Thursday, December 28, 2006


Scanning cameras find San Francisco parking scofflaws. Don't you love that word? There is something unseemly about this, regardless of the breaking of the law. As a guy who has been towed three times and pays parking tickets regularly, I can attest that this is not fun. Once I even beat the tow truck down and had to wait for an hour or so. Once I showed up as the tow truck guy was hooking it up and pleated--sorry about that. And, just for the record, I am no scofflaw, which means in San Fran parlance that one must have five tickets or more.

Get this: the city hauls in $85 mil each year from issuing parking tickets. According to the city, about 8,000 have accrued five or more tickets and are tagged as scofflaws. Sticking up for the scofflaws is a little like being against God or the Holy Spirit, afterall, the people are violating the law. They caught some guy with 13 unpaid tickets and booted his car. Now, I have seen the wretched boot, not on my car but on others and it tugs at my heart.

Catching the law breakers is not the end of the story. I've been down to the Department of Parking and Traffic to get my car. I can tell you there's not a lot of folks from Pacific Heights hanging out. While I am waiting to pay up, trust me, not a pretty sight. I saw two women crying, a couple of men cursing--the saddest had to be a young Hispanic guy who lacked $8 dollars to pay his fines. As he pleaded, I gave the bucks with a "forget it". You would have thought I presented a winning lottery ticket--had to have his truck to get to a job in Marin--a wife and three kids. I get it.

Before the city goes bragging about scarfing up the scofflaws, let's say that most are the working poor, not the Mercedes and Porsche types although there are a few: they got caught, pay their tickets and next case. Not so easy for most.

The infamous license plate scanner that catches the scofflaws is no discriminatory lout but for most, this is a serious and sad matter. We have a City with way too many cars. It is not a simple issue of minding the law. It is a problem that needs to be attacked with some innovative and creativity mentality and not a "gotcha" scofflaws.

Sunday, December 10, 2006



Today, I was reminded as I was reading the obituaries which is a sure sign of getting old, what relationships mean. The lead story in the obits was an individual who had died in one of the neighborhoods of the City. The obituary was glowing about who he was: the unofficial mayor of Bernal Heights. From comments of fellow merchants, his family, friends and especially his two daughters, you got the impression that here is a pretty remarkable individual and his absence from the earth is truly a loss. As the unofficial mayor of this incredibly eclectic neighborhood of San Fran, he will be missed.

The obit talked about his daughters and then said he had lived with his long time partner for the last several years. The partner had been ill for some time and the "mayor" had been a loving caretaker. Yes, gay. The obit listed his survivors and included his former wife. Since I don't know much of the story, I have to add my own lack of enlightenment but think this: regardless of how relationships turn, to allow them to change in beneficial ways surely seems to have happened here. Way to go. God bless all who will miss him. Thanks to him for the lesson left.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Streeter. This is a term I invented and can hardly wait to see if it becomes a part of the lexicon. I doubt it...what it means are those who hang out on the streets and most call them homeless. Homeless in our society means different things to different people and in different parts of the country. In San Fran, we have more "streeters" than truly chronic homeless.

I think the homeless can be divided into about three categories: the dopeheads who love hanging out on the streets, it is a lifestyle, a comraderie and works with their fogged up minds. Most have simply wasted their lives, plain and simple. The 2d group are those who are mentally challenged, for whatever reason. The "street" becomes a comfortable place for them. And, the third group and a much smaller one are the true homeless that can be helped. They need help in terms of having a roof over their heads, often they need assistance with their families--they are livng in cars and subsisting with various types of handouts. We need to be turning out attention to this group. The first two are mostly beyond help. (I didn't mean for this to be a serious piece)

I meet this "streeter" as I'm out running. He is pushing his cart, full of his earthly belongings. He fits in the second category, I think: somewhat mentally challenged but at the top of the rung, as he is humorous, talking to himself, maybe to me as we're waiting for a light to change. As we're standing there, a frail little woman crosses the street in front of us against the traffic. Her right arm is shaking in a pattern that is the result of maybe a stroke or something but very obvious that she is not quite with it. We are both watching her. He says to me, "she's going to get killed one of these days. I help her cross when I can but sometimes she just goes on her own." I was moved by his concern. Here's a "streeter" who somehow is compassionate, does what he can in his world. Those of us who go about our daily lives without a thought of this poor woman other than witnessing her travails can learn something here. I don't believe this sort of compassion should go unrewarded. I did what I could. I gave him a $20--one happy "streeter."