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Robert 'Bob' Planthold
Bob Planthold, father, disability activist, Sunshine advocate and self-described 'humbug,' died on January 27th. Photo Courtesy of

Rembering Robert 'Bob' Planthold

A forceful advocate for the rights of the disabled, decent public transit, government transparency and political ethics.

Robert Planthold
Robert Planthold and his sons
Robert and Raymond

Upon learning that fellow good-government activist Bob Planthold had died, Maxine Anderson reminded associates of an old African proverb: “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.”

Planthold died in his apartment on Jan. 27. He was 73. As of this writing, the medical examiner had not determined the cause of death.

Planthold forcefully and effectively advocated for the disabled community, especially when it came to public transit access, government transparency and participation in the political process. He was the only person to have served both on San Francisco’s open-government watchdog commission, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, and on the city’s Ethics Commission.

“Bob’s was a rich, interesting library from which we were fortunate to borrow from time to time,” said Allyson Washburn, who chairs the steering committee of San Franciscans for Sunshine, a citizens’ group hoping to strengthen the city’s government transparency laws. Anderson is one of a handful of people on the committee. (Reporter’s disclosure: I also am on the committee.)

Original Sunshine Task Force
Bob sat on the first Sunshine Ordinance Task Force

Planthold “brought a breadth and depth of knowledge about SF governance and the [Sunshine Ordinance] to our efforts, as well as ideas – and reminders – for how to move us along,” Washburn said. “He was sorely missed when he stepped aside recently because of his work on the Civil Grand Jury.”

Bruce B. Brugmann, like Planthold one of the original 11 members of the task force, described him as “the classic representative for decades of the San Francisco citizen at City Hall. His passion was open government and a fair shake for the little guy. … Bob was disabled and a relentless advocate for disabled rights in City Hall and beyond.


Robert Raymond Planthold
February 11, 2022
2 PM
A video recording of the service is available at any time.

Brugmann, the editor and publisher emeritus of the Bay Guardian local news weekly, is also on the San Franciscans for Sunshine Steering Committee.

Paul Melbostad, a locally based attorney who served with Planthold on the Ethics Commission, recalled that the two of them refused to be warned off of looking into allegations that district attorney candidate Kamala Harris’s campaign organization had violated a spending-ceiling pledge.

Planthold “was resolute that we had to enforce the law against her the same as anyone else,” Melbostad said.

Robert 'Bob' Planthold
Bob Planthold enjoyed being a Citizen of San Francisco whose mission was to speak truth to power Photo Courtesy of Mission Local

Dennis Herrera, executive director of the city Public Utilities Commission, called Planthold “a good-government advocate in the truest sense of the word.” During the recently ended two decades that Herrera was city attorney, Planthold “was someone who was constantly in my ear. And it was always in an ethical way,” he said.

quote marks

Bob’s was a rich, interesting library from which we were fortunate to borrow from time to time,” Allyson Washburn.


Randy Lyman, who covered sunshine issues for the Bay Guardian in the late 1990s, remembers Planthold “as a strong ally of open government. He was always aware of the benefits of open government for disabled people. He was a very conscientious member of the task force, who took matters very seriously.”

As if to underscore Lyman’s recollection, task force Chair Bruce Wolfe noted that Planthold, “in probably Bob’s last official action, ... filed a complaint with SOTF that was heard in December 2021, in which he prevailed with … two actions by SOTF. His life's work has always been on access, so his complaint with SOTF is fitting.”

A special cause for Bob was pedestrian safety

Task force member Jennifer Wong said she would always remember Planthold “as a passionate and staunch fighter for government openness and transparency. He always put his whole self into his volunteerism and you could hear it in the way he spoke, see it in the way he carried himself, and even feel it through his emails! His dedication to disability rights also shone through – even in his requests of when/where [San Franciscans for Sunshine] meetings were scheduled. I always appreciated this subtle way of making sure that all of us thought about accessibility more actively. Bob was an amazing person, and he and his work will be sorely missed.”

“Bob was a true activist for the causes he supported,” said former task force member Doug Comstock, who edits the local news website Westside Observer. “Always at meetings at City Hall during the late ’80s and continuing to the present, he was a moving force for the sunshine initiative, but devoted all his energy recently to transportation issues. I often encountered him during the pandemic on the 43 Masonic or the 22 Fillmore, where he continued to exhort me, and anyone who would listen to fight for improved MUNI services. I would love to see a bench dedicated to Bob on the (Board of) Supervisors’ side of the second floor of City Hall, where he spent so much time.”

Richard Knee
Richard Knee





Rick Knee is a local San Francisco reporter


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Rae Doyle
June Rae Doyle wrote about her neighbors and kept them informed about their neighborhood, she passed away after a sudden, brief illness (not COVID related)Photo Credit: Mary Hunt
Rae Doyle (1925 - 2021) championed local people neighbors might never have noticed.

She chronicled the neighborhood for two decades

Rae Doyle
June Rae Doyle Photo: Courtesy of the famly

As associate editor of the West Portal Monthly over the past 20 years, she has treated readers to a panoply of profiles of interesting neighbors and small business owners, from the Vietnam War dog handler Dr. Alan Walden to David Neumann of Orthodox Chews, the not-especially-kosher salt water taffy.

Doyle came to journalism after raising five children, retiring from AT&T, and earning a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University. What to do next?



We are having an open house for anyone who wants to stop by.

We’re gonna have my gourmet sandwiches
And mommy‘s famous chocolate chip cookies
Beverages etc

The house is a mini museum of mom. So feel free to stop by.

121 Kensington Way @Ulloa SF 1-6pm

The answer lay right across the street from her. A builder began developing Edgehill Mountain, and Doyle’ss first news articles for the West Portal Monthly chronicled the neighborhood’s desire to keep it an urban forest. The Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association eventually had Edgehill zoned as a park to stop further building.

Blockbuster a kind of booster

Then, an attempt by Blockbuster Video to establish a store on West Portal Avenue pointed the way toward her series of neighborhood profiles. “City neighborhoods at this time were trying to preserve the ‘village feel’ of the neighborhood shopping streets by keeping chain stores at bay,” she said.

Chains generally had very little window appeal, tended to attract other chains and forced out smaller shops. Starbucks, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Noah’s Bagels had already made inroads. And, it would have put more stress on parking, always at a premium.

Besides, the neighborhood already had two such stores, Diamond Video and Home Video, that were locally owned.

Blockbuster’s market research had failed to register the neighborhood’s irritation with chains. “Instead of approaching the neighborhood as one would a skittish horse, they forged ahead without informing the community of their plans,” Rae wrote in April, 1999.

Neighborhood association members obtained 4,000 signatures on a petition to stop Blockbuster, mustered a sizable crowd of demonstrators and marched up and down West Portal Avenue in protest.

quotes attempt by Blockbuster Video to establish a store on West Portal Avenue pointed the way toward her series of neighborhood profiles. “City neighborhoods at this time were trying to preserve the ‘village feel’ of the neighborhood shopping streets by keeping chain stores at bay,” she said.”

After several trips to city hall and petitions on both sides, Blockbuster eventually pulled out of negotiations.

It was a victory for the community – and her. “I won a lot of points with my kids for getting involved with GWPNA and demonstrating,” she said.

