Thursday, November 22, 2012

73 as far as the eye can see: Annual Thanksgiving run and homelessness count

This morning was a brilliant day for running.  Just a smidge above 50 degrees. Sun shining, and what seemed like an endless stream of other runners out putting on the miles earning the calories they will ingest later in the day.

As always, I did the same route I have done just about every Thanksgiving I've trod for I can't remember how many years when I started this annual tradition.  I was hoping for the best.  Perhaps this would be the Thanksgiving where there would be a count of zero.  For the first mile, this was my result. I was optimistic.  As I moved from the panhandle into the main segment of our park, my hopes were dashed.  Lo and behold, the first three folks were located near the basketball hoops adjacent to the public restrooms, and then I saw two more ambling toward the other three.

When I first started doing this count, there used to be larger numbers of people located inside the main part of Golden Gate Park. Now, it seems the bulk of the homeless hang out around the outskirts or the nearby business districts.  Today was no different.  The City has done a fine job discouraging people from camping in the usual locations in the park.  And to prove that point, I only saw one other person inside the main park.  I did find evidence of others out there, but true to the count, I only count visible heads, not tents, shopping carts full of a person's worldly possessions, bed rolls, etc..

It wasn't until I got to the edge of the Park underneath the bridge toward the intersection of Stanyan & Haight Streets that I saw a bolus of folks flocked together across the street from the McDonalds.  The number ran up real fast from there.  At least two dozen people were congregated in this area, and the remainder of people were easy to count as they tended to gravitate to the sunny north side of Haight Street, basking in the warmth, splayed out with their belongings, never mind the sit lie law recently enacted.

And so, all told, with the one person spotted inside of Buena Vista Park, I counted roughly 73 homeless people on my run this morning.  This is a conservative estimate. I'm sure there were more out there, but with the 30-40 minutes I was out on my run this morning, those are the one's I spotted.

As to if this is an improvement over years past, I get the sense the answer is no.  It seems like there were a lot more folks out there this morning.  The shift out of the park to the periphery seems to have been cemented, but alas on this day of Thanksgiving, while many over stuff themselves on football and turkey, I'm reminded once again that there are those less fortunate. That there is work to do.

And, no matter the political vagaries of our fair city, where three bedroom homes are nearly never vacated, and two bedroom homes go for upwards of over a million dollars, and yet there are foreclosed vacant properties, I'm left still wondering why the collective we cannot solve this particular problem.  Perhaps we need an open sourced hackathon to corner the source of the problem, identify the barriers to fixing them, and begin removing them and solving it for the sake of the betterment of the whole. After all, isn't our it a measure of the quality of our society measurable by the way we treat those foundering at our lowest rungs?

As we stuff ourselves silly, and give thanks for the gifts we do have, I suggest we turn our thoughts away from what divides us, and make a resolution to come together and figure this out.  After all, we put more than man on the moon and more than one rover on Mars.  Solving the homeless problem can't be nearly as complicated to fix, no?  If we move together, and stop spending unfathomable millions of dollars on political campaigns and instead use those valuable resources toward more positive ends,  perhaps the next time I write this report, things will have improved.

Until next year...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Press Release: Parents Urge Californians to Protect Public Education And Vote "Yes on Prop 30 & Yes on Prop 38!"


Press Release:

Parents Urge Californians to Protect Public Education And Vote "Yes on Prop 30 & Yes on Prop 38!"

Educate Our State, a parent-led grassroots education advocacy group, mobilizes its 45,000 supporters in order to protect education funding on the November ballot. The group is endorsing both Prop 30 and Prop 38.

San Francisco, CA, September 12, 2012: On behalf of the more than six million California public school children, Educate Our State is organizing parents and supporters to vote for education this fall and restore K-12 funds to the state budget.  Educate Our State is urging a Yes for Education! vote on November’s two education ballot initiatives: the Governor’s Proposition 30 and the Advancement Project/PTA’s Proposition 38.  In order to prevent a split vote, and to ensure that one of these measures - which will restore education funding - will pass, Educate Our State is asking Californians to vote Yes on 30 and Yes on 38.  To get out the vote, Educate Our State’s 45,000 supporters are organizing voter pledge drives and voter registration drives in time for the November election.  

