More dialogue with mayoral candidate Josh Wolf

Hi, Thanks for your thoughts Starchild; I appreciate the insights but I must confess that this current platform is one in flux and was put together as a first step in a process to really ascertain where I would being in City Hall. Since writing the platform, I have been discussing various issues with the people I know and encounter in the city.

  Sure Josh, and thanks for your prompt response. I should say also, since I haven't seen you since quite a while before your stint in jail for standing up for press freedom, kudos on that, and glad you're out with at least a partial victory and much more public recognition! More thoughts below...

As for the current platform, please see my notes underneath Starchild's

  Some thoughts on Josh Wolf's campaign platform planks...

(1) I am fascinated by Josh Wolf's pledge to wear a video camera while in office. If he hasn't said, I am curious whether he considers things like meetings with donors to be "official business," whether he would require representatives from his office to also wear cameras when appearing in his stead, how the feed would be handled, whether he would oppose and seek to overturn any city codes or other laws requiring city meetings to be confidential, and whether he would put this promise with details in writing and pledge to immediately resign if he were to renege. If he does make a substantive, airtight pledge, this would be a substantial positive move that should be commended and taken seriously by the LPSF.

1. I don't think it is ethical to force others to wear videocamera headsets nor is it necessarily legal to do so. So no, I wouldn't force representatives from my office to where streaming video outfits.

  Here I will turn to the libertarian definition of "force," which hinges on whether or not an action is voluntary. If you as an employer require something as a condition of employment, and knowing of this requirement, the person voluntarily agrees to work for you, then to have them do it is not force. It may be *unethical*, but it is not force. In this case I don't think it is unethical -- it is essentially an ethical standard you are voluntarily imposing on yourself, and politicians often require their staff members to adhere to the same ethical standards as themselves. The reason I think it is important to include office staff is because otherwise, people wishing to keep their dealings with the mayor out of the public eye could simply meet with a mayoral staffer, and use that person as an intermediary who would then submit written reports of the meeting to the mayor, in which case there would be no video record. Unless of course you plan to videotape or otherwise put online all mayoral office correspondence as well. Just saying that you wouldn't allow that to happen as mayor (staffers having important discussions in your stead off the record) isn't enough -- no offense to your personal integrity, but isn't part of the point of the video camera thing in the first place that the public shouldn't *have* to take the mayor's word for what's going on, but rather be able to see for themselves?

At the same time, I'm not certain that it is even ethical to force members of the public to submit themselves towards being filmed, and I think a happy compromise is to turn off the video at the request of any private citizen but leaving the audio stream going.

  This is, I agree, a valid concern. Although I don't think being unable to meet with the mayor without being video or audio taped is anywhere near as bad, from a civil liberties and civic-minded point of view, as being unable to enter City Hall without being scanned and having one's bags searched, or being unable to ride a city bus or BART without being video and audiotaped, or in a taxi in the city without having your picture taken, or live or walk in certain areas without being filmed by "anti-crime" cameras. And unlike those things, having to go on video to meet with the mayor or someone from his/her office, at least offers a great deal of trade-off in terms of increased official accountability. Perhaps you could balance out the increased surveillance to be associated seeing the mayor or his staff by proposing to get rid of some of this other Big Brother-style surveillance already in place?

I've already been in contact with the two most visible experts in portable web video streaming; the costs involved with the streaming would likely be possible through an in-kind donation, but would not be very expensive if paid for by The City.

  Rather than having taxpayers foot yet another bill, I suggest asking TV stations and other private media organizations to cover the cost, perhaps in exchange for them getting access to the feed a few minutes before it goes out live on the web.

You asked whether I consider meetings with potential donors to be "official business," and I would say that it is for any public official but that as a private citizen and candidate I can not really have any "official business." At this point in time, I have not decided whether I will be wearing a streaming webcam during my campaign. As I work a full-time job, and am campaigning when time avails itself, I think it'd be difficult to commit to wearing such a rig during my run.

  I can see how you misunderstood me here, as I wasn't very clear. I was talking about people who donated *after* you were in office as mayor, not during the campaign. Wearing the streaming webcam during your campaign does seem a bit much. As you note, it's an expense and a hassle, and if there were any glitches or incidents, it would just provide ammunition to people who think it's a bad idea for the mayor to do it.

