Archive | Front Page

Don’t expect much from SFO police tinkering, sighs Elsbernd

District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd

By Brent Begin

The Board of Supervisors passed a plan today that could make it easier to send police officers from San Francisco International Airport to stations throughout the city.

But both supervisors and police officials said the resolution would do little to change the way officers are currently transferred within the department. Critics also said that with airport security a nationwide priority and with the Police Department’s current staffing shortage, the plan is merely a procedural exercise.

The resolution requires that the department provide detailed requirements for airport security, and that it lays out a plan for deployment in the city under certain circumstances.

Those circumstances include whenever the staffing level in the city drops below the charter-mandated 1,971 officers and at times when there is an increase in crime or violence.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said the that dwindling numbers in the department and airport and the needs of a post September 11 world will outweigh any flares of violence.

“I vote for this with very little expectation that anything’s going to become of this,” Elsbernd said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who authored the resolution, admitted that the current staffing shortage poses a problem for redeployment of officers, but he said in the future the resolution will provide flexibility and a way to dodge any bureaucratic obstacles.

San Francisco International Airport is situated in an unincorporated patch of San Mateo County. Federal authorities, as well as peninsula law enforcement agencies, all share in the security duties of the airport.

Commander Jim Lynch with the department’s airport bureau said that San Francisco police officers take care of a bulk of that security.

“We really don’t see this as a change,” said Lynch, who has worked at the airport for over 20 years.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

Many Californians forced to cut back on food, clothing due to gasoline prices

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

Californians are feeling the sting of the recent spike in gasoline prices beyond the $3 per gallon threshold, and many report cutting back spending in other areas.

Residents with household incomes of less than $40,000 a year to be forced to reduce spending in other areas and are more likely than others to view the price run-up as a serious matter.

When Californians are asked who is to blame for the price hikes, two in three (65%) place a lot of the blame on the oil companies. This is a larger proportion than felt this way in 2005 (58%), after prices spiked above the $2 per gallon level in the summer of that year.

About half of the state’s voters (46%) also fault the Bush Administration’s policies a lot for the runup in gas prices. Another 37% place a lot of the blame on foreign countries producing the oil and 29% fault Americans who drive vehicles using a lot of gasoline.

These are the main findings from the latest Field Poll of California voters about gasoline prices completed late last month.

Seriousness of the gasoline price increase
The large majority of California voters – 70% – see the recent gasoline price increases as a very serious (35%) or somewhat serious (35%) matter. This compares to just 29% who say the price increases are not serious.

People at the lower end of the income scale and younger Californians under age 40 are more likely than others to describe the increase as very serious.

The current findings are similar to those found in the summer of 2005 when gas prices last took a big jump.


Many forced to make cutbacks in other areas
Nearly half (44%) report that because of the recent run-up in gas prices, they’ve had to cut back in other areas of spending, such as food, clothing or dining out.

Those making less than $40,000 report this to a much larger extent than those with higher incomes.

In addition, disproportionately more people in the 18-39 age group and those living in Southern California report being affected by the price increases.


Who is to blame?
Two in three Californians (65%) attribute a lot of the blame for higher gas prices to the oil companies. This is greater than the 58% who faulted the oil companies during the last spike in gasoline prices two years ago.

Large segments of the public (46%) also cast a lot of blame on the Bush Administration for the increase, while another 37% feel oil producing countries are the cause.

A smaller proportion (29%) places a lot of the blame on Americans who drive vehicles that use a lot of gasoline.



Continue Reading

San Francisco Virginia Tech alumnus shocked – UC President vows security review




Photo by Michael Kiernan

Two shootings that left 33 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning shocked alumni who have settled in the Bay Area and prompted the University of California president to vow to review UC’s safety procedures to avert a similar tragedy.

San Francisco resident John Emami, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005, learned of the massacre through a friend’s text-message.

Emami immediately began trying to contact friends who still attend the school.

Emami’s friends are all accounted for Monday afternoon, and he was able to speak to some of them shortly after the ordeal.

“It’s just chaos down there, pretty much. They were making everyone stay inside and they didn’t know what was going on at first,” Emami said.

Virginia Tech police today identified the shooter who took 32 lives as well as his own Monday in the worst gun rampage in U.S. history as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean national and resident alien who was a senior English major at the university.

Cho’s body was found in one of four classrooms in Norris Hall where he took most of his victims, said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

President Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today ordered national and state flags flown at half-staff.

“Our Nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering,” said Bush.

“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Monday, April 16, 2007, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, Sunday, April 22, 2007. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

Police said Cho used two guns in the classroom building, where the bulk of the killings occurred. One of the guns, they said, was also the one that was used to shoot and kill the two victims in the dormitory about two hours before the slaughter in Norris Hall.

“It’s certainly reasonable for us to assume that Cho was the shooter in both places,” Finchum said. But he said police had not entirely ruled out the possibility that there were two shooters.

According to university officials, the incident began with a 911 call to the university police at 7:15 a.m. Officers responded to West Ambler Johnston Hall to find two shooting victims. Both victims died.

West Ambler Johnston Hall is a co-ed dormitory that houses almost 900 students and is one of the largest residential buildings on campus.

Two hours later, while police were investigating the incident, another call came in reporting a second shooting, the university reported.

The second attack took place in Norris Hall, an engineering building about a half a mile away from Ambler Johnston Hall. Thirty-one people, including the gunman, died at Norris Hall. Another 15 people shot in that location are hospitalized, the university confirmed.

Walking briskly, it would take someone about 15 minutes to travel the distance between the two locations, Emami said.

For Emami, the shooting hit especially close to home. The former engineering student attended classes at Norris Hall and lived for a time in West Ambler Johnston Hall, known to students as “West AJ.”

“It’s just shocking,” he said.

San Francisco resident Nathan Frankel, who graduated from Virginia Tech in December of 1995, was also shaken by the news. Frankel said he heard the news from his father, who lives a couple of hours from the campus.

“My dad e-mailed me this morning and he said there was a shooting and that one person was killed. By the time I clicked on the link to the news story, it was up to 20. I was really shocked,” said Frankel, who also attended classes in Norris Hall.

The campus is located in the town of Blacksburg, which Frankel described as a place where crime is relatively uncommon.

“It’s a very quiet town. If there was one murder in the year, people were surprised and took notice of it. I can’t even imagine an event of this magnitude,” Frankel said.

Blacksburg is essentially a college town, Emami said.

“It’s just a peaceful southwest Virginia town. Not much goes on besides college,” he said.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

State Parks Foundation teams with PG&E for Earth Day restoration work April 21

Utility offers cash grant, employee volunteers for park projects this Saturday

SAN FRANCISCO—Pacific Gas and Electric Company today announced that it is granting $155,000 to the California State Parks Foundation to help fund long overdue restoration and environmental improvement projects. Additionally, more than 1,000 PG&E employees, retirees and their families will work alongside community volunteers on Earth Day, Saturday, April 21, to help clean up and restore 16 state and community parks in northern and central California.

2007 marks the sixth consecutive year the utility has partnered with the California State Parks Foundation on the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program. Over the past six years, PG&E has granted over $600,000 to fund vital maintenance and improvement projects at California’s parks, with over 2,700 PG&E employees contributing 10,708 volunteer hours on Earth Day.

Volunteers are needed. To RSVP, click here.

At 16 park sites on April 21, PG&E volunteers will plant trees and shrubs, remove invasive non-native plants, clear trash and debris, and make other improvements to parks, such as installing irrigation systems. PG&E will also provide volunteers with free energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs to help them reduce their carbon footprint. In 2006, nearly 900 PG&E employees and their families volunteered at a dozen parks across the state, where they planted more than 2,000 trees and plants, removed approximately 725 bags of trash and laid 25 tons of trail rock on Earth Day.

“Protecting the environment and giving back to the community are two values that are tightly woven into the fabric of PG&E’s culture, so teaming up with California State Parks Foundation for the annual park restoration and cleanup campaign is a perfect partnership,” said PG&E CEO Tom King. “We are so proud of the hundreds of energized PG&E employee volunteers who walk the environmental stewardship talk and make a powerful difference in the communities we serve.”

Community participation at parks on Earth Day is critical this year, as continued funding pressures and a backlog of more than $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance projects threaten the vitality of parks and beaches across the state. California’s 278 state parks comprise more than 1.5 million acres of land which needs to be maintained.

“PG&E’s ongoing support of the California State Parks Foundation’s Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup program has been a major factor in its success,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the California State Parks Foundation. “Over the past five years, they have contributed not only financially, but through the hard work of over 2,700 employee volunteers. Their partnership has given under-funded, understaffed parks the opportunity to complete long deferred projects that otherwise would not have been possible.”

The California State Parks Foundation celebrates the 10th anniversary year of the Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Program on April 21. Since its inception in 1998, the California State Parks Foundation Earth Day program has had tremendous impact: 54,500 participants have contributed more than 222,315 volunteer hours worth an estimated $5,042,126 in park maintenance and improvements. Including $90,000 in grants distributed this year, the Foundation has awarded more than $898,000 to state parks throughout California.

Continue Reading

Study finds 30% of teachers in urban public schools think students not motivated to learn

By Caitlin Cassady

Thirty percent of teachers surveyed in urban schools do not think that their students come to school motivated to learn, according to a study released today in San Francisco.

“Where We Teach,” released by the Council of Urban Boards of Education, surveyed teachers and administrators from urban school districts, including San Francisco Unified School District, about the learning culture on their campuses.

The study pulled information from 12 school districts in 10 different states in order to study the learning environment in urban schools, according to Brian Perkins, author of the study and president of the New Haven Board of Education.

By asking teachers and administrators about the culture on their campuses, the survey illuminates which influences are the most detrimental to students’ education.

“Urban education is about the culture and climate we set in classrooms,” said Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Board Association. “We can’t find solutions to problems until we identify what those problems are.”

Although the study indicates that 30 percent of teachers surveyed believe their students don’t come with a desire to learn, only 20 percent of San Francisco teachers thought that their students were not motivated.

According to Gwen Chan, acting superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, this study gives administrators a starting point for what kinds of programs they should be implementing in schools.

“We need to figure out why students are not motivated, and work to change that,” Chan said today.

Perkins conducted a study last year through the council that asked students questions about their schools and the learning climate.

The “Where We Teach” study surveyed same schools as the “Where We Learn” study was to see the difference between the teachers and students perceptions of their environment.

The two studies focused the questions in eight main areas: bullying, expectations of success, influence of race, professional climate, professional development, parental involvement, safety and trust, respect and ethos of caring, according to Perkins.

