Tag Archives: Xpress

The Aftermath

Dolores Piper (left), great aunt of Derrick Gaines, and Gaines’ half-brother Michael Red (right), 7, pose for a portrait in their home in South San Francisco. Gaines, 15, was fatally shot by South San Francisco Police Officer Joshua Cabillo on the night of June 5, 2012. Photographs by Joel Angel Juárez

HOW FAMILIES COPE AFTER POLICE KILL THIER LOVED ONES

By Jennah Feeley

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n May 2012, two weeks before his high school graduation, Alan Dwayne Blueford, 18, ate one last piece of candy and left his house to meet up with some friends. In the hours that followed he was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer.

Two months later, 15-year-old Derrick Gaines walked with a friend in his hometown of South San Francisco when police approached him. The confrontation turned into a foot-chase that ended with Gaines dead in an ARCO gas station lot, having been shot in the neck by an officer.

In February 2014, San Jose State University police gunned down Antonio Lopez Guzman just beyond the campus borders. Footage from the lapel and dashboard cameras have yet to be released to the public — and details of the confrontation are ambiguous.

Disparities among police records, accounts from family members and media coverage persist in each incident. While the facts in many cases remain uncertain, the concern with police brutality in the Bay Area and beyond is clear. A fatal shot by Oakland police on Nov. 15 marked the 1,000th death at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S. this year alone, as reported by The Counted, a database maintained by The Guardian.

Some cases grabbed the nation’s attention, enraging the public on both sides of the law-and-order conflict, and spread like a shotgun blast across social media platforms. All at once, friends and family of the deceased were swept up in a whirlwind of interviews, police investigations and community uproar. But when the limelight dimmed, those families were left in darkness to deal with the aftermath. Despite the trauma of losing a son, a partner, a father or a friend, people have had to somehow pick up the pieces and find a way to continue their lives. And that’s what Alan Blueford’s mother, Jeralynn Blueford, finds so difficult – that nobody thinks about what happens to families after the police kill their loved ones.

RELIVING THE NIGHTMARE

Blueford thinks about the night she lost her son everyday. She remembers granting him permission to go out with his friends — a moment she can’t take back — and the phone call she received the next day telling her he was gone forever. She recalls a feeling of disbelief, of puzzlement. She thought, “they were wrong, this can’t be. Not my Alan.” She relives the sinking feeling that took over as her husband’s fist repeatedly pounded the counter and she saw the candy wrapper their son had left behind the last time she saw him.

Along with her husband, Adam, Blueford went to the police station for answers, but ended up leaving with more questions: What happened that night? Why had the police killed their child? What could Alan have done to deserve losing his life?

  • Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, has dedicated herself to a life of activism after police killed her son in May 2012. Click the buttons to hear audio from Jeralynn Blueford.

In the months that followed, Blueford lost herself in grief. While dealing with a lawsuit over the murder of her son, defending his honor in the face of demonizing media accounts and trying to maintain a strong front for Alan’s two siblings, she didn’t think she could carry on. Anger consumed her and the sadness was paralyzing. She stopped working. She felt like she couldn’t move, sometimes like she couldn’t breathe. She said the sensation was worse than having the wind knocked out of you. “It’s like you gasp for air and there’s no air there.” She was on the brink of suicide when she came to the realization that she needed to pick herself back up for her family.

“I was like, ‘damn, it’s unfair for me to end it for me. I have other people, what about Aaron, what about Ashley, what about the grandkids,’” Blueford said. “They deserve to make memories with me. They deserve to share and know who I am. How will they learn about Alan if I’m not around to tell them?”

DEVASTATING AFTERMATH

Like Blueford, Dolores Piper had to learn how to push herself through the intense moments of sadness. Several years have passed since Piper lost her nephew, Derrick Gaines, but his death is still the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up sleepless at night. Having adopted him as a child, Gaines was a son to her, and his sudden death was devastating.

Piper was on her way home from a business trip in Sacramento the evening Gaines died, and didn’t find out he had been shot until her niece woke her with the news later that night. In the hours that followed, police officers arrived at her door to search the house. She recalls frantically trying to call people, but her mind was in such a fog she couldn’t dial the numbers correctly. The events of that night are still hard for Piper to fully remember.

“There was no describing it, where that night went,” Piper said.

Although the funeral brought forth an outpouring, support from the community wavered for Piper and her family in the weeks that followed. The media coverage, she felt, assassinated Gaines’ character almost immediately. Stories stated he had allegedly pulled a gun on an officer, and Piper couldn’t help but wonder, “who looks at ‘allegedly?’” She got the feeling that members of her community in South San Francisco thought Gaines deserved what had happened to him. She chose not to read the comments people made about the incident online.

Piper has instead held fast to the positive memories she has of her son. She remembers him as a chipper kid who could talk his way out of anything. She thinks back to the trips they took to Chicago, Seattle and Vancouver and how he indulged in hotel room-service. She read to Gaines every night, right into his 15th year — “I still have the book beside my bed that we were halfway through.” She’s held onto his books, his shoes, his clothes — all little mementos she keeps to remember him by.

Memories of Gaines linger everywhere in her life. She often drives past the ARCO station where he died and can’t help but think back to that horrible night. Before he was killed, Piper had never considered law enforcement a threat to her son. She doesn’t think Gaines ever believed cops were dangerous himself, either, and must have been shocked when met face-to-face with the officer’s gun that night.

“I think about how he must have felt at that very second, and how that must have been horrible,” Piper said. “If I dwell on those moments, I just get sick.”

These days, Piper still feels like she has to be on the defensive when she talks about Gaines. After reviewing the police report and talking to witnesses, she came to her own conclusion about what happened that night. She quit saying he was shot by police; now she says he was murdered by them. Speaking out about it and her involvement in activism against police brutality has become a means of healing.

POST-TRAUMA ACTIVISM

[pullquote align=”right”]”I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead.’ I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.” – Laurie Valdez[/pullquote]

In the face of a similar situation, a turn to activism was obvious to Laurie Valdez. Her partner, Antonio Lopez Guzman, was shot down by university police just off campus at San Jose State. She couldn’t wrap her head around the incident and said it was unfathomable that Guzman would have done something to warrant that kind of reaction from police.

She didn’t think the cops had acted lawfully and realizing their 4-year-old son, Josiah, was going to have to live the rest of his life without a father, she knew she had to take action. Losing her partner was hard, but having to explain the situation to Josiah and his 12-year-old half-sister, Angelique, was agonizing. Angelique continues to try and be strong about the loss of her “papi,” who raised her since age 3, but Josiah still struggles to comprehend what happened. Almost two years later, Josiah still yo-yos between conceptualizing his father’s death and thinking he left to go back to Mexico. His pain is something Valdez “can’t put a Band-Aid on,” and it continuously breaks her heart.

“I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead,’” Valdez said. “I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.”

  • Laurie Valdez poses with her daughter Angelique and son Josiah in their home. Since her husband was killed by police, she has been left to raise her children without him. Click the buttons to hear audio from Laurie Valdez.

As far as Valdez is concerned, there is no way of providing justice for Guzman, because he is already gone, but her little boy deserves someone to stand up for him. Valdez created the campaign, Justice 4 Josiah, to raise awareness about police violence and find solutions to help heal communities it impacts. She wants to prevent another child from losing a parent.

“My son is going to suffer, but if I can prevent that for another family somehow, some way Antonio’s death won’t be in vain,” Valdez said. “At least we will save somebody else from having to go through this.”

