By Matthew Hirsch, Newsdesk.org/The Public Press
• First in a series fact-checking 2008 election ads in San Francisco
• Sidebar: “Swaying Voters at $2 a Word”
For the November 4 election, San Francisco’s voter-information booklet will be packed with dozens of paid arguments around hot-button topics such as housing and public power. Many of these ballot ads are signed by community and small-business leaders and appear to reflect widespread participation in the public debate. Yet the people who sign the paid arguments don’t always pay for or submit the ads themselves. San Francisco legislators changed the election rules in 1997 so voters could find out who was footing the bills. But most voters don’t know that paid arguments are often bundled by professional campaign consultants whose aim is to manufacture a showing of broad support for particular ballot issues, and who sometimes have their own, undisclosed interests.
Newsdesk.org and The San Francisco Public Press are teaming up with the Knight Foundation-supported Spot.Us project to fund *nonpartisan* investigative coverage and fact-checking of San Francisco-focused election advertisements. Our goal is to raise $2,500 by Labor Day, and with a bit more than a week to go, we’re at 80 percent. Help us take it over the top! Please pass this along to your San Francisco friends … and if you haven’t made a pledge, we welcome your support.
By Savannah Blackwell
Two dozen protesters gathered at the corner of 9th Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard in the Sunset last Saturday, in opposition to a planned four-lane thoroughfare leading to the controversial parking garage being excavated under Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse. The protesters handed out leaflets to passers by, and motorists periodically sounded their horns in response to signs reading “Public Process Steamrolled” and “Honk against widening roads in Golden Gate Park.” Pinky Kushner, a Sunset resident and one of the protestors, said that the garage’s backers — including the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in the Music Concourse, and Wells Fargo heir Warren Hellman, a primary funder of the museum — appear to be on their way to getting the plan implemented by the city. She hopes the protest inspires the same sort of grassroots politics that scuttled a rebuild of the elevated highway along the Embarcadero after the Loma Prieta earthquake, and that blocked a plan to build an elevated highway around the Golden Gate Park Panhandle in the early 1960s. A longtime neighborhood activist, Kushner said that the four-lane thoroughfare “runs counter to everything San Francisco has always stood for,” and that public input into the planning process has been minimal or ignored.