According to Jill Wynns, San Francisco School Board Commissioner, the most recent study is a huge bonus for San Francisco schools, because they have never conducted a survey that focuses on how teachers feel in the classroom.

“This is not only revealing, but surprising,” Wynns said of the study.

“It was very interesting to see where the perceptions of the students and the teachers were similar and where they varied,” Wynns said.

When asked about whether they thought students brought guns or knives to school, 25 percent of teachers agreed and 22.5 percent of administrators agreed, according to Perkins. However, in the student survey almost 50 percent of students thought that their peers carried guns and
knives on campus.

“The important part of this is not how many students actually carry weapons on campus, but how many students feel unsafe on campus,” said Perkins. “Its all about their perceptions of safety.”

When students feel safer at school they tend to have better standardized test scores, according to Perkins.

Another huge result from the study was the difference between what administrators thought of their schools as opposed to what teachers thought, according to the study. One of the questions asked was if teachers and administrators thought that their students would do well at community colleges or universities.

Nearly 93 percent of administrators thought that their students would do well, while only 77 percent of teachers thought that their students would succeed in higher education.

The difference between how teachers and administrators view their campuses is something that this study brought to light, Wynns said, and we need to address it. Teachers and administrators need to sit down together and discuss where the differences stem from, so that they can work together to improve campus culture for students, according to Wynns.

Overall the study provides school districts a good base of information, Perkins said.

Administrators and teachers can look at the data collected in this study and begin to ask their own questions about how to improve the culture at schools and in classrooms.

See Related Students Want For Nothing At This San Francisco High School.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

Students want for nothing at this San Francisco High School

Meditative music accompanies physical education class at San Francisco University High School
Photo by John Han

By Pat Murphy
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

All 92 senior students are likely to graduate this year, heading from the sloping hills of Pacific Heights off to college in the Fall, more failsafe prepared than many universities require.

The curriculum is tough and broad at the San Francisco University High School (SFUHS), a Mediterranean style structure designed by San Franciscan Julia Morgan, the architect of Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle
Photos from the San Francisco Museum Collection

San Francisco University High School, the former Katherine Delmar Burke School built in 1916, is located at 3065 Jackson Street between Baker and Lyon Streets.



To receive a diploma at SFUHS, students must complete four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of foreign language, two years of laboratory science, two years of history, two years of fine arts, four years of physical education, and four years of community service.

Classrooms average 14 to 15 students.

Photos by John Han


Extensive computer instruction, 20 advanced placement courses, and a wide range of electives augment student preparation.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on a visit this month to SFUHS.

The electives, too, come with tough standards — photography students must complete two years of black and white photography before attempting color photography.


The school, which this year holds enrollment of 389, was founded in 1973 with its original facility now housing classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, and student lounges.


The Dennis A. Collins Library, named for school founder, is a 7,500 square-foot facility added as a third floor in 1984.

A Middle Campus, across the school courtyard and facing Washington Street, houses three science laboratires, music and drama facilities, and a 500-seat auditorium.



The Lower Campus and Herbst Gymnasium are located across Washington street, home to a language laboratory, the computer center, two science classrooms, three art studios, a photography darkroom as well as faculty offices.


New construction last year added a Student Center, new science laboratories, a new Arts and Humanities Lecture room, new music practice rooms, and a fitness room.


Tuition is $32,000 a year and the school foundation throws in an extra $1,000.

San Francisco public high schools spend $6,100 to educate each pupil, while SFUHS devotes $33,000 to prepare students.

See Related Study finds 30% of teachers in urban public schools think students not motivated to learn

Continue Reading

Military leaders say global warming threatens US security

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 16, 2007) Global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could affect Americans at home, impact U.S. military operations and heighten global tensions, according to a study released today by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals.

The study, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” explores ways projected climate change is a “threat multiplier” in already fragile regions of the world, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states—the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.

The CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, brought together eleven retired four-star and three-star admirals and generals to provide advice, expertise and perspective on the impact of climate change on national security. CNA writers and researchers compiled the report under the board’s direction and review. The full report will be available on

The Military Advisory Board members come from all branches of the armed services. The board includes a former Army chief of staff, commanders-in-chiefs of U.S. forces in global regions, a former shuttle astronaut and NASA administrator, and experts in planning, logistics, underwater operations and oceanography. One member also served as U.S. ambassador to China.

“Climate change is a national security issue,” retired General. Gordon R. Sullivan, chairman of the Military Advisory Board and former Army chief of staff, said in releasing the report at a Washington news conference. “We found that climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.”

“People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections,” he said. “But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”

Military Advisory Board members said they remain optimistic that climate change challenges can be managed to reduce future risks. The first step recommended in the study is for the national intelligence community to include comprehensive assessments of climate change in future security plans, just as agencies now take into account traditional but uncertain threats.

As part of its five specific recommendations for action, the Military Advisory Board stated that “the path to mitigating the worst security consequences of climate change involves reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

“There is a relationship between carbon emissions and our national security,” General Sullivan said recently. “I think that the evidence is there that would suggest that we have to start paying attention.”

“Carbon emissions are clearly part of the problem,” he added.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” stated retired Marine Corps General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, a shuttle astronaut and former NASA administrator, said in the report that “unlike the challenges that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable.” Truly also notes that “maybe more challenging is that climate change will affect every nation, and all simultaneously. This is why we need to study this issue now, so that we’ll be prepared and not overwhelmed by the required scope of our response when the time comes”

Environmental Threats Have Security Implications
The report recognizes that unabated climate change could bring an increased frequency of extreme storms, additional drought and flooding, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and the rapid spread of life-threatening disease. While these projected effects are usually viewed as environmental challenges, the Military Advisory Board has looked at them from the perspective of national security assessments and has identified them as serious risk factors for:

– massive migrations
– increased border tensions
– greater demands for rescue and evacuation efforts
– conflicts over essential resources—including food and water

Such developments could lead to direct U.S. military involvement, the board found.

“Climate change can provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror,” said retired Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe. “Rising ocean water levels, droughts, violent weather, ruined national economies—those are the kinds of stresses we’ll see more of under climate change.”

“In the long term, we want to address the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit,” Admiral Lopez said. “But climate change will prolong those conditions. It makes them worse.”

Impacts on U.S. Military Intervention and Regional Stability
The report describes national security implications of climate change in regions of the world.

The report states that “Tensions may rise as immigration from Africa and the Middle East—exacerbated by climate change—places additional social and economic pressures on countries. Some of America’s strongest allies may be distracted as they struggle to protect their own borders. Such an inward focus may make it more difficult to build international coalitions, or engage in exercises to ensure readiness.”

“Europe will be focused on its own borders,” retired Admiral Donald L. Pilling, vice chief of naval operations, said in the report. “There is potential for fracturing some very strong alliances based on migrations and the lack of control over borders.”

The report focuses on the ways in which climate change can contribute to shortages of food, drinking water and farmland, adding strain in a region that is already the source of 30 percent of the world’s refugees. It states: “Such changes will add significantly to existing tensions and can facilitate weakened governance, economic collapses, massive human migrations, and potential conflicts.”

“We ought to care about Africa because we’re a good country,” retired Air Force General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald said in the report. As deputy commander of the United States European Command, he was also responsible for U.S. forces in Africa. (Supervision of American forces in that continent was recently moved from EUCOM into a new “AFRICOM” command.) “We have a humanitarian character; it’s one of our great strengths, and we shouldn’t deny it. Some may be tempted to avert their eyes, but I would hope we instead see the very real human suffering taking place there. We should be moved by it, challenged by it. Even in the context of security discussions, I think these reasons matter, because part of our security depends on remaining true to our values. …

“We import more oil from Africa than the Middle East—probably a shock to a lot of people—and that share will grow. …we’ll be drawn into the politics of Africa, to a much greater extent.”

Middle East
Noting this is the region of the world in which the U.S. is most engaged militarily, the report states that “water resources are a critical issue… and will become even more critical… Competition for increasingly scarce resources may exacerbate the level of conflict.”

“The existing situation [in the Middle East] makes this place more susceptible to problems,” General Zinni, the former CENTCOM commander, said in the report. “Even small changes may have a greater impact here than they may have elsewhere. You already have great tension over water. These are cultures often built around a single source of water.

“It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism,” General Zinni added.

Latin America
The report states: “Rising sea levels will threaten all coastal nations. Caribbean nations are especially vulnerable in this regard, with the combination of rising sea levels and increased hurricane activity potentially devastating to some island nations … and a likely increase in immigration from neighbor states.” In addition the report finds that “[l]oss of glaciers will strain water supply in several areas, particularly Peru and Venezuela.”

The report finds that many factors may affect the continent. Potential sea level rise would have a severe impact with almost 40 percent of Asia’s population of nearly 4 billion living within forty-five miles of coastlines. In addition, the reduced availability of farmland and drinking water and the increased spread of infectious disease would destabilize the region.

One Military Advisory Board member, retired Navy Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, views Asia from two perspectives, having been commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific and later U.S. ambassador to China. He suggested, as the full report does, that the U.S. should work with key international partners, including China, one of the leading emitters of atmospheric carbon.

“On the issue of carbon emissions, it doesn’t help us to solve our problem if China doesn’t solve theirs. And that means we need to engage with them on many fronts,” Admiral Prueher said in the report. “Not talking to the Chinese is not an option.”

Impacts on Military Bases and Operations
The Military Advisory Board found that climate change impacts may affect U.S. military bases, requiring the Pentagon to prepare differently for future national security scenarios. It outlined specific ways that climate change will add to the difficulties facing future U.S. military leaders:

– Rising sea levels could threaten coastal bases at home and abroad.

– Increasing storm activity could deter the military’s ability to perform routine maintenance or carry out regular exercises.

– Changing ocean salinity could require changes in sonar and submarine systems.

– Drought conditions could require new logistical plans and equipment for moving water to U.S. troops in war zones.

– The need for new kinds of humanitarian operations could necessitate new training to address these different missions.

Climate change may have differing impacts on the four branches of the armed services. The former head of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, retired General Paul J. Kern, said changes may make it more difficult for the Army to handle basic supplies.

“Military planning should view climate change as a threat to the balance of energy access, water supplies, and a healthy environment, and it should require a response,” General Kern said in the report. “Responding after the fact with troops—after a crisis occurs—is one kind of response. Working to delay these changes—to accommodate a balance among these staples—is, of course, another way.”

General Wald raised additional concerns. “There are a number of questions we should be asking now, if we’re to prepare for some of the projected impacts,” he said in talking about the report. “Will the Air Force be expected to move larger quantities of supplies, including fuel, food or drinking water? Will they be expected to move larger numbers of people, perhaps in evacuations? Will we have the right kind of equipment, personnel and training to handle new missions, without diminishing our conventional military capacity? That’s barely a start, but it gives you a sense of the scale of potential change.”