While I think that there are certain situations that would potentially demand a confidential setting, civil mediation sessions for example, I would work to ensure that the only city meetings had very strict limitations as to when confidentiality could be invoked, and work to overturn laws that limited an open and transparent government. While I'm inclined to say that there should be no closed meetings whatsoever, I think that my limited knowledge prevents me from stating so emphatically. I do feel that any deviations from open government need to be disclosed and reasons for privacy documented and disclosed.

  Perhaps you could ask someone who defends confidentiality what the various types of meetings or circumstances are that they believe should be kept confidential, and why. Then you could have a list from which to start removing all but those which *truly* need to be confidential. I believe that public employee union contract negotiations should be public, for example -- after all it's the public's money that's being negotiated with -- but current law and/or contracts probably prohibit this. Would you seek to get such prohibitions overturned?

Would I pledge this in writing and agree to resign if I reneged. I suppose I would,

  Good for you! I look forward to seeing a written pledge.

but I feel that this issue is not at all the main pillar of my campaign and I'm hesitant to make such a promise for fear that it'll result in the rest of my platform to be ignored around this one specific issue.

  I can almost guarantee that's what will happen anyway, whether you make a written promise or not. Your inadvertent turn under the federal government's interrogation lights as a videojournalist has been your biggest claim to fame, and your idea of wearing a video camera as mayor ties into that really neatly from a media point of view. That novel campaign plank is probably responsible for a good portion of the coverage your announcement has gotten. By all means push your other issues too, but don't be surprised if the press mostly wants to talk about the video camera thing. Unless you've got more interesting cards up your sleeve. 8)

(2) Address crime by increasing foot patrols? Not too much of substance here. Most of the city already supports foot patrols -- the real question is, what steps will you take to ensure that the SFPD follows through in following the wishes of the citizens and city officials, and is otherwise accountable to the voters, the law, and the public in such matters as not making arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, issuing police reports promptly to all persons involved in reported incidents free of charge, appointing a police chief who will testify in Sacramento in favor of legislation overturning the court ruling allowing police conduct hearings to be kept secret from the public, etc.

Starchild, I have to disagree here. In fact, this issue is one that is central to my campaign and my decision to run. Gavin Newsom has vetoed very few bills during his tenure in office and the plan for community policing is one of them. Yes, most of the city supports foot patrols, but the POA does not and as a result, the mayor vetoed. In order to ensure that the SFPD honors the wishes of the people, it is necessary to change the city's relationship with the police. The police cannot continue to act as if they are beyond reproach and we clearly need a mayor who will honor the policies put forward by our board and not be swayed by special interests with deep pockets. The mayor needs to also work with the police commission in order to ensure that General Orders are established which will ensure that the wishes of the city are being followed. When they are not the mayor needs to support the commission when it sees fit to take corrective action.

  Again I may not have been as clear as I could have. I didn't mean to imply that I disagree with you on foot patrols -- I support them too. Hell, I suspect even Gavin Newsom might have supported them, if it had been his idea first. That's how popular and innocuous an issue it is. About the only ones who really seem to disagree are the police themselves, because it's easier for them to ride around in their cars. What I was *trying* to say is that merely *saying* you're for foot patrols isn't a big deal, because it's no different from what most of your opponents will probably be saying. What *would* be a big deal is if you come up with a concrete and detailed plan to *force* the police to go along with the public's wishes on this and other issues such as those I mentioned above. The SFPD and their powerful union are totally out of control, in my opinion. Here are a few more ideas for rectifying that:

-require the names of all officers involved with any incident to be immediately released to the press and public, especially officer-involved shootings or use of force

-require each officer to give out a card with his or her name, rank, badge number, and supervisor's contact info, to any civilian whom he or she: (a) questions, (b) cites, (c) arrests, (d) gives an order (e.g. "move along" or "go home") or who (e) requests such a card; if a group of officers involved in an incident, they must each give a card to each civilian involved

-have officer badge numbers printed football-jersey-style on the backs of their shirts and jackets, so they can be visibly identifiable from a distance if something like, say, a Rodney King incident occurs

