Thursday, February 11, 2010

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

By popular demand from my previous diary entry, the picture shown is the new Federal (non-court) Building at Mission Street. I have personally dubbed it "The Crosley Building," since it closely resembles a 1959 Crosley clock-radio I had in my childhood. About the only difference between them is that my clock-radio actually worked.

In keeping with city and federal nonsense about fabulous "green" buildings, this one includes all the politically-correct refinements. Much of the power for the building comes from solar panels poorly disguised behind a metal latticework trim on the top of the building. Needless to say, that source is grossly insufficient for the needs of the building. Air-conditioning is nearly nonexistent, but you can't just open a window, since most windows don't open at all. It's too hot during the days the sun is out, and too cold when it isn't. And it's always stuffy inside.

The elevators only go to every third floor. This is to help the occupants to get their exercise. If you go to the third floor, for instance, but your office is on the fourth floor, you can walk up a flight of stairs to your floor, or go to the sixth floor and walk down two flights. Clever, huh? But what about those in wheelchairs, you ask? There are two elevators for the differently-abled, and they go to every floor. But you must either be in a wheelchair or be able to prove that you are somehow unable to negotiate the stairs, or tough luck. Big Brother has thought of everything, except how to avoid the bribes the building guards will be getting to allow people onto the special elevators.

There is some planting surrounding the building, with plants that look like they come from Mars, or are located right in the logical path for approaching the building. The metal sculptures scattered around and about the building are beautiful, if you consider piles of barbed wire, slightly rusty, to be beautiful. It's almost as if they went out of their way to create a building that was designed by Rube Goldberg. But at least it's an "honest" building. It is almost as inefficient as the public employees who inhabit it.

NOTE: As I've mentioned before, San Francisco has a huge budget deficit. As I've also mentioned, Mayor Gavin Newsom has given up his dream of becoming governor, and seems to have had a mid-life crisis which drove him to sanity. He is now proposing that city employees have their work-week reduced from the current forty hours per week to 37.5 hours. That may not sound like much of a cut to normal people, particularly during a fiscal crisis, but the result would be huge. In fact, it's a savings of $50 million per year. Why a city of less than 800,000 needs 20,000 full-time city employees (which doesn't include those on the public dole, such as the Muni transport workers who do not work directly for the city) and a $522 million annual budget is entirely beyond my ability to comprehend, but a $50 million annual savings would be a helluva good start.

In our oddball form of city government, the mayor actually has the real power to make that cut without the concurrence of the drunken-sailor Board of Supervisors. Whether he has the political power and will to do so is another question entirely. Needless to say, the grossly overpaid city employees are having none of it. They are demanding that their forty hour guarantees not be touched, and by the way, where are our raises? Those who work in businesses or industries which actually produce revenue understand cutbacks during hard economic times. Public employees, who merely eat public money and produce nothing of value don't understand fiscal discipline. The nine percent temporary cut in hours for city employees would leave them making approximately 20% more than a full-time forty-hour employee in the private sector performing the same or similar work. And that doesn't include paid benefits.

NOTE: The recent ruling by the U.S Supreme Court regarding corporate spending on federal political candidates and campaigns has Senator Barbara "Don't Call Me Madam" Boxer in a tizzy. For the first time since her initial run, she is facing serious Republican opposition and a national trend of conservative-moderate-independent voter dissatisfaction. Candidates for state offices are not affected by the decision, since California has always allowed corporations to participate in state elections. But Boxer (and to a much lesser extent) local candidate Nancy Pelosi will be impacted by the decision. By how much remains to be seen.

Pelosi is a House member, so her district is strictly San Francisco, land of the free-spending and home of the gay. That likely means that her campaign will not be opposed by large corporate spending that would have little effect on the outcome of the election. Boxer, on the other hand, is a statewide federal candidate, and she knows she had better start scrambling. One of her Republican potential future opponents in the general election, Carly Fiorina, is within the margin of error on polls. Tom Campbell, the conservative Republican primary candidate is not within the margin of error, but his numbers keep growing as the anti-government sentiment of the public continues to grow.

Big and medium-size corporations will be watching the primary results very closely. If the Republican candidate has a reasonable chance of winning during California's current desperate financial crisis, they are likely to pour many millions of dollars into the Republican cause. Over the past few decades, even in those races which are not federal, corporations have been hesitant to spend money that ends up thrown down an electoral rat-hole. The recent elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts have altered that dynamic by quantum numbers.

Even Boxer's own people, on condition of anonymity, have admitted that they haven't experienced anything like this in the past. Labor has expended major resources on her past campaigns, and will likely do so this time as well. But this time, the corporations, sensing possible victory, are the spoiler for her usual walk in the park re-elections. With independents also willing to participate in the rightward drift with their money and time, this general election could actually turn out to be a genuine horse race, with horse's patoot Barbara Boxer coming in second.

