The news that didn’t make the news in SF


Every year, the Guardian features the Top 10 Project Censored stories presented by the Sonoma State University project that spends all year analyzing which stories the mainstream media missed. But which stories did not find their way into the mainstream press here in the San Francisco Bay Area?

News outlets other than the Guardian typically ignore Project Censored (unless you count SF Weekly's snark), so you might say that even Censored tends to be censored. Other than that, we note that issues not hand-delivered via press release or PR campaign might receive less attention than those obvious stories. Using a rather unscientific process of surfing alternative news sites online to find out which stories didn’t get a lot of play in the mainstream, we’ve come up with an assortment of Local Censored stories – though this is by no means a comprehensive list. What other news didn’t make the news?

Local Censored stories:

* What we didn't hear about when PG&E was pushing Prop 16

Speaking at an informational hearing in Sacramento in February 2010 about Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s ballot initiative, Proposition 16, former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman noted that the state’s most powerful utility company was using customer money to finance a bid to change the state constitution for its own purposes. Prop 16, which earned a thumbs-down from voters in the June election, would have created a two-thirds majority vote requirement before municipalities could set up electricity services separate from PG&E. While there was no shortage of reporting about the astounding sums of cash that PG&E sank into Prop. 16, hardly anyone aside from Geesman picked up on the more salient point of what PG&E was not spending its money on.

“California's investor-owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing our electricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve a growing economy,” Geesman wrote on his blog, titled PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet. “They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulating the electorate to kneecap their few competitors.” It is now abundantly clear that PG&E’s aging gas pipelines in San Bruno were badly in need of replacement – and the utility’s neglect opened the door the catastrophic explosion that occurred Sept. 9, resulting in tragic loss of life and destroying homes. "The current leadership at PG&E has lost its way. Nobody is minding the ship,” senator Mark Leno told the Guardian shortly after the blast. "Enough with the self-initiated, self-serving political campaigns. … How about focusing on the current mission -- to provide gas and electricity safely, without death and destruction?"

PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet:
Huffington Post:

* What you might not have read about Johannes Mehserle's murder trial
If you looked to,, the San Francisco Bay View, or for coverage of Johannes Meherle’s murder trial for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, then you got a different picture from the one offered by mainstream Bay Area news outlets. There may well be plenty of details about the trial that didn’t make the cut for mainstream news, but one particular point caught our eye as something that should’ve warranted more prominent coverage, or at very least sparked deeper questions from mainstream press. According to the witness testimony of Jackie Bryson, who was with Grant on the train platform the night of the shooting, Grant’s friends immediately urged BART police to call an ambulance after Grant had been shot, but police didn't do it right away.

Here’s the report from Block Report Radio: "Jack Bryson said he yelled at Oscar after he was shot to stay awake and to the police to call the ambulance. The unidentified officer who was on Bryson declared, 'We’ll call the ambulance when you shut the fuck up!' Bryson went on to say that he was never searched on the Fruitvale platform or at the Lake Merritt BART police station, which seems ridiculous if you consider the earlier testimony of former BART police officers Dominici and Pirone, who were involved in the murder and who testified last week that they had felt threatened by Oscar Grant and his friends." So, if it's true that Grant's friends were told to "shut the fuck up" when they were urging BART cops to call an ambulance, and that the supposedly threatening parties weren't ever searched, why didn’t these points receive as much attention in the media as, say, the claim that years earlier, Grant may have resisted arrest? After witnessing the death of his friend, Bryson said in his testimony, he was detained for hours while wearing handcuffs pulled so tight that his wrists hurt, only to be told afterward that since he had not been read his Miranda rights, he was not under arrest. To be fair, the detail about calling the ambulance did make it into the Chronicle, near the bottom of a blog post, under the subhead, “Friend’s claim.”

Block Report Radio:

* Homelessness on the rise in San Francisco

The controversy surrounding Prop L, a proposed ordinance to ban sitting and lying down on the sidewalk, has been widely reported on -- but there’s a more pressing issue related to homelessness that hasn’t gotten nearly as much ink. An article in New America Media, “Shelters predict homeless count to skyrocket,” highlighted a perceived surge in San Francisco’s homeless population, evidenced by overwhelmed service providers who can hardly keep up with demand. “We’re serving 200,000 more meals per year than two years ago, but we haven’t had the capacity to add staff,” the chief executive officer of the Glide Foundation noted in the article. The drop-in center, she added, no longer had enough seats to accommodate those in need. According to a fact sheet issued by the Coalition on Homelessness in July of 2009, 45 percent of respondents to a COH survey were experiencing homelessness for the first time. The overwhelming majority of respondents, 78 percent, became homeless while living in San Francisco.

New America Media:
Coalition on Homelessness:

* The long wait for Section 8

It isn’t easy for a tenant with a Section 8 voucher to find housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, there’s a barrier to getting the voucher in the first place, since the waitlist is currently closed. Those who have vouchers are often passed over by landlords, and the string of denials can drive people to unstable housing situations such as extended hotel stays. An article in POOR Magazine features the story of Linda William, a woman who left a San Francisco public housing project with a Section 8 voucher in hand only to embark on a wild goose chase, ultimately winding up in a low-end motel outside Vallejo. “Well whaddya know,” William told the POOR magazine reporter, “I found closed wait lists on almost all the low-income housing units in all of those places and all the rest of the landlords wouldn't even return my calls when I told them I had section 8." An article by Dean Preston of Tenants Together that appeared in BeyondChron, meanwhile, spotlights the issue of landlord discrimination against Section 8 tenants.  “In the Section 8 voucher program, participating tenants pay 30 percent of their rent and the Housing Authority pays the balance to the landlord,” Preston writes. “It takes years for eligible tenants to be able to participate in the program. Once tenants get off the wait list, the landlord must sign a payment contract with the housing authority in order to receive the portion of the rent paid by the government. By refusing to sign onto the program, some landlords seek to force rent controlled tenants into situations where they cannot pay their rent.”
POOR Magazine:

* San Francisco’s trashy secret

Despite being thought of as a beacon of sustainability, San Francisco’s not-so-green waste stream is something that didn’t make the front page of many papers – except, of course, this one. Sarah Phelan’s “Tale of Two Landfills,” a Guardian cover story this past June, examined San Francisco’s decidedly unenlightened policy of transporting waste far outside of the city despite a goal of reducing waste to zero in the next 10 years. Here’s an excerpt: “It's a reminder of a fact most San Franciscans don't think much about: The city exports mountains of garbage into somebody else's backyard. While residents have gone a long way to reduce the waste stream as city officials pursue an ambitious strategy of zero waste by 2020, we're still trucking 1,800 tons of garbage out of San Francisco every day. And now we're preparing to triple the distance that trash travels. ‘The mayor of San Francisco is encouraging us to be a green city by growing veggies, raising wonderful urban gardens, composting green waste and food and restaurant scraps,’ Irene Creps, a San Franciscan who owns a ranch in Wheatland, told us. ‘So why is he trying to dump San Francisco's trash in a beautiful rural area?’”


* The real unemployment rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes a distinction between so-called “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for jobs, and the jobless who are actively seeking employment, so the official unemployment rate (9.7 percent in San Francisco, according to the most recent data) may be much lower than the actual unemployment rate.

We haven’t seen any brilliant local reporting on this issue, but the problem is summed up nicely in this YouTube video produced by a personal finance software firm.