Our twelfth annual party was held on January 23 at Savor Restaurant in Noe Valley. Speakers included Senator Leno, Assemblyman Chiu, Supervisor Peskin, and CCSF Trustee Brigitte Davila. A splendid time was had by all; photos here.
On 12/7, San Francisco for Democracy members assembled at the Fillmore police station for our first regular meeting since the September endorsements. Going forward, we plan to meet on a bimonthly basis, to improve predictability and attendance.
First on the program was newly-elected (formerly appointed) CCSF trustee Alex Randolph, who was due to be sworn in Thursday. The trustees are currently working on the first budget they have had any say on in awhile, Randolph told us, and there are many matters to consider, including new contracts with staff and faculty. The biggest problem is how to increase enrollment, which continues to reel in part due to the ongoing public impression that the school is having accreditation problems. Alex has joined the Enrollment and Marketing Committee together with Trustees Selby and D'Avila; together they are making the rounds of community meetings to raise awareness. Members of our audience also suggested radio appearances, and appealing to former S.F. Residents to take online classes. Our disappearing middle class is part of the problem, as is CCSF's “archaic enrollment system.” Randolph ended with a plea to take a class this spring, and to ask others to do likewise.
In October, SF4D cohosted an informational panel with San Francisco Tomorrow and the Potrero Hill Democratic Club on the drought and its Bay Area ramifications. The discussion was moderated by PHDC's Loretta Lynch, former CPUC president, and panelists included Jennifer Clary, Water Program Manager of Clean Water Action; Barry Nelson, BCDC Commissioner and Principal of Western Water Strategies; and Food and Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. You can watch the video here.
The bad news is that with climate change accelerating, our drought issues can only get worse. We are not in a four-year drought, as is often said; we are in the 15th year of an extended dry spell, and the worldwide tendency is overwhelmingly toward drier conditions. Experts also agree that in the future, California's normal alternation between wetter years and drier years will become exaggerated, with more of the precipitation coming as quick-to-run-off floods and downpours, and less remaining as snow and groundwater.
On August 6, SF4D outreach director Maxine Anderson was honored by the SF Human Rights Commission for her longtime voting rights activism within the city. The current advocacy co-chair of the SF League of Women Voters, Max has worked hard to inform voters through LOWV forums as well as hosting our own programs. "At some point in your life, you have to stop complaining about the situation and do something," she said in her acceptance speech, in typical Max fashion. "The more information people have about things like ballot measures, the more likely they are to make a good decision." One would hope.
On Thursday, July 23, San Francisco for Democracy cohosted a discussion program on the upcoming mayor's race. The panel, put together by the S F Progressive Democrats, and moderated by KALW's Rose Aguilar, was largely devoted to possible wins for progressives in this election. Panelists included Tim Redmond of 48hills.org, housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and mayoral candidates Amy Farah Weiss and Francisco Herrera. You can watch the video here.
Rose Aguilar started things off by letting us know about some shows she's been doing on local issues likely to be addressed in the discussion, including solutions to homelessness and the effect of global investment capital on our housing prices. In the future she will also be hosting discussions on local transit issues, boot camps for renters, and land trusts.
Tim Redmond said he had spent most of the day rueing the deterioration of the SFDCCC over the past few years – it's become dominated by real estate and other right-wing interests. The previous night, the once-progressive body declined to endorse a proposal by the Public Defender's Racial Justice Committee that the SFPD redouble efforts to assign minority officers to minority neighborhoods (in line with the President's call), adopting instead one congratulating the SFPD on its 21st century policing methods. We must do something about this organization and its endorsement power to have any hopes for progressive gains in 2016.
San Francisco for Democracy kicked off its annual officer election meeting with a long-overdue discussion of the Trans Pacific Partnership featuring Daily Kos Activism Director Paul Hogarth and Charlie Furman of Fight for the Future.
Hogarth characterizes TPP as “NAFTA on steroids,” as it will affect a full 40% of the world's GDP. Like most of these corporate sponsored trade agreements, it will be mostly bad news for workers, the environment, and consumer protections, as it provides for the overruling of domestic laws that restrain trade in any way. And of course, the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy – what little we know about it comes from WikiLeaks. If TPP is supposed to be a good thing, why aren't we allowed to know anything about it?
Join DFA members and other progressives from the San Francisco Bay Area for a day-long retreat on Saturday, April 11, as we share our vision for America: a fair and equal society where everyone has a chance for a safe, financially secure future.
At this event, we'll hear from a diverse group of speakers sharing their visions for economic justice for workers and students, for women and people of color, and for retired Americans, in addition to discussing healthcare for all and clean money political campaigns. We'll also talk about how to take action right now, in our communities and through the California Democratic Party, and learn about opportunities for action in the 2015-2016 electoral cycle.
