Tag Archives: politics

Proposition C

By Carlos Mendoza

Proposition C’s plan on regulating lobbyist that spend an amount of $2,500 or higher on city officials and legislations in City Hall creates an equal atmosphere in the political realm.

The proposition is aimed at individuals, party groups and unions who spend the regulated amount to disclose information. The information would contain how much money was spent, and who or what the money was spent on.

Supported by the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Prop C not only regulates funding, but it also prohibits individuals or groups to provide city officials with gifts higher than 25 dollars.

Setting the political field in a fair environment is crucial because it guarantees that every city official and legislation has a fair chance of representation and eliminates the influence of money.

Proposition J

By Marc Arguello

Proposition J would establish a legacy business historic preservation fund. If approved, a ‘legacy list’ of businesses in the city that have been around for at least 20 years would be eligible to receive benefits from the city. Any business that the city considers to be a legacy business would receive $500 for every full-time employee under its employ, and property owners that lease to any business on the list would be compensated $4.50 per square-foot provided they agree to lease the space to the business for at least 10-years.

According to the analysis from the city controller, the measure would cost the city about $3.7 million for the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year, although the actual costs of the proposition would depend on the size of the approved budget and number of businesses on the list.

Proposition J is supported by the San Francisco Democratic party, the San Francisco Labor Council, and the South Beach Mission Bay business association.

Prop J is opposed by the San Francisco Republican Party and San Francisco Moderates. The Libertarian party also opposes prop J. The San Francisco Taxpayers association has voiced its opposition to prop J as well.

Proposition D

By Jordan Lalata

Sponsored and funded by the San Francisco Giants, a yes vote on this measure will convert Lot A, a surface parking lot south of AT&T Park, into something more dramatic and vibrant. The Mission Rock project achieves to create 40 percent affordable housing to low and middle-income individuals and families with approximately 1,500 new rental homes. The project will also include eight acres of parks and open space for family-oriented and recreational activities, and an expansion of Anchor Brewing, the city’s very own brewery, to Pier 48. This would result into more than 13,500 construction jobs, 11,000 permanent jobs and produce over $1 billion in revenue to go toward city services. Those opposed of this measure include the San Francisco Green Party, San Francisco Tomorrow and the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay.

Proposition G

By Naomi Outlaw

Also known as the “San Francisco Renewable Energy Truth In Advertising Act”, Proposition G will require the City to define renewable, greenhouse-gas free electricity as electricity solely derived from renewable resources located or adjacent to California, or electricity generated by the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

This proposition also requires the city to send out three notices informing citizens of CleanPowerSF’s renewable energy percentages before the program commences and then a notice of the current percentage in every communication about the program.

Originally supported by IBEW 1245, one of PG&E’s three unions, they withdrew their support and instead endorsed Proposition H. According to Hoodline, Bernalwood and the Libertarian Party of San Francisco still support the measure while the League of Women Voters, the League of Pissed Off Voters, and Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen oppose the bill.

Proposition B

By Carlos Mendoza

Proposition B’s plan on expanding paid parental leave for all employees that work for the City and County of San Francisco is miniscule to the majority but helpful to the minority.

The proposition that is supported by Supervisor Katy Tang, will allow all government employees to receive a full 12 weeks of paid parental leave. This comes before employees are allowed to keep their 40 hours they have gained at the end of their leave.

According to federal, state and local law, all employees are granted 12 weeks of parental leave after arrival of a new child. Compensation comes after employed parents use their sick hours they have accrued.

This new proposition will make sure that compensation will happen during the full 12 weeks and let new or existing parents keep their 40 hours of paid sick leave.

