Swearing in recruits
Let's Get Serious about Community Policing.

It's Time to Engage SFPD's Community Police Advisory Boards (CPABs)

Julia Pitta
Julie Pitta

With the aim of promoting greater engagement between the police and the people they serve, in 2009 the San Francisco Police Department borrowed an idea from Los Angeles. Modeled after a successful Los Angeles Police Department program, the SFPD established Community Police Advisory Boards (CPABs) in the City’s 10 police districts.

A Missed Opportunity for Greater Community-Police Cooperation

Among other things, the SFPD’s CPABs were designed to heal its long-troubled relationship between police and communities of color. According to the SFPD’s CPAB manual, “Diversity considerations should play a significant role in selecting [CPAB] members.” In addition to racial diversity, CPABs should reflect a district’s age, gender, ethnic, religious and socio-economic diversity as well as “diversity of thought.” They should not be “restricted to those who openly support the department.”

In 2016, after five Black and brown San Franciscans were killed by SFPD officers during the preceding 12 months, the U.S. Department of Justice was called in to review the department’s activities. The resulting report’s findings were not pretty: Nine out of the 11 victims killed by the SFPD between 2013 and 2016 were people of color. Included in the report were 274 recommendations for correcting SFPD problem with Black and brown residents.

Among those proposals was making greater use of CPABs which were called “a good practice” failing to meet their potential. “[They] could play a more active role in policing decisions and communicating the policing activities and goals to the larger community,” the report stated.

A year ago, California’s Department of Justice issued a follow-up to 2016’s landmark study. A mere 15 percent of the federal proposals had been instituted. Of those being disregarded, was the recommendation that the SFPD carve out a larger role for its CPABs.


At their core, CPABs are an effort to get back to public safety as a shared responsibility between the community and the police,” Correia said. “To be effective the CPAB must be able to represent [and] to be aware of the needs of the larger community.”

CPAB information is hard to come by. SFPD stations rarely list CPAB members on their websites. (Obtaining the names of Richmond CPAB members required a public records request.) Minutes for the meetings are unavailable, an explicit violation of the SFPD’s CPAB guidelines.

Richmond's Mysterious CPAB

The Richmond Station’s CPAB meets monthly. Gaetano Caltagirone, the Richmond’s recently installed station captain, inherited a CPAB that is largely white, male and affluent—in short, everything the Richmond is not. Between 60 and 70 percent of the neighborhood’s 70,000 residents are renters. It is home to a large and diverse Asian population, and in recent years, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Black and brown residents.

At the start of his tenure, Captain Caltagirone, though highly regarded, promised to review CPAB membership. Community activists called on him to make the body more representative of the neighborhood, and candidates who better reflect the Richmond’s rich diversity submitted their names for consideration. So far, Caltagirone has not done so.

Only one new member has been added since Caltagirone came to the station a little more than four months ago: Former District One Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. A Chinese-American, the wife of a retired SFPD officer and a life-long Richmond resident, Fewer is an inspired choice. It should be noted Caltagirone opposed Fewer’s appointment, only relenting after he received pressure from police department higher-ups.

The Richmond’s CPAB still fails to adhere to the SFPD’s diversity guidelines. Typical of the Richmond CPAB is Mark Dietrich, who is white, male and owns a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home near the neighborhood’s affluent Lake Street corridor. Dietrich, a marketing director at The Gap, hosts an anti-burglary website urging Richmond residents to “fight back” against crime. Some residents felt encouraged to form a do-it-yourself neighborhood watch, an effort many feared would end badly.

The SFPD’s community arm, San Francisco Safety Awareness for All (SF SAFE) cautioned the approach and Richmond District Supervisor Connie Chan councelled circumspection.  “Pushing an idea that [Richmond residents] take matters into their own hands to ‘fight back’ against [crime]. . . is totally unacceptable, needs to stop immediately, and has the potential to lead to some very bad outcomes for the community,” wrote Kyra Worthy, SF SAFE’s executive director.

Added Chan: “The only way to ensure our neighbors are not misguided or misinformed, and most importantly not put themselves in the harm’s way due to false sense of security and misinformation, is to encourage our neighbors to work with our law enforcement agencies directly about their safety concerns. Please note,” Chan added, “I have alerted Chief Scott’s and his team regarding this situation so his team can find way to direct our neighbors and address their concerns.”

Community Goals

Richard Correia, the Richmond District’s station captain between 2008 to 2011, convened the neighborhood’s first CPAB in 2009. Today, he leads University of San Francisco’s prestigious Criminal Justice Leadership Institute. Correia said CPABs should include “anyone who wants to join in.”

“At their core, CPABs are an effort to get back to public safety as a shared responsibility between the community and the police,” Correia said. “To be effective the CPAB must be able to represent [and] to be aware of the needs of the larger community.”

San Francisco, like many cities, is being forced to reckon with its police department’s racist past. The CPABs are an important way for the SFPD to gain a greater understanding of City residents, particularly those who have often found themselves the target of racist police practices. To accomplish this laudable goal means that station captains must be transparent in their selection of CPAB members, must ensure that membership reflects that of their districts, and must not hesitate to remove members who are not serving the best interests of the community.

Julie Pitta is a neighborhood activist. You can email her here.

August 15, 2021

California Communities Are Bracing for Drought

Does This Mean We Should Panic in the Bay Area?

Listening to news about the current drought, one might wonder how long we have before we run out of water. Fortunately, for those of us who live in San Francisco and other communities served by Hetch Hetchy, we can rest a little easier than just about anyone else.

The SFPUC, which manages our water supply, has a lot of reservoir storage capacity. Hetch Hetchy makes up only a quarter of it, and at full storage, the SFPUC has enough water to last six years. Right now they’re sitting on enough water to last four-and-a-half years. That’s like driving with your gas tank three-quarters full – hardly time to panic.

quote marks

The SFPUC also has a long history of inflating demand projections. Just a few months ago they got caught trying to cook the books in their Urban Water Management Plan. When forced to use actual demand projections, potential rationing decreased by 27%.”

Despite being in an enviable position, the SFPUC wants you to believe our water security is far from certain. They want you to support their lawsuits against the State Water Board. The Board is in the process of requiring more water to be left in the Tuolumne River – the source of Hetch Hetchy – to help restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and rivers that feed it.

In an average year, the SFPUC is entitled to three times as much water as is needed, so if next year is close to average, all of their reservoirs will fill. The drought will be over, at least for San Francisco.

Tuolumne Water Supply

The reason the SFPUC has so much storage is because their Regional Water System was designed for demand that is twice what it is today. As a result of increased water use efficiency driven by greater awareness of the value of water and a tripling of its cost over the past decade, we’re using 30% less water today then we were 35 years ago, despite population growth.

Tuolumne River

85% of San Francisco’s water supply comes from the Tuolumne, a 149-mile-long river that begins 13,000 feet above sea level in Yosemite National Park. Water from the Tuolumne irrigates over 200,000 acres of agricultural farmland in Stanislaus County, feeding people all over the world. It also provides drinking water for 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where more than 100,000 salmon once spawned, barely 1,000 returned to the Tuolumne last year, impacting everything from insects that feed on their carcasses to orcas in the Pacific Ocean and the fishing community at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a disgrace the river that provides us with so much is worse off than any other in the Central Valley.