“It is ludicrous that these campaigns are being considered a competition.  There is no question that what is best for kids - preschoolers to college students - is for both initiatives to pass!” said Crystal Brown, co-founder and Board President of Educate Our State. “Without the funding provided by these initiatives, schools will face cuts of nearly 20,000 teachers, a shorter school year, larger class sizes and elimination of all or nearly all enrichment programs.” California already lags behind all but a few states with respect to funding (lower than 43rd), standardized test scores (math 43rd and reading 46th; NAEP 4th Grade 2009), and staff to student ratios (50th, NCES Common Core of Data, 2007-2008). For a synopsis of these propositions produced by Educate Our State, please click here.

“Educate Our State parent leaders, from one end of California to the other, will be mobilizing voters to ensure they are prepared and committed to voting for education this November,” said Annie Bauccio, co-founder of Educate Our State, and campaign coordinator. Educate Our State, along with many other organizations, demanded the legislature protect education in this year’s budget.  Instead they passed a budget that leaves the security of education funding dependent upon the results of this election.  “We can no longer allow political bickering to stand in the way of what is best for California’s future.  Parents are going to do everything in their power to ensure the vote comes out in support of education this year,” said Teri Levy, co-founder and Los Angeles leader.

For more information about the campaign, “Yes for Education!”, as well as pledge events scheduled in specific areas, please visit Educate Our State can also be found on Facebook at and can be followed on Twitter at #yes4ed or #educateourstate.

Educate our State is a grassroots, parent-led, statewide campaign uniting the voices of Californians in support of high-quality, K-12 public education and to demand real, systemic change. We believe parents, together with community leaders, can organize, mobilize and put pressure on all stakeholders to work together and agree on fundamental changes that put our children’s achievement and success first. For more information visit:

Press Contacts: Crystal Brown (San Francisco) 
                         (415) 279-3920

                         Teri Levy (Los Angeles)
                         (323) 445-6641

                          Annie Bauccio (San Francisco)  
                         (415) 806-1085


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Join Educate our State for Camp Educate: A summer day camp for adults who care about the future of our great state

I haven't written in a while, but I though that I would appeal to you because our public education system is on the verge of collapse and we all have a vested stake in the future of our Great State.  Think of it this way. With a budget that hinges on the likelihood that voters will approve one of two tax increases this November, how do you suppose we are able fund public education across California in a robust way that ensures our children are well educated, ready for jobs or college, and will be able to lead productive happy lives when they exit school at whatever point they choose? 

The existing budget for public schools across our State hangs by a unraveling thread. The presidential election in November is important, not only for what hangs in the balance for whom will be elected leader of our great nation, but we the people of California have a choice to make.  And hanging in the balance of that choice are California's children - who get no vote - and we, the adults will be making a selection for them.  We will all go to the polls in November and cast our votes, and I urge you to pledge to vote in ways that support public education. 

Regardless the predicted outcome, you do not have to rest with simply showing up to vote.  You can take action today, and that action can work to multiply the power of the movement toward a better California; one where the voters look out for the future generations as opposed to their own, limited self interest.  Join Educate our State.  Like us on facebook.  Sign up for the Cause.

And, if you feel like you would be willing to go the extra mile - come meet us in person and learn how to become an active agent for change.  While, the current budget in Sacramento and across large portions of the State is hostile to public education, toward public school children, and endangering the very talent pools that will be the future employees of the great companies that comprise California's fiscal backbone, we do not have to sit idly or complacently by.  

I am a Board member for Educate our State and I encourage you to consider joining us in two weeks for Camp Educate (18 Aug 2012). Like minded people from around the region are gathering to discuss the issues, connect in person, and work together to develop strategies for working toward positive aims shooting to rebuilding support for and actively take part in the fight to improve schools and the educational experience for all California's children.  I would be happy to discuss this effort in person at any time. Give me a call or let me know a good number, date and time to call you to discuss and I will do my best to fill you in on the details and answer any questions you have.

Better yet, skip all these steps and sign up for Camp Educate. Think of this as Summer Day Camp for adults who care about the future of our Great State.  

The steps you take over this one day event and the next few months are critical.  Don't fall into the usual disempowering trap of thinking that your voice won't make a difference.  In fact, by acting now, with us, you may well be able to change the future for the better .  As Margaret Mead is famous for saying, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  I hope you make the choice to become a part of our State wide movement.  California's Children need you.