NOTE: The San Francisco Police Commission continues to come under fire for its complete uselessness. This time, the controversy revolves around the issue of one Officer Lionel Sevilla. Five years ago, a police review board found that Sevilla had forced a rookie officer to lie about the circumstances in which the rookie failed to follow procedure for cuffing a felony suspect, resulting in the felon escaping from custody. The rookie spilled the beans, and Sevilla was suspended with pay pending the final decision of the Police Commission.

Sevilla was put on "desk duty" in the records room, but the final determination of his employment as a police officer is still in limbo. He is earning $97,000 per year plus paid benefits and retirement at what essentially amounts to being a file-clerk. Both police management and the police union are up in arms about the outrageous delay in a decision. Both are willing to accept the decision, whatever it is, but can't understand what is taking the Commission so long. Five, long, inexplicable years. Are you starting to get a feel for why The City is so far in debt?

NOTE: While the San Francisco School Board continues to run record deficits, just like the rest of The City, it continues to diddle with the ethnic makeup of the public schools. In what is the fourth or fifth revamp of what has been a constant hot-potato, the Board is trying to decide how to make it easier for students to go to school closer to home while maintaining some idealistic "racial balance." The simple idea of "you go to the school closest to your home" is far too logical and cost-efficient even to be considered. This is what is called "the post-racial society."

We must be diverse, and damn the cost. The minority most affected by all this idiocy is the white student population. Most would be perfectly happy going to the school closest to their homes, but that's just not in the cards. The majority students, black, Latino and Asian must be accommodated first. Rather than simply distribute the teachers by whatever demographic and ethnic makeup most benefits the local school, it's much more inefficient, expensive and damaging to play musical schools with the students. The ultimate result is that the only ones who actually benefit are the teachers unions and the top-heavy school administration.

It has taken months, thousands of man-hours, and plenty of money to come up with the latest plan, which is so complicated that nobody could possibly understand it, let alone implement it. It is abundantly clear that the lowest priority of the School Board is education. Diversity and political-correctness, along with social engineering and rabid egalitarianism trump everything. The three Rs have become X, which is to say, unknown.

Note: Speaking of schools, budgets and diversity, The School Board is expected to vote favorably next Tuesday on creating a full-time new position to manage "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning" youth issues into the district's Student Support Services Department. It would also create a whole new bureaucracy to look into "tracking harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and distributing education packets to parents, encouraging them to discuss the issues of sexuality, gender identity and safety with their children. The staff position will pay $90,000 per year, the materials will cost an estimated $30,000, and the implementation and staff size will be determined later by the lucky person who gets the position. Considering that the entire lesson coming out of that office will be "if it feels good, do it, and the taxpayers will pay for it" I could do the job for half the price.

NOTE: And speaking of gay, it was recently revealed that Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the Prop 8 gay marriage trial, is gay. Opponents of Prop 8 insist that it's a non-issue. Maybe it is, since I follow these cases carefully, and this is the first time I knew he was gay. Kate Kendell, head of the National Center Rights, says: "There is nothing about Walker as a judge to indicate that his sexual orientation, other than being an interesting factor, will in any way bias his view."

Well, I am not so sure of that, Ms. Kendell. It might explain why the anti-Prop 8 folks had to search California from the Oregon border to the Mexican border to find a judge who saw any merit in the plaintiffs' case sufficient to allow it to go to trial. It might also explain the "questioning" from the judge during the trial which leaned heavily in favor of emphasizing the plaintiffs' arguments.

Ironically, as a private attorney, Walker represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a successful bid to keep San Francisco's Gay Olympics from infringing on the Olympics name and logo. That has caused him to be very unpopular with local gays who don't understand that a private attorney represents his client's interests, not his own. A judge is supposed to remain neutral, not showing favor to either side. As a private attorney I represented murderers, rapists, police officers, labor unions and company management. That's what I was paid for. As a judge, I labored mightily to remain totally disinterested in the outcome. Walker did the same thing as an attorney. As a judge, not so much.


Writer X said...

LawHawk, your federal building reminds me a little of Phoenix's Sandra Day O'Connor federal building. Some genius decided it was a good idea to give it walls of windows. In the middle of the summer, it's like standing in a microwave. The security guards (at least they used to)wear these nifty colorful vests and they look like waiters in a Mexican restaurant.

StanH said...

I love the story about your federal building, a prime example of our government at work…funny! The “art” they put in these places is beyond funny, and far, far to expensive, another example of government efficiency, sarcasm much!

A city can go bankrupt am I correct? So far they can’t print money, give it time right

Babs Boxer losing her senate seat would be to cool.

It would seem in that Prop 8 case, the fact that the judge is gay would throw the outcome in doubt?

AndrewPrice said...