The SFPUC could do so much more to restore the Tuolumne, but Instead has produced a gloom and doom scenario that if more water is left in the river, we could face severe rationing. They inflate demand projections, assume hardly any recycled water will be brought online, and plan for an extremely conservative drought that is much worse than any over the past 1,100 years, based on tree-ring data.

quote marks

It’s a disgrace the river that provides us with so much is worse off than any other in the Central Valley.”

In reality, rationing figures could be almost anything, depending on policy decisions. For example, at current demand the SFPUC could manage the worst drought on record (1987-92), with higher flows in the Tuolumne, without requiring any rationing or developing any new water supplies. By implementing reasonable rationing requirements and producing recycled water, we could extend our supply by another year or two.

In contrast, the SFPUC has manufactured a very different scenario. The “Design Drought” they use for planning purposes arbitrarily combines the 1987-92 drought with the driest two-year period on record (1976/77) to create an artificial 8.5-year mega-drought. To accommodate this scenario, rationing in the later years must be shifted into the earlier years, unnecessarily increasing rationing figures.

The SFPUC also has a long history of inflating demand projections. Just a few months ago they got caught trying to cook the books in their Urban Water Management Plan. When forced to use actual demand projections, potential rationing decreased by 27%.

The graph below demonstrates how SFPUC policies harm the Tuolumne. Any time there’s a drought, they starve the river, hoarding water behind dams just in case we were to experience the Design Drought. Between 2012 and 2016, only 12% of the Tuolumne’s natural flow was left in the river. When precipitation returned in 2016/17, their reservoirs filled quickly, and all the water we conserved during the drought had to be “dumped.” The Tuolumne experienced one good year at the expense of five terrible years. This pattern has repeated for decades.

Tuolumne Water Diversion Chart

Balancing our water needs with those of the environment is not rocket science. Here’s what needs to happen.

1) The SFPUC should conduct a science-based probability analysis to determine how long of a drought they should plan for (adding a buffer to accommodate uncertainties).

2) They should identify what went wrong with past demand projections (their numbers have been off by an average of 22% over the past two decades), and correct the problems so they’re working with realistic projections.

3) Once they have a better understanding of how much water might be available for human consumption, the SFPUC should determine how much alternative supply (such as recycled water) needs to be developed to fill the potential deficit.

The possibility of running out of water is small. The likelihood of California’s Central Valley salmon going extinct is high if we continue to divert unsustainable amounts of water from our rivers. It’s time for the SFPUC to abandon their lawsuits and become a leader in river stewardship.

Peter Drekmeier is the Policy Director of Tuolumne River Trust

JUNE 2021


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A Crisis of Leadership

When asked, ten people will probably have ten different answers on what constitutes leadership. In many cases, leadership has been exhibited by elected officials under times of conflict, tragedy, or turmoil.

I am a journalist and have a strong opinion on the recent mishandling of the events following the SFPD leaked report on the details regarding Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s passing. I believe in fact checking, decency, and abhor the sensational publications that line our checkout stands in the supermarket. While I do not condone the leaking of the SFPD report, the right of the freelance journalist who received it to report it, or market it is protected by law, under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the “Shield Law” of the California Constitution.

The SFPD obtained a search warrant, sledge-hammered the door to the freelance reporter’s apartment, handcuffed him for six hours, and confiscated his notes, computers, and materials.

This is a crisis of leadership. All of our elected officials are sworn to protect the laws of the United States and California. The actions of the SFPD were clearly against the law, and the actions of our elected officials condoning these illegal actions is shameful.”


Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of the free press being treated as “enemies of the people” as we have heard from some of those in Washington, the Philippines and other places.

Mayor Breed backed her police chief, failing to condemn the raid, basically saying that she is not a legal expert, but if a judge issued a warrant, it must be OK. Police Chief Bill Scott also supported the raid as a tool to get to the truth about where the leaked report came from. Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer stated that the journalist broke the law by receiving an illegally leaked report (incorrect), and that since he is selling the information the raid is somehow justified.

Now, several weeks later, Chief Scott admits the raid was a mistake and that the SFPD must do better due diligence in its investigations. Are we really expected to believe that he was not involved at the very highest levels when the SFPD applied for a search warrant and conducted the raid, violating the California Constitution and the reporter’s civil rights? What about the Superior Court judges who signed off on the search warrants? Surely they have heard of the Shield Law.

The Mayor started waffling in her responses almost immediately, but has never condemned the actions of the SFPD in the raid. Supervisor Fewer continues to “blame” the journalist for making money on the story and also claims she is not a legal expert.

The Shield Law exists for the protection of journalists and the integrity of the free press, one of the cornerstones of democracy. Anyone who is old enough to remember Watergate; “Deep Throat” and the Washington Post knows that leaked confidential information is protected by law.

This is a crisis of leadership. All of our elected officials are sworn to protect the laws of the United States and California. The actions of the SFPD were clearly against the law, and the actions of our elected officials condoning these illegal actions is shameful.

Supervisors Peskin, Haney, Ronen, Brown and Stefani condemned the raid, as did District Attorney George Gascon. Even worse, ten days after the raid we have “no response” from several supervisors, including the President of the Board, Supervisor Norman Yee of District 7. No outrage, no concern for SFPD overreach? No comment on the trampling of free speech or civil rights? Nope, just crickets… still waiting for a comment.

This is not a “We made a mistake moment”, or “My Bad”. It is a violation of the California Constitution and a blatant attack on the press. All because someone in the SFPD (apparently) wanted to smear the memory and legacy of Jeff Adachi and the Public Defender’s Office.

The “duck and cover” mentality of those at the top is unacceptable. “I am not a legal expert” is a terrible excuse for violating the law. A clear lack of integrity and leadership is evident.

All citizens and voters within San Francisco should remember this when the next election for Supervisor, Mayor and Superior Court occur. I sure will.

Mitch Bull, Publisher, The Westside Observer, The Castro Courier

JUNE 2019


A Tragic Death on Woodside Avenue

Jose Carrasco relaxes with his two daughters

At the March 19 Health Commission meeting, Health Director Grant Colfax, MD announced the death of Laguna Honda Hospital (LHH) employee Jose Manuel Haros Carrasco.

On the afternoon of March 1st, the 37 year old LHH porter was struck by a vehicle while crossing near 255 Woodside Avenue alongside the southern border of the LHH campus. Haros Carrasco was rushed to SFGH but died 3 days later, leaving a bereaved wife and 3 children in South San Francisco. The Westside Observer requested and awaits the police report of the collision.

Though Haros Carrasco had only worked at LHH since June 2017, he was quickly promoted for his diligence in keeping the premises in “impeccable condition” and for his upbeat attitude. Recognized as “one of the hardest working; always on time and always doing the utmost quality work”, he “flashed a smile at every opportunity”, thereby spreading much-appreciated cheer within the LHH community. The Westside Observer extends its condolences to his grieving family and co-workers.

