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.