Posts Tagged 'San Francisco'

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

One of the authors is a member of SF Taxpayers for Public Safety, which organizes against construction of a new jail in San Francisco when the seismically-unsafe Hall of Justice is torn down.  Its research shows  the present system already has  sufficient capacity even after closing the Hall of Justice jails, because of the success of alternatives to incarceration.  Almost 75% of SF jail inmates have not been convicted of anything, they are awaiting trial, and large proportion, probably half, are in jail because they cannot afford bail. Like mass incarceration across the nation, blacks and latins are hugely over-represented.  For instance, the proportion of blacks in SF jails is ten times their proportion in the general population.  For more information on SF Jails, see .

SF Chronicle, October 2, 2014

The waste, inequity of filling jails with those who can’t make bail

By Jeff Adachi and Naneen Karraker

On-line version:

You may think jail is a place for convicted criminals. You would be wrong. In San Francisco, 85 percent of the roughly 1,300 inmates in county jail haven’t been convicted of anything. That’s more than 1,000 men and women. They are there not because they have been found guilty but because they simply cannot afford bail.

Despite our progressive reputation, California uses an ineffective, costly and outdated system to determine who stays in jail and who is released.

Earlier this year, San Francisco Superior Court judges raised the standard bail amounts for numerous crimes. The bail for contempt of court, for instance, jumped from $10,000 to $20,000.

These higher bails ensure that a poor person charged with even a minor crime will remain in jail, which costs taxpayers $140 per day, while a wealthy person will be able to afford to get out regardless of the severity of his or her charges. Being in custody means an increased likelihood of conviction. It means wearing jail garb instead of a suit in front of the jury. It means accepting a plea bargain just to get out to save your job or care for your children.

The use of bail also exacerbates racial disparities in the system. A recent report released by San Francisco’s Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice cites a finding that the average bail for Latinos is more than $50,000, compared with $28,000 for whites. A recent study of 40 of the largest U.S. counties that found that, among those in jail because they could not afford bail, 27 percent were white, 36 percent African American and 44 percent Latino.

Non-monetary forms of pretrial release such as own-recognizance release or supervised pretrial release are underutilized in San Francisco because the Pretrial Diversion Project just doesn’t get enough support. With adequate funding, the program could hire the staff needed to make sure all people arrested are screened, their cases are presented to the court, and they are supervised to make sure they appear for hearings.

Non-monetary release isn’t simply fairer than the money bail system; it’s also more cost-effective.

Evaluations of pretrial services in five Northern California counties found that their return-to-court rates were higher than the national average for release on bail. San Francisco topped the list at a 97 percent return rate for non-monetary pretrial release as compared with an 82 percent return rate for those who put up bail.

While monetary bail is not going to vanish as a pretrial release option, we need to be smarter about it. Several states have passed laws shifting the pretrial release process from a cash-based one to a risk-based one. A Maryland law requiring courts to use a risk-assessment tool to determine pretrial release options resulted in a 3 to 4 percent increase in the number of people released in the first year. While not a huge increase, it is a step in the right direction. We could do the same in California right now.


Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco public defender. Naneen Karraker is a member of San Francisco Taxpayers for Public Safety. She has worked for over 40 years on criminal justice matters locally, statewide and regionally, including pretrial release options, alternatives to incarceration and youth violence prevention.

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Gray Panthers of SF Support MUNI Drivers

Gray Panthers of San Francisco
2940 16th Street, Room 200-4, San Francisco CA 94103

To: Mayor Ed Lee
City Attorney Dennis Herrera
San Francisco Supervisors
MTA Transportation Director Edward Reiskin,

June 9, 2014

We, as members of the Gray Panthers of San Francisco, demand the City not press charges against MUNI drivers or their union and give drivers a fair contract.

MTA’s proposed wage increases, together with increased health and pension costs, will result in a net loss in pay for drivers, who have not had a pay raise for four years, yet MTA has given up millions in parking revenue and still has a budget surplus. The contract proposal contains permanently lower wages for new hires, an affront to our principles of inter-generational solidarity. The City’s charge against the union of delaying the ratification vote is based on the expectation that the drivers would be forced to vote before they had time to consider the implications of the proposed agreement. Similarly, the charge of delaying arbitration is based on the expectation that the union would submit to a process with a pre-determined outcome without any resistance.

