Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Let them walk. They need the exercise."

Rob, hope you get this long-winded discourse. I wrote it following the sham compromise to vent my feelings, but didn't know what to do with it. Hope you can find an audience in the blog.

Thank you for having the courage to speak out against the excesses of the SFBC. I joined the group to recall McGoldrick (, who turned out to be a bigger liar than I could ever imagine.

04/15/07 Golden Gate Park Road Closing: Board of Supervisors disregards voters

To the People of San Francisco and Those Interested in Upholding Democracy

There are two kinds of people in San Francisco, those that subscribe to “people count” and those that practice “Me First.” People count: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” President John F. Kennedy 1961, age 43.

Me First: “We want John F. Kennedy Drive for ourselves. We care nothing for the elderly, disabled, children, low income families, and everyone else.”

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition 2007. Ages 25-45 (aided and abetted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors). I am a product of “people first.” I am bewildered by the Me First people; how can the current Board of Supervisor stray so far from JFK’s legacy? In one generation a torch was passed to a new generation. President Kennedy’s call that inspired a whole generation of caring and selflessness has been supplanted by the Me First San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The legacy of JFK spawned a myriad of social programs: the Peace Corps, Medicare, Social Security expansion, Older Americans Act, American with Disabilities Act, SSI and Civil Rights. This spirit of caring has been replaced by a few who preach “Healthy Saturdays” as a way to grab the park for themselves and exclude everyone else, especially the most vulnerable in the city.

Yesterday, Mayor Newsom announced a "compromise" on the Golden Gate Park Road Closure after fifteen hours of negotiations. I was shocked. Why a compromise when the voters have twice rejected closure by a large majority? Did anyone consult the People who have already said “No” loud and clear? It was not a compromise; it was a rout by the Bicycle coalition and its leader Supervisor McGoldrick. The voters’ trust in elected officials was met with betrayal; democracy is a sham in “liberal” San Francisco. Seven supervisors, under pressure from the Bicycle Coalition, had already decided to ignore the electorate, so that the April 9th hearing on this issue was also a sham. There were only three supervisors who stood tall in support of our precious rights. The negotiations, mediated by Mayor Newsom’s staff, were a contest between everyday working people representing the voters and the powerful minority representing the Bicycle Coalition.

It was might that prevailed, not right. Try to rationalize that to immigrants who came here in search of freedom and were told they have a voice in this country. Through the tactics of the Bicycle Coalition, we’re being governed by a few in San Francisco. There was absolutely no reason to question or amend the voters’ decision; no impact on the environment, the number of cars on the road is not reduced, and many people are hurt by the closure. But none of these powerful and valid arguments made any difference to those who continued to hammer away at individual members of the Board until they wore them down.

The SFBC owns our Board of Supervisors lock, stock and barrel; the people did not matter. When I asked one supervisor why the people’s vote does not count, his answer was “Healthy Saturdays,” which translates into “the SF Bicycle Coalition’s got me.” Or they’ll say “We’re still evaluating the proposal,” meaning, "I’m afraid to say anything because the Bike people have their spies all over and some live in City Hall." Other times there was dead silence. I finally got the meaning of our deaf and dumb supervisors; for some their careers were at stake, and it was easier to sacrifice the people and appease the bullies. These are our elected officials sworn to uphold the law?

I conducted by own informal survey just to get a feel for both the “for the people” group and the “Me First” group: I question a young Healthy Saturdays person about the effect on the disabled. Her answer was: “Let them walk; they need the exercise anyway, it’s healthier for them to walk.” Another Healthy Saturdays person said a woman told him he was selfish because he supported closure. He did not have a clue as to why the woman felt that way. I mentioned to another Healthy Saturdays girl that people from the Mission and Bayview have to drive to get to the Park because public transportation is so inconvenient and many have families. Her answer: “Those people” should take the bus, and “those people” don’t go to the park anyway.

The “for the people” individuals all responded as expected with the message: We need to consider the needs of all the people. Many felt that the Sunday and holiday closures are enough. San Francisco has the most diverse population of any city in California with more than 50% minorities, the vast majority in the low income bracket. Their primary participation in democracy is through the vote. The Bicycle Coalition membership is not representative of the population of San Francisco, and yet seven members of the board of supervisors chose to violate the people’s trust in the system. McGoldrick and his group never took the elderly, disabled, etc. into consideration last year when they introduced similar legislation to close the Park. His sudden discovery that an ADA law exists caused McGoldrick to scramble for City funds to comply with the law. The needs of the majority who voted against closure, most of whom are wage earners and work long hours to make ends meet, were ignored and no accommodation was even considered.

Instead of rejoicing in a “victory” and gloating, I believe the SFBC should examine what this country is all about. I’ll give you some food for thought in my Open Letter to the SFBC.

To the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:
I believe you should share this message with your members so they are fully informed of the actions of the Executive Director and officers who elevate their own interests at the expense of democracy. Their action in pushing the park issue in defiance of the people of San Francisco is discriminatory in the fullest sense. The SFBC can claim victory in making the Board of Supervisors accede to its demands and a willingness to sacrifice the voters. I hope you take satisfaction in obstructing freedom and thwarting the will of the people. The people did not ask for much; just leave part of the park free so all of us can enjoy it just as you do. The park is large enough to give you full access to other equally desirable locations. So why do you need to push everyone else aside just to get the best part for yourself? Web want everyone to have unrestricted access. Your insistence on this choice parcel of land when there are equally desirable alternatives is nothing more than a power grab by an insensitive organization that can and will bully the weak and helpless. I care about people and will speak out in denouncing the SFBC as insensitive to the underprivileged and the elderly and disabled.

The groups you hurt:

* Seniors: Our seniors come from diverse backgrounds and each has contributed to this country and laid the foundation for the benefits we (you too) enjoy. We value them in all their wonderful cultures and the care they have shown toward others. You will one day be in this category, and I hope that the next generation will treat you better than your treatment of our seniors. Their pleas to keep the park open have been met with stoic indifference by the SFBC. Keep in mind many seniors have lost spouses, children, relatives, friends in the service of our country while you enjoy your healthiness.

* The Disabled: You should not require an ADA law to recognize the rights of this group. Since it is so relevant today, may I remind you that some the disabled are veterans, and I have viewed numerous medical files of young men who lost limbs and other organs in fighting for our country. Can’t you find it in your heart to just leave the Park open so that we need not make reasonable accommodations? Health Saturdays is an insulting rallying cry for this group who are unable to bike or skate. Many go strictly to visit our institutions and need unrestricted access. Your “healthy” propaganda is forcing the City to use funds to comply with minimum ADA requirements, just so you can indulge in your exclusive pleasures.

* Minorities/immigrants: Your disregard of working immigrants who need to use their automobiles to carry their tools around to earn a living is callous and discriminatory. In fact some SFBC members who enjoy “Healthy” days are able to do so only because this group works to do the chores you otherwise have to do yourself. For the residents of Bayview and the Mission, many who live in crowded and substandard housing, the closure is akin to a Berlin wall. Such a barrier that restricts access to a large group protected under the Civil Rights Act, is discriminatory.

The remark by one of your members (she was with your Executive Director when the remark was made) referring to the residents of these communities as “those people” is cruel and insensitive. The “I” word: Most “for the people” individuals use the pronoun of “you” or “they” when discussing an issue that affects people. The only pronoun for SFBC people is “I,” as in I want a quiet park; I like Healthy Saturdays. Sandoval and McGoldrick are particularly prone to the “I” syndrome. I have friends in the Bicycle Coalition and the Sierra Club; after all I have been a 40 year member of the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations. Check your members and you may find there are many responsible and caring members who believe the overreach of your leaders does not reflect their views.

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