Sunday, December 30, 2007

District 5 Diary's Year End Awards for 2007

Worst city political leader of the year: Ross Mirkarimi
Supervisor Mirkarimi apparently sees himself as a bold, left-wing leader, but he
often rolls over for special interests and city agencies (Rincon Hill, Market/Octavia Plan, the UC land-grab). The only issue he's been steadfast in promoting is the Bicycle Plan, the SF Bicycle Coalition's 527-page, anti-car wish-list that was enjoined by the court because the city failed to do the required environmental review. Mirkarimi has surrendered to a greedy UC to allow that malevolent institution to turn the former extension property on lower Haight St. into a massive housing development to fatten its bottom line. He is now negotiating the terms of the city's surrender by trying to get more "affordable" housing on the site.

Wishful thinking award: Tim Redmond and Steve Jones
After last November's election---and the passage of Prop. A and the defeat of Prop. H---Redmond and Jones speculated about the formation of a new, progressive "transit justice" coalition in city politics, composed of unions and the bike zealots. But the unions wouldn't have supported Prop. A if it hadn't included raises for Muni workers, or, on the other hand, if it had included reform of Muni's work rules (The Redmond/Jones discussion of the progressive agenda only lists anti-car policies and doesn't even mention homelessness and affordable housing).

Remedial Reader of the Year: John Burton
Former Congressman John Burton published a rambling, completely irrelevant letter to the editor in the Chronicle attacking C.W. Nevius's fine series of articles on homelessness in the city.

Polonius Award for lame political advice: Matt Smith
The SF Weekly's Matt Smith advised Mayor Newsom to seek higher office emphasizing one issue: residential highrises. But Matt, what about bikes?

Political Android of the Year: Quintin Mecke
Quintin Mecke, aka Roboprog, one of Mayor Newsom's opponents in last year's election, was remarkable even among progressives in how he robotically adopted a progressive platform, including the SF Bicycle Coalition's crackpot idea of putting bike lanes on Second Street in downtown San Francisco.

Nastiest political disputant of the year: Rob Bregoff
Bregoff was the nastiest political activist in a city famous for its political brawls. Typical of a lot of so-called progressives in SF, he was reluctant to put his name on his ugly, witless attacks on Mayor Newsom and me.

Silliest Newsletter of the year: HANC's Voice
Often good for unintentional humor, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's monthly "Voice" might grieve over the extinct grizzly bears of San Francisco---yes, they're all gone!---in one issue and invoke Tiny Tim in a discussion of homelessness in another, even though the handicapped lad was not homeless but a member of Bob Cratchit's happy family.

Worst historical analogy of the year: Tim Holt
The Chronicle's mono-manical Tim Holt---he only writes about bicycle issues---compared the bicycle movement to the Civil Rights Movement, thus trivializing the latter and giving his dangerous hobby a moral status it doesn't deserve.

Lamest political activists of the year: Newsom's anonymous critics
San Francisco may have the wimpiest, most chickenshit political community in the country, judging by its anonymous websites and pseudonymous chatboards. It's not clear what all these folks are so afraid of. One possibility: If they used their names, everyone would know that they are dim bulbs with nothing of interest to say.

Most Gratuitous anti-car policy: the ban on new garages
Even though the contractors who put garages under existing homes don't do enough volume in the city to put a dent in the city's supply of street parking, the city is now making it as difficult as possible for property owners to do this as part of its ongoing anti-car jihad. And the city is doing it under the pretence of "preservation."

Most Dangerous Intersection: Octavia and Oak
City progressives are still congratulating themselves for tearing down the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley, but they are in denial about the inevitable trade-off: According to DPT, there are now 45,000 cars a day going through the heart of the neighborhood on Octavia Blvd. Another consequence of the great anti-freeway movement: the most dangerous intersection in the city is now Octavia Blvd. and Oak Street.

Lamest Political alibi of the year: Art Agnos
Agnos told SF Weekly's Matt Smith that he would have run against Mayor Newsom last November if city politics wasn't so concerned with trivial issues. Homelessness, gun violence, housing, traffic, etc. supposedly aren't important enough issues for Art "Gravitas" Agnos.

Designated prog devil of the year: Don Fisher
Fisher has displaced another billionaire Republican, Warren Hellman, in the city's progressive demonology. Fisher's latest transgression: trying to provide the city with a sensible parking policy with Prop. H last November. If Fisher wants to rehabilitate himself with city progs, he can do what Hellman did: donate money to the SF Bicycle Coalition and bankroll a free concert in the park every year. He would then appear with the bike people on the front page of the Guardian to make his rehabilitation official.

Worst proposal on homelessness in the park: Marc Salomon
Green Party member Salomon proposed that the city adopt a "harm reduction" policy vis a vis the homeless living in Golden Gate Park. Instead of ejecting the homeless from their encampments, Salomon thinks the city should simply provide them with proper disposal facilities for their bodily waste and their hypodermic needles, and, presumably, the 240 tons of garbage they generated that the city had to remove from the park in 2007.