The story behind the story

It wasn’t the first time her work earned points. In 1942, Rae interviewed a Hawaiian girl, who had been sent to live with relatives because her parents feared another attack on Hawaii, for her high school newspaper. The girl pointed out that Hawaii was not interning Japanese people even though it was far more susceptible to espionage and attack than California. The reason was that the Hawaiian economy would collapse if the Japanese were interned because they held so many jobs and owned so many businesses. Columbus (Ohio) University included the article in its quarterly compilation of best high school newspaper articles.

After blocking Blockbuster, Doyle became interested in local business providers, and thought residents might like to know more about them, too. The shop that would have been most affected by a Blockbuster move-in was Home Video, a small video rental store on West Portal Avenue.

But she found a much bigger story than she’d expected when she interviewed owners Jesse and Gus Peña.

Born in Cuba, the brothers had been part of a massive resettlement of Cuban children to the United States between 1960 and 1962. Cuban parents were afraid their children would be recruited into Castro’s militias, or forced into government indoctrination camps.

Kept secret in both Cuba and the United States, the Catholic Church and the U.S. government organized “Operation Pedro Pan,” in which 14,000 children were issued visa waivers and flown to Miami.

The idea was that their parents would join them within months. But when the Cuban missile crisis ended all flights between Havana and the U.S., the children were stranded, stuck in orphanages, foster homes, and even homes for delinquents, in 35 states across the country.

“Jesse and Gus were lucky,” said Doyle. “Their parents got out of Cuba nine months before the flights ended. But some children never saw their parents again until they were grown.”

Locals who opened businesses

Doyle then embarked on a series of profiles of West Portal merchants who grew up in the neighborhood and opened businesses here. Maryo Mogannum of Postal Chase, Paul Barbagelata of the realty company, and Matt Rogers of Papenhausen Hardware were some of her subjects.

She has also written two profiles of Ursula Marsten, who just closed her White Rose boutique in February after 27 years on West Portal Avenue. The first story began: “When a chic black dress was stolen from a mannequin in front of the White Rose, proprietor Ursula Marsten speculated that the thief was young. Why? ‘Well, the thief didn’t take the hat that went with it,’ she said.”

Doyle loved doing those merchant profiles, she said. “I’d go in expecting a straightforward tale and suddenly it would just blossom into a fascinating, much bigger story.”

Her last work was a story about how Papenhausen Hardware employees are faring during repairs after a fire in January damaged the store, a next-door newsstand and hair salon.

At 92, Doyle said she knew she would run out of steam eventually. In the meantime, she has archived source material on local issues and neighborhood history to sort through. She plans to donate it to the library.

And she felt lucky. “I have choices and options. I own my own home, my children live near me. I’ve been able to stay busy with GWPNA and writing for West Portal Monthly.”

Mary Hunt originally wrote this article for Community Living


Alvin Duskin
Alvin Duskin at 90 Photo Credit:
Visionary San Francisco Environmentalist Alvin Duskin Dies at 90

A Alvin Duskin died on July  25, 2021 at 90 years of age in his home at Tomales in Northern California. His activist colleague, as well as Bay Guardian Editor and West Portal resident, Bruce Brugmann, said “Basically, I think we have been fighting ever after on many of the questions and issues he and his movement raised back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s—and they are still pressing on us even more today.”

San Francisco Awake

Freeway Revolt
Board of Supervisors Meeting 1959 Photo:

For many San Franciscans the wake-up moment—the moment it became obvious that the Planning Commission was leading the City down the wrong track—was during the postwar freeway frenzy. The Comprehensive Trafficways Plan of 1948, sought to bulldoze neighborhoods and carve up communities to make room for more cars for the convenience of commuters. The proposed network of massive citywide freeways splitting several neighborhoods, sometimes with elevated bulky monstrosities like the former Embarcadero Freeway. Plans for the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park disturbed even San Francisco’s most restrained residents. 30,000 citizens signed a petition and presented it to the Board of Supervisors, demanding an immediate halt to their construction. Amit Ghosh, Chief Planner 1992-2008, told a reporter “these big new planning ideas — about accommodating cars and street space, moving people here and there and everywhere, filling up the bay … all those things came together and people said ‘Look, this juggernaut needs to be stopped.’” And it was stopped. In 1959 the Board reversed the decision and halted the Embarcadero Freeway and cancelled several other freeway projects that had not begun construction. (The Loma Prieta earthquake of ‘89 closed the 1.2 mile stub of the Embarcadero Freeway that had already been constructed and it was finally removed in 1991.) “Once citizens succeeded in stopping the freeways,” Ghosh said, “that confirmed the power of the people in a place like San Francisco.”

quote marks

...that meant giving up what San Francisco was—a city of people who lived here, who raised their children here and who spent a lot of time playing, eating, walking, living in the city.”

Manhattan II

Ultimate Highrise book cover
Bay Guardian published the Ultimate Highrise
with a Forword by Alvin Duskin

The Freeway Revolt refocused on the new giant buildings dominating San Francisco’s skyline. “Duskin gave them focus and high voltage and popularized the crucial concept with the appropriate term: Manhattanization, the Manhattanization of San Francisco, said Brugmann, “in the Bay Guardian’s timely and prescient 1972 book, ‘The Ultimate Highrise, San Francisco’s mad rush to the sky.’ He puts his thesis in an excellent foreword: 

“So San Francisco was going to become the headquarters city for the western states and for the Pacific. Winning that meant giving up what San Francisco was—a city of people who lived here, who raised their children here and who spent a lot of time playing, eating, walking, living in the city. 

“And winning a headquarters city of the Pacific meant—because San Francisco is so much smaller in land than New York—building an even more concentrated city: ‘The Ultimate Highrise.’”

At the end of World War II San Francisco had only a few “skyscrapers,” but they began to multiply after 1948 and in 1952 citizen dismay, exhibited in frequent public testimony, became a concern of the Planning Commission, which considered a proposal to limit heights as well as bulk, but the Commission took no action.

By 1960 development began to escalate, running riot throughout the financial district and along Market Street. Hotels towers sprang up along Union Square.

the Fontana
the Fontana (aka buck-teeth on the Bay
Herb Caen column
Courtesy of the SF Chronicle

Then, in 1962, the Fontana reared up at Van Ness and Bay. Dubbed “buck-teeth on the bay,” neighborhood activists realized that over-sized developments were coming for their neighborhoods if they stayed in the “wait and see” mode.

The seeds were sown for organized and local community movements. In ’63 and ’64 sit-ins at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel and at Mel’s Drive-In by the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination successfully used confrontational tactics to improve employment prospects for the City’s Black population.

Neighborhood groups like the Telegraph Hill Dwellers were ill-equipped or unwilling to protest finally came out of the shadows and groups like San Francisco Tomorrow (SFT) began to take form to address city-wide urban planning problems. Sue Hestor, an early environmental activist, said “nobody imagined that Planning, a small department of the City government, could make such a big change in people’s lives, but they were beginning to wake up.” Adding insult, plans were in the works for a 1041-foot Transamerica pyramid, which opponents were able to scale back to 853-feet. Regular citizens were learning that they could organize and prevail.

Floating Highrise
U.S.Steel's floating highrise proposalPhoto: SF Chronicle

The plan to fill in the Bay to build an overshadowing development, half the size of Alcatraz, for a Miami-style high-rise on a new island became a rallying point. The opposition prevailed against the U.S. Steel Tower and Ferry Port Plaza. Former Supervisor Jack Morrison summed it up: “If San Francisco is to remain a livable city at all, it will be through a new alliance—a coalition of resident urban conservationists so strong that it can cope with the clique of special interests which today is virtually running the municipal show.” U.S. Steel’s plans went the way of the dodo after Port Commission President Cyril Magnin called on Port Police to break up an SFT press conference in opposition. It went ahead on the sidewalk in front of the Embarcadero and the plan was dead.

