Saturday, March 5, 2016

Homeless Inc's 3/7 Hearing Ignores Tent City Sweep

A key component to address homelessness in San Francisco is highly dysfunctional, consists of Homeless Inc representatives more interested in their govt contracts than effective public engagement and solution-finding, and refuses to meet at City Hall at an early evening hour more convenient for working folks or air hearings on SFGovTV.

A stark example of how not to run a City advisory panel.

My previous blogging on the City's Local Homeless Coordinating Board from 2012 is here and here, and from last month is here.

In the past six weeks, the plight of the homeless population living in Tent City along Division Street and concentrated around Rainbow Grocery, has been of much concern to many. The City conducted small sweeps, slowing dismantling the temporary homes of plastic, creating widespread debate and social media and political attention.

Yet, nothing related to Tent City's sweep and the pushing out to other neighborhoods of the homeless people who found refuge under the freeway is on the LHCB's agenda for the Monday, March 7, hearing starting at 11 am at 150 Otis and Division Streets.

What's on the agenda? A report, no advance details disclosed, from Homeless Czar Sam Dodge who, if he's presenting facts on the sweeps he should state this beforehand. Regardless, it's unacceptable there are no details about whatever Dodge will discuss and may be in violation of open govt laws.

After Dodge, the board discusses a potential legal maneuver, yawn, from a Homeless Inc legal nonprofit related to federal rental subsidies.

Next up is wording on official comments, double yawn, from the LHCB on the Housing and Urban Development's change in defining chronic homelessness. The draft letter to HUD is available for all to read.

After that crucial local homeless issue, snark-snark, is dealt with the board will next hear a report about entry into the City's adult continuum of care program and then on to the vital matter of upcoming meetings.

Jeez, with those items on the agenda and not a damn thing about the Division Street population now scattered hither and yon, and associated problems with folks living on the streets in tents and resultant public health hazards for the homeless and others, it's Homeless Inc business as usual at this Monday's LHCB meeting.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ethics Complaint Against SF Chronicle Lobbyist Willie Brown Filed

Earlier this month, we received Mayor Ed Lee's calendar and sign-in sheets for his meetings at City Hall and blogged about an October 1, 2015, meeting where former mayor and SF Chronicle writer and potential lobbyist Willie Brown was present. The sign-in sheet omitted his organization, unlike every other attendee.

We say Brown may be a lobbyist for the paper because part of our complaint this week to the Ethics Commission asks them to investigate who exactly he presented at the meeting.

We requested info about Brown's organization from the Mayor's Office and they replied: "This office made 'a good faith effort to identify the individuals at the meeting and the organizations they represent' at the meeting on October 1, 2015; however, the information you are seeking was not disclosed to staff and staff is not aware of the information."

Amazing that none of the dozens of folks on Mayor Lee's staff has a clue about Brown's organization.

All of this info and emails from the mayor's staff to us were included in our Ethics Commission complaint, which is against the current and former mayor. The commission acknowledged receipt of the complaint. Now, let's see how they process it and if they'll investigate Lee and Brown.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

SFPD Names 7 Cops Facing Disciplinary Charges

We filed a public records request last week with the San Francisco police force and the nominally-independent police commission for various files, and the responsive records released included a two-page "confidential document" listing seven names of officers facing disciplinary charges.

While most of the officers' names are redacted, seven are visible: Alan Byard, Serge White, Calvin Wiley, Christian Crane, Thomas Wong, Thomas McCloskey and Joe Vidal.

The charges they face are omitted but we know which police commissioner has been assigned a complaint, when the charges were filed and probably with the Office of Civilian Complaints, and the status of the complaints.

As far as we know, this is the first time the police have released any names of officers facing accountability processing through the commission.

We'd like the SFPD to release these case summaries, and more info such as charges filed and outcomes of hearings, made public on a regular basis and without anyone having to file a public records request. 

The onus is on the SFPD and the commission to deliver accountability via transparency, and not just feel-good press conferences with the mayor and powerless listening sessions around town.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SF Supes Release January Texts, Complaint Against Breed Filed

Open govt laws in San Francisco require members of the Board of Supervisors and other public officials to release their texts, upon request to citizen journalists and the public. Our recent request for all texts for January 2016 of the ten supervisors we're allowed to contact, related to their official City duties, produced some curious replies. 