Following this tragic event, LHH supervisors reinforced safety tips to staff traveling to and from work. Representatives from San Francisco’s Vision Zero Task Force and the Municipal Transportation Agency visited the accident site to recommend street improvements that could prevent future injuries. The DPH Crisis Intervention Specialist Team has provided support to Haros Carrasco’s family.

Through March 2019, the City’s Vision Zero program recorded 10 traffic deaths, including 6 pedestrians. Among these was 14 year old student, Madlen Koteva, who died days after she was struck by a vehicle while crossing near the 600 block of John Muir Drive along Lake Merced on March 15th. Another 3 people died in freeway-related accidents, including one pedestrian. Despite SFMTA’s well-crafted Vision Zero Action Strategy, the 10 fatalities in just 3 months are alarming when compared to the 23 reported for all of 2018. Yet the stated goal is to reach 0 traffic deaths by 2024.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to benefit his daughters.

MAY 2019

2019 James Madison Freedom of Information Award

James Madison Freedom of Information Award 2019

The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, announced that the Westside Observer is the recipient of the 2019 James Madison Award in the Community News Media category. “The publication stands out among San Francisco’s neighborhood newspapers for fostering citizen journalism based on public records disclosures that shed light on city government and promote community engagement.” Publisher Mitch Bull thanked his intrepid team of reporters and the Editor for their commitment to San Francisco and their knowledgable efforts to hold City Hall accountable .

Please visit spjnorcal.org for information about past award winners. For additional information about the awards, winners, or awards dinner, please email the SPJ NorCal Freedom of Information Committee at spjnorcalfoi@gmail.com.

February 2019

An Apology from the Publisher:

In the March issue of the Westside Observer, we printed a story pertaining to the issue of housing in San Francisco, especially as related to Senate Bill 827, proposed by State Senator Scott Wiener, accompanied by a photograph of Senator Weiner participating in the Folsom Street Fair.

As the publisher of the newspaper I am ultimately responsible and I accept the input from the community groups (especially the LBGTQ community) that feels that it was a hit piece that promotes homophobia.  This was not our intent, as we are part of an inclusive community of journalists who strive to bring quality local news to the citizens of San Francisco, and value inclusivity of all of our citizens.

We failed to recognize the ramifications of our actions, and it was a very large lack of judgment on our part.

I cannot undo the hurt feelings that we have caused, or the black eye that we have given ourselves.  It does need to be noted that this error should in no way be attributable to the writer, or the large number of neighborhood groups and associations within the Westside of San Francisco, who welcome inclusivity.

I am extremely sorry about this and apologize to all citizens within the inclusive city of San Francisco, to the LBGTQ community and to our readers, our local community groups and advertisers who are our partners, and of course, Senator Wiener.


With this action, we failed all of you.  It will not happen again.

Mitch Bull-Publisher

An Apology from the Editor

Friends - I am the editor of the Westside Observer and take full responsibility for the photos, headlines and captions that appear in both the online and hardcopy editions of the neighborhood newspaper. I chose the photo of Scott Wiener with the caption "State Senator Scott Wiener at the Folsom Street Fair.” I choose photos, the writers do not, though they may recommend or supply photos from time-to-time. While I try to choose photographs with the goal of attracting interest in articles, I regret that this choice may have detracted from the content.

I realize that I sometimes have a strange sense of humor and it does sometimes get the best of me. This is possibly from my background as a cartoonist. I hope that, if anyone was offended, that they will forgive me, and know that I appreciate any criticisms that will help make the Westside Observer a better product. Be sure to email me editor(at)westsideobserver.com immediately if you have a concern.

As a long-time gay activist, I certainly had no homophobic agenda in the choice of that particular photo, and I am sorry some may have interpreted it that way. I take it for granted that homophobia is a thing of the past. I have removed it from the website because I do not wish to detract, in any way, from the fairness and accuracy of Mr. Wooding’s observations.

Doug Comstock
Editor, Westside Observer

A Modest Proposal:

Televise Bond Oversight Meetings

A committee created in 2002 to oversee bond spending has an image problem: Few have heard of the Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee (CGOBOC), or know of the many duties with which CGOBOC is charged. Broadcasting CGOBOC’s meeting on the City’s Government Channel (SFGOV-TV, Channel 26) would go a long way toward clearing up its image problem, and provide greater transparency of this important committee overseeing taxpayer money.

The public has a right to know how San Francisco government officials are spending billions in bond funds.


When Citizens General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee starts broadcasting and archiving its meetings, we’ll be watching.”

SFGOV-TV broadcasts and archives all meetings of the Board of Supervisors and its five or more various sub-committees; meetings of 34 separate Boards and Commissions in the City, including the Police Commission, Ethics Commission, Fire Department Commission, Public Health Department Commission, Recreation and Parks Commission, Planning Commission, and Public Utilities Commission, among others; and broadcasts free publicity for the Mayor.

Why should CGOBOC be exempt from broadcasting its meetings?

In March 2002 voters passed Proposition F to create this nine-member bond oversight committee to monitor expenditures of general bond proceeds and ensure bond revenues are spent only in accordance with stated bond measure provisions. Prop F’s legal text stipulated CGOBOC could commission independent outside auditors to review bond expenditures, and if the Committee found that funds weren’t being spent for purposes approved by voters, it could prohibit sale of any remaining funds.

CGOBOC currently oversees 11 general obligation bonds totaling $3.6 billion, and has received $3.6 million (one-tenth of one percent) from bond proceeds to support its functions. As of March 23, 2017 CGOBOC had a $1.73 million current account balance.

In November 2003, voters approved Prop C to create a City Services Auditor (CSA) in the City Controller’s Office. The CSA function sought to ensure every City program and City department receives regular management and performance audits. The Controller’s statement in the 2003 voter guide indicated that based on the FY 2003–2004 budget, an additional $5.3 million would be set aside, in addition to the $3.2 million then budgeted for auditing and performance measurement, for a total of $8.5 million. CSA’s annual allocation — two-tenths of one percent of the City’s overall budget — is now $16.3 million in the current City budget.

What are we getting for that outlay? Every City program and department has not received performance and management audits from CSA in the 14 years since Prop C passed. About half of CSA’s audits have been compliance audits of City contracts. Virtually no comprehensive departmental or programmatic audits.

Prop C also expanded CGOBOC’s duties to serve as a Citizens Audit Review Board (CARB) to review audits CSA prepares, to ensure all audits meet requirements, and also requires that CGOBOC review complaints submitted to the Controller’s whistleblower program.

In October 2016 members of a loosely-knit group of accountability activists known as the Sunshine Posse, members of San Franciscans for Sunshine (veteran activists for open government), and members of Friends of Ethics began advocating that CGOBOC broadcast its meetings to increase transparency of its many oversight functions.

Change orders to bond-funded capital improvement projects have long been a problem CGOBOC has all but ignored. Change orders — various categories of changes to a project’s scope of work — lead directly to project cost overruns, construction delays, and higher project costs.

