Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Politely Disinviting The Blue Angels

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.


Princess Sparkle Pony said...

This is so good. I think this is my favorite post of yours. You really get the sense of you tromping from office to office. Outstanding!

Angie said...

This issue is not a bush or arnold issue tho. Personally, I like the Blue Angels. My boys like the Blue Angels. And they bring people into the City to spend money.

It's kinda like people who live near airports, they have the option to move.

jennifer said...

you were the gentleman in the star wars jacket, right? personally, the blue angels gave me a headache. we did receive quite a number of complaints about the noise and potential danger created by the planes. and i remember one rather humorous call where the individual proclaimed any person against the blue angels was just plain unamerican! by the way, i work in supervisor sandoval's office, not fiona ma's. my personal politics are a little more aligned with mr. sandoval than ms. ma. and i wish i had smiled for you in the picture! come visit again!

sfmike said...

Dear Jennifer: Whoops! Yes, that was me in the Star Wars jacket, and I'm going to go back and fix your attribution, and I'm very glad to hear that the Blue Angels give you an unamerican headache.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I like about this blog are all the pictures of the random people. Sometimes they smile, sometimes they don't pay attention, and sometimes they have a blank look as though they are deers caught in the headlights. It is kind of hilarious, really -- having a random stranger come up to you out of the blue to take your picture. I wonder what goes through their minds?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I should add something: I used to intern for Daly and McGoldrick and I can tell you what will happen to your letters.

Usually, constituents send bunches of emails everyday (but hand written letters are given slightly more attention). They are scanned briefly by the interns and then plunked into a database denoted by issue. When the emails in various categories begin to add up, the issue gets some attention and, if it adds up enough, is dealt with by the supervisor. This happens once in a very blue moon.

The contents of the letters themselves are ignored. You might as well have just written something like:

"Please make the Blue Angels go away. They are noisy and obnoxious."

And then just write yourname and address so they know that you are in their district.

Anonymous said...

SFMike - can you contact me? I caught you on the way out of Webzine 2005 and said i live in this area of the city as well. I am working on an issue you might be able to advise me on..

kimo at webnetic. ()() net
blog (just starting)

rysanekfreak said...

I was once at a matinee of "Flying Dutchman" in War Memorial when an airshow was going on, and during the quiet parts of the opera (yes, there are some quiet parts in Wagner), you could hear the passbys and passovers of these planes, and it was VERRRRRRRRRY annoying.

I get upset with talkers, candy unwrappers, and program droppers at the opera, so you can imagine how LIVID I was about the airshow planes roaring and swooping around.

eddie said...

you've got my signature mike. let's get those petitions a circulatin'.

cookie jill said...

Well...Now that Bill O'Reilly has invited terrorists to bomb San Francisco....I'm sure you might get some action on your letters or at least some folks at City Hall asking for him to stand trial as a treasoner.

(probably not...really...but one can hope)

p said...

whay to go sf mike..
i've always hated the idiotic blue angels...sned them to las vegas or kabul....
keep posting in the free world

janinsanfran said...

I'm on wit ya! Again here. We could probably pass an advisory measure in a high turnout election, though I wouldn't be sure.

Houston said...

Back in the last century when Diane Feinstein was mayor of S.F., she briefly disinvited the Blue Angels saying that they were noisy, dangerous, etc., etc. Then they invited her to fly along with them. After that, she thought they were wonderful. It would take a lot more than a ride in a plane for me to find them anything but annoying.

Clark Buckner said...


I'm delighted to see that you're rallying opposition to the Blue Angels - and that you're not alone. I hate those fuckers. They make me feel like I'm living in occupied territory, which may in fact be their purpose.


Anonymous said...

I do not live in the City, but do work here and I could not agree more strongly with your opposition to the Blue Angels. Whether or not people receive some sort of adrenalin rush from watching these fighter jets, their presence needs to be understood in contextual terms. Those are multi-million dollar war machines built to kill people, in fact many people at once and they should not be displayed as anything but. If individuals want to see an air show, go watch one - the entire City should not have to participate.

Anonymous said...

It is sad that we cannot be patriotic about the blue angles who fly for nothing more than to make people happy, expecially kids!

Anonymous said...

The blue angels are patriotic for the USA, oh, i forgot California does not want to be part of the USA.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of communist cowards you are. You sissys don't understand that under Islamic rule you will be the first to die. If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything. Let the Blue Angels fly... get a real life.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's hard to know if some of these are real! What on earth is unpatriotic about not wanting to be subjected to extreme noise? I was once in a hospital (already the noisiest place on earth) when those guys flew over, I just had to laugh it was so absurd. But this is a place where people live. It's one thing not to live near an airport, but SF is a city, not an airport. I support your efforts! By the way, here's a number where you can complain: 650-599-5057. It’s a voicemail box. I hear there's someplace online too, but I can't find it.