments.

Like a small town in the USA, District 11 has few notables well-known to people outside San Francisco. There's DJ Qbert of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz fame; Joe Cronin, a hall fame shortstop who played for the Boston Red Sox back in the 20s and 30s (you can see him referenced on the Excelsior Playground wall of fame); and most famous of all we got Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. According to one online encyclopedic reference, "a movie was once filmed there with Julie Andrews."

Now, director Gus Van Sant with his Harvey "Milk" biopic is putting Dan White, the District's most infamous native son back on the map. This morning, the Milk trucks and trailers were lined up ten strong down Moscow Street where they're filming in the firehouse just blocks away from White's former London Street home. Josh Brolin, who acted the lead in the Coen Bros' "No Country for Old Men" is playing Dan White.

Let the world know.

I'm hoping that "Milk" can show us how the attitudes that led to Harvey Milk's assassination have changed despite Danny boy's efforts to keep them all the same. Even though it's been 30 years since the times of Harvey Milk, I expect Dan White would find San Francisco and his Excelsior District stomping grounds unrecognizable.