As Josiah grows up Valdez fears he will search the web for information about what happened to his father and read the comments people made about the incident. Guzman was an undocumented immigrant — and Valdez recalls comments that said he deserved what he got because he shouldn’t have been in this country in the first place. Other comments she saw characterized him as a person Valdez doesn’t recognize. Because he was so young, Josiah’s memories of his father are scarce and Valdez doesn’t want negative comments to paint an unfair picture of the man he was.

“I don’t teach my kids negativity,” Guzman said. “But this is the aftermath.”

Valdez filed a federal civil suit against San Jose State over the death of her partner, which was recorded on cameras worn by the officers involved. She believes the footage from the incident should be released to the public in this case, and in all others like it, so the right people can be held accountable.

In Alan Blueford’s case, the officer who shot him was also wearing a lapel camera it was switched off before he shot the 18-year-old. His mother has become an activist as well, and is working to create the “Alan Blueford Law,” which would require the prosecution of any officer who turns off or otherwise tampers with their camera equipment in an incident where they kill someone. In addition, their pension, under the proposed law, would be transferred to the family of the victim.

Recognizing that families in these situations have minimal government support, Mollie Costello teamed up with Blueford to help make the law become a reality.

“It’s not like you have money set aside for burial costs, or what happens when you can’t work,” Costello said.

Blueford and Costello also opened the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland as a hub for healing in the community. The center serves as a place for people to grieve, create art and find support in each other. Blueford has found solace in “helping hearts heal,” and aims to be a resource and an advocate for those touched by police violence.

“If we change the laws, not only will it be justice for Alan, it will be justice for all,” Blueford said. “Although I am speaking out for my son, somewhere there is another mother who cannot speak out for her son, and he has no justice. Nobody is calling his name.”

Valdez, too, works to be a voice for families in similar situations. In a televised interview on MSNBC Nov. 4, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino mentioned Guzman’s name in a comment about police violence in America, giving a nod to her efforts. “Wow,” she said. “I’m being heard.”

Piper also organizes friends and family members of police brutality victims as a means of support and activism. She created a Facebook account for the sole purpose of keeping in contact with the loved ones of those gunned down by law enforcement. She participates in marches and works to reach out to the youth in her community. It’s painful, she said, but she does it for her son.

  • Click the buttons to hear audio from Dolores Piper

Despite activism across the nation, the issue of violence between law enforcement and citizens remains unresolved. Blueford and Piper don’t want another mother to lose her son, and Valdez hopes other children don’t lose their fathers the way her son has. They are tired of hearing about fatal encounters with police because, as Blueford put it, “with each case you relive your own story.”

In the meantime, these women have pledged to continue to fight in the names of those lost. They will continue to seek better protections from police and for better support for the families left behind in the aftermath. Blueford, Piper and Valdez’s activism is what helps them carry on through their losses.

“My healing thing is to try and bring other families together so they know they are not alone because I know what it feels like,” Valdez said. ”We’re going to get through this together.”

The Right to Privacy

By Jordan Lalata

On a brisk morning in November, children wearing backpacks almost equal in size to their small bodies clutched their parents hands as they entered Mount Davidson’s Miraloma Elementary School to attend morning circle before school began.

En route to the playground, the families walked down a staircase with a rainbow flag hanging from above, showcasing Miraloma as a gay friendly, inclusive school. In recent months, the school took an extra step to bolster that sense of inclusivity.

Sam Bass, the principal at Miraloma, said the families of three kindergarten students who identify along the gender spectrum, a wide range of gender variations, approached him last year over issues with bathroom usage. One of the students in particular had a difficult time choosing what bathroom to use because of the male and female labels.

“I was heartbroken that my student was struggling and not feeling safe to go to the bathroom,” Bass said. “I have 394 students. If one of them is not safe and comfortable then I am not doing my job.”

To remedy the situation, the school’s administration removed the girl and boy signage from bathroom doors in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms, making Miraloma the first elementary school in the San Francisco Unified School District to adopt gender-neutral bathrooms.

Gender-neutral bathrooms have not been accepted by all, however, Privacy For All, a coalition of parents, students, nonprofits and faith groups with a main office in Sacramento, created an initiative in April 2015 to keep bathrooms in California with their conventional labels.

The initiative, called the Personal Privacy Protection Act, proposes that people use a bathroom based on their assigned sex given at birth in all government buildings.

People who identify with a gender they were not assigned at birth would have to use the bathroom that corresponds with their assigned sex if the initiative receives voter approval. Sponsors of the bill have until Dec. 21 to gather 365,880 signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Kevin Snider, attorney for Privacy For All and chief counsel of legal defense organization Pacific Justice Institute, said he drafted the initiative to bring back the right of privacy in the most intimate of settings such as restrooms, dressing rooms and showering facilities.

Snider and other proponents of the measure say that California laws protect citizens’ privacy, and gender unspecific bathrooms leave the door open for a violation of that privacy.

“Most women, regardless of their claimed ideology, sense a feeling of alarm if a man follows them into the restroom,” Snider said. “It is difficult to imagine a more vulnerable position to be in than sitting on a toilet, with underwear to one’s ankles, when an intruder bursts through the stall’s door.”

Opponents of the measure say it violates the state Constitution protecting civil rights.

Jill Marcellus, communications senior manager at civil rights organization Transgender Law Center, said the initiative does not consider transgender men and women to be their preferred sex. The center is keeping an eye on the initiative and is ready to take action if it qualifies for the ballot.

The initiative suggests a person to be a male or female based solely on biological sex. But if a person has undergone sex reassignment, their preferred gender will be considered the opposite of what they are assigned at birth.

“It would force transgender people to answer to strangers about medical questions they have no right to be asking, which is a huge violation of privacy,” Marcellus said. “It would also force the very thing they are trying to prevent by forcing, for example, a transgender man to use the women’s restroom.”

According to Gender Spectrum, a San Leandro nonprofit that provides education about gender and inclusivity, Western culture generally views gender as a binary concept of male or female, however, it is more complex than that.

Sex and gender are not interchangeable. Biology identifies males and females based on their body parts, chromosomes and hormones. Children are assigned a sex based on those features at birth, but that way of defining gender does not encompass those who express and identify opposite of their assigned sex.

People externally communicate their gender with their appearance – such as clothing and hairstyle – and identity is one’s innermost concept of gender, according to Gender Spectrum. People might identify themselves as a male, female, neither, or other, regardless of their biological attributes.

SFUSD has supported students in the gender spectrum to access facilities, specifically restrooms. In 2003 Board Regulation R5163a was passed, that grants students access to the restroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with at school.

“SFUSD has had policies and procedures in place for nearly 13 years addressing gender fluid, transgender, or gender expansive students,” said Kevin Gogin, director of Safety and Wellness at SFUSD. “We continue to create safer more inclusive schools by working with students on the gender spectrum, along with their parents/guardians, and providing professional development and educational resources to school faculty.”

Be aware of the new Muni fare

Written by Olympia Zampathas

For all of you students who were already pinching pennies, thanks to their barely affordable lifestyle San Francisco allows, you might want to start saving your quarters as well. As of September 1st, bus fare prices for Muni have been raised, courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

For the average adult Muni passenger, one Muni pass, valid for ninety minutes from the time of purchase, has been bumped up by $.25, to $2.25. For those of you who are still under eighteen, senior citizens, or disabled, the fare price remains at $.75, so no change there until 2016.

Muni Fare Difference Chart
Data courtesy of SFMTA

For all other casual Muni riders, carrying quarters, dimes, and nickels around just became a little more important; it could make the difference between paying $2.25 or $3 every time you ride the bus. Maybe it’s not such a crazy idea to visit the change machine in the arcade on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Center once a week.

