April-May 2020 Issue

Planning Department NoticeCity Hall's End Run Around Environmental Review

If you thought that our local city government was implementing only emergency measures during the pandemic, you would be wrong.   Despite the fact that the average citizen is focused on dealing with the coronavirus, the San Francisco Planning Department is pushing through City Hall a new policy that would limit environmental reviews for development projects.

The Department's proposed policy to 'streamline' the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process in San Francisco is known as SER - Standard Environmental Requirements.  Under the SER process, projects that formerly might have needed extensive review under CEQA would be approved unilaterally by Planning staff if the projects met specific requirements...

Read More

April-May 2020

What is wrong with our priorities?

Card image cap

Our high-risk folks will pay the price

At the Health Commission meeting on April 21, Director Grant Colfax talked about problems with supply limiting the amount of tests that could be done on a daily basis.

Today I am hearing everywhere that these supply issues are being solved. What I see is that "guidelines" by various government agencies still state that testing cannot be done on those most likely to die, and those that care for them, unless they have symptoms.

For those living in congregate settings like nursing homes or similar care homes, this amounts to a death sentence.

Read More

April-May 2020

Is long-term social distancing causing additional stress to students?

Stressed Student
8th Grader's Petition Protests Distance Learning

I am an 8th grade student in SFUSD and I attend a public middle school. At my school, we have online meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, plus additional meetings if teachers organize them. We have many assignments every week (I have experienced 43 google classroom notifications within 48 hours). I have to get up early to attend online classes just as if it’s actually school. School has become more demanding due to the pressure of hands-on learning ...

quote marks

Some parents lost employment due to the coronavirus and simply don't have the money to pay bills and pay for necessities. It is no wonder some are falling behind due to stressful factors and distractions in their home life.

Read More

April-May 2020

SFMTA Restricts Traffic on Some Streets - Restores Some Services

Donate image

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority will move to close 41st Avenue to Vicente. Similar closures are on line to "increase walking and biking" that will impact Westsiders.

MUNI's Covid-19 Temporary reduction of services has some newly restored services that make riding more convenient.

Restored Services Cars Banned

April-May 2020

DA Boudin's Struggles with Math and the Dictionary

Chesa Boudin
quote marks

Sure, with tourism down auto break-in’s declined 9%, but thieves made up for it with a 10.7% increase in stolen vehicles.

San Francisco politicians wasted no time in using the chaos of the coronavirus to push through their agendas: street closures to nonexistent traffic, spreading the homeless to hotels in districts they don’t frequent, and the release of “non violent” prisoners from jail.

Check it out

April-May 2020

Shirley Weber
quote marks

Remember that a majority statewide vote in November would still be required to eliminate Proposition 209 and institute reverse discrimination ... I hope Californians will join me in rejecting it.

In a time of medical, economic, and political uncertainty, a San Diego legislator, Shirley Weber, espouses discrimination, preferential treatment, and institutional racism based upon race, sex, color, or national origin for admission to public colleges and universities, public employment, and governmental contracts. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 awaits action this month or next in the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting ...

Check it out

April-May 2020

Westside Open Business Guide
Donate image

Looks deserted? Don't be fooled. Lots of businesses are offering take-out and delivery, others are continuing with special hours and precautions.

Check it out

April-May 2020

Senior being scammed
Door-to-Door Imposters, Robocalls: Beware of Coronavirus Scams
Dr. Derek Kerr

Times of crisis bring out the best in us – and the sleaze in scammers. SFPD’s Taraval Station March newsletter alerted the public to a creepy COVID-19 scam. Impostors pretending to be Department of Public Health (DPH) or Centers for Disease Control (CDC) employees are going door-to-door, asking to enter homes to conduct inspections. Neither the DPH nor the CDC sends personnel door-to-door to inspect private residences.

Health Inspectors Although City Disaster Services workers do place informational door hangers in various neighborhoods, they do not ask to enter homes or establishments. DPH Environmental Health inspectors are checking sanitation in SRO hotels, but they notify building managers in advance and present DPH IDs. They also conduct specific food safety inspections in restaurants and related facilities. Again, they show DPH IDs.

quote marks

The IRS reports a wave of calls and emails from fraudsters seeking personal information or fees to speed up delivery of the $1,200 “Stimulus Check.

The SFPD advises that if canvassers claiming to represent the DPH or CDC call at your home, do not let them in. Call 911 and describe the suspects.

Robocalls Other cunning COVID-19 scams are reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These come as robocalls (recorded telephone messages), emails, text messages or fraudulent online ads offering cures, vaccines, test kits or protective gear. You can listen to examples of robocall scams collected by the FTC. Robocalls trying to sell you something are illegal unless a company has your written permission to call you that way. However, public service or political information robocalls are legal. If you signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry, any robocall sales-pitch you receive is a scam. Reputable companies abide by the Registry.

The FTC advises to hang up on robocalls. Do not press any numbers or answer any questions, as these actions will elicit more robocalls. Whether commercial solicitations come by phone, email or text message, do not send cash, gift cards or wire money. Beware also of fake COVID-19 charitable solicitations. Check to see if the charity exists and whether it makes calls for donations. Report solicitation scams to the FTC at 1-877-382-4357.

Snake Oil The World Health Organization (WHO) has alerted the global community about “falsified medical products that claim to prevent, detect, treat or cure COVID-19.” Notably, deceptive websites generally lack a physical address or landline phone number. Consumers are advised to seek guidance from a medical professional before buying. Similarly, scammers are flooding the US market with fake or untested sanitizers and disinfectants, claiming they neutralize the coronavirus. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists approved sanitizers and threatens legal action against retailers who sell unregistered COVID-19 related products.

Social Security Scams The Social Security Administration (SSA) is warning the public about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 –related office closures. These letters instruct recipients to call a number operated by scammers. They demand personal information or payment via gift cards, cash or wire transfer to preserve your benefits during the COVID-19 shut-down. The SSA emphasizes that it will not stop Social Security payments or benefits during the pandemic - or demand fees. Report these crooks at https://oig.ssa.gov .

The IRS reports a wave of calls and emails from fraudsters seeking personal information or fees to speed up delivery of the $1,200 “Stimulus Check.” The official term is “Economic Impact Payment” and the IRS sends it directly by mail or to your bank account. The IRS does not call or email taxpayers to verify personal or banking information. Such contacts are identity theft cons. Do not open “IRS Emails” or click on any links or attachments within them. A truly nefarious swindle involves sending taxpayers a bogus IRS check with directions to call a number to verify their personal data in order to cash it. Report such scams at; https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing.

Information and caution are protective against cheats. Get definitive guidance and subscribe for updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/whats-new-all.html Our Department of Public Health provides information and updates on COVID-19 at; https://www.sfdph.org/dph/alerts/coronavirus.asp. The City’s overall responses can be tracked at; https://sf.gov/topics/coronavirus-covid-19.

More articles by Dr. Kerr

April-May 2020

On the Frontline:

Distance Learning at SFUSD
language barriers K. Rolph Morales

Whether for better or worse, teachers are often on the front line. Now, teachers are — again — called upon to rise to the calling and ensure that San Francisco’s students are receiving the best possible education as Covid-19 leads us to implement distance learning at SFUSD.