Proposition G puts MUNI drivers in an impossible position: Wages must be determined by collective bargaining, but the City Charter prohibits them from striking. If drivers reject any contract proposal by MTA management, no matter how outrageous, the dispute must go to binding arbitration, which must side with management unless the arbitrator decides the drivers’ interests “outweighs the public interest in efficient and reliable transit.” Under these circumstances, drivers must accept whatever management proposes, or stage a sickout. What did the City expect to happen?

By taking actions against drivers and their union, the City is actively participating in a coercive labor process that will ultimately bring wider and more disruptive conflict to San Francisco. In an economic environment where San Francisco is unaffordable for its workers, and has the fastest-growing gap between rich and poor, it would be wise to realize that workers will not accept this treatment indefinitely.

The City’s mass media has long slandered drivers as greedy, incompetent, and rude, for performing some of the most difficult driving assignments in the country, but do not count on the media’s ability to permanently turn the community against MUNI workers. Members of the biggest union of the most poorly-paid City workers’ union are also in negotiations, and are angry at the City’s determination to hold wage increases down in the face of rising inflation, a budget surplus, and millions of dollars in tax breaks to tech companies. Times can change. Times will change.

Do not press charges against MUNI drivers or their union and give drivers a fair contract.


Michael Lyon, Treasurer
Patricia Jackson, Convener
Denise D’Anne, Secretary

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It’s Our Community College

Early media reports espoused a victory for CCSF. But, a careful reading of the ACCJC policy statement issued after the commission’s June 11 clandestine meeting causes alarm not celebration. ACCJC does not listen to public demands, legislators’ requests, or even the Dept of Education. Their affront at being called out shows in the wording of their policy statement.

“…there have been increased calls for the Commission to rescind its decision. However, the commission has been, and will continue to be steadfast in its decision, which was clearly warranted” The Commission then describes “a path forward that maintains the termination decision and holds the college accountable for addressing the standards, but would enable the college reasonable but limited time to come into compliance with ACCJC standards.”

ACCJC proposes a new accreditation policy. It would permit intuitions notified of termination to apply for restoration of its accreditation. Under the policy, CCSF would be seeking “accreditation restoration” status, and must first be determined eligible and undergo intensive review by ACCJC. If approved, CCSF would have 2 years to come into compliance. If restoration status is not approved to begin with, or if ACCJC decides the college does not fully meet all standards within the 2-year restoration status, the prior termination order would be activated immediately without any opportunity for a review or an appeal!

CCSF must apply for this new status prior to July 31, the date of current termination set by ACCJC. ACCJC allowed only a 2-week period for comments ending June 25. How will this affect the Herrera lawsuit and court determination that termination cannot be made until the case is heard in October? Meanwhile, Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation to limit the ability of state officials to suspend the control of an elected College Board – the elected City College Board has been replaced with an appointed trustee. Mark Leno is pushing a bill that would amount to an end run around the ACCJC.

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More information:

48 Hills, June 12, 2014

(48 Hills a web log written by former SF Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond.)

Hold the champagne – City College hasn’t exactly won yet.

JUNE 12, 2104 – The decision by the accrediting commission to allow City College a lifeline has much of the city’s political establishment applauding, and for good reason: The combined pressure for local, state, and national elected officials played a huge role in forcing the ACCJC to back off from an effort to shut the school down.

If the ACCJC had gone forward with revocation of accreditation, as it could have this month, the school would have stayed open – City Attorney Dennis Herrera has won an injunction preventing any final move to end accreditation until after a trial, which won’t happen until this fall.

But the furor over that move might have driven the political establishment to seek ways to shut down the entire commission. Among others, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Jackie Speier have demanded that the ACCJC give City College more time – and members of Congress don’t like to be treated with the sort of disrespect the panel has shown for pretty much everyone else in this process.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation that would limit the ability of state officials to suspend the control of an elected college board – and he’s gotten support from many Republicans, who agree that the ACCJC is a nightmare. State Sen. Mark Leno is pushing a bill that would amount to an end run around the ACCJC.

So the ACCJC clearly had to do something to create the appearance of fairness, to get some of the pressure off. But if this move works, it will be a victory for an out-of-control agency: The accreditors haven’t admitted they were wrong, haven’t changed the rules for evaluating City College, haven’t offered to approve accreditation … in fact, all they’ve done is come up with a new process for the school to apply to stay open, under rules that aren’t terribly fair.

