Friday, January 30, 2009

Central City has lost a leading advocate

Steve Conley passed away Friday evening, January 23, in the company of six close friends at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Steve was well-respected in the Central City, as he has been serving our community here for more than a decade. He was a good friend to many of us. More than that, he was friend to the community in the Tenderloin area.

Mr. Conley lived a long and active life. There are many things about him you may not be aware of. Please join with us as we celebrate the life of a very active community organizer.

As many of us knew, due to his distinctive beret, Mr. Conley served honorably in the Vietnam War. He was one of the few who was able to turn that experience around, to the benefit of us all. Many of us believe that his exposure to war may have been at the core of his compassion for those around him. He had a very sharp mind, and was always inquisitive. He was known to be a true man of the world, curious about how life works and how to make it better.

Conley was an accomplished community activist, working on the board of leading advocacy organizations such as the North of Market / Tenderloin Community Benefits District, the North of Market Planning Coalition (NOMPC), and was Media Director for the Tenant Associations Coalition. He was cofounder of the Alliance for a Better District 6 and Central City Democrats and served on their boards their entire history until now. His absence will be keenly felt, as he was a true intellectual in the San Francisco Progressive community.

Mr. Conley worked more than 20 years in media production, most notably at KPFK Radio where he worked from 1992 to 2000 in various roles, from Public Affairs Production Coordinator to Morning Magazine Producer to overall Production Director. He had skill in managing staff, writing segments, coordinating news sources, public affairs, voice-overs, and many other skills. He created the still-running and popular afternoon drive-time program, Beneath the Surface.

Conley previously worked as an international correspondent in such far-flung places as Asia, the Middle East and Europe on topics of human rights, economics, social movements and war. More recently he has been utilizing his skills as he moderated many public events such as the 2007 Mayoral candidates debate and various town hall meetings.

He always had a studied and deliberate delivery, and always kept control of his guests who would debate with various levels of ferocity. The fact that he was able to guide difficult guests such as “Grasshopper” Kaplan during the Mayoral debate is legendary, as Mr. Kaplan decided he needed to resort to lying down in front of the entrance doors (leading to his arrest) during the debate, in order to make his particular point. Nobody to this day is sure what that point was. But because of Mr. Conyer it was clear to Mr. Kaplan that the point would need to be made outside of the forum he was in charge of.

Veterans groups were always an important part of his life. Little is ever disclosed about the meetings he led, but there are many veterans who are grateful for his participation and leadership.

Arrangements and memorial services are pending.

Community members have established two memorial funds. If you wish to make a (tax-deductible) contribution, please make checks payable to:

San Francisco Study Center ( please write “Steve Conley Memorial Fund” in the memo field)
PO Box 425646
San Francisco, CA 94142
An acknowledgment will be sent to the address accompanying your check.

Northeast Community Federal Credit Union (NECFCU)
(Be sure to write“Steve Conley Memorial Fund” in the memo field)
288 Jones Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Cards and personal communications may be sent to:
Friends of Steve Conley
PO Box 420846
San Francisco, CA 94142

Any other inquiries may be directed to: (415) 820-1412

Monday, January 19, 2009

San Francisco issues Municipal ID cards

San Francisco began issuing ID cards last week. These are valid identification that can be used to obtain bank accounts, check books out of the library and, most importantly, help us to avoid arrest for lack of ID. For immigrants, it has another effect: reducing their fear of calling police when they are victims of crime.

San Francisco is home to the only Credit Union which will issue bank accounts to people without a social security number, Northeast Community Federal Credit Union. NECFCU is utilized by many people who otherwise might not have access to any financial institution. Identification is the only requirement for an account.

San Francisco Library is a wonderful resource for training materials, books, CDs, music and movies. The only requirement for access is identification.

San Francisco is the one city in the country where you may be arrested simply for not having ID. You might be walking on the street minding your own business and the police can walk up and ask you to identify yourself. If you do not have a way of proving you are who you say you are, they have the option to take you downtown. All that is required to avoid this is identification.

For these reasons, and many more, the City has decided to issue identification cards to everyone who can show a birth certificate (or passport) and a utility bill or other proof that they reside in the city. We think this is a very good policy, independent of the immigration issues.

Immigration is a hot topic, and is likely to be so for a long time. Our understanding of the law is that the term 'illegal immigrant' is a misnomer. Granted that it is not legal to cross the border into the United States without permission. But once here, the illegals become 'undocumented aliens' and are not breaking any laws by their mere presence. It is when they attempt to work, forge social security numbers or commit crimes that they become subject to law enforcement. There are many undocumented aliens who do none of those things.

This begs the question of how to best manage social policy. Do we really want to discourage able-bodied people from working? That they are here is a given. This writer would argue that we should consider establishing a way for them to be productive.

