All posts in Politics

The Change in San Francisco is Good, So Just Accept It and other fables

I usually take my sweet time to write, but today I’m writing a fairly hasty response to an article I just read online by Gary Kamiya for San Francisco Magazine/Modern Luxury: San Francisco is Dead. Long Live San Francisco. Gary is a longtime resident of the city and while he’s both a former tenant and landlord, and feels strongly about the current plight faced by the fading middle class, the poor, the disabled, artists, activists, mentors and anyone else who can’t afford $3,000/month studio apartment. He doesn’t see the argument as black and white and writes intelligently about the many issues at play here now, and feels very strongly about the city’s ethnic diversity and maverick progressive tradition. He even wrote a book about it (Cool Gray City of Love.)

As do I, Gary does not approach the argument monolithically, which isn’t realistic and hardly useful in the end, I agree. Yes things have heated up to an extreme; it’s easy these days for politicians, activists and corporations to all engage in street theatre designed to attract ultimate media attention. And with a few proud exceptions, it’s hard to rely on the media to provide you with a sensible examination of all the issues. Kamiya’s article is thought provoking, well written, and attempts to suggest that the current “cultural, political and class war that has erupted in San Francisco – call it The Change – strikes me as wrongheaded to the point of surreality.” He argues that more of that surreality comes from the left, that there is no enemy and that there is confusion in making the argument about hi-tech companies and employees, new construction and city policies when the reality is about capitalism, pure and simple.

For the record I was part of the dot-com boom, an employee of high tech companies that collapsed when the first tech bubble collapsed in 2001 and was laid off twice. I became unemployed, then disabled, then broke. The circumstances then were not nearly this extreme, but still, many residents didn’t appreciate the new tech workers and their high salaries. That lack of appreciation was palpable and I didn’t like it. Today I rely on Social Security and am semi-retired, a transformed struggling artist and writer trying to survive and feeling very blessed to still be living in the city in my tiny and too expensive rent-controlled studio apartment. So like, Gary, I can see and relate to both sides too. Certain aspects of “The Change,” are about undeniable economic forces that are at play and may not be able to be stopped. And I agree it’s wrong to blankly blame or attack anyone, in this case tech workers, for being the sole cause of the problem. But I think that’s where I stop agreeing with him.

I don’t agree that that city elected officials can’t do anything to navigate and regulate this issue. To say only that “City Hall is in the business of stoking new business, welcoming new people and attracting new capital.” While Kamiya is also right to have us remember what an economic slump the city was in just a few years ago, and that we should appreciate the influx of new business and investment, I think that City Hall is in, or should be in, the business of a lot more than that. City Hall also enacts laws to protect its residents, to control development and to preserve culture here. While most cities do take the “Chamber of Commerce” approach to welcoming any business or investment at almost any cost, this is San Francisco, and the writer says he knows that.

I don’t think anyone knows at this point how all of this will play out. The city has enacted an affordable housing plan to build 30,000 new homes in a few years – we need more like 100,000 and that seems unlikely. As it has always been, city activism has it’s place, as do “we” artists, writers, activists, mentors, middle-class or low-income residents. As do many residents who grew up here and have been here longer than I, I agree that not only is city preservation important, and so is sound planning and development, sufficient affordable housing.  San Francisco should continue to be a supporter and voice for diversity, the disenfranchised,  low and middle income residents. I don’t want to see more artists forced out of the city. Including me. Now I’m going to continue to think about it all, and write about it some more.

Mark Gould

 

 

Mark Gould is an artist, writer and editor following trends in art, culture, technology and digital media.

San Francisco Eviction March – April 13, 2014

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It could be said that housing activists, political street artists and big corporate technology companies are all fluent in the use of different tools to raise media and public attention. No cynicism intended; I’ve been wondering when the seemingly dormant political and social action establishment in San Francisco would emerge to leave its imprint on the ongoing developments concerning the lack of affordable housing in the city, the fallout on some tenants being forced out of  their quarters by the current frenzied demand ongoing during the grab for almost any rental property, at almost any price.

via Mission Local
Mission Local reports that an estimated group of 200 people walked to and protested against the conversion of a seven-unit rental apartment building on Guerrero St. that was bought and converted to a private residence, owned by a Google lawyer, Jack Halprin, two years ago. Several signs in the crowd read “Google, don’t be evil. Make Jack Halprin stop evicting teachers,”

 

Teachers Ask Google Why a Google Lawyer Is Evicting Tenants

 

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I don’t have an idea when or if the protests will continue, grow in numbers or get more media attention. I do know there are many forces for change in San Francisco who have had an important role to play in building the city’s future and have long made a difference in what happens during critical times in the city.