Fear and Loathing on the San Francisco Campaign Trail

Mayoral candidate Stuart Schuffman poses with supporters at his campaign kickoff party at The Independent July 18. Photo by Peter Snarr

 

In the downstairs room of an acquaintance’s house in the Castro District, 34-year-old travel writer and local political commentator Stuart Schuffman is surrounded by friends doubling as political confidants. Their agenda is to figure out Schuffman’s political platform for the upcoming San Francisco mayoral race, which he officially entered on June 9. In energetic bursts of speech Schuffman describes to the group what he wants to accomplish, while his advisors help condense those ideas into digestible campaign topics. Schuffman’s mission is unique in that he will not only be running for mayor, but will also be writing about his experience as he goes, informing the public on what it takes to run for political office in San Francisco.

Hailed as an “underground legend” by the San Francisco Chronicle and the “chief of cheap” by Time Out New York, Schuffman got his start making zines and distributing them throughout San Francisco. Since then Schuffman has ramped up his website to become a destination for an alternative take on San Francisco food, events and politics. He has produced a TV show and written three books, all the while keeping his finger firmly pressed against the pulse of San Francisco culture.

“[San Francisco has] really accepted me for as fucking weird as I am,” says Schuffman. “It’s always been a haven for the misfits and the outlaws. And I’m hoping it’ll continue to be that way. That’s kind of why I’m running for mayor. Because it’s important that the world always has a San Francisco.”

According to political analysis, incumbent Mayor Ed Lee has a massive advantage over the other six candidates, all of which have never held political office. Appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2011 to replace Gavin Newsom after he was elected Lieutenant Governor, Lee has been scrutinized for receiving campaign funds from Silicon Valley venture capitalists and major developers. Now, with a housing crisis no longer looming but present, Lee’s major criticisms have come from a lack of low-income housing for the the city and a focus on high-cost development, such as a push for the Warriors stadium in Mission Bay.

While Lee has an approval rating of 47 percent according to a December KPIX poll, a politician with enough clout to seriously take him on has not entered the race. Schuffman is utilizing his candidacy to write a column on his experiences and the inner dealings of what it takes to run for mayor in an experiment of gonzo-style journalism.

While San Francisco has a storied history of protest candidates few have changed the nature of races, according to Corey Cook, dean of the School of Public Service at Boise State and former University of San Francisco political science associate professor. Cook cited a write-in campaign by Tom Ammiano in 1999 against Willie Brown as the last successful protest campaign in recent memory, despite Ammiano losing in a runoff.

“The energy was substantial and the election changed,” says Cook.  “I don’t think you’re going to see a change like that this year.”

With his reports, Schuffman is following in the footsteps of Upton Sinclair, an influential muckraking journalist from the early part of the 20th Century who detailed his plans for a 1934 gubernatorial run in California in his book I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty. While Sinclair didn’t win the election, Cook says the report is regarded as an important piece of muckraking journalism.

“It was absolutely informing,” says Cook. “I think it was an interesting report from an interesting novelist, writer, journalist, and activist.”

Schuffman has already written three articles for the San Francisco Examiner, the second of which he details the amount of money it takes to get your name on the ballot, all the while tying in greater issues of class and poverty. His reports are already hitting a chord within a certain demographic of San Franciscans who feel he is exposing a different side of politics.

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Stuart Schuffman sits next to one of his advisors as the group discusses potential campaign platforms in a meeting June 25. Photo by Peter Snarr

 

“I enjoy his columns,” says San Francisco resident Mark Gunson.  “I think they’re hilarious and informative and present an alternative view we are missing at times. Even in San Francisco where we’re supposed to be so fucking liberal.”

Christian Utzman, who runs the Un-scripted Theater Company downtown, also enjoys the reports and likes that they follow a “progressive, independent narrative.”

“I feel like the hip artist scene isn’t being represented,” says Utzman. “If anything it’s being pushed out.”

His reports haven’t been all smooth sailing, however. In what was supposed to be his third posting for the Examiner, an editor’s note appeared before the article stating that Schuffman could not write about his experiences without breaking campaign finance laws, and instead the posting was on another topic.

According to John St. Croix, executive director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, “referencing his candidacy in his Examiner column would result in an in-kind contribution from the Examiner. These contributions are prohibited if the Examiner is a corporation; if it is not, the value of the contribution cannot exceed $500.”