I teach at a struggling Title 1 school in San Francisco. (Title 1 is a federally funded program that assists schools with the highest concentrations of poverty). At the elementary school where I teach, connecting with parents is a challenge because parents are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their children.

District and school administrators in the SFUSD have done extraordinarily well at working to roll out teacher training and information sessions to provide continuous learning, so students don’t fall behind.

Most educators are adept in online navigating and using mobile apps for education purposes. As teachers, we report attendance and other issues through online data entry. But reaching parents is a challenge. Teachers must now teach parents how to access the internet from home, how to open email accounts, how to navigate browsers and search engines from a computer or borrowed Chromebook. We must also teach them what it will mean for students to work from home. It is fortunate that many teachers are certificated to teach Adult Education by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, because this, in fact, is what we’ve been doing since schools closed and we attempt to bring continuity to our students’ daily lives and routines.

quote marks

When a student’s parents are English speakers, it is somewhat easier ... But often our parents speak a heritage language with no standardized spelling. Dialects are common ... when parents speak Tzeltal (Mexico) or Mam (Guatamala) ... teachers must innovate ...

When a student’s parents are English speakers, it is somewhat easier; general education and special education or dayschool educators can reach out and speak directly with families and guardians. But often our parents speak a heritage language with no standardized spelling. Dialects are common. When parents speak, read, and write languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, or Vietnamese, teachers work with translators to ensure we communicate. But when parents speak Tzeltal (Mexico) or Mam (Northern and Southern Mam of Guatemala are as different as Spanish and Portuguese), teachers must innovate and independently find ways to reach out and establish a sense of connection with families who may lack resources.

For better or worse, teachers are often the topic of support or derision. Attitudes towards teachers are often based on personal experience, anecdotal observations, and involvement with teachers, as parents.

Cultural responses to the pandemic and socializing vary

Educators may not recognize the hidden suffering of stigmatized ethnic and language communities. Challenges emerge, as teachers reach out by phone, to develop rapport and a sense of familiarity with families and their needs, often finding disconnected phones or family members reticent to discuss their problems. During the pandemic, community members think and act in ways that are consistent with their cultural customs.

In spite of challenges to educators in the SFSUD, based on language, and cultural customs and beliefs, there are many hopeful signs. Some parents now see this as an exciting opportunity to learn how to keyboard and use the Internet. Others are putting their trust and confidence in the teacher’s mission. Parents are often creative, seeking work-arounds to bridge language and cultural gaps with their children’s teachers. This confidence families give us, gifted to us from stressed, yet pragmatic parents, helps inspire our sense of dedication to society.

As we navigate the variables in our student populations, I am proud of the way our teachers are adapting to the technical demands, straddling the myriad cultural pitfalls and bringing their best to the worst possible circumstances our classrooms face.

K. Rolph Morales, Ph.D.

The author is a certificated bilingual teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District, specializing in indigenous languages and cultures of the Americas. Please support local newspapers and radio stations.

April-May 2020

It’s Former Mayor Willie Brown’s World
Card image cap

City Hall is so infested with Brown appointees, Brown lobbyists, Brown confidants, and Brown contributors that San Francisco can no longer effectively police itself.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now doing what City Hall either could not or would not do.

quote marks
George Wooding

Nuru was not the FBI’s main target of the investigation—he was the bait to lure someone bigger. The FBI was looking for a big fish, so they released Nuru on the condition that he cooperate with “a pending public corruption investigation.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was caught receiving a $5,600 “gift” from her subordinate, Mohammed Nuru, and not reporting the gift.

In a carefully worded statement, Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with Nuru, but also accepting an unreported $5,600 gift from him for car repairs.

Breed stated, “To be clear: I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper. I was not aware of the schemes alleged by the FBI until shortly before they became public, and when I was informed, I immediately reported the information to our City Attorney—Dennis Herrera.”

In addition to identifying City employees or officials involved in potential violations of local law, Herrera said the investigation will also examine contracts, grants, and other government decisions possibly “tainted by conflicts of interest.”.

Breed’s disclosure was designed to legally comply with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the State’s campaign monitor. The State does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position.” Nuru’s job as head of the DPW is directly related to Mayor Breed. She is his boss.

Another huge problem for Breed, “San Francisco law prohibits City officials from accepting gifts from subordinates over $25.” This law means that City officials cannot accept a gift from a subordinate employee if the official directs or evaluates that employee’s work.

Herrera and the San Francisco Ethics Department are almost certain to come to Breed’s rescue.

The San Francisco public will stop demanding justice just as soon as some mid-level scapegoats are punished (Nuru). Fortunately, the public’s memory is short.

Ethics Commission

The Ethics Department’s byzantine rules, rule parsing and snail-like pace, dictate a decision on Breed’s unethical behavior in about three years.

The Ethics Commission was established by San Francisco voters with the passage of Proposition K on the November 1993 ballot. Ethics was designed to serve the public, City employees and officials, and local candidates through education and enforcement of governmental ethics laws, including public information. The Commission has virtually stopped serving citizens and now protects City politicians while collecting penalties and fees.

The fine issued by the City Ethics Commission or the State Fair Political Practices Commission for Breed’s ethics violation will be approximately three times the amount in question. So, Breed’s decision to let Nuru give her an unreported gift for $5,600 would cost her about $16,800 in fines. Breed’s annual $301,000 base salary is the highest in the nation among mayors. Breed’s fine would amount to 5.5 percent of one year’s pay.

San Francisco’s Ethics Commission will probably waive this fine—because they can.

Under the City Charter, the only person who can remove or suspend a local official from office is the Mayor. And chances are Breed isn’t going to remove herself. The only way that Breed will leave is through voter recall.

The noose is firmly around Mohammed Nuru’s neck. Nuru, 57, and San Francisco restaurateur Nick Bovis, 56, are both charged with wire fraud. Nuru is separately charged with lying to the FBI after initially being arrested on January 21 and being told to keep quiet about the FBI investigation.

To the FBI, Nuru was collateral damage in San Francisco City Hall’s corruption. He allegedly had accepted $2,000 bottles of wine and a free trip to China. David Anderson, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, accused Nuru of “corruption, bribery kickbacks and side deals.” Nuru was not the FBI’s main target of the investigation—he was the bait to lure someone bigger. The FBI was looking for a big fish, so they released Nuru on the condition that he cooperate with “a pending public corruption investigation.”

Nuru was made the permanent head of DPW by then-Mayor Ed Lee in 2012. Prior to his appointment, Nuru worked for 11 years as the department’s Deputy Director for Operations and was long considered a protégé of former Mayor Willie Brown. Lee was also appointed by Willie Brown to head the DPW.

For all of Nuru’s alleged corruption, he would probably have received reduced charges for cooperation if he had simply allowed the FBI to continue tapping his phone.

So…who was Nuru so desperate to protect that he broke his deal with the FBI? Nuru is now facing more than 20 years in jail.

DOMINOS Nuru told City Administrator Naomi Kelly—another Willie Brown appointee— that he was being investigated by the FBI. Kelly told Mayor Breed who then told Herrera. Incidentally, Naomi Kelly is married to Harlan Kelly, Jr. head of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)—another Willie Brown appointee. Brown officiated Naomi and Harlan’s wedding.