Then in 1966 the black Bank of America tower – the giant tombstone — topped out at 52 stories.

Enter Alvin Duskin

Manhattan II

Alvin Duskin
Duskin displays a Alcatraz ad

It was these “big new planning ideas” that mobilized grass-roots environment groups to push back against limitless developments, even as they do today. Developers struggle to turn the sleepy and serene City everybody loved into Manhattan II. Just in time, San Francisco discovered the whirlwind that was Alvin Duskin.

Duskin had previous experience fighting City Hall. His first fight was the Board of Supervisor’s sale of famed Alcatraz Island. The Contract, sold to Lamar Hunt, a millionaire amusement park developer for a pittance, seemed like a done deal. Hunt presented his vision for the island—a monument to the Apollo 8 Mission on one side of the island and a plastic recreation of Victorian San Francisco on the other. “Duskin dramatized the problem with a full-page ad campaign,” Brugmann said, “that defeated the plan of a Texas billionaire to build a monstrous wrong-headed development on Alcatraz.” The ad for Duskin’s campaign was clear “A little bit of Texas right here in the Bay — as big a steal as Manhattan Island.”

As he was dealing with the press, a tugboat operator called him with a clue to the inside truth. It seems that the deepest part of the Bay was on the south side of Alcatraz, and the new and larger oil tankers — because they were too large, and the Bay was too shallow beyond Alcatraz to navigate to Richmond to offload their cargo. Ergo, the real plan was to turn Alcatraz into oil storage. After a few tv interviews the deal went sour.

Perry-Lynn Moffitt, a writer and editor who now lives in Brooklyn, as well as a long-time friend, remembered “Alvin's vision involved returning Alcatraz, which means "gannet" or "pelican" in Spanish, back to these large seabirds which had once nested there. The response from Alvin's fund raising and awareness campaign, aided by eye catching ads created by Jerry Mander, was astounding, and eventually the U.S. Government discarded the theme park concept and turned the historic jail into a National Park. As a result, many species of birds have indeed returned to the island, along with bird enthusiasts and tourists.”.

The plan, Duskin wrote, “had a high-rise side that would be a monument to technology, industry and finance.” The other side “would recreate what we once had but lost.” The new San Francisco would have an expanding Manhattan-style core of highrise office buildings. The old residential neighborhoods with their spacious flats and Victorians would be ‘developed.’ bulldozed into highrise apartments for middle income people without children. And then there would be the city of tourists…” The Board rescinded the sale — it was an easy win because as Duskin put it, “8,000 people who live here suddenly decided it was their island and they could decide what it could become. Who else should decide? The Chamber of Commerce? A developer from Texas? The Mayor? The Board of Supervisors?  Duskin wrote that the Alcatraz victory “reawakened in San Francisco the idea that when our politicians betray the trust of the voters, the people can still win.” 

San Francisco skyline 1955
1955 Skyline

Highrise Binge

Protecting the skyline was not so easy. The question split the City into two camps. The Loyal Opposition, a term anti-highrisers used to describe themselves, versus the developers—often in league with unions on the other side. Mayor Joe Alioto was gung-ho for skyscrapers, “they bring jobs and prosperity.” He denounced the opposition, remarking to the press that they wanted “to turn San Francisco into another museum like Williamsburg, Virginia.” 

Alvin Duskin was not a politician, he was a wealthy manufacturer of women's clothing, selling mini-skirted “peace dresses.” He was born in San Francisco to a middle-class family. He emerged as the leader of the first of three major attempts to get voters to ban high rises. All the attempts failed.

As he remarked to his son, Marcus in 2006, “There was just a whole interest in development, the idea being that the more you develop the more prosperous the city will become, and that will increase the quality of life for the people of the city. Well, what I’ve seen happen as San Francisco becomes overdeveloped is that people who aren’t part of the process are forced out. You can’t buy a house in the city for under 600 thousand dollars now.  So, the typical blue-collar family is simply pushed out, you get people commuting from Modesto, Escalon, and it’s just very difficult for people to stay. That’s the process we call the Manhattanization process, where the city will be a city of people who can afford to stay here. People who are very poor are put in public housing or low-income housing and middle class people simply are pushed out.

Sue Hestor remembers Alvin as “a very independent thinker, not inclined to get involved with groups like SFT (San Francisco Tomorrow) though he was often aligned with them. He was a vivacious and outgoing person who saw a problem and said ‘we’ve got to fight back—we’ve got to draw a line.”

skyline ad
Full-page skyline ad

“He worked tirelessly to build a strong ‘anti-highrise’ campaign,” Brugmann said. “He held big organizing meetings in the building where he had a highly successful business … the meetings were raucous and full of contention, always going late into the night and he wearily conducted many of them personally. He lined up a slate of candidates for the fall supervisorial election and ended up running himself though he lost by a small margin.” 

anti-highrise coloring book
1971: YES on Propostition ‘T’ Coloring Book, artwork
by 16 San Francisco artists, including Judy Pelikan,
Steve Hall, Fred Wakida, Louis Sykes, Peter Marks,
George Albertus, Steve Osborn, Mike Dattel, Sam Smidt,
Dugald Stermer, Mike Bull, Cummings Walker, John
Atkinson, James St. Clair, Ron Turner and Robert Pease.
Text by Perry-Lynn Moffitt

“A friend invited me to one of Alvin's speeches that summer,” Perry-Lynn remembered, “about his newest cause, limiting high rise development to preserve not only San Francisco's architectural charm, but also to maintain light, air, and the stunning views of the bay and its majestic bridges. I introduced myself to Alvin after his speech, which was the only time I ever saw him in a suit and tie during all the years we remained friends. Blue chambray work shirts and jeans were his signature attire. I asked him what he needed for his current campaign and he said he was looking for a writer on a coloring book, which would be distributed for free to help spread the word to voters and their children about why limiting highrises was a good idea. Although I planned a career as a performing arts administrator, I was volunteering my talents, so I told Alvin that my price was right and that I was the person for the job. He chose to believe me.

“Alvin had already recruited sixteen local artists to donate black and white drawings based on the text I would write in the cadences and simple words of a child's coloring book, a style Alvin called "coloring bookese." There was planned hoopla connected to the publication of the initial run of 50,000 free copies of the Vote on High-Rise Coloring Book, including a campaign fund raiser in which the original drawings were auctioned to the highest bidders.

“Eventually, I needed a full time job with a salary. One of Alvin's fellow volunteers knew I was interested in a career in the performing arts, and she had a part-time job at San Francisco Opera. She had heard there was an opening at their touring company, Western Opera Theater. I interviewed and was hired for the job, for which I thank my writing credit on Alvin's coloring book, as well as my education and devotion to music. 

Remains of the Transamerica Pyramid
It was kind of an art project, kind of a protest, from a time
when citizens were about to vote on whether or not to allow
more high-rises to be

“During my tenure with WOT, I made a mistake in booking the company, and was devastated by my error. I turned to Alvin for support and understanding. "It was an accident," he told me,."You've already apologized. You can't even say that you will never make another mistake like that, because we all make mistakes in our careers from time to time. We actually learn from them."  From then on after I became a boss, I always quoted Alvin when one of my staff members made a mistake.  

