Saturday, August 20, 2005

Comcast, Mirkarimi and Iranian Art

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors had their last meeting before a month-long break. On the agenda were a couple of items relating to the Mayor's secret contract negotiations with Comcast for a four-year extension with a payoff to the city's General Fund.

In an email Zane Blaney, the director of the Public Access nonprofit CTC, reported what went on. Though I find the guy obnoxious and a bit of a scam artist who only cares about himself, the report is interesting:

"Last Tuesday the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to continue the Comcast settlement items until they return from vacation in September. I expect the items will be up again on September 13th. The action followed a very full day at City Hall for the SF Media Advocates team including myself, Sydney Levy with Media Alliance and a representative of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The day started with Ross Mirkarimi aides telling us their proposed amendment calling for $3.2 million dollars for PEG per year and adding labor language did not have enough votes to pass. The amendment could not have been adopted in any binding way since the supes cannot change the language of contracts. It would only have been a symbolic gesture and perhaps marching orders from the supes to DTIS to go back to Comcast and get better terms for PEG and the union. Hours before the full Board of Supervisors meeting we were still walking the halls trying to get a sixth vote to kill the deal if the amendment was not adopted.

Thirty minutes before the meeting Ammiano's office proposed getting enough votes to continue the items until September in the hopes that with more time we could iron out a funding scheme. At the last minute Sophie Maxwell bought into the continuance.

Although the vote on the Comcast items was expected to take place within the first hour of the meeting Jake McGoldrick called for a closed session to hear from attorneys and DTIS. The closed session was moved to the very end of the meeting. At 6:45 PM they went into the closed session and returned 45 minutes later to cast the vote to continue the item. Needless to say DTIS, the Comcast lobbyist, who were out in force and perhaps the Mayor's Office were not pleased. However, it did send a message that the supes were not pleased with the deal and that our work was having an impact.

I believe this opens the door during the next 30 days to get the supes to consider the issue of long-term sustainable funding for public access. They can either get the money from Comcast or come up with some other scheme such as taking money from the franchise fee and the General Fund. It was historic that a Supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, had the courage to present an amendment, based on information I have given him, to call for a $1.50 per subscriber pass through to fund PEG amounting to approximately $3.2 million per year for PEG.

All of this could still fail since Comcast has said they will not negotiate anything more and the supes could balk at taking money out of the General Fund. We could be right back where we started from in a month.

Finally, last Friday one our producers, Sam Gold, called to ask whether or not we wanted to have a press conference on the Comcast issues. Although the SF Media Advocates group has considered a press conference in the past the group was not prepared to call a press conference on Monday for a variety of reasons including the fact we did not want to complicate the rather delicate negotiations we were conducting inside City Hall and the key group members were not available. It was decided that if producers wanted to have their own press conference and demonstration they were free to do so. Sam went on to organize producers who turned out Monday to demonstrate on the steps of City Hall. At the very same moment Mayor Newsom was also having a press conference near the steps on another issue. He couldn't help but see the Access SF producers demonstrations and he apparently got the message since he was heard to say something to the effect that he knew what they wanted."

On Friday evening, Supervisor Mirkarimi hosted his monthly art show in his Supervisor's office.

It was noisy, crowded and lots of fun.

The artist being featured this month was an Iranian, Mohammed Harouni. I believe that's his art dealer above, and a photo of the artist is below.

Most of his pictures involved horses.

I wasn't crazy about most of them.

They were a little too "pretty" and decorative...

...and didn't really convey a horse's real energy.

Still, I'm impressed with anybody who is a good draftsman and who tries to make a living in the arts.

Also, it was fun to be mingling with so many Iranian-Americans...

...a group that tends to stick to itself.

It turned out that Supervisor Mirkarimi's rich cultural heritage stew also involved being part Iranian.

The red wine was very good this evening...

...and it had already occasioned some good feelings and sloppiness.

After chatting up a few neighbors...

...I decided to call it a night.

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