After interrogating Nuru, Herrera’s office has issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant/expeditor, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. Wong and Li have not been charged with any wrongdoing.

On March 17, Tom Hui, head of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) resigned. Hui was ensnared in City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s probe of criminally charged ex-DPW boss Mohammed Nuru: In an 11-page memo to Mayor Breed, Herrera outlines a lengthy history of alleged misconduct by Hui. Sources within DBI described Hui and longtime city permit expediter Walter Wong as “joined at the hip.” 

Both Breed and Nuru owe their positions and careers to former Mayor Brown’s political machine. (This was covered in last month’s article, City Hall is Getting Nervous.)

Breed started working for Brown as his babysitter. Brown appointed Nuru to run San Francisco’s League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG). Nuru was later appointed to head the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Brown has worked closely with Gavin Newsom, Ed Lee, London Breed and Kamala Harris.

Board of Supervisors

On Monday, February 24, the city’s Rules Committee reviewed Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposal to allow the Government Audit and Oversight Committee to issue subpoenas and compel people to take an oath to testify truthfully, under the penalty of perjury.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, “There is rampant corruption in this city. It’s been so normalized that, despite evidence of it coming out every single day, it takes the FBI to do anything about it,” she said. “I feel it’s a top priority to root out corruption. If this subpoena power makes it easier for us to do that, now is the time to put it forward.”

San Francisco is still Willie Brown’s World.

George Wooding, Neighborhood Emeritus

February 2020

More Articles by George Wooding
Nursing Homes: Letter to Newsom, Chiu and Wiener
Card image cap

Don't Abandon Our Nursing Homes, Keep Seniors Safe

Please do not allow COVID 19 positive patients to be transferred to existing nursing homes, and please offer nursing homes sufficient resources to test everyone, staff and patients and to get sufficient PPE.

At our own Laguna Honda hospital in San Francisco, staff does not have what they need to protect themselves, let alone the patients.

California’s Department of Public Health told the state’s nursing homes last week to prepare to accept patients with coronavirus. This must not go forward!

Our nursing homes are chronically understaffed as it is, and the prevention of visitors and volunteers, needed to prevent covid, makes caring for patients harder.

We know from what has happened in Washington State and Italy, that any exposure to COVID will result in a high death rate. This amounts to throwing our parents and their caregiver’s lives away due to poor planning.

Please stop this

Teresa Palmer MD, Geriatrician

1. www.ktvu.com/news/san-franciscos-laguna-honda-hospital-calls-for-more-supplies-after-workers-test-positive-for-covid-19

More Articles from Dr. Palmer

COVID-19’s Impact on Affordable Housing Production

Public Records Are “Essential” in a Pandemic
London Breed interwoven

M ayor London Breed is to be congratulated for issuing her shelter-in-place (SIP) Order on March 13 hoping to contain spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve from the global pandemic, and its impact on San Franciscans.  She did so before Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide SIP three days later. 

quote marks

... journalists and citizens know trade-offs need to be made, including restricting inspection of records at City Hall ... But suspending access to public records altogether, even temporarily, is clearly dangerous to open government. That’s why transparency is even more essential during states of emergency ....

Patrick Monette-Shaw

Hopefully, now that wider COVID-19 testing is belatedly beginning to occur in our City, her relatively early actions may sustain flattening of the curve.

But curiously, Breed’s SIP Order on March 13 raised some questions.  That Order followed Breed’s declaration of a local emergency announcement on February 25.  One question is why it took 17 days following the declaration of emergency before she issued her SIP order on March 13, particularly since she had issued an order closing Laguna Honda Hospital to visitors a week earlier on March 6.

Declaring a state of emergency is a procedural measure allowing a county to leverage state funds and mutual aid resources if cases of the virus are confirmed locally.  The declaration of an emergency allowed San Francisco officials to secure emergency state and federal funding, and other resources and personnel, to accelerate emergency planning and expand capabilities for a rapid response.

Another question involves Santa Clara County, which issued its local emergency declaration on February 3 when its first two COVID-19 cases caused by international travel were initially reported.  Why did it take Breed 22 days after Santa Clara had issued its emergency declaration before she issued San Francisco’s emergency declaration order?  As our South Bay neighbor, weren’t the two counties coordinating on a regional basis with all nine Bay Area counties to simultaneously announce and implement uniform emergency declarations regionally?

Breed Clamps Down on Open Government

Breed’s antipathy to our local Sunshine Ordinance is well known, and dates back years to when she was president of the Board of Supervisors.  On April 4, 2018 the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force ruled 7-to-0 that Breed had failed six times between 2015 and 2017 to respond to public records requests, and had failed to appear or send a representative on her behalf to 10 Sunshine Task Force hearings to explain why she had ignored responding to the records requests.  The Task Force referred her failures to then District Attorney George Gascón for enforcement.  (Predictably, Gascón took no action so Breed skated.)  In addition, back in 2015 Breed initially voted as the lone dissenter on a Board of Supervisors vote on legislation requiring all City supervisors to publicly disclose their appointment calendars.

During an emergency, or a national public health crisis, journalists and citizens know trade-offs need to be made, including restricting inspection of records at City Hall and offices of other City agencies, and delays responding to records requests because of understaffing of government agencies.  But suspending access to public records altogether, even temporarily, is clearly dangerous to open government.  That’s why supporting government transparency is even more essential during states of emergency, to prevent long-term damage to our open government once the COVID-19 crisis eventually passes.  (Unfortunately, it may be with us for a long, long time.)

Breed essentially has no patience for public records requests, following in the footsteps of her mentor, Wille Brown.  Her record while on the Board reflects that she did not support open government.

Part of Breed’s March 13 Order temporarily suspended San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance §§67.25(a) and (b), the “Immediate Disclosure Request” provision in Sunshine that strengthened the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to provide for expedited release of public records.  Ten days later, Breed issued a supplementary Order on March 23, further temporarily suspending Sunshine Ordinance §§67.21(a) and (b), which provide that members of the public can inspect or examine records in person at City offices open to the public, provided they comply with CPRA.

While it may be totally understandable that many City offices are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic because employees may be furloughed, are working and telecommuting from home, or assigned other duties as disaster service workers, suspension of portions of the Sunshine Ordinance is a matter of public concern.  It’s also completely understandable that city agencies may have fewer resources to dedicate to public records requests, some city employees may be unfamiliar with particular records or may be physically separated from the records, and appropriate redactions may be harder to make due to employees working remotely.

What is not understandable is why Breed clamped down on our local Sunshine Ordinance, when Governor Newsom’s emergency orders did not waive responsibilities to respond to public records under CPRA.  Breed shouldn’t have done so with San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance.

The City Attorney’s Office noted on March 30 that City agencies still have a legal duty provide public records promptly, have a legal duty to advise records requestors of the date on which an agency expects to actually produce requested records, and a duty to provide the records on a rolling basis.  The City Attorney noted City agencies should make reasonable efforts to provide records to the extent feasible, and cannot adopt a blanket policy unnecessarily delaying or denying records requests carte blanche during Breed’s suspension of Sunshine.

