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Monday, January 14, 2008

Halloween, New Years, and all San Francisco nightlife events to be run by new government agency: Is your right to party under assault? It’s …

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 12:20 PM


By Benjamin Wachs

There are only two interesting meetings this week, and one of them’s a doozy. So instead of presenting the week’s government agendas in order, I’m going to break with tradition and go straight to the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 16, 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance committee

Remember how much Halloween sucked? Well, Supervisor Bevan Dufty is apprantly feeling contrite, because he and Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier are proposing to create the “Mayor’s Office of Special Events” to “attract, create and promote special events” – including big events with no private sponsors, like Halloween.

So, to be clear, stuff that the public already did for free is now going to be done by a whole new office of government.

In addition to Halloween, the legislation specifically mentions New Year’s Eve (Because we’ve all wondered, “How can the government make my New Year’s rock even harder?”) and maintaining the city’s “master calendar” of special events “to ensure optimal distribution of events throughout the year and across neighborhoods.”

Great! Because the fact that Hanukah is practically right on top of Christmas has been bugging me for years. Finally a government agency to do something about it!

The Office of Special Events … excuse me, the “Mayor’s Office of Special Events” … will also simultaneously “promote the responsible conduct and operation of … events and establishments” and “promote the development of a vibrant entertainment and late-night entertainment industry within the City.” Since everybody wants to stay up late at night partying responsibly, I’m sure that will work out great.

And, of course it will “foster harm reduction policies, including but not limited to reduction of risks from substance use, hearing protection, heat exhaustion, and relevant health and safety measures.” Oh, Christ, why don’t we just let the tourists run things and get it over with now?

This office will have teeth, too, as it takes over the process of issuing entertainment related permits from the police office. Technically, the police only had one reason to refuse a permit: public safety. The Mayor’s Office of Special Events will have dozens: if the city doesn’t think your party contributes to its healthy cultural scene, you bet it will find one of them and shut you down.

And, yes, it can impose restrictions on your permits.

Much of its authority is taken away from the City's ... let's face it ... struggling Entertainment Commission, which fulfilled some but not all of the same functions. Exactly how the two agencies will coordinate ... or if they'll present city nightlife and entertainment venues with two competing bureacracies to work through ... is impossible to predict at such an early stage.

Should this proposal reach the full board of supervisors and pass, it will probably shatter the fragile “Ribbentrop pact"* like peace that has existed between San Francisco’s liberal factions – between the raging lefties who want to force everyone’s life to be more “progressive” and the raging lefties who want to party however they goddam want because this isn’t the Midwest (those sex-negative Christian prudes!) where people disapprove of transvestite techno DJs vomiting in the streets behind naked fire spinners at 4 in the morning.

Are the progressive purists finally making their move?

Thursday, January 17, 10 a.m. – Rules Committee

Another big and important power struggle is taking place here, between the Supes and the Mayor for control of the soul of MUNI. Last week the Mayor surprised everyone by demanding that three of the activist and progressive members of the MUNI board resign. His new picks are now working their way through the Rules Committee, and today will be the first day the Supervisors find out if they have the spine to do anything about it.

Monday, Jan. 14, 10 a.m. – Public Safety Committee

This committee used to be so dynamic and hard charging … filled with invigorating public hearings and tough questions for city officials. But now? Now most of their agenda is focused on allowing the Chief of Police and the Office of Emergency Management to accept grant money.

For die hard Public Safety Committee fans like me, this is just devastating.

WHAT HAPPENED to these guys? They used to be so hard core! But now they’re tepid! They're like the Misfits when they kept the band going without Danzig, or the Kennedy's when the kept the band going without Jello, or Hole when the kept the band going with Courtney Love.

The only explanation I have is the presence of new Supervisor Carmen Chu. She’s their Yoko Ono.

1 p.m. – Land Use and Economic Development Committee

The Land Use And Economic Development Committee doesn’t have to worry about getting boring: the Land Use and Economic Development Committee was always boring.

If you ever need to go to sleep fast, read these agenda items:

1) Changing the official sidewalk width – Townsend Street

2) Acceptance of the gift related to the improvement of a portion of the Lyon Street Stairs

3) Changing the name of an approximately 200-ft long portion of Jesse Street bounded by 5th and Mint Strets and a 75-ft long portion of Mint Street to Mint Plaza

I can’t go on. Life is too short.

The only thing to watch today: a hearing on the status of the Bayview Waterfront Development Project. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell is hoping that this program will turn Candlestick Point and the Hunters Point Shipyard areas into better places for its current residents to live. And, of course, that’s what developers want too … right? Right? That’s surely what they’re planning to do … isn’t it?

Tuesday, Jan 15, 2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

Maybe I’ve been too hard on Carmen Chu – maybe this is just a really, really, really boring week in San Francisco government, and the Board of Supervisors are not the hard charging dynamos of personality I thought they were. Seriously, if I were a Supe, I’d stay home and watch this meeting on TV.

There are always three categories of agenda items at government meetings: good news, bad news, and “meh.” This week there’s more “meh” - way more “meh” - than anything else. Here’s a sample:

Good news: a proposal public defenders and criminal defense attorneys should have access to city security camera recordings. (I think that’s called “due process” and that we’re for it);

Bad news: Continuing to discuss the Mayor’s proposal to make it illegal to camp or cook in city parks after dark; continuing to debate the “gate fare increase” for cab drivers.

Meh: approval of lease agreements; “appeal of minor sidewalk encroachment”; concurring with the Mayor’s Jan. 4 proclamation of a “local emergency” because of the big storms.

Let’s move on, shall we?

Finally, we come to our "Toothless Proclamation of the Week" - a feature that has been missing from SF Government InAction for a while now because apparantly the Supervisors give symbolic politicking a rest for the holidays and let Santa Clause take over.

This week's winner is Board President Aaron Peskin, who is "urging San Franciscans not to purchase eggs produced by caged hens."

I'm sure we'll all keep that in mind.

* Footnote: I know, I know, "Ribbentrop Pact" is a Nazi analogy and therefore highly suspect. I don't mean to imply that any of San Francisco's political factions are Nazis OR Soviets. It's just that I could only think of one other case of two dominent powers who hate each other agreeing to divide a territory directly between them as part of their conquest for total power, and that's France and Germany's 400 year fight over Alsace-Lorraine, and wow is that too obscure. You know it is.

Okay, there's also the Berlin Wall, but to me that wasn't an agreement so much as a de facto state of affairs. I'm open to discussion on this one, though.

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Benjamin Wachs


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