The new process, known as “accreditation restoration,” is outlined on the ACCJC website. Read it carefully; it’s not an “extension of time,” which is what City College supporters asked for. It’s not a good-faith effort to hold off on a final decision until the school completes its process of jumping through all of the hoops the ACCJC has demanded.

It’s an entirely new process – one that requires City College to give up all rights to appeal if the decision that comes down at the end is wrong:

“If, however, in the judgment of the Commission, the college does not fully meet all eligibility requirements and/or has not demonstrated the ability to fully meet all standards within the two-year restoration status period, the termination implementation will be reactivated and the effective date will be immediate. There will be no further right to request a review or appeal in this matter.”

“It seems to us that the new procedure would take away any ability to appeal,” Tim Killikelly, head of the City College teachers’ union, AFT Local 2121, told me. And that from an agency that just about everyone who has watched this procedure agrees is out of control.

In other words, the same crew of crazy people who caused this problem in the first place will now put City College through a new wringer, with the outcome uncertain and the school forced to give up its rights in the process.

“Instead of an extension, which is what the school asked for, we have this new term and policy,” Killikelly said. “Right now, we have a lot more questions than answers.”

Killikelly agrees that it’s good for students and the city (and, of course, teachers) to have confidence that City College will be open this fall – but it would have been open anyway: The lawsuit, which would force far more sweeping changes in the accreditation process and the ACCJC, guarantees that. It gives two more years for the school to get its house in order – but leaves the final decision up to the same panel.

“Anything that keeps the school open, we want,” Killikelly said. “But we’re not entirely comfortable with this new process they’re suggesting.”

In a message from AFT to its members, the union notes: “This latest move, made under extraordinary pressure, seems more designed to save ACCJC than City College.”

There’s a real danger that what appears to be good news for the moment could undermine long-term reform: If this new procedure takes the pressure off the ACCJC, and if the agency can use it to undermine the city’s lawsuit and say, hey, no problem: We’re listening, we’re fixing things … then an opportunity to overhaul and reform a disastrous accreditation commission and process could slip away – and City College won’t be the last victim.

So for the moment, let’s hold the champagne; it’s not over, by any means. City College has, at best, a reprieve, but only on very unfair and possible unacceptable grounds. With its back against the wall, the ACCJC is trying to slide away with a half-assed policy that never addresses the real problems, keeps City College in a terrible limbo, and leaves unelected, unaccountable people in charge.

Don’t mean to be throwing the turd in the punchbowl, but I’m not ready to party yet.

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Senior and Disability Groups Protest Wells Fargo Evictions, Shutter Accounts

Fog City Journal, December 18, 2012

Senior and Disability Groups Protest Wells Fargo Evictions, Shutter Accounts

By Christopher D. Cook

A fiery crowd of as many as 50 seniors and their supporters including green-clad, Doctor Seuss-styled grinches, rallied this afternoon in front of Wells Fargo Bank at the intersection of Market and Grant streets, calling on the national bank to halt its evictions of struggling homeowners and to change its foreclosure practices.

“Wells Fargo, I had a home but you took it back and sold it—you’re a grinch!” activists from the San Francisco Grey Panthers and Senior & Disability Action yelled under crisp clear winter skies. “I’m a kid who had a warm house to live in but you took that away from me—you’re a Grinch!”

An hour earlier, representatives from the two groups entered the bank and closed their Wells Fargo accounts to protest home foreclosures that have “disproportionately shuttered the homes of seniors, people with disabilities, and people of color,” the groups stated.

“Too many families have lost their homes due to predatory lending, dual tracking, and simple greed,” the groups said in a media release. Dual tracking involves the selling of a house even while the current homeowners are negotiating a new loan to try to keep their home. “Wells Fargo is at the center of the foreclosure crisis in San Francisco.  They have more foreclosures in their name than any of the other banks.”

Grinch-clad protesters.

Evelyn Luluquisen, Executive Director of Manilatown Heritage Foundation, admonishes Wells Fargo over its foreclosure and eviction practices.

According to their research, Wells Fargo has held 92 auctions on foreclosed homes in San Francisco—more than double the combined total of JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America.

The groups demand “immediate action to stop the holiday foreclosures and evictions,” listing 27 San Francisco families who are at risk of eviction over the holidays.

“We’re encouraging all other organizations” to close their Wells Fargo Accounts, said James Chionsini, director of healthcare advocacy for Senior & Disability Action (SDA). “We can’t in good conscience support an organization that’s displacing our members, it’s just unethical.”

