Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Stephen Willis and Rob Anderson: An exchange

Stephen Willis wrote:

Rob Anderson: Volunteer or paid PR flack for the de Young?? It is puzzling to me why Rob Anderson carries water for the de Young Museum and the Concourse Authority, buying all of their misinformation and lies and regurgitating it for public consumption on his blog and elsewhere. Word for word. No respectable journalist would spread such misinformation and lies as Rob has on behalf of the de Young Garage, unless they are either being paid or they stand to benefit in some tangible way from serving the plutocrats behind the privatization scam. 

Thankfully, Rob's reach and readership are nowhere near that of his notorious brother, Bruce Anderson. Rob demonstrated his intelligence by standing up to his lying "journalist" brother, the founder and editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Boonville, California. He demonstrated the courage to confront this unethical, self-serving liar in regard to the hit piece Bruce fabricated against Judi Bari's former husband whom the AVA implicated in the plot to kill Judi. 

Rob obviously knows how to spin lies and misinformation; he learned from one of the best, his brother Bruce. Yet, only after many years of collaborating with Bruce at the AVA, when the stench of the lies and spin got to be too much for him, did he finally bail out. Why did it take him so long if he's so righteous?? Question: Is Rob on the payroll of anyone related to the de Young or the Academy of Sciences, including the many public relations firms who are cashing in on the garage boondoggle? Or does he just enjoy sucking up to powerful people and institutions whom he knows will take care of him later??

Stephen Willis
Save Golden Gate Park!

Rob Responds:

What's puzzling to me is that you think this is the right way to discuss a public issue. We've never met, and these exchanges on the garage in the park and the widening of MLK Blvd. are the only relationship we have. In short, we have a problem with our relationship, Stephen. Which statements in my blog postings---and there are a number of them on these issues---are misinformation and/or lies? If you're going to call someone a liar, don't you think you should specify what the lies are? You provide no examples, which makes it hard to respond. 

I've cited several documents in my latest posting, including the text of Proposition J, Judge Warren's two decisions (go to and enter case number 427163), the long interview I did with Mike Ellzey, Executive Director of the Concourse Authority, all of which are available online. You cite nothing at all---except the irrelevant stuff about my brother and Judi Bari---while implying that I'm on the take from the de Young or someone. (Apparently you haven't read my posts that criticize the new de Young building; it's unlikely they would be interested in giving me any money, Stephen.) Otherwise, why would I disagree with you? Of course, the implication is that your motives are impeccable, since you are concerned with nothing but the public interest!

The fact of the matter is, Stephen, thanks to Warren Hellman and other "plutocrats," San Francisco is getting a new underground garage in Golden Gate Park, and it's not going to cost city taxpayers a dime. That's what the city's voters voted for in 1998, and that's what they are getting. I think that's a Good Thing, since it will provide the public with easy access to the new de Young, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Arboretum, and the Concourse itself. If you are going to locate a major art museum in Golden Gate Park, you have to provide public access, instead of making people drive endlessly through the park's roads looking for a place to park. All this stuff about my brother and Judi Bari has nothing to do with these issues. You evidently got so completely sidetracked on the irrelevant stuff you forgot to address a single point I make in the blog item. (Text of Prop. J)
[Note: In fact I never accused my brother of lying or fabricating a case against Judi Bari's ex-husband. I just disagree with his apparently sincere belief in a very implausible explanation of the Judi Bari bombing.]

Stephen Willis Wrote:

Rob, Since our CEQA/Prop J lawsuit is concluded, I have a little more time to respond to your comments. I thought your article and your reasoning in the Judi Bari article was right on. You seem to use logical argumentation when it serves a higher calling, and you engage the illogical and fallacious, just like Bruce, when it serves some other purpose. I was seriously advised to ignore your bullshit. But I'll give you one example of your playing around with loose language to deceive your reader, and which, along with many other clever linguistic techniques leads me to think that you are only about spin, and have no interest in the truth, at least in this matter. Why, I don't know. The bulk of your rhetoric consists of innuendo and ad hominem attacks, and references that consistently DO NOT support your arguments, such as your linking the entire text of Prop J to support a specific assertion: "Actually, that is pretty close to the truth, since the widening of MLK was only proposed after Judge Warren ordered the Concourse Authority to design an approach to the garage that begins outside the park, as per Proposition J..."

Judge Warren ordered the Concourse Authority to provide a dedicated access route to the garage entrance inside the park. As it was proposed, the second garage entrance was illegal, even though they had already started construction. Warren emphasized this point, and ordered a solution with "extreme dispatch" on August 10, 2004, when he provisionally validated the project. (ie provided that the City come up with a dedicated access to the illegal second entrance.) Prop J specifically requires entrances and exits from outside of the Park, and nothing about "an approach to the garage that begins outside the Park."