A March 26 program cosponsored by SF Progessive Dems, SF for Democracy, and the Unitarian Universalists featured former Supervisor, recent Assemblyman, and local rational person Tom Ammiano. While we didn't get a preview of Tom's new comedy routine, there was plenty else to appreciate.
Needless to say, Ammiano found Sacramento a frustrating place compared to the city he had served for so long - “few progressive voices, everybody at the Chevron funder.” He quickly came to see it as his calling to push progressive reforms that had long been neglected in the capital. His effort to legalize marijuana may have failed in California, but as with Newsom's push for same sex marriage, it turned out to be a major factor in obtaining legalization in other states soon after. Another favored project was to reform our draconian sex offender laws, which leave juvenile offenders on registries for the remainder of their lives, and tend to be provide the excuse for a lot of homophobic behavior. Tom wanted to set up a tiered system like the ones maintained in 46 other states, that would consider factors like age, consensuality, and repetition. But in California, lawmakers considered the issue too toxic to take up.
On February 3, activists Etecia Brown and Stevon Cook, Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus, and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi joined in a discussion of just how racially fair our criminal justice system is, how far it has to go, and what steps can be taken to get us there. Also, Brigitte Davila on the status of City College, and Ben Grieff of Evolve on Prop 13 split roll reform. Video is here.
As reported by the SF Chronicle yesterday, the Board of Governors of the California Community College system has voted unanimously (14-0) to oust Barbara Beno's accrediting agency known as the ACCJC. The editorial board opines that the ACCJC's handling of City College's accreditation exposed that agency "as arrogant, stubborn, nontransparent and obsessed with minutia instead of its main mission: assuring quality education for the students." For many of us who are used to reading the Chronicle's dour and unbalanced reporting on the accreditation crisis, this editorial comes as a welcome, albeit belated, acknowledgment that the accredition process itself has been deeply flawed.
A bit into Gov. O'Malley's segment at Saturday's Presidential Town Hall at Netroots Nation, protesters representing the #BlackLivesMatter movement entered the enormous convention hall chanting and marching towards the stage. Tia Oso, a Phoenix resident and local organizer, was soon on the stage with her own microphone. She said she decided to organize a protest because Black Lives Matter movement was not being represented this year at Netroots Nation. (It will be Topic #1 at next year's gathering to be held in St. Louis.).
Neither O'Malley, nor Senator Bernie Sanders who followed him, responded well to the protestors. Senator Sanders came prepared to deliver his standard economic justice speech. He seemed annoyed and did not specifically address the protestors until later on. And while the Governor from Maryland offered specific policy proposals concerning the need for transparency and accountability in our police departments, he failed to say simply that "black lives matter". He offered the mantra "Black lives matter, White lives matter, All lives matter." This alienated the protestors because it represented a failure to honor the urgency of the present situation in which unarmed black women and men are killed almost daily at the hands of police or other authorities.
Whether the protestors went too far in their chanting was debated among the attendees, a few of whom booed when Sanders was interrupted. Yet the overwhelming response from the Netroots Nation was positive. Watch this video and judge for yourself.
In a surprise to many, Leader Pelosi spoke yesterday on the House floor against the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPP) bills-- both of which are required to move forward with the President’s plans for the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. Earlier this week in San Francisco, a broad coalition of grassroots organizations rallied against the TPP outside Leader Pelosi’s office on 7th Street. Big labor and grassroots activists are playing a major role in fighting back the momentum of the TPP. Speaker Boehner says he will bring back the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill for reconsideration likely on Tuesday, June 16th. If it fails to get a majority vote, the TPP will have to be sent back to the Senate and hopefully will die there.
At the start of the Neighborhood Services Committee hearing on May 7, 2015, Chair Eric Mar gave props to us Save City College Coalition activists who have been working on the CCCSF issue since January, 2013. Then things got really interesting when he turned the microphone over to Supervisor Campos who asked: where’s Special Trustee Lease? When it turned out the Special Trustee hadn’t bothered to come to San Francisco for the hearing, Campos said it illustrates the problem: “We have a special trustee who is completely unaccountable.”
Many speakers voiced appreciation to City Attorney Dennis Herrera who, in August, 2013, sued the ACCJC for violations of state and federal law in the process they used to sanction the college. By most accounts, it was that lawsuit which saved the college from being shut down on July 31, 2014 due to the ACCJC’s termination order issued the prior year. One of the unsung heroes of that lawsuit, Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere, updated the supervisors on CCSF’s current litigation status. In the process, Mere gave a brilliant summary of the many unsuccessful court motions the ACCJC made to avoid responsibility for their unfair business practices.