Though the jumps in price aren’t necessarily wallet-breaking, they are something to be aware of. Prices for a Muni monthly pass, in the past four years alone, have risen 9.7 percent, from $62 in 2010 to $68 this month.

Maybe this rise will have you consider applying for a Lifeline pass (if you make under twenty-two thousand dollars per year, you might qualify). Maybe it will make you find an alternative form of transportation around the City. Maybe nothing will change for you at all.

Just make sure when the fare inspectors come onto your bus, you have some proof of payment or be ready to pay a fine up to $110 that comes along with not paying.

 

To find out more information about Muni fares, take a look at SFMTA’s website.

The Dangers of Smart Pills

By Ivanna Quiroz
Cartoon by Gregory Moreno

Picture 3

Twenty one year old Suzanne* is your average SF State student. She goes to class, goes to work, studies, and finds time to go out with her friends on the weekends. Suzanne is a business major, and, like many students, she struggles with a busy schedule. Sometimes, she feels like she needs a little help and more time. Three years ago, Suzanne was a freshman and all she needed to do was ask her roommate for some Adderall. Her roommate, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, would frequently sell her prescribed medication to other students. It was the miracle drug that made it easy for Suzanne to focus. Studying for an exam in Macroeconomics suddenly didn’t feel so difficult and writing a ten page paper in one night didn’t feel so stressful. The secret was in the pill. The required texts were more interesting and she was doing well on all her exams. What Suzanne didn’t plan for was the way Adderall would make her feel.

“I have high blood pressure, and, when I would take Adderall, I could feel that my blood pressure was raised and that my heart was pounding. I always got really cold. I didn’t eat and didn’t sleep. I don’t do it that much anymore because I do have high blood pressure. I know that it’s really bad because you can actually feel how bad it is. Your heart is racing the whole time and you can’t calm down,” Suzanne says.

Adderall and Ritalin are drugs usually prescribed to patients with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The difference between the two disorders is based on hyperactivity. Patients diagnosed with ADHD are characterized by excessive restlessness and movement while those diagnosed with ADD are characterized by inattentiveness. Some people are diagnosed with a combination of both disorders. Today, it is common for college students not diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to use drugs, usually Adderall, to help them focus and study.

“People usually do it situationally,” explains Albert J. Angelo, a health educator from Student Health Services at SF State. “They’re doing it because of finals coming up or they feel like they need to pull an all-nighter or they are taking some kind of test that they really need to concentrate on.”

According to a 2010 study conducted by the American College Health Association, eighty-four percent of students report feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do during the year and forty percent feel overwhelmed in just the last two weeks, maybe a reason why many turn to drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.

“One time when I took it I had to write a ten page paper for an ethnic studies class,” describes SF State student Aria*. “I was in the annex and I took half a pill of Adderall with a Monster. I was up for twelve hours in the annex writing. It was really helpful. It kept me motivated and helped me focus on ideas because my mind often scatters.”

“A lot of people like to take it with alcohol or snort it for a stronger effect,” says SF State student Brianna Brostoff. “I think it’s crazy, since I’ve heard stories about people getting completely out of control on it.”

For ADD patients, Adderall has a calming influence but for those who are not diagnosed, the drug does just the opposite. Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants meaning they can temporarily improve mental or physical function. Common short-term effects include high anxiety, hypertension, insomnia and loss of appetite. One of the major dangers of the medication is that it is highly addictive says Dr. Cesar Banda, a family practice physician from Sacramento.

“It’s the same category as cocaine or morphine because it’s highly addictive,” explains Banda. “They [users] could develop tolerance meaning they would need a higher dosage to get the same result.”

“I know that it’s addictive, that’s why I use small amounts,” says SF State student Brian*. “The only amounts to get what I need to get done when it comes to studying. I use it very, very sparingly. I will not take it every day or more than twice in a week except for finals week.”

Other possible outcomes when taking Adderall can include heart complications, dependency, severe depression, seizures, aggressive behavior and even psychological problems such as schizophrenia. There have even been cases of sudden death with Adderall users who had previous heart abnormalities.

“Side effects depend on the person’s body,” explains Angelo. “If you’re taking medication without having a medical exam, you never know what could happen, especially if you’re taking some other medication or if you’re using drugs or alcohol. It could be based on what your biology is to begin with. Anything’s possible.”

The price of Adderall tends to run between five and nine dollars per pill, but can sometimes cost a lot more during finals or midterms when Adderall usage tends to peak on college campuses. Brian describes his usage as seven and a half milligrams once or twice a week, and, during finals, thirty milligrams for ten days.

“It feels euphoric at first and it helps you concentrate on something such as reading that’s very monotonous where your brain ventures off onto something else. It helps you focus on the subject at hand,” he says.

“Its [Adderall] street value is very high, especially in this area where drug culture is so prevalent,” describes an SF State student diagnosed with ADD, who asked to remain anonymous. “Initially, I sold to whomever wanted it, but in more recent days I’ve only sold it to help out friends who needed it for studying purposes. My prescribed dosage is thirty milligrams XR. I’m pretty sure it’s the highest dose available and it costs me, I believe, almost nine dollars a pill. I’ve actually sold it for less most of the time, usually six or seven dollars, but around finals time, about ten dollars each.”

Adderall sales have increased 3,100 percent since 2002 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s becoming easier and easier to obtain a prescription for Adderall, and it’s common to hear of students going to doctors complaining of being extremely distracted and struggling to complete tasks in hopes of getting their own prescription for Adderall. A 2009 NPR.com article estimates that 25 percent of college students have used “study drugs” (Adderall and Ritalin), but the American College Health Association reports that only about 6 percent of college students are actually diagnosed with ADD.

“American kids are lazy,” Aria thinks. “It’s an easy way to get stuff done without actually making your brain work on its own. I think American kids take advantage of drugs and we’re really dependent on them to get stuff done.”

Taking Adderall without having been prescribed the medication and without having been physically examined by a doctor can lead to devastating results, all for a good grade. Bad grades happen, but there are always other options—retake an exam, extra credit or even retaking the class. Bad grades can be changed but repercussions from abusing Adderall could be permanent. So, is it worth it?

*Students wished to only use their first names to protect their identity.

Making the cover of Xpress

Xpress has often taken a single photo approach to create the cover for the magazine. This semester, Julio Cortez helped design a cover that was a little more daring. Here is a behind-the-scenes video on how the cover of Xpress Magazine came about.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWau6UiM7rY[/youtube]

Special thanks to makeup artist, Sarah CoySuiGENERIS, and all the models.

A car free Market Street?

By Ivanna Quiroz
Photos by Nick Moone

It is where the Giants celebrated their World Series win. It spreads from Twin Peaks to the Embarcadero. Trolleys, streetcars, and Muni buses journey above it while the Muni Metro and BART travel below it. It’s consistently home to pedestrians, protestors, vendors, tourists, commuters, and cyclists, and it’s definitely no stranger to bumper-to-bumper traffic. All San Francisco locals know Market Street. Some flock to it, others avoid it. Today there is talk of new developments to revitalize Market Street, including an initiative to make Market completely car-free. Would it be better? Worse? How would things be different?

