First Amendment Blues
By Paul Kozakiewicz
Lately, newsracks that used to carry numerous newspapers and magazines have been removed from city streets – putting a serious dent in the distribution of those publications, including the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.
Responsibility for the City’s newsrack program falls under the auspices of the SF Department of Public Works (DPW), but was being overseen by Clear Channel.
Because so many publications have gone out of business or ceased printing a hard copy, many of the news racks that were once in use ar empty now. Many are filled with trash and the possessions of homeless people.
When the City passed its newsrack ordinance in 2002, DPW said it was because the freestanding newsracks were ugly due to poor maintenance and the persistence of graffiti, and dangerous for pedestrians. Occasionally, a vandal would kick a rack into the street.
So, we ran with the program, which worked relatively well, until high tech grabbed most of the publications’ advertising revenue, leading to the die-off of local newspapers. In 1997, the City had 18 active neighborhood newspapers with print editions. Today, there are seven. Weekly staples, like the SF Weekly and SF Bay Guardian, are history.
There should have been a compromise with the newsracks, with some major intersections throughout the city keeping them for those publishers still publishing.
For the publications that can afford it, freestanding newsracks will have to be purchased, insured for $100,000, and put back on the streets. And then the fun with graffiti removal begins.
Thousands of westside residents picked up their copies of the Richmond Review at newsracks. Now they have to scramble to find new locations. (The Richmond Review will be publicizing distribution locations.)
So much for the First Amendment in San Francisco.
Supervisor is Road Kill
Thanks to Richmond District Supervisor Connie Chan, voters have to go to the ballot once again to keep our parks accessible to all.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Chan authored a measure at the SF Board of Supervisors to close several roads in Golden Gate Park to create a bicycle and pedestrian pathway from the eastern end of the park to Ocean Beach. The measure included closing the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive and parts of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Perhaps Chan thought she could control the process, but her fellow progressive supervisors seized on the opportunity to exploit the people during a pandemic and to make the temporary ban permanent with a 7-4 vote, with Chan voting “no.”
Chan wanted to buy some time and study the situation for environmental impacts and the like, but she was steamrolled into the pavement. Perhaps she thought the so-called moderate Mayor London Breed would have her back with a veto, but Breed decided she was for exploiting westside residents during a pandemic and smiting the cultural institutions in Golden Gate Park.
The power move by a majority of the supervisors and the mayor has gridlocked traffic on the west side, denied some seniors, disabled people and families from enjoying the park, and slashed attendance at the SF Conservatory of Flowers, de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences.
Chan recently tried to limit some of the damage by working to open a small portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, between Chain of Lakes Drive and Sunset Boulevard, in the eastbound direction only. The Band Aid does little to alleviate the massive traffic jams that Phil Ginsburg at the SF Recreation and Park Department created with Chan’s guidance.
Local residents responded by getting enough signatures to put Prop. I on the ballot, calling for park roadways (and the Upper Great Highway) to be reopened to vehicle traffic as it was before the pandemic struck.
In response, four progressive supervisors put a “poison pill” on the ballot, Prop. J, calling for the vehicle road closures in Golden Gate Park to be made permanent.
So now, even if Prop. I passes, it loses if Prop. J gets more votes because of the way lawyers wrote the language of the ballot measure.
Chan is staying neutral on the dueling propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot, including the one she spawned.
For voters who want to stop the City Hall power grab and allow everyone access to Golden Gate Park, vote “yes” on Prop. I. And vote “no” on the cynical power grab that is Prop. J.
Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, with the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.