The City Attorney’s “opinion” (which is an opinion, not a matter of settled law) gives the green light for City agencies to delay even starting to search for a given public record for a period of time, perhaps including not having to start a search for public records until after Breed’s temporary shelter-in-place order is lifted on May 3.  But what happens if she extends her Order into June or July?  Will that add even further delays in starting records searches?

Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) Of grave concern, in response to a public records request about progress on the RFQ to select a developer for a senior housing project on the campus of Laguna Honda Hospital, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) issued its “Emergency Policy on Sunshine [records requests]” on April 3, stating that it “may even be[come] necessary for MOHCD to delay the start of a search for records until [Breed’s] stay-at-home Order is lifted [in May].”

To a whistleblower, citizen watchdog, and columnist like me, that sounds like a dog whistle that MOHCD may end up implementing a blanket policy unnecessarily delaying or denying records requests carte blanche for any affordable housing projects currently being developed, in the pipeline, or under consideration.

After all, MOHCD is in the process of administering $1.2 billion in Affordable Housing Bond-funded projects (including the $310 million affordable housing bond passed in 2015, the $600 million affordable housing bond passed in 2019, plus the remaining $261 million from the PASS bond that was re-allocated to fund affordable housing). 

Public records involving MOHCD’s stewardship of the affordable housing bonds should not be subject to having to wait for Breed’s stay-at-home order to be lifted before records searches even begin.  How many other City departments have implemented, or are considering implementing, blanket policies to delay the start of searches for public records until Breed’s SIP Order is eventually lifted?

Advocacy Groups Support Transparency During COVID-19 Crisis

Obviously, openness in government is essential to the functioning of any democracy.  California’s State Constitution stipulates in Article 1, Section 3(b)(1) “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”

On March 20, over 130 organizations — including the California First Amendment Coalition, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — signed a letter calling for custodians of public records at all levels of government to leverage technology resources to make governance more inclusive, more credible and more accessible, and not to suspend compliance with public records laws providing transparency and accountability.  Another article notes that legitimacy of government decision-making requires a renewed commitment to transparency during emergencies, particularly public health emergencies, now more than ever.

Surely in the heart of Silicon Valley, we currently have the technology to make transparency happen.

After all, the City’s current state-of-the-art technology enables staff working from home to remotely access all of their e-mail records, and other computer files on departmental network drives, so long as their respective City departments have made the features available with network permissions.  While I’m not a lawyer or a technology expert, I know from past employment with the City that costs to provide remote network access are either non-existent because they’re included in the City’s Microsoft Outlook basic configuration contract, or minimal additional cost for such things as VPN access or network “authentication” permissions, given that the City has a $12 billion annual budget.

For mission-essential City employees, the technology is already largely in place to increase government transparency.  That technology needs to be expanded to all boards and commissions, not just City employees.

Essential City Boards and Commissions

Unfortunately, too many policy bodies that provide essential functions have suspended their meetings indefinitely.  Among them are agencies involved in affordable housing production.  It’s time for Breed to re-visit which City boards, commissions, and policy bodies are essential and should fully resume their operations using remote meeting access.

Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) Breed’s various Orders have restricted construction of commercial buildings, but allow affordable housing construction to continue as an “essential” service.

However, the Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC) has been affected by Breed’s Orders.  CGOBOC not only is monitoring oversight of the $1.2 billion in affordable housing bonds, it also provides oversight of public health and safety bonds, parks bonds, Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response (ESER) bonds, Road Repaving and Street Safety (RRSS) bonds, other transportation and road improvement bonds, and other bonds.

Each bond program will have all issuances in the same appearance on the CGOBOC agenda, e.g., all Parks bonds regardless of year issue are all heard together during a single CGOBC meeting, and all three Affordable Housing Bonds are presented during a single meeting.

CGOBOC currently meets only five times per year, with meetings typically restricted to two or three hours each.  Formal reports and presentations on the status of each Bond are made only once annually.  Each bond is updated verbally by the CGOBOC member assigned as a liaison to various City departments at the CGOBOC meeting nearest to six months from their formal presentation date.

CGOBOC’s January 2020 meeting crammed in including reports about multiple Parks bonds, the ESER bond, a liaison report on the public safety bonds, and the three Affordable Housing Bonds.  Strangely, next to nothing was presented in January reporting on the $600 million Affordable Housing bond passed in November 2019.

Then, after Breed had issued her local emergency declaration on February 25 and her SIP order on March 13, CGOBOC cancelled its March 16 meeting, which was to have heard formal presentations on the RRSS bonds and transportation bonds, and the six-month liaison report on the Parks bonds. 

CGOBOC’s next meeting is scheduled for May 18 to hear liaison reports on the ESER and Affordable Housing bonds — provided it isn’t cancelled, too.  But at this point, it’s doubtful that City boards and agencies like CGOBOC will resume their public meetings just 15 days after the SIP order is scheduled to be lifted on May 3, and for all we know now Breed may choose to extend the SIP again.  Anthony Fauci believes SIP orders should remain in place at least through the end of May, not May 3.

Breed should not end social distancing and reopen San Francisco’s economy until we know the infection rate is nearly zero.  That means not just flattening the curve.  It means crushing the curve completely.  That’s not going to happen within 15 days from May 3.  That suggests she needs to turn to rapidly expanding remote meeting access for policy bodies like CGOBOC and MOHCD.

Breed needs to make sure CGOBOC’s meetings continue to be held — remotely, if necessary — and ensure each CGOBOC member and relevant City departments are able to hold meetings remotely by beefing up their state-of-the-art technology and access to conduct meetings remotely.  Their meetings, involving essential bond-funded infrastructure and housing construction, should not continue being cancelled until we have a vaccine against COVID-19, perhaps a year to 18 months from now.  If the Board of Supervisors is using technology successfully to hold remote meetings, then all policy bodies dealing with essential City business should be equipped for remote meetings, too.

After all, on March 17, 2020 the Board of Supervisors authorized their full Board and Sub-Committee meetings to convene remotely and allow for remote public comment, pursuant to restrictions on videoconferencing and teleconferencing that have now been lifted.  All City policy bodies and City Departments should immediately implement videoconferencing and teleconferencing.

Stalled LHH Housing Project

Anecdotal reports have surfaced that MOHCD has had trouble getting affordable housing funds out the door for at least three months, even before Breed issued her SIP Order.  And one project, the proposed 280-unit housing project on Laguna Honda Hospital’s campus Supervisor Yee proposed as his legacy,  has run into a different roadblock.

In December 2019 I publishedLHH Housing Proposal Ignores Dire Shortage of Skilled Nursing Facility Beds,” exploring why Supervisor Yee’s housing proposal was so hush-hush, in which I reported MOHCD had released an RFQ on November 18, apparently prematurely since the property was not then, and is not now, under MOHCD’s jurisdiction.

The RFQ indicated a selection panel would hold interviews with prospective bidders during the week of February 17 or the week of February 24, and an announcement of the developer team chosen would be made during the week of March 9.  Yee managed to stack the selection panel with two hand-picked District 7 neighbors.  And an external consultant to the Department of Public Health, whose company is on track to receive $7.2 million for bond planning services through the year 2023, Mark Primeau, appears to have also been added to the selection panel, replacing an actual DPH employee.