-increase funding and powers of the Office of Citizen Complaints and the Police Commission; specifically, give them full access to all police stations at all hours, and require rank and file police personnel to immediately comply with their requests for documents and information without first going to SFPD superiors for approval

(3) Another "town hall meeting" on homelessness? Sigh. How about getting in touch with former mayoral candidate and building contractor Jim Reid about making homeless people into homeowners by getting some of his 12-square-foot, $6000, single-person houses built on public land and given to the new owners? For less than the amount of a single year's city budget for programs and services to the homeless, every homeless person in SF could be given one of these small homes and gotten off the street. What's more, private companies could probably be tapped to provide much or all of the materials for these houses for free.

While Jim Reid's single person homes have tremendous potential, they will not solve the issues that are at the core root of homelessness. If you simply gave every homeless person a tiny little home then they would have basic shelter, it's true, but they'd still be dependent as only some portion of them would be able to secure employment after being provided with the housing. I also don't particularly find the idea of creating a massive homeless encampment to be a very sensible one. But that said, I feel that Jim Reid's plan and others already being implemented in the city really do stand a better chance of solving this issue in conjunction with the aid of The City than they do separately.

  I don't think there should be single a massive encampment either. That *would* be a recipe for disaster! My approach would be to scatter the Jim Reid homes throughout the city on small parcels of city-owned land, especially on parcels currently regarded as "undevelopable" for housing because of their small size, steepness of slope, non-residential zoning, etc. This would have to be passed as one single citywide measure, waiving Environmental Impact Reports, shadow studies, Board of Appeals hearings, and all the usual bureaucratic B.S. that normally makes development in the city take so long and be so expensive both in dollars and human effort. The specific locations of the homes should be determined after the measure is passed, by a task force made up of residents representing all the neighborhoods. Otherwise every neighborhood slated to receive such a home would be up in arms. (The wealthy areas like Seacliff should not be spared either.) You're right that getting people in these homes would not solve all the root causes of homelessness -- but then, what would? On the other hand, at least it would get them *homes*, and that by definition is sort of the main thing that "homeless" people are lacking, isn't it? Yeah some might still go out and get drunk and fall asleep in the streets, but at least they'd have a place better than a dangerous, impersonal city shelter to go back to and get cleaned up. I think we might all be surprised how much pride of ownership some of them started taking and how much of a change it makes in their lives to have a little something of value to call their own. As far as them securing employment, I don't see that as the top issue. Right now they are collectively *costing* the city millions of dollars a year in programs and services. They can probably do more for society in most cases just by reducing these costs than by getting jobs that many of them may not have the skills to do well at or keep anyway. If they have their tiny homes, and don't have to pay rent to the government (aka property tax) or to any other landlord, and have basic foodstuffs dropped off at their doors by the Food Not Bombs van or other charities, they won't *need* jobs, unless they want to improve their situations beyond just getting by. Yeah, they'll be leeches. So what? That won't be any worse than it is now; it'll cost the City a lot less than all the programs and services associated with them living on the street cost, year after year. The homes would be primarily a one-time cost, with a relatively small ongoing maintenance budget. I'm sure Jim can say a lot more about this, if he's reading these emails.

(4) Before making a sweeping proposal for a new tax on vehicles in San Francisco, there should be a cost-benefit analysis to determine the impact on small businesses and poor residents who live or work in areas not adequately served by transit and rely on their cars to get to work and run vital errands. Also people with small children, elderly persons with serious disabilities, and others for whom transit is impractical. What about allowing privately-operated jitneys to service areas that MUNI does not service, or which are underserved?

I realize that my view here is in direct contradiction with the libertarian ideology, but I feel that public transit should be provided to city residents as a public service and should be considered a basic right. Private cars should be considered a privilege and are already deemed such to the extent that we offer a license to drive. Those under a certain income bracket who can demonstrate a need for a private vehicle should be granted a waiver for any vehicular taxes imposed.