The report notes that changes in the salinity of oceans, if glaciers melt and water temperatures change, could affect submarine equipment such as sonar. There may also be a greater need for civilian evacuations. Marines and Special Operations forces are trained and equipped now primarily for small- to medium-sized rescue operations.

Admiral Pilling said that if climate change increases the frequency or intensity of hurricanes, there could be a destabilizing effect on the Navy, especially in the Southeastern United States. “It may cause you to move ships north to avoid hurricanes. If a ship’s captain thinks he’s in the middle of hurricane season, he’s going to go out—get away from port. It impacts maintenance schedules and impacts operational structures. And that doesn’t factor in the damage that hurricanes can do to our ports.”

The report cites the Arctic as a region of particular concern for military planners. “If the warming we’ve seen in the high Arctic continues, then there is a possibility of a new sea route, a ‘Northwest Passage’ if you will,” Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, former chief of naval research and the former president of National Defense University, said about the study. “Will we be ready for both that opportunity and a new sea lane to defend? Will we have the right kinds of ships? Will we be ready for the acoustic surveillance challenges in a changed environment? Will it inspire a mission that requires greater air support from the Navy or the Air Force? What kinds of new basing arrangements will be necessary? These are questions security planners should be contemplating.”

The Military Advisory Board chose not to engage in debate over climate science but did note that current levels of atmospheric carbon are already at historically high levels and are increasing. “This rise presents the prospect of significant climate change,” the board said in its letter transmitting the report to the American public. “And while uncertainty exists and debate continues regarding the science and future extent of projected climate changes, the trends are clear. The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security.”

The Military Advisory Board called on the Defense Department to find ways to limit the extent of climate change, in part by controlling its own greenhouse gas emissions and fuel use while simultaneously increasing combat capabilities for American forces worldwide.

“Our national security is inextricably linked to our country’s energy security,” said retired Navy Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, who was director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program.

“The military should be interested in fuel economy on the battlefield,” retired Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., who was deputy Air Force chief of staff for plans and programs, said in the report. “It’s a readiness issue. If you can move your men and materiel more quickly, if you have less tonnage but the same level of protection and firepower, you’re more efficient on the battlefield. That’s a life and death issue.”

Findings and Recommendations

The report includes several formal findings:

– Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.

– Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.

– Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.

– Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

The report also made several specific recommendations:

– The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

– The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

– The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

– The Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.

– DoD should conduct an assessment of the impact on US military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other possible climate change impacts over the next thirty to forty years.

Military Advisory Board Members
The Military Advisory Board is composed of eleven of the nation’s most senior former officers and national security experts:

– Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (ret), former Army chief of staff and current president of the Association of the United States Army (board chairman)

– Adm. Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (ret), former director of naval nuclear propulsion at the Naval Sea Systems Command

– Lt. Gen. Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., USAF (ret), former deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force

– Vice Adm. Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (ret), former chief of naval research and head of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command

– Gen. Paul J. Kern, USA (ret), former commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command
Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, USN (ret), former commander-in-chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe

– Adm. Donald L. Pilling, USN (ret), former vice chief of naval operations and Navy chief financial officer

– Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, USN (ret), former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and former U.S. ambassador to China

– Vice Adm. Richard H. Truly, USN (ret), former NASA administrator, shuttle astronaut and the first commander of the Naval Space Command

– Gen. Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (ret), former deputy commander, USEUCOM and director of Strategic Planning and Policy at Headquarters U.S. Air Force

– Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (ret), former commander, CENTCOM

Writing and research support for the report came from The CNA Corporation.

Continue Reading

Schwarzenegger proclaims Days of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims

California Governor Schwarzenegger delivered remarks today for Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The Governor also issued a proclamation naming April 15 – April 22 as “Days of Remembrance.” Schwarzenegger is seen at at the Yom Hashoah Commemoration at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles .
Photo by Duncan McIntosh
Office of Governor Schwarzenegger

by the
Governor of the State of California

It is almost unfathomable to think that just sixty years ago, the Nazis mesmerized a nation in support of their wicked ambitions. The Nazi regime and its collaborators targeted Jews for elimination, with the very young and old often the first victims. During their terrifying reign, more than six million European Jews were murdered when World War II came to an end. Among that number, more than one million were children.

The Nazis all but decimated European Jewry, while also persecuting and killing Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, political dissidents, the handicapped, and millions of others they perceived to be unworthy of life. However, amidst the depths of depravity also appeared a different side of humanity – one of courage where Jews were saved by their neighbors. The Protestant Huguenot population in the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon hid Jewish children from seizure; the German industrialist Oskar Schindler saved more than a thousand Jews in his business; and a Jewish family was saved by their Muslim neighbors in Albania.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Council has done a tremendous job to educate Americans about the history of the Holocaust. This year, the Museum has designated “Children in Crisis: Voices from the Holocaust” as the theme for the 2007 Days of Remembrance week in memory of the victims, and to honor those who attempted to save their lives.

Though nothing can change the past, we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust so as not to repeat its horrors. These lessons should be impressed in our minds as not merely something we read in a history book, but rather as something that shocks and stirs our souls. And we must continue to draw attention to and do everything we can to stop current-day horrors such as the genocide in Darfur. To that end, we mark the first day of this week-long commemoration, April 15, as Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim April 15 – April 22, 2007 as “Days of Remembrance” in California.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have here unto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 6th day of April 2007.


Continue Reading

No arrests in possible murder by auto


A San Francisco man was killed when the driver of a black car drove onto the sidewalk, struck the man and caused a foot injury to another pedestrian this afternoon near a San Francisco park, according to police.

According to the San Francisco medical examiner’s office, 41-year-old Lonnie Ross died around 6 p.m. due to his injuries. Ross and the driver of the vehicle involved had reportedly had an argument before the driver went onto the pavement and struck Ross, according to police.

The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Lobos Street, near Ocean View Playground and Recreation Center.

According to police, the vehicle was described only as a black car and no one has been arrested in relation to the incident.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

People Paddle for AIDS

Safety drill before People Paddle
Photos by John Han

On April 15, 2007, twenty-three AIDS service organizations inspired individuals kayaking on the bay to raise over $22 thousand dollars to help with the fight against AIDS. 117 kayakers launched from the South Beach Marina at 10:17 am, paddled to McCovey Cove, a little way under the bridge and up Mission Creek and then back to a finish line at South Beach Pier 40. All arrived back safely. Sergeant Danny Lopez of the SFPD Marine Unit commented on the “well organized event”.

One Brick volunteers work on the docks

The event was organized by People Paddle, a consortium of individuals dedicated to combining kayaking with fundraising and was sponsored by Healing Waters, whose mission is to empower, inspire and enrich the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS through outdoor adventures.

PeeWee Memorial fund for Jennifer Newsom’s dog, championed by athlete Patricia Cowden, brought in pledges for PAWS


Healing Waters Executive Director, Mike Dugan, stated, “This is the first time that AIDS service organizations have worked together on a fundraising event out on the water. People are so excited about having a good reason to try kayaking while helping their favorite HIV/AIDS organizations to raise much needed dollars.”


Healing Waters performed volunteer coordination, checked the integrity of all participants’ life jackets, performed coat check duties, security, provided banking, database management and a thousand other details necessary to this event.

Some of the beneficiaries were: AIDS Emergency Fund, AIDS Health Project, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian & Pacific Wellness Center, Bay Area Young Positives, 360 Black Coalition on AIDS, Derek Silva Community of Catholic Charities, Healing Waters, Hazel Betsy program of Lutheran Social Services, Metropolitan Community Church, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Most Holy Redeemer AIDS Support Group, Native American Health Center, New Leaf, PAWS, Positive Force program of the STOP AIDS Project, Positive Resource Center, Project Open Hand, Shanti and Vital Life Services.

According to volunteer event coordinator, Melody Lacy, “The second most exciting thing about People Paddle, aside from the paddling, is the registration and pledging software, written by Dean McCully, which empowers donors and paddlers to choose exactly where their dollars go. This is going to become Large”. The software automatically directs eighty-five percent of all pledges raised to go directly to the nonprofit organizations ‘championed’ by the individual kayakers. Healing Waters contracted to pay all event costs, even if they exceeded the remaining 15%. Thanks to the support of many sponsors and frugal efforts on the part of many volunteers, even Healing Waters will benefit from People Paddle.

The sponsors included the California Department of Boating and Waterways, the City and County of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, Metromint, Aquan Sports, Blue Waters Kayaking, Energy 92.7 FM/KNGY, Half Moon Bay Kayaking, REI, Sea Trek Kayak of Sausalito, Trader Joe’s Bay Street store and the Sports Basement’s new Presidio store. The historic Java House Café provided a discount to People Paddlers, encouragement, support, advertising and an electrical outlet for the band! The efforts of many created an event people will be talking about for some time to come.

Participants received a breakfast snack, designer bottled water by METROMINT and a T-shirt, as well as a safety whistle and other toys, coupons and surprises. City Kayak, San Francisco’s premier kayak rental establishment, provided untold hours of free support and over 60 kayaks at half price to the People Paddle participants. One Brick and Alpha Phi Omega, the National Service Fraternity at USF performed as Dockworkers, carrying kayaks and helping people into and out of boats.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed the fleet as they launched from Pier 40, race shouted encouragement to the paddling kayakers while riding along in Captain Rick Webber’s safety boat, provided special blessings to many individuals, presented awards and led the dancing as Kimrea and the Dreamdogs entertained the crowd after the last kayak arrived safely ashore.


Dignitaries in attendance included Scott Oswald, Jason Chan and Alex Randolph, members of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, who presented Mike Dugan of Healing Waters with a notable proclamation declaring April 15, 2007 “People Paddle for AIDS Day in San Francisco”. Supervisor Chris Daly moved the supporting resolution unanimously through the Board of Supervisors.

Mayor’s Liaison to the LGBT Community Alex Randoph


Supervisor Chris Daly
File Photo by Bill Wilson

People Paddle founders, Dean McCully and Lisa Bickford, and People Paddle Event Coordinator Melody Lacy plan to repeat the People Paddle event in the future along with the sponsor Healing Waters. According to McCully, “Not only is this an excellent way enjoying the beautiful bay, meeting new people and making new friends, but preliminary accounts indicate we raised over $22 thousand dollars to fight AIDS today!” Final accounting due in 30 days because pledges may continue to trickle in over the next couple of weeks.

The weather was spectacular and the kayaks colorful against the inimitable views of South Beach.