The California Political Reform Act states that a contribution includes “the granting of discounts or rebates by television and radio stations and newspapers not extended on an equal basis to all candidates for the same office. (Section 82015(c)).”

Essentially, Schuffman can’t publish anything related to his campaign for the Examiner since he is being paid by them. Schuffman can however post to his own website.

“Per FPPC regulation 18215.2, uncompensated posting of his stories on his [personally owned] website, Twitter and Facebook, which reference his candidacy is not an in-kind contribution,” says Croix. “[But he] must comply with the state’s disclaimer requirements.”

Schuffman appears to be taking advantage of this regulation as he posted his fourth report from the campaign trail on July 6.

Through his candidacy, Schuffman wants to push the conversation of the race to talk about issues he cares about, which many of his supporters acknowledge.

“I’m not sure he can win, but yes I think he can influence the conversation,” says Utzman. “People ask what Occupy Wall Street accomplished. Before Occupy people weren’t talking about wealth inequality, but by changing the conversation they won.”

One of the conversations Schuffman wants to influence is the ongoing housing crisis. In recent years San Francisco has seen an economic boom due to the success of Silicon Valley tech companies, which has created an influx of workers to move to the city. This boom caused San Francisco real estate to skyrocket to premium prices and in some cases lead to the eviction of low to middle income families who can no longer afford to live in the city. Policy makers are now having to scramble to come up with solutions that support affordable housing.

One of the proposed solutions was Supervisor David Campos’ Mission moratorium bill, which Schuffman publically supported in a video posted to his website. The bill, which would have halted the private sale of land in the Mission district for 45 days so the city could buy and build affordable housing as well as figure out appropriate future development regulations, failed 7-4 June 2 after seven hours of community comments. The bill will appear on the November ballot for the public to vote on, however.

While the decision didn’t go the way he had hoped, Schuffman said he would like to see more solutions that go outside of a self-regulating market. Schuffman cited a recent decision in Berlin to cap rent rates as something similar he would like to implement as mayor. The German capital, which has seen a skyrocketing rent market of its own, implemented a law which bars landlords from increasing rent more than 10 percent of the local average.

While Lee opposed the moratorium, he has come up with his own solution by proposing a $310 million housing bond which will appear on the November ballot and require a two-thirds majority to pass. If passed the bill will be used to develop 30,000 affordable units by the year 2020, with $50 million set aside for the Mission District.

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Stuart Schuffman address the crowd during his campaign kickoff party at The Independent July 18. Photo by Peter Snarr

 

While Schuffman’s platform isn’t set, in the June meeting he and his advisors talked about addressing three other topics, the first being homelessness in the city, which he calls an epidemic. This involves working with homeless shelters and talking with them to cater to specific needs, as well as providing safe injection sites, wet houses, and navigation centers. Safe injection sites and wet houses allow homeless people and addicts to use drugs and alcohol while receiving services, and navigation centers house homeless people for 10 days while aid workers help them find permanent housing.

Though safe injections sites and wet houses are controversial, Schuffman’s campaign plans to site a successful experiment in Vancouver which allowed safe injection sites and is now being considered in other Canadian cities. The Housing Opportunity, Partnership and Engagement project, a San Francisco based government program, also supports the implementation of wet houses.

By knowing that he isn’t going to win, Schuffman has the luxury of addressing issues that other politicians won’t touch, such as corruption within city politics.

“It’s not just individual acts of corruption, It’s a whole systemic problem,” says Leef Smith, who has been following politics for years and is advising Schuffman. “It’s a legacy thing that’s being passed from generation to generation. A disabling of democracy.”

Schuffman said corruption surfaced shortly after the Mission moratorium failed when another bill designed to regulate Airbnb rentals was delayed for a month. Justification for the delay was said to be so the Board of Supervisors could get the wording on the bill correct and find out what the implications of the law would be. This is essentially what the Mission moratorium bill would have done, and Schuffman feels that because the bill would have negatively impacted developers, it was struck down, while the continence on Airbnb regulation favored the Bay Area startup, which is valued at $25 billion.