  One problem with plans that require people to officially "demonstrate" their poverty to government is that many lower income people such as prostitutes, small-time drug dealers, undocumented migrants, people who work for private individuals under the table, and others who work "off the books" are shut out because they cannot disclose their income or the sources of it on the record. Many of these people working in the black market, I think you'll agree, are not guilty of any real crime, but rather have been unfairly criminalized by government.

It's true that there are certain areas that are underserved by public transportation and the city needs to take an active role in improving access to these areas; as I see it, any area where it takes significantly longer to traverse by MUNI than it does by private car should be considered having a deficiency in public transit.

  I can appreciate the appeal of the idea of something like public transit being considered a basic right. It's just that in practice, putting government in charge of major services and making them "rights" just doesn't seem to result in very good service. People would probably be happier, and get a lot more for their money, if government transit was abolished and government just issued transportation vouchers that people could use toward privately operated public transit. Did you know that 100 years ago, San Francisco had multiple competing private streetcar companies? They charged less than MUNI does now, adjusted for inflation, and ran many lines that are now discontinued after the last companies were forced out of business and the whole system municipalized. Mayor after mayor has tried to fix MUNI, to little avail despite all the money poured into it. Making MUNI free will not solve its problems either. What it really needs to get in shape is incentives like salary bonuses for running on time and keeping buses repaired, and penalties for not doing so, make it easier to get rid of bad employees, etc., and private competition. For the former you'd have to take on the transit employee union. But for the latter, you could simply start allowing some private jitney companies to operate and prove themselves. If they don't work, fine, stick with MUNI. But I think other services, like charter schools, have shown that private alternatives can work in San Francisco alongside public services and be an asset to the public. If MUNI is going to be "free" anyway, the competition shouldn't negatively impact it, since it wouldn't be losing any revenue by having customers taken away from it. I think at the very least you should be willing to support a pilot program of allowing private companies to compete for passengers in underserved areas. I'll bet the people in those neighborhoods would appreciate it.

(5) Bravo! I couldn't agree more! The federal government uses its stolen money to lord it over San Francisco and enforce priorities that local residents oppose. Let's cut the purse strings and seek to decrease federal taxes so that more of San Franciscans' money stays in SF without making us beholden to the wishes of Washington politicians.

(6) Again, right on! Issuing county marriage licenses is an interesting idea that should be looked into. Along with same-sex couples, Josh should also pledge to issue such licenses to polyamorous groupings of three or more persons who wish to tie the knot.

I am not sure where I sit on the idea of the city promoting polyamorous groupings, on the one hand any group of consenting adults who wish to formalize their relationship should be able to. At the same time, in America's history there have been polygamous relationships which were arguably non-consensual or at least misogynistic in nature. If polyamorous groupings were allowed then theoretically the entire city could get married to itself, then again would that really be such a bad thing? As I see it, this is an issue that needs to be considered in conjunct with the wishes of the people of The City.

  I'm kinda disappointed with you on this one, Josh. I mean it's *nothing* to support gay marriage in San Francisco! Even Gavin Newsom and lots of the local Republicans support it. Aren't you as a Green willing to be a little bolder? If you were running for mayor of someplace like Peoria, Illinois, would you say that gay marriage should only be "considered in conjunct with the wishes of the people of the city?" Of course not! You *know* it's the right of any two consenting adults to join in matrimony, whether their neighbors like it or not. And I think you know there's no real difference in terms of basic human rights if you add a third person to the mix. The misogyny issue is a non-starter, because there are plenty of traditional heterosexual marriages that are just as misogynistic. And imagine how cool it *would* be if there was a mass movement for the entire city to get married to each other, and you had a marriage of several thousand people! We could have a new "Summer of Love" and the conservatives would go absolutely apeshit. It'd be hilarious! 8)

(7) What's needed with regard to medical marijuana is the will to have a "zero tolerance" police for the SFPD to cooperate with federal law enforcement on the enforcement of drug laws. SFPD personnel found to be in violation should be immediately fired or if that proves impossible, suspended without pay pending disciplinary hearings. Medical cannabis education and sensitivity training should also be incorporated into police academy training, and existing officers required to attend classes. SFPD should be dispatched to protect local cannabis clinics against the federal thugs when there is a raid.

I agree 100%

  Right on! Will you make this part of your platform?