The rally was supported by an array of local labor and social justice groups including Occupy Bernal, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Housing Rights Committee, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Jobs with Justice, the Coalition on Homelessness, OPEIU Local 3, Poor Magazine/Prensa Pobre, Occupy Action Council of SF, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.

The groups are joining forces for a “Happy Holidays, Now Get the Hell Out!” press conference and rally tomorrow at noon at 18th and Castro to share their stories about people facing evictions during the holidays. Learn more at

Christopher D. Cook is a San Francisco author and journalist who has written for Harper’s, The Economist, The Nation, Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere. He is the author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis. You can find more of his work at

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CPMC! No Cuts in Skilled Nursing Beds!

San Francisco Gray Panthers
1182 Market St.  Room 203
San Francisco CA 94102

San Francisco Gray Panthers is extremely concerned about California Pacific Medical Center’s plan to eliminate 180 Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) beds as part of its Master Plan for radically changing its healthcare facilities in San Francisco.

San Francisco has a severe shortage of (SNF) beds that accept Medi-Cal.  A 1998 SF Department of Public Health study predicted that the City will have 92,000 more residents over age 65 in 2020 than in 2000, and that the City would have  a shortage of 2,380 SNF beds, assuming no existing SNF beds were lost. (Options For Laguna Honda Hospital White Paper)  But since that time, 732 SNF beds have been lost. The City’s own Laguna Honda Hospital, soon to re-open, stopped taking SNF patients in January 2008. (Fog City Journal, 7-7-2009). California Pacific Medical Center’s  planned closing of  its Skilled Nursing Facility, with 180 beds, would raise the total of closed beds to 912, a 24% drop since 1997. (SF Examiner, 8-4-2010) The Lewin Group projects San Francisco would face a 30% shortage of SNF beds overall over the next decade.

These SNF beds are almost entirely used by poor elderly or disabled patients on both Medicare and Medi-Cal, and are necessary for treating patients with strokes, heart and circulatory disease, hip fractures, cancer, respiratory diseases, and severe kidney diseases. (CPMC website) Without sufficient SNF beds in San Francisco, these patients will have to be placed in out-of-county facilities, away from the support of family and friends.  In addition, the care at stand-alone contracted-out facilities is often inferior to care in SNFs close by hospitals where more skilled medical expertise is close at hand.  In short, closing already-scarce SNF beds in San Francisco will hasten deaths for low-income San Franciscans.

Both the San Francisco Health Commission, and a Lewin Group report on CPMC’s Master Plan raised questions about provision of SNF care, as well as sub-acute care and inpatient psychiatric beds. (CPMC news release.)

It is our understanding that CPMC has said it plans to replace the 180 SNF beds it plans to close, but that specific plans are lacking beyond 38 beds at Davies and a commitment to establishing and additional 62 beds somehow, somewhere. (Health Commission Task Force on CPMC IMP, 3-2-2010) This promise, if fulfilled, would still only replace 55% of our badly needed SNF beds.

San Francisco Gray Panthers stands behind the California Nurses Association, community advocates, and elder advocates in demanding that CPMC issue specific, irrevocable plans for replacing all of the closed SNF beds, that new SNF beds be located in close proximity to acute care facilities, and that SNF patients in free-standing facilities not be displaced by CPMC’s SNF patients.  We also demand that the City of San Francisco not approve CPMC’s overall plan until these demands on SNF beds are met, as well as community concerns over the future of St. Luke’s Hospital, and the impact of CPMC’s planned main hospital on the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Michael Lyon, Co-Convener

Must-See article:  “Battle of Cathedral Hill,” by Bob Prentice, Community member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on CPMC’s Master Plan.

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No Tasers for San Francisco Police!

San Francisco Gray Panthers
1182 Market St., Room 203
San Francisco CA 94102

February 23, 2011

Dear San Francisco Official,

Former Mayor Newsom and former Police Chief, George Gascon argued that equipping police with Tasers would reduce officer-related shooting by as much as one third.  This argument is false. If police officers are genuinely endangered by an armed suspect, they will use a gun even if they have a Taser.

Instead, Tasers will be used on unarmed suspects as an additional means to threaten or terrorize non-compliant subjects.  ACLU research shows that 80% of Taser use is against unarmed individuals.  If police officers are adequately trained, and willing to use their training, they can handle non-compliant subjects without Tasers. Psych Techs do it every working day.

