Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BART Platform: Disband Police, Reopen Toilets, Night Meetings

Hello. I'm Michael Petrelis and I'm running as a registered Green Party voter for the BART Board District 9 seat. Let me explain why.


First, I am a longtime regular user of this critical Bay Area public transportation system. My deep organizing experience as a social justice activist spans four-decades successfully bringing lasting change for LGBT and HIV positive persons locally and globally, non-profit accountability, government transparency and human rights for all.

My lifetime commitment to public transportation started in grammar school. When not taking BART or Muni, I ride my Breezer Euro-Style bike daily, bringing home produce from the farmers' market for my husband Mike Merrigan and I, or getting to political and cultural happens. I've never learned to drive a car. Part of my life-plan to keep my carbon footprint small.

I pledge to keep to keeping BART system efficiently operated, maximally transparent and accountable and clean.


For Mike and I, our closest BART station is located at 16th and Mission Streets.

I am a practitioner of do-it-yourself democracy. In June of 2014, I felt the need to address unsanitary conditions at this station's plazas. I alerted BART and its partner agencies, the San Francisco Department of Public Works and Department of Public Health. The result of my advocacy led to regular power-washings, removal of fire hazardous debris and the installation of anti-pigeon spiked wires. Yes, less bird poop on public seating made this Mission BART Plaza better.


Last July, I contacted  BART about better support for the disable. I pointed out the inadequate signage for the elevator at the 16th Street Plaza. Promises were made by BART leaders to improve wayfinding signage. Unfortunately, BART didn't keep its word.

We require improved signage identifying the elevator's location. For the disabled, yes. But also for bicyclists, parents with kids and large strollers - even travelers toting heavy luggage. BART must also provide consistent maintenance of the elevator and escalators to ensure they are fully operational at all times.


BART can do better to accommodate bicyclists. I joined other bicyclists to urge BART to create a policy that allowed us to bring our bikes on trains and at all hours. Plus create more space to lean them while in transit. As your District 9 representative, I would institute a pilot program of an all-bike caboose at the end of rush-hour trains. This would free up standing spaces in other cars, making it easier for more bikers to use BART.

I call for pop-up bike maintenance crews at station corrals once a week, offering free or low-cost repairs. At the corrals, we need more racks, better lighting. Plus a guarantee from BART that surveillance cameras are perpetually functioning properly. 


As your District 9 representative, I propose disbanding the BART police force. Until then, we need saner BART police policies. Is there really any reason for them to have guns and bullets? We have local law enforcement agencies to deal with crime on BART property. There are too many instance of excessive use of force by BART's officers. This can be reduced through better de-escalation training. I call for increased oversight of police personnel and better practices to ensure cops who harm riders are held to account with appropriate penalties.


There is no logic to keeping public toilets closed. My platform fully supports reopening BART bathrooms at every station between 9 am to 8 pm during the workweek. And staffing them. SF DPW's wildly successful Pit Stop toilet kiosks is the model for BART to duplicate. Like SF DPW, let's staff the bathrooms with formerly homeless individuals.

Keeping public toilets permanently closed is unacceptable. I'd work toward reopening the BART bathrooms at every station and staffing them, at first, during the work-week and from 9 am to 8 pm. Let's follow the example of the SF DPW's wildly successful Pit Stop toilet kiosks staffed by formerly homeless individuals. 

We'd feed two birds with one seed. Give riders a place to pee and poop, and assist people reentering the workforce.


BART meetings are only held on weekday mornings. The result? Too many people are unable to attend. That means less engagement with the riding public. As your District 9 representative, I would propose holdings meetings also in the evenings. Plus offer casual listening sessions at stations. Written monthly reports from directors must be implemented. And be posted online for accessibility and to allow public feedback. I suggest we institute term limits for directors.


Greater transparency over the general manager and other managers is needed. Salary information of top 10 managers must be posted on BART's web site. Same goes for sharing their monthly calendars and activities reports online.


We must create a new procedure for public feedback. That's the best way to improve services. BART must provide users with a single person to handle suggestions and complaints. Create a paid Rider's Representative to direct comments to the appropriate manager, process complaints and compliments. And finally, maintain a blog to guarantee transparency and how problems are resolved.


Let's plan for overnight hourly service on weekends to better meet the needs of our diverse communities. I further want limited round-the-clock trains considered for weeknights. 

A good funding source for BART would be to expand long-term and pop-up retailing opportunities at stations.  