(8) More bike lanes - good. But first how about getting rid of the backlog of streets that need repaving? As someone who uses a bicycle as my main form of transportation, I would take smoothly paved streets over more bike lanes if I had to choose one or the other. And can we do these things without socking it to the public, for a change? I would cut city salaries in order to pay for them. Speaking of which, what would you say to capping city salaries, including the mayor's, at $99,999 a year Josh? I don't think any local politicians need to be making six-figure salaries at public expense when there are members of the public living on the street and struggling to pay for the bare necessities, do you?

Your right, many of the streets need repaving and there are hundreds of potholes that need to be repaired. I think that both could ideally be done at the same time. I'm in favor of capping all city salaries at 99,999 a year,

  Awesome! That was one of my big issues when I ran for Supervisor, and I found when I brought it up at public forums that people seemed pretty uncomfortable speaking against it -- doing so made them sound totally elitist.

but I'd argue for it to be pegged with a Cost of Living Adjustment. I believe this would be up to the Board of Supervisors to decide and as they just raised the salaries of most elected officials, I doubt they'd go for it. My outlook on this matter is quite limited as I've never earned anything close to that figure and do not have a family to support.

  Some kind of adjustment would be fair, but to prevent the government from monkeying with the way they calculate cost of living, I would index it to the median San Francisco resident's income instead, as reported in publicly available census data. However I would not take this position right away. Let your opponents object to the salary cap first, and then when the argument starts getting down to brass tacks, you can look reasonable by offering to meet them halfway by proposing the adjustment mechanism, and get exactly the proposal you really wanted from the beginning, instead of being pressured into accepting something less. Of course most of the Board members would probably hate it, but by using the "bully pulpit" you might be able to embarrass them into putting it on the ballot, especially if you threaten to otherwise support a citizen initiative to put it on the ballot in a form they'd like even less.

(9) The Halloween plan to have celebrations in each neighborhood isn't bad as far as it goes. I'm glad you are not just saying "get Halloween out of the Castro" as so many anti-fun politicians seem to be doing. But these things happen better when they happen organically, rather than as centrally-planned initiatives from City Hall. One thing that the city can do to help more parties and festivals happen organically is get rid of or cut the excessive fees for permits, and allow the events more flexibility as far as hours of operation, merchandise and alcohol sales, etc.

I agree about getting rid of the excessive fees and working towards increase flexibility, but I think that these issues need to be addressed on a neighborhood level to ensure that local residents are as happy as possible about their local parties and festivals. You're right that these things are better when they happen organically, but that doesn't mean that the city shouldn't encourage each neighborhood to host their own halloween celebration.

  I agree with pleasing the neighborhoods, but with an important caveat. There needs to be a way to include the voices of the vast community of people who like to party, go to night clubs, festivals, concerts, etc., in the discussion. These people are typically very under-represented at City Hall and in political and civics issues generally, because most of them just aren't interested in joining stodgy neighborhood groups, going to meetings, lobbying public officials, etc. But it's their neighborhood too -- right? If you just go through the established neighborhood groups and usual mechanisms for hearing from the public, you'll mainly hear from the same 5% or so of the public, namely the busybodies who want to control everything that happens near where they live and make it like a quiet, conservative suburb instead of a vibrant, urban, cosmopolitan, world-class city. Maybe if you were to schedule or allow a special party in each neighborhood, and make it known that each person attending the party will count as a vote for there to be more similar parties in the neighborhood in the future. Then compare this total with how many people speak out via the usual political channels against such parties, and see where the mood of the public is really at.

(10) Making San Francisco independent or at least more self-governing is an idea worth promoting, especially if it's done as part of a broader plan to cooperate with other areas around the country and the world where people are seeking greater autonomy or independence -- Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Hawaii, the state of Jefferson (northern CA and southern Oregon), Kurdistan, Khalistan, Tibet, etc. People everywhere deserve the right to self-determination. See www.Secession.org.

We've discussed this previously, and have established we are on the same page in prior conversations on this matter.

  Cool! Well, it has been a while... I'm enjoying our dialogue and glad you are running to promote some of these issues.

Namaste,
        <<< starchild >>>

Great dialogue-validates my posting the article to the list!