I look forward to speaking with you about these issues, Camp Educate, or whatever else you would like to talk about at any time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School Vouchers Are A Trojan Horse

A friend sent around an article suggesting that Mitt Romney is trying to ride in on a white horse as the knight anointed to save our public schools and reverse the fiscal malaise facing them.  I got off on a rant, and here's my response to the article.

Any time some one suggests we hand every one a coupon or voucher so that they can "spend" their education dollars wherever they want, this essentially is code for keeping the rich rich and the poor poor.  Just ask yourself, if you are a single parent, working two jobs just to cover the rent, and you have two kids that you need to send to school, will any voucher that you receive give you enough capital to send your kid to the "best" school? Nope.   What's the likelihood that any kind of voucher program is slashed until it's ground down to zero? Perhaps an exploration of what is happening to food stamp vouchers is instructive as well.

The reason why the wealthy love this voucher idea is that it gives them their tax money back, and they throw as much of their "hard earned" cash at the private school of their choice, and basically screw all the kids who come from poor families and cannot afford the tuition at Exeter or Choate Rosemary Hall or other some such school.  Basically, the voucher "liberates" allocated tax dollars and removes legally prescribed funds from all schools and puts it at schools who don't need the funding in the first place.  After all, the wealthy will use their funds, extracted from the public trust, and put is where they believe they will get the higher ROI; which is where they are already putting their money anyway. 

Here's a good example.  How much does it cost to send a child to French American these days?  If all those parents sucked their tax money out of the SFUSD, and then put those funds somewhere, would they be inclined to select a public school or stick with French American? Of course, they would run with the vouchers to French American thankful that they got the extra capital they didn't need in the first place to prop up their school?  Who wins? The kid already going to French American, who by default can already afford it. Who loses? The public school system kids as those funds diverted to whatever private school would no longer be used to support our beloved SFUSD schools, as those who can will "spend it" elsewhere.

This is why I always say, there's a dramatic difference between an equal opportunity for an education and an equal opportunity for an EQUAL education....but I digress.

The GOP folks are only in it for themselves, and their plans lay that plain.  One day, I would love to find a fiscally responsible person who is also socially minded and vice versa in the same person...No wait, that's Obama.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

It's Time for the People To Lead & Tell Our Elected Legislators to "Stop Clowning Around" with public school funding

In advance of tonight's School Site Council (SSC) and tomorrow's PTA meetings where many of us will be discussing the grim fiscal situation facing our wonderful school, we stand together lucky in that we are able to raise funds to support the values and programs we have grown to enjoy over the years.  Unfortunately, even as schools in the SFUSD are suffering, across the State we have a serious, potentially lethal fiscal problem to solve.

I encourage you to view this short video created by the folks at Educate our State. It's hard hitting and to the point.  It also issues a call to action.  Parents especially have been disengaged from the broader State-wide public school budget conversation.  We can no longer wait for our elected "leaders" to take the necessary steps to secure proper and adequate funding for all public schools across all grade levels (and public higher education as well).  It's time for us to stand up and lead our elected "leaders" because their politically generated circus has only resulted in harmful budget moves the effects of which you are most certainly fully aware (just how many furlough days are acceptable?).

Do me a favor. Watch this video. Take the steps to contact our legislators - or if you are from more remote districts originally, call your former representatives - and tell them to "Stop Clowning Around," and get serious about fully funding public education.  Remember, there's a serious difference between an equal opportunity for an equal education, and an equal opportunity for an EQUAL education.

Our kids can't wait, and their future children depend on us to act now.  They don't get a vote. But we do, and we can stand for what's right.  Join us and push out this message far and wide.

Share the link with your most conservative relatives.  Ask them to help as high quality education for all isn't a political concern. Securing proper and adequate funding is not only what's right for the future of our great state, but the first step in rectifying & turning around the extremely harmful trends/sentiment/political actions that are effectively destroying our once great public schools. 

Thank you

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If you are not a member already, It's time to joing the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Join the SF Bicycle CoalitionI've been a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition for a great long time. They handle a great many of the very cool improvements across the city related to making the city safer for all manner of cyclists, and are on a mission to make it safe for every one ages 8 to 80 to ride a bike across the whole city. If you are not a member, please join up. I know you won't regret it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Take the Sting Out of Education Funding Cuts - Make it go viral request email template

This is the text of the email I just drafted & sent off to the entire parent population at our school. You should feel free to borrow any and all of it to push out to your people as well. The aim is to make the video go viral.

