(Scroll down to read Kopp's column from the Westside Observer)
When then State Sen. Quentin Kopp was appointed to the bench in San Mateo County, some of his fellow judges took him out to lunch. “We hope you realize you have now given up your First Amendment rights,” he was told.
Judge Kopp did as he was told and kept silent for years on the bench on the many issues he felt strongly about and would have taken on in the public arena. Today, however, he is retired, given up judicial restraint, and is back in action exercising his First Amendment rights with gusto. Operating from a desk in the office of Atty. Peter Bagatelos in West Portal, Kopp blasted the scavengers on behalf of an initiative aimed at upending the scavenger monopoly and controlling rates (he was right.) He has fired away at the RosePak/Willie Brown/Chinatown power structure on the Central Freeway. He regularly blasts Mayor Lee for “compliancy” on big development, District Attorney for any number of misdemeanors and indiscretions, and former Sup. Sean Elsbernd for being Sean Elsbernd.
Now, in the current edition of the Westside Observer, Kopp has hit his stride with an acidic but well argued column titled appropriately, “The Art of Picking the Public Purse.” Read more »
And so, after the Guardian started the public power movement in 1969 with the pioneering Joe Neilands expose of the PG&E/Raker Act scandal, after three initiative campaigns to kick PG&E put of City Hall and enforce the public power mandates of the federal Raker Act and bring our own Hetch Hetchy public power to our own people, after hundreds of people worked for years inside and outside City Hall for public power and clean energy, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday to formally launch a CleanPowerSF project that would for the first time challenge the decades-old power monopoly of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
It was a historic moment. And it was a historic veto proof vote that Ed Lee, the PG&E- friendly mayor, and his ally and mentor, former mayor Willie Brown, the unregistered $200,000 a year PG&E lobbyist, will have difficulty snuffing out this time around. Read more »
And so the San Francisco supervisors ramped up their war on sunshine on Tuesday (May 22) when they rejected five qualified candidates for the sunshine task force and substituted five in experienced in candidates with no experience or visible qualifications.
EDITORIAL The Rules Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors joined the war on sunshine May 17 when it rejected four qualified candidates from three organizations who are mandated by the ordinance to choose representatives for the task force because of the organizations' special open government credentials.
The representatives served as experienced, knowledgeable members who were independent counters to the nominees of supervisors who were often promoting an anti-sunshine agenda. The committee asked the organizations to come up with more names.
That was a nasty slap at members and organizations that have served the task force well for years. And this arbitrary demand will make it virtually impossible for these organizations to come up with a "list of candidates" to run the supervisorial gauntlet. Who wants to go before the supervisors on a list for a bout of public character assassination? Read more »
As an advocate for the passage of the San Francisco sunshine ordinance and task force in the early 1990s, I felt obligated to take my first and only City Hall position and serve as a founding member of the task force. I served for l0 years and helped with many other good members to build the task force into a strong and respected agency for helping citizens get access to records and meetings and hold city officials accountable for suppressing access.
The task force is the only place where citizens can file an access complaint without an attorney or a fee and force a city official, including the mayor, to come before the task force for questioning and a ruling on whether they had violated sunshine laws, The task force lacked enforcement power, but it still annoyed of city officials, including Mayor Willie Brown.
In fact, Willie spent a good deal of time trying to kick me off the task force. He used one jolly maneuver after another, even getting an agent to make a phony complaint against me for violating the ordinance with an email. (The complaint went nowhere.) I refused to budge and decided to stay on the task force until Willie left office—on the principle that that neither the mayor nor anybody else from City Hall could arbitrarily kick members off the task force. When Willie left office after two terms, I resigned with the hope that the Willie principle had been established. Read more »
EDITORIAL For most of the past year, Mayor Ed Lee had been taking a tough line with California Pacific Medical Center, the health-care giant that wants to build a state-of-the-art 555-bed hospital on Cathedral Hill. The mayor had been telling a stunningly recalcitrant CMPC management that the outfit would have to put upwards of $70 million into affordable housing and spent millions more on transit, neighborhood and charity-care programs to mitigate the impacts of the massive project.
But late in March, something happened. Under immense pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and other big business groups, the mayor buckled and agreed to a deal with woefully inadequate mitigation measures. The supervisors should reject the plan and force CPMC to do better. Read more »
We hate to pick on Scott Wiener, who is a polite guy who always takes our calls and takes public policy seriously. He's got an extensive legislative agenda — good for him — and he's effective at getting bills passed. We're with him on nightlife, and even on nudity towels in the Castro.
But he's been taking on some more disturbing causes of late — he's managed to tighten the rules for the use of Harvey Milk Plaza and now he's asking for an audit of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force that looks at how much each city department spends responding to sunshine requests. We're not against audits nor government efficiency, but this could lead to a lot of mischief.
There are plenty of problems with the task force, which hears complaints against city agencies that are denying the public access to documents. The biggest problem is that the task force has no enforcement authority — when the members find an agency or official to have willfully defied the law, the best they can do is turn those findings over to the Ethics Commission, which simply drops the case. Nobody ever gets charged with anything or gets in any trouble for refusing to follow what every public official in town piously insists is an excellent law. Read more »
EDITORIAL San Francisco's not going to lose the America's Cup. Oracle CEO and yachting billionaire Larry Ellison is too excited about the prospect of bringing the sport (and his company's logo on the sail of his boat) to a mass audience for the first time in history that he's not about to abandon San Francisco Bay. The process is too far along; that much is a done deal.
But the development agreements for the city's waterfront is not a done deal at all — in fact, the proposal could wind up giving Ellison effective control over five piers and a valuable waterfront lot that he could develop for condos. And the city won't get anywhere near enough out of the deal.
The development agreement is really just a sideshow in the cup planning; nobody's arguing that Ellison's America's Cup Event Authority will need space to stage the race, and that will require the renovation of some waterfront property. And nobody disputes that the event will bring tourism and revenue to the city, which will offset some of the cost of allowing Ellison rights to the waterfront. Read more »