Bicyclist’s lament: Why I hate Critical Mass

September 28, 2007

San Francisco’s Critical Mass monthly bicycle ride celebrates its 15th anniversary today. I consider myself a bicyclist and I want San Francisco to be a great bicycling city, but I am happy to say I won’t be participating in Critical Mass any time soon.

I remember a time when Critical Mass was fun and seemed it was accomplishing something. Back in the mid-1990s I rode in Critical Mass a couple of times. Although there was a light police escort, the vibe was friendly and relaxed, even on the ride just before the international Cycle Messenger World Championships in 1996, when the city was awash in testosterone, Tri-Flow and malt liquor. The general public was just waking up to the idea that bikes could be a viable means of transportation for normal city dwellers.

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San Francisco City Hall shorts

September 25, 2007

Ron Dudum wants Ed Jew’s seat

Ron Dudum, who has twice run unsuccessfully for supervisor in San Francisco’s District 4, says that if Mayor Gavin Newsom suspends embattled Supervisor Ed Jew, he wants the job. I have more to say on this subject that I have time to write at the moment, so stay tuned for more.

Ammiano’s eastern neighborhoods controls

Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s office on Monday sent me the draft language for the interim zoning controls the District 9 supervisor proposed for the city’s eastern neighborhoods. I’ve been busy with editing work so I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I’ll write more soon.

Lighten up on Mike Farrah

Oh, for goodness’ sake, what nonsense is this tiff over Mike Farrah’s donation to Chicken John. Someone — or perhaps a couple of someones — needs to get a sense of humor.

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We bad, you phony, we’ll get the Bruce-Mahoney

September 24, 2007

Ah, the pageant of the changing seasons: the first rains of fall, the golden hue of dusk as the sun slants southward on its daily dip into the sea — and the massive whupping St. Ignatius lays on Sacred Heart Cathedral in the first of three stages toward claiming the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy.

Though the passage of the years isn’t sufficient to completely dull the memory of the fear and loathing with which I viewed each day of high school, as an SI alum my bias is clear. So I was happy to see that SI trounced Sacred Heart 44-14 on Friday at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium.

The Bruce isn’t about just football, though. As they do every year, the two schools will meet again during the basketball and baseball seasons, and the winner of two of the three contests will take the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy, created to honor two students, one from each school, who gave their lives in World War II.

A former colleague from the San Francisco Independent and the Examiner, Will McCulloch, covered Friday’s game for the San Francisco Chronicle.


Giants dump Bonds

September 22, 2007

Holy cow, the San Francisco Giants just dumped Barry Bonds!

That they made the decision doesn’t surprise me. I’m just surprised to see it come during the season. I would have thought that both Barry and the Giants would have clammed up until November at least.

Like many fans of baseball and the Giants, my feelings about Barry Bonds are decidedly mixed. For years, I kept seeing the same thing with Bonds: For a glorious fraction of a second, while his bat was in motion, Barry Bonds was a sort of baseball avatar, an earthly conduit channeling something of otherworldly grace and power and beauty. Then he would stand and admire the fleeing ball for a moment too long, or later he would open up his mouth, and the spell would be broken. No longer the avatar, Barry went back to being Barry. And the Barry the public could see, as much as we wished it were otherwise, was often a jerk.

Fare thee well, Bary Bonds.


Tough times for Ed Jew

September 22, 2007

San Francisco’s Supervisor Ed Jew is having another one of those weeks. Thejew_mug feds finally filed a criminal complaint against him and Mayor Gavin Newsom now has openly called for him to resign.

It’s almost to the point where you might start to feel sorry for the District 4 supervisor. And as a resident of his district, I’m not expecting Jew’s travails to make it any easier for the Sandy Quarter to get its due from the Civic Center gang.

But then you read the statement filed against him, including what is purported to be a partial transcript of a recorded conversation in which he discussed payments in exchange for fixing permit problems for a couple of stores in his district, and it sure doesn’t look good.

Now, Jew hasn’t been convicted of so much as jaywalking yet, and his lawyers aren’t stupid. One of them, Steven Gruel, has correctly pointed out that the FBI’s complaint is just a statement and not evidence. He’s right. Prosecutors aren’t in the business of just filing charges on a whim without something they’re pretty sure a judge or jury will accept as proof, but it’s also true that sometimes the things prosecutors say they’re going to show don’t pan out the way they hoped, once the trial starts. I certainly am looking forward to the day the alleged recording plays in court, though.

Who knows, Jew may even be completely innocent of everything except naivete in thinking it’s OK for any elected official to accept wads of cash from anyone for any purpose. But what an appalling lack of brains that would show, if true. Any politician with a dram of sense should recoil in horror if the pope himself offers him a couple of bucks for the next round of drinks. Even a greenhorn reporter who is perfectly willing to waddle out of a banquet-hall press conference with his pockets stuffed full of rolls and cold cuts knows better than to touch money. The mere appearance of taking a bribe is often almost as bad as actually taking it.

2450_28th_AveOn the plus side for Jew, his lawyers managed to get a judge to put off his trial on charges of election fraud perjury this week. This morning I went by the Sunset District house that he says was his residence and that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office says he didn’t actually live in when seeking office in the district. Funny thing: The address numbers don’t seem to be on the house. The place needs a little cleaning up and a new paint job, too — but then again, so does mine.


Four new ideas from the Board of Supervisors

September 20, 2007

To clear up some unfinished business, here are brief thoughts on a few of the ideas San Francisco’s legislators brought forth at the Board of Supervisors’ role call for introductions:

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval of District 11 said he wanted to introduce legislation to stop the San Francisco Police Department from seizing on the spot the vehicles of people found to be driving without a license. It’s wrong to take people’s cars without reasonable cause, he suggested, particularly if the only thing they’ve done wrong is to fail to have a license. He also said he would seek an opinion from the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office regarding whether state law requires the city to take cars under these circumstances, or allows local governments to enact their own rules.

At least Sandoval thought to seek a legal opinion instead of charging ahead with legislation that might be made moot by California law. But if the law requires drivers to have a license (and, moreover, to carry it with them when driving), and if it comes to the attention of the police that a person is driving without a license, the commission of a crime is self-evident. It’s not like the old and properly discredited Oakland practice of seizing the cars that people happened to be driving while allegedly committing other crimes such as soliciting prostitution; the evidence of the crime is obvious and it is directly related to the operation of a vehicle.

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Tippecanoe and parking, too

September 19, 2007

Parking spots outnumber people 3-to-1 in one Indiana county, according to a Purdue University associate professor who says that parking lots are significant contributors to water pollution and the warming of urban areas.

Nearly all the news coverage that I’ve seen of Bryan Pijanowski’s study of Tippecanoe County has consisted of very close rewrites of a Purdue press release, so you might was well read that release. Dissapointingly, none of the coverage includes a link to the study itself and even Purdue didn’t see fit to let people read it for themselves. Unfortunately, I can’t correct that shortcoming because the study doesn’t seem to be available online. However, Purdue does say that Pijanowski’s findings were presented in May at a land-use conference in the Netherlands.