A mother's thanks: Thank you for your thoughtful, extensive coverage of the slaughtering of my son Idriss Stelley by the SFPD on June 13 ("Bang, Bang, Bang ... -- You're Dead," Matt Smith, Aug. 29). [I received] many responses, [including] from the French Consulate [and] enthusiastic calls from friends and supporters of our family.
Thanks to you, hope remains: We are reaching a wide, heterogeneous audience and [will] hopefully suscitate renewed interest in my baby's case. If, after all, Idriss did not die in vain, I will be forever grateful.
Shedding light on the Sunshine Ordinance: Agreed, the conduct of the SFPD and other city agencies regarding the shooting of Idriss Stelley is, put mildly, reprehensible. Smith does a public service by alerting SF Weekly's readers to the episode and the larger issue of government secrecy. But his characterization of the "so-called Sunshine Ordinance" and how it came into existence is equally reprehensible -- a slap in the face to the scores of people, including yours truly, who have spent, and are still spending, literally person-years to increase the transparency of city and county government, not just in San Francisco but throughout the Bay Area. San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance was enacted by City Hall in 1993 at the behest of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, of which I was then president. Amendments to strengthen the ordinance -- eliminating loopholes and establishing penalties for violators -- were approved, [by a] 58 to 42 [percent margin], by San Francisco voters in November 1999, despite opposition from Mayor Willie Brown, seven of the 11 city supervisors, the Chamber of Commerce, SPUR, and the Democratic and Republican county central committees. I don't call that [being] "[splashed onto the ballot] every year or so," as Smith states. Slams such as that serve no purpose. If Smith believes the ordinance remains weak, perhaps he can suggest improvements and even work to bring them to reality. He is certainly welcome to contact me at any time on the matter.
Member, Freedom of Information Committee
Society of Professional Journalists,
Northern California Chapter, Russian Hill
Giving credit where it's due: "So just seven months into his presidency, Bush has accomplished something Clinton was unable to pull off in eight years: the first-ever U.S. Army training guide on homosexual conduct policy" ("The Adventures of Capt. GayMan," Bay View, Aug. 22). It seems to me that this comic book took more than seven months to produce. If so, giving Bush credit for its existence is highly unfounded.
This is only a test. Had this been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to give 20 bucks to a bum: The solution to the homeless problem ("A Brand of Justice," Matt Smith, Aug. 22) is the same as for any other major civic catastrophe such as earthquake, hurricane, flood, etc. The government, the businesses, and the people must spend whatever money is necessary (millions upon millions, as catastrophes are never cheap) to recover and rebuild. In this case, we should view the homeless problem catastrophically as a visual, emotional, and hygienic blight to the residents, tourists, and world image of San Francisco. The city must get the homeless off the streets by building massive free housing (not shelters), several free hospitals, and work centers. And all this must be clearly understood by everyone in San Francisco as a civic refurbishing rather than as a welfare system.
I don't know why there is so much animosity toward helping less fortunate people, but if the emphasis on spending enormous amounts of money could be focused as restoring and maintaining San Francisco after a major catastrophe, then there might be less resistance to it. In fact, why not apply for FEMA grants now!
Don E. Cowley
Marin could use a few more vagrants: San Francisco does not have a homelessness problem -- the state of California and, to a larger extent, the United States have homelessness problems that continue to be swept under whatever inner-city rugs are available. Many communities given credit for solving their homelessness problems have merely herded their surplus street dwellers over city limits and onto some other municipality. Until we start thinking on a larger-than-local scale about possible solutions, we're doomed to keep repeating the same formulaic opinions over and over again.
Riley B. VanDyke