“I have often referred to Alvin as my mentor and California guru. He taught me endless lessons about business, about non-profits, and about life. He was a compassionate friend, and was so pleased with my work on the Vote on HighRise Coloring Book, that he tried to hire me away from my managerial positions in the performing arts world, but I was determined to stay. As one of the great cultural capitals of the world, New york City beckoned me to return, and I did. But Alvin and I stayed in touch, either having lunch in San Francisco on my work trips there, or in Manhattan on his work trips East.” 

His anti-highrise initiative, Proposition T, limiting the height of buildings to 72 feet lost — only 37.8% of voters approved it in 1971, but his full-page newspaper ads publicly denouncing turning San Francisco into "a skyline of tombstones” and predicting “The Manhattanization of San Francisco,” with dramatic photos comparing the previous San Francisco to its current skyline were making San Franciscans think about the power they had to control the future. Undaunted, in June of 1972 his second anti-highrise initiative that would limit heights to 60 feet also lost, but 43.2% of voters approved. Encouraged by that gain, he announced that he would launch a third campaign, this time limiting the height to 50 feet, but that was not to be.  

The Board of Supervisors finally stepped in, limiting high-rise buildings to the downtown area, in the long run many of Duskin’s ideas were adopted. “He has been enormously influential through the years,” Brugmann said.

Alvin Duskin
Recent photo of Alvin Photo:

“I was a child of the Depression,” Duskin said, “and I grew up in the city along the southern part, in the San Bruno Avenue/Portola District. That was certainly a working class, Jewish neighborhood, Jews and Italians and Maltese were who were in the neighborhood … And the house that my folks built for $15,000 during the Second World War is now on the market for about 800 thousand. So, who can live there?” 

In 1971 to 1981, 65 high- rise buildings with 30 million square feet of office space were built here. But city officials is estimated that in the next 15 years, 85 more high rises with 25 million square feet of space will be built. Prop M passed in Nov 1986 - limiting approvals of new office space to 950,000 sq ft annually.

Retired Alvin Duskin at home
Photo Credit:

Duskin sold his business in 1971 to spend his time on a wide range of liberal and environmental causes and organizations, including anti-war demonstrations in the City and in Marin County. He delayed the construction at Yerba Buena Center to assure housing for displaced South-of-Market residents. He bought a house near Carmel next door to Saul Alinsky, then accepted a position with Alinsky to establish a school in Berkeley for community organizers and became manager of non-profit ad firm, Public Interest Communication.

He organized a statewide initiative to limit the development of nuclear power plants in California, which did not pass, but the California legislature included its key provisions in the Nuclear Safeguards Act, which cancelled planned nuclear plants and shut down existing plants. That success led to his appointment as a director of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In 1979, Duskin co-founded US Windpower locating one of the first wind farms in the US at Altamont Pass. He went on to found and organize several power plants around the world.

He retired to Tomales, a small town near Pelaluma in Marin County.

“Alvin and I continued to stay in touch,” Perry-Lynn added, “but at some point, Alvin couldn't keep corresponding, even by email. Sara Duskin kindly kept me posted on their life together, how their three children were doing, and the progress Alvin was making on his memoir. Although I was sad when I learned of his death, I knew that Alvin had led a remarkable life, filled with cutting edge political concepts and successful business ventures. I thank Westside Observer for organizing some of our memories so those who did not have the chance to meet Alvin could learn about his drive, his solid work ethic, and his fearless risk taking, but most of all, they would know about his deep love for his native city, San Francisco.”

Doug Comstock, editor of the Westside Observer, extending gratitude to all those who contributed. If I got something wrong, please contact me.


Westside Activist May Pon-Barry passes

May Pon Berry
May Pon-Berry

Local San Francisco realtor John Barry was very sad to tell the Westside Observer that his wife of 45 years died after a long battle with cancer.

“It hurts me to have to share this news,” Barry said. He referred to their time together as a 45-year adventure of “Gaudeamus Igitur” (a life of rejoicing in accomplishments large and small). Barry continued adding, “May died at sunrise on Sunday, Mother’s Day. She was at home, looking out the bedroom window at the Golden Gate Bridge.”

A memorial was held on Thursday afternoon May 23, 2019 at the Foresthill Clubhouse for May Pon Barry.For decades The Barry-Pon family have contributed continuously to local SF causes and projects.

Staunch members of SHARP – The Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People – and other San Francisco neighborhood groups, John and May Barry helped many people and organizations in various ways, but especially here “out in the Avenues, whether it was near Golden Gate Park or way out to Ocean Beach.” May and John were always committed to making the local districts a good and stable place to live, and that included families.

“May was actually quite extraordinary, said Barry. She was a private person with a public purpose. She was always organizing community events and projects; such as establishing the SF recycling centers network, under the auspices of REA, Richmond Environment Action, at University of San Francisco,” he added.

Recollecting further, Barry said, “In 1970, when she was 23 years old - along with a few others, May rallied for the cause. REA operated on the USF campus until 1996, when the university needed to reclaim its generously-donated Anza and Collins parking lot to build teacher housing.”


Because of that tremendous effort, Barry said. “The City turned to the local trash companies, then called Sunset Scavenger or Golden Gate Disposal, to reform, and over time evolve into what is now called Recology.”

Barry noted. “REA was inspired by the first Earth Day, and was to get San Francisco to have a comprehensive, citywide recycling system. That was back in the days more than 40 years ago when, if you called City Hall and asked a clerk ‘where’s the nearest Recycling Center?’ The answer was, ‘honest to God! What’s a Recycling Center?”

“REA got a network of 12 Community-based, neighborhood Recycle Centers up and running, and caused SF to cancel its plans to spend $500,000,000 on a mammoth garbage incinerator.”

Because of that tremendous effort, Barry said. “The City turned to the local trash companies, then called Sunset Scavenger or Golden Gate Disposal, to reform, and over time evolve into what is now called Recology. The current city-wide system of ‘source separated’ and a three-cart bin system is what REA finally proposed to Supervisor Angela Alioto and city officials to create the SF Environment Commission.”

Despite the ongoing struggle with a stage 4 cancer condition, May continued to work. She was an Enrolled Tax Agent, and a highly skilled tax specialist that many CPA’s would turn to for help. May’s tenure at M-Butterfield, Brown & Associates earned her respect, admiration, and influence in the business community near and far.

She served as principal and president of M-Butterfield, as well as holding other leadership positions with various organizations and associations. May served eight years on the Board of Directors of the SF chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). During that time she also served as NAWBO chapter president. Through NAWBO (and other groups) she was able to participate in charitable outreach efforts, as well as promote educational and career opportunities for women.

May Pon Barry, an alumni of Galileo High School, is survived by husband John Barry, daughters Louise Pon-Barry (with son-in-law Derek), Heather Pon Barry (with son-in-law Brendan), granddaughter Sierra Madison Cienfuegos, and a grandson Thomas Chua Pon-O’Connor.

Jonathan Farrell contributed this report.

JUNE 2019

25 Years Later:

Alioto's Landmark Anti-smoking Laws

Former Board President Angela Alioto Shares Lasting Memories

Angela Alioto
Former Supervisor Angela Alioto

It was 1991, and for the first time in a long time, Angela Alioto turned to her legislative aide and said "go get me a smoke." She had just lost the legislation to ban indoor smoking and, after being smoke-free for 11 years, that day's setback only fueled her flame.