On March 10, MOHCD responded to a records request saying the selection process had been delayed until March 30, 2020, ostensibly because MOHCD needed additional time to organize the interview and review panel.  MOHCD’s March 10 response was ridiculous on its face because a source who requested anonymity independently confirmed subsequently that the interviews with potential developers were, in fact, completed during the week of March 9, albeit two weeks later than the planned week of February 17 interview schedule initially announced. 

Since then, even though the interviews were completed and the selection panels’ bidder scoring sheets were reportedly provided to MOHCD, MOHCD’s staff have dragged their feet for over a month, and have apparently not completed review of the external selection panelists’ interviews.

Does that mean the announcement of the developer chosen is being held hostage until Breed eventually lifts her SIP Order?  If MOHCD staff do not have access to either videoconferencing and teleconferencing capabilities, or network permissions to remotely access all of their e-mail records and other computer files on departmental network drives, they should be provided with such technology immediately.  After all, if Yee’s housing proposal for LHH’s campus proved not to be financially viable during or following the developer interviews, then MOHCD should move along and select another senior housing project elsewhere in the City.

COVID-19 We may have to prepare to go through a similar COVID-19, or a COVID-20, resurgence in the fall perhaps with more shelter-in-place orders, and perhaps further restrictions on physical (social) distancing and public meetings.  We can’t allow funding and development of affordable housing to face further delays.  As much as the public records are essential during this pandemic, so too are affordable housing units essential. 

In future articles, I’ll explain why I have thought all along that placing this housing on LHH’s campus was terribly misguided from the beginning.  But shut down of access to essential public records remains worrisome.

Monette-Shaw operates stopLHHdownsize.com.  Contact him at monette-shaw@westsideobserver.com.

April-May 2020

More Articles by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Fentanyl & Meth Push Overdose Deaths to Record Highs
opiod deaths in San Francisco

There’s another deadly epidemic in the City. Until now, San Francisco’s robust drug treatment and harm reduction programs had forestalled the opioid overdose epidemic sweeping the nation. A 2/18/20 DPH Press Release and Health Commission presentation detailed how fatal drug overdoses surged to a projected 400 cases in 2019. Deadlier than homicides, suicides and traffic accidents combined, drug overdoses are now primarily driven by fentanyl. Most casualties are men, 40 to 59 years old, and disproportionately African-American.


A potent and fast-acting opioid, fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Formulated in 1959 to control pain from cancer or surgery, fentanyl was later adopted by drug traffickers because it’s cheaper to produce and easier to smuggle than heroin. As detailed in journalist Ben Westhoff’s book, Fentanyl, Inc., it mostly comes from China where chemical companies synthesize recreational drugs with government subsidies. These labs produce fentanyl variants or precursors that haven’t yet been declared illegal in China and ship them to US clients and Mexican cartels. Ironically, criminalizing heroin has spawned a more toxic substitute.

quote marks

Fentanyl is supplanting Mexican black-tar heroin ... as an additive mixed into various street drugs to give them more “kick.” Despite its potential...it’s cheaper and delivers a better rush ...

Fentanyl is supplanting Mexican black-tar heroin, long a mainstay of San Francisco’s drug scene. It emerged as an additive mixed into various street drugs to give them more “kick”. Despite its potential lethality, fentanyl is becoming the street opioid of choice because it’s cheaper and delivers a better rush, per Dr. Phillip Coffin, DPH’s Director of Substance Use Research. Because the purity of street fentanyl varies, users don’t know the dosage taken, hence the overdoses. Data Dr. Coffin shared with the Westside Observer shows that fentanyl-related deaths have doubled annually since 2015, reaching 162 in 2019. But that’s a partial count due to the 6-month delay in processing autopsy and toxicology results. DPH projections for 2019 foresee around 200 fentanyl-linked overdose deaths. Fentanyl fatalities far exceed heroin plus prescription opioid deaths.

To counter the overdose epidemic, the DPH employs a Harm-Reduction model. This includes sending alerts to shelters and clinics, freely distributing naloxone (Narcan) a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, providing fentanyl testing-strips so users can check their stash, and planning drug sobering centers. Needle access programs are advising users to smoke rather than inject fentanyl and offer aluminum foil to facilitate this safer option. The DPH also reaches out to single-room occupancy hotels where 30% of overdose deaths occur, advising drug users not to shoot up alone. Treatment strategies include easing access to methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) substitution programs. Once implemented, Mental Health SF will expand these services.


Methamphetamine is largely produced by Mexican cartels that import the chemical precursors from China. Like cocaine, it’s a stimulant but longer-lasting and cheaper. Meth-related overdose deaths have steadily risen over the past decade. However, the numbers exploded in 2019. As the Medical Examiner told the WSO, the tally for 2019 was 227 deaths as of March, with a projected total of 252. That’s double the 126 meth deaths logged in 2018. Apart from overdoses, the DPH found that 47% of Psychiatric Emergency visits in 2017-18 were meth-driven.

Although no medications can reverse methamphetamine overdoses or block cravings, a promising approach is Contingency Management, whereby users receive cash rewards for staying clean. Senate Bill-888, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, would provide Medi-Cal coverage for this intervention. Based on DPH Methamphetamine Task Force recommendations, a 12-bed Meth Sobering Center with access to counseling and treatment will open in the Tenderloin this year.

Overdose Deaths and Prevention

Overdose deaths refer solely to acute drug poisonings. They exclude drug-related deaths due to suicide, traumatic injuries, and infections. Also excluded are alcohol related deaths that are categorized differently. Because most overdoses involve multiple drugs, it’s difficult to determine which one was lethal. For example, 80% of methamphetamine overdoses involve other drugs - mostly fentanyl. So fentanyl contributes to the rising fatalities attributed to meth, cocaine and heroin. When one death is caused by 2 drugs, it generates 2 drug-associated death reports. That’s why the sum of individual drug-related fatalities exceeds the number of deaths.

Overall, opioids, meth and cocaine have already claimed 330 lives but are projected to reach 400 once all reports for 2019 are compiled. That’s a big jump from the 259 deaths recorded in 2018.

Overall Drug Overdose Deaths by Year

There’s more to this carnage because many deaths are narrowly averted. EMS technicians administered 1,647 doses of Narcan in 2018. Many more were administered by police officers and civilians. In 2018, the DPH Drug Overdose Prevention Education Project (DOPE) handed out over 7,500 Narcan kits.

Why are overdoses exploding? It’s not simply due to the increased homeless population. DPH data show that from 2006 to 2016, injection drug users increased from fewer than 10,000 to almost 25,000 – yet the overdose mortality stayed flat. And it isn’t due to the national prescription opioid epidemic. Local prescription overdose deaths have steadily dropped since their peak 2010. The breakdown in the City’s containment efforts came with the greater availability and desire for fentanyl - and meth.

To curb the availability of dangerous drugs, the US Attorney for San Francisco launched a one-year crack-down on dealers and suppliers last August. This “Federal Initiative for the Tenderloin” started by busting a Honduran crew of 32 drug traffickers who commuted from the East Bay. This intervention gave residents a welcome respite from an intimidating open-air drug market. Yet, prior drug raids by the SFPD faced criticism for targeting minorities. Though needed, such enforcement measures bring transitory relief.