Car-Free Market
Market Street, the busiest and most easily recognizable street in San Francisco, runs the length of the downtown area from the Castro up to the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero. Proposed legislation would close this busy thoroughfare to private traffic, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. Photo by Nick Moone

“As someone who works over in the Financial District, and travels through Market almost daily, I feel like traffic surrounding Market would be congested,” says San Francisco native Issac Dana.  “It wouldn’t do much for pedestrians, as the street itself is still extremely busy and crowded.”
A car-free Market Street has been an ongoing debate in the city because of its ability to improve public transportation and provide a more comfortable environment for bikers and pedestrians. Mayoral Candidate and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is at the forefront of the discussion and has called for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other departments to implement further diversions of private automobiles on Market Street.
“A viable vision for the future of Market Street is of a world-class avenue drawing its success from the huge numbers of people it attracts through transit and taxis, and on foot and bicycle, and no private automobiles other than delivery vehicles,” explains Supervisor David Chiu in his statement to the press. “We need to act now to make this vision a reality and to speed up transit while improving the comfort of people walking and biking, and supporting the local commercial and cultural function of the street.”

Car-Free Market
Proposed legislation would close Market St., one of the busiest and most easily recognizable streets in San Francisco, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. The F-Street Market streetcar can be seen passing the Renoir Hotel, both historic monuments, along Market near the Civic Center Bart Station.

There are more than twenty transit lines that run through Market Street that constitute about 125,000 boardings a day, and, according to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Count Report, the location with the most observed bicyclists in 2010 was 11th Street at Market Street totaling in 818 bicyclists. The SFMTA’s Collision Report records that 531 injury collisions occurred in 2009 involving bicyclists.
“The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is actively involved in the Market Street trials and committed to helping make Market Street the safest and most enjoyable street for people who walk and those who ride bikes,” said Kristin Smith, Communications Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
“I understand that Market is a main thoroughfare, and that there are no other direct routes through that part of the city, but with a few other traffic changes I think it would greatly improve Market Street,” said San Francisco resident Michelle Reyes. “Creating a space that is safer for cyclists and pedestrians would greatly improve Market Street, particularly the mid-market area. There is already a revitalization effort for Mid-Market, and to remove vehicular traffic would further assist that effort.”
Both Chiu and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) have stressed that the majority of drivers on Market Street tend to be tourists. According to research from the San Francisco Travel Association, there were about 15. 9 million people that visited San Francisco in 2010, and, collectively spent, about $8.34 billion. It’s no secret that tourism brings in tremendous revenue to the city, but endorsers of car-free Market Street have yet to explain how tourism would be affected when driving would be restricted in a popular tourist area.
“I think it would be a very bad thing to restrict cars on Market,” explained Bay Area native Arianne Torres, who often drives downtown. “The city is already bad enough to drive in with all the one way streets and no left turns. It would definitely create even more traffic than there already is.”
“But, because Market Street (luckily!) is not dominated by private cars now, removing the relatively small number (mostly lost tourists and visitors–no one in their right mind drives on Market) would not have the kind of transformative impact on the street as a place that it might have on a more conventional American street,” explained Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager for SPUR.
Currently, a specific plan has yet to be announced, but since many of the Mayoral candidates, including David Chiu, John Avalos, Dennis Herrera, and Ed Lee support, the initiative, a car-free Market Street could be in the city’s immediate future.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

 

By Jessica Belluomini

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLeVOgkxFe0[/youtube]

 

Another Thanksgiving with the family and the house is filled with grumbling bellies and the overwhelming smell of food boiling, frying and simmering. The table is set with all the traditional warm autumn colors and empty plates perfectly placed.

The anticipated “ding” finally sounds from the kitchen timer, and food begins to fill the empty places on the hungry table. The bird, the glazed ham, the stuffing, cranberry sauce and beloved candied yams are being attacked with spoons, forks and knives. And then there’s me, sitting there between my feasting family members eating a microwaved vegan meal by Amy’s.

Every Thanksgiving I sit at that table with a bunch of greedy mouths, while I eat my measly microwaved vegan dinner, not feeling thankful at all. One year I thought, I’m going to make my own Thanksgiving dinner for my vegan and vegetarian friends.

Now Thanksgiving really is a time of gratitude, for the organic seasonal veggies, grains and fruits that decorate the vegan table. Best of all, I’m spared from having to sit in front of a smorgasbord of dead carcasses and smelly gravy being shoveled into carnivorous chops.

Recipes:

Vegetarian Time’s Sauteed Garlic and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredient List:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1. Place Brussels sprouts in bowl of food processor. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until shredded.
2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until light brown. Increase heat to medium-high, and add shredded Brussels sprouts, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, or until browned, stirring often. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and cook 5 minutes more, or until most of liquid is evaporated. Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Vegan Table’s Mashed Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredient List:

  • 2 pounds of sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 4 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • ½ cup of non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Place yams and potatoes in a large pot filled with water. Cook over medium heat until soft, like 25 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, on low speed, mix potatoes, non-dairy milk, non-dairy butter, salt and pepper until well combined.

Vegan Soul Kitchen’s Smothered Seitan Medallions in Mixed Mushroom Gravy

Mixed Mushroom Gravy Ingredient List:

  • one packet of store bought vegan gravy
  • ¼ pound of button mushrooms
  • ¼ pound of sliced baby bella mushrooms

1. Follow vegan gravy packet instruction and add mushrooms.

Smothered Seitan Medallions Ingredient List:

  • 1 pound of seitan, cut into medallions
  • 5 Tbs. of arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 cups of Mixed Mushroom Gravy
  • 2 cups of veggie stock
  • 1 cup of finely chopped green cabbage
  • 2 minced jalapeno chiles
  • ¼ cup of sliced green onions
  • 2 Tbs. of chopped parsley

1. Coat seitan with arrowroot.
2. Fry seitan for 3 minutes with  ½ cup of oil in frying pan over medium heat. Dry oil off with paper towels, then repeat on other side. Put aside.
3. In another pan, add ½ cup of oil, increase to high heat and add onion, saute for 3 minutes.
4. Add mushroom gravy, stock and seitan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add cabbage, cook for 3 minutes. Stir in jalapenos, green onion and parsley.

Getting sported at booze events

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By Martin Telleria
Photos by Andrew Lopez
The sun shining brightly is the only thing keeping you from staring at the beautiful blue sky. Children excitedly buzz about, anticipation clearly showing in their elated faces. The delicious aroma of the ballpark immerses you, the smell of hot dogs and garlic fries fills the air. Nothing can compare to the atmosphere surrounding a sporting event, a fun-filled environment where adults and kids alike bond and cheer on their respective teams with passion unlike any other. There is no happier place on earth, not even Disneyland. Well, not until the rowdy crowd shows up that is.
Rowdiness
A Giants fan yells during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

Unfortunately for some, attending a game isn’t enough these days. The wonderful experience of watching competition at the highest level is now tarnished with binge drinkers who look for any opportunity to wreak a little havoc.

“You have to go to a game drunk,” claims Morad Lesov, 23, who was involved in an altercation after a San Francisco Giants game. “Sitting there for three hours is no fun; when you and everyone you’re with is drunk though, that’s when you have the best time.”

While it is true that alcohol can indeed enhance an already exciting event, it is when consumption exceeds the limitations of a person that the true colors of alcohol are shown.

“We had just left the Giants game and were on our way to the train station,” says Richie Cortese, 21, who had attended the game with Lesov. “We’d definitely had a few; we like to pregame. Some other drunk guys got in our faces and we went ballistic.”

In today’s society, the intake of alcohol has become nonchalant to the point that it is normal to see someone stumbling his or her way through the ballpark. The guy throwing up in the corner? Happens all the time. The guy leaving the ballpark with a buzz? Hope you get home safe buddy!