She thought of ways to stop the tobacco industry from permeating their injustices onto San Francisco's youth. Tobacco advertisements and vending machines were near schools, ballparks, corner stores, and other establishments where children frequented. She knew that preventing illness due to tobacco meant more than just a ban on smoking inside the workplace.

"Childhood is when you addict them," Alioto says of the tobacco industry. "You wouldn't believe how they intentionally hooked third-year and fourth-year high school students and minority communities."


Alioto was determined to stop the tobacco industry from preying. But as she wrote her legislation for the City to sue the tobacco industry, she found that the industry and an influential political figure were clouding her vision.

Former mayor Willie Brown, who was then speaker of the Assembly, had sat down in a Sacramento restaurant with some tobacco industry honchos. There they drafted a section of the Willie L. Brown-Bill Lockyer Civil Liability Reform Act of 1987 on a napkin, which became the 1987 "Napkin Law," prohibiting Californians from suing the tobacco industry.

The Napkin Section states that anyone who uses a product that is "known to be unsafe by the ordinary consumer" is forbidden by law to sue on the grounds of product liability. California law forbids any consumer from suing the industry for selling an unsafe product.

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Former mayor Willie Brown, who was then speaker of the Assembly, had sat down in a Sacramento restaurant with some tobacco industry honchos. There they drafted a section of the Willie L. Brown-Bill Lockyer Civil Liability Reform Act of 1987 on a napkin, which became the 1987 "Napkin Law," prohibiting Californians from suing the tobacco industry.”

As Board supervisor, Alioto worked her way from the inside out, starting with a ban on cigarette machines near schools, eventually banning them in bars. She passed ordinances to eliminate tobacco advertising and commercials near schools, basketball courts, libraries or educational institutions where children frequented.

Child with cigaret

She and her team went after Joe Camel and the eye-level ad campaigns targeted at children. Studies showed that by age six, nearly as many children could name Joe Camel, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cartoon creation in the 1980s, in association with cigarettes as they could name Mickey Mouse in association with Disney.

She also passed legislation banning self-service cigarette displays. Of all the passed initiatives, Alioto calls the 1993 verdict to ban indoor smoking "the big one."

However, her victory came at a cost and she says some friends turned their backs on her.

"People would be outside their offices smoking and I'd have to cross the street because if I walked in front of them they would call me names and throw things. They were livid with me."

Restaurant owners feared a loss in revenue with the indoor-smoking ban, but statistics proved otherwise. Restaurant sales improved by 22 percent after the ban because people who avoided smoke were now dining out.

Now, nearly 25 years after her victory over the tobacco industry in San Francisco, there's a newly proposed cigarette ban that could go up in smoke: a proposition to halt sales of menthol and flavored tobacco.

Funded almost entirely by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Let's Be Real San Francisco is a committee that includes the Arab American Grocers Association, a number of vaping outlets and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. CBS Local reports that the committee collected $600,000 in cash contributions and $85,170 in non-monetary contributions this year as of July 31, according to filings with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Let's Be Real San Francisco submitted just under 20,000 verified signatures, qualifying for a measure on the ballot that would repeal the ban on flavored tobacco products, an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, according to the city's Department of Elections.

"I'm against all cigarettes, but you can't ban the product," says Alioto. "You can decrease its demand, which is what we did to the point where these turkeys are adding strawberry and cherry [flavors] to their cigarettes."

Alioto has advice for the Board of Supervisors as they prepare to butt-out Big Tobacco. "Prove that it's their way to hook kids by making them think it's kinder and gentler than a Camel or Marlboro. Make it as malicious as it truly is. Why did they do these flavors? The statistics are teenagers. You're not going to get a 55 year old addicted, but if you get them addicted young, they'll smoke until they're 55."

She adds that the amount of new cigarettes on the market stunned her.

"The flavoring is a reaction to our ban," she adds. "It's a way to make [smoking] look fun, almost like it's candy, to get [kids] addicted. It's an uphill deal, but you know that's what it is."

Tony Taylor is a local reporter.

September 2017

8th Annual Celebration.
Mitch Bull sees bright prospects for the future at WSO

Business Corner

room in Playhaven

Sold on PlayhavenSF

A very new and promising indoor children play space and learning center is now available to parents seeking a fun and educational experience for their kids, aptly called playhavensf. It recently opened its doors for the first time early in October in the Forest Hill area and is a great alternative for parents here in the City.

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… at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.”


Playhavensf was created by San Francisco resident Sheryl Tecson, a preschool teacher with 12 years experience and a mother of two daughters of her own. Playhavensf is also co-owned and operated by her husband, Daniel, who tells me that he handles more of the marketing stuff for the business. They told us at the Westside Observer that they have dreamed of opening a children’s learning center to create a gathering place for families where children’s open-ended play is valued. They will provide a variety of children’s enrichment classes, and even a separate workspace and lounge for the parents to relax and enjoy some free time together. Since opening their doors they have been constantly retooling to meet the needs of families. Their continual efforts and hard work have not gone unnoticed by the families, who have responded with an outpouring of appreciation and support which encourages them even further. Their dedication is repaid when families tend to linger around together with happy smiles well beyond closing time.


In order for all of this to become reality, they realized that they needed an environment that inspires youthful imagination, along with extended playtime to give the kids a carefree childhood experience. So when they were searching for a good location and found this secluded area in the Forest Hill neighborhood, they felt it was a perfect fit for fulfilling this dream. Once they saw the play area in the back of the site, Daniel mentioned to Sheryl that it resembles a “haven” hidden within this concrete jungle of a city. Hence, the moniker ‘Playhavensf’ was born.

Their website,, gives you some more details and general information about their location and services, as well as descriptions of the physical activities, staff, academics, and even a daily schedule. They have an art studio, sensory activities, imaginative games, dramatic play areas, and even a rock-climbing wall. playhavensf will also have a fully-equipped kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, toaster oven, tea and coffee.

And, of course, there are always the costs to think about. Playhavensf has daily rates of $12.00 and unlimited monthly memberships for $79.00. Compare that with other learning centers like Kumon, which charges something over $100.00 for a monthly membership. Aside from all the activities they provide for the family, playhavensf will also have free WIFI throughout the center, and even has a private party room which can accommodate up to 35 people for special occasions. In another area of the learning center, they will also feature an outdoor patio for the kids and parents to cool off from all the creative adrenaline and mental gymnastics.

play haven school

So for parents who are interested, Playhavensf is centrally located at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.

Playhavensf owners, Sheryl & Daniel Tecson, have embarked on a very idealistic approach that seems to resonate with their many clients. They seem to be very genuine with their passion and they are certainly motivated for all the right reasons. They have spent a considerable amount of personal time and resources to build a nice foundation to start a dream from scratch and I am really excited to see them succeed with playhavensf in the near future.

Henry Wong is a freelance reporter and a father living on the Westside.

November 2015

Swingout or Breakaway—the Lindy is Back!

Doing the Lindy
Photos: Nenita Quijano

As a lifelong San Franciscan I am very fond of the many different things to do around just about any corner in this lively city, whether it’s eating, sightseeing, shopping or just people watching.

Living just a block from the Golden Gate Park, it had become a routine for me and my two daughters to ride our bikes every Saturday morning along JFK Boulevard. Sundays were usually reserved for Penny’s swim classes and Chloe’s soccer games. But recently the schedules changed and our bike routine switched to Sunday mornings instead. As it turned out, this change was ideal for us since many of the streets are closed in the park to traffic on Sundays, allowing people to go everywhere safely, walking, talking and enjoying all the sights.