Back in 2010, CGOBOC’s then-chairperson, Abraham Simmons — a former member of San Francisco’s Civil Grand Jury — agreed CGOBOC should demand that the City Controller work closely with CGOBOC to develop a thorough and standardized change order management policy to supplement CGOBOC’s limited focus on just financial bond encumbrances and expenditures to prevent cost over-runs. Since then, CGOBOC has all but abandoned examining change orders.

Broadcasting and archiving CGOBOC’s meetings on SFGOV-TV is estimated to cost just $9,579 annually, a ridiculously modest 0.55% of CGOBOC’s $1.73 million current budget balance. That’s why this is characterized as a modest proposal.

At its January 2017 meeting, CGOBOC voted 3-to-2, plus one abstention, to approve broadcasting, two votes shy of the threshold, so the motion failed.

City Controller staff mistakenly told CGOBOC members in January that there was a “wait list” for agencies seeking to broadcast. But Kathleen Clark, Acting Deputy Communications Director at the Department of Technology, said “SFGOV-TV does not have a ‘wait list’ for coverage.”

Due to public comments submitted prior to its March 23 meeting, CGOBOC re-considered its decision, voting 7-to-1 to approve broadcasting and archiving its meetings, with the lone “No” vote cast by CGOBOC’s Chairperson, Brian Larkin.

One member who voted “No” in January changed his vote to “Yes” after he listened to audio tapes on CGOBOC’s web site and agreed the quality of the out-dated audio technology is terrible. The member who “Abstained” changed his vote to “Yes” after being chided during public comment.

Cultural anthropologist Margaret Meade’s famous dictum — “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” — proved true in San Francisco on March 23.

When CGOBOC starts broadcasting and archiving its meetings, we’ll be watching.

April 2017

New Laws for 2017 –
How Aware are You?Governor Brown signing legislation

With the New Year celebrations, the swearing-in of a new administration in Washington, and new local politicos, taking office, you, may have missed the advisement of all of the new laws that took effect on January 1.

What you may not know is how busy the California legislature was in 2016, and some of the new laws and statutes. The members of the State Assembly and State Senate sent a whopping 1059 pieces of legislation to Governor Jerry Brown's desk for signature in 2016. Of those, the Governor signed 898 bills into law, vetoed 159, and let two become law without his signature. While many of the laws are fairly esoteric or a small tweak to an existing measure, there are several that could have a big impact if you run "afoul" of them.


Drivers are only allowed to activate or deactivate a feature or function on the device with a single swipe or tap and cannot do that while holding the device”

First and foremost is the new law regarding cellphone use while driving in a vehicle. While it has been against the law for several years to talk without using a hands-free device in your car, the new law (aimed at those who text) takes it one step farther: Californians are no longer allowed to use a handheld wireless telephone or wireless electronic device while driving, unless the device is mounted on the vehicle dashboard or windshield in a way that doesn't inhibit the driver's view of the road. Drivers are only allowed to activate or deactivate a feature or function on the device with a single swipe or tap and cannot do that while holding the device. Hold your phone in your lap and look down at the screen at your peril. The fines are high (exceeding $200) and are being strictly enforced, according to the CHP.

Senate Bill 491 also affect drivers as it prohibits them from wearing headsets, earplugs or ear buds in or over both ears while operating a vehicle or bicycle.

Another new law affecting you and your car is SB 838, which increases the vehicle registration fee from $43 to $53 beginning on April 1.

AB53, passed in 2015 but just now going into effect, requires that all children under the age of 2 be fastened into rear-facing child safety seats. There is an exception for children who weigh at least 40 pounds or are at least 40 inches tall. Children under the age of 8 are required to ride in the back seat.

SB3 raised the California minimum wage from $10 per hour to $10.50 per hour for all businesses that have over 26 employees. Of course it is already higher in San Francisco.

powdered alcohol

Per SB 819, alcohol in a powdered form (yes it does exist) is now illegal to possess, sell, manufacture or use. It includes powdered alcohol that can be combined with water or other liquids to be reconstituted, but does not cover "vaporized" alcohol. Speaking of alcohol, beginning on January 1, it is now legal for beauty salons and barbershops to serve free wine and beer to their clients until 10 PM.

Voter registration and mail-in balloting: AB1436, passed in 2012 but just now taking effect, allows people to register to vote on Election Day, with county election HQ serving as election hubs starting two weeks prior to Election Day. It allows for "conditional voter registration" which means the ballots aren't counted until officials verify that the voter is eligible and hasn't cast a ballot elsewhere. Current law cuts off voter registration 15 days prior to an election. SB450 also make casting a ballot much easier, as voters can now return mail-in ballots to any county elections office in the state, not just in the county that issued the ballot.

AB 1386 allows businesses to stock "EpiPens" in case there is a need to treat people suffering from life-threatening allergic reactions. The law allows pharmacies to give the devices to college, private businesses and other venues that have a plan in place for using them.

AB1732 requires that all single-user toilet facilities in any business or public place to be "all-gender" facilities.

Homeless students at Community Colleges: Under AB 1995, all community college campuses with shower facilities on campus must allow homeless students who are enrolled, paid, and in good standing to use the facilities. Another law, AB 1747, requires public and private institutions that offer food services to apply for a state-funded program that provides food for homeless students.

Assault Weapon law: Voters passed a law that will require all Californians who own gun magazines with more than 10 rounds to give them up, starting July 1. Buyers must undergo a background check before buying ammunition and will be barred from buying new weapons that have a "bullet button, " which were developed by manufacturers to circumvent the state's assault weapons ban. A bullet button allows a gun user to quickly dislodge the gun magazine using the tip of a bullet.

AB 30 bans the use of the name "Redskins" from all California public school sports teams.

Sexual assault clarification: A person who sexually assaults an unconscious or severely intoxicated person will become a crime that is ineligible for probation, under SB 2888.

Right-to-die legislation: Terminally ill patients in California will now be allowed to use experimental drugs, which do not have full regulatory approval, to decide when they want to end their lives. It authorizes, but does not require health plans to cover investigational drugs and protects physicians from disciplinary actions if they recommend them once other treatment options have been exhausted.

These are just a few of the 898 laws that were passed. To see more of the new legislation go onto the website of the State of California.

February 2017

Measure RR: Keep BART Safe and Reliable

On your November 8 ballot, you have the opportunity to dramatically improve our regional transportation system. Measure RR is a $3.5 billion bond measure to keep BART safe and reliable after 44 years of operation. This funding will allow BART to replace over 90 miles of old rails, upgrade its 1960s train-control system, repair aging tunnels, update electrical power systems, and enhance existing stations. This will be the first time since its opening in 1972 that BART has asked the voters to fund major renewal of its essential infrastructure.

Measure RR is the culmination of years of work by a new generation of BART leadership committed to reinvesting in the core. These efforts began by securing funding to replace BART’s aging rail cars with new trains that will begin to be put into service early next year. BART has also transformed how it does maintenance, shifting from a system that simply reacted to malfunctions and urgent repairs to one that proactively repairs and upgrades equipment before problems occur. This has nearly doubled the number of miles each train car can travel before it experiences a breakdown, and has made BART the best subway system in the country in terms of portion of its fleet stuck in maintenance yards.