During the June 9 Board of Supervisors meeting Supervisor Campos brought up this contradiction and cited it as his reason for voting against the continuance.

“Pauses, as a general rule, are something that I would be open to,” Campos said at the meeting. “But in the context of this neighborhood, this community, the Mission, which was denied a 45 day pause, I say lets act today. And if we can deny the Mission 45 days why should we give Airbnb 30 days?”

To combat corruption, Schuffman wants to implement a new position into the local government to act as a “public advocate,” or someone who oversees complaints and is a third party to investigate possible corruption.  This also includes a reevaluation of the Office of Citizen Complaints, as well as how supervisors are appointed by the mayor when replacing an outgoing member.

Schuffman feels that the heart and soul of San Francisco comes from its artists and nightlife, which he sees moving away from the city, and is something he wants to preserve with the fourth piece of his platform. To combat this, Schuffman wants to protect bars and clubs from conforming to new sound restrictions pushed by developers as well as expand Supervisor London Breeds sound ordinance which was passed May 21.

He hopes to make San Francisco a 4 a.m. city and have BART run for 24 hours a day, which he feels will allow tourists and residents to better enjoy the entertainment offerings of the city. Also incorporated into this would be an effort to beautify the city which involves greater investment to support artists with mural projects, which are a historic tradition of the city.

“Culture is not just this thing that you can buy and put on a wall,” says Schuffman. “Culture comes from a lot of different influences that come together and make something unique and special. So just because you want a piece of the culture, the essence, the smell of it, means you have to deal with the other shit that comes along with it. It takes struggle and strife to make culture.”

While Schuffman hopes to push the conversation of the race, his main objective is to inform with his writing and bring an alternative voice to the political process.

“It’s hard to do a straight ahead campaign,” says Schuffman. “It’s not going to work. I know that, I’m not an idiot. But to do this and explore what it’s like and shed light on the process and how ridiculous the process is. And also calling motherfuckers out as motherfuckers.”

To be able to vote in the San Francisco election you must register within the city and county of San Francisco 15 days before election day on Nov. 3, 2015.

Democracy in Action: 360 Video

Photo by photographingtravis via Flickr

 

San Francisco City Hall has been the setting of many high-profile events, from the wedding of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in 1954 to the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978. The city’s long history of liberal activism has also brought many political protests to the front steps of this Beaux-Arts building. Now, with the power of 360-degree video, the world can fully witness democracy in action in the City by the Bay.

Last month a protest against police brutality made its way through San Francisco’s Mission District toward city hall, where over a hundred people crowded the lobby and demanded justice. The piercing shrieks of whistles punctuated the rhythmic chanting of the crowd, which was held back by security guards as city employees observed the scene from far behind the barricade.

The crowd dispersed within an hour of arriving, but its demand to “indict, convict, send these killer cops to jail” echoed off the marble colonnades with such force that at one point the guards locked the doors in an attempt to cut off the rest of the group outside.

Those wondering what it would be like to join the crowd can watch the video below for a fully immersive experience. *

* 360-degree video is supported by Google Chrome and the YouTube App (Android only)

SF Supervisors limit ads for sugary drinks

Soda advertisements, such as the one above in Bernal Heights, are the target of three new city ordinances. Photo courtesy of The San Francisco Examiner

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, last week, introduced three ordinances aimed at decreasing the purchase and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Sponsored by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Eric Mar and Malia Cohen, the three-pronged legislation, proposed on March 10, would prohibit advertising sugar-sweetened beverages on publicly owned city property, bar city departments from selling or distributing such drinks and require warning labels on advertisements.

“Soda companies are spending billions of dollars every year to target low-income and minority communities, which also happen to some of the communities with the highest risks of Type II diabetes. This is not a coincidence,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen. “This ban on soda advertising will help bridge this existing health inequity.”