Police policy is that officers are NOT to shoot unless they or someone else is in danger, meaning the suspect is armed. So if it’s true, as Newsom and Gasgon said, that tasers would reduce police shootings by one third, and 80% of taser use is against unarmed suspects, that implies that police are currently shooting unarmed suspects. Gray Panthers do not believe tasering unarmed suspects is an acceptable substitute for police execution.

Police use of Tasers against unarmed suspects will make racial profiling all the worse.  In San Diego Blacks and Latinos are twice as likely to be Tasered.

Tasers are not-non lethal.  Amnesty International has counted 357 taser-related deaths in the US.  When police Taser someone, they have no way of knowing whether it will cause death or permanent injury. Recently, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) stated that the use of Tasers in Portugal constituted torture.

Courts do not protect against Taser abuse. A seven-month pregnant Seattle black woman was pulled over for allegedly speeding.  When she refused to sign the ticket, thinking it admitted guilt, and did not get out of the car, she was Tasered three times. A court ruled police acted reasonably.

Tasers do not belong in any police force.

The SF Police Commission already indicated its extreme unease with Tasers.  We will not speculate on what is behind this new move to arm police with tasers, but whatever it is, it has nothing to do with public safety.  Reject this measure which is so potentially damaging to the fabric of San Francisco.

San Francisco Gray Panthers

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SF Gray Panthers support MUNI drivers voting for no concessions

SF Gray Panthers support MUNI drivers voting for no concessions

On Friday, June 11, San Francisco MUNI drivers rejected the City’s demands for concessions for the second time. (See below.)  SF Gray Panthers made the following statement of support:

The SF Gray Panthers salutes the MUNI drivers who resisted the pressures of downtown business, the Mayor’s office, the Chronicle and Examiner, and some Supervisors, in rejecting the concessions the City is trying to force down their throats. MUNI’s service cuts, fare increases, and financial problems are not caused by drivers’ greed or the riders’ fare evasion; they are caused by downtown business refusing to pay for the service MUNI provides in bringing them their customers and workers.

We recognize that the same forces that attack MUNI drivers and riders are also attacking the City services we need to survive; health, human services, housing, and nutrition. Thoughtful City workers in other unions should support the drivers, because the drivers’ refusal to make concessions and their crucial position in the City’s economy could make the City think twice demanding even more concessions from other unions. This could save both jobs and services.

We demand: No service cuts or fare increases for SF’s poor, seniors, minorities, and immigrants. Make downtown business pay for the services they receive. Drivers and riders should unite to demand more public transit, not less.

(See this letter in June 15 SF Chronicle.)


San Francisco Chronicle, June 12, 2010

S.F. Muni operators reject proposed givebacks

(06-11) 21:02 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Muni operators rejected a proposed package of labor concessions Friday that city officials said was needed to help San Francisco’s financially pinched transit agency partially roll back the deep service cuts imposed last month.

Members of Transport Workers Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 Muni operators, voted 747 against and 538 in favor of the proposed pact, according to union official Walter Scott.

The reductions, which went into effect five weeks ago, amounted to 300,000 service hours a year, or about 10 percent. They have led to more crowded buses and streetcars, fewer transit options late at night and longer waits between runs.

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the rejection “a slap in the face to everyone who rides Muni and to every other public employee union member,” who already agreed to givebacks. “Once again, I call upon the membership of the TWU to reconsider and revote.”

The leadership of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A forged a tentative agreement with Muni management two weeks ago that city officials say would cut costs by about $19 million over two years.

Union membership has been split bitterly over the proposal.

Bucking union officials, the rank and file resoundingly rejected a different set of proposed givebacks in February.

The new proposal called for lifting the de facto prohibition on the use of part-time operators, tightening overtime rules and changing dependent health care coverage.

It also would have extended the operators’ contract for another year, through June 30, 2012. That would have given operators an extra year to benefit from a guarantee enshrined in the city charter that they are paid at least the second-highest wage among U.S. transit operators.

That operator-friendly provision could be in jeopardy. Two separate charter amendments proposed for the November election seek to undo the automatic pay guarantee, though neither has qualified for the ballot.

The proposed ballot measures seek to set operator salaries through collective bargaining with the aim of giving management more flexibility in getting rid of inefficient work rules.

Municipal Transportation Agency chief Nathaniel Ford said that a favorable ratification vote would have benefited riders by restoring half the service cuts by early September.

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