First, Eric Mar, failed to reply to our request for text messages.

Second, here are the replies from other supervisors. London Breed's office said she "does not keep or maintain any text messages."

Norman Yee's office shared his texts and among them was one apparently from Breed.

This is the confirmation that it is a text from Breed we received from Jen Low in Yee's office. Seems Breed's texts are kept by her colleagues.

Third, here's what others offices said. Malia Cohen's staff replied that she "does not have any responsive messages to your request." Mark Farrell's staffer wrote he "doesn’t have any texts for the month of January." Katy Tang wrote, "What I sent you was all that I had that was responsive to both your texts and calendar requests." She apparently didn't text about City matters last month. Aaron Peskin also says he didn't text last month.

Fourth, John Avalos is a prolific texter and we modified our request to him for only his texts with journalists. He sent so many texts, and we're not complaining since we love public records, they take up three folders! Read them. Part one, two and three need eyeballing.

After Avalos, Yee is the next most prolific texter and his texts are here, followed by the three texts released by Campos' office.

We don't believe Breed, Cohen, Farrell, Kim, Peskin and Tang didn't use any texts last month as part of their duties, and Mar is blowing off our request, so we've filed a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force asking them to investigate.

More on that as the complaint is processed.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mayor Lee Explains His New Dept to End Homelessness

One of the least known San Francisco advisory boards that oddly rarely shows up on the public, press or social media radar, given its purview, is the Local Coordinating Homeless Board. Considering the various homeless problems and thousands of folks living on the streets, we would expect the LCHB to have a bigger presence and more people aware of it.

Mayor Ed Lee address the Monday, February 1 meeting of the LCHB at about noon and since the board meets at an auditorium on Otis Street and not at City Hall, the meeting was not aired on SFGovTV.

To learn what transpired, we filed a public records request with the LCHB for their preliminary minutes and sign-in sheets.

What the mayor said was basically a whole lotta nothing. He blathered on, as is his usual custom of public speaking, in platitudes and used many touchy-feeling phrases.

Details about his plans for a Department to End Homelessness weren't presented. He did assure the assembled crowd from Homeless Inc that he was listening to them and would consider their ideas and suggestions.

Specifics on anything to do with this new City department, additional funding for more low-income and affordable housing, addressing the needs of homeless folks living in Tent City and nearby residents and businesses, presenting the public with a timeline of when the department will be created and operational, were missing from Mayor Lee's talk.

It's not surprising the mayor wasn't zapped and no one shouted at him to deliver tangibles. The sign-in sheets reveal dozens of City employees and representatives from Homeless Inc nonprofits that depend on the City for funding, hardly a crowd to seriously challenge Lee.

In the name of open govt, now is the time for the LHCB leaders to move their meetings to City Hall and air them on SFGovTV. That won't do much to force Mayor Lee to finally develop and implement a plan addressing homelessness, but at least we'll have a better idea of what the City and Homeless Inc discuss when they get together.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sup. Kim's 2,200-Page Super Bowl Email Trail Reveals . . . ?

She's not Scott Wiener, her opponent in the state senate race, but that will get her only so far if she wants my vote.

Supervisor Jane Kim garnered much goodwill and scads of legacy and social media attention for questioning Mayor Ed Lee's deal for the Super Bowl, and we were pleased to see her advocate for fuller City Hall transparency about the arrangement with the NFL.

Our recent public records request for her communications from January 2015 through this month, reveal Kim did nothing of significance on the Super Bowl last year until it was disclosed in November that Muni's overhead street wires at the foot of Market Street might be removed, causing vast and major transit headaches.

We received close to 2,200 pages of emails from Kim, many of which are tangential to the Super Bowl or consist of the same CC'ed emails circulated between her staffers. Not one email was sent from the addy. Quite odd she herself didn't write any emails on the big game.