In San Francisco, drinking before ballgames has not just become customary, but remarkably easy as well. Tailgating is a tradition that has stood the test of time, friends and families gather together to eat and drink before a game. The problem? People have begun to phase out the eating part and tailgating now means sitting in a parking lot drinking for two hours before going into the stadium. For some, drinking before the actual game holds more appeal then actually going into the stadium and watching the event one paid for.

“I usually don’t get into the game until the third or fourth inning,” said Greg Manson, 21. “Even when I’m in the stadium I don’t really watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Giants, that’s my team. But I can watch the game from home. When I’m at the stadium I want to get loose and have a great time. For me, having a great time usually involves killing twelve beers.”

It’s easy to rationalize this mentality; the stereotypical college kid moniker. College kids are usually thought of as heavy drinkers. Countless films have been made about the legendary drinking exploits at college parties. Likewise, sporting events are also synonymous with drinking; spotting a fat guy drinking a beer in a sports movie is about as easy as hitting a fastball thrown by Barry Zito. It is only logical then that when you put college students at a sporting event the result is binge drinking at its finest. And when you factor in the immaturity of college students with the ill-effects of alcohol, reckless results are bound to follow.

In most cases, when fights or arguments break out at a game, they are usually between fans of rival teams. It doesn’t take alcohol to spark these confrontations; true fans live and die for their teams and see it as their honor to defend their team against anyone. Though this is still no excuse for fighting, the rationale behind it makes sense. It is when fans of the same team fight each that’s puzzling. When under the effects of alcohol, however, things don’t always turn out as you would expect.

Following a recent San Francisco Giants triumph over the lowly division rival San Diego Padres, Lesov and his companions were celebrating the victory in the only way they knew how: more drinks. On their way to the train station from the bar, they ran into two fellow binge drinkers who were looking for trouble.

Rowdiness
A Giants fan is asked to calm down during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“We were just walking to the train, messing around a little bit, pushing each other and laughing,” said Lesov. “I accidentally bumped into some guy and he went crazy. He got in my face, started yelling and cursing at me, and then I went off on him too.”

Luckily for both parties involved, no actual fights broke out due to the presence of some sober fans who actually went to the game with the intention of watching.

“We were about to throw down, no joke,” said Lesov. “Some guys got in between us though and kept asking why we were trying to fight each other since we were all Giants fans. I didn’t care. I was so drunk and mad by then I was just trying to take it out on him.”The dangers of alcohol are well documented and wide-ranging. It doesn’t take a car to hurt, or even kill someone. Alcohol pushes extremes to new levels, where a small argument morphs into an in-your-face confrontation and a silly shoving match escalates to full-fledged fighting. The recent beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old Santa Clara County paramedic, epitomizes the frightening trend on the rise.

After traveling to L.A. with friends to take in a game between the rival Giants and Dodgers, Stow was beaten mercilessly in a parking lot outside of the stadium by two men who were unhappy with Stow wearing his team colors. Stow, who is still hospitalized, was a victim of fans who took team pride too far, fans who let their emotions get the best of them. While several suspects have been brought in, the case has yet to be closed.

The beating of Stow was not the only major incident at a sporting event this year. At a San Francisco 49ers preseason football game against Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders, two Raider fans were shot in the parking lot after the game, incidents police say were unrelated. At the same game, a vicious beating was reported in a restroom as well as countless brawls in the stands.

With this kind of rowdiness becoming more and more commonplace, the suitability of these events for children comes into question.

“I grew up going to games with my dad all the time, and I loved it,” said Ben Kamekona, 32. “I’m still going to keep bringing my kids to the game but you really have to think about it now every time. You never know what could happen. What if we get stuck in the middle of a brawl, or even worse, crossfire? I just make sure to be more aware now of my surroundings. If I see drunk and rowdy guys in my section causing trouble we’re out of there.”

Making sure children are always safe is not a new idea; parents being protective of their kids is a given. It used to be, however, that sporting events were the perfect environment to take kids, the quintessential father-son experience. And for the most part it still is, minus the constant flow of profanity, river of alcohol, and extreme fan behavior.

Rowdiness
A Giants fan gestures during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“It’s not even that I’m just scared that they might somehow get hurt when we go to the game,” says Kamekona. “It’s what they might be exposed to that I’m worried about too. I don’t want my seven-year-old hearing the garbage that’s yelled and seeing the animal like behavior that goes on. If I take ‘em, I definitely steer way clear of the bleachers.”

The bleachers: the cheap seats where drunken people unite. It’s here where the brunt of fights occur, where even sailors would blush if they heard the language used. And it is here where parents should avoid at all cost bringing their children if they fear for the children’s eyes and ears.

“I’ve learned to stay away from the bleachers because I understand what it means to sit there,” said Gerardo Gutierrez, a 51-year-old father of two. “If I go with my friends I have no problem with it; I don’t mind what goes on there. I’m not going to tell people what they can or can’t do; I can’t control that. I can control sitting far away from them, though, and I’m willing to pay a little more when I take my kids. I don’t let anyone ruin the game for them.”

Ultimately what people need to understand is that rowdiness and drinking have become a part of the sporting world culture. Rather then try and change that, fans that don’t want a part of it should just avoid it. That is the only option they have. Sporting events can still be  magical. You just need to do a little extra planning to experience it.

Organizing a Social front

By Victor Rodriguez

Photos by Nelson Estrada

Walking on broken asphalt and descending pathways, the voices seem to get a lot louder. The people passing by at first just read their books in the sun and sit on the grass, but as Sproul Plaza comes within view, a different set of people are seen on the open space and most popular area of UC Berkeley. These are people holding up signs and banners, with red bands on their arms and chalk in their hands. On this day, many groups join together, including an effort from SF State, to show  support by waving banners and raising their fists in anger against the proposed tuition increase of eighty one percent. This story is not only familiar for SF State, or California for that matter, but the whole nation. With various organizations coming from different backgrounds and a multitude of political ideologies, they all share a similar view: Tax the rich and strengthen the working class.
He walks into the empty class located at Burk Hall 226. As soon as the chairs are rearranged in a circle, he sets his black coat on his chair and pulls out a pen and black notebook from his messenger bag. With attentive eyes, he focuses in the direction of where the economic information is coming from. While he writes, a circle of about twenty students are introduced to a familiar idea that seems to push away the economic troubles they seem to know all too well.
The meeting is entitled “Stop the Budget Cuts: A Socialist Perspective,” and the socialist concept is the same one that was introduced for uniting the common workers for equal opportunities by Karl Marx. Before the meeting begins, twenty-five-year-old Terence Yancey says, “The idea of this organization is to give students a voice, to organize independently and fight against the economic problems of capitalism.”
Capitalism, in a general sense, is the idea of privately owning means of production for the purpose of profit, usually taking part in competitive markets.
Socialism
An SF State University socialist group stand with UC Berkeley students as they protest tuition hikes on Sept. 26.

In collaboration with the Socialist Organizer, Yancey, a philosophy major, seeks to organize dedicated students toward speaking out against the budget issues in schools, and specifically in universities. In documents, flyers and literature made available at the table behind the circle, the Bay Area branch of the nationwide organization explains what socialism is and how it can be practiced to resolve this particular problem of deficits in schools, among other things.