With the funding that Measure RR will provide, BART can take the vital next step in this turnaround. In addition to maintaining safety and reliability - these investments will allow BART to significantly increase capacity. Power upgrades and a modern train control system will allow BART faster and more frequent service, accommodating nearly 200,000 additional daily riders. This additional capacity is more than the daily ridership of Muni Metro and would represent the single largest increase in public transit capacity in the history of the Bay Area.

Many Westside residents do not have a BART station nearby, but BART is a critical piece of our Bay Area transportation system that helps everyone get to work. These fundamental infrastructure investments are essential even for those who don’t ride BART, such as Muni riders and car commuters. More congested streets and highways are what we see when BART is unreliable, or when it can’t keep pace with regional growth. For example, studies found that without BART, congestion on the Bay Area’s busiest highways would triple.

Measure RR investments will also generate deep environmental benefits. BART already has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile of any major US rail system. Upgrading BART’s electrical infrastructure will allow more on-site solar power at BART stations and yards, helping BART deliver its commitment to go to 100% renewables by 2025. And increasing BART’s capacity is also one of the most cost effective tools to get drivers off the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping improve our air quality.Westside residents know as well as anyone the importance of clean air and livable streets that aren’t clogged by an endless procession of cars.

When BART works, we all benefit.

BART is at a critical moment. Without meaningful investment, declining reliability and capacity constraints will undermine our sustainability goals, increase roadway congestion, and disrupt access to jobs and services. On November 8, it’s time to take responsibility for our transportation infrastructure, and rebuild BART from the ground up. Please vote yes on Measure RR.

November 2016

PROP C: A Lot of Bang for the Bucks

San Franciscans will have Proposition C before us on the November ballot. It is a very simple measure to allow already-approved bonds to be used for one of the City's most pressing issues of our day—preserving housing affordable for low and middle-income San Franciscans.


…what's the impact to Taxpayers from Proposition C? Nothing. Updating the 1992 bond would address today's housing needs without any increased costs to voters."

Proposition C would expand the eligible uses from the 1992 seismic safety bond for unreinforced masonry (ie, brick) buildings to also include the rehab of at-risk residential buildings, including wood-frame "soft story" seismic retrofits and other fire, safety and code upgrades, and in the process allow the buildings to be made permanently affordable. There are at-risk buildings scattered across the City, usually small mult-unit apartments like in the Mission, Castro, SoMa and Richmond, and along commercial streets.

With $260 million in remaining bond authorization, that could result in over a thousand homes brought up to safety and long-term affordability.

It is a lot of bang for the bucks, a smart investment for the City in maintaining the value of residential buildings as part of San Francisco's infrastructure.

And you might ask, what's the impact to Taxpayers from Proposition C? Nothing. Updating the 1992 bond would address today's housing needs without any increased costs to voters. No new bonding capacity would be created beyond what was previously authorized. Prop C also includes oversight and transparency provisions to ensure accountability.

Finally, as important, Prop C is an urgent anti-displacement initiative, funding the preservation of existing homes to provide stability for tenants at risk of evictions. Often these tenants are facing threat of Ellis Act evictions, which can be avoided if the buildings are acquired on the market and made permanently affordable housing for those residents and other low and middle-income tenants in the years ahead. Proposition C is an important step toward ensuring stability and housing for all.

Proposition C is endorsed by the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the San Francisco Neighborhood Network, and supported by Supervisor Yee and all other members of the Board of Supervisors, as well as the Mayor. Join us in making this great investment in housing!

Peter Cohen is the co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, George Wooding is the President of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods.

September 2016

Thank you Chief!


First off, I do not personally know Police Chief Greg Suhr and was disheartened to read that he resigned. He was a year ahead of me at St. Ignatius but we never crossed each other's paths over the years to really get to know each other. I know people close to him, and know a lot of the rank and file. I have read about his career over the years through the newspapers and have always rooted for him.

As a native you grow up competing against other schools like Riordan, Sacred Heart, Lowell, Lincoln, to name a few, but as you get older you root for them as fellow San Franciscans, and wish them all the best because the City is the common bond we all have.


Whether you liked the Chief or not, which I do, I can tell you one thing, Greg Suhr would never sell out the City. And as Al Pacino said in the movie Scent of a Woman, "That is called integrity.”

In my opinion, he is the first Police Chief hired over the last 20 years based on qualifications and not based primarily on race or gender. The prior chief was selected by our previous Mayor who was running for governor and needed the Hispanic vote. Do I have anything personal against this man? No. Was he qualified? Probably yes. Was he hired for the right reason? No. He wasn't hired for the best interest of the City but for the best interest of a political campaign. But what else is new.

That's why Chief Suhr was different. Whether you liked the Chief or not, which I do, I can tell you one thing, Greg Suhr would never sell out the City. And as Al Pacino said in the movie Scent of a Woman, "That is called integrity."

There are over 1700 police officers who protect our City every day. I thank you all for that. Just because a handful make bad judgment calls shouldn't overshadow all the positives. Keep in mind that we all have our differences, but we all bleed red, and we are all in this together. There isn't one organization in the world without a couple of bad eggs.

I will continue to root for Greg since I know his heart is in the right place. And that heart is in San Francisco.

John Farrell Broker/Realtor® – Farrell Real Estate, MBA, Former City Asst. Assessor-Budget/Special Projects, 5th Generation San Franciscan, Westside resident - farrellreinvestments@yahoo.com

June 2016

Harvesting the Cannabis Taxes


With Governor Jerry Brown’s signatures on AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, California took historic and progressive steps to collect taxes and provide a regulatory framework for California’s 20 year-old medicinal Cannabis Industry, bringing an underground economy out of the shadows.

...it is still classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance and banks or credits unions face the threat of criminal prosecution if they provide banking services to medicinal (or recreational) cannabis operations.”

Local control will be the basic component of the new regulations that state and county officials will now begin to consider in public meetings and legislative research.

The core effect of the new laws will be to strengthen the rights of local officials to levy taxes, regulate land use and zoning, and specify rules of cultivation and sales.

Despite the current federal administration’s hands-off policy toward marijuana, it is still classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance and banks or credits unions face the threat of criminal prosecution if they provide banking services to medicinal (or recreational) cannabis operations. This remains true even if financial institutions follow the federal guidance of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued by the Justice Department and Treasury, as well as the money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.

Job one: get Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) banked. This is the first step because that would allow California to get back the taxes it is owed. In 2014, according to Fiona Ma, Member of the State Board of Equalization (SBOE), $28 million of sales tax was collected from licensed dispensaries—only about 35% of the MCDs in operation in the state. That leaves about $73 million uncollected from the Medical Cannabis Dispensaries that are not paying sales taxes.