Uncovering the conspiracy of the year: Lisa Feldstein
Nobody else noticed it, but it was clear to Feldstein that Don Fisher deliberately made the text of Prop. H long and difficult to read, thus foiling attempts by city voters to understand what was in it, though most of it was only boilerplate reproduction of the legislation that would be changed. Like other critics of Prop. H, Feldstein also insisted that the text was 61 pages long, though you can print it out in 16 very legible pages from this website.

Euphemism of the year: Burning Man's deal with Google
Google's PR person insisted that Burning Man---a corporate-sponsored event that sells itself as a counter-cultural happening---doesn't have a business deal with Google, just a "creative collaboration."

Deep Thinker of the Year second year in a row: Tim Redmond
Redmond dusted off his Good Guys versus Bad Guys theory of history and politics.

Most contempt for its passengers by a transit system: Muni
Muni continues to allow advertisements to cover bus windows, thus obscuring the view passengers have of their beautiful "transit first" city.

Political symbolism of the year: the right-turn ban

Thanks to former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and the present Board of Supervisors, motorists driving down Market St. from the Castro are prohibited from making the easy right turn onto the freeway at the Market/Octavia intersection because of a supposedly unique danger to cyclists. One would think that cyclists would want motor vehicles headed for the freeway off the streets of the city as quickly as possible. But evidently the anti-car symbolism is more important to the SFBC and its enablers in City Hall than rational traffic policy.

Political Dialoguers of the Year: H. Brown and Ahimsa Sumchai
Both Brown and Sumchai---who, of course, are progressives---gave me the brush when I tried to engage them on, respectively, the garage in Golden Gate Park and homelessness.

Warrior of the year: Steve Jones
Steve Jones, a reporter for the Bay Guardian, is a dedicated bike guy who sees cars as "death monsters." Jones is also an eager culture warrior who lectured readers last year on "true city living," including this goofball chest-thumping:

But if you want to shut down our party or expect us to dance around your delicate sensibilities, we're gonna have to fight. And guess what? We'll win. There are more of us in this crazy town than there are of you...and we aren't afraid. We dodge SUVs on bicycles, brush past ranting lunatics, stand tall against cops in riot gear, pierce painful parts, bring strange people home to do unspeakable things, cavort with revolutionaries, and take way too many drugs. So there's no way we're caving in to the NIMBYs, the conservatives, or the complainers who want to banish our beloved chaos.
Maybe Jones shouldn't take those drugs before he sits down to write.

Anti-climax of the year: the privatization of Chris Daly's blog

Obfuscation of the year: Andy Thornley
The SF Bicycle Coalition's Thornley published a confused account of the alleged traffic problems at the Market/Octavia intersection. Like the prose of many city progs, it's hard to tell if his obfuscation was deliberate or just the product of a befuddled mind.

Hysterical anti-war rhetoric of the year: "The World Can't Wait"
Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly signed a full-page anti-war ad in the NY Times that compared President Bush to Hitler and wherein the signers congratulated themselves for political bravery long after US public opinion had turned against the war in Iraq. Some of the other heavy-hitters who signed: State Senator Carole Migden, convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sean Penn, the Hip Hop Caucus, Michael Lerner, Al Sharpton, Cindy Sheehan, Alice Walker, Wavy Gravy, and Richard Serra.

Demagogue of the year: Ross Mirkarimi
Early in the year, Supervisor Mirkarimi made a habit of showing up at Muni accidents and the scenes of gun violence, evidently to show city residents that he cares. It must come as a relief to city cops that he's stopped doing that.

Most deserved court defeat of the year: City of San Francisco
Once again the City of San Francisco lost a major court decision, as the city's Housing Element was thrown out by the court of appeals because the city failed to do an EIR on the aggressively pro-development blueprint for city neighborhoods. Fortunately, a coalition of neighborhood groups correctly foresaw the impending destruction of their neighborhoods in the Housing Element, which contains the same wrong-headed principles---including the fallacious "transit corridors" theory---underlying both the Market/Octavia Plan and the impending UC land-grab of the old extension property. The question is, Why couldn't any of the city's "progressive" supervisors see it? Another question: How would the city's present housing policy be any different if we had both a Republican mayor and a Republican majority on the Board of Supervisors?

Playing the race card: Ed Jew's supporters
Ed Jew's supporters gave loyalty a bad name when they likened his self-inflicted legal problems to the lynching of black people in the South.

Love is Blind Award: John King
For the third year in a row, the Chronicle's John King gets this award for his undying fealty to the hideous, gridlocked Octavia Blvd., a complete fiasco for the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

The most spineless Supervisor: Bevan Dufty
Even though the property is in his district, for years Supervisor Dufty refused to take a stand on UC's ongoing attempt to rip off the old extension property for a massive housing development to fatten the bottom line of that malevolent institution. Now he won't ever have to take a stand on the issue---or even vote on it: he has recused himself because he owns property on nearby Waller Street. This shouldn't be a surprise, since it took Dufty a year to find the courage to come out against a dumb proposal to put a Trader Joes on Upper Market Street. The question is, What's the point of having district elections if a supervisor is going to recuse himself from voting on a project located in the district that he's legally obligated to live in?