 

 

 

 

Acrobats and a GMuni Director Block Google Bus

Mission Local video April 1, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine: Technology for Transparent Elections

(via Global Voices - English Edition, by Tetyana Bohdanova)

On October 28, Ukrainians will elect their parliament. With the current president‘s main political opponent in jail, the upcoming elections come under increasing attention from the international community.

Amidst mounting allegations of the ruling party’s use of administrative resource during election campaign, the current Ukrainian government has pledged to keep the elections free and fair and accommodated over 3,700 international observers.

Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior has decided to utilize crowdmapping and set up an Ushahidi-based map of registered violations [uk]. According to the officials, the aim of their initiative is to “help society form an objective opinion about the course of the 2012 election-related events” [uk].

To ensure electoral transparency and to check the government’s pledges for themselves, local election monitoring groups, too, have been using new technology.

The full article is published here ->

 

Global Voices: The World is Talking, Are You Listening?

China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’



China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’ (via AFP)

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has a metaphor for the travel ban that will prevent him attending the growing number of exhibitions of his work being held around the world as his renown increases. “I can swim, but not far,” Ai told AFP of the ban on leaving China imposed last week despite the…

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EFF Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency



Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency (via EFF)

As we noted in an earlier post, EFF received the first batch of records from the DOJ in our FOIA lawsuit related to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act yesterday. The government released approximately 300 pages of records to EFF, but (not surprisingly) none of those records shed any light on the information…

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FCC Announces Probe into BART Wireless Service Interruptions



FCC Studying Government Wireless Service Interruptions (via redOrbit)

In response to an August 2011 shutdown of wireless service by public transportation officials in San Francisco, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to review whether or not they need to establish rules to govern when law enforcement and other public service agencies can…

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BART to Consider Cell Phone Shutoff Enforcement Policy Tomorrow

The first American government run transit agency to shut off public cell phone usage and receive world-wide media attention for its actions is set to vote tomorrow on a long term enforcement policy that will govern how it can and cannot control cell and internet data mobile traffic.On August 11 BART shut off mobile phone in a number of Downtown San Francisco terminals after  a protest started over the death of a man shot by BART police officers. On October 27th the BART Board of Directors voted to come up with a long term(maft cell phone interruption policy. (video: Microsoft Silverlight required.)

 

BART states that it’s motivation is “providing safe, efficient and reliable public transit services. BART adds in the draft policy that it is fully committed to its long standing to allowing the exercise of First Amendment rights of  expression “in the areas where it can be done safely and without interference of the District’s primary mission.” In accordance with these principles, BART’s document says, “it shall be the policy of the (BART) district that the district may implement a temporary interruption of  operation of the System’s Cellular equipment only when it determines that there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of District passengers, employees and other members of the public, the destruction of District property or the substantial disruption of  public transit services.”

I’m not a lawyer and will not attempt to suggest all of  the legal areas potentially raised by such a policy if it were adopted. A couple of interesting things include how the language excludes a definition of who will have the authority to make these decisions, that the phrasing concerning what would amount to a disruption may be intentionally vague, and it is curious why BART did not include data networks also accessible from it’s transit system, such as the   internet, email, audio and video as well as voice over IP.

 

Several non-profit media, technology, telecommunications advocacy and public interest groups have joined in filing an Emergency Petition before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a Declaratory Ruling in this case.

Public Knowledge, Broadband Institute of California, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Justice, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative are all joining together suggesting that no local government including San Francisco  has the authority to suspend cell phone service and that BART may have violated the Communications Act of 1934 in its actions of August 11th.

Those interested in protecting freedom of speech everywhere will be watching to see how BART acts, and what, if anything the FCC will do in this matter. There may be legislative and court relief sought. This is not happening in Egypt, Iran or Libya. This is San Francisco, California, America.

 

BART Board Room
Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall
3rd Floor
344 20th Street
Oakland, CA

The meeting is open to the public.

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