To learn more and find out when the next People Paddle will occur go to

Continue Reading

TERRE HAUTE – Premieres at New Conservatory Theatre Center – An interview with its stars – John Hutchinson and Elias Escobedo

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

TERRE HAUTE, by playwright Edmund White, is described as an “imagination” of the interview between author Gore Vidal and Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh – just before his execution. The characters, renamed as “James” and “Harrison”, exchange intimate details about their lives within guarded confines at the prison. An impenetrable wall separates them physically. In order for James to tell Harrison’s story effectively, he must win his friendship and trust. Harrison does not want his act of terrorism to be misunderstood nor his character polluted with conjecture and lettered falsehoods. James demands Harrison open up to him or his story will suffer. How that comes about is the stuff of White’s imagination.

Harrison in the midst – ELIAS ESCOBEDO

Beyond imagination were my two separate interviews with the actors who portray these characters. John Hutchinson (as the Gore Vidal character, “James”) and Elias Escobedo (as “Harrison”, the stand-in for McVeigh) are separated in age by more than four decades. John earned his M.A. in Speech and Drama from Stanford University. Elias graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Dramatic Arts. They are committed artists, professional non-union performers, brilliant communicators, and captivating entertainers. As with all San Francisco Bay Area actors striving to build their résumés and advance their academic skills into the professional arenas, John and Elias are well-acquainted with the pitfalls that come with (to be or not to be) union membership and the suffering inflicted upon local performing artists as resident professional theatre companies continue their practice of importing card-carrying union members.

Enter the New Conservatory Theater Center (at 25 Van Ness Avenue) and its Artistic Director, Ed Decker. Within the past several years it has become overwhelmingly obvious that NCTC is nurturing and presenting some of San Francisco’s finest actors, singers, and directors. The plays running in any of its three theatres reflect the diversity of culture and spirituality that The City prides itself in and broadcasts to its visitors. It was my privilege to settle in for a couple of hours and interview the two gentlemen appearing in the gripping drama, TERRE HAUTE, opening last Friday evening and scheduled until May 6th.

JOHN HUTCHINSON – as James, in Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

SEÁN: How did the audition happen for you and what did you do for it?

JOHN: I performed with New Conservatory three years ago in a play called KILT. I’ve gone back since then to do staged readings. There are other Gay-oriented theatres in the Bay Area, but I found New Conservatory so welcoming – especially to a person like myself. It wasn’t until I turned 60 that I said to myself – “I’ve to get serious about this / I’ve got a degree from Stanford / I’ve worked in Hollywood!” That’s back in the Stone Age now. But I quit the family business, retired, and joined Eastenders Repertory Company in Oakland. I was fortunate enough to be cast by Bruce Elsperger [Casting Director at NCTC] and I was able to get to know Ed [Ed Decker, NCTC Artistic Director] who is such a supportive, wonderfully honest and genuine person. So, I found a kind of home there. Although I haven’t performed that much there, I feel very comfortable there. Last September I was just finishing up an engagement doing “Gloucester” in KING LEAR out in Moraga.


J: I got an e-mail from Ed, “Don’t take any jobs. I’m going to send you a script. I want you to hold onto it, take a look at it and we’ll talk again in January.” He knew I had been busy. I’ve been fortunate to be cast in one play after another.

S: Back up a little bit. When you were preparing the KING LEAR audition what did you use for your Shakespeare monologue?

J: My Shakespeare piece is from MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Leonato’s speech:
“I pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve…[Act 5, Scene 1]

S: How was the experience of doing “Gloucester” and how long did that production run?

J: Hal Gelb was the director. He’s involved with Golden Thread Theatre that works out of Traveling Jewish Theatre. The play was a condensation put together under the sponsorship of St. Mary’s for the student body. We did it for a weekend.

S: Was it a reading?

J: No, it was fully staged.

S: And you got all of two or three performances? Was that enough to justify all the work and memorization?

J: An actor makes a decision based on so many things. In the Bay Area, it’s not what they’re going to pay you – although the New Conservatory is very generous in paying its performers. It’s about the opportunity to work with certain directors and certain people to broaden your experience and theatrical performance.

S: When Ed Decker contacted you, did he give you any indication what the role was?

J: He sent me the script and told me the role was based on the Gore Vidal character. I have always been a Gore Vidal fan. I find his essays quite witty, very cogent, and very appropriate as political commentary. I read the play. It’s all one Act, sixty-plus pages, a lot of talk. I was curious how they would handle what appeared to be a rather static situation. The audition came; Ed greeted me with open arms and said, “Thank you for hanging on.” I read for the director, Christopher Jenkins, and got the role.

S: In my position as a teacher and writer I hear all kinds of things. Only every now and then do we see a real piece of theatre that questions something, does not set out to reach absolute conclusions, allowing the viewers to process the information in their own way. The script of TERRE HAUTE is brilliant. I am amazed to come to the New Conservatory Theatre Center and witness two magnificent performances. So, may I ask how old you are?

J: Seventy. Last September. Behind my back.

S: It just creeps up one day and bites you in the ass. OK, given that, tell me about your memorization process for this two-person / hour-and-twenty-minute play.

J: You’re stepping on my Achilles heel, honey! It was tough, it was challenging. What the author Edmund White has done so successfully is to capture the rhythms of speech of two very different people. “Harrison’s” [McVeigh's] speech is so explosive, machine-gun-like, and uneducated. “James”, as the Vidal character, is smooth and articulate, honeyed, and grand in a way. I was able to capture the essence of the rhythm, the speech patterns White came up with – because, as you know, you don’t just memorize words you memorize the rhythm of a piece and its flow. Once I found that, it became much easier.

Author Edmund White establishes his rhythms, those distinguishing speech components for his “James” at the very beginning of the interview. He cajoles and wheedles information from “Harrison”, employing severe reprimands, detachment and disdain, the control of “a top”, even jealousy. Harrison counters by playing the celebrity card. He says to James that “The Unabomber” occupies the cell next to his. “Oh, really!?” replies James. At that moment, a huge glow comes over Mr. Hutchinson – as if to suggest to Harrison (Elias Escobedo) that a better and more interesting (perhaps, sexier?) interview was in-waiting just a little further down the hall. Hovering above everything else is James making it clear that Harrison must answer the probing personal questions – especially those about his sexual identity and experience. If he refuses, then Harrison’s story may prove an average one, something far less than what Harrison had hoped for or expected. James succeeds in tweaking Harrison’s vanity. The buzzer signals the end of the visiting time. Harrison must return to his cell. What if James does not come back tomorrow? How then will his story be told?

TERRE HAUTE – By Edmund White, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center

S: Thus, the categories – the “how” of your addressing Harrison – helped in your memorization.

J: Yes, very much so. That gave it the hook – some people would use the expression “trigger” – for getting through that.

S: What was the hardest part?

J: The explosive scene, the “I’m stupefied” speech of Scene 3. It is difficult because the performer can’t give everything away. It is the one scene where Harrison confronts James in such a way as to demolish all of his pretensions and so-called education. It is a fiery outburst that leaves James suddenly exposed as Harrison – in his lack of education can no longer respond, but responds in a vicious [physical] way towards the old guy. My job was to maintain the build, to give something that Harrison can react against – a reason to explode in the way that he does. Edmund White builds that particular scene in four very brief sections. James comes to the realization that he is basically dealing with a naive and uneducated person who has some terrible ideas, and then the realization that he has been duped, seduced, allowed himself to be seduced. And then the realization that he has to somehow defend his being there, that is, James has to defend being in the room with this mass murderer. Then finally, the “coup de grâce” – when he talks about the sacred books of burning lives and all, that you can no longer use the expression of “collateral damage.” This ends, of course, in Harrison’s explosion. Each of those four segments had to be very carefully handled. The difficulty is that in the heat of the moment – as I am coming across like that – it’s really tough to stay grounded because I am getting so excited inside myself, in the character. You know as a performer, you have to distance yourself.

S: When choosing the Timothy McVeigh character, how many actors did you read with and was there a question of “chemistry”?

J: After I was cast they had me come in and read with three young men, one right after the other, in the same series of scenes. After they left, Christopher came over to me and said, “Well? What do you think?” Not that I was casting the part, but how comfortable did I feel with the person. I said, “I don’t remember anybody else – just Elias.” He came off the mark running. He was incredible, blew me away – a tremendous risk-taker, tremendously committed to the role. I don’t mean this in a bad way – he is ambitious. He knows where he is going with his art. It is so exciting to work with someone like that.

S: You have to be ambitious or it’s just not going to work. Whatever his drive, it is in total communication with you and with us. How long did you rehearse?

J: At the end of February we had our first sit-down read-through, rehearsed through the end of March – in all, about 3½ weeks. It was intense.

S: The relationship of the two characters – obviously, with a prison barrier between them – what were the difficulties in communicating “here’s what’s happening on this side of the wall for me and on that side of the wall for you”? The ultimate symbol of it being penetrated being the removal of his shirt and the first real intimacy that happens for Harrison with another human being – someone with a name. Did the two of you go through those proverbial Theatre Exercises? Was there any resistance?

J: There was good communication right off. Elias is a committed performer. He knew what Edmund White wanted and the director was inclined to a subtle approach.

JAMES and HARRISON – The final moments, Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

S: It totally works.

J: My own feeling was that we owe it to the audience to show and do it this way. Not only is this the fantasy that James maintains, it is the reward that Harrison gives him, the generosity of his spirit. It is the very thing that James talks about in the closing monologue. There was a huge discussion during the rehearsal process – is McVeigh / Harrison homosexual or not? Vidal doesn’t believe there are labels. You are just sexual. What you are today is what you are today. The challenge that Elias and I faced was me probing him in such a way and him resisting in such a way that we set up a kind of inexplicable mystery about “Is he or isn’t he?” It is not the hook that the play hangs on, but it is still part of the subtext.

S: It’s not surprising that the moment happens. It’s surprising that it is so authentic. In the simple direction of Elias holding his shoulders this way, he drops his shirt that way and you both count to 10 – it radiates what it radiates and we deal with it.

J: It’s a moment in the play where neither one of us is counting. Somehow it just happens organically.

S: The timing is perfect. If it embarrasses those not expecting it – well, too bad! Theatre provokes. The act pushes a simple button. The audience knows that moment is not going any further because it can’t. Though it may be a gimmick of the author, it is not transparent. It is Theatre. Before the end of the run, do you foresee a performance with an understudy? Is there somebody that will take over if Elias suddenly has a huge attack of hay fever?

J: No! We’re it.

S: Can you envision doing this role somewhere else?

J: Oh, with great love!

S: What’s on your Calendar after this?

J: I’m doing a one-act called FRIENDS that is being booked into retirement communities and other venues. Also, a new play being written about Eleanor Roosevelt, I have been asked to play FDR.

