Monday, January 16, 2017

SF Chronicle: Civic Leader Hopes '[Trump] Does Well'

I've never respected George Schultz, former adviser to President Reagan who served as his secretary of state in the 1980s. He's married to San Francisco's wealthy socialite and Chief of Protocol Charlotte Mailliard Schultz, and is frequently seen at City Hall soirees.

This power-couple often enjoys steno services from the SF Chronicle. Just yesterday, Sunday, January 15, the print edition of the paper asked George Schultz to weigh in on Donald Trump:

"Our economy has been slowed by a maze of intricate regulations. But a rearrangement of our tax system and regulatory changes, already in the works, will boost the economy. We’re also in a new era of renewable energy (wind, solar, electric) and, based on my involvement with MIT and Stanford, the problem of storing their intermittency will be reduced.

"As far as Trump is concerned, even though so many are rooting against him, I hope he does well. I’m always for the president, whoever he is. The better the president does, the better off our country will be."

I sure would like to know exactly what part of Trump's agenda is so attractive to Schultz. No, I don't agree that the better this pathological, narcissistic, thin-skinned liar the better America is.

FYI, there are at least seven pieces of public property named for one or both of the Schultz's including City Hall's grand staircase.
This is my third day of dealing with a cold. Grateful it's not the flu. Been taking life very easy.

Mike and I took a taxi out to the Legion of Honor on Sunday to catch the terrific Brother Le Nain exhibit. Otherwise, drinking lots of water, eating fruits and getting plenty of rest.

We're commemorating Martin Luther King Jr Day remembering the great man's work for peace and justice, and watching black-themed films on Turner Classic Movies.

What's happening in your world this weekend?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

CA Pols Wiener & McGuire Withhold TRUMP Act Emails

Did you know electeds in Sacramento have passed open government laws that exempt themselves as state legislators from being required to release public records?

I did and I still filed a public records request with state senator Mike McGuire for his emails related to his TRUMP (Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public) Act proposal that he and fellow senator Scott Wiener introduced in December.

The secretary of the senate informed me that records sought, which may or may not exist, cannot be released because of the exemption granting special status to members of the legislature. Isn't that special?

McGuire and Wiener racked up a fair amount of news clippings for their PR stunt, attempting to require Donald Trump and all presidential hopefuls to release their tax returns in order to get on the 2010 California ballot.

Sure, let's enact such a transparency requirement of POTUS wannabes, but let's also force California's state senators and assembly members to fall under the full purview of all open government laws.

How about it, McGuire and Wiener? Their sunshine philosophy currently is "transparency for thee, not for me" and that needs to change.

Friday, January 13, 2017

UCSF Reviewing Sup. Sheehy's Email Exchanges With City Hall

The University of California is subject to various open government statutes, a fact that needs repeating often since many folks don't know they can request a slew of public records from the various campuses.

Last week, I filed a request for copies of Jeff Sheehy's UCSF emails he exchanged with Mayor Ed Lee's staff and anyone at or any communication related to City Hall, from September 1 through the date of the request.

I also am seeking several years of his university financial disclosure forms, which are separate from the Form 700 he must fill out for the San Francisco Ethics Commission, now that he's a member of the Board of Supervisors.

Today, a public information officer for UCSF, Brenda Gee Peralta, sent me a letter stating my request is a work in process. Records have been gathered and are under review. Let's see how their process progresses next week when I'll ask for another status report.

American democracy, for me, equals being a citizen advocate year-round and recognizing voting on Election Day is a very minimal act of engagement.

Democracy demands we make our appointed officials as transparent as possible, and always remember Sheehy received a single vote, that of Mayor Lee, to assume the power he now possesses. There was no public vetting of Sheehy before he was chosen to be the supervisor for District 8.

Cory Booker's Pharma Donations as Mayor of Newark?

To follow the money from drug companies to the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is going to take a few sets of eyeballs.

Quickly perusing a small number of Booker's many filings with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission, I found one contribution for $500 from an employee of a drug firm, Astrea Zeneca of Delaware, made in 2012.

Unfortunately, all commission filings from Booker are PDFs requiring downloading and contributions and expenses are listed in the same reports. There is no easy way of searching Booker's donors during his mayoral campaigns, according to a commission staffer I spoke with today.

Booker ran four times for Newark mayor, each time setting up two committees and there are at least seventy PDF filings from his campaign. That's a lot of records to comb through.

If you are or know of pharma watchdogs with the resources to research how much Booker raked in from drug companies directly and their employees, they can begin their searching here.

And if they need verbal assistance from the commission, the watchdogs should call 609-292-8700.

We must not only hold Booker to account for pharma funds received as a U. S. Senator but also during his tenure as mayor of Newark.
(Photo credit: Rick Gerharter for the Bay Area Reporter.)

What's in Sup. Sheehy's Financial Disclosure Form?

Only one person vetted and voted for the new District 8 member of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee, who himself was installed without facing the voters. 

So much for San Francisco democracy allowing we, the people, to directly choose our leaders all of the times.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who is not my supervisor just as Trump is not my president, assumed office on January 8. 

According to Ethics Commission rules, Sheehy has to produce his Form 700 and disclose a bit of financial information for himself and his husband.

Would have been nice to have Sheehy's Form 700 available for public inspection before he was anointed supervisor. Sames goes for seeing Trump's tax returns before he won the presidency.

We'll simply have to wait for Sheehy to provide the commission with his filing and once that happens, it can be read here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

NYT's Friedman: 'I Am a Small Shareholder' of a Cybersecurity Firm

It was a passing financial disclosure and generated curiosity about other info that should be disclosed.