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…in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head…”

On one particular beautiful Sunday riding through the park we suddenly hear the sound of laughter and music drifting among the trees. The sound blends together with the carefree setting so naturally that it draws us closer to investigate. Just down the road heading west from the entrance to the Academy of Sciences we see a group of about 80 people twirling, swinging and bouncing to the rhythm of the music playing from the nearby loud speakers. Many of the dancers are holding hands with their feet tapping and arms swinging in tune with one another, while others were content to dance with no one in particular. The scene is complete with spectators, watching and commenting among a growing crowd of visitors and local residents.


I pull up closer to watch with both my girls and we are amazed at the excitement and apparent joy of the dancers as they skipped along with the beat. The dancers were a mix of young and the not so young. Although some dancers were obviously more skilled than others, they were all definitely having a great time, and to my untrained eyes somehow able to coexist in a choreographed type of confusion. I have seen many different things in San Francisco, but this was the first time I had witnessed Lindy in the Park.

More Lindy in the Park

According to their website, Lindy in the Park (LitP) was started in August of 1996 by Chad Kubo and Ken Watanabe, and is the longest running swing dance venue in San Francisco having recently celebrated their 19th year running on April 27, 2015. They are a group of volunteers that host free outdoor swing dance every Sunday 11:00am-2:00pm, and even have free beginner lessons that start at 12 pm-12:30 pm taught by LitP member Hep Jen. The schedule seems to be the only rule, and the only exception to that rule is rain or inclement weather. LitP is inspired by an amazingly energetic dance called Lindy Hop, an American dance that originated in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and was heavily influenced by the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy Hop is sometimes referred to as a street dance, referring to its improvisational and social nature.

The music is very catchy and in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head, so lost in the camaraderie and excitement that I almost forgot to get the girls home in time for lunch. In a city with so much to discover it was a delight to come across Lindy in the Park, which evokes a different time and era, yet is obviously still very relevant to many that appreciate it today. Since that Sunday we always try to find time during our bike rides to stop by Lindy in the Park to take in the spectacle of inspiration that seems to materialize from out of nowhere to capture our attention and imagination.

And for those that can’t get enough, there is even Lindy on Thursday nights at the 920 Special; Tuesdays at Swing Central (with a live band); Friday Swing & Lindy Hop Classes at UCSF Millberry Center with Hep Jen; and with LitP co-founder Chad Kubo on Saturdays at the Doghouse.

Henry Wong is a life-long San Franciscan living on the Westside.

June 2015

After 30 Years Leading CCSF Journalism Department, ‘Not Over Yet’ for Juan Gonzales

Juan Gonzales.

Journalists, local newspaper publishers, instructors and students gathered on March 20 at Randy’s Place in the Ingleside to honor Juan Gonzales for his 30 years as a faculty and chair of City College of San Francisco’s Department of Journalism.

The mix of former and current students and colleagues attested to his dedication as they mingled, shot pool and enjoyed spaghetti and drinks in the cozy neighborhood bar.

“What Juan does, it’s not an institution, it’s a community,” said Ingleside-Excelsior Light publisher, journalist and U.C. Berkeley graduate student Alexander Mullaney, who credits Juan for directing him toward the field as a freshman.

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of City College itself and its bi-monthly, student-run paper, The Guardsman, to which Gonzales serves as advisor.

One of the oldest community college newspapers in the country, the publication’s mix of local and college-wide news coverage regularly wins top honors—along with the department’s magazine, Etc.—at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges state convention.

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For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly.”

“Juan emphasized the importance of learning by doing, holding us to a high standard but also encouraging our independence,” said former student Jennifer Balderama-McDonald, today a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who once served as book editor for The New York Times.Guests at Juan's reception

“Because I had an interest in editing, Juan pushed me in that direction, and his crucial nudge set me on a path that led from an internship with the Dow Jones News Fund to, seven years later, a job at The New York Times.”

A community focus has always been part of Gonzales’ work at the journalism department.

El Tecolote, the Mission-based bilingual newspaper Gonzales founded in 1970, will celebrate its 45th year this August, and many of his students gain experience through it or other San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association publications.

“For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly. Today, Redmond runs online newspaper 48 hills—which has also published student articles—and guest lectures at the school in an investigative reporting class.

Dan Verel, another former City College journalism student and now a health writer at MedCity News, agreed that the department’s high standards set him up for success after transferring to San Francisco State University in his mid-twenties.

“We were far ahead of other students,” Verel said. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but he was kind of a savior.”

Today, Verel said his old friends from the department are all working in the field, a journey that began with Gonzales and fellow instructors Jon Rochmis and Tom Graham.

A longtime advocate for San Francisco’s Latino community, Gonzales is a board member of the non-profit Accion Latina that provides educational and cultural services. He’s received a “Heroes of Excellence” award from KGO-TV and a “Distinguished Service Award” from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Gonzales has no plans to retire, and said he would continue to work as long as he felt he was “helping folks move on and achieve their goals.”

“It’s been a fun ride,” Gonzales told the crowd after being presented a Certificate of Honor from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “It’s not over yet.”

April 2015

SF Girl Scouts Lead Thousands In “Mismatched Sock”

San Francisco Brownie Troop

Anti-Bullying March At West Portal And Miraloma Schools

A half dozen Girl Scouts in San Francisco rallied 2,495 supporters to close out National Bullying Prevention Month on the right foot.

Members of Brownie Troop 61907, who meet in West Portal and attend school there, as well as in the Inner Sunset, Mission, and Miraloma Park neighborhoods, localized the national Million Misfit Sock March for the second year in a row. The annual march is a demonstration against bullying and a celebration of differences, symbolized by participants wearing mismatched socks.

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Inspired by this movement, these third grade girls decided to make their troop slogan “It’s OK to be different.”

Troop Leader Mimi Jiggens says she’s proud of how well the girls mobilized the October 24 demonstrations at West Portal and Miraloma elementary schools.

“One of the girls said to me, ‘a friend told me they don’t like to wear mismatched socks so I said that that was okay, too, since they were being different in their own way,’” Jiggens recalled.

While millions participated in the virtual march worldwide, West Portal Elementary School’s entire student body physically marched together thanks to the troop’s efforts. In addition, two of the Girl Scouts who attend Miraloma Elementary School composed a song about the march and performed it for students and parents at that school the day before.

November 2014

Sons in Retirement

Retirement, the Good Life, Right?

So many men, after working many decades, look forward to retirement away from the pressures and rigor of work. Often times they find it may not be what they had envisioned. When projects they planned to do are usually at an end six months later, they become bored and don’t know what to do next. Statistically, women live 3-5 years longer, in part because they are more sociable which helps them deal with any aggression or withdrawal. Developing friendships brings comfort that mitigates stress. Men don’t garner friendships as much as women, and spend too much time watching the game, maybe golfing, and frequenting the watering hole.

Enter SIR

The SIR organization was born with Damian Reynolds and his idea of organizing a group of retired male friends to meet monthly for lunch. Sons in Retirement (SIR) was incorporated in 1959 in San Mateo. Today SIR has 18,000 members in 150 branches covering Northern California. The basic rules are simple:

A luncheon club of retired men from gainful employment.

No dues, initiation fees.

The organization espouses no political party, religion or sect.

Eligible men will be invited to join after attending a lunch meeting.

Each branch will have a monthly lunch and a guest speaker

SIR is a non-profit corporation and is open to retired or semi-retired men regardless of race, age, color or religion.