During a Presidential election year it is unlikely that the federal government will address the conflict between federal and state laws. The state needs to step up and find a creative proposal to bank this well-established industry. Assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Healdsberg, has introduced AB 1549 to create a credit union within the SBOE. Keep an eye on this next year when the Legislature reconvenes.

California needs to provide leadership to resolve this legal roadblock. What this state adopts will force the federal government into action, let’s hope they get it right.

November 2015

Bad Apple Alert

The “Clean Power” ballot initiative many people encountered as signature gatherers circulated in the last few weeks is actually an effort by long-time opponents of clean power alternatives to assure that it will never happen. Many people who were duped into signing the petitions were assured that they were supporting clean power, public power or renewable energy. They may be surprised to learn that its restriction to 100% renewables would make obtaining commercial energy very nearly impossible in the real world—there is no such thing as 100% renewable power. A system without some fossil fuel capabilities or access will fail under high stress situations —proponents do not apply these restrictions to the current power monopoly.

… its restriction to 100% renewables would make obtaining commercial energy very nearly impossible in the real world—there is no such thing as 100% renewable power.”

If proponents of this measure wish to assure that the status quo continues unabated, why not just put the question on the ballot in a straightforward manner?

State law specifically prohibits “Willfully and knowingly circulating, publishing, or exhibiting any false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect of any petition for the purpose of influencing any person to sign that petition.”

While it is too late to withdraw a name from a petition once it is in the validation process, citizens need a better way to file complaints when they have been mislead.

July/August 2015

It’s Our Right and Our Duty to Petition

As Californians we all have the power to make law. The initiative process gives us that power. It was adopted at the turn of the last century and it served to break the railroads’ monopoly at a time when elected politicians were firmly in the railroads’ pockets. Recent “citizen initiatives” — petitions by regular folks who have hit the streets to get signatures for various causes including saving our cable cars, raising the minimum wage, protecting neighborhood firehouses, limiting campaign contributions, bringing Sunshine to the backrooms of City Hall and stopping the growing height limits on the waterfront.

Now Supervisor Scott Wiener, another politician firmly placed among the powers that swing the purse, has taken it upon himself to “improve” the citizen initiative process. We’re not sure if he’s sore that his pet projects, like 8 Washington went down to ignominious defeat or that height limits on the waterfront were adopted — both via citizen initiative. Whatever it is, Supervisor Wiener wants to water down the process and make the signature gathering so difficult that only his wealthy special interests can participate, and ordinary citizens will have to go before the Board of Supervisors, hat in hand, to beg for the right to exercise their civic duty.

With local politicians dancing to the tunes that high priced lobbyists and contributors play it has never been more valuable to have the citizen initiative process available to solve the problems that elected officials refuse to confront.”

The City is changing fast, and monied interests are at the front of the line. The sway that highly capitalized campaigns have to persuade voters was very apparent in the last several elections. With local politicians dancing to the tunes that high priced lobbyists and contributors play it has never been more valuable to have the citizen initiative process available to solve the problems that elected officials refuse to confront.

As Quentin Kopp put it in last month’s Westside Observer column: “Wiener will undoubtedly persuade power-loving colleagues to present his anti-democratic measure to November 2015 voters; I invite all readers to join efforts to stop the silencing of voters by voting “No” on Wiener’s sly scheme this November.” This is important.

April 2015

City College—What’s all the Fighting About?

San Francisco is in danger of losing an irreplaceable asset, our 80 year-old college. Yet the problem is not the quality of its education; educational standards exceed the Accrediting Commission’s (ACCJC) requirements. Nor is the College in financial trouble, the duly elected Trustees—prior to their undemocratic replacement with a “Special Trustee”— left the college in the green, with a balanced budget.

Especially hurt by this rule are seniors who enjoy taking an exercise class or any of the wonderful art classes, or immigrants who need to repeat basic skills or master English as second language (ESL).”

So if it’s not the education or the finances, what is the problem?

The ACCJC’s beef with our community college is about data­—they want a top-down administration that concentrates on graduation numbers. This is needed, they contend, to deal with fiscal problems generated by students who do not graduate or transfer. They contend the state can no longer subsidize students who want or need to repeat a class. But their solution, “no repeatability,” is causing irreparable fiscal harm.

Since California community colleges began enforcing the “repeatability” regulations last fall, enrollment has fallen 17% at SF City College. While much of it is caused by the ACCJC, much can be ascribed to the rule. Teachers are scrambling to keep enough students to qualify classes, and many classes have closed, excellent teachers have given up, moving on to other colleges or professions. Especially hurt by this rule are seniors who enjoy taking an exercise class or any of the wonderful art classes, or immigrants who need to repeat basic skills or master English as second language (ESL). Where else can newcomers become acculturated? It is not easy for everyone.

Our formerly balanced budget cannot survive this newly imposed agenda.

Last month we asked our readers (Don’t Kick Grandma Out of Pottery Class) to sign the petition to reverse the repeatability rule and we appreciate the response. If you haven’t signed the petition, please do it now:

October 2014

Don't Kick Grandma Out of Pottery Class!

One of the biggest problems currently facing City College is declining student enrollment and its domino effect on funding. A big share of that problem comes, not from the City, but from Sacramento, led by one Barbara Bento, whose war on San Francisco’s City College is wreaking havoc that may be irreparable.

Using the rationale that “Budget cuts have forced us to ration education” the Board of Governors, who worry that “we are currently turning away hundreds of thousands of students from our campuses,” have issued a statewide blanket regulation, turning away thousands of students, causing classes to close, all while we are losing great teachers and endangering the financial health of the greatest community college in the state. “No repeatability of classes,” is the pinion regulation of the “Student Success Plan”.

The rule against repeatability is devastating to seniors for whom ongoing class participation can mean the difference between years of isolation or association with like-minded friends.

The repeatability rule means professionals who took a class in Dreamweaver, version 3, now find they cannot return and take Dreamweaver in version 8; similarly InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Excel, Word and many continually changing tech programs are no longer repeatable. What an incredibly ill conceived ruling, considering San Francisco has become home to several of the world’s most innovative technology producers. It is critical to keep current with technical advances, yet the college can no longer offer this valuable service to interested learners.

Many seniors have formed friendships and communities with fellow students. The rule against repeatability is devastating to seniors for whom ongoing class participation can mean the difference between years of isolation or association with like-minded friends. Gerontologists tell us social engagement is a key to healthy aging. Throwing Grandma out of the pottery class she loves is not the solution to the high cost of education.

The Governors want to privatize these ‘unnecessary’ classes — “join a gym,” or “take a private pottery class” is their solution. Now exercise and visual arts classes can only be taken once—aerobics, dance, music, painting, drawing; all the arts that need continual practice. Why not offer repeatability, so City College is fulfilling its mission of access to everyone? Students and faculty traveled to Sacramento and testified against the change.

Now, students who wish to take one class, repeat classes, pursue a certification, or transfer to four-year colleges and students who are not aiming for a degree — like our seniors — have been pushed out of classes in music, dance, exercise, and art classes. They may only be taken once. Who thinks that’s a good idea?