S: Do you have a dream role?

J: I’ve done a lot of dream roles. I remember “Maitlin” in CHALK GARDEN, but many don’t even remember the play. I would love to do ALL MY SONS.

Some of us remember multi-Tony Award winning actor Fritz Weaver who created the role on Broadway and John Mills in the award-winning 1964 film version. As an ideal candidate for the role of “Joe Keller” in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SONS, John Hutchinson can easily stand beside (while holding his M.A. in Speech and Drama from Stanford University) other interpreters of the role including Ed Begley, James Whitmore, Edward G. Robinson, and Richard Kiley.

Later that day I spoke with Elias Escobedo. As “Harrison”, the Timothy McVeigh character, Elias puts forward a frighteningly real personification of America’s dedicated terrorist.

E: When the lights come up, the first thing you see is an image of the blown-out building and me standing in the middle of it. It’s brought up again at the end. The bombing was 12 years ago. Since then we’ve had 9/11 – almost 3,000 deaths, the Iraq War – more than 3,000 deaths. I was 15 when McVeigh killed 168 people 12 years ago. When I asked my friends to come see this show, they’re saying – “Oh, McVeigh … some kind of train bomb or something?” For me, it’s so important for people to just come off the street and be reminded. For an hour I’m going off about this building, the bomb, how I set it up, how it’s left half-standing. But unless you’ve recently seen it, you may not remember exactly how destructive it was. From an actor’s point of view, when the lights come up – it’s BOOM! That’s what I did. It’s all I need to get me going. Now I have to defend what I did. It sets the bar really high, right off the bat.

ELIAS ESCOBEDO – as Harrison, in Edmund White’s TERRE HAUTE

S: The play could have been about anybody. What if I didn’t know there was a bombing in Colorado and then an interview with this guy by a particular author. What would my reactions be to the production? I know they would be the same.

E: That’s refreshing to hear. We talked so much about the bombing during the rehearsal process. All these books! I’ve been scanning the TURNER DIARIES and ALL-AMERICAN MONSTER. There is so much literature on this guy.

S: How did you learn about the audition and what did you do for it?

E: I found out about the audition through the casting director, Bruce Elsperger, who I’ve known for about four years. Whenever he thinks I’m right for something at NCTC he shoots me an e-mail and invites me directly to the callbacks. This is my eighth production at NCTC. I’m really familiar with Ed Decker and how he runs it. I really enjoy working there. For a non-union theatre, Ed runs one of the most professional companies. That’s what makes me want to work there. So, Bruce sends me this e-mail and I thought, “Well, that’s cool. That’s different. It caught my eye and got me pumped about the audition. It’s not the traditional kind of story that NCTC would tell. I got the sides [excerpts from the script] and knew it was good. Purely from an actor’s point of view, this is meaty stuff! It’s got so much dynamic, and all these emotions and explosions and how it comes out. The sides were pretty much the most intense moments in the play. At the audition, they must have read at least 15 guys for Harrison. I’m sitting there ready to go in and I just felt good about it. I was very relaxed. When you’re relaxed you can just walk in and do your thing. I read with John. I listened to what he was actually saying in the script and it just got me going.

S: Did you see any of the other auditionees?

E: I did.

S: What was your reaction to them?

E: They all had a similar build to me. The first guy before me was in there for a long time. I think he was the first one of the evening. When you’re waiting to go in and the guy before you is in there for 25 minutes – well, they must love him, reading all these scenes over and over again – and I’m thinking, “I’ve really got to bring my chops here!” Then the guy right before me, he had a shaved head and looked dead-on like Timothy McVeigh. Still, even with those two against me, I’m going to go in there and do my thing. Those are the best auditions. It’s all about being able to stay relaxed.

S: What do you think got you the role?

E: In one word – Intensity. I took a minute – I wouldn’t call myself a Method Actor, I don’t go back into my personal experiences. But I do bring honesty to a character. The sides they were having me read, there was only one way to play them. I remember specifically this one scene – in the actual audition – where the character talks about what I’ve actually done. It’s Scene 3, when James turns on me – I’m just another Socialist wannabe slave and I’m the one who was fooled – and I explode at him because he’s saying, “Oh, think about all the lives you took and life is sacred” and all that. I just listened to what he said about all the dangling bodies and the babies … and my reaction came honest. The next thing I know I’m screaming at him! And I am into it. I just got lost in the text and lost in the character and the next thing you know I’m shouting and crying and not even realizing it. I got home and I told my friend, “That was really weird. I was so in the moment.” I brought intensity and I brought an honesty.


S: In the aspect of the McVeigh character that is the trained military person – the stoic look, the non-conveyance of any information when standing at attention – did you work on this prior to the audition or is all of this new to you? Because whatever it is you are intending to hide is in fact pouring out of you.

E: I hadn’t really practiced that before the audition. In the rehearsal process we really didn’t talk about his military-like behavior. It came naturally, because what I focused on was the facts, the background of this guy. Yes, he was in the military. But he’s also been in jail the last six years and most of the time he’s been in isolation. In certain areas of Death Row you’re in your cell 23 hours a day. Then all of a sudden you’re in a small room with another guy. What do you do? The first scene especially is just so awkward. Even if he was a sociable guy, after being on Death Row, you’re going to behave in a very monotone way at first. I think that’s where that came from.

S: Good! What’s on the horizon for you?

E: I have a few projects coming up. After this, I’ll be doing SPECIAL FORCES at Theatre Rhino. I think John Fisher is directing.

S: How did that happen for you?

E: Just an audition. I did his generals a year or two ago. I’m a very proactive actor. I do all the general auditions.

S: You have to!

E: You have to. I mail out my headshots. I go North Bay, South Bay, East Bay.

S: Is your goal to stay in the Bay Area?

E: I don’t have a big dream to be a famous actor in LA. I want to work and I want to make money doing stage.

S: My goal is to keep Bay Area actors in the Bay Area and to call it like I see it. There is a mythology that when actors are brought in from somewhere else, i.e., those with New York credits, that a production is somehow going to be better. All that does is to take away employment from the large body of talent that is here in the Bay Area and the level of that talent is incredible.

E: You are absolutely correct. It’s refreshing to hear it from you. I’m an “Equity must-join”. That means I’ve collected a number of EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) points. I have 60. I can work with NCTC because they are a non-union theatre. The next time I work with a union theatre, such as Marin Shakes where I will be working this summer, they will have to offer me an Equity contract. I’m in the middle of all this right now and there are exceptions to the rule. You can write a Letter of Confession to Equity saying, “Can I wait to turn Equity, etc.”. The problem with Equity – as a young actor, in the Bay Area especially – is that it can be a double-edged sword. If you’re in LA or New York – yes, get your Equity card and go. But in the Bay Area there is a handful of theatres that offer Equity contracts such as Berkeley Rep, Cal Shakes, Marin Shakes, A.C.T., Theatre Works – that group. The problem is they only have four or five Equity contracts per show. In the Bay Area there is already a circle of Equity actors they use over and over again.

S: That is true.

E: Then the Leads – the main Leads – they fly-in from New York. What I am trying to do as a San Francisco native and as a Bay Area actor is to break-into that circle. And it’s not easy. Just as you pointed out, it’s not easy in the Bay Area. We only have a handful of Equity companies. So, I’m in this must-join grey area, I’ve got SPECIAL FORCES that I think I can get a waiver on because I don’t have to go Equity with them. Then in the summer I’m doing “The Henry’s” with Marin Shakespeare Company, HENRY IV, Part 1 and HENRY IV, Part 2 – playing “Prince John”. And I have to talk to Equity about that! Prince John is a smaller character. I’m not sure they can afford an Equity contract for that character / they want me to be non-union / I don’t want to give up all my points. It gets really complicated.

S: It’s really crazy! I sailed through 20 years as a professional singer without that union-thing hanging in front of me. And now, as a professional vocal coach of 24 years, I can tell you that the jobs, the roles, the developmental things young performers need to do in order to become the Artist who can pay his bills and have a relatively comfortable life style cannot happen in the San Francisco Bay Area with this Equity-thing hanging over their heads all the time. Thus, it forces a sense of ruthlessness.

In “Harrison”, I think you have the role of a lifetime. Speaking as a singer, you are doing my favorite job – that being, me and somebody else – my accompanist – sharing the stage for an hour and twenty minutes.

E: If I was Equity, I couldn’t have gotten this role.

S: Exactly!

E: My on-line identity, my e-mail is theatredaze. It’s my life. I’m in this daze of Theatre, trying to do my passion – but also make a living. Unfortunately, the only way you can make a living in theatre is to get that weekly paycheck. But, if you turn Equity, you say, “OK! Now I can get a weekly paycheck” – and then all of a sudden these companies don’t hire you because now they have to pay you.

S: Do you have a dream role?

E: I’m a big Shakespeare guy. I would say “Hamlet” is definitely up there. Up at Marin Shakes – Bob [Artistic Director, Robert Currier] knows my work. I don’t have this desire to play “Romeo”. Too easy! I like something darker, a little deeper. I like intelligent roles. Perhaps “Lt. Daniel Kaffee” in A FEW GOOD MEN.

S: Tell me about The Shirt Scene. “Harrison” is going to take his shirt off and be a real human being. He’s going to expose himself. I shouldn’t be that hard of a thing to do, but it’s obviously unnerving to everybody in the audience for one reason or another. It’s everything and it’s nothing. What’s it like for you?

Photos by Lois Tema

E: The moment is a very powerful moment and it should be. It feels intense and it feels powerful. For me, it was never a question of whether the Timothy McVeigh character is, possibly, Gay. I don’t think that’s what the scene is about. As you say, it is possibly the first time he is actually making a human connection. Doing the show for an hour – with all this anger and pain the character has locked inside – there’s something about John’s character I can connect with. The eve before I’m going to be executed I can finally become vulnerable and connect with someone. My character does it for two reasons. One – to actually make this human connection before he dies; and two – to thank James. To thank him and to show, “You know what? You actually listened to me and tried to hear where I’m coming from, unlike all the other tough reporters that have come in saying that I’m just a baby killer. It’s a powerful moment. The play wouldn’t be the play without that moment.

S: I agree totally. John described the timing of the scene as being “organic”. That is, unlike the singer or the dancer in the same moment who has an assigned number of beats and then moves out of it. So, what is going through your head in that moment, while you are standing there giving us your best?

