Thursday, June 21, 2018


Governor Brown's gift to the logging industry

Gov. Brown's wildfire plan will only make things worse
Noah Berger, A.P.

by Chad Hanson and Char Miller

Responding to the tragic losses of homes and lives in wildland fires in California over the past year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a "major offensive" against fire in the form of a "Forest Carbon Plan." The governor proposes to use $254 million of taxpayer money to double logging levels in California's forests — to "at least" 500,000 acres a year — and to achieve it, he wants to reduce environmental protections.

Although the governor's May 10 proposal is ostensibly designed to protect human communities from forest fires and to mitigate climate change, it ignores and misrepresents current science. The Forest Carbon Plan will exacerbate climate change while doing little to protect communities from fire.

Most of the devastating impacts to communities from recent California wildland fires have occurred in grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands — not in forests. This includes the October 2017 fires in northern California, and the December 2017 Thomas fire and Creek fire in southern California. 

Claiming to protect towns from fire by increasing logging in remote forests is a bit like proposing the construction of a sea wall in the Mojave Desert to protect coastal populations from rising oceans.

Moreover, reducing environmental protections in forests, and increasing logging, as Brown proposes, does not curb fire behavior — in fact, it typically does the opposite. This is because logging reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy, creating hotter and drier conditions, and removes tree trunks, which don't burn readily, while leaving behind "slash debris" — kindling-like branches and treetops

The science is clear that the most effective way to protect homes from wildfire is to make homes themselves more fire-safe, using fire-resistant roofing and siding, installing ember-proof vents and exterior sprinklers, and maintaining "defensible space" within 60 to 100 feet of individual homes by reducing grasses, shrubs and small trees immediately adjacent to houses. 

Vegetation management beyond 100 feet from homes provides no additional protection. Subsidizing logging in remote forests won't protect us; we need to live with fire, the way we do with earthquakes.

Subsidizing logging in remote forests won’t protect us; we need to live with fire, the way we do with earthquakes...

Logging is a major source of CO2 emissions because less than half the wood in a tree is usable as lumber. The rest is burned or quickly decays in a landfill. 

"Thinning" operations actually cause a large net decrease in forest carbon storage and a net increase in emissions. "Thinning" sounds benign, but such projects often kill and remove more than 70% of the trees in a given stand, including many old-growth trees.

The governor's plan emphasizes cutting down millions of dead trees, or "snags," in backcountry forests to make wood chips that would be burned for kilowatts in "biomass" energy plants. In essence, this substitutes wood for coal in power generation... 

As dozens of the nation's top forest and climate scientists recently pointed out, "burning forest biomass to make electricity releases substantially more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than does coal." Turning our forests into coalfields would only worsen climate change.

The Forest Carbon Plan also ignores hundreds of other scientific studies concluding that "snag forest habitat" — stands of dead trees among the living ones we see in pictures of the Sierra, for instance — are actually ecological treasures. They support native wildlife at levels comparable to old-growth forests. In this unique habitat, woodpeckers feed upon native insects that depend on dead trees, and excavate new nest cavities each year in the snags, which are softer than live trees. 

Bluebirds, nuthatches, flying squirrels, chipmunks, and dozens of other cavity-nesting bird and small mammal species then use the former woodpecker nests for their homes. But this rich wildlife habitat would be destroyed by Brown's expensive and misguided plan.

A gift to the logging industry, the governor's proposal will leave communities more vulnerable to wildfire, not less. It will harm forest ecosystems and accelerate climate change...

Chad Hanson is a research ecologist with the John Muir Project and is the coauthor of "The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix." 
Char Miller teaches in the environmental analysis program at Pomona College and is the author of "America's Great National Forests, Wildernesses and Grasslands."

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Pic of the Moment
democratic underground

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Onion

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What Republicans stand for

Lennart Gabel

From Kevin Drum:

Modern Republicans support:

* Torture of enemy combatants.
* Separating kids from their parents at the border.
* Drug tests for the poor who apply for food assistance.
* Viciously racist rhetoric from their president.
* Mass incarceration.
* Cutting back on medical care for the poor.
* Ending asylum for those fleeing violence in their home countries.
* Police brutality in poor neighborhoods.