Reversing the repeatability ruling could return a lot of students, perhaps enough to fill the 23% enrollment decline. It is very shortsighted of the Governors to take this hard line against life-long learning, long a mission of City College.

Take a step — sign up for a class — join Trustee Anita Grier’s petition to restore repeatability here.

September 2014

Affirmative Action in Admissions: One Perspective

Recent articles and letters-to-the-editor in Bay Area newspapers concerning race as a factor in admissions to the University of California have lacked perceptive and depth. The major inference has been that most Asians, particularly Chinese, are against affirmative action.

Just getting a high GPA and scoring highly on standardized tests alone are no longer sufficient. Every student admitted must demonstrate a real potential …

It should be clarified from the start that racial consideration is only one kind of affirmative action. Asians have long borne the brunt of all other affirmative action tactics. They have complied with busing and diversity measures that have placed them away from their nearby schools into underperforming schools. They have endured much non-Asian on Asian violence during, traveling to and returning from those underperforming schools. They have complied with school assignment practices which required them to have higher grades and test scores to get into the schools of their choices, when that was a legal school district tactic. And now, they are meeting additional affirmative action admissions criteria developed by the University of California.

Proposition 209 forbids race as a factor in college admissions, among other places. In compliance, the University of California has instituted a number of affirmative action admissions initiatives that have given all races and ethnicities more equal footing in competing for acceptance. These initiatives have been staffed by well-trained diverse staff members at all levels of leadership who are sensitive to, and aware of, all the unique issues that students face at the schools they come from, public or private, performing or underperforming.

“Ideal” students are no longer those only with high grade point averages and test scores. Consideration is now given to how well students perform and rank within their individual schools relative to resources available there and in their communities. Consideration is given to those who take advantage of challenging courses and activities, both within their schools and outside of their schools. Consideration is given to those who have made great strides in overcoming adversities in their homes, schools, and communities. Consideration is given to those who demonstrate sustained participation and meaningful leadership. In a word, consideration is given to all those factors that impact upon students’ backgrounds, regardless of their ethnicities and schools, factors that they need to have resolved if they are to enter prepared at a university system that emphasizes research, the creating of new ideas, and social responsibility. Just getting a high GPA and scoring highly on standardized tests alone are no longer sufficient. Every student admitted must demonstrate a real potential to fulfill the high purposes of the University of California. By using the holistic considerations mentioned here, there is a leveling of the playing field without resorting to one’s skin color, which of itself reflects nothing. All of these considerations apply, regardless of the type of school one attends.

If race were to be authorized as a consideration for UC admissions, Asians and others, for once, cannot adjust, as they have done at all other times before. They cannot change their skin colors. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to say, in the case of SCA5 (Senate Constitutional Amendment 5), that using racial or ethnic preference for any one group is, at the same time, using it as anti-affirmative action against other groups.

We do not hear that the emergency unit of a public hospital has to stop serving emergency patients because it has reached, say, 10% of a particular racial group, and can therefore accept no more of that group until a parity of 90% of other racial groups are admitted. The qualification for acceptance is specialized medical need, not race or ethnicity.

We do not hear that a public library has to stop loaning out more than 10% of its books to that same particular racial group until 90% of other racial groups take out books. The qualification for loaning out books is the desire to read, not race or ethnicity.

We do not hear that Asians can qualify for welfare benefits if they have no income, but Hispanics cannot unless they have earned income of at least $10,000 first. The qualification for welfare type benefits is economic need, not race or ethnicity.

Similarly, the qualifications for entry into the University of California are well-defined levels of competencies and preparedness that all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of their backgrounds, can compete on a level playing field. All racial and ethnic groups have resources and opportunities, academic and social, within their own schools, homes, and communities of which they can take advantage to improve their standings in the eyes of the University of California.

The University of California continues to find and to address the debilitating conditions that different people face. Asians have and will continue to comply with UC’s affirmative action practices. To infer otherwise is a disservice to all.

John Lum is a concerned citizen.

May 2014

Prop 16-PG&E’s Public Option Perplex

electric plug pix

You’ve got to hand it to the ad boys over on Beale Street. The day they realized they could not compete in the marketplace against cheaper community rates must have been a sobering moment. Seems PG&E’s monopoly is threatened by Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in Marin and San Francisco counties. Since Sacramento’s SMUD continues to provide cheaper power to the capitol building itself and provides money for community welfare as well, the CCA competition has befuddled the PG&E lobbyists in Sacramento. They were unable to wine and dine the elected representatives to get their anti-competition legislation passed the old-fashioned way.

While PG&E can’t compete in the marketplace, they’ve proved they can outspend opponents at the ballot box. So, what they couldn’t accomplish in the domed halls of Sacramento, the bright guys in the caverns of Beale Street’s Madvertising Department seek to accomplish via a new multimillion-dollar campaign cloaked in the trappings of voter’s rights, to assure that their monopoly continues in perpetuity, the real purpose of Proposition 16.

In a way the initiative has underscored the “public option” fight in Washington, where well-paid lobbyists squelched public demand for an alternative solution to health care outside the insurance lobby. In California, led by the venerable ratepayers rights organization TURN (Toward Utility Rate Normalization) the right of ratepayers to buy cheaper (and usually greener) power known as Community Choice Aggregation survived the legislative process. Additionally, this PG&E funded initiative casts an unflattering light on the recent Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to maintain their stranglehold on the public by spending unlimited amounts of money in elections. Recent reports estimate that PG&E has spent $35 million for TV, mail and every other contrivance known to campaign consultants.

As a “Voters Rights” campaign, Prop 16 contradicts itself. The basic premise of “voters rights” is one man, one vote. By requiring a two-thirds majority Prop 16 seeks to impose the view of the minority of voters on the majority, rather than the majority rule usually associated with “voters rights.” Hundreds of junk-mailers touting “voters rights” will soon be in our mailboxes aiming to gloss over that disparity, but it remains a fatal flaw in the legislation. There are better ways to protect the minority than making permanent changes to the state’s constitution.

Community Choice Aggregation may or may not be the best alternative energy solution and we do not intend to tackle that complex question in this commentary. We think that is best left up to local governments assessing their available resources. Questions like this should be presented by elected officials at publicly noticed hearings, complete with public hearings that allow free flow of information from both sides and followed by a vote of representatives who will have to answer for their choice at the polls.

What is most troubling about this obviously misleading campaign is the misuse of the citizen initiative process. Originally conceived to break the railroad monopoly by the great Californian, Hiram Johnson, at a time when the Assembly and Senate of California were in the grip of the moneyed interests, the right of citizens outside the legislature to originate legislation is sacrosanct—too important to be interfered with. Proposition 16 seeks to establish a monopoly, not by citizens without access to their elected officials, but by a corporation seeking to prevent competition. Here a multi-billion dollar corporation clearly subverts the process, pouring $35 million into gathering signatures to place this initiative on the ballot, and to assure its passage.

PG&E should spend the millions they extract from the ratepayers to improve service and compete in the marketplace with alternative sources of energy, not at the ballot box. We join the Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, LA Times and most other newspapers in the state in questioning this unprecedented assault on voters. No on Proposition 16.