This was a primary concern of the environmentalists who negotiated the terms of Prop J in February of 1998 with former Supervisor Michael Yaki, his aide Karen Carlson, and former Planning Commission member Dennis Antenore. Antenore represented the Coalition to Keep the deYoung which was a pumped up "grass roots" campaign funded by Warren Hellman and Connie Goodyear of the Fine Arts Museums Corporation (the DeDeYoung we call it now.) Alan Tower, of Free the Park, helped convene these early meetings between the Alliance for Golden Gate Park and the deYoung Museum and The Board of Supervisors via Yaki, a former aide to Presidio privatization architect and Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi. 

The Alliance evolved from the original Coalition for Golden Gate Park that defeated Prop B in November of 1996. That was when San Francisco voters first expressed their opposition to a stealth garage, and defeated the first de Young bond measure. Other members of this new Alliance included the SF Bicycle Coalition, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, SF League of Conservation Voters, SF Tomorrow, Harvey Milk Democratic Club and the Calif. Outdoor Roller Association. Notes from the A4GGP meeting (2/05/98) show that there were ten separate issues that concerned environmentalists.

The fourth issue was "Fully underground garage with entrances outside the park" and "One garage only, no bond measures for additional parking." Unfortunately for the public, the two underground GARAGES (plural) comprising this FACILITY were constructed partially above ground, actually opening into the Concourse bowl itself, because that was the cheapest and fastest way to build the Bechtel design. Alternative designs could have saved the three historic pedestrian tunnels. But none were considered. Here's the section of Prop J that you allege supports what you describe as the "widening of MLK Drive" to create "an approach to the garage that begins outside the Park."

The principal purposes of this ordinance are to (1) create a pedestrian oasis in the Music Concourse area of Golden Gate Park, situated between the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences (the "Concourse") and (2) take steps to reduce the impact of automobiles in the Park while still providing long-term assurance of safe, reliable and convenient access for visitors to the Park, including its cultural institutions." [Before any mention of a garage, these were the original two purposes of Prop J.]"An underground public parking facility within or near the Concourse with a dedicated entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) outside of the Park will enhance such public access. It will also minimize the potential conflict between recreational enthusiasts and automobile traffic within the Park, including John F. Kennedy Drive and abutting roads. The construction of such an underground parking facility will allow surface parking spaces now located in and about the Concourse to be permanently eliminated, thereby improving recreational uses and scenic values of such portions of the Park.

Further down is the second reference to the entrances and exits:

Section 2. [Establishment of the Authority, Duties and Powers of the Authority]With the approval, by resolution, of the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor shall take any and all actions necessary to establish a non-profit public benefit corporation to be named the "Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority" (the "Authority"). The objective, purpose and scope of jurisdiction of the Authority shall be to beautify and enhance the natural and scenic landscape of the Concourse area of Golden Gate Park. Its primary mission is to assure access by all San Franciscans to the Park and to provide environmental and transit improvements to enhance the experience of visitors to the Park, in accordance with the Golden Gate Park Master Plan (subject to the provisions of Section 10 of this ordinance) and for the public interest, convenience, welfare and common benefit of the residents of the City and County of San Francisco. In furtherance of the general purpose and objective described above, the Authority shall have all of the rights, powers, privileges, immunities, authorities and duties necessary or appropriate to: (a) locate, acquire, design, construct, reconstruct, operate, use, lease, maintain and repair an underground public parking facility of not less than eight hundred (800) spaces nor more than one thousand (1,000) spaces, located within or near the Concourse of the Park with an entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) situated outside of the Park and dedicated exclusively for the underground parking facility, together with any and all physical improvements related to such underground parking facility and dedicated access routes (collectively, the "Underground Parking Facility"), which shall serve the recreational uses and institutions in the Park, including, but not limited to, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Garden, and which shall comply with the construction and operation requirements contained in Section 7 of this ordinance.

Rob, Prop J is very specific on this point, and your assertion that it requires "an approach to the garage that begins outside the park" is factually incorrect. Prop J clearly requires any proposed garage to have: (1) "an entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) situated outside of the Park and dedicated exclusively for the underground parking facility," (just exactly like the underground tunnel voters approved and which was built entering the de Young garage from the north at 10th and Fulton. This was illustrated in Don Solem's 1998 Prop J campaign literature. 