I hope some decent, rich corporation spends Boxer and Pelosi into the ground. They should be blasting them on air 24-7-365. Those two are a meanace to the rest of the country!

Unknown said...

WriterX: Sounds like the architecture of your federal building is as confusing as the jurisprudence of the justice it's named after.

Unknown said...

StanH: "Art" is in the eye of the beholder, which is why I cover my eyes when I enter any of the federal buildings. LOL

Cities can indeed go bankrupt. We're only a few billion dollars in the hole right now, so The City probably doesn't qualify yet. I have to ask Bev if we can borrow some money from New York City to get by on.

A mere few weeks ago I wouldn't have given any Republican a chance of beating Boxer. The political winds are shifting rather quickly these days, after Virginia, New Jersey and particularly Massachusetts. I genuinely think we have a chance of defeating her.

If you're referring to judicial impropriety, no. The judge showed neither blatant hostility to the defense nor open prejudice in favor of the plaintiffs. I was outlining what I consider his seeming empathy with the plaintiffs' arguments, so at best, it's largely my personal opinion that his opinion will find many of the plaintiffs' arguments compelling. I don't think that comes even close to judicial impropriety.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I would love to see the same thing. I just don't think any corporation is going to waste much money on Pelosi because she has such a complete death-grip on this district. If Boxer were to lose the statewide election 51-49 statewide, she will still win in San Francisco by 65% or more. On the other hand, spending buckets of money on anti-Boxer ads could be very effective, including tying her closely to Pelosi on issues which affect the entire state.

BevfromNYC said...

So what you are saying is that public workers will now be paid only for the hours that they work rather than for 40 hours. ;-)

And, yes, LawHawk, SF is welcomed to borrow money from NYC. We're expecting a windfall from those bankers' bonuses if Obama approved them. I will put a good word in for you to Mayor Bloomberg.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: She's in trouble, and she knows it. She has never been a good debater, and has become used to bullying hapless witnesses in committee hearings. She won't stand up well to genuine opposition. The real worry is will the Republicans beat each other to death in the primary. The Carly Fiorina "Demon Sheep" attack on Campbell indicates it's going to get nasty. On the other hand, "that which does not destroy me, makes me strong."

Unknown said...

Lawhawk. Is Newsom considering switching to the GOP? LOL

Unknown said...

CalFed: Not if he ever wants to win an election in this town again. He could move to another, less radical town, then switch parties and point out how he stood up to the leftist powers-that-be in San Francisco. But he's still going to have to explain "you're going to get gay marriage, whether you like it or not." That won't play well in Fresno, Bakersfield, the Central Valley, or anywhere in Ventura County or the cow counties.

Unknown said...

Bev: Thank you and NYC for lending us a cup of money to cook our books with.

The city employees used to get paid for forty hours. If Newsom succeeds, they will only get paid for 37.5, which is still twice the number of hours they spend doing anything worthwhile.

Unknown said...

Great News! Apparently my sleazy right-wing fringe article on the alleged Harvard Medical School study of the number of uninsured who die without medical treatment got me on a mailing list. I just checked my mail, and I have now started receiving bulletins from the Harvard Medical School. Only this one actually is from Harvard Med, not from some loon who is a leftist agitator who used to be on the Harvard faculty.

Unknown said...

UPDATE: My best political sources tell me that the game has changed in the California Senatorial race just in the time since I originally wrote the article.

The more recent Field and PPIC polls show Fiorina now outside the margin of error, with -15 and -8, respectively. Campbell is holding or gaining. Given that Republicans are going to vote for the Republican victor in the general election, along with many independents and some Democrats, Campbell pulling even, or nearly so, is a major development.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--That's good news. Can anyone say "Demon Sheep?"

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: I will be happier when all three Republicans candidates are within the margin of error, but I see the fall-off in Fiorina's numbers as benefiting Campbell, and to a lesser extent, DeVore. Clearly, the "Demon Sheep" ad was aimed entirely at the opponent she considers her biggest competition, and that's Campbell.

Unknown said...

Lawhawk. Does the "margin of error" reflect the true temper of the public, even if it includes only "likely voters?"

Unknown said...

CalFed: That is an excellent question. I'm a big political groupie, but I claim no expertise in polling. I'm guessing, though, that with the Democrats dispirited and the Republicans energized, the margin of error might be off by as much as 5 to 10 points. No matter how carefully you phrase the questions, it is impossible to fully measure the determination (or lack of it) among likely voters. The pollsters generally get it close to right, but these are not ordinary times. I think at least two of the Republican primary candidates are closer to beating Boxer than these early polls show.

Unknown said...

Should I point out that my Crosley radio was red, and that it would have been an equally appropriate color for the federal building? Instead, it's kind of a bureaucratic gray, which I guess is equally appropriate.

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