The first reply to our request invoked a ten-day waiting period, the second asked us to narrow our focus and the final reply before responsive records were released asked the Clerk of the Board about whether a digital-only response imposes a cost on us, the requester.

On the other hand, no such concerns were raised in late January related to a very similar request from a local reporter, formerly of the Bay Guardian. No ten-day delay, no effort to reduce the scope of the request and no question raised about charging the reporter.

Some requesters are more equal than others.

We wonder if Kim grants special favors to the reporter who is not known for a critical approach to progressive politicians, an attitude learned at the Bay Guardian, but when bloggers of an independent streak request the same public records her open govt policies change.

One telling email from Kim's chief of staff Ivy Lee, from August 2015 to a homeless advocacy and service nonprofit, caught our attention because it shows, to their credit, that Kim's office was reaching out the organization for advice related to homeless folks, the Super Bowl and the mayor's policies.

We've posted the entire cache of Kim's email trail for the past thirteen-months here. If we missed emails showing Kim took substantive steps prior to November about the costs of the Super Bowl to the taxpayers of San Francisco, let us know and we'll amend this post.

Friday, February 12, 2016

SF Mayor's Calendars & Sign-in Sheets Released

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Mayor Ed Lee keeps two calendars. The first is his press calendar and it's published almost daily on his site, and the second is what is known as a Prop G calendar, so named after voters passed a ballot measure requiring electeds to keep and make available to the public their work calendars.

If you want to learn who got face-time with Ed Lee in all of 2015 and January 2016, read his calendars posted here. His entries for October 1, 2015, stand out with typical brief listings omitting names of attendees at meetings and specifics of what was on the agenda.

Most curious is the 1:30 pm meeting entry which says it took place in the MO, Mayor's Office and was about transportation.

This image from the sign-in sheet for that meeting shows former mayor Willie Brown was there but his column for organization he represented is blank. Other attendees included William Fong and Dan Dauh of the East West Bank, attorney Steven Kay, and Wang Chuanfu and Stella Li of B4D.

sheets are posted here.

We've reached out to the mayor's office asking why Brown's affiliation is omitted. Was he a lobbyist for the East West Bank? According to San Francisco Ethics records, Brown is not registered as a lobbyist.

Brown also serves as a political gossip writer for the SF Chronicle and has penned promotional items for the paper's foodie blog Inside Scoop. Back in June 2015, Brown inform his readers that he met with the president of the East West Bank at the Slanted Door restaurant and that the noise level was annoying.

When we hear back from the mayor's office, we'll provide an update about who Brown advocated for at the October meeting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cost of SFPD's New P.R. Social Media 'Watch' Campaign?

From the Associated Press (via KPIX/CBS and The Guardian), to the Bay Area Reporter, Bay City News (via KRON), and the SF Examiner, all omitted the price-tag for the San Francisco Police Department's new public relations effort Not on My Watch.

Very curious that the AP also omitted the name of the former television journalist who produced the 10-minute video for the campaign, which is all about police officers not tolerating racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms and promoting acceptance of diverse communities.

Thanks to a public records request, I've learned the name of the former reporter is David Stevenson who used to work for KTVU. An invoice shows the SFPD spent $1,600 on bumper stickers and they were shipped to Stevenson at police headquarters.

The total cost, so far, for Not on My Watch comes to $16,400, according to an email from Officer Carolyn Gassen of the department's legal division. 

Spending $16,400 in taxpayer dollars for this public relations campaign should be reported by legacy media and disclosed on the Not on My Watch web site. Let's make it easy for citizens to follow the money!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mayor's Peskin & Pak Meetings Change His Online Calendar

We filed a public records request for Mayor Ed Lee's calendar, after reading in the San Francisco Chronicle about his meetings with Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak and Sup. Aaron Peskin.

Neither meeting was listed on the mayor's calendar page and that's the basis of our Sunshine Ordinance Task Force complaint.

In their reply to the SOTF, the mayor's staff state he actually keeps two calendars and that changes have occurred regarding his schedule.

The staff say, "To avoid any potential for confusion in the future, however, we will be posting a disclaimer on the Press Calendar webpage to make clear that the Press Calendar contains only the Mayor's public media events, and that the Mayor's Prop G daily calendar may be obtained by request."

