Chronicle rock critic
Those Dirty Rats
Jack Shafer's "Laboratory Rats" (Sept. 27), about the dreadful conditions at the San Francisco Crime Lab, was a welcome insight into some of the workings of government in this city. But Shafer's piece does not tell the whole story. Even more disturbing in some ways than the revelations in the story are the consistent attempts by city officials to obfuscate the situation by delaying or denying access by interested parties to the information which is, by law, rightfully theirs.
For instance, when I first called the crime lab to inquire why my recent formal request for public records had gone unanswered, I was told by the assistant to the director that "the Police Department isn't here to serve the public." In its delayed response to my formal request for a copy of the crime lab report, the City Attorney's Office sent a copy which was redacted (censored) for "security purposes."
In fact, the original document shows that most of the redactions referred not to security issues, but to embarrassing citations by crime lab experts of excess traffic in the evidence room, unsealed evidence bags, too much evidence in the drug storage room, and an inefficient flow of evidence. These are not security issues, they are simply problems with the lab which I believe the department (through the city attorney) was trying to cover up.
But the city attorney's response appears generous when compared to that of the district attorney. On Aug. 23 I made a formal request to Arlo Smith for copies of correspondence in his office regarding the crime lab situation. The San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, the "open government" law of the city, required a response no later than the next day. My letter and two subsequent phone calls met with no response. What Mr. Smith was apparently unwilling to say, although legally obligated to do so, was "I have no such records," or "I have them, but the public good is best served by keeping them secret."
On Sept. 26 (33 days late) I received a one-paragraph response from an assistant DA stating that none of the requested information would be available due to security concerns. Although the Sunshine Ordinance clearly obligates him to do so, the district attorney apparently thought it useless to spell out how the public interest would be harmed by releasing the copies. If Mr. Smith were to provide the documents, as he is required to by law, I am absolutely certain that there would be scant evidence of "security" issues in them.
It is disturbing to me -- and should be disturbing to others -- that the top justice official in this city does not seem to hold himself to the standards which the California State Legislature and Board of Supervisors, not to mention the citizens of San Francisco, have set for his office.
Director, Public Access Project
I've hesitated in writing due to my general aversion to public humiliation via Smart Feller (they seem quite apt at this). But, in reference to their assessment of Seven Day Diary (Sept. 20): In the past I've generally found Eggers' and Leon's impulses a wee bit puerile, but usually get a hearty guffaw out of their observations -- observations (as I've now come to understand) from two straight men with a knack for not quite comprehending their hetero point of privilege.
I am openly queer. My sexuality is not a "novelty." I have never used my sexuality in any way to assure my success. If Seven Day Diary's album Skin and Blister is overwrought, then say so. If the album sucks deeply, fine -- personally I could give less of shit. Please try to understand the bias your cute remarks ("they're lesbians!") demonstrate. Openly queer performers do not market their sexuality any more or less than openly heterosexual performers. We probably wouldn't see a similar critique of a predominantly straight band with the line "... and the way they market their sexuality (they're straight!) is sad." I suppose other artists are equally marketing their race and gender.
I am aware of homosexual market value. I am aware of the market value of sexuality, period. According to the Smart Feller School of Logic, it seems any mention of whom I desire would be marketing my sexuality. I still have to deal (even in this lush gay ghetto) with the intimation that any frank discussion of whom I love is "flaunting" my h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-a-l-i-t-y. If you don't understand what it is like to grow up in Mid-America (thinking you are totally fucking alone, freakish, and bound for a life of loneliness) then let someone who does be a role model for a change. Information that most closet teens desperately need does not get through in time. The more openly queer performers, the more chance there is of someone getting the message down the line. Gee, maybe even an overwrought, queer-friendly album might help a suicidal gay 15-year-old (wish I had known of someone with the guts to be out).
I try not to take time out for letters of complaint -- but, yes, you've hit a rather sore spot. Sorry you feel the way you do. Publicly humiliate me if it will be cathartic in some way. I'm sure you'll come off sounding straight and assured as ever.
Funny, but the way you guys at Smart Feller market your sexuality is sad. Rock on, dorks!
Creme de la Competition
In a blurb in your Dish section ("Tastes Great, Less Filling," Sept. 20), SF Weekly pondered the question: Should people buy Straus Family Creamery's dairy products even though they cost more than your average store-bought varieties?
The answer is unreservedly: Yes! Here are three good reasons: 1) Straus products are outrageously good. Their taste is so superior, they knock the cream off the competition. 2) They're absolutely local (although I will admit some other brands -- like Clover-Stornetta -- market locally produced milk). 3) If it weren't for the Straus family (especially the original proprietors, Bill and Ellen), there's a good chance that West Marin would be paved over with freeways and suburban sprawl. Those were the plans for West Marin before the Strauses eventually convinced other farm interests to support the land use plans that were adopted and even today -- 25 years later -- are protecting the farmlands and other greenbelt lands of Marin County.
So to all of you who have enjoyed Marin's spacious countryside, I say go out and get yourself some Straus milk or yogurt. You'll not only be enjoying a great dairy product, you'll be supporting the farm family that has kept West Marin one of California's most beautiful and unspoiled places.
Executive Director, Greenbelt Alliance
Hang It Up
Regarding John Sullivan's capsule of the film Something to Talk About: I read reviews to gain a sense of the film, not the reviewer's hang-ups. Sullivan obviously has a problem with material from a woman's point of view; I wish him well in working this out. Until he does perhaps you can find an adult to take his place, someone who understands that the perfunctory Hollywood sex scene is just that.