Our overdose epidemic gives reason to establish Supervised or Safe Injection Sites like those in Canada and Europe. As reported in the September 2017 WSO, Safe Injection Sites (SIS) can prevent overdoses, reduce infections, and facilitate addiction treatment, but may relieve a fraction of the problem without improving it overall. Participation by drug users is low due to registration requirements and the stronger allure of the street scene. A DPH survey showed that more City users wanted “food and showers” than drug treatment from an SIS. Injection sites hardly address the traumas and despair that drive addiction.

San Francisco’s 3-year quest for SISs has been thwarted by federal prohibitions and opposition from State law enforcement groups. Hopes that the State would protect SIS operators were dashed when Governor Brown vetoed Assembly Bill-186 in 2018. Brown called the bill “all carrot and no stick” for “enabling illegal and destructive drug use” without requiring treatment for addiction. With Governor Newsom in office, an identical AB-362, co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener and re-branded as an “Overdose Prevention Program” was introduced in 2019 to allow a City SIS. This February, Supervisor Matt Haney called on the Governor to issue an Executive Order for an “Overdose Prevention Site” in San Francisco.

Hopes soared this February when Philadelphia got Federal Court approval for an SIS by showing that it aims to decrease rather than enable drug use, thereby not violating federal law. However, a public backlash and threats from the local US Attorney torpedoed the plan. Although Mayor London Breed introduced legislation on 3/3/20 for a City-run SIS, US Attorney David Anderson who orchestrated the Tenderloin drug raids vows to shut it down. Uncertain is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to contain the opioid epidemic.

All told, the DPH funds 65 programs to provide drug and alcohol treatment services – a good chunk of its $400 million mental health budget. Contractors served 5,975 substance abuse clients last year. Yet on 2/18/20, the DPH failed to show the Health Commission that its many - and costly - interventions are still effective. The swarm of overdose deaths, drug-related Emergency Room visits and hospitalizations indicate that City programs are falling short. DPH officials and non-profit contractors call for more services. There’s a “carrot” versus “stick” divide between the City’s approach and Federal interventions. More integration would be better than more of each.

Dr. Derek Kerr is a San Francisco investigative reporter Contact: watchdogs@westsideobserver.com

April-May 2020

More Articles by Dr. Kerr
The Worst Pandemic Is Yet To Come
Card image cap

For thousands of years, homo sapiens have developed a resistance to the viruses and bacteria present in our domestic livestock i.e., cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. There is no resistance the new viruses apparently coming from bats, the novel coronavirus which results in the disease COVID-19.

COVID-19 has a genetic code that allows epidemiologists to discover where the virus came from, which is helpful in tracking the spread of the disease. Previously, in 2003, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) also came from a corona virus. However, this disease come and gone. Some say SARS came from bats, others say the illness came from civets (a relative of the mongoose).

quote marks

For thousands of years, homo sapiens have developed a resistance to the viruses and bacteria present in our domestic livestock i.e., cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. There is no resistance the new viruses ...

Today, SARS is transmitted primarily by laboratory accident by those studying the disease. MERS is an illness that originated in Jordan or Saudi Arabia in 2012 and spread. MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) comes from a corona virus with a mortality rate of 3-4 deaths out of 10 people infected.


Picture of civet left. Picture from animalia.bio. This animal is also a possible carrier of coronavirus.


The disease was first noticed in a fish market in Wuhan, China. At first the Chinese denied the importance of COVID-19, however, eventually they were very effective in inhibiting the spread by completely shutting down. In addition, 42,000 doctors flooded the city to take control of the sick, while each victim had 5 epidemiologists to trace the origin of the disease and to locate and treat others involved. The question is will America be able to provide this many doctors and epidemiologists to any given place and will Americans be able to shelter in place for 2-1/2 months?  No, is the correct answer to this question. In America we are not even able to provide enough test kits, gloves and masks, ventilators or hospital beds for our doctors. 

Italy does not have the same resources as China.  Also, the Italian culture encourages closeness and before the disease was known to be prevalent, kissing friends and family on both sides of the cheek hastened the spread of COVID-19.  Moreover, numerous religious shrines in Iran are kissed or touched, in defiance of the COVID-19 outbreak, causing the spread of the illness in Iran, despite health warnings to the public.   In Moscow, Russia, religious followers kiss and touch religious artifacts also, fortunately, today the churches are now closed.  Today in Saudi Arabia, they have cancelled flights for pilgrims of the Hajj, the religious pilgrimage.


Kaaba Images

The Kaaba (picture above) Photo by Getty Images/Business Insider

The disease is spread by droplets of air containing coronavirus when those infected cough, sneeze or even breath. These droplets can also be picked up by the hand, then when the face is touched, the virus can enter the body. The reason a 6’ distance is requested between individuals is because it is hoped that the droplets are more likely to fall to the ground in that distance. This initial information, provided by health officials is overly simplistic and inaccurate. In truth, the virus can easily be aerosolized or remain in the air for hours after a sneeze or cough and the illness can spread even in a choir practice. There seems to be proof this disease spreads more by air than we originally thought. Most problematic for transmission of the virus is elevator buttons. Soap and water is considered a better deterrent than hand sanitizer. Some researches indicate the illness will be less communicative in the summer in the Northern hemisphere. However, in Africa and India, COVID-19 is growing quickly, therefore, summer weather may have little effect.

Once someone has COVID-19, there is no conclusive evidence they can be reinfected again. However, with SARS, immunity lasted for only a year or two. In Wuhan China, four people who became sick, were believed to be cured and tested negative for the disease. Then later, these four tested positive and were returned back to isolation. Elderly individuals with pre-existing conditions i.e., hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiopulmonary disease become more seriously ill with COVID-19.

The discussion of lowering the curve is not a plan to cure the disease but it is an opportunity for the health industry to catch up with adequate tests, masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators. In California, Governor Newsom said that 56% of all of California’s 22 million people here may become infected. Some of those will show no signs of illness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a test to reveal the coronavirus, whether people are symptomatic or not. However, government regulations do not allow outside sources of testing, even in a pandemic. When test kits were provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they proved to be flawed and another test kit needed to be made, wasting valuable time. President Trump claimed the WHO underreported the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic and has threatened to cut funding. Yet recently, reports inform us that the President was told of the danger of COVID-19 in mid-January 2020 but he ignored it. Today, Abbot Laboratories has a test that can provide a diagnosis in five minutes after the sample is taken, and their laboratory is producing 50,000 test kits a day. The CDC tests were possibly 30-60% accurate, subjecting patients to as many as 6 tests, with differing results and more time spent in isolation. Additionally, the CDC tests have been less effective for individuals with no symptoms.