Biggest ass kissing of the year: by Chris Smith on Aaron Peskin
In an article in San Francisco Magazine, wherein Smith fawns all over Peskin, even comparing him to Harry Bridges!

Pseudo-martyr of the year: Josh Wolf
Josh Wolf went to jail for refusing to turn over to the Federal Grand Jury his video of an anarchist demonstration during which a city cop had his head fractured by Wolf''s comrades. Wolf, who was supported by most progressives in SF---including, of course, Supervisor Mirkarimi---naturally thought the Federal Government was targeting him and his comrades because they were such a big threat to national security.

Marketing coup of the Year: Bay Guardian and SF Weekly sell cigarettes to little girls.

Teaching graffiti/tagging in the schools
Think it's a bad idea to teach kids how to vandalize public and private property when the city spends $30 million a year to deal with graffiti/tagging? Evidently we are in the minority.

Profile in PC lameness: Kamala Harris
District Attorney Harris was more interested in defending the imaginary rights of Josh Wolf than she was in finding out who fractured the skull of city cop Peter Shields. She tried to explain the inexplicable in a Bay Guardian op-ed wherein she pandered to the city's fringe left.

Proposal for a future boondoggle: Geary BRT
The city seems determined to "fix" an unbroken Geary Blvd. with a $200 million Bus Rapid Transit system that will dig up Geary for years, disrupt local businesses, and eliminate street parking for minimal gains, if any, in transit efficiency on our primary East-West traffic corridor.

Bullies of the year: the cyclists in Critical Mass
Bike Nazis terrorize motorists during their monthly orgy of traffic-snarling self-indulgence.

Worst sentence of the year: Mark Morford in the SF Chronicle
"It's that moment when your known reality snaps its boundaries like an evolutionary bra strap as time and space back-flip and somersault and tongue-kiss in the clouds, and you get that fleeting tickle to the spiritual id that all might not be lost after all."

Ongoing medical crisis: bicycle seats
Bicycle seats put pressure on the perenium, the area between the anus and the sex organ, thus impeding blood circulation and endangering
the sex lives of cyclists. The more you ride your bike, the bigger the problem.

Feminist of the Year: Jake McGoldrick
Supervisor McGoldrick wants to legalize prostitution because that would supposedly be good for women! Prostitutes, you understand, are really just "sex workers."

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Bike ballot bluff: The legal angle

Here's the legal basis for the SF Bicycle Coalition's idea of putting the Bicycle Plan---or a portion thereof---on the city's ballot as an end-run around the injunction preventing the city from implementing the Bicycle Plan until it completes its environmental review:

CEQA Guidelines, sec. 15378(b)(3): "Project does not include (3) The submittal of proposals to a vote of the people of the state or of a particular community that does not involve a public agency sponsored initiative." The case that clarifies this is a California Supreme Court case, Friends of Sierra Madre v. City of Sierra Madre (2001) 25 Cal.4th 165. The court ruled that "a preelection EIR should be prepared and considered by the city council before the council decides to place a council-generated initiative on the ballot," because "Voters who are advised that an initiative has been placed on the ballot by the city council will assume that the city council has done so only after itself making a study and thoroughly considering the potential environmental impact of the measure."

To avoid having to do an EIR, such a measure would have to be put on the ballot by the SF Bicycle Coalition, a private entity, instead of the City of San Francisco. But even that would raise an interesting legal issue: could the city still implement projects covered by the injunction---that is, everything in the Bicycle Plan---if such an initiative was passed by city voters?
The whole issue seems moot now that the SFBC has apparently abandoned the idea of getting something on the ballot before November, 2008. By then another year will have passed, and the EIR on the Bicycle Plan will presumably be a lot closer to completion. By the time the SFBC could get enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot, get it passed by city voters, and deal with the inevitable court challenge after that, the issues may be resolved one way or another in the EIR process.
In any event, the big danger the SFBC would face is possible---even probable---rejection by city voters at the polls. The SFBC seems to assume that the city's bike people are beloved by city residents, but the opposite may be closer to the truth: after years of bad behavior on city streets by cyclists, including the monthly Critical Mass, city voters don't like the bike people much and are likely to reject the Bicycle Plan, especially after a pre-election campaign showed them what's actually in the Plan, like taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. Regardless of what the polls say, the SFBC has to contemplate a worst-case scenario: if the Bicycle Plan lost at the ballot box, where would that leave their ambitious anti-car campaign to remake the streets of San Francisco?
By the way, even though CEQA doesn't classify initiative ballot measures as projects, which exempts them from environmental review, it does regard ballot measures put on the ballot by city councils and boards of supervisors as projects that require environmental review. Where is the city's pre-election EIR on last November's Proposition A?

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