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Monday, December 14, 2009

SF Gov InAction: Life Is Bleak This Time of Year. Government-Employed Felons Can Help.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 11:30 AM



I'd like to open this week's SF Government InAction with a quote from Nietzsche that I think adequately captures San Francisco as this particular moment in history: "You want me to pay WHAT for this veggie burrito? God is dead!" This is no less true today than it was in 1888, when Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols after asking for sour cream on the side. But I can't help thinking that in our hectic modern commercial world, we've lost the true meaning of pessimism. The days are getting darker, the nights longer, and the holidays stalk us like a Prozac vending machine on wheels. No matter how many holiday parties we attend, there are never enough snickerdoodles to stave off the meaninglessness of life. Yet we keep trying, as if one more fruitless party filled with people we pretend to like will help us escape the dreaded specter of a debilitating old age spent in the very nursing homes we are now defunding. It won't work. Neither will good alcohol or bad sex, both of which you have to pay exorbitantly for even in this economy. It is a cruel trick of fate that coping mechanisms become more expensive when you need them most. But there you have it: Without the money to drug drug drug our way through the holidays, most of us are actually going to have to pay attention to the families whose toxic influences we moved here to escape. Just try to remember: You're only as fat as your mother thinks. Don't worry, though: San Francisco's city government is here to save you. After all: If they could end the war in Iraq, surely they can make your hollow emotional life satisfying in some small way.

By now you've picked up on the flaw in that argument, and determined that it was just one more false hope. The lesson here is that all hope is false. Even reason, that beloved hobbyhorse of atheists, is a futile attempt at imposing order on a world we cannot know. Mathematics itself is given to paradox; logic is therefore founded on quicksand -- the harder you struggle to use it the less you'll be able to breathe. Reason does not make us happier, it only creates the delusion that we will be happy if we just reason hard enough. This is why smart people need so much therapy.

And that's what Christmas means to me. You can't buy that at stores. It's in your heart.

Monday, Dec. 14

10:30 a.m. - City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee

The most interesting part of this small meeting is a proposal by John Avalos "Urging" the Department of Social Services to allow people convicted of felonies to serve as In-Home Supportive Service providers.

This is a well thought-out plan and nothing could possibly go wrong with it.

Incidentally, did you know that San Francisco has upwards of 18,000 people who provide In-Home Supportive Services? That's an awful lot of people providing care for the disabled and elderly. If only some of them were felons. Then the system would work perfectly.

Actually, I tend to oppose blanket bans and "one size fits all" approaches, so I would probably support Avalos' measure -- despite its blatant absurdity -- if he could convince me that the system that hires and distributes IHSS personnel in this city is actually capable of rendering a considered decision, based on a thorough examination of an individual's history, references, and outcomes.

Put another way: Do YOU trust any aspect of the city government to determine which felon is safe to put in charge of your grandma? Because I have yet to see any evidence that the hiring practices in this town are that refined. If they are, more power to them -- but if Avalos doesn't have a convincing case to make, then it's better safe than sorry. We should consider felons' rights. But the elderly and disabled have rights too.

As Nietzsche said: "When you stare into the Abyss, sometimes the Abyss asks to see your resume."

1 p.m. - Land Use & Economic Development Committee

There are a surprisingly large number of things happening at this meeting, none of which I care about. I think this is a character flaw caused by the lack of love I received from my municipal government as a child. Now, decades later, I can't love a municipal government the way it deserves to be loved.

Let's see ... zoning exemptions for active ground floor uses in NC-1 zoned parcels along Randolph and Broad streets ... a measure permitting "informal solicitation" of some contracts (whatever that is ... sounds crooked to me, but I'll admit my ignorance here) ... a Procedures to Attain Local Business Enterprise Subcontracting Goals for Design-Build and Integrated Project Delivery Contracts ... a mandate requiring that more city contracts be set aside for local businesses ...

Yeah, I should really care about that stuff. I sure hope somebody does.

Also happening at this meeting ... which I don't really "care" about per see but am willing to make a good faith effort to pretend I do:

• A proposal (first made in June) to prevent the owners of property from moving back into their property if it means they'd evict a family with children, and expanding the types of people with disabilities who can't be evicted by an owner wanting to move into his property. Apparently -- get this -- there are "negative effects of residential mobility on families with children."

• A hearing to discuss interdepartmental cooperation on large events in Golden Gate Park. Because naturally we wouldn't do that kind of thing already: Why would different government agencies want to talk with one another just because there's a big event in the park?

• A hearing on the Public Utility Commission's "feasibility analysis" of local electricity congregation projects and an update on its electricity resource plan.

I haven't read the analysis yet, so I'm afraid I have no comments. But I'll understand if that doesn't stop anyone else.

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m. - Full Board of Supervisors

GASP at the doomed attempt to restore funding to positions in the Department of Public Health!

THRILL to the bill extending "just cause" eviction protection to most rental units in S.F.!

TELL YOUR FRIENDS about a measure to change the definition of "tobacco paraphernalia establishments" so that more retail stores will be included under that classification!

CHEER at the daring attempt to prevent San Francisco public officials from charging the city for a security detail when they go out of town to campaign!

SNICKER at a measure telling Congress how deeply, deeply disappointed the Supervisors are by the Stupak Amendment to limit reproductive choice!

It's all here at this meeting! A meeting so perfect you just want to stick it on your tree next to the snowman and cry.

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1 p.m. - Government Audit & Oversight Committee

We end the week with a Hearing to review the "Sharp Park Conceptual Restoration Alternatives" and "Sharp Park Mitigation Bank Financial Viability and Analysis" Reports, which were prepared by the Recreation and Parks Department in response to Ordinance No. 85-09.

See? There's no hope. No hope at all.

Like Nietzsche said: "Ever since my parents divorced on Christmas, I haven't been able to really write about the death of Western civilization. Perspecitivism just isn't the same when you're stuck in traffic."

Words to live by, my friends. Words to live by.

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Benjamin Wachs


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