The President’s response has been weak, allowing each state to compete for increasingly diminishing supplies, creating shortages and higher than necessary prices for protective gear and equipment. To make matters worse, reports indicate that the federal government is raiding hospitals, taking masks, gloves, thermometers and other medical supplies. No transparency is available that would explain where the supplies are going. In contrast, in the Ebola outbreak of 2014, President Obama instituted a federal program to coordinate the fight against the Ebola disease. Early in the Trump administration, the White House dismantled the pandemic preparedness team, however, they have not admitted their role in the spread of the disease. Only after the pandemic was finally realized, did President Trump appoint Robert Redfield, MD, Director of the CDC, on February 18, 2020. Critics warned that a virus outbreak, like the Spanish Flue of 1918, could kill as many as 50 million people, but their warnings were ignored with no reply. Fast forward, when COVID-19 was a recognized pandemic, the first cruise ship containing passengers and crew with COVID-19 returned to the port of San Francisco, those that were ill were sent to hospitals and those with no symptoms were brought to the Travis Air Force Base. During the transport of the passengers, some equipment was missing, especially devices to cover the back of the head and eyes. Because of this, COVID-19 was brought into the civilian community by ill-equipped and untrained nursing staff. Even more recently, nursing staff at the Travis Air Force Base reportedly told passengers from cruise ships who were in isolation, not to take the COVID-19 test if they wanted to return home early. Would that mean that anyone sick at the base would be allowed to travel home, spreading the disease even further? Responses from the federal government show poor judgment and expose a lack of proper control by experts at the top of the federal government. Early on the President Trump called the COVID-19 illness a “hoax” which delayed the response rate to the virus. How significant that delay was, history will tell us. In the opinion of many doctors, the delay was catastrophic.

On Wednesday, March 26, 2020, the President approved the Defense Production Act (PDA) requiring General Motors to make ventilators in a wartime effort. Yet, as of April 4, 2020, masks, gowns, eye protection, test kits and swabs have not been authorized by the PDA. Currently, the plan is to shelter in place until May 1, 2020. Although Dr. Anthony Fauci, has requested a federal stay-at-home order from the President, he has declined to do so for the eight remaining states that have no such orders. For the 17 million Americans who have lost their jobs and their healthcare, President Trump has denied expanding the enrollment period for Obamacare, apparently for political reasons. Although America had been prepared to handle a pandemic, because of the administration’s slow response rate, more people will die in America than any other country. The rate of death in the USA is likely to be 70,000 to 240,000 people. Yet, President Trump has received a bump in popularity, which is quickly fading. His current approval rating according to a CNN pole, is 44%. When President Trump fired Glenn Fine, chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee the $2.2 trillion stimulus, it is further evidence that he will ignore any special inspector general, or Congress’ mandate to oversee the stimulus funds, making them vulnerable to misappropriation.

President Trump was no plans to delay or limit the Republican Convention at this point, however, Democrats are planning a virtual convention. Nor has he any plans to encourage Americans to vote-by-mail in order to hinder the spread of the COVID-19. Fearing an expanded vote-by-mail program, he said, "They had things—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Making voting difficult has always been the strategy of the Republican Party—that is why voting is allowed only on Tuesday, rather than weekends. Lastly, Attorney General William Barr, has asked for emergency powers, whereby judges would could detain people that have been arrested, with no time limit and with no recommendation on when a trial would be held. All in the name of this pandemic.


There are said to be 4-5 cures in production. Moderna, a Cambridge biotech company, after only 63 days is testing a vaccine on humans — ignoring the policy of testing on animals first.  The speed at which this vaccine was produced is notable, and is in itself a miracle. The vaccine contains a sliver of the genetic material of the virus, the RNA.  The plan is to have this RNA injected into the body, prompting our own immune systems to provide a cure.  Should this vaccine work, it is said it will take 12-18 months for the vaccine to be finalized, then additional time for production, shipping and setting up a program for injecting people with the vaccine.  Johnson & Johnson claims to have a vaccine candidate they want to have tested in September with millions of emergency use dosages available by the end of 2021.


If there is a bright side to this pandemic, it could also bring about some positive change. Washing our hands before every meal is now commonplace. Who knows how many illnesses will be avoided following this simple guideline. Should working at home become permanent, it will save fuel and provide an opportunity to improve the climate and perhaps the environment. Working at home will likely become more commonplace in the future. With all those employees working from home, plans to increase the density in urban areas, like San Francisco, may become unnecessary, as workers remain at home in the suburbs or move to less expensive rural areas. When the 80% economy returns, due to layoffs of people never to be rehired, maybe MUNI could redesign buses and trains with safer distance. Americans might even have family dinners at home again. We have not done that since before the invention of the TV. In order to hasten the return to the regular economy, one doctor has recommended daily testing for every worker, with badges indicating workers are safe to interact with others.

Maybe it will take this pandemic for Americans to realize that our healthcare system is broken and a system that works is necessary for public safety. Remember, COVID-19 is said to be transferred by droplets, the more serious pandemic will be transferred only by air. Let’s hope we will have a more robust healthcare system when the next pandemic arrives.


For more information on COVID-19 , see the website provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is updated daily with the most accurate and current information: cdc.gov

Glenn Rogers, RLA, VP, CSFN
Landscape Architect, License 3223
web site: alderlandscapearchitecture.com

More by Glenn Rogers
John Farrell
Coronavirus Aftermath – What Does Our City Do Next?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having huge impact our City finances. City Hall has a projected deficit in the current fiscal year of up to $288 million. The upcoming fiscal years are projected from $528 million to $779 million for FY 2020-21 and from $444 million to $612 for FY 2021-2022. Prior to this pandemic our city’s basic issues such as safety, housing affordability, homelessness and drug infested streets seemed worse than ever and we were short on police, MUNI drivers, nurses, etc… Further, the FBI picked up MS-13 gang members in our city and we read about entrusted City Hall officials abusing their power.

The Mayor and related departments have addressed this pandemic head on. I want to thank them and all medical staff, police and fire, garbage collectors, MUNI drivers, volunteers and everyone who stepped up in making our city run during this tumultuous time.

quote marks

... City Hall will have the daunting task of grappling with balancing the City’s budget and addressing our city’s priorities such as housing, public safety and homelessness.

It is hard to believe that in January the US had the strongest economy in the world and was winning the trade war with China and suddenly a virus develops which is now devastating the US economy.

By the way, did you know that 97% of all antibiotics in the US come from China, as well as 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make drugs. We need to start producing these products here in the US.

This pandemic will be over soon and City Hall will have the daunting task of grappling with balancing the City’s budget and addressing our city’s priorities such as housing, public safety and homelessness. While we all have been requested to shelter-in-place, this gives time for City Hall to reflect and formulate a game plan to address these issues and getting our city’s economy back on track.

City Hall has a golden opportunity to develop this game plan to ensure our vital services are met as our economy has been devastated by this virus. We need to just get through this next budget cycle and then once completed, direct the Budget Analyst’s Office in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office to conduct a zero-based budget. We need to also address how to minimize the losses of our city businesses affected by the virus, especially our small businesses.

We need accountability in our city government. City Hall needs to utilize our city resources more effectively and efficiently, to cut waste and consolidate departments, programs and services where applicable, to eliminate those that are low priority and not cost effective, and reallocate funds to departments that are justified. City Hall needs to prioritize essential services and programs to ensure they have sufficient funding before lower priority programs are funded. We need to audit non-profit agencies and City contracts to ensure that services are provided and determine if they are necessary. We must ensure that City contracts are entered into with the utmost integrity. All revenue generating departments need to audit their practices to ensure all revenue sources are addressed.