Thomas Friedman opined in his January 11 opinion column for the New York Times, "Online and Scared," that our lives are ruled digitally and everyone needs to be careful about all that we do and share online.

Here's what caught my news watchdog eye:

"Alan S. Cohen, chief commercial officer of the cybersecurity firm Illumio (I am a small shareholder), noted in an interview on that the reason this tipping point tipped now was because so many companies, governments, universities, political parties and individuals have concentrated a critical mass of their data in enterprise data centers and cloud computing environments."

Good of Friedman to make this shareholder disclosure and I'd like for him and all regular Times columnists to fully disclose every company in which they are invested. Not only if they're writing about such a company but complete financial disclosures permanently posted on their Times biography page.

Why not have such media transparency? We demand it of our elected leaders. Let's also require it of America's news personalities and pundits.

There is also the matter of how Friedman and his editors define small. Is it ten or 10,000 shares he owns of Illumio? More info, and transparency, very much needed.

Time for Citizen Comments at the Start of SF Supes' Meetings

Gazing into my 2017 crystal ball, I see many meetings of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors every Tuesday, and lots of citizens anxious to speak.

Since there is no fixed time for citizen comments, forcing taxpayers to wait around for hours to petition our government representatives, I see working folks disrespected.

They don't know if they'll speak at 3 pm or 6 pm or whenever. This needs to change.

Casting my eye to the East Bay, there's a better way of handling time for the Supervisors to hear from we, the people.

Berkeley's City Council takes public comment at the start of the meeting for fifteen minutes and everyone not able to address the council at that time is given an opportunity for general comments at the end and on each agenda item. Public comments are always third on the agenda.

The full text of their rules are below.

For the Oakland City Council, the time is called Open Forum/Citizen Comments and it's third on the agenda and for fifteen minutes. I love how they use the term citizen instead of public, too. On top of that, you can also sign up online to speak at a meeting in Oakland!

How respectful and civilized of the electeds in these two East Bay cities. Folks know when to show up to speak. They don't have to spend hours listening to the pols blather on.

In San Francisco, the supervisors don't allow public comment at fixed agenda item and never at a fixed time. It always comes after making Roll Call Introductions, stood around handing out proclamations to constituents and generally campaign for the cameras and future votes.

A plea to every potential speaker at a Board of Supervisors meeting: Start demanding the members follow the example of Oakland and Berkeley and give us citizens time to speak at the start of every Tuesday meeting.

Berkeley's rules:

Public Comment on Non-Agenda Matters: Persons will be selected by lottery to address matters not on the Council agenda. If five or fewer persons submit speaker cards for the lottery, each person selected will be allotted two minutes each. If more than five persons submit speaker cards for the lottery, up to ten persons will be selected to address matters not on the Council agenda and each person selected will be allotted one minute each. Persons wishing to address the Council on matters not on the Council agenda during the initial ten-minute period for such comment, must submit a speaker card to the City Clerk in person at the meeting location and prior to commencement of that meeting. The remainder of the speakers wishing to address the Council on non-agenda items will be heard at the end of the agenda. Speaker cards are not required for this second round of public comment on non-agenda matters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poz Inmate Michael Johnson Denied Clemency by Gov Nixon

When I was contacted in late December to write a letter to the governor of Missouri on behalf of my poz prison pen-pal Michael Johnson, I urged the leaders of his support team to go public with the effort. They opted not to mount a full-bore campaign for Michael.

Of course, we'll never know if such a campaign would have succeeded but it would have been a great assistance, I believe, if we had toward strengthening and expanding the support network for Michael. If there is another effort where public pressure could benefit Michael, I hope the leaders of his team more fully engage folks.

The news last week that clemency was denied by Gov. Jay Nixon was kept quiet but now, the Bay Area Reporter's sports writer Roger Brigham is the first to report this sad news.

I'll be mailing the print version of the story to Michael on Thursday, to keep him informed of how he continues to receive media attention in San Francisco. Here are excerpts from the BAR:

"A panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals in December overturned Johnson's conviction for knowingly infecting one man with HIV and endangering four other sexual partners, saying that the prosecution had engaged in a 'a trial-by-ambush strategy' by waiting until the last minute to reveal key evidence.

"Activists have been working behind the scenes for Johnson, but over the weekend outgoing Governor Jay Nixon declined to offer Johnson clemency, and St. Charles County prosecutors fought to have the appellate panel's decision overturned.

"If successful, the move by county prosecutors would reinstate a 30-year prison sentence under a penal code HIV activists call barbaric and counter to public welfare. Under Missouri laws, written decades ago when fear and ignorance plagued public fears regarding HIV and AIDS, it is a crime for an HIV-positive person to knowingly have unprotected sex. Repeated calls to the county prosecutor's office were not immediately returned . . .

"The antiquated laws under which Johnson was convicted spit in the face of that good sense. They infantilize and enable the hapless souls that do not assume responsibility for their own actions and who blame others for what they encounter . . .

"If county prosecutors are successful in having the conviction reinstated or hold a new trial with a new conviction, they will be flying in the face of virtually every human rights organization concerned about laws criminalizing HIV . . ."

My Freedom of Information Act request in December to the FBI for any files on Vice Media/Vice News, produced a reply that arrived via snail mail yesterday.

The FBI says they have no records responsive to my request. Just sharing this info to bring transparency to my FOIA-filing activities lately, maybe also inspire others to file requests for public records.

Have you asked a government agency for any records lately? American democracy needs more citizens making requests.