For more information about the San Francisco ID card program, here is a link to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Hundreds wait for hours
to buy S.F. ID card

Friday, January 16, 2009

Are You a Survivor?

Much is written about natural disasters. We hear that a hurricane hit here, tornadoes there and floods in yet another place. We also hear plenty about man-made disasters like wildfires, toxic spills and human attack. So-called disasters are common enough across the country that we hear about something happening nearly every day.

We are fortunate to sometimes hear first-hand stories that tell of heroism in these situations. More rarely we might get to hear the part of people merely trying to survive. Those people are us. Well, me anyway. My motto is to say that "We are the First Responders" in these situations. In the time between the incident and the time of official response, we all too often are simply on our own. We might be able to rally some help, of course, but even greater numbers of people will need help. Some of them will survive, and those are the people to study.

Here is a story about a phone call from a passenger in the aircraft that ultimately crashed into the Hudson river:

'My plane's crashed into the river'

Now compare that to the report about the call from the pilot of the same aircraft:

So we ask ourselves how regular people work together with airline crew to escape something like this? What goes through the thoughts of the participants, the thoughts which save their lives? What training have they had (perhaps subconsciously), and what talents were built-in at birth?

Here is a book I found to be very useful in understanding our responses, titled:

The Unthinkable

Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

Click on the title above for a more thorough description of the book and author, Amanda Ripley. Here is what Random House has to say about this book:

"Today, nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality–anything we’ve ever learned, thought, or dreamed of–ultimately matter?

Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain’s fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.

The Unthinkable escorts us into the bleakest regions of our nightmares, flicks on a flashlight, and takes a steady look around. Then it leads us home, smarter and stronger than we were before."
(Used with permission from Random House Publishers, Inc.)
We can all enhance our probability of survival through better understanding of how we react normally and how to deal with that in order to be better prepared to do the job at hand if the time comes that we need to help others or ourselves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Volunteers Needed for the 2009 Homeless Count

The San Francisco 2009 Homeless Count needs volunteers. San Francisco’s next bi-annual count of homeless persons will take place on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 from 7pm to 12am. A one-hour training takes place from 7-8pm. The homeless count is a volunteer-driven, community-wide effort coordinated by the San Francisco Human Services Agency. Send e-mail to or call (415) 558-2346.

Click here for a pdf of the volunteer info flyer.

San Francisco's efforts to count underprivileged people has inspired a global effort to count the estimated 1 billion people who live "off the grid."

Here is a link to an article about this from the Christian Science Monitor: How to count the "invisibles"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Soaring cost of living drives residents from California

Even in Britain they are commenting on the sad state of the California economy. This report tells us that for the last 4 years we have experienced a net loss of residents. We are looking for new sources of revenue and hoping things will get better, but as people vote with their feet we see a negative trend.

Here is the story from the London Telegraph: Soaring cost of living drives residents from California

1 dead, 8 injured in Carbon Monoxide leak in SRO Hotel

Monday, 50 tenants were evacuated from an SRO hotel at 816 Geary Street due to a gas leak. One man, only identified as "Eddie" was later found dead inside the building.

The gas alarm had been sounding off for up to 24 hours, but was paid no heed. Eight other hotel tenants were injured in this incident.

SRO hotels are home to many challenged and disabled people. This is the kind of preventable tragedy that could have been avoided through proper training and alarm response.

Our condolences to those involved.

You can read the story from the San Francisco Examiner here: 50 tenants evacuated after deadly monoxide leak

Terry Childs, former Systems Administrator for the City of San Francisco, challenges the charges against him

Terry Childs, 44, a San Francisco Department of Technology network engineer, remains in custody on $5 million bail after being arrested for tampering with the City of San Francisco's FiberWAN network. Mr. Childs designed and installed the network and has written three books on the effort involved. There is some controversy about whether he received a copyright for the design.

Childs is being held on 4 felony counts of computer tampering, and an additional charge of causing large monetary damage. He allegedly withheld the router configurations passwords and allowed them to be in a precarious state of operating with no configuration backups.

Many in the computer industry have questioned the charges surrounding this case. His actions, if accurately described, may be a result of his desire to protect the network from other city managers, who he has described as incompetent. Many computer experts agree that his actions might be described as foolish, but the City is attempting to prove they were felonious. Childs faces 7 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

There is widespread concern in the IT industry that normal, everyday actions can be called illegal by employers. This is a case where an overprotective administrator may or may not have had malicious intent. His intent will determine his fate.

Today he appeared in court with his attorney, Richard Shikman. Shikman persueded the court to allow more time for a challenge to the original charges before a plea must be entered.

You can read the story from the San Francisco Examiner here: City Employee challenges computer tampering charges