E: I am very in the moment for that last part of the last scene towards the end of the play. I get to be absorbed in the moment, because I am not talking. Finally! I’m just there with John. That last part, where I’m slowly unzipping, slowly getting him to come to the window – I don’t talk. I just breathe. And I’m very much there. I’m wrapped up in my character. Things are going through my mind – it’s hard for him. I can’t forget how hard that must be. To be in this cold, isolated cell and to be going through all those things in your mind – “You are going to be executed tomorrow.” For him to clear his head enough to experience that with the James character is remarkable.

S: During the pressures of the audition, how did you communicate to John that he needed to work with you?

E: To be honest, Christopher runs a very tight audition. You come in and do your scene – he thanks you, and then you leave. There was very little chance to even talk with John. We are in the Decker Theatre, John is already on the stage, Bruce and Christopher are sitting in the seats.
Christopher, you remember Elias. / Hey, how’s it going? / Great. / OK, let’s read.
I don’t even remember a handshake.
This is John. He’ll be reading with you. / Hey, John, how’s it going?
And that’s it! You get into it. You pour your heart out to this guy in three scenes and afterwards it ends just as quickly. It was – OK, that was a good read. / Thank you. / Thank you. We’ll let you know.
I don’t know if those were the exact words. It was a very keenly-run audition.

S: During rehearsals, was there ever a time when there was a struggle for the two of you to connect?

E: Actor to actor or character to character?

S: Actor to actor.

E: Not really. John and I just seemed to connect right off the bat. We are similar in our acting styles. We are both non-union professionals. It was very friendly. We focused on the script. I had no problems looking him in the eye and meaning it, no problems becoming vulnerable. That’s how I knew we were going to be OK. The only thing we had to work on was our lines.

S: So – just for the SAN FRANCISTO SENTINEL – what final thing do you want the readers to know?

ELIAS ESCOBEDO – Now at NCTC, San Francisco

E: I’m lucky to have this unique opportunity. I’m an actor’s actor – I’m always looking from an actor’s point of view. This role is so unique. I’m trapped inside this box. I move five-feet by five-feet. To see someone try to express themselves when they are so limited – it’s engaging. This role is different. This play is different. Some of the things we talk about in that hour cannot be found on-line on a blog. It’s especially rewarding to see NCTC doing something a little darker and this grounded.

S: It is Quality to begin with.

E: It’s just two guys talking it out. The difference is – one of the guys blew up a building.

(415) 861-8972
25 Van Ness Avenue at Market | San Francisco, CA 94102 | BOX OFFICE: (415) 861-8972

See Seán’s recent articles and reviews:
ALTAR BOYZ – In San Francisco
PASCAL MOLAT, A Stroll Through Eden/Eden
COLOR ME KUBRICK – starring John Malkovich

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

Continue Reading

One more in critical condition


One man is in critical condition this morning after he was stabbed outside a restaurant on 24th and Mission streets, in San Francisco’s Mission District on Saturday night.

According to a San Francisco police officer, at around 10 p.m., the victim got into an argument with another person who proceeded to stab him.

The officer said the victim is being treated for serious injuries at San Francisco General Hospital and no suspects have yet been apprehended in connection with the stabbing.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

San Francisco streets remain vile

Unending loop of Fiddler tunes

San Francisco police released more information today about an early morning shooting in the Tenderloin neighborhood that left one woman dead and injured four other people.

In that attack, Sgt. Neville Gittens said that an as-yet-unknown person initiated the gunfire, which prompted a wheelchair-bound man to return shots. As a result of the ensuing shootout, a woman was killed and among the four injured, a 23-year-old woman suffered life threatening injuries.

According to Gittens, 32-year-old Walter Simon, a Richmond resident, was booked on one count of homicide and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The attack took place in the 300 block of Ellis Street around 12:03 a.m. According to Gittens, police believe Simon is responsible for three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of homicide.

Police do not know who was responsible for the other victim of the gunfire.

According to Sgt. Steve Mannina, Simon was in a wheelchair when the shootings occurred. Police also took into custody a gun they believe was used in the attack.

Officers working at the Tenderloin station heard shots shortly after midnight and ran to the scene of the attack in the 300 block of Ellis Street. They found five people shot and were able to take Simon into custody.

Of the shooting victims, a 54-year-old woman was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where she died of her injuries. Her name has not been released by the San Francisco medical examiner’s office pending the notification of her family. A 23-year-old woman from Richmond suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, Mannina said.

The rest of the victims, a 50-year-old man from Oakland, a 44-year-old man from San Francisco and a 25-year-old man whose residence is unknown were all taken to San Francisco General Hospital. They are expected to survive, according to Mannina.

In an unrelated incident, a man who was shot in the arm and abdomen around 4:19 p.m. Friday in the Tenderloin neighborhood later died in a hospital. The attack took place at Golden Gate and Hyde streets, according to Gittens.

Gittens reported earlier that a suspect in that fatal shooting was taken into custody, but as of today, there have been no arrests in connection to the specific charge of homicide. Several juveniles were arrested in connection to the attack, but none of the juveniles has been linked to the homicide, Gittens said.

Bay City News

Continue Reading

Yeah, what else is new with Parks and Recreation Department


By David Toerge
Sentinel Photography Editor
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

This should be filed in the “yeah, so what else is new department”.

When I arrived at the public tennis courts at Palega Park in the city’s Excelsior District for a morning set yesterday, my partner and I were greeted by a friendly crew from Rec and Park Department. They were there to install a windscreen, a much needed improvement to an area that is blasted by the 2:00 winds from Hell.


Our tennis game resumed as they worked. If my memory is right, I believe that there were five men doing the work with four more men wearing a slightly better set of threads, walking the perimeter and appearing to be supervising. This all seemed normal, albeit, a tad excessive with the show of force.

The morning air was thick with the pungent smell of burning tar as a roofing crew plied their trade on a house directly up wind from us. There was also a man wielding a screaming chain saw on the trees that surrounded one side of the court. With the sound of the chain saw, the smell of tar smoke, and having 5 men hanging plastic netting, our tennis game was rapidly becoming an unpleasant experience.

Enter: Irony…The chainsaw wielding man wasn’t trimming the trees to facilitate the installation of the windscreen; he was removing them completely. I counted at least ten stumps and multiple truckloads of branches. Ten very nice, oxygen-producing, living windscreens — sacrificed for plastic netting.

Was the order to trim the trees lost in translation, ignored, or was it the intention of Rec and Park to defoliate the area around Palega Park and rob the neighbors of green trees?

Whatever is the answer to that question.

When David Toerge left a career in photojournalism that had spanned over twelve years and started in a new direction of commercial photography he blended the editorial style with a more corporate look. David led the way in that new style garnering many awards for his work. Communications Arts has honored him over six times. Based in San Francisco, David shoots projects on location all over the US for various corporations and a multitude of magazines and always brings back great images. He has a keen sense of light, color, and composition and delivers to his clients assignments done with passion. He has climbed bridges hundreds of feet in the air, shot in caves hundreds of feet below, dived with sharks and driven the track with Indy drivers. He has shot earthquakes and firestorms but loves walking the streets with his camera just photographing the everyday life of his city. Visit Toerge Photography at, email, or telephone 415-730-3824.

Continue Reading

Ethics complaint against Sentinel dismissed

From the Ethics Commission of the City and County of San Francisco

April 10, 2007

Pat Murphy
San Francisco Sentinel
230 Eddy Street #211
San Francisco, Ca 94102

Re: Ethics Complaint No. 01-060208

Pursuant to Section V.A.3 of the San Francisco Ethics Commissions’ Regulations for investigations and Enforcement proceedings (“the Regulations”), the Ethics Commission conducted an investigation into the above-reference complaint in which you were named a respondent

The Commission has determined that there is insufficient evidence that a violation of State or City law relating to campaign finance, lobbying, campaign consulting, conflicts of interest or government ethics occured.

For this reason, the Ethics Commission has dismissed this complaint.

Purusant to the Regulations, no further action is contemplated in regard to this complaint.


John St. Croix
Executive Director

Continue Reading

SHOT TO THE HEART – King of Cool Returns to City by the Bay


By PJ Johnston
Sentinel Film Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

I’m not one to use this space to regurgitate press releases. After all, I write press releases in my day job, among other things, and by the time I sit down to work on Moving Pictures, I’m sick of the sight of them. This column is about movies, and life, and how much juice I can squeeze out of the two.

On the other hand, it would be ungracious, vile and arrogant of me to blow off press releases altogether in my capacity as film critic for Your San Francisco Sentinel – all the while expecting editors and writers at other publications to take note of mine all week long. What comes around goes around, after all.

So when an announcement of some kind catches my fancy, I feel obliged to share it with you, dear reader. And just such a press release crossed my desk this week.

Seems Steve McQueen – that’s right, Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, San Francisco detective, all-time badass of all-time badasses – is returning to the city where he made his most famous movie … but it won’t be in a second-run movie theater or a San Francisco State film class.

Instead, McQueen will be brought back to life on the walls of one of San Francisco’s finest art galleries.

According to my source, intrepid biographer Marshall Terrill, Barbara McQueen’s photos of her superstar husband will make its world premiere on May 5 at the San Francisco Art Exchange, 458 Geary Street.

“The idea of having a photo exhibit has been a longtime dream of mine,” said Barbara McQueen. “And the perfect place to host such an exhibit is in the city where Steve filmed ‘Bullitt.’”

I’d love to report to you that the lovely Ms. McQueen actually told me this – but alas, I got it from Senor Terrill’s press release. I intend to actually speak to her, art-reception wine and hunks of cheese in hand, on Cinco de Mayo.

Terrill’s first book, “Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel,” was a big hit in 1993. This year he collaborated with Barbara McQueen on Steve McQueen: The Last Mile,” a 250-page photo book that, I have a hunch, just might be available at the Art Exchange show.

Terrill, interestingly enough, is noted for his biographies on McQueen, Elvis Presley and Pistol Pete Maravich, the basketball great. Even more interestingly, Terrill worked for financier Charles Keating back in the 80s. By 1989 Keating’s company, Lincoln Savings & Loan, was the poster child of the savings and loan scandal that brought down the industry and cost you, dear taxpayer, billions in bailout dough. Keating, a rich, ultraconservative anti-porn crusader who put the “critter” in hippocrit, was sent sentenced to jail and Terrill suddenly found himself unemployed. At age 26, he moved back into his parents’ home in Virginia and began his second career, as a biographer. His first subject was McQueen.

Nice choice. Who didn’t love the King of Cool? Star of countless great, half-great and okay-not-so great movies, most notably “The Magnificent Seven(1960), “ The Great Escape(1963),“The Thomas Crown Affair ” (1968),“Papillon” (1973) and, of course, “Bullitt,” the 1968 thriller that made the world fall in love with San Francisco, Ford Mustangs and Jacqueline Bisset. We San Franciscans still love to marvel at the way that green GT flew off the ground on Potrero Hill and landed in Russian Hill! Yeah, baby!