"Peer to peer economy"; "collaborative economy"; "sharing economy"; the "Mesh." What the heck is it? Is it a good thing? Why does it always have to be so disruptive? Can I get Google Express to drop some off?
These were a few of the somber questions considered April 9th in a Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council program on the subject. Presented by a pair of well-informed club members, it drew a good crowd on a Thursday night.
In the wake of the surprise retirement of Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers Bob Agrella, State Chancellor Brice Harris held a press conference to announce the appointment of Dr. Guy Lease as the college's second STWEP. On the positive side, Harris announced that the elected Board of Trustees would likely assume full responsibilities on or about July 1, 2015. But the appointment of another STWEP was not well received by the coalition of faculty, staff and students at City College who felt the board of trustees deserved an immediate restoration of full authority.
Chancellor's Press Conference at CCSF
The video stars AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly who obtained permission for the banned protestors to enter the secured room in the ironically named "Wellness Center" on the main campus. Also appearing in staring roles are student organizer Lalo Gonzales and other students who boldly expressed their displeasure at the ever changing cast of outsiders who come to CCSF to fix things that don't need fixing.
Students throughout San Francisco have been benefitting from CCSF’s excellent academic programs since Spring classes started on January 12th, but the launch of the new semester has come with some controversy on the administrative side. Last minute announcements of two building closures and on-going student protests in support of a new Performing Arts and Education Center (PAEC) have raised questions about what the administration has in mind for the future of CCSF beyond the obvious goal of preserving its accreditation.
Three days before the start of classes, the administration abruptly announced the closure of the Civic Center campus due to seismic safety concerns, resulting in a last minute scramble to relocate students. Initially, many were redirected to the college’s administrative building at 33 Gough Street, but then it was announced that building also had to be closed. What’s not clear is why the administration took so long to announce the closure of the Civic Center which was known to need major seismic repairs as early as August, 2014.
In an effort to energize the intersection of the black and queer communities, the Harvey Milk Club brought together four black, female, and (three) gay activists for their January meeting Tuesday night. The room was packed.
Alicia Garza is a longtime Oakland organizer with POWER and the National Domestic Workers Alliance who, with friends Patrisse Collors and Opal Tometi, created #BlackLivesMatter in July 2013, after a jury failed to hold George Zimmerman accountable for the stalking murder of Trayvon Martin. “It was like a punch in the gut,” she says of the moment Zimmerman was acquitted; everyone “knew” it was going to happen; nevertheless, no one could believe it. The whole trial, and its reflection in the media, had seemed to be about what Martin had done to get himself killed. Garza began looking over responses to the verdict on social media and was overcome with the general sense of helplessness. She and her friends decided to create a space where people could talk about racism.
On Sunday, December 14, I had the pleasure of attending the Reclaim America Conference at USF's McLaren Hall, sponsored by the Network of Spiritual Progressives. The interfaith advocacy organization, a venture of Tikkun magazine, seeks to
transform our materialist and corporate-dominated society into a caring society through consciousness raising, advocacy, and public awareness campaigns that promote a “New Bottom Line” based on generosity, peace, and social transformation. The NSP shifts mass consciousness by challenging status-quo ideas about what is possible.
In addition to one of SF4D's core concerns, the corrupting influence of private money in politics, the NSP stresses corporate responsibility and environmental and world poverty issues. Their proposed Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which they say is primarily designed to provoke a conversation about what is possible, would ban corporate personhood, eliminate private money from federal and state campaigns, and force the media to donate free and equal time to all candidates polling over 5%. It would also require large corporations to apply for a new charter every five years based on their social responsiblity record, and mandate certain environmental and social curricula for schools receiving federal funding.
Two hours of closing arguments were presented yesterday in Judge Karnow’s court, with Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg summarizing the case against the ACCJC.
Judge Curtis Karnow
According to the City Attorney, the ACCJC acted unlawfully and unfairly in the process it used to place City College on show cause in 2012 and then deciding to terminate the college’s accreditation in 2013.
Attorneys representing the ACCJC argued that they were only doing their job in determining whether City College met all the accreditation standards and complained about personal attacks against the President, Barbara Beno and Commission Chair Sandra Serrano. They claimed that City College is not entitled to “special treatment” and that the ACCJC could not be held liable under California’s Unfair Competition Law because the ACCJC is not a commercial interest. To the shock of many spectators in the court room, attorney Andrew Sklar said it is lawful for accrediting agencies to perform accreditation activities even if they don’t comply with the law and their own rules. He also suggested that City College should be grateful that the ACCJC granted it “restoration status” (in response to overwhelming political pressure) because it provides a mechanism for the college to be receive reaccreditation within a two year period.