According to the San Francisco Budget and Legislative Office, sugary-drinks contribute to a financial impact of over $50 million dollars when accounting for costs associated with fighting diabetes and obesity.

Last year, a proposed soda tax in San Francisco failed to gain a two-thirds majority vote. Soda companies reportedly spent $10 million to defeat the measure.

CalBev, a representative of the non-alcoholic beverage industry in California, released a statement attacking the Board, referring to the warning labels as, “anti-consumer choice.” The association also stated, “supervisors are further misleading the public by suggesting that soda is the driving force behind obesity and related health issues,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.

A 2012 study by the American Public Health Association estimated that a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce consumption by 10 to 20 percent over the next decade. This projected decrease in consumption, the study stated, could decrease instances of diabetes up to 5.6 percent in the same time frame, with higher reduction rates associated with Mexican Americans, African Americans and those in lower income brackets.

The proposed warning labels would be placed on advertisements for sugar-sweetened drinks with 25 or more calories per 12 ounces. According to a statement issued by Wiener, the labels will state, “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.” The ordinance requires that these labels take up at least 20 percent of the advertisement.

Faith and Politics

Mitch Mayne wants to help other gay Mormons find acceptance. Photo by Martin Bustamante

On a recent Tuesday afternoon in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, Mitch Mayne felt bold enough to talk about two topics not often discussed in polite company: faith and politics. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had cause for celebration now that Mormons were back in the news. And there was perhaps no one better to comment on the announcement out of Salt Lake City than this eloquent Stanford graduate, a man devoted to bridging two communities separated by an ocean of stigmas and stereotypes.

The 44-year-old former church leader admitted his quest had been difficult at times, yet the new policy change gave him hope. He was now one step closer to helping other gay Mormons find acceptance.

In a landmark announcement earlier this year, Mormon officials promised to uphold LGBT anti-discrimination laws, hoping their institution would receive more religious freedom in return. While critics claim the new policy is manipulative and serves only the political interests of the church, Mayne says it’s still a step in the right direction.

“Our leadership has not really addressed the LGBT issue formally in a long time,” he says. “The fact that we are doing so now – imperfectly and certainly not completely – is still a really good sign. At least the conversations are beginning.”

Here in San Francisco, Mayne is on a mission to strengthen people’s faith without compromising their identities. He once held a leadership position in his ward by working directly under the local bishop, and he says he has brought more than 30 people back to Mormonism in a process he calls “reactivation.”

The Mormon Church’s recent announcement could make this process somewhat more appealing for the LGBT youth previously abandoned by their religion. Mayne believes the old exclusionary policy had the worst effect on the young generation – a group more likely to cope with rejection through high-risk behavior such as dabbling in drugs or unprotected sex.

As a young man growing up in Idaho, Mayne had his own turbulent time seeking acceptance among friends and family. The uncomfortable experience of coming out to his mother, and her painful denial of this honest moment, showed Mayne a part of his faith he didn’t care for – a hypocritical tendency to exclude people despite the Bible’s lessons of universal love.

Coming to terms with his own identity almost broke the young Mormon after he fell in love at graduate school. The new relationship was liberating yet proved to be too heavy a burden for Mayne, who at the time still believed something was inherently wrong with him for loving another man.

Heterosexuality as the key to normalcy was all he knew. His religion had constantly told him he was wicked, and the church’s reminder that “wickedness is never happiness” ran through his head constantly. One night, with a handful of painkillers, Mayne debated the very purpose of his existence – whether it was worth the dizzying balancing act of finding acceptance within both himself and within a higher power.

“How we handle LGBT people is really a symptom of a much larger problem inside our faith,” Mayne says. “And that problem is how we as Mormons deal with people who are different than us… and that’s displayed in how we treat them. A lot of those people leave.”

Mayne hopes the recent news out of Salt Lake City will reverse this trend by strengthening relationships within Mormon families. He works with SF State’s Family Acceptance Project, which conducts groundbreaking research on how support at home affects LGBT youth. These studies consistently show the more accepted a child feels, the less likely he or she is to consider suicide, drug use or other high-risk behavior.