May 2010

Guest Editorial: Exclusive to the West of Twin Peaks Observer

JROTC in San Francisco Public Schools

toy soldier

Vote No on Proposition V

Before phasing out JROTC, the School Board listened to students, parents and community members on both sides. It weighed the arguments and considered what might be lost and what might be gained. It learned that many students seek leadership and community service opportunities, and that they want electives and after school activities which confer skills that translate into careers later.

Students identified these qualities in numerous activities, such as Peer Resources, sports teams, outdoor education, student newspapers, activity clubs, Service Learning, Student Government, and others which already exist in the District without the drawbacks of JROTC. Eight hundred students petitioned the School Board to end JROTC and to use the $1,000,000 saved to expand and add to existing programs.

JROTC's contract with the School District requires a "course of military instruction" by instructors who don't need even a college degree. No JROTC classes meet State academic standards, and military skills translate poorly into real-world job skills. Lower skills mean lower prospects for the poor and minority students who are the primary targets of JROTC. But four years of military classes leave less room for the math, science, and foreign language classes, which do provide solid preparation for college and careers.

San Franciscans overwhelmingly opposed recruitment in schools when they passed Proposition I in 2005, so JROTC supporters now deny that JROTC recruits children locally, while admitting that it does so elsewhere. JROTC directives and policy statements urge instructors to "facilitate contact with recruiters", to "sell the Army story", and to contact students as early as possible. "Seventeen is too late", states one such directive. The Pentagon boasts that 40 – 50% of all JROTC cadets join the military. JROTC supporters continue to deny it. But the School District has no information on local enlistment and the supporters don't either. They simply haven't asked for real numbers from the Pentagon, the only agency that could know.

How voluntary is JROTC? Many students are forced into San Francisco JROTC for purely administrative reasons, or as punishment. Immigrants have been told to accept JROTC assignment to protect their families from deportation. Three quarters of those who chose JROTC said they wanted to avoid Physical Education, and half of JROTC cadets would take non-military marching band if offered.

Before it voted, the School Board also noted that JROTC instructors, who are chosen by the military, can't be openly gay; that JROTC creates funding imbalances between schools; and that JROTC instructors, who carry half the student load, receive much higher pay than credentialed teachers.

Last year the School Board ended involuntary placements in JROTC, and enrollment dropped 30%. This year it is allowing more substitutes for Physical Education, exploring band funding, and starting a new, four-year Leadership track. It is responding to what students want and need.

Proposition V is a divisive wedge issue placed on the ballot with funding from conservative groups outside SF, and outside the State. Students deserve greater opportunities without military sponsorship. Vote No on Proposition V.

Dr. Dan Kelly is a former School Board Member

JROTC School Board Decision

When ideology comes before students, students lose.

On June 26, the Board of Education called its second Special Meeting in two weeks to re-vote on a resolution that failed to pass during the first Special Meeting the week before. The Board chose to re-interpret its own procedures and precedent to guarantee a passing vote for this resolution. The meeting was scheduled on a short notice when both board members who support JROTC, Hydra Mendoza and Kim Shree-Maufas, were out of town. The public did not have a fair hearing. This underhanded political move not only hurt the students, their program, and the schools, but it significantly undermined what's left of the school board's reputation and will force them to reopen all 3-3 failed resolutions.

Eliminating P.E. credit for JROTC is fiscally and operationally a nightmare for our 7 high schools: Burton, Balboa, Lincoln, Lowell, Mission and Washington. Since freshmen and sophomores must take classes awarding PE credit, we are assured that PE classes will swell and JROTC enrollment will fall drastically. The very tight 2008-2009 school budget was approved without any room for extras. Schools are desperately trying to hire more P.E. teachers and figure out how to accommodate these extra students with existing school facilities.

Jill Wynns informed the Board that the school sites cannot accommodate more PE classes, especially at two of the largest high schools (Lincoln and Washington) which are under construction. The master schedule for next fall has been set and students have selected their schedule. Principals are away for the summer so nothing can happen until they come back in late August.

Next fall will be horrendous for students, principals and counselors given the elimination of P.E. credit for JROTC. There is no plan or extra budget to deal with this.

Some real programmatic issues for which parents and the community should be concerned:

(1) 90% of JROTC cadets are minorities,
(2) 70% of JROTC instructors are minorities,
(3) 98% of the JROTC cadets go on to college and
(4) less than 3% of JROTC cadets enter the military.

The government also funds 50% of the instructors' salaries and 100% of the program expenses such as computers, drum corps instruments, field trips, uniforms, etc.

The Board has also turned its back on government funding. So what has the school board offered to replace this it? Not much. The current recommendation is an ethnic studies program that has yet to be developed and or piloted. And it only addresses a "during" school program. What about an after school program? There is no talk of it, let alone any money to fund it. Where are these students at the 7 high schools supposed to go after school?

Why is the school board targeting JRTOC when the cost is so high? The Board claims threats of lawsuits by Public Advocates but no "threat" has been filed nor has there been an intent to file. Is it purely politics? Is the Board catering to the anti-military progressive agenda, which many board members perceive as a springboard to higher office — even though the JROTC is only military by name.

The Board of Education has failed to fulfill their responsibility to the schools and to the community. Rather, they have chosen to follow a political ideology. The School Board should not be a stepping stone to higher office.

Nickle a Drink? Get Real.

a nickel

Too little—too late!

Schwarzenegger's proposal to raise the alcohol tax a nickel a drink to help our flailing state budget displays a timidity that is out of character for a man who describes his detractors as "girly-men." Whatever happened to the tough guy we elected? It's a far cry from the current governor whose knees go all wobbly when it's time to stand up to Big Alcohol.

Last year the Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog, proposed a quarter a drink tax increase which they estimated would raise an additional $3 billion to help lessen California's budget woes, a substantial improvement over Schwarzenegger's spineless proposal, which would fall far short of raising even a billion dollars.

The nickel a drink initiative was defeated at the ballot box back in 1990 because the liquor lobby spent $30 million to defeat it. Oddly enough, the most effective opposition came from the California Teachers Association, an unlikely source; its TV spots, paid for by the liquor lobby, somehow convinced voters that raising tax revenues from drinkers would be bad for children.

Not convinced that children would become victims, the legislature imposed a very small increase on gallons sold as a stop-gap measure, but inflation has long since mitigated that headway.

The Marin Institute estimates that alcohol related costs to taxpayers is well beyond $38 billion annually—for healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity.

While Schwarzenegger deserves some credit for recognizing that alcohol causes more than a few problems, and his proposal allocates the new funds specifically for alcohol-related programs, the alcohol industry should pay its fair share for the problems drinking causes.

We may have to listen respectfully as the liquor lobby whines about a tax increase, but it's hard to imagine anyone losing any sleep over it. At worst, raising the tax a quarter a drink may make drinking a bit more expensive, but compared to the taxes we impose on smoking, it is inconsequential. Besides, if drinkers have one drink less, wouldn't that be a good thing?

December 2008

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