McQueen was the quintessential Hollywood bad boy and one damn fine actor. (He died of complications from liver cancer in 1980.) He lived larged, burned rubber as a motorcyclist and race car driver, and burned through a marriage with “The Getaway” (1972) co-star Ali MacGraw … and really, if you’re going to burn through a marriage, wouldn’t we all like it to be with Ali MacGraw, the Scarlett Johanson of her era?

(Incidentally, MacGraw wrote a 1991 autobiography, “Moving-Pictures-Autobiography-Ali-Macgraw” – no relation to this column.)

McQueen later married the beautiful Barbara Minty, a model with a talent for photography, and spent his final years with her.

This exhibition is a personal collection of about 40 photographs taken by Minty nee McQueen, who has remained silent about her relationship with her husband for more than 25 years. Now she’s ready to talk about their life together and her photographs, which offer an extremely personal insight into the final years of Steve McQueen.

The photos offer candid shots from 1977 to 1980 – the actor’s years in a fading spotlight. It also chronicles her times with McQueen at Trancas Beach; Ketchum, Idaho; and Santa Paula; as well as behind-the-scenes shots from the sets of his final films, “Tom Horn” and the underappreciated “The Hunter,” (both 1980)

“It will be a fun gathering of family and friends and an eclectic mix of people,” said Terrill, who is organizing the exhibit. “I’m sure there will be people from all walks of life including bikers, artists, poets, actors, accountants, writers and McQueen fans. Everyone is welcome.”

Both Barbara McQueen and Terrill will give short presentations on the photos (some of which have never been seen before) and take questions afterward.

And if I gulp enough of that gallery wine, I’m gonna ask Terrill about Charles Keating’s jowls, and how Pistol Pete might’ve fared against Kobe. No matter how much wine I put down, however, I promise to leave Ali MacGraw out of it.

The cost to attend the Barbara McQueen photo exhibit at the San Francisco Art Exchange on May 5t is free, but an RSVP is required to guarantee admittance. Contact Theron Kabrich at (800) 344-9633 or e-mail at

PJ Johnston is president of the San Francisco Arts Commission and a former executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission. He served as Mayor Willie Brown’s press secretary and now runs his own communications consulting firm in San Francisco. A former journalist, he has written about movies for several publications, including the San Jose Mercury News and – long ago, in a galaxy far, far away – for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Email PJ at

Continue Reading

Argent Hotel passersby wowed by skydancing street performers

Startled midday crowds stopped in their tracks April 12, 2007, as a glance upward caught skydancers performing off San Francisco Argent Hotel highrise, in The City where even street performers serve up only the very best.

By David Toerge
Sentinel Photography Editor
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel






When David Toerge left a career in photojournalism that had spanned over twelve years and started in a new direction of commercial photography he blended the editorial style with a more corporate look. David led the way in that new style garnering many awards for his work. Communications Arts has honored him over six times. Based in San Francisco, David shoots projects on location all over the US for various corporations and a multitude of magazines and always brings back great images. He has a keen sense of light, color, and composition and delivers to his clients assignments done with passion. He has climbed bridges hundreds of feet in the air, shot in caves hundreds of feet below, dived with sharks and driven the track with Indy drivers. He has shot earthquakes and firestorms but loves walking the streets with his camera just photographing the everyday life of his city. Visit Toerge Photography at, email, or telephone 415-730-3824.

Continue Reading

Compromise reached for Golden Gate Park Saturday auto ban

From the Mayor’s Office of Communications

Tonight at 6:50PM, supporters and opponents of road closures in Golden Gate Park, reached an historic compromise to close portions of park roadway for the summer months each year. The compromise, brokered by Mayor Gavin Newsom, ends years of acrimonious debate between park users, neighbors, and leaders of cultural attractions at the park.

“Today was a victory for our shared values. Golden Gate Park is our city’s treasure, and this proposal allows everyone to enjoy it with minimal disruption,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“We’re proud of today’s compromise, which proves the dedication on all sides to increasing and improving park usage, including both recreational activities and cultural attractions,” said Rick Galbreath of the Sierra Club, Spokesperson, Healthy Saturdays Coalition.

“After marathon negotiations, this compromise achieves recreational objectives and reduces the adverse impact on the park’s cultural attractions and neighbors,” said Tomasita Medál, Spokesperson, Park Access For All Coalition.

Mayor Newsom praised Chief of Staff Phil Ginsburg for facilitating this compromise.

“Each day I start my morning by taking a run in the park,” said Ginsburg. “This is a labor of love.”


On April 12 and 13, 2007, parties met to discuss alternatives to the current Saturday closure proposal for John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park (file number 070269). Supporters and opponents of the current closure proposal spent several hours working to identify a mutually amenable compromise on this issue.

Both parties agree to amend the current Saturday closure proposal pending at the Board of Supervisors in the following ways:

• JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park will be closed to vehicular traffic west of Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive to Transverse Drive on Saturdays from the first Saturday of April through the last Saturday of September each year. This Saturday road closure shall be operative from 6AM to 6PM, and inclement weather protocols that apply to the current Sunday closure shall also apply to this Saturday closure.

• Vehicle deliveries to the DeYoung Museum loading dock will be permitted during Saturday and Sunday vehicle closure of JFK Drive. Delivery vehicles will access the Museum’s loading dock via JFK Drive with unimpeded access through the road closure.
Appropriate protocol will be developed by the DeYoung Museum that allows for unencumbered delivery access to the loading dock, while maintaining safety of individuals within the road closure. Such protocol and delivery activities will be evaluated on a regular basis by the Museum to ensure that adequate delivery access is maintained and if necessary, the Mayor’s Office shall institute methods that ensure adequate delivery access.

• Middle Drive West from Metson Road to Transverse Drive, which is already closed to vehicular traffic on Saturdays, will undergo capital improvements as quickly as possible. These improvements are intended to enhance recreational uses in this area for bikers, walkers, skaters and other park visitors. The Recreation and Park Department shall develop and implement capital improvement and programmatic plans for this area in partnership with private philanthropic interests contributing to these capital efforts, based on community input from park users and neighbors.

• This road closure proposal will not be implemented until the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Disability, in consultation with the DeYoung’s Access Division, has confirmed that adequate physical accessibility is provided throughout the Saturday closure area, consistent with the American with Disabilities Act. The Mayor’s Office will commit to implementing required access requirements that will allow this Saturday closure to begin on May 26, 2007.

• Recreation and Park Department shall develop appropriate signage for this Saturday closure to minimize any traffic disruption.

• Signatories to this agreement, as individuals and on behalf of their organizations, agree not to pursue or support additional closure proposals in Golden Gate Park nor proposals to decrease road closure in Golden Gate Park during Saturday or Sunday for five (5) years from the date of this agreement. No sunset provision shall be included in the legislation codifying this agreement.
This document summarizes the agreement reached between the parties for an alternative Saturday closure. This agreement will be codified into legislation by the City Attorney’s Office by Monday, April 16, 2007.

Continue Reading

It’s budget time again in San Francisco — prepare for classic theater


Our City’s budget of almost $6 billion, serving fewer than 750,000 people, dwarfs the budgets of twenty-two states in this country. We already know the City doesn’t spend nearly enough of its $6 billion to smooth streets, pristine parks, or assure a functional infrastructure. You’ve heard this before, so it seems almost immaterial to once again mention common sense government efficiency and best practices during budget time. We go down that road each and every year and by now even the most stubborn fiscal watchdog must abdicate a reasonable approach to spending tax dollars. Perhaps it is more relevant to take a closer look at the political theater that raises its curtains every budget season at City Hall.

On with the show — somehow every year around budget time, we read that San Francisco faces yet another budget deficit. In the same breath, we hear that the City has collected record tax revenue! How can we be running consistent annual budget deficits while also taking in record revenues? What kind of mathematical theorems are used to explain this phenomenon?

Act I of this theatrical production is set within City Hall where the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have perfected ways to feed their special interests, pet projects, and ideological preferences with the unfortunate consequence of mortgaging the fiscal health of the City.

According to the Controller’s projections, the City will end the current fiscal year (FY) 2006-2007 with a $126.6 million “surplus,” largely driven by local tax revenue like the property transfer tax that has tripled since 2003 and brought the City nearly $150 million last year alone. But despite significant boosts in revenue (by the way, total tax revenue has doubled in the past 10 years) the City still faces a perennial, systemic budget deficit which at last estimate will total at least $25 and $85 million for the next two years. So what happened to that record tax revenue – that “surplus?” The reality is that there never was a surplus. This production spends money faster than it can be counted.

The use of the word “surplus” is a bit misleading. Most of us view a surplus as revenue that should be used with discretion since it is not usually counted on appearing again. In this City, however, it is typically relied upon to balance budgets in future deficit years. In fact, when the Controller’s Office projects future budget numbers, it assumes that every dollar of any “surplus,” this year totalling $126.6 million, will be available in its entirety to fund future budgets. There is no guarantee that the money will be there and even assuming none of this year’s projected “surplus” is spent and is instead made available to fund future budgets, the City still expects to be $25 million in the red in FY 2007-08 and $85 million in the red for FY 2008-09. So, every dollar of the “surplus” that they spend now will mean larger future deficits beyond the $25 and $85 million figures! Did someone say surplus?

The Controller’s projections also assume no wage increases beyond inflation for police, fire, and nurses—all of whom are currently in contract negotiations. When was the last time wage negotiations resulted in salary increases at or below inflation? Be mindful that every salary increase of only 1% adds $6.1 million to the deficit per year for FY 2007-08 and FY 2008-09, and $16.3 million in FY 2009-10. As these harsh fiscal realities come to bear in the final act of the show, the money is already spent and the City’s residents and businesses are left to pick up the tab.

Act II begins just days after the Controller announces mid-year budget projections, including any projected year-end “surplus.” City Supervisors rush like fare evaders through the back door of a Muni bus to spend the money on pet projects and “needs” that have been agreed upon in back rooms. These budget enhancements, whether legitimate or not, often have money appropriated with no sustainable funding streams. So when a Supervisor says that we now have the money to expand a program, the question remains, how will the added costs be sustained when the money is not there? If fiscal watchdogs cry foul, they are dubbed evil and told to “pay their fair share” only to hear the City announce the good news of a surplus (and future deficits).

In FY ’04-’05 Supervisors spent $8.3 million of “surplus.” In FY ’05-’06 they spent $60 million in “surplus” funds. In FY ’06-’07, hold onto your wallets and purses because once again the Chair of the Budget Committee, Supervisor Chris Daly has already proposed spending $38 million of this year’s $126.6 million projected “surplus” with other Supervisors said to be following suit in the coming days with their own spending proposals. It is only April.