Please do comment below when you use the material. Then come back to let us know how the email worked.

Dear All,

Most of you are gravely familiar with the dismal situation facing our public schools caused by a serious decline in funding over the last several years: hence the reason for the - insert annual fundraiser here - (Thanks to all the volunteers we had a record breaking year). After I termed out as your PTA president, I was recruited to serve on the Board for Educate our State. I'm grateful for all of this organization's efforts to boost the awareness that this budget as designed, indeed, is set to do school systems across the whole state irreparable harm.

To further the awareness campaign, Educate our State leaders have crafted a new video which I encourage you to share with all your friends, family, state legislators, and Governor Brown if you are comfortable doing so. We are trying to use social media outlets to make the video go viral. Please spread the video as far and wide as possible.

Beyond sharing the video, we would love every parent at - insert your school here- to take the time to stress to our representatives that the budget is broken and needs fixing by sending a letter, writing an email and generally demanding that our elected officials do their Constitutionally mandated duties by fully funding education to make our schools competitive to ensure there is a bright instead of dim future for the Great State of California. If you hit the link, it only takes about two minutes to do so.

Think of it this way: How likely is it that we should expect our school's Principal - insert your principal's name here and budget over-site body here- in particular to budget for next year on the extremely slim possibility that a November Ballot Measure that proposes to increase taxes will pass? The sad state of the situation is that the existing budget is broken, and the tax measure only would serve to keep it flat; if it passes at all. In my view, riding on a flat tire is not only foolish, but will make matters worse. I say fix it! And, I hope you will join me in amplifying the parent voice in this battle for a) our children, b) the children that come after them, and c) for the very well being of our whole State.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Budget Blows: But We Can Do Something About it

Having served a couple of years a while back as the McKinley Elementary PTA president was a rewarding and eye opening experience. While the fund raising skills of the McKinley community remain strong and lever forward every year toward new heights, unfortunately, the budget malady affecting our wonderful school metastasizes across the SFUSD and our State in what seems to me to be a clear message from the good people of California: public schools don't matter & are no longer worth funding. 

If you look at the Governor's proposed budget, Mr. Brown is effectively holding a shotgun to the heads of our children in the form of a tax increasing ballot measure. If Mr. Brown's measure doesn't pass in November, the trigger means even more drastic cuts to the already threadbare budget from which they are asking our Principal and School Site Council to eek out whatever quality they can.  To get a feel for why this is a problem, just ask yourself one short question: How likely is it that in this politically charged climate that the people of California will vote to increases their taxes in November?

Although our State used to be at the top of the rankings, by many measures about a rough thirty years ago, we are now at or near the bottom and lowering the bar for what would be considered a dismal and declining set of priorities that put us on a pace to beat Mississipi and other low ranking States to even lower rankings (and sinking) in a number of areas.  This is not a partisan issue.  This is an issue that, should we demand it, could be solved in very short order by making some very difficult budgetary decisions that restore the necessary funding that, lo so many years ago, brought us to the top of the educational heap to put us back in the spotlight as a role model for how a State can educate its children.  It's a matter of making our priorities known and demanding better from our government "leaders."

While the rest of the country is distracted by endless debates about what's wrong with government, we the people of the Great State of California, the good city of San Francisco, and humble members of a wonderful McKinley school community must stand up and lead those who claim to lead our government before they blow it for our children and the children that come thereafter. On Thursday morning, 15 March, before school starts, many of us will brave whatever weather comes our way, and blow bubbles on the corner of 14th and Castro (starting at 7:30 AM), as a symbol of our grave and serious dissatisfaction of the fiscal calamity facing our school.  With no irony and complete intent, this action is taking place on a day when many of our great teachers may be issued pink slips, effectively firing them for yet another year in a row, and in solidarity with schools across the State, we are standing up for children, for public education, and for what used to be a shining example for the world of what was right with public schooling and shouting as loudly as possible in the hopes that some legislative Horton hear's our voices, loudly, clearly, and with irrevocable courage, comes to the aid our our children and the other fiscally foundering schools across this state and rectifies the intractable mess that our current budgetary malaise is. 

Our message is simple - "this budget blows!" We demand better. The Future of California depends on it.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Come join us, Thursday morning, on the corner of 14th and Castro, at 7:30 AM before the opening bell. This may well be twenty minutes that change the tide and the invert the damage done.  

Regards, and I hope to see you all on Thursday Morning.