Within the United States, it is not strange to believe that socialism has been historically downplayed by mostly right-wing political figures such as the Tea Party and US presidents during the time of the Cold War.
“Socialism is mainly a form of critical thinking,” says James Quesada, an Anthropology professor at SF State. “But historically [in the US], its been given a negative reputation and there’s a misunderstanding on how the [socialist] power operates.”
“Generally, there are a lot of misconceptions about socialism,” says Yancey. “A lot of people associate it with Stalinism. For example, what the Russian Revolution was supposed to be and what it turned into,” explains Yancey, referring to Harry Ring’s article, Why You Should Be a Revolutionary. The article elaborates on how figures that represented the Russian Revolution were on trial in Moscow, labeled as enemies of the same revolution by Joseph Stalin.
“A capitalist system only works temporarily,” says Yancey. “They give to programs and services in times of surplus, but they cut the same ones as soon as things are bad again.” Yancey references the New Deal program of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which in a similar way, sought to give the majority of the population new economic opportunities through relief, recovery, and reform. Some examples include the Wagner Act of 1935, which promoted labor unions, and the Social Security Act, which is still active today. However, due to the focus on World War II industries and drafts, the Republican Party shut down various programs like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps once they held the majority in office again in 1938.
Socialism
Terence Yancey (right) organizes a socialist group at SF State. Miles Culpepper makes a sign for a protest against tuition hikes. Photo by Nelson Estrada
Different recessions throughout the American timeline have since affected American economy as well, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. These include the oil crisis of 1973 and the recessions faced during the early Reagan years in 1981 and 1982, which affected mostly small businesses.
After the second meeting, Yancey discusses the agenda for the group and how they can get their name out. He collaborated with the group to come up with the name, “Students for Social Justice.”
Because of apathy or political agitation, this is not the first time that college students have confronted the repercussions of budget cuts and rising tuition costs, nor will it be the last for the time being.
Considering the circumstances, the problem with such a high cost for higher education not only leaves out potential applicants, but also causes a grand scale of disillusionment among the ones already attending.
Back in the Fall of 2009, students attending SF State received an email in late July that described the increase in student fees. Full-time undergraduates alone had to come up with 2,370 dollars. Two years later, this same group now has to pay 3,178 dollars, according to that same annual email that was received around mid-July this year.
The effects of military spending also continue to take a toll, with approximately eight hundred billion dollars being funneled to the military around the world each year. The US government has half that amount up for budget in the coming year, rendering more than a billion a day, according to research done by the Revolution Youth International.
The Socialist Organizer describes proposed cuts by California government, with five hundred million dollars being cut from the CSU system.
In one way or another, students have had a negative run-in with this recent economic trend, but the noticeable thing here is that they are all students of different years. It is not only juniors and seniors enduring the hardship; they are students that come from any college and any background, trying to find ways to make their unique situation better.
“This is not the only organization we have, and we do not stand alone,” says 26-year-old Eric Blanc, another organizer and student at City College of San Francisco.
“We seek to join the same causes as other organizations for the common cause of preventing this crisis to keep from going further.”
Socialism
Sam Badger, a graduate philosophy student, writes a mesage in chalk from a socialist organization flyer at SF State.
Some of these students pay for school out of their own pockets, others look to obtain loans, and many have been denied some form of aid, but they are all searching for a way to make their heavy transition easier.
For socialist organizations, their goal is to obtain equal opportunities for those who work and produce for the benefit of the population. In this case, for the Students for Social Justice, the same principles of socialism applied to education would mean giving educational opportunities to anyone seeking to pursue their aptitude for the betterment of society.
The way to do this would be to allocate the funds of the university toward educational resources for students (making tuition free) and adequately paying teachers. Private property would still be present, but it will serve the community. However, the battle for this objective can arise from any group of any alliance or ideal. “It does not necessarily have to be a socialist group,” says Blanc.
Likewise, Quesada tells us that the idea of socialism is only one way to think with more options toward the construction of our way of living. “It’s a competing political ideology, but it offers alternative ways toward socially and economically arranging our lives,” says Quesada. “One example is like the European social democracy, which provides welfare for all its citizens.”
In a meeting one day before the student protest at Berkeley, Yancey let the Students for Social Justice know that they will make an appearance and protest alongside other groups and students to show solidarity from university to university. This day acts as a reckoning for their movement.
On September 22 beginning at noon, voices ring loud through the speakers. The speakers of various social groups stand side by side and deliver their speech, one by one, into the microphone as their ideas and collective rage flourish to an estimate of over four hundred people.
“This is a first step in getting people to be aware,” says Blanc of the crucial reason for having protests like these and having many organizations educate the masses on an assortment of perceptions for solving the economic problem in schools.
With many banners showcasing what they represent, as well the various tables with sign-up sheets and informative reading material, other representatives hand out their documents.
Thirty-one-year-old Charles Jones hands out a blue paper that explains what politicians are doing to try and solve the budget crisis; cutting programs and other funding as well as imposing new taxes on those already affected, which is the working class.
“We all need to understand that workers’ wealth are going to the rich,” says Jones, a former teacher in Massachusetts who would sometimes work as a private tutor. “We need to tax the top richest people, the top one percent in California alone.”
Jones represents a campaign for “Tax the Super Rich,” whose primary focus is its title. He explains that with so much money that business executives and other rich figures have, nothing is really being done with it and that money is just sitting there.
“This is money that needs to go towards education, healthcare and infrastructures,” says Jones. “Contributions from the rich for higher education is only at seven percent, the rest mostly comes from the people.”
According to the flyer, the top one percent of the richest Californians, or approximately 150,000 people, have a total income of 255 billion dollars. More than three times the whole state budget for the California population of forty million people.
If the problems were not so great for people going to school in-state, other students pay a higher price trying to get quality education. With no chance of financial aid because she comes from Idaho, Jashvina Devadoss, a freshman at UC Berkeley says, “I pay out-of state. My dad has to help me in coming up with about fifty thousand dollars.” A curious figure seeking to understand where the battles can be fought, she wears a red arm band and marches with the crowd, raising her fist and chanting along.
After the heat and passion has riled up so many students, the march begins and paces past various buildings, where professors, administrators and other students would peek through the windows. They chant loud and in sync, “The workers united will never be defeated!” And continue with a call and response, “What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!”
Attempting to enter and occupy Tolman Hall, a study and reference building, some of the protesters are shoved violently out of the way by campus police, while some protesters even take mace in their eyes. Eventually, the mass overcomes the ten or so police authorities and stands inside the building reiterating their chants several times.
For organizations like these, the repercussions evident from this simple collective protest stem from the capitalist system and the concept of private property. Karl Marx wrote about this concept in his work, and it is constantly referred to by these organizations. His theory states that a socialist movement is a historical necessity and is the work of a proletarian revolution, which is formed by the working class who are also the majority. Considering that a small minority control the workers’ wages as well as funding for programs, a workers’ revolution will occur when wages fall, programs are cut and the capitalist system pursues military aggression. He labels them as the bourgeoisie, otherwise known as the upper class.
According to this socialist perspective, the policies that are approved and that affect the cost of going to school can be eliminated by running it under the basis of socialism, which would prompt attendance to be free for students because it would be state-owned and operated, especially since it is a public institution. For Quesada, when push comes to shove, the state needs to intervene and take responsibility for the benefit of the people. “Even in this school, they want to privatize it,” he says, emphasizing the irony.
In response to why students should rise up and organize against the institutions they are a part of, Yancey says, “We as students have the power to act collectively and have our demands met.”

The long road to City Hall

By Chris Torres

Photos by Gregory Moreno

 

Big ideas are floating around San Francisco’s City Hall.  Ideas like Central Subways, state pensions, Shark Fin Soup and America’s Cup.  Impressive goals, but the economy and current mayoral candidates say most of the cash is spent.