We don’t raise money. We don’t have a political agenda. We don’t have a religious orientation. We don’t sell light bulbs or anything else. We don’t have dues as voluntary member contributions keep us going. We don’t have a problem with organizations that do these things; it’s just that we don’t. You’ve paid your dues to the working world - it’s time to enjoy life.

Local Branch 4

A local San Francisco/Peninsula branch meets at the Elks Lodge in South City the first Wednesday of the month and starts with a social hour at 11:00am and lunch at 12:00. Cost of lunch is $15 currently. Guest speakers present a variety of subjects. Additionally we schedule a monthly local tour. Past examples are the SS Jeremiah O’Brien Liberty Ship and Anchor Steam Beer tour. Additionally we offer monthly recurring activities like golf, bocce ball, bowling, pinochle, computer club and wine tasting. Other local branches engage in other activities you can join like amateur radio, tennis, fishing, etc. Additionally fellow SIR organizations sponsor cruises and other trips out of state. Branch 4 is very active with a membership of about 200 members.


Paul Rosenberg is a history buff that after joining found likeminded history enthusiasts and renewed old acquaintances. Ken Reed enjoyed running and now enjoys long walks, and golf. After he joined, he started a monthly Walk for Health on the streets of San Francisco.

Ken is also our recruitment chair and by way of this article welcomes you to call him to answer questions about SIR. For more information call Ken at 415 810-3832 or our Membership Chair and South City resident, Bill Gipe at 650 878-5746. Our web site is HERE

November 2012

The Bullying Epidemic—Why PARENTS Have to Take the Lead


Every few months, it seems, there's another headline about the death of a child or teen as the result of bullying. That's terrifying, and it's also unacceptable. To some extent we expect to hear about economic woes, political strife, and natural disasters. We don't expect to hear about the premature (and preventable) deaths of our young people. And we shouldn't have to. According to Todd Patkin, it's past time for America to realize that bullying is "the" problem of our day, and for parents and educators to lead the revolution on stopping this dangerous behavior.

If you're skeptical, consider the following statistics from

• Almost 30 percent of young people participate in bullying behaviors or are bullying victims.

• Every day, around 160,000 students do not attend school because they are afraid of being bullied.

• Young people who have been bullied are two to nine times likelier than their nonbullied peers to consider suicide.

Perhaps most concerning of all, a 2009 study indicated that every half hour, a child commits suicide because he or she has been bullied. And that trend is on the rise.

To put it bluntly, what we're doing to combat bullying clearly isn't working," says Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95, "Suicides are still happening, and that's not even mentioning the thousands of kids whose lives are destroyed or diminished—but not ended—by bullying."

social bullying girls

Yes, bullying is a big problem.

Patkin knows from personal experience just how devastating bullying can be. Being the target of several tormenters filled his high school years with much anxiety, and the effects of being bullied lasted into his adulthood.

"My tormenters verbally abused me, and they would also push me around and knock my books or drinks out of my hands," Patkin recalls. "They caused me to often dread coming to school or attending social functions. My confidence and self-esteem took a huge hit. And looking back, I believe that the negative self-image bullying cultivated lasted well into my adult years and contributed to the anxiety and depression from which I suffered."

Patkin isn't alone. In fact, research has shown that the fear, social anxiety, shame, low self-esteem, and anger that bullying causes can rear their heads throughout adulthood, often at crucial moments, causing individuals who were once bullied to stick with "easy," "safe," or "defensive" choices instead of those that might prove most beneficial. There are definitive links between childhood bullying and adult depression. Being bullied can also lead to anger management problems and aggression in adulthood.

"The importance of combating and preventing bullying should be obvious," Patkin states. "By preventing a young person from being bullied, we may be freeing him or her from a lifetime of feeling inadequate and being haunted by horrible memories. We may even be saving a life."

So, why isn't the current approach working?

Yes, bullying has gotten a lot of media attention, and as a result, schools and communities are providing more and more resources for bullied kids. They're encouraging victims to reach out for help, and they're also instituting zero-tolerance policies aimed at the bullies themselves. But too many victims are still slipping through the cracks. Why? According to Patkin, we're putting too much responsibility on the young people we're trying to protect.

"Schools put out a lot of rhetoric on dealing with and preventing bullying, but the problem is still rampant," he points out. "That's because our current approach revolves around requiring kids to tell on each other—and it's not as effective as we hoped. For several reasons, young people just aren't reporting the bullies."

First of all, kids who are being bullied often lack the self-esteem and confidence to stand up for themselves and let adults know what's happening. They also worry that turning a tormentor in will make them new targets, or intensify the former level of bullying.

"I certainly didn't ask teachers or my parents for any help when I was in high school because I was so ashamed of my weakness in dealing with my bullies," Patkin admits. "Also, I was afraid that if my teachers or parents stepped in, their interference would just make my tormenters focus their efforts on me more. I'd be even more on the outside because I'd ratted out my peers."

Patkin believes that many young people today feel just as powerless to speak up and "out" bullies—and he also points out that repercussions for them could be worse than those he might have faced due to cyberbullying. In other words, today's bullies aren't forced to stop once the school bell rings—their vicious and hurtful behavior can continue 24/7 thanks to social media sites, texting, and emails.

"How much longer are we going to let this problem go on?" Patkin asks. "Are we going to continue to allow more kids to become victims because, like I was, they're too scared to speak up? Not on my watch!"

Here's what our goal should be.

"We need to spark a culture-wide revolution to make bullying uncool—in fact, unacceptable!" Patkin insists. "There needs to be a palpable stigma attached to tormenting and belittling another person in this way."

Patkin compares the bullying problem to drunk driving. Once upon a time, getting behind the wheel after a few alcoholic beverages was fairly common and casual, and was not seen as "that big of a deal"—just as, until recently, bullying was seen as "a part of kids growing up."

Then an organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took up the cause and dramatically changed the way in which Americans viewed drunk driving. Through publicity campaigns and a grassroots movement, MADD caused the public to view driving while intoxicated as something that is reprehensible, irresponsible, dangerous, and even criminal. MADD's efforts also helped to enact stronger penalties against drunk drivers.

"Similarly, bullies need to lose the 'cool' image that comes with being at the top of the social pecking order," Patkin says. "The public—adults and kids alike—needs to view bullying as something that brands you with a modern-day scarlet letter. Our current zero-tolerance policies are a good start, but we need to add another prong to our anti-bullying approach. In short, parents have to lead the way (along with other students) to say that we are no longer going to accept this behavior. It has to start in your house."

What can parents do to change things?

"We as parents need to be more proactive in raising kids who are not bullies," Patkin says. "If young people see bullying as something to avoid at all costs—something that they don't want to participate in or allow to happen—we'll be directly attacking the problem instead of treating the symptoms. Over time, this attitude will spread and will hopefully become just as ingrained in the public psyche as our negative views on drunk driving. The best news is, getting started is pretty simple."

First, have the bullying talk. Talk to your kids about bullying, just as you would have the drug talk or the drunk driving talk. Most parents don't directly address this topic, perhaps because nobody ever thinks it's their kids. (Admit it; you've thought something along the lines of, My child would never make fun of someone just to be mean.) And as a result, many kids don't have a full understanding of how serious bullying and its effects can be. It's important to be specific in defining what bullying is (make sure your child knows that it can include physical abuse, verbal taunting, online harassment, or even passing on a hurtful message or rumor), and to explain just how damaging certain words and actions can be to others—even if your child didn't "mean" them or think they would have a lasting impact.