So there was no confusion about whether or not The City understood the meaning of "dedicated" as Warren Hellman's criminal defense attorney John Keker argued in the courtroom last May on behalf of the Music Concourse Community Partnership), together with (2) any and all physical improvements related to such underground parking facility and dedicated access routes. The judge said that all they needed to do was diligently seek a dedicated access to the second garage entrance, and the MCCP and Concourse Authority came back with a red herring solution which, if they were willing to give up, would only save them money, and provide the deYoung with one more opportunity to spin the truth. Like, "We really didn't want this increase in traffic lanes on MLK Drive anyway; the court forced us to do it." Yeah...yeah...yeah... What a load of bullshit.

How long would it take me to answer all of your false claims? and misinformation? Maybe I need a blog. How about a debate? You can bring Mike Ellzey, Dick Young, Michael Burke, George Hume, Mayor Newsom, Aaron Peskin and Nancy Connor, and the entire Executive Committee of the Sierra Club to argue the case for the privatization of Golden Gate Park. And I'll bring 200 merchants from the Inner Sunset and the majority of the members of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, and three members of Save Golden Gate Park. See if you can get that lying con artist Ellzey to come out in public just once before he high tails it out of here to go privatize some other park. We hear he's here until the money dries up. Then he's outahere. Defend the Commons!

Stephen Willis
Save Golden Gate Park!

Rob Replies:

Again you accuse me of "bullshit," but the example you cite can't conceivably be stretched to prove the charge. The fact of the matter is that the Concourse Authority proposed the widening of MLK only after Judge Warren ordered them to design an approach to the garage entrance that begins outside the park. The chunks you cite from Prop. J mention this requirement---"entrance(s) and exit(s) outside of the park," and "an underground parking facility...located within or near the Concourse of the Park with an entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) situated outside of the Park and dedicated exclusively for the underground parking facility." You seem to be saying that if the southern entrance to the garage isn't a tunnel, it's not really an entrance as per Prop. J. 

But both the Concourse Authority and Judge Warren decided, quite reasonably, that digging another tunnel under the park from the south would cause too much damage to both the park and the contiguous neighborhood. (And making a completely new road was ruled out by the park's Master Plan.) The language of Prop. J is easily compatible with this interpretation, and it also supports my argument that you call "bullshit." Just because you disagree with the point I'm making doesn't make it bullshit, a term that implies a deliberate untruth. People of good will should be able to disagree on these issues without inflammatory language or personal attacks. Note too the use of the plural form in the language of Prop. J for "entrances" and "exits," which implies that more than one entrance to the garage may be necessary, which, as it turned out, it surely was.

The "three historic pedestrian tunnels" is another bogus issue, since they were "historic" only in the sense that they were old. As a consultant who studied the tunnels pointed out, they were made of unreinforced material and, in any event, were easily reproduced, since they were not of unique design or ornamentation. Two of them will be replicated in the final Concourse design.

Your material on what happened before Prop. J was passed may be of historical interest, but it's irrelevant now, since we have to deal with the fact that voters did indeed pass Prop. J in 1998. But at least you're trying to form an argument based on evidence, Stephen, and you deserve some credit for that. Now you have to quit making personal attacks on those who disagree with you. You accuse me of "innuendo and ad hominem attacks," though this is pure projection on your part, since that's what you do to me and Mike Ellzey, calling Ellzey a "lying con artist" and questioning my motives for writing what I do. 

My impression of Ellzey is that of an excellent public servant who the city was/is lucky to have in charge of this project. Due to his sensitive position, he has had to be much too nice to you and your equally unscrupulous allies on this issue. The kind of abusive rhetoric you direct at Ellzey is what led some to make threatening phone calls to him; one of your allies even threatened him with a baseball bat, and another spat on him. I understand that you would like to stage a dog and pony show and call it a debate, but that's not going to happen. The debate, such as it is, is happening here on District 5 Diary. I've been writing about this issue since last December. Where have you been? In fact, my first post on this blog was on the MLK issue. I'm willing to post this exchange and future exchanges on the PROSF bulletin board. I bet you don't want to do that, since you don't come across very well, with the personal attacks on me and Ellzey.

Stephen Willis Wrote:

You, my friend are a coward whose logic cannot withstand the light of day. It's not a "dog and pony" show you are afraid of attending, but SUNSHINE on your spurious argumentation. Either you have what it takes to defend that boondoggle garage publicly, or you don't. Same goes for Ellzey. The liar and con artist. You pick the venue and we'll videotape it and keep it to under 90 minutes and then broadcast it on cable and let the public decide whether or not the garage is a financial boondoggle and Prop J was about the privatization of the Park. Until then, quit wasting my time. You are too clever and far too disingenuous and have become boring.

