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.
With all the cynicism about politics now surrounding the Presidential election, it's important to recognize the success grass roots activists can have at the local level. One such example is the reinstatement of plans to complete the building of a new Performing Arts Center at City College's main campus. This major building project was previously approved and funded by San Francisco voters in two separate bond measures. Despite the fact that an award winning design plan had already been approved by the state and some foundational construction already completed, the project was summarily cancelled by the "Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers" at at time when the elected Board of Trustees lacked the power to stand up to the administration. But with the reinstatement of full powers for the elected Trustees, we are seeing better decision making that reflects the interests of San Franciscans.
The activisism around the Performing Arts Center has been intense, with students, faculty and community members organizing many direct actions on campus to get the word out. As previsously reported below, this activism included singing protests in front of the administration building (to demonstrate the lack of practice rooms) and a performance/teach-in event at the Diego Rivera Theater. And after the Trustees regained their decision making power, activists lobbied the board to insure that the Performing Arts Center would be reinstated. Today one of those Trustees, John Rizzo, reported on the resurrection of the Perfoming Arts Center in his newsletter:
"I'm happy to report that the Performing Arts Center is now part of the College's Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan that we sent to the State Chancellor's office, and will be part of the College's Facilities Master Plan, due later this year.
In addition to providing much-needed state-of-the art performance spaces for students and local artists, this facility will provide new educational opportunities tro San Francisco students. We currently lack the facilities to offer classes in 'back-stage' technology, such as lighting and set design, audio/video recording of live music, dance, and drama perfomances, and other fields that employ people in the Bay Area.
The Performing Arts Center will also be the new home of the famous mural, Pan American Unity (1940) by Diego Rivera. The mural is currently displayed in the crumbling and inadequate Diegor Rivera Theater."
The false assumptions of the so-called "educational reform" movment have been adopted by most politicians regardless of party affiliation. Public colleges and the faculty who teach our students are under attack in the name of "market efficiency." Also under attack is the traditional liberal arts curiculum which teaches such skills as critical thinking and cultural competancy. One of the biggest leaders of this privatization agenda is the Lumina Foundation which represents the interests of the student financial aid industry.
Most people, including parents who struggle to get their kids through college, lack a clear understanding of the depth of this stealth privatization agenda. In a recent article from Truthout, Benjamin Balthaser, an English professor of all things, reveals a new student loan scheme which will profit the student loan industry at the expense of liberal arts students. Balthaser explains why the privatization agenda is a direct threat to the American educational system in clear and compelling language:
The evening of February 19 marked the first general meeting of the progressive organization recently rechristened “SFVision,” ironically to distinguish itself from a Ron Conway project called “VisionSF.” The group plans to meet at the Women's Building on the third Friday of every other month, as well as holding events in various neighborhoods. The next general meeting is scheduled for April 29 (NOT the third Friday!), and will include discussions of police-community relations and taking back the SFDCCC from the developers.
The night was led off by Salon.com founder and Season of the Witch author David Talbot, who co-chairs the organization and describes himself as a reluctant activist. Talbot wrote one of the most incisive articles on the current state of the city back in 2012; since then, official corruption, police violence, massive displacement - conditions in general - continued to deteriorate to the point where he just felt he had to do more. “Division Street” makes a perfect metaphor for the raging battle between haves and have-nots, says Talbot, and he thinks that Ed Lee has “turned the homeless problem into a fullblown crisis.”
Talbot likened the current moment to the 1980s AIDS epidemic, when people wanted to round up, tattoo, and quarantine the victims. But we stood up against it, he says, truly becoming the “City of St Francis.”
It may come as a surprise to many that Christine Pelosi has joined with Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, to call for a change in how superdelegates of the Democractic Party view their representational obligations. As Christine and Anna say in a co-authored post on the DFA NorCal list, the 712 superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention represent 30% of the those delegates whose votes will determine who wins the Democratic Party's nomination for President. Christine happens to support Hillary Clinton while Anna Galland supports Bernie Sanders. Yet both these women are "working moms of young children whose generation's future will be shaped by the next president". They want their children to engage in politics, but in an environment where "people in conflict over a candidate need not be in conflict with one another."
The rationale for this change in practice, if not policy, is rooted in the Democratic party's long held support for inclusion. "It seeks to make voting easier, not harder, and to empower and enable Americans to participate fully in the democratic process". The authors argue that these values "will be undermined if the process used to select the Democratic nominee takes power away from voters and if the party reverts to the days of men in smoke-filled back rooms making decisions. Voter disenfranchisment is a tool of the Right--not the Democratic Party."
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.