Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Save John Swett
On Monday, April 10th, for a few blessed hours, the Northern California skies cleared from their daily, unending rainstorms and all was well with the world.
Taking advantage of the lucky break, one of the biggest-ass limousines around stopped in front of San Francisco's City Hall, and the driver got out to unroll a red carpet for his passengers.
The party turned out to be a middle-aged wedding party...
...presumably there to apply for a license for matrimonial bliss.
By Tuesday the 11th, in time for the weekly Board of Supervisors meeting in City Hall, the skies had turned dark again and the rain resumed.
Stormy weather continued over a proposal to appropriate funds to the San Francisco School District in order to save the Civic Center ghetto grammar school, John Swett Alternative, on McAllister Street between Franklin and Gough, which is pictured above.
As part of a budget-saving move by the district, which has had severely declining enrollment, a number of schools were slated to be closed and/or merged throughout San Francisco according to a certain set of criteria that included enrollment figures and test scores.
The process was controversial, to say the least, but the John Swett closure has raised more than the usual amount of rancor because District 5 supervisor Mirkarimi had found through an extensive investigative process that the school board was playing fast and loose with their own rules and criteria when it came to shutting down the ancient, venerable grammar school.
What he discovered was that the school district offices (pictured above), which are located across McAllister Street from the school, wanted more office space and they were thinking of booting out the kids and the community so they could move in themselves, while never actually coming right out and admitting this was the case.
There had been long hearings on the subject in various committees, most notably the Budget and Finance Committee, where the reactionary Supervisor Elsbernd had been in the minority when it came to the idea of requesting that the school district keep John Swett open and appropriating the funds to help them do so. (Hey, it's mostly just a bunch of poor black kids, why should he care?)
Just as a vote was about to be taken on the measure, Supervisor McGoldrick intervened with a request that the usual rules about public comment on issues that had already been through committee be suspended so that a representative from the school district could speak.
Supervisor Sandoval made a motion for the suspension of rules, which didn't set too well with some of the other supervisors.
Chris Daly, the chair of the Budget Committee, stood up to speak against the motion, stating quite calmly that representatives from the school district had been invited to speak in committee any number of times and that the issue had been thoroughly discussed from all sides, and that this last-minute interruption just felt like "sandbagging." (I may be wrong about this, actually. It could have been Mirkarimi who used the "sand" word.)
In any case, this really set off McGoldrick, whose heart is often in the right place but who is by nature essentially a blowhard. He started to give an absurd speech about how offended he was by the word "sandbagged" and how there was such a thing as courtesy and "noblesse oblige" and that the board deserved to hear the school district out.
By this time, most of the male supervisors were standing at their desks looking like bulls ready for some head-butting. Board President Peskin got involved in an angry way when he pointed out that nobody from the school district was actually even there at the hearing. McGoldrick replied that he'd just gotten word about this and there would be somebody at the hearing eventually, but that didn't fly so well.
Mirkarimi then gave an impassioned speech on how the school district had broken their own rules and cooked their own books to close John Swett and how it was a grotesque act that needed to be stopped.
The motions for suspension of the rules didn't pass and the actual vote went ahead with 9 voting for the appropriation to save the school, including McGoldrick, with Supervisor Elsbernd dissenting.
There was plenty of other action throughout the meeting, including a resolution going after the health insurance giant Brown and Toland who are refusing to allow doctors to practice at the community Chinese Hospital unless they became "exclusive" Brown and Toland providers.
There was plenty of chicanery, too, with misnamed bits of legislation that were designed to screw the general public in service to the small percentage of people who have more money than the rest of us. To read the great h. Brown's profane predictions on these votes and issues at his San Francisco Bulldog site, which all came true more or less, click here.
My favorite moment was during the commendation period, where a father-and-son coffeeshop team were being honored and McGoldrick insisted that the old guy sing "O Sole Mio" as had been promised. As you can see, the serpentine Supervisor Dufty wasn't particularly amused when exactly that occurred.