In 2003 the Committee on Jobs called for the establishment of a “rainy day reserve fund” to take the city through rough economic times. With some leadership at the Board of Supervisors, the fund became a reality. When City revenue exceeds 5% from the preceding year, fifty cents out of every dollar is locked away in this fund only to be used in poor economic times when revenues fall. So as we watch the budget debate this year, perhaps our elected officials should entertain the idea that ALL “surplus” revenue be held in abeyance, in a special temporary account, prohibiting its use until the Mayor submits a budget to the Board on June 1. This way we will know how much money we actually have as a surplus and perhaps be able to make intelligent holistic decisions on its use as opposed to haphazard decisions from pressure groups and idealogues.

When leaders from both large and small businesses hear the words “surplus” and “deficit” in the same breath by politicians, we are bewildered. Unfortunately, it seems that everytime we suggest a more thoughtful and long-term approach to government spending amidst annual budget deficits, we are assigned the role of villain in this grand production. Financial ignorance or political strategy? You decide.

Nathan Nayman is a veteran observer of San Francisco, her governance, and governance impact on San Francisco business climate.

Continue Reading

Sensual San Francisco intertwines exotic Tuscany in local novel like upgraded Sex and The City

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION — Author Jill St. Anne, left, surrendered to the seduction of Italian food, fashion, and handsome men twenty years ago and brings the throb to heart in release of spy thriller The Italian Connection, set in San Francisco and Tuscany. St. Anne seen last night with San Francisco book signing fans. Judy Fairchild, right, celebrated her own birthday at the event, recalling daughter St. Anne’s early years when St. Anne devoured Nancy Drew mysteries and promptly rewrote them… for improvement, at eight years of age


By Pat Murphy
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

The bold, the beautiful, and the deadliest of bad guys, wage a modern day spy thriller between exotic Tuscany and sensual San Francisco now luxuriating off the pages of Jill St. Anne’s second novel — The Italian Connection.

Italians, more beautiful than they have any right to be, and San Franciscans more sensuous than the world dare utter, come to world-saving life from St. Anne’s memory of her first trip to Italy with friend Susan Jarolim who blends into leading character Christina. “Everybody thinks Christina is me, she’s not, she’s my friend Susan,” St. Anne confided to the Sentinel.

Jill St. Anne is the pen name for Jill Zajicek Wickersham, who received award for investigative journalism while in college.

San Francisco misty intrique combines with lush beaches of Tuscany to read like today’s version of Sex and The City, with Christina the modern day Nancy Drew.

“The thriller part is that the main character comes into possession with this microchip that is used to activate an arsenal of anti-ballistic missles,” continued St. Anne.

“So it’s very timely actually because this is what’s going on in North Korea, this is what’s going on in China.

“What happens is that the bad guys chase down Christina, because they know she has the microchip, knowing that if they were able to get ahold of the microchip they would be able to disarm our military.”

The seduction of both cities, and their people, intertwine with the caper.

“It is a romance but it’s very serious as well. With the cars, the food, the fashion, and the handsome men.”

St. Anne, of course, arrived in lastest model Italian Ferrari.


Event host Claudia Ross, left, emceed the gathering with fashion connoisseur Sophie Azouaou also welcoming St. Anne’s mother Judy Fairchild, right.

Leading San Francisco Italiana were represented by Alioto clan frontliner Joe Alioto Veronese and wife Laura Veronese.

San Francisco Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese and wife Laura ushered a path by Claudia Ross, at left

Exacting bon vivants attended nodding approval.

From left, Claude Hubert, Chip Zecher, Michael Mulcahy, and Holly Baxter

Mark Calvano, right, makes the party in between launching men’s fashion wear for gentlemen born to center stage

The Italian Connection is available online, cover designed by discerning mother Judy Fairchild

In the end, Christina takes a gamble that puts her own life on the line. She discovers her inner strength and learns that in love, a woman’s intuition is seldom wrong.

Last night, St. Anne captured intuition of locals who sense winners.


Pat Murphy and Sophie Azouaou with Judy Fairchild




Continue Reading

Fast Pass airport security system coming to San Francisco

SFO Director John Martin detailed faster flight boarding availability set to begin in October with prior submission to screening
Photos by John Han

By Pat Murphy
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

Frequent flyers, or merely those not at home with public exhibition of their socks, can look forward to less intrusive and faster security checks at San Francisco International Airport.

Starting in October, City officials projected yesterday, the hurried and the deadly shy can reduce their pre-flight gendarme once-over from some six minutes to as short as 30 seconds.

Such fast pass service, now available in five American cities, requires annual submission to a background check, retina scan or thumb print, and processing fee of $99, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom reported Wednesday.

Even now, San Francisco beats the national average for security clearance, the mayor noted.

Mayor Gavin Newsom

Passing through SFO security checks now takes on average 2.4 minutes compared to national average of 4.2 delay six minutes, he said. Local peak time national average is 16 minutes, more than twice San Francisco average of six minutes.

Even so, with three new airlines soon to service SFO — JetBlue, Virgin and Southwest — increased passenger load could come with added security delays

Newsom and Martin met with reporters in the International Room of City hall at 12:30 p.m. to announce local fast pass availability.

Newsom and Martin with, at left, Nate Ballard, mayoral press secretary, during roundtable presentation

Known as the Registered Traveler Program, some 4,000 flyers have signed up for the program now operating at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

See Related: ENROLLMENT STATIONS open for San Francisco flyer Fast Pass

Continue Reading

California voters approve of state law combating global warming

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered keynote address yesterday on state efforts to combat global warming. Schwarzenegger spoke at Georgetown University in Washington, DC for Newsweek’s Global Environmental Leadership Conference. The governor earlier met with federal officials to speed regulation of automobile emissions reduction.
Photo by William Foster, Office of Governor Schwarzenegger

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

California voters see global warming as a serious problem. Voters here give very negative ratings to the job the federal government is doing in handling the issue, but are not as critical of the way the state government is dealing with the problem.

There is strong support for a new state law, passed last year by the state legislature and signed with considerable fanfare by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, requiring California to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 25% by the year 2020.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, left, welcomes California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Treasure Island September 28, 2006, for signing ceremony of state legislation requiring reduced carbon emissions. Photos by Bill Wilson


However, there is a sharp division of opinion as to the best way to achieve the goal of a twenty five percent reduction in emissions. Almost half of the public (45%) support establishing a trading system to enable companies that can’t reduce their emissions by the required amount to pay other companies to exceed their cutback totals. On the other hand, an almost equal proportion (41%) favors requiring all major companies to make a uniform, across-the-board twenty-five percent cutback in emissions. These are the findings from the latest Field Poll completed late last month.

Seriousness of the problem
Eight out of ten California voters (81%) describe global warming as a very serious (56%) or somewhat serious (25%) problem. Just one in six (17%) maintain that it is not a serious problem.

Democrats, non-partisans, liberals, middle-of-the-road voters, women, younger Californians under age 40, and voters in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area are more likely than others to say the global warming issue is very serious.


Job approval ratings of the federal and state governments
Just one in five California voters (21%) approve of the job that the federal government is doing
in dealing with the global warming problem, while more than three times as many (66% disapprove.

Voters are not as critical of the performance of the state government in this area. At present, forty three percent approve of the state government’s efforts in dealing with this problem, while a like percentage (43%) disapprove.


Views about the new state law reducing emissions
Last year Governor Schwarzenegger and the state legislature passed a law requiring that California reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 25% by the year 2020.

When voters are asked about this action, a large majority (79%) approves (55% strongly approving and 24% favoring somewhat). This compared to just 17% who disapprove.

Democrats, non-partisans, liberals, middle-of-the-roaders and voters in the San Francisco Bay Area are more likely than other voters to back the new law strongly.


Trading system vs. uniform cuts?
One way to implement the state’s requirement for greenhouse gas reductions would be to set up a trading system allowing firms that can’t reduce their emissions by the required amount to pay other companies to exceed their cutback totals, thereby achieving a net 25% reduction across all companies. Another alternative would be to impose a uniform 25% cutback across-the-board for all companies. When asked which alternative they preferred, voters are about evenly divided, with 45% favoring the trading system and 41% opting for the uniform, across-the-board cut.

Unlike other elements of the global warming issue, there is not much difference in opinions by partisanship, ideology, gender or age, although more voters in the San Francisco Bay Area are supportive of the trading system than voters elsewhere in the state.


Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Chief Executive Office Tom King with signature on green emissions bill

A pleased Charlotte Schultz, Chief of Protocol for both the State of California and for the City and County of San Francisco, following signing ceremony.


Continue Reading

Disabled access to Golden Gate Park Kennedy Drive to be expanded

From the Mayor’s Office of Communications

Mayor Newsom and Supervisor McGoldrick today announced that disabled access has been expanded to John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park during its weekly Sunday closure to vehicles. These improvements are being made in order to comply with the American Disability Act (ADA) and legislation sponsored by Supervisor McGoldrick, passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the Mayor last year.

Disabled access improvements that have been made include: 1) Posting of signs outside the closure area that identify nearby disabled-accessible parking and provide directions to the underground garage below the Music Concourse; 2) the addition of 10 accessible parking spaces created adjacent or nearby the closure, and eight more parking spaces pending approval by the Municipal Transportation Agency; and 3) the establishment of car drop-off zones under Concourse garage, at McLaren Lodge and at Bowling Green Drive next to JFK Drive.

This week, the City will commence with the bid process to secure two permanent trams that will drive the length of the closure and provide access to the entire closure area for park users with disabilities. Until these trams are procured by the City, the Mayor’s Office is working to secure interim vehicles to provide near-term access to this closure.

The Mayor’s Office of Disability will monitor the completion of these improvements in the coming days and weeks.

Mayor Newsom expressed satisfaction that these accessibility improvements were moving forward quickly: “Simply put, JFK Drive must be accessible to all residents and visitors so that everyone can enjoy it equally. These state-of-the-art trams will provide a level of accessibility that can serve as a model to other cities that want to increase access to recreational street closures.”

Supervisor McGoldrick commented, “I am delighted that park visitors with disabilities will enjoy better access to the wonderful recreational and cultural activities in the Eastern end of Golden Gate Park.”

Mayor Newsom, in reflecting on discussions about alternatives to the current Saturday closure proposal said that “both the supporters and opponents of the current Saturday closure proposal deserve credit for sitting down with open minds to explore alternatives. I am committed to ensuring that any alternatives that are explored guarantee the level of disabled access that has been developed for the current Sunday closure.”

Continue Reading