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Wow: A little more drunkenness and a bit of public nudity, and San Francisco could have had a real world-class soccer party Sunday. As it was, things were pretty darn festive: I was too busy chasing the kids around and watching the game to get a good count, but I bet there were 15,000 people at Dolores Park, more than I've seen in one place in the Mission for anything short of a big antiwar rally. The sun was shining, the mood was upbeat, people waved French and Italian flags around and cheered when either side scored a goal... what a great event.
And it only happened because a German-born former teacher named Jens-Peter Jungclaussen, who is traveling around in a bus trying to bring the world to local kids, decided to get the permits, line up a big-screen TV and a huge forklift, and pull it off.
And as I stood there and marveled at how one motivated person could create a massive civic event, I had to wonder: Why can't the Recreation and Park Department do stuff like this?
How hard would it have been for the city to rent the TV screen (or better, three or four screens; there were so many people the ones in the back could barely see), put out the word (Jungclaussen did, as far as I can tell, no advertising — the whole thing was by e-mail and word of mouth), and maybe even do this in half a dozen places around town?
It's funny, when you think of it: So much of the fun stuff that happens in San Francisco is done by private groups. The street fairs, the festivals, the concerts... the city does almost none of this. Even the Fourth of July fireworks are run by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rec-Park spends a lot of time pissing people off, making dumb rules about permits that make even the private events harder to finance. It's a nest of bureaucrats without any vision.
This ought to be a wake-up call: There are all sorts of things that can bring people together. There are all sorts of ways to spend the public's money helping the public have fun (and along the way, reminding people why we pay taxes).
You want to cough up extra money every year to pay someone to tell you that you can't drink beer in North Beach? I don't either — but a few events like Sunday's impromptu festival in Dolores Park, and one of the most loathed agencies at City Hall could become one of the most loved.
Think about it, folks.
Now this: I think just about every Guardian reader in the world has noticed that we've had some serious Web problems in the past few weeks. We got hit with something — maybe an attack, we're still not sure — on Election Day, and whatever it was pretty much fried sfbg.com, and we've been limping along ever since.
But we're back now and way better with a bunch of big changes that we'd been planning anyway. Sfbg.com now has a new design, a (much, much) faster user interface — and several new blogs that will be updated daily and full of everything you need to know about politics, arts, culture, and the unconventional wisdom of San Francisco.
It's still a work in progress, but it's going to be a lot easier to tell us what you think. SFBG