It may seem like common sense, yet instances of suicide and homelessness among Salt Lake City’s Mormon youth are disproportionately high when compared to other communities. Mayne believes this problem is rooted in an unstable home environment.

It was Christmas Day when he received an urgent phone call from a young man in Rexburg, Idaho, who was desperately seeking emotional support. His parents had put him on the street after he came out to them, and on a holiday meant for reconnecting with family he was scared and alone.

“He had no car, money, shelter, transportation or food. We were scrambling to get him resources,” Mayne says. “This is the sort of thing that happens daily within our faith.”

Mainstream America has historically viewed both gays and Mormons as outsiders, yet the two communities don’t often acknowledge each other’s struggle for legitimacy. With the church’s recent announcement, Mormons have started breaking through ideological barriers using a clear ultimatum: We’ll support you if you’ll support us.

Yet Salt Lake City’s new position hasn’t changed the church’s stance on same-sex marriage. The Mormon vote was highly influential in passing California’s Proposition 8 that limited marriage to one man and one woman, and many leaders are still encouraging LGBT members to marry a person of the opposite sex.

Mayne is frustrated with this practice, which is the subject TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay.” Last month he sat down with The Huffington Post to voice his disapproval of the reality TV show, which documents the lives of non-heterosexual men attempting to conform to a traditional Mormon marriage. A recent study found the divorce rate among these mixed-orientation couples is twice as high.

Another source of frustration for Mayne is the alternative label that’s been placed upon the LGBT community. In an attempt to take the “sexual” out of “homosexual,” religious officials use the term “same-sex attraction” to encourage only platonic relationships. MormonAndGay.org – one of several specialized websites operated by the church – states, “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.”

But now some of the highest church officials are admitting that maybe they don’t know enough about this community to support their harsh judgments. During a recent conference in Oakland that Mayne attended, Elder Dallin Oaks acknowledged that the Mormon leadership needed to connect with LGBT individuals in order to effectively implement the new policy.

Such an open dialogue could also open minds and lead to an even greater level of acceptance, which Mayne has worked so hard to achieve.

FCC Approves Net Neutrality

Obama thanked Redditors with the above handwritten letter, and the president also posted a celebratory tweet:

The Federal Communications Commission approved a net-neutrality policy last Thursday, which bars Internet service providers from controlling broadband speeds based off payment.

“This decision is pro broadband. This decision is pro competition,” said FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, at Thursday’s meeting.  “This decision is for the right of Americans through their elected local officials to make their own decisions about their broadband future.”

Under the new policy, which the FCC approved in a 3-2 vote, high-speed Internet service is now classified as a telecommunications service.

This classification, rooted in Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, provides the FCC with the authority to bar Internet providers from charging more for higher connection speeds. Essentially, all data is treated equally—providing what Wheeler referred to as “free open access to the Internet.”

There has been much debate surrounding the concept of net neutrality since President Obama called for a “free and open Internet” in 2007.

In December, 2010, the FCC passed the first net neutrality regulation, which was subsequently overturned in January after Verizon Communications filed a federal lawsuit against the commission.

Much of the dialogue on net neutrality has arisen from social media and platforms such as Reddit. According a letter issued by the White House, more than 4 million people wrote to the FCC, voicing their support for net neutrality.

Following yesterday’s vote, President Obama also wrote a handwritten letter to Reddit users stating, “Thanks Redditors! Wish I could upvote every one of you for helping keep the Internet open and free!”

The legislation, however, has also been met with criticism.

Just before the vote, according to the New York Times, Republicans “delivered a scathing critique of the order as overly broad, vague and unnecessary.

In an Op-Ed, Mark Hendrickson, a contributor at Forbes, wrote, “The FCC has bitten off more than it can chew. Its task will be somewhat comparable to that of the old Soviet price-setting bureaucracy.”

According to the Times, “Lawsuits to challenge the commission’s order are widely expected.”