I grew up in the greatest city in the world. I am tired of reading about what a mess it is now. Let’s get back to basics.

I wish you and all your family all the best during these trying times. We will get through this together. God bless.

John Farrell Broker/Realtor® – Farrell Real Estate, MBA, Former Assistant Assessor – Budget & Special Projects, Westside resident - farrellreinvestments@yahoo.com.

April-May 2020

More Articles by John Farrell
homeless person sleeping on park bench

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the faithful readers and followers of the Westside Observer who, over the years, have so generously contributed to the publishing and existence of one of the last printed neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco. As many of you already know, this publication will from now on be offered online. I want to assure all of you that the content, insightfulness and integrity of the new online version will remain, and it will continue to be your go-to-source for those who want to discover the truth behind the issues affecting all San Franciscans. The new online version will be dispersed by the Westside San Francisco Media Group and can be accessed by going to westsideobserver.com.

I also want to express my sincere hope and wishes that each and every one of you is keeping safe and taking every precaution to protect yourself and your loved ones while this awful and very dangerous virus is sweeping our country. We all must sacrifice and pull together during this terrible time in our lives. There is no room for error or selfishness if we are going to beat this scourge.

A Few Observations:

quote marks

...the corruption that exists in San Francisco today was accelerated during the Newsom administration ... the tremendous amounts of money that we are spending on homelessness ... due to his failed and disastrous policy, “Care not Cash.” I’ve written many columns on this subject ...

1. As always in time of crisis, the politicians posture and seek to get as much “face time” as they can in their quest to exploit the situation for political gain.

There’s no doubt that President Trump is dominating the airwaves with his daily necessary briefings. I do think he has done a remarkable job in the way he has been handling this unprecedented crisis. His decisions have been questioned from every possible angle, but when one considers the enormity, and conditions that he has had to deal with in these unchartered times, I think that fairness dictates that his leadership is to be complimented.

2. I also think that Governor Newsom did the right thing by imposing certain restrictions on California residents when he did as concerns the corona virus. But in reality, it was what any sensible person in that position should have done.

However, I think time will prove out that our ever- exploitive Governor is now doing to California what he did to San Francisco. There is no question in my mind that the corruption that exists in San Francisco today was accelerated during the Newsom administration. One example is the tremendous amounts of money that we are spending on homelessness in our City. It is directly due to his failed and disastrous policy, “Care not Cash”. I’ve written many columns on this subject that have appeared in the Westside Observer, the Examiner, and other publications, so I will not go into much detail here. Let me sum it up by saying that what was mandated and indexed as the “care” to be provided in his legislation is directly responsible for the amount of money we spend on the homeless problem in San Francisco today. To provide the “care” called for instead of “cash” is now costing the taxpayers over 10 times, (That’s 1000 % more) to treat the same number of homeless people today as were in San Francisco in 2002-3! Where is all the money going? Directly into the pockets of the chosen “Non-profit Homeless Industry Service Providers” who, in turn, donate huge sums of money back into Newsom’s election campaigns. That’s the game being played folks! It’s not only in the homeless industry, but also in many other areas of our California economy, only now the amounts that Newsom is playing with are much greater.

My heart goes out to the poor homeless, who have it tough enough on today’s streets, and are once again being exploited for political gain. Many people who voted for that deceptive legislation are now realizing that it has done nothing to alleviate the problem, and has only enslaved thousands of people in the never-ending cycle perpetuated by the homeless industry providers. Some are beginning to call for direct “cash” payments to be re-installed because at least that way, it would be much cheaper and the homeless would directly be responsible for their own destiny. I don’t know about that proposal, but when doing the numbers we are spending about $80,000 dollars per homeless individual per year!

Newsom is not really interested in solving the homeless problem or any other problem that currently generates cash back into his coffers so he can run for President. Keep an eye on how his latest proposal, a whopping 1.5 Billion dollars for the homeless in California, is administered. I think you will be surprised at the “charade” as it unfolds.

2. Another monster is surfacing that will definitely negatively impact one of the fundamentals of an open, honest, and fair democratic society.

The monster that is being promoted is the call for mandatory “vote by mail” and enhanced absentee balloting due to the corona virus. No doubt many people will go along with this proposal being pushed by the far left. On the surface it sounds like a reasonable solution and necessary precaution to take in these infectious times. However, there is overwhelming evidence that proves that the number of fraudulent ballots, and methods of “ballot harvesting” by over-zealous campaign workers amidst voter registration rolls that haven’t been purged of dead or non-existent voters in decades, is a very real on-going threat to our entire election process. (It was a major component utilized by my opponent in my own election to the Board of Supervisors in 2000!)

At present, mail in voting should only be instituted if actual safe guards and precautions are in place to ensure there is no voter fraud. And yes, to the dismay of the pseudo-intellectuals and discrimination mongers, the solution may require enhanced voter I.D. requirements.

That’s all for now folks. Please be safe and take good care of your families because they make up the real backbone of San Francisco.

Past columns by Tony hall can also be accessed on line by going to: tonyhallarchives.wordpress.com

April-May 2020

More Articles by Tony Hall
Student Stress: COVID 19
Card image cap

A new schedule. Restricted access to friends. Living in close quarters. With schools closed it’s tough for students to adjust. Now add the disappointment of cancelling the school dance, concerns about college applications, and sports and school clubs closing down… 

Carol Kocivar

It’s no wonder some kids are having a hard time. But what you may also be seeing is stress —  not exactly related to the new schedule and restrictions but to how our world has changed because of the pandemic. Here are some suggestions to help parents and students.

Students show stress in different ways at different ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives examples of what to look for.

Link to: cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/pdf/children-coping-factsheet-50.pdf

Talking to Kids about the Pandemic

Giving your children age-appropriate accurate information about COVID-19 is important in addressing the fears and stress they are feeling. They may be worried that they will get the virus or that members of their family will become ill. The CDC recommends:

quote marks

Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.

Talk. “Share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.”

Feel. “Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.”

Empathize. “Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media.” 

Keep routines. “Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.” (See Ed100 blog Learning at Home, 2020)

Be a role model. “Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.”

Finding the right words to use with children in times of stress can be hard. Language for Parents During Times of Worry offers these suggestions: Use words such as “I Care” or “I notice” or “How Can I Help?” Crucially: after you ask a question, listen.  

Give Kids Tools to Take Control

Child trauma experts at the Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts say having a sense of control is important in times of fear. Children can do this by helping themselves:  

Parents can explain how and when to wash hands, why you should cough into your elbow and why it is important to keep a distance away from others. Brain Pop‘s Coronavirus site for older kids can help with this message. It includes quizzes, extra readings and worksheets. 

Poster for Kids: Handwashing is your Superpower

If you have more technical questions about the virus, Boston Children’s Hospital offers a short video by Dr. Kristen Moffitt, an expert on infectious disease. The video, which addresses medical questions about the new coronavirus in babies and children, is suitable to share with late elementary students as well as middle and high school students.

What’s Age Appropriate?

The Parent Guide from the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Nurses includes examples of age appropriate conversations. They vary from simple explanations for elementary school students to helping direct high school students to reliable sources of information.

For more resources, visit Ed100.org.

More Education Articles from Carol Kocivar