Stephen Willis
Save Golden Gate Park!

Rob Anderson Replies:

I understand, Stephen. You're a busy guy, and all this has been an imposition. Remember that I'm always here for you whenever you want to work on our relationship. Of course you'd like to do a pseudo-debate where you could pack the hall with the kind of people who threatened Ellzey with a baseball bat. Sounds like fun, but I'm afraid I have to decline.

Stephen Willis Writes:

When you resort to character assassination by associating me with some alleged physical threat to Mike Ellzey, you stoop to a new low in journalistic ethics. Guess you wouldn't know about ethics though. The alleged incident you refer to is no more than a myth indroduced by Ellzey as far as we have been able to ascertain. When you're judging the veracity of a claim, you need to consider the source. I don't endorse violence, even in Ellzey's case. What good would it do any way? WE have always been civil in our relations. He knows we all think he's a damned liar. Do you really think that is going to cause him to lose any sleep?!?

Rob Responds:

"Character assassination"? You call Ellzey and me liars, and you accuse me of being on the take, though you've offered no evidence for these charges. In your last post, you call me a coward. That's civility? You and your allies accuse Ellzey of gratuitously destroying the pedestrian tunnels, which is simply untrue. One of your allies said that anyone who supported the widening of MLK is "an enemy of the park." A widened, 500-foot section of MLK was called by your allies "a highway through the park." (That was the headline on a HANC newsletter last year). At a Concourse Authority meeting, another of your allies---a member of the city's cycling community---called auto drivers "homicidal." 

Ellzey has been accused of holding secret meetings and violating the Sunshine Ordinance, a bogus charge that was easy to refute. This kind of rhetoric can inflame the more unstable members of the community. Mike Ellzey, on the other hand, methodically---almost boringly---sticks to the facts, as he did in the long D5 Diary interview. Hence, when it comes to credibility vis a vis you folks, Ellzey wins hands down. He only mentioned the threats he's gotten in passing toward the end of the interview. He didn't make a big deal about it; I was the one who was shocked. Renouncing physical violence is a step in the right direction. Now you need to renounce the kind of rhetorical excess that can lead to violence. There's too much name-calling in SF politics, and we need to cut it out.

Stephen Willis Wrote:

Rob, You keep referring to my "allies" without naming a single name, to associate the Alliance with some hothead out there somewhere. We have no allies that behave like that. And we don't take responsibility for the comments or behavior of Trees Not Cars or Katherine Roberts. If Ellzey gave you the impression that they/she were allies, that is incorrect. They have never represented the Alliance or Save Golden Gate Park, contrary to any assertions otherwise. Did you meet those persons you accuse of being our "allies?" Or do you just like making unsubstantiated claims to stir up a little action on your boring web site?

s willis

Rob Replies:

It's a blog, Stephen, not a website. I admit I'm not up on the various splinter groups in the great save-the-park movement. Ellzey has nothing to do with it, of course. He had plenty of opportunity to bash you folks in the interview, but he didn't. Nor did he seem at all interested in doing so. Instead, we discussed nothing but the issues. But you're pretty sensitive for a guy who so casually throws around insults. You're not considered a "hothead" in your group? Chris Duderstadt made the "enemy of the park" charge; the HANC newsletter made the "highway through the park" claim, and, yes, Katherine Roberts made the "homicidal" drivers remark at a Concourse Authority meeting. Your attempt at distancing yourself from these folks is unconvincing considering all the insults you've directed at me and Mike Ellzey.

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Bad news for bike nuts

Maybe this is why many bike riders seem to be so cranky: An article in yesterday's NY Times cites "a raft of new studies" showing that those who do a lot of cycling are impairing their sexual functioning:
Researchers have estimated that 5 percent of men who ride bikes intensively have developed severe to moderate erectile dysfunction as a result. But some experts believe that the numbers may be much higher because many men are too embarrassed to talk about it or fail to associate cycling with their problems in the bedroom ("Serious Riders, Your Bicycle Seat May Affect Your Love Life," Sandra Blakeslee, Oct. 4, 2005,).

The problem is that when cyclists sit on a bicycle seat, they put pressure on the perineum, the area between the genitals and the anus, thus pressuring both an artery and a nerve that directly affect bloodflow and the funtion of the penis. And the bicycle seat problem evidently affects women, too, since their sexual organ is in the same region, though apparently most of these studies were done on men.

Along with the other well-known safety problems for cyclers, still another reason not to ride a bike in the city---or anywhere else, for that matter.