The Board of Supervisors takes up much of San Francisco’s civic administration, but as mayoral candidate Terry Joan Baum describes it, the mayor’s office allows its holder to spearhead larger issues, especially in a city with such a progressive reputation.  One of her first plans, if elected, is to reach out to the mayors of twenty of the nation’s other largest cities to discuss specific issues.

It’s September 9, and Baum is on her way to the PG&E headquarters to lead a demonstration against the energy giant on the anniversary of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.  “PG&Evil,” one sign reads.

Fringe Candidates
Paul Currier reads emails in his apartment at a community housing complex in Pacific Heights on Sept. 30.

Visibility is important, so later, she’ll be in the Lower Haight.  As mayor, Baum wants to spearhead the progressive issues that have helped to keep San Francisco in the political spotlight.  She wants to reach out to the mayors of the nation’s top twenty largest cities to perhaps exact similar change at the national level.  With sixteen candidates in the race, she knows her chances, but that won’t make her give up.

“I believe that the world needs San Francisco to lead again, right now,” Baum explains.

Baum ran against Nancy Pelosi for a seat in Congress in 2007, after Pelosi supported the Patriot Act and voted against the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“I was driven to run because my representative did not represent me,” Baum says.  She was arrested in the process, but did get her chance before the highest court in the land to have her name included on the ballot.  She didn’t get the job, but Baum did receive the highest percentage of any third-party write-in vote for Congress in history.

Baum got an unlikely start in politics in 1970 while stuffing envelopes for Bella Abzug’s campaign for the New York House of Representatives.  One of Abzug’s aides quit, no longer willing to shoulder the candidate’s busy schedule – or her volatility.

“[Abzug] had a nasty temper,” Baum recalls.

Fringe Candidates
Terry Baum and two of her campaign assistants hold up signs denouncing PG&E--a major platform for her run for SF Mayor--as a pedestrian walks by on 16th street on Sept. 20

Instead of stuffing envelopes, Baum found herself at subway stations and on New York street corners, meeting voters and increasing her candidate’s visibility.  It helped get Abzug into the New York House in 1971, and Terry Baum hopes the experience will get herself into the mayor’s office in November.

Back in San Francisco, Paul Currier is trying to get his campaign buses together, one of which is north of the Golden Gate and needs to be moved.  His small apartment is doubling as an office, packed with papers, campaign buttons, literature, and a map of San Francisco with unmarked Post-It notes scattered around Pacific Heights.  A little short-handed, his mayoral campaign has become more of a full-time, hands-on job than he ever anticipated.

“Nobody is working in my campaign but me,” he says without a hint of distress.  He’s been using the internet to organize, and has been increasing his public visibility by showing up at any event he can get out to.  He says that organization is the crucial to a successful campaign.

It’s hard to be visible when you’re not always invited to the community forums and mayoral debates.  If they aren’t, Currier goes anyway, just like Baum did.

Fringe Candidates
Terry Baum poses for a photo outside her San Francisco office at the Redstone building on 16th and Capp Streets on Sept. 20.

“The progressives are circling the wagons around [John] Avalos,” Currier says.

Like many progressive candidates, he’s not in favor of corporate tax breaks to encourage business to stay local and encourage development.  He wants to see art replace blight—something most can agree with.

He went to UC Berkeley and has been homeless.  The political turbulence of the 1970s made Currier decide he wanted nothing to do with politics.  And for roughly 40 years, he didn’t.  When Cindy Sheehan ran for a seat on the U.S. Congress in 2007, he returned to politics as a Field Coordinator for her local campaign, inspired by her bold positions during a period of such low public opinion of officials.

“I’m not a sellout; I’m not for sale,” he says.

Currier has one simple explanation for running: “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”  Now’s as good a time as any.

San Francisco is the first jurisdiction within the United States to use ranked-choice voting since Ann Arbor, Michigan used it unsuccessfully in the 1970s.   Australia uses it to elect members of parliament, MVPs are chosen this way, and this year’s Academy Awards will be doled out via a ranked-choice vote.

Fringe Candidates
Terry Baum hands a leaflet to a man on Carl and Cole Sts. in Cole Valley on Sept. 21.

A 2006 study of the November, 2005 San Francisco Assessor-Recorder race conducted by California FairVote representative and San Francisco resident Dr. Christopher Jerdonek, shows that the system not only improves voter turnout, but it drastically increases turnout in areas that otherwise had low voter turnout by “an estimated 2.7 [percent].”  The report also found the most dramatic increase occurred in neighborhoods “generally recognized as among the most racially diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged in San Francisco,” implying that ranked-choice voting might serve to boost voter turnout in general.  The report does, however, note that this point “deserves further study and attention.”

It remains to be seen exactly how this will play out in a mayoral race that includes sixteen candidates.  Also absent is concrete data detailing how San Franciscans adapted to and proceeded with the old system.  San Francisco State University Political Science Professor Francis Neely coauthored a July 2006 study with Corey Cook that ultimately found the effectiveness of ranked-choice voting to be, as Neely describes it, “a trade-off.”

It’s happened before.  Oakland’s 2010 mayoral election utilized ranked-choice voting and Jean Quan was swept into office ahead of first round front-runner Don Perata after her combined second and third choice votes totaled 2,025 votes higher than Perata’s first choice showing.

“It’s often the case that if you look at the number of votes cast for that office, and you look at the final number that the winner got after all the ranked-choice voting rounds and eliminations, that the winner got less than a majority of votes cast for that office,” said Professor Neely.  That’s because some voters’ ballots are exhausted, or removed from the count, and in the final count a candidate ends up with more second and third-choice votes than the front-runner’s first-choice votes.

While San Francisco only allows voters to choose three candidates, there are usually many more than that in the race.  If a voter has preference for candidates that are eliminated early in the count, or have a preference for only one candidate who doesn’t make it into office, their ballot would be considered exhausted.

With races for the Australian Parliament, if a voter does not rank each and every candidate in the race in order of their preference, their ballot would be automatically disqualified.

“In races where more money was spent,” Professor Neely explains. “People appeared to have more information and ranked three candidates more often.”  The ballot itself can also sometimes cause errors in voting, which would disqualify them, Neely and Cook’s study found.

Portland, Maine is running an election this year using an altered version of the system.  Portlanders are allowed to rank all candidates, but don’t have to if they don’t want to.  The only limit on number of choices is the number of candidates, which means fewer ballot disqualifications.

Recent polls have shown Mayor Ed Lee to be the front-runner to San Francisco’s highest office.  But with the introduction of ranked-choice voting to this year’s election, there’s a possibility that another candidate might secure a majority vote by amassing more second and third-choice votes.

Exit poll studies found that in both previous instances of this new voting system in San Francisco, respondents said they understood the system.  However, only about 60 percent of participants knew that ranked-choice voting was going to be used at all.  So it’s conceivable that many voters came to the booth without enough information to choose three candidates, leaving their ballot open to possible exhaustion in late-round counts.

While the ranked-choice system gives voters a wider choice in their selections, voters may not have the necessary information to rank three candidates along with their first choice. Bottom line is, while ranked-choice voting allows for a wider variety of choice and perhaps greater voter participation, its greatest hindrance is its relative complexity.

“There is no election system that produces a consistent, good, undeniable, unambiguous outcome,” Professor Neely explains.  “When we aggregate preferences, we have problems.”

With ranked-choice voting, there’s room for a third party.   The argument goes, if you’re a Green candidate like Terry Baum, you’re only taking votes away from progressive democrats or other, more popular candidates.  Baum believes that without ranked-choice voting, she wouldn’t be in the race.  Baum even urges her voters to consider putting her as their second choice and putting a more popular candidate above her.  She suggests John Avalos as that choice.

