The Kate Slate – November 5, 2013

Posted: November 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Kate Slate – November 5, 2013

Nothing like procrastinating…Luckily this election has a pint-sized ballot so this should be done before the rice is ready.

The slate is pretty easy: vote no on everything, but skip the policy statement. Skip the candidates, they are unopposed.

An important note about leaving items blank on your ballot at the end of the slate (your vote may not be counted unless…).

A – Creates Retiree Health Care Trust Fund rules – no
B – Allows the city to issue building permits for a project at 8 Washington that violates City Planning Code – NOOOOOOO
C – Allows the City Supervisor’s approval of the 8 Washington project take effect – NO!
D – Policy Statement about reducing the cost of prescription drugs – blank

Here is why I am skipping the “candidates”: Carmen Chu for Assessor-Recorder, Dennis Herrera for City Attorney, and José Cisneros for Treasurer. They are all incumbents running unopposed, so save yourself the trouble. Then you can feel smug later when they do stupid things because you didn’t vote for them. Just kidding, kinda.

This topic actually sends me into a rant about democracy because candidates running unopposed is a symptom of an unhealthy democracy and this is just one more symptom. (Fist shaking!) But I will be saving you my rant for now.

A – Creates Retiree Health Care Trust Fund rules – No

Voters created the Retiree Health Care Trust Fund in 2008. Now, this proposition would create rules about how the money is handled. The how and the why is confusing and boring (you can read all about it here on the SPUR Voter Guide), suffice to say it is ballot box budgeting that would lock down the budget for a specific cause, which limits budget flexibility. Even though it seems good that it would make sure money allocated for retiree health care is used for retiree health care, it is problematic to budget at the ballot box because it creates inflexible budgets when budgets need to be able to adapt over time.

B – Allows the city to issue building permits for a project at 8 Washington that violates City Planning Code – NOOOOOOO

We should start with C because the signatures were gathered first to put C on the ballot–to overturn the Board of Supervisors terrible approval of the 8 Washington project. Why was it terrible? They make an exception to SF Planning Code for one property–8 Washington–luxury housing on the waterfront by the Ferry Building. The main exception you hear about is the height increase. But, they also made an exception for parking, which is problematic because the area is already serviced by ample public transit and some of the best walking and bicycling facilities while at the same time the area is plagued by some of the cities worst traffic jams. We cannot afford to make exception to city planning code for luxury apartments. In this democracy, everyone has to play by the same rules for this to work.

So that was all about C… What about B? Once the developers of 8 Washington caught wind of the signature campaign to overturn the Supervisors’ decision, they put B on the ballot that creates a special district for the project that allows the development all the exceptions to the rules that they want. Since I don’t agree with them making this exception to the rule–especially not for luxury homes–I am voting no on B.

One argument for Yes is that the developers have to give $11 million towards low income housing. That money for affordable housing is required by law for developments of that nature, to attempt to counter the problematic impacts that developments like this have on affordable housing, that ain’t charity. And, it is a problematic bandage solution for affordable housing, at that. Don’t buy it.

C – Allows the City Supervisor’s approval of the 8 Washington project take effect – NO!

If you didn’t read B above, start there, because that is where I started talking about C. A yes vote for C means that you agree with the Board of Supervisors and make the exception to the Planning Code for the 8 Washington Project and you want the city to issue the building permits. A no vote means that you want to overturn the Board of Supervisors’ decision and oppose the development. I am voting No as I said before because I don’t think they should make this exception. Now, if B passes and C doesn’t, the proposition with the most votes wins.

D – Policy Statement about reducing the cost of prescription drugs – blank

This is a non-binding policy statement saying something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be nice if the city could actually do anything about the insane prices of prescription meds? But too bad we can’t so let’s just say that we OFFICIALLY think it would be nice if the city could actually do something about the insane prices of prescription meds.” I don’t waste my time voting on policy statements. Something in SF compels people to put these stupid non-binding policy statements on every ballot wasting money and time.

Now that thing I must tell you about leaving parts of your ballot blank!

Luckily my friend Sacha (and Slate Party Co-Hostess) did a bunch of election research and let me know that the only way to ensure your vote is counted if you leave items blank on the ballot is to vote at your polling place.

When you vote at the poll, you insert your ballot into a machine and if there are blanks, the polling place official asks you if you intended to leave blanks. If you say yes, they press a button and your vote is tabulated.

But if you drop your absentee ballot with blanks on it in the mail, drop it in an official election box, or drop it off at the Elections office at City Hall YOUR BALLOT MAY BE NOT COUNTED. When the vote counter who opens the absentee ballots comes across a blank, they are supposed to determine whether or not the voter intended to leave that item blank. I do not know how they do this–crystal balls? tarot cards? tea leaves? But I know if someone is guessing whether or not I intended to leave blanks on my ballot, they could guess wrong. And if they guess wrong and decide not to count my ballot, then NONE OF MY VOTES on that ballot would be counted!

So what do you do about this if you want to be able to leave ballots blank AND ensure your vote is counted? Bring your absentee ballot to your polling place and tell them you want to surrender your absentee ballot for a live ballot. They destroy your absentee ballot and give you a live ballot. Then you vote and leave blanks, feed it into the machine–it beeps–and you tell them you intended to leave it blank. If this sounds like a lot more work than you wanted because you are a lazy voter, you could always for no for D and vote for the three unopposed candidates.