So far, that page does not include the clarification and note about his Prop G calendar. Here's our suggestion to Mayor Lee. Just post both calendars and don't place the burden on the public to file a request for the Prop G daily schedule.

The old version used to read "Mayor Lee's Calendar" and most folks would think that's his official calendar, right?

Mayor Lee now shares only his press calendar and we're waiting to see when his staff inserts the information about how to obtain his real calendar of events and meetings. We'll update on this once our complaint is head at the SOTF.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SF Homeless Piss & Money Tour: 1/27 at Noon

January 26, 2016

Members of the Govt Access Project will gather at Division and Mission Streets on Wednesday, January 27 at noon for an important outreach effort related to toilet access and a monetary giveaway to the homeless people living in tents.

We'll assemble under a bright pink umbrella, then tour the Tent City area with a flyer about nearby San Francisco Fire Department stations, where the public can use the toilets. A small donation will be made to each homeless person.

Late on, at 5 pm we'll attend the fire commission meeting in Room 400 at City Hall to demand the SFFD install signage outside firehouse about the availability seven-days a week of the taxpayer-funded toilets.

Our goals is to direct homeless folks to public toilets where they can pee and poop, and wash their hands, near their tents, and give them funds.

January 27, 2016

The outreach action was a success, in terms of reaching dozens of homeless folks living under the freeway overpass. We received terrific media attention from HoodlineSF, KCBS Radio and later tonight KVTU will air footage of our engagement with homeless people today.

One homeless woman told us the Department of Public Works and police officers have warned them they will be swept out tomorrow, to beautify the City as Super Bowl events gear up.

We've reached out to DPW and Sam Dodge, the Mayor's point-person on homeless issues, about the potential for a sweep tomorrow. When we hear from them, this post will be updated.


January 29, 2016

In September 2012, after we learned about the existence of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board and that it meets at 170 Otis Street on the first Monday of the month at 11 am, we called on this City panel to move its meetings to City Hall and air them on SFGovTV.

Unfortunately, Mayor Lee's homeless czar Bevan Dufty and the panel opted to stay off TV and outta City Hall, denying the many stakeholders who can't meetings on Monday mornings the opportunity to learn what exactly they do to solve homeless problems.

This Monday, February 1, at 11 am, the mayor will present his plan creating a new City department of homeless programs to the homeless board at 170 Otis Street, near Division and Mission.

We are not aware of any publicity from either the panel or members of it, or any Homeless Inc groups regarding this important presentation from the mayor and in the middle of the City rolling out the red carpet for a pittance from the NFL and Super Bowl corporate sponsors, with much attention on homeless people.

As of this writing, the mayor's advance calendar for next week is totally blank so his staff doesn't seem to be alerting stakeholders to his appearance before the panel on Monday.

We'll attend the meeting and listen to the mayor's presentation, then report back to everyone.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

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Agenda for Peskin's Rent Control Brain Trust's City Hall Meeting?

Affordable Housing Inc in San Francisco has mastered the illusion of being a bottom-up, grassroots component of the City, but the more accurate depiction is of a cabal continually meeting behind closed doors amongst themselves and elected officials.

Leaders of the cabal include Randy Shaw, a Berkeley resident who runs several Tenderloin nonprofits, Gen Fujioka lawyer and reporter for 48 Hills, Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, director of the Housing Rights Committee, Scott Weaver, lawyer and leader of Plaza 16, Tina Cheung of the Chinatown Community Development Center, and Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

They had a one-hour private meeting with Supervisor Aaron Peskin at City Hall on January 7th and the topic was Rent Control Brain Trust according to Peskin's calendar. I've filed a public records request for the agenda and all notes kept by the supervisor or his staff.

If there were genuine progressive transparency in San Francisco, these nonprofit leaders would disclose at a followup public meeting what was discussed with Peskin about this brain trust.

And govt transparency would be better served if Peskin and all Supervisors, elected officials and public servants required to keep a calendar, posted their schedules on the web.

Until then, there's the Govt Access Project!