I wrote a letter to each of the eleven San Francisco Supervisors asking for their help in politely disinviting the Blue Angels air team from their annual Fleet Week air show over the city.
Taking the letters to City Hall, I passed a display of Day of the Dead posters in the Van Ness lobby...
...set up in front of a huge altar.
Halloween as an adult holiday pretty much started in San Francisco as a gay bacchanalia in the 1960s and 1970s and spread through the larger culture like a virus.
Halloween has been abandoned by the latest generation of mostly gay hipsters and the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration is being cultivated instead, which is an interesting development.
My letter to the supervisors read as follows:
"I live a block from City Hall at the corner of Franklin and McAllister Streets, and have done so for over a decade. Living in the Civic Center, I see demonstrations, cultural fairs, protests, wealthy people’s tent parties that go until 2AM, and none of them bother me in the least. As far as I’m concerned, people can do pretty much whatever they want, including having a ski jump, in my back yard or in my front yard. It’s part of what makes living in a city interesting and exciting."
"However, I would like to draw a line. Having U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets fly hundreds of feet away from my living room windows and scaring the crap out of me for four straight days is just not acceptable. I know lots of people who love the Blue Angels and their annual air shows during Fleet Week, and I’ve tried to respect that over the years. This year, though, it just felt wrong."
"As you’re probably aware, we’re facing an imminent energy crisis in the United States so that burning all that oil for an air show strikes me as obscene. We’re also facing an imminent budget crisis, so throwing away money in this manner also strikes me as supremely wasteful. Plus, flying so low in an urban setting is just ridiculously dangerous. There have always been accidents at air shows all over the world, and I’m not sure you’re protecting the safety of San Franciscans by allowing this behavior. Above all, the United States is currently using these jets to drop bombs on civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, which I don’t think is something that the majority of San Franciscans want to be celebrating."
"My supervisor is Chris Daly in District Six, who I like and respect, but this isn’t a simple district issue. It’s citywide and I believe we should have a vote by San Franciscans on whether we want to politely ask the U.S. Navy to stop the annual Blue Angels show. If a majority of San Franciscans would like to continue having them return, that’s fine, but I suspect that I’m not in a small minority in my feeling towards these fighter jets right now.
If you could get back to me with your thoughts on this issue, I would most appreciate it. I have a blog focusing on Civic Center and your responses (or lack or same) will be duly noted. Thank you so much."
The Supervisors' offices are on the second floor of City Hall and are staffed by a few paid assistants...
...and a legion of volunteers, who all have varying degrees of competence. This volunteer in Aaron Peskin's office cheerfully professed ignorance when I asked him a few questions about getting a measure on the ballot, but he was completely charming.
This aide to Supervisor Sandoval was also quite pleasant in taking my letter and answering questions.
The Supervisors' offices are along an L-shaped corridor and they all have different dimensions. Ammiano has the outdoor corner and it's definitely the prize set of digs.
This Amiano aide had quite a bit of interesting information on the Blue Angels issue. "We tried to get something going, but this is one of those issues where people are either violently pro or violently against. It's just like Dogs in Parks. People on both sides get absolutely hysterical, so no Supervisor wants to step into the middle of it."
This aide to Supervisor Dufty was being extraordinarily kind and patient with some constituent on the phone. When I complimented him on his manner, he laughed and said, "it's probably the ex-priest in me coming out."
Each office has its own flavor...
...and its gatekeepers.
Still, it's rather surprising how welcoming and charming the reception is at almost every one of them, whether it's sincere or not.
There was one major exception to that observation, which was the office of Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, the young politico appointed by Mayor Newsom. Instead of clutter and art in the office, it was clean and antiseptic and gave off seriously bad vibes. The aide who came out from the back office also refused to have his photo taken, the only person to do so during this trek through the halls of government. Elsbernd is a strange, sick puppy and none of his colleagues trust him for one second.
The liveliest offices belonged to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who holds monthly art openings in his office.
He also has some of the best aides in City Hall, including new daddy Boris who was the only one who knew how many signatures were required to get a measure on the ballot.
"Since it wouldn't be a legally binding measure because the airways belong to the federal government, it would be simply an advisory measure which requires 10,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot. Figure you'll need another 3,000 to 5,000 signatures to make sure you have enough valid ones. And I'm all for it. Taking care of a one-month old baby with those jets screaming through the skies was horrible."
At Supervisor McGoldrick's office, there was a pleasant but fairly clueless volunteer who wished me all the luck in the world as I handed him the letter.
One of Supervisor Chris Daly's volunteers, when I told him what the letter was about, said dismissively, "Get in line. At least 150 other people have complained about this before you."
"I want to lead the line, actually," I told him. "I think San Franciscans deserve to have a vote on this issue and since it's mostly symbolic, the wording needs to be simple and good. Instead of being angry and confrontational, I'd like to see a measure that would politely disinvite the Blue Angels for the next ten years." So, dear Civic Center readers, please join me if you would be in support of a vote on next June's ballot. Now that the tide is starting to turn on people like Bush and Schwarzenegger, it seems like an appropriate time.