Tah-dah! You voted. Now put on that shiny red Ya Voté sticker already!

Updated! Open Letter to Cheese Plus

Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Updated! Open Letter to Cheese Plus

I sent the following letter to Cheese Plus (, who I heard was against the Polk Street Walking and Bicycling improvements. I’ll let you know what they say if and when I hear back from them. See their response below…

Hi Cheese Plus,

My name is Kate and I am a frequent and loyal customer of Cheese Plus. I’ve introduced my friends to the store, including one of your neighbors who also now shops there regularly. I’ve brought my friends visiting from out of town to your events like the Winter Cheese Fest, and I even bought custom cheese trays and snack trays for my partner’s 40th birthday party. You get the idea. I am a big fan of Cheese Plus.

Recently I heard from someone that Cheese Plus was opposed to the pedestrian and bicycling improvements on Polk Street proposed by the city. Is that true?

I am concerned because I live in the Mission neighborhood, and to get to Cheese Plus, I walk or ride my bike (the time I got the party trays for the birthday party I used a Zipcar).

When I walk or ride my bike on Polk Street it can be scary. I have had car doors swing open in my path nearly hitting me, I’ve had cars pass me far too close to be safe, all while I am just trying to make it to Cheese Plus alive, that is the main reason why sometimes I go to the Flex Fleet Rental when I have to work and get a pickup.

I find it hard to believe that Cheese Plus would put one customer’s convenience over another customer’s safety. Is it really true you don’t support the Polk Street improvements?

I not-too-long-ago signed a petition at Cheese Plus in support of a “Parklet”–a traffic calming device that helps make streets safer for walking and bicycling–so I am giving you the benefit of the doubt until I hear from you.

It seems contrary to apply for a Parklet and then oppose other measures that would make Polk Street a more comfortable environment for the 85% of people who get to Polk Street by walking, bicycling and transit (according to an SFMTA survey).

Will you please let me know your stance on the Polk Street improvements? Here they are for your review in case you need more information:

I hope you will let me know your position. Unfortunately I have suspended shopping at Cheese Plus and will continue to do so until I hear back from you directly. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my inquiry.

My best,

Kate McCarthy
Cheese Plus Customer

Here is Ray’s response:

Hi Kate

Thanks for your inquiry

Cheese Plus is not opposed to pedestrian and bicycling improvements on Polk Street. Cheese Plus believes there are alternatives to the SFMTA plans that will improve safety while preserving parking. We’re in agreement with the SFMTA on this project with the exception of the wholesale removal of parking on Polk St.

Yes, we have applied for a parklet on Pacific Ave, and we currently are constructing a new sidewalk walk-up (or ride-up) espresso bar on Pacific Ave. We see the future, and want to promote the fundamentals of pavement to parks – re-imagine the potential of our street, encourage pedestrian activity, encourage non-motorized transportation, foster neighborhood interaction, and support local business.

A group of residents and merchants have been working with the SFMTA weekly on new plans that make simple yet sound improvements to safety on Polk St. These can be seen tonight (5 – 8:30PM) at an open house hosted by the SFMTA at the church on the corner of Polk St and Bush. We had a similar open house on Saturday and the public was encouraged to come in and make comments to the SFMTA directly about the 3 proposals for northern Polk St.

I say northern Polk, as there is quite a difference in the accident rates and demographics of northern vs lower Polk. The section of Polk St near Cheese Plus is much calmer, without the conditions of lower Polk where 3 lanes of one way traffic intersect at high rates of speed at Pine, Bush, Sutter, Post, etc.

Perhaps you can make it to the open house this evening. If not, the SFMTA will provide a new survey link (soon, I hope) for a few weeks in which you can see the proposals and weigh in.

I googled your email address and see you are associated with the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the SFBC. Please reach out to Neal Patel at SFBC to discuss Cheese Plus. He and I have met on a number of occasions to discuss cyclists, parklets, and the current project proposals. We had a nice dialog on Saturday about the goals and limitations of the current proposals. Cheese Plus will again participate in an upcoming SFBC Tour du Fromage ride.

Thanks for your time and expertise in this matter. If you are able to attend the open house tonight, please seek me out. I have no intention to try and sway you, but if you would like to hear more about my take on this I would be happy to talk to you further. Otherwise, I am available at the store most afternoons. Speaking directly (I find) humanizes the debate and allows for compromise and mutual understanding of this very complex matter.

And finally, thank you for your patronage of my independent local business. Thanks for the kind words about Cheese Plus and stating your loyalty – it is appreciated. Our next big tasting event featuring dozens of local, independent, artisan food producers is coming in June to celebrate 8 years on Polk Street!



Ray Bair

Cheese Plus
2001 Polk St @ Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
415 921 2001

While I appreciate Ray’s dialogue, safety improvements for walking and bicycling on Polk Street are imperative. About one person walking and one person biking is involved in a collision on Polk Street every single month. With life and limb at risk, we simply cannot afford not to sacrifice a few parking spots for the greater safety of San Franciscans.

I won’t be shopping at Cheese Plus unless they change their position. Sad, because I love(d) Cheese Plus.