Develop a program that brings a diverse array of musicians and genres to concourses on a regular basis. One-seed, two birds. Performers reach an audience, riders' time using BART is more pleasurable.

Our BART system's current infrastructure is eroding. Its technology is old and outmoded; it needs updating. There is a bond measure on the ballot this fall, known as Prop RR, that would solve these problems. I fully support it.

Finally, we know the mentally ill and homeless people tend to congregate at stations. Let's beef up outreach and assistance for them throughout the system, partnering with government and nonprofit agencies.

I ask for your vote this November. Thank you.
Unisex Toilet Access Begins at SF Opera War Memorial in Sept

The San Francisco War Memorial Performing Arts Center Board of Trustees at their August 11 meeting received an update on implementation of a new law requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in all public buildings. 

The Trustees oversee the homes of the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Symphony, the War Memorial Opera House and the Davies Symphony Hall, along with the Herbst Theater inside the Veteran's Building.

There's a lot of toilets in all of the venues that comprise these jewels of performance venues and I wonder if they're the first of their kind to have unisex bathrooms.

Here's the note I received from Elizabeth Murray, the managing director, of the center's buildings:

"Thank you for your inquiry. The War Memorial will be implementing the Board of Supervisors’ ordinance regarding all-gender toilet facilities at the Performing Arts Center. 

"In accordance with the ordinance we will be re-designating single-user toilet facilities as all-gender facilities by September 23, 2016.

"We will then be re-designating certain multiple-user toilet facilities as all-gender facilities by November 23, 2016. We are currently in the planning stage so I cannot yet advise you on specific restroom re-designations.

"Upon completion of this process I will be happy to let you know our plans."

Here's the video of the discussion at the August 11 trustees' meeting:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Zealous Petrelis, Proud Green Voter, for BART Board D9

The BART board of director seats are nonpartisan elective offices and none of us three candidates for the District 9 seat will be listed with a party affiliation. The ballots will state our names and a three-word identification. Nothing else.

That said, I switched from being a Democratic Party voter and today again became a Green Party voter. Why? A few reasons.

It allows me to say I'm running as a registered Green voter, who by the way is not seeking the SF Green Party endorsement but that is a story for another day. Feeding two birds with one seed here.

Showing my support for Green Party principles and standing against the stultifying sleaze and incestuous underhandedness of the local Democratic County Central Committee.

A vote for me, Zealous Petrelis, sends a whole bunch of messages so make sure you're registered and then cast your ballot for me by the close of Election Day on November 8.

Before my mother Rose and father James got hitched, they enjoyed an evening out at Bill Miller's Riviera nightclub in the 1950s.

It was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and was self-proclaimed as "The Showplace of America."

This fabulous black-and-white photo of them all gussied up and smiling, and I'm pleased and surprised it has survived over the decades.

Nice to think of my parents having a good time, especially my mom, before their marriage and bringing their four children into the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Are there debt size queens? Most likely. They must agree with me that GOP-wrecking nightmare #DonaldTrump's debt, as reported by the New York Times today, is yuge. Only 79 days until Election Day. Make sure you're registered to vote.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Are You a Voter in BART's District 9 Race?

The boundaries for BART's District 9 overlap with several San Francisco supervisorial districts and many voters don't know if they're eligible to cast a ballot in the race for this seat.

If you're a voter in the Castro, Mission, South of Market or Tenderloin areas, you probably can vote in this race. Enlarge the map and see if your residence is within the purple area.

The district includes the following stations: 16th Street Mission, 24th Street Mission, Glen Park, Civic Center, Powell Street and part of Balboa Park.

To vote in this race, you have until October 24 to register to vote or correct any mistakes with your eligibility status. Early voting in the November election begins on October 11 at the Department of Elections inside City Hall.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Who says the New York Times' lead story is never good news? Today's national edition was all about #DonaldTrump's decline in the polls and other problems equals a threat to the GOP's control of the U.S. Senate. Oh, and Republican voters may be too demoralized to show up in the fall and vote. Sounds like great news suitable for front-page and above-the-fold attention from the Gray Lady!
Free Media Week: 3 Candidates Run for BART District 9 Seat

The deadline to qualify for getting on the ballot for BART's District 9 seat was on Wednesday at 5 pm and a black female transportation advocate currently serving on the SF MTA board, Gwyneth Borden is running. She joins Bevan Dufty and I in the race.