By “support” I mean that they either actively support these things or else they’re happy to let them continue without any criticism. This is the fundamental human cruelty and venom at the heart of the contemporary GOP.

This isn’t new, but Donald Trump has brought it to the surface and supercharged it...

Rob's comment:
Add mocking the disabled to that list.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The gun on the table

Thanks to Charles Pierce.

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The Devil drives an Acura

This reminds me of the old Mr. Dirt (pictured below) TV commercials wherein an unshaven, scruffy Mr. Dirt sold engine oil for Mobil. 

Soon Mobil dumped the commercials when they realized that maybe Mr. Dirt wasn't the best public image for the corporation. Acura's "man of wealth and taste" is the Devil, a cool, sophisticated motorist who drives an Acura.
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain...
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me
(Who who, who who)
Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(Woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
(Who who, who who)
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(Woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste...

Mr. Dirt, Mobil Oil commercial


California Budget & Policy Center

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Monday, June 18, 2018

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Only 31% support high-speed rail project

Image result for california high-speed rail cartoons
Lisa Benson (Tunnel work story)

A recent poll by a very well-respected polling firm shows that while 48% of the voters are supportive of the concept of High-Speed Rail, only 31% of California voters want to keep paying for the proposed high-speed rail project once these voters have been informed about the massively escalating cost. 

You can read all the details in this excellent story in the LA Times by veteran reporter Ralph Vartabedian. The bottom line is that while Californians love the "dream" of a functional high-speed rail system, they have no confidence in the performance of the state's High-Speed Rail Authority that oversees the project. 

The voters' lack of confidence is well-justified! 

NOT gaining much press coverage was the recent endorsement of the Authority's 2018 Business Plan that supposedly outlines how the Authority will make the high-speed rail project happen. Authority Board Members and the recently-appointed CEO applauded themselves for their "honesty" in highlighting the challenges that the project faces. 

What the Board of Directors and the CEO didn't say in patting themselves on the back is that the "honest" part of the document makes quite clear that there is simply no money available, now or in the foreseeable future, that would allow the Authority to connect tracks in the Central Valley with either Los Angeles or San Jose. 

In other words, as CC-HSR has been saying for years, what the taxpayers are getting for their willingness to put $10 billion on the table in upfront money is exactly NOTHING. The Authority is going to deliver a stranded set of tracks in the Central Valley that has destroyed Central Valley farms with no connection whatsoever to the major urban centers that the high-speed rail project is supposed to serve...

Rob's comment:
The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail has always provided the best in-depth criticism of this dumb project, which has been aptly described as the Democrats' version of the Bridge to Nowhere.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Prime Minister of Spain is an atheist

Image result for pedro sanchez pictures
From the Friendly Atheist:

Following yesterday’s no-confidence vote against Spain’s leader Mariano Rajoy, his political rival Pedro Sánchez was sworn in this morning as the new Prime Minister.

And when the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party took his oath, there was no Bible or crucifix to be found. That’s because the new Prime Minister (of a nation that’s two-thirds Roman Catholic) happens to be an atheist.

Sánchez said in a (roughly translated) 2014 interview:

“I am an atheist and I believe that religion should not be in the classrooms, it has to be in the churches, in the classrooms you have to form citizenship, not people with religious beliefs, that corresponds to the private sphere”.

His godless oath today also reflected that mentality:

“I promise by my conscience and honor to faithfully fulfill the obligations of the office of President of the Government with loyalty to the King, and to keep and enforce the Constitution as the fundamental norm of the State,” Sánchez said.

While that’s the same oath all prime ministers of Spain take, Sánchez substituted the word “promise” for “swear.” It’s nice to hear an oath that praises “conscience” and “honor” over a deity who ultimately stands for whatever your political party supports.

Sánchez has a lot of work in front of him with only 84 members of his party in the 350-seat Parliament. Whether he’ll be successful is an open question, not to mention an uphill battle. But when you have someone who looks to evidence and reason for guidance over internal religious dogma, it’s at least a good starting point.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

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Octavia/Haight intersection

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London Breed: Elected by a minority

Image result for mark leno jane kim pictures
Mark Leno and Jane Kim

Letter to the editor in this morning's SF Chronicle:

Regarding your June 14 editorial (“The city has spoken”) on what you called the “impressive breadth” of London Breed’s support: Let’s look a bit deeper into the numbers: Breed, the moderate, got 36.6 percent of first-place votes. Is this “impressive breadth”? 

What percent of first-place votes did the two progressives, Mark Leno and Jane Kim, get? Together they got 46.8 percent of all first-place votes. Hardly an impressive “mandate” for Breed. More voters wanted a progressive mayor.

This shows the flaws in ranked-choice voting, especially in races for citywide offices, such as the mayor. 

To elect a true representative of the majority for citywide offices, we should return to a top-two-runoff system in races when the leading candidate in the first round gets less than 50 plus one of all votes.

Peter Yedidia
San Francisco

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Friday, June 15, 2018

RoboProg makes good 2

Photo: Jana Asenbrennerova

More from Heather Knight's Chronicle bouquet thrown to new District 8 Supervisor, Rafael Mandelman: 

He has long been a committed member of the city’s progressive wing, but he doesn’t particularly sound like it when he talks about solutions to the city’s street misery. He sounds middle-of-the-road — by San Francisco standards anyway — and downright practical. He supports Wiener’s proposal to strengthen the state’s conservatorship program for the mentally ill and give counties more control over their own approaches.

Not a controversial position, which our new mayor also supports, not to mention that she was endorsed by Scott Wiener. The only reason the board of supervisors failed to endorse it earlier this year: they first want to hold a committee hearing on the proposal:

“I’ve heard from people who say the bill loosens the standard for conservatorship,” said Supervisor Norman Yee, one of the five “no” votes. The resolution sponsored by Supervisor London Breed needed eight votes to pass because it was brought to the board without a committee hearing.

Why bring an important policy proposal to the board without a hearing? Will Mayor Breed know better? Or was her proposed resolution always just political grandstanding?

More Knight on Mandelman:

Mandelman also supports more psych beds and more subacute treatment facilities for people well enough to leave psychiatric wards but who need additional care...He wants to build far more affordable housing. He was tepidly supportive of Mayor Mark Farrell’s clearing of tent camps in the Mission District, saying that if people refuse help again and again, it’s fair to insist they move along...

Nothing new or controversial there. And wanting "to build far more affordable housing" has long been conventional wisdom in San Francisco. But crucial questions are unanswered: What exactly does "affordable" now mean in this city? Where does Mandelman propose building "far more" housing? Like this project on Fulton just off Divisadero? Can we build our way to affordable housing in SF?


And asked whether the city should continue to allow blatant injection drug use on our sidewalks, Mandelman laughed. “No! No!” he replied. “We should have safe injection sites, but it is not tolerable to have the norm of open-air injection drug use.” He supports more drug treatment services, as well as more police foot patrols to order drug users to, in his words, “knock it off” and issue citations if need be.

This is simply lame---not "downright practical"---as if "knock it off" or "citations" are likely to have any impact on people that far gone in drug addiction.

Instead, the city should consider arresting people that are shooting up on city streets. Have them kick in a jail cell---while being monitored by a doctor, of course, to prevent medical complications. That would at least be a potential deterrent.

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Cartoonist fired for criticizing Trump

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Thanks to Daily Kos.

Image result for border picture crying child
Getty Images

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City highrises: Waiting for the Big One

Downtown San Francisco (Photo: Jim Wilson)

...Engineers have known about a major defect in certain steel-frame buildings since 1994, when shaking from the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles fractured critical joints in more than 60 buildings, bringing at least one very close to collapse. The building code was rewritten to eliminate the flawed technique.

Yet nearly a quarter of a century later, California is still wrestling with what to do with the hundreds of buildings, many of them high rises, that were constructed during the more than three decades when the defective connection system was widely employed...

“This is an issue that structural engineers should have been dealing with continuously since the mid-1990s and we just dropped it,” said Keith Porter, an earthquake engineering expert who helped lead the United States Geological Survey study that published the list of San Francisco high rises. “We don’t know how to deal with a problem this big.”

Experts consider these buildings vulnerable to collapse only in extreme shaking caused by rare and powerful earthquakes, similar to the one that struck San Francisco in 1906.

The list, buried among the seismic calculations of an appendix in the U.S.G.S. report, includes around 40 steel-frame high rises clustered in downtown San Francisco and built between 1960 and 1994, the approximate years when the flawed technique was employed. There are more than 200 high rises in the city...

On the List

In April, the United States Geological Survey published a report with a list of high rises in downtown San Francisco that included 39 steel-frame buildings constructed between 1960 and 1994, the approximate years when a flawed welding technique was employed. The list was compiled with help from the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California.

1. Hartford Building, 650 California

2. Beal Bank Building, 180 Sansome

3. Bechtel Building, 50 Beale

4. 44 Montgomery

5. 425 California Street

6. 555 California Street

7. McKesson Plaza, One Post

8. Pacific Gas & Electric Building, 77 Beale

9. One Embarcadero Center, 355 Clay

10. Transamerica Pyramid, 600 Montgomery

11. 100 Pine Center, 100 Pine

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He reminds me of the gremlin outside Shatner's plane window

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

RoboProg makes good

Leno and Mandelman (SFBC photo)

Way back in 2010
, when Rafael Mandelman was running for District 8 Supervisor, I dubbed him The new RoboProg for his slavish adherence to whatever the city's progressive agenda was at the time (He lost that election to Scott Wiener).

But I haven't blogged about him since (The Bicycle Coalition, Debra Walker, and Rafael Mandelman: A love story).

Not surprising that Mandelman got the Bicycle Coalition's endorsement over District 8 incumbent Jeff Sheehy after the latter was rumored to have doubts about the upper Market Street bike project. Nothing but slavish acceptance of whatever the Bicycle Coalition supports is permitted!

According to Heather Knight in the SF Chronicle, Mandelman is interested in the homeless issue:

He’s determined to make real change in the lives of all those sad, sad characters we see on our sidewalks — the people who remind him of his mother. “I heard from people throughout the district and throughout the city about their incredible anguish and consternation about the mentally ill and drug-addicted folks in our public spaces,” said Mandelman...“I think it’s a colossal municipal shame.” Also a colossal municipal shame? That in a city with a new budget of $11 billion, our leaders have lamented the problem for years without doing much about it (emphasis added).

San Francisco hasn't been "doing much about" homelessness in the last 16 years? A puzzling comment from a reporter who's done good work on the issue, even reporting why the city hasn't been able to solve its homeless problem:

None of this is easy or cheap, of course. Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness, said his team gets an average of 50 people off the streets every week. But every week, 150 people take their place. Let that sink in. For every one person who gets help, three more join the homeless ranks.

From a recent Knight story on Angela Alioto:

Shortly after taking office, Newsom appointed Alioto to head a council charged with crafting the city’s Ten Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness...Ten years later, the city had housed 11,362 homeless single adults and sent an additional 8,086 home to receptive friends or family members through the Homeward Bound program.

Seems like city leaders have been doing something about homelessness for years.

Knight apparently likes Mandelman. She seems to think he---only one of eleven supervisors on the board---can make a difference because he's a "doer":

San Francisco’s political labels — progressive and moderate — aren’t particularly useful anymore. Instead, we now have two camps: the talkers and the doers. And they don’t break down along political lines. Unfortunately, the doer camp is smaller, but it seems about to grow by one. “I really want to do something, and if it takes someone who has a little bit of credibility with the progressive community to try to make the case for this, I’m happy to be the person who does that,” Mandelman said.

Mandelman---and Knight---are talking like no one has ever "made the case" for tackling the city's homeless problem. Not surprising coming from Mandelman, who seems to be reinventing himself after years as a doctrinaire San Francisco progressive. 

The question is, What was Mandelman the "doer" doing/saying when Gavin Newsom was getting Care Not Cash passed by city voters and getting elected mayor after a campaign featuring the homeless issue against prog hero Matt Gonzalez?

After Newsom beat Gonzalez in 2003, city progressives retreated into a sullen silence on the issue, as Mayor Newsom began "doing something" by implementing programs to deal with homelessness: Care Not Cash, Homeward Bound, Project Homeless Connect, and supportive housing. 

Before the advent of Gavin Newsom, the city left's approach on homelessness? Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, the pie-throwers! (See Redmond and Newsom: Ideology and pragmatism and Tim Redmond: "Trust me..."

More tomorrow.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

RCV and the Examiner

London Breed: The YIMBY candidate

Joe Rodriguez in the S.F. Examiner:

Holy hell, the mayor’s race is a squeaker, with daily vote counts sending San Franciscans into a tizzy. Already, however, the race is spurring some supporters of candidate London Breed, who are mostly moderate democrats, to question the wisdom of our ranked-choice voting system. They want it gone. I first heard the rumblings over RCV (as the cool-kids call it) at Breed’s election party, Tuesday night.

"Cool kids"? Does Rodriguez think he's still writing for his high school paper? RCV is in fact the acronym widely used for Ranked Choice Voting. Google RCV and you get more than six million results. Does Rodriguez want to be "cool" by some juvenile definition? Apparently, judging from his picture below:
Joe Fitz Rodriguez 
More from Rodriguez:

In the old system, if a mayoral candidate failed to garner a majority of votes (50 percent), a run-off election would be held between the top two vote getters.

"Garner"? More schoolboy prose. What's wrong with plain old "get"?

But RCV is referred to as “instant runoff” because instead of holding another election, the Department of Elections simply counts second and third choice votes until one candidate hits a majority.

Yes, but that's only a majority of the remaining votes after the RCV system plays out, which does not necessarily mean a majority vote overall:

Despite the hate, RCV has its benefits. Did you notice the slimmer volume of negative campaigning this season? That’s inherent in an RCV system, said Pedro Hernandez, deputy director of the organization Fair Vote, because negative campaigning can turn off voters who would otherwise rank a candidate second or third. “There’s more collaboration and listening to voters,” Hernandez said.

Criticizing RCV is a hate crime? Like his colleagues at Fair Vote, Hernandez is a dim bulb who apparently doesn't understand the importance of a debate about public policy between/among candidates during a political campaign that helps voters distinguish one from another.

The sheer volume of political mail was as heavy as usual, though Kim didn't criticize Leno and vice versa. Hernandez is implying that criticizing your opponent's policies/politics is somehow too "negative," as if we're back in high school and electing a homecoming queen. 

More from Rodriguez:

And under the old system, Jane Kim would have potentially split the vote with Leno since they are both progressives. This may have led some to try to dissuade Kim from running at all, said Jon Golinger, one of her campaign strategists. “The pressure on her not to be a ‘spoiler’ would have been gargantuan,” Golinger said. Instead, Kim’s votes ended up boosting Leno.

Kim and Leno did split the "progressive" vote here under RCV. Why is Kim more of a "spoiler" that Leno? Their first round vote totals are pretty close. If city progs had agreed to unite behind one candidate, they would have defeated Breed easily.

What we really needed here is a run-off between London Breed and Mark Leno that, at the very least, would have provided voters with a policy debate between the "progressive" Leno and the "moderate" Breed, who was supported by the city's Yimbys and, not surprisingly, by real estate and development interests.

Rodriguez on Masonic Avenue.

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This looks like an intervention

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Friday, June 08, 2018

"Or whatever"

Image result for "Give me the children of your huddled masses..."
Jim Morin on the democratic underground

From today's NY Times:

To the Editor:

I have been reading with an increasingly heavy heart news articles about the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents at the border.

But I was stopped cold by a quote in Nicholas Kristof’s column “ ‘My Babies Started Crying’ as ICE Took Them Away” (May 31): “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly hails family separation as a ‘tough deterrent’ and shrugs that ‘the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.’ ”

“Or whatever” — that most dismissive phrase! So, it has come to this: We have weaponized the callous traumatization of children in the name of the promised immigration reform. Children have become acceptable collateral damage in a policy war.

Are there no parents in this administration? Are there no parents in the Border Patrol? Are there no Trump supporters who are parents? How can anyone who has children justify this?

Anita Moran
San Francisco

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City Hall's contempt for small business

Head of MTA is a bike guy

Coursing through the Parkside and Sunset neighborhoods, Taraval Street is dotted with small businesses. Since 2015, their owners have strenuously opposed Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) plans to cut parking along the commercial corridor. The latest flare-up came on Monday, May 5th. Taraval merchants were vexed to see fresh red paint along the entire curb of the 2200 block. 

Gone were the parking spaces in front of Gene's Liquor & Deli, Universal Fire Equipment, Avenues Pet Hospital, Allstate Insurance and the Zhong Shan Restaurant. Reportedly, there was no forewarning. Although the MTA had promised fliers, business owners say they weren't notified. Worse, the parking ban deters customers and eliminates loading zones for daily deliveries of essential supplies.

Taraval is an MTA Rapid Transit Project. The rationale, per Muni Forward, is to speed up transit times and enhance public safety. The City's Vision Zero program, designed to end pedestrian deaths, labels Taraval between 26th and 36th Avenues a "High Injury Network." 

However, there are many hazardous roadways and Taraval doesn't rank among Vision Zero's 57 priorities...(Taraval Merchants see red over parking ban)

Rob's comment:
Usually the MTA removes parking that small businesses in the neighborhoods rely on it's to make bike lanes, which it has done on Upper Market Street, 17th Street, Polk Street, Ocean Avenue, and Masonic Avenue.

But the MTA often deploys the safety lie---safety for everyone, including pedestrians, not just cyclists---to justify its "improvements" to city streets, which it did prominently to justify both the Polk Street bike project and the Masonic Avenue bike project. 

Like redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists based on nothing but the hope that more people will start riding bikes, Vision Zero is a fantasy, since the city will not eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. (Vision Zero is just a slogan)

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

RCV and the illusion of choice 4

Photo: Molly Riley, Reuters

How did San Francisco end up with the awful Ranked Choice Voting system? 

Matt Smith told us how in the SF Weekly in 2011. It all started after the 2000 presidential election led to President George W. Bush:

Following the [2000]Florida vote recount, Democrats all over America felt moved to telephone the most radical-left friends or family members they could think of — many in San Francisco. They berated, insulted, and sometimes threatened to disown their left-coast loved ones for having supported the presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader and thus being supposedly complicit in coronating George W. Bush. A therapist I interviewed during that era said guilt, fear, and anger among her Naderite patients had produced "battered-wife syndrome dynamics."

Of course "progressive" San Francisco had an answer to the Florida problem, which was really a Constitutional problem with the archaic electoral college that allowed a president to be elected even after losing the popular vote. Hence, the presidencies of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.

Smith tells us what happened in San Francisco:

...the fall of 2000 also elevated to the Board of Supervisors a Green Party Nader champion named Matt Gonzalez, who promised to solve the problem of fringe-voter angst with something called ranked-choice voting. Under this system, voters could support third parties in good conscience by choosing first-, second-, and third-choice candidates...This process of elimination is repeated until a candidate wins more than 50 percent, meaning under ranked-choice voting, a Nader would never again produce a Bush (emphasis added).

As Smith points out, RCV was passed in March, 2002, by city voters in a low-turnout (34%) election.

But the RCV system is now unpopular. The last public opinion poll of city voters that asked about it found that 58% opposed the system and only 31% supported it. 

In 2000 San Francisco changed from at-large elections to district elections to choose its supervisors. No elected officials in city history have done more damage to San Francisco than the supervisors elected that year, particularly Matt Gonzalez. 

Recall that in his one term as supervisor Gonzalez led the way on the progressive failure on homelessness; designated graffiti/tagging vandalism as art; and, at the behest of the Bicycle Coalition, originated the ban on the right-turn from Market Street onto the freeway at Market and Octavia. The new and unimproved Octavia Blvd. had just been turned into a surface expressway to and from the Central Freeway in the middle of the Hayes Valley neighborhood (Octavia Boulevard: A "progressive" fiasco).

Add Ranked Choice Voting to Gonzalez's damaging policy legacy.

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Trump, treason, and Russia

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

RCV and the illusion of choice 3

A story---actually, it's a press release---in The Berkeley Daily Planet by Pedro Hernandez, one of the authors of Fair Vote's study on Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco, was the first of a series of stories in the local print media supporting that stupid system.

Hernandez was apparently unclear about the task he was performing. As an author---and even an officer of Fair Vote---was he writing a press release about the just-released report, or was he writing a bylined story for The Berkeley Daily Planet? He ended up with both.

In his press release/pseudo-article, Hernandez quotes himself:

“Ranked choice voting is a key narrative in this year’s competitive mayoral election in San Francisco, and this report shows that voters are easily able to use ranked choice voting to cast their votes,” said Pedro Hernandez, deputy director of Fair Vote California and an author of the report. “RCV allows San Franciscans to vote for the candidates they prefer as opposed to wasting time trying to figure out how to game the system, so their vote isn’t wasted.” (New Report Finds San Francisco Voters Effectively Use Ranked Choice Voting---and it’s Getting Better).

Like the muddled thinking in Fair Vote's study, a vote is "wasted" if you simply vote for a losing candidate---aka, the candidate you "prefer"---without including second and third choices. If your first and only choice is just one candidate, you are presumably not using the RCV system properly.

Under the RCV system, you are supposed to pretend that there are so many good---or even acceptable---candidates that ranking them is the best way to vote in this wonderful political environment that provides so many choices. And if you vote for one candidate three times, you are a loser and wasting your vote/votes!

This foolishness is the political residue of the self-esteem movement of days of yore: everyone should get a trophy! And it's a shame---perhaps even a shortcoming---that our elections result in only one winner, which makes the losing candidates and their supporters sad.

In its May 31 edition, the SF Weekly verified that reality:

Finally, ranked-choice voting has the potential to help citywide morale after a race. This is a close race, and if it was conducted in a straightforward, plurality-winner election where whoever gets the most votes wins, that means that two-thirds of San Franciscans would feel disappointed with the results. By offering voters a second and third place choice, ranked-choice voting has the potential to reduce those June 6 blues.

Boo-fucking-hoo! Ranked Choice Voting is a self-esteem exercise for the whole city!

Added to this folly: RCV actually damages political campaigns by encouraging candidates to game the system by making deals, either implicit or explicit, with other candidates to get second and third choice votes, reducing the political content of campaigns. Or by encouraging candidates to de-emphasize any policy ideas that might alienate supporters of other candidates thereby making it less likely to get their second and third choices.

Way back in 2011, Matt Smith in the SF Weekly observed how RCV dumbed-down a political campaign before the election:

On April 29, the University of San Francisco hosted a debate that seemed to promise the first shots fired in the 2011 mayoral campaign. But in three hours of questions, answers, and follow-ups, I didn't hear a single utterance that would qualify as a "shot." Instead, candidates answered questions with statements such as "It's all about the people," and "I want to put the community first." Assessor Phil Ting, advised by the formerly cutthroat political consultant Eric Jaye, repeated pablum like "San Francisco is at its best when it is diverse"...

Board of Supervisors president David Chiu said that, as mayor, he'd appoint "community ambassadors" so he'd be more attuned to concerns of neighbors. Likewise, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) advocated getting "universities behind the idea of civic engagement" — and who in their right mind would argue, or vote, against that? Supervisor John Avalos, meanwhile, said several times that he was "committed to cooperative and collaborative politics." In neighborhood-association-dominated San Francisco, this is like proposing that ice cream be served cold.

The May 31 SF Weekly quotes London Breed saying that she has no second or third choices for mayor:

“London Breed is my No. 2 choice and London Breed is my No. 3 choice.” While it certainly made the point that she does not endorse any of her opponents for the No. 2 or No. 3 spots, it’s a misconception that the tactic of flooding ballots with one name will make any difference. “We generally discourage that, because it means that their vote will only be voted for once for that candidate,” Hernandez says.

That's simply untrue. Hernandez and the writer apparently don't understand the RCV system. If Breed isn't eliminated in the first round, the second round vote for herself will be counted. Ditto for her third vote if she isn't eliminated in the second round.

A Chronicle editorial makes the same mistake:

Here is an important point to know: Voting three times for one candidate does not enhance his or her chances. Doing so throws away a voter’s opportunity to have a say if the candidate is eliminated.

Of course if your candidate is eliminated in the first round, your second and third choices for the same candidate aren't counted. But if your candidate isn't eliminated in the first round, the second vote is counted, etc.

What critics of voting for one candidate three times really don't like: those voters refuse to pretend that other candidates are acceptable.  

Apparently the SF Weekly has gone downhill intellectually, since the writer not only doesn't understand how RCV works but doesn't know how voting works in San Francisco: 

With only one trip to the ballot, it also makes voting an easier feat for working-class or disabled citizens who may have a hard time reaching the polls twice to choose their candidate.

In San Francisco the polls are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. If working people and the disabled still can't get to an actual polling place, they can always mail in their ballots.

Seems like RCV not only dumbs-down our campaigns and elections; it also makes people who write about our elections dumber.

More tomorrow.

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