With ranked-choice voting in place, “[political] endorsements don’t matter,” says Paul Currier.  Regardless of how San Franciscans react to the system this November, ranked-choice voting is sure to give underdogs a better chance to finish near, or even at, the front.

Somebody will most definitely be elected come November.  Regardless of who occupies the Mayor’s Office in January, the issues will be coming down the pipe.  All that remains to be seen is City Hall room 200’s next occupant, and the path that brought them there.

SF State students gogo dance their way to a degree

By Lina Abascal
Photos by Elijah Nouvelage
It is Wednesday night, and it isn’t school, boy troubles, or a long day at work that’s stressing out SF State students Ally Forrest, Noella Haverkamp, and their friend Brigitte Bakr. As the ladies frantically throw booty shorts, fishnet tights and bras around a cramped dressing room, they experience the ultimate go-go girl problem: what to wear.

The four-girl troupe calls themselves the Pop Rockettes, after their employers and the event they dance for: Electro Pop Rocks (EPR). The group performs every Wednesday night, and when they are booked for outside events. When the lights dim after the opening set, two girls strut to either side of the DJ booth in six-inch contemporary versions of the 1960s go-go boots called “stacks.”

“We get really, really sweaty,” admits Forrest, the longest standing member and leader of the Pop Rockettes. The girls’ break time is usually spent guzzling water and reapplying bronzer to their stomachs and chests, to create the illusion of abs and bigger cleavage with contours and shading —as if wearing three bras on top of each other wasn’t enough.

Forrest, an SF State sophomore from San Mateo, has a rotating hair color palette, multiple facial piercings, and at least three visible tattoos. Despite her alternative appearance, when Forrest enters the dressing room she looks like any other SF State student: dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, with faded henna tattoos on her pale skin.

Go-Go Dancers

Two hours before they begin, she hones the girls’ energy onto this night’s outfits, which are constructed out of pieces worn for a previous performance. Embarrassed, Forrest explains the troupe usually has unique outfits for each performance, but EPR is a weekly event, and it gets pricey.

Despite this, the group is under pressure to defend the club that’s given them the opportunity to dance for over a year. Forrest claims EPR helps the girls out with funding their outfits.

“I keep my receipts and they reimburse me,” she explains.

While pinning her hair up, Haverkamp interjects, disagreeing with Forrest’s defense over costume costs.

Go-Go Dancers
Heather Buantello looks at herself in the mirror in her dressing room while other members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, prepare to perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21. Heather was trying out for the night to be a permanent member of the group. The group is still seeking a fourth member. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage

“They pay for some things, but not for everything,” Haverkamp says, noting that they have to supply their own boots – which run for about one hundred dollars.

When not go-go dancing, Haverkamp works as a sales associate at Hot Topic in her hometown of Foster City, though she considers dancing to be just as much of a job.

“Sometimes the extra money I put into go-go dancing bothers me, but at the same time it’s me choosing to invest in my dancing career,” Haverkamp says of purchasing things like boots, shorts and bras with her own money.

The girls agree that the event does not pay for most items because some are expensive and others could be used for everyday outfits.

“It would definitely be nice,” Haverkamp says as she imagines if all outfit expenses were covered. “But I wouldn’t expect it.”

Bakr, Forrest, and Haverkamp won’t confirm the amount they get paid for Wednesday’s event, but Forrest says the girls no longer dance at any event for free.

“We’re at the point where we don’t need to dance for free,” she says. “It doesn’t benefit us and we want to be professional.”

Go-Go Dancers
Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21.

The Pop Rockettes used to dance at TORQ, a monthly event held at destination club Ruby Skye for an eighteen-and-over crowd. They have since given up the gig for undisclosed reasons.

The topic is uncomfortable, leaving some of the girls laughing while others struggle to figure out an eloquent way to explain the situation. They occupy themselves by continuing to put together outfits in an attempt to appear busy.

“They have other dancers working there now,” says Forrest, who explains that a current Pop Rockette took the job—but as a group, the troupe are no longer affiliated in any way.

Located at 715 Harrison Street, EPR claims to be the largest electronic weekly event in North America. The crowd is generally between eighteen and twenty years old, and draws college-aged commuters from cities all over the Bay Area. The space also attracts a mix of inexperienced club-virgins, gangster guys with fitted caps, and rave girls in imitation go-go outfits. Patrons attend the event religiously, creating at least an hour long line for entry. Over the past year, admission prices have risen to fifteen dollars a night. Many of the event’s regular attendees are fans of the Pop Rockettes. Many have favorite members while some pursue friendships and maybe more with them.

“I made a second Facebook,” explains Forrest of her solution to random EPR club goers finding her. “I have one with my first and middle name, and then one with my nick name and last name. Anyone who knows me as Ally is probably my real friend.”

Go-Go Dancers
Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, prepare to perform at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 21

Rather than making a fan page, Forrest opted for making a second profile, citing that fan pages are for “actual celebrities.” Other members of the Pop Rockettes recognize the possible positives of having fan accounts, but so far have created one page for the group rather than personal pages. None of the girls say they have any actual stalkers, but the group giggles when the subject is brought up.

“I always want to be friendly, but there’s a fine line between ‘friendly’ and ‘too friendly,’” says Bakr regarding any male fans that approach her when she’s not dancing. “I think it’s important to make that line very known.”

The Pop Rockettes are nervous about contributing to existing stigmas surrounding dancers of their kind. Many rave events or clubs feature go-go girls on flyers to appeal to male attendees.

“I don’t want to be one of those dancers who thinks she’s more important than the DJ,” says Forrest, who explains there’s no reason she should ever take the place of a DJ on a flyer.

The Pop Rockettes go to great lengths to set themselves apart from the average raver. Forrest tries not to be too harsh on the “Kandi Kids” who go to EPR, admitting that she used to be one herself.

Go-Go Dancers
Members of the Pop Rockettes, an all-girl go-go dancer group, tke a short break while performing at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Wed. Sept. 28

“Kandi Kid” is a name given to a typically young raver who wears beaded bracelets that resemble candy. The jewelry is affiliated with ecstasy use, and Kandi Kids tend to take the rave lifestyle seriously, even outside of events.

“We are providing a service and deserve respect. We aren’t just random girls dancing around drunk in our underwear,” Forrest says of herself and the Pop Rockettes. Since EPR has switched venues, there is ample room for attendees to imitate the Rockettes’ dance style.

EPR doesn’t stress sobriety as much as many clubs do, and unlike many go-go troupe’s Facebook pages – the Pop Rockettes do not explicitly state their dancers are one hundred percent sober. The girls casually sip margaritas in the dressing room, barely finishing half between the four of them.

“I take this seriously,” says Haverkamp, who explains that dancing while drunk would be near impossible, especially in six-inch boots.

On Wednesday morning, Forrest and Haverkamp wake up to go to morning classes at SF State, while Bakr heads to work at an office in Park Merced.

“I want it to be a part of my life, but I’m getting older and have a career, so I don’t have as much time to dedicate to it,” she says. Although now, Bakr is in her fourth year of go-go dancing.

The group finally decided that two girls will wear white and pink, while the others will rock white and blue. Forrest ties pieces of tulle she bought at her favorite discount fabric store in the Mission around the other girls’ waists and boots. The dressing room is getting sweaty and cramped and the girls head out for a cigarette to relax before the next three hours of dancing. Just another Wednesday night.