"You should also make a point to explain that when someone commits suicide because of bullying, many lives are ruined," Patkin suggests. "As a parent, you don't want a young person's death on your head, or on that of your child."

Patkin is also adamant that if your child is caught bullying, you must take it very, very seriously. If you caught your child lying or stealing, you'd come down hard, right? You definitely wouldn't brush off the behavior as "just a stage." You'd do whatever was necessary to nip it in the bud. Treat bullying the same way.

"I'm not here to tell you how to punish your child—consequences are your family's business," Patkin clarifies. "Just make sure that your child knows that bullying behaviors are not okay in your family. Talk to him about why he reacted the way he did, why it was wrong, and how he can better respond in the future." Note to Editor: See accompanying tipsheet for more strategies on how to squelch bullying.

"Ultimately, this is one social change that will happen because ordinary parents are purposeful in how they're raising their children," Patkin concludes. "In the past, bullies have been seen as 'cool'—they've even been glamorized in popular culture thanks to movies like Mean Girls. We have the power and responsibility to change this view, now that we fully understand the thousands of lives that bullying affects every day. And that change must start now."

Anti-Bullying 101: 14 Strategies to Squelch Bullying Tendencies in Your Children

One of the best ways to prevent bullying is to raise kids who don't participate in or tolerate the behavior. According to Todd Patkin, here are 14 things that parents can do in order to not raise bullies.

Have "the talk" about bullying. The truth is, nobody ever thinks their kid is a bully. It's always someone else's child who is calling other kids hurtful names, pushing them around on the playground, and sending nasty texts. But according to Patkin, even if you don't believe your children have even thought about crossing the line, talking to them about bullying is crucial. Have a specific discussion with them about what bullying behaviors look like, and make sure your kids know that these behaviors will not be tolerated in your family. (Think of it as having "the talk" about not using drugs, for example.)

Make sure your kids know that bullying is hurtful. Especially when they're younger, kids might not have the emotional maturity to make the connection between their words or actions and how they make another child feel. Explain to your children that bullying can have devastating effects on others (even if that wasn't the bully's intent) and on the perpetrators themselves.

Share statistics with your children. If you feel it's age appropriate, take a few minutes to research bullying statistics with your child. A quick internet search will reveal a large number of disturbing facts. For instance, according to,

• Almost 30 percent of young people participate in bullying behaviors or are bullying victims.

• Every day, around 160,000 students do not attend school because they are afraid of being bullied.

• Young people who have been bullied are two to nine times likelier than their nonbullied peers to consider suicide.

Seeing these statistics can prove to your child that bullying isn't just something that Mom and Dad are needlessly worried about—it's something that is happening at their schools and to their peers.

Teach your kids to intercede. Teaching your kids not to participate in bullying behaviors is a good start, but it's also important that they not allow their peers to be tormented. Encourage them to step in if they see another child being treated badly—if they are comfortable doing so. If not, make sure your child knows to talk to a teacher or other authority figure when another child is being tormented. Even an anonymous note on a desk can open an adult's eyes to a bad situation.

Be involved every day. It's tempting to think that the best thing we can do for our children is to provide a good life for them, to include not only the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, but also a good school, weekly piano lessons, and an everybody-plays sports team to participate in. No, those things aren't at all bad, but they also can't take the place of what's truly the most important thing in a child's development: his parents. Patkin is adamant that no activity, program, or hobby can replace time with your kids. Being involved in their lives on a daily, nitty-gritty basis will allow them to stand the best chance when it comes to making all the right choices (not just avoiding bullying). Don't leave your children's development in the hands of others or up to chance.

Don't be afraid to discipline. Patkin isn't advocating "spare the rod; spoil the child"—but he is saying that kids need to be aware of boundaries from a young age. They need to know that if they violate the rules, there will be consequences. Period. It's important to squelch bullying behaviors the moment they appear instead of writing them off as a "stage" or "normal part of childhood." For instance, if you see your daughter being nasty or overly bossy to her younger brother, tell her that she needs to play more nicely. Pre-determine consequences that will be enacted if the behavior doesn't change and make sure your daughter knows about them. Then stick to your guns.

Explain the why. Making sure your children know the rules of good behavior—and the consequences when they step over the line—is a good first step. But if you want those behaviors to "stick" when you're not around (not to mention after your kids leave home), it's a good idea to make sure they understand why the rules are there in the first place. For example, explain why you don't make jokes about the way somebody looks—because it hurts feelings!

Be a good example. You can't hold your kids to one standard of behavior and then flout those rules yourself. Make sure that your own actions are friendly, compassionate, and courteous. Say "please" and "thank you" to wait staff, for example, and resist the urge to browbeat that snarky salesperson into shutting up and helping you more quickly. And if you do slip up, be sure to admit your mistake and point out to your kids how you could have reacted differently.

Encourage empathy. Look for teachable moments that you can use to help your child consider how others are feeling. Getting kids into the habit of considering others will cut down on the chances that they'll bully someone else. When your kids are young, look for children's books that illustrate how badly others feel when they are left out or teased and read them together. You can also use family movie night as a starting point—after all, very few films are free of harsh words, taunts, or nasty behavior (even if they're PG-rated). Press the pause button and ask your child how he thinks the character who is being treated badly feels. You can also do this as you go about your day (for example, if you see a customer treating a cashier rudely at the grocery store).

Help your children understand "different." Many children who are bullied are somehow "different"—from a different culture, a different socioeconomic group, handicapped, etc. As much as possible, expose your children to "different" people to promote understanding and friendship. For example, check out a library book about another culture's religious holidays and read it together. Sign your family up to participate in a walk for autism. The more your kids understand the world around them—and the more they learn that "different" doesn't mean "less than"—the less likely they'll be to target other groups.

Teach them to lead selflessly. It's an understatement to say that our society encourages kids to be leaders. Everything around them practically screams, "Be number one! Climb as high on the ladder as possible! Do everything you can to be successful!" It's important to teach kids to achieve those goals by earning the respect of others—not by hurting others. Explain to them that yes, you can reach the top of the pecking order by putting others down and intimidating them—but these tactics will ultimately cause you to be unpopular, despised, and alone. Talk about how people who work with others to achieve common goals are ultimately happier and more successful.

Talk about technology. Within the past generation, technology has made bullying much more prolific; after all, taunts no longer have to stop when the school bell rings. Plus, the relative anonymity of an online identity makes kids much bolder than they might be face-to-face. Have a frank discussion with your kids about what is and isn't appropriate for email, texting, social media, etc. Make sure they understand what's said online can be just as hurtful, and that it's much more public and permanent than what's said in the school hallways. Also, talk about the fact that even passing on a text that originated with someone else makes you guilty of bullying.

Encourage them to spend time with positive people. While no child wants to hear from her parents that she's hanging out with the wrong crowd, you can encourage her to spend time with people who approach life with positive attitudes and healthy perspectives. Also, pay attention yourself to who your child is hanging out with. If you identify a bad influence, don't be afraid to limit the time your child spends with him or her. Yes, as a parent you're the biggest influence on your child's development, but don't forget that her friends will also have a huge impact on her behaviors and beliefs.

Take every opportunity to build their confidence. Many bullies pick on others because they themselves have low self-esteem, and putting down others makes them feel more powerful. By helping your child be confident, happy, and fulfilled, you reduce the chances that he will be a bully.

For more, check out Todd Patkin's website, buy his book, Finding Happiness.

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