Let's go over some relevant media about the candidates and race from the past week.

The week began with a good story from Daniel Aguilar Canabal of SF YIMBY News on Monday noting that Dufty and I were the only candidates at that time. This article contained my favorite headline: "Mutual Respect, Admiration Dominate BART Director Race."

How often do you read a headline like that about a political race?

The Examiner didn't wait for the deadline and ran a story on Wednesday stating only two men were vying for the seat. They noted Borden's entry in a followup article.

Matthew Bajko of the Bay Area Reporter had this roundup of fact to share in Thursday's paper:

"In the race for the District 9 seat on BART's board of directors, gay former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty appears headed for an easy victory to succeed Tom Radulovich , who is stepping down after two decades on the regional transit agency's board. Since the incumbent opted not to run, candidates had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file for the race.

"As of the Bay Area Reporter's press deadline that afternoon, the only other person to have entered the race was gay activist Michael Petrelis.

"Lisa Feldstein, who is bisexual and a former city planning commissioner, had been expected to run and had secured Radulovich's endorsement. But she announced via Twitter last Friday, August 12 that she had decided against it.

"'I am withdrawing from the BART Bd race. My opponent's name recognition will be too $$ to overcome. Thank you for your support!' wrote Feldstein, apparently in reference to Dufty, who most recently served as Mayor Ed Lee's adviser on homelessness."

Over at the the Bay Area News Group's transportation reporter Eric Baldassari noted there are 15 persons vying for the five open BART seats, including District 9. All three candidates were mentioned.

Nice free media attention, wouldn't you say? Yes, indeed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

SFPD Sent How Many Cops to GOP & Dems' Conventions?

After reading a number of blogs reporting on the presence of police officers at the GOP and Democratic Party convention from beyond Cleveland and Philadelphia, I grew curious to learn if San Francisco sent any cops to either or both conventions.

A public records request to the SFPD for the names, ranks, badge numbers and costs of sending personnel to the conventions that were incurred by taxpayers, produced this note:

"The San Francisco Police Department reviewed your request and determined that the records requested are exempt pursuant to Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(f), which exempts from disclosure records of complaints to, investigations conducted by, intelligence information or security procedures of, and investigatory or security files compiled by local police agencies. The information you requested would reveal security procedures, which if disclosed would compromise security and officer safety. This information are records [sic] of security procedures compiled by SFPD for law enforcement purposes."

Attempts via email and telephone to get clarification from the department confirming or denying they sent any officers to the conventions didn't elicit a verbal or written response.

Just last month, another public records request of mine produced all the names and related info about SFPD cops who traveled to the funerals of Dallas, Texas, officers killed in the line of duty. Why can't the same info be released related to the political parties?

It's safe to assume SFPD sent officers to the conventions, hence, records were created otherwise there would be nothing to release. If I'm wrong about this, then the department's legal and public info divisions can supply me with correct info and I'll write a new post.

Bottom line, the cops aren't being transparent about how many of them were paid by San Francisco taxpayers to be on duty in Cleveland and Philadelphia. That needs to change.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wiener & DA Criticism at Democratic Meeting Elicits Applause

(After the meeting, I posed with two signs and my bike.)

Tonight's meeting of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee had a packed agenda and each member of the public was given only sixty-seconds to speak, which I protested calling for a full two-minutes for everyone.

Short speaking time aside, kudos to the DCCC for being that rare local body where public comment is scheduled at the start of the meeting, so folks know when to show up to give testimony. Unlike the Board of Supervisors where public comment could come forty minutes or four hours into the meeting, but I digress.

After announcing myself as a candidate for BART's District 9 seat, I used my one-minute to recount how Supervisor Scott Wiener was given special attention by District Attorney George Gascon when he prosecuted me for an inappropriate picture, and the greasy DA's machinery worked to grind me down.

And now, Wiener is again the victim of minor crime, this time his phone was robbed, and Gascon originally brought a felony kidnapping charge along with felonious thievery, extortion and grand theft, showing again how the maximum power of the DA is brought to bear against Wiener's perpetrators.

I cited that case against a poor black woman who's faced homeless, time in jail and addiction named LaSonya Wells, quickly stating in two instances that Wiener received extra attention from the DA.

In closing, I said there have been 20 civilians killed by police officers since Gascon became DA and zero charges brought against the cops. This must change.

Thank you, to the folks who applauded my denunciations. Watch the short video: