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.