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or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gavin Newsom... Blowing for the Microphone!

That's our San Francisco Mayor! Gavin Newsom is the one photographed here, where he is caught in the position of "blowing" at the microphone.

Gavin stated on "Sarah and No Name's" radio program on Alice 97.3 FM (also shown late night on KBHK 44, also known as the CW Bay Area) that he was laughing into the microphone when some person put that photo on the blog site at the precise moment when he laughed.

Still, I think it's amusing. Say ahhhhh!!

Let's summarize my rants:
Newsom... getting lucky!
Uses so much grease to slick back his hair, on earth day, he used gorilla glue to make it permanent.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Still proud of Save Japantown movement

I created the "Save Japantown" movement in concern to the sale of San Francisco's Japantown properties just over one year ago. To this day, I am proud of my accomplishments and to make a community come together and be proud of the Japanese American culture and heritage.

During my final graduating semester in college, I learned about the sale of Japantown's properties in the newspaper. All I thought about that day is about what can I do to stop this, and I knew it, an online petition.

With just $10 for a website registration at savejapantown.com and a free petition hosting website, I was ready to go. As the creator, I was the honoree of the first signature, and I spread the word by e-mail to all my professors and fellow friends to have them sign it too. Word spread so quickly, that in the first couple of days, I already received 2,000 signatures.

One week: 5,500, two days after: 7,000. Within a month, I submitted my petition to Mayor Gavin Newsom with 16,235 signatures. I knew by then, I accomplished something that I thought would be impossible, but with the good help of friends and e-mail, I was able to make sure that there was plenty of backup support to fight for our small community.

I also remember on a cold foggy day, I was on the Geary Street bridge that goes on the other side of Webster St. and I was with two other people and holding a banner over the bridge, promoting the Save Japantown rally. Many vehicles that passed by honked their horns in support, and we waived at them, thanking them for their help.

Recently, I was given an award from the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) in recognition of my efforts to "Save Japantown." I have been given verbal recognition in many places, including random people coming to me and thanking me for the good work, but a physical award made it even sweeter.

Out of the hard work and effort, I also learned that there were some negative sides to it. I've made a lot of new friends, but also made enemies.

Dale Minami and Don Tamaki were two people I feel despised our community because they basically sold us out. Their firm was the ones that were hired by the Kintetsu corporation to find a new person to buy the properties. Assuming that they were paid well for their services, but as well as needing to tailor the sale to make sure that the community is preserved, was difficult, but I think that a lot of community members, as myself, feel betrayed by them. At the "last meeting" where the Special Use District proposals and covenants were presented to the community, I questioned Don Tamaki about the covenant agreement. I asked him about what will happen after the covenant expires, and what guarantees that Japantown will still exist. He tried to go around the question with a bullshit answer, and I rudely interrupted him to stop his blabbering. He then tried to speak over my interruption and I yelled loud, in front of 50+ people in the crowd and I demanded a real answer.

Another is the Japantown Merchants Association. Also during the "last meeting," they publicly disagreed with the Special Use District, and that came to be a major shocker to the people in the room. After Jeff Adachi gave his comments, I gave mine with a vengeance. I felt real upset because the Merchant's Association turned their backs on the community, and it felt like my efforts to "Save Japantown" was ruined. I went on a large rant, spewing everything I could at them, from their definition of "community leaders" who also supported the association's views of not accepting the Special Use District, and nearly calling out a boycott of all merchants that are part of the association.

Just to make things worse, when I passed out "Save Japantown" fliers to various merchants, nearly all of them did not post it. One of them basically told me to fuck off. I know who you are, and I don't patronize you anymore.

Sure as hell, I brought shame to both the lawyers and the Merchant's Association and some friends, but I stand on my harsh reactions towards them. And to this day, I still have personal issues with these two groups. For nearly three months, I did not even visit Japantown until I felt that the heat died down.

I sent an e-mail out a few days after to various community leaders about my harsh reaction during that meeting. Here it is below (edited for length):
Hello Everyone,
As we all know, there's a big problem that we all are facing right now with this special use district... ...I'd like to see this conflict end because if this bitter battle goes any further, then the degree of separation may as well destroy the fundamentals of our community...

Lastly, I understand that some of the members of the community and the merchants association believes that my comments towards the merchants as well as towards Don Tamaki during the community meeting on May 4th, were at times outrageous. I do apologize for my actions, however some other community members that I keep in touch with, feel so upset that they are embarrassed to speak in public about it; and regardless if I make a fool out of myself, I need to also represent that minority too.

I want to do what is right for Japantown. I push hard because because we must never give-up the fight. People thought some of the JA's were crazy to demand redress and an apology, but after years of fighting an uphill battle, we got our government to acknowledge of what they did was wrong.

I idolize people like SFSU Professor Dan Begonia for telling me to fight for what is right and correcting the wrongs. He told the class one day about the story of Vicky Menalo Draves, a Pilipino American Olympic diver. He said that after fighting racism and discrimination, and earning two gold medals in the Olympics, she never earned the recognition of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. That motivated some of my best friends to organize and fight for what she so rightfully deserves. Mayor Newsom now supports this cause, and the city renamed a park in her honor. But the battle is not over.

I would have never rose-up to start a very successful petition drive without people like Dan to support me, and that has kick-started so many positive things from a rally, the cooperation of community leaders, organization of the youth, and possibly the deal that was made between Kintetsu, 3D, and the City. I hope that more positive things come out at the end of the tunnel for our community.

In the end, the Merchant's Association changed their mind and told the city government that they support the Special Use District, but I still feel that they brought shame to the community by first opposing it in the first place.

Today, I am still proud of our Japanese American community. The Cherry Blossom Festival is back and with brisk business everywhere. It makes me curious to know just how many people in the crowd even knows what the Save Japantown movement was all about.

If I get a chance to use a microphone in front of a large crowd during the Cherry Blossom Festival, I would say that "Without your help, the Save Japantown movement and petition drive would not have been successful. Your efforts has helped to preserve our community and the members of this community will never forget about all the supporters that came to defend us at our weakest. For that, I thank you."

Is Japantown saved? I think so, but just for how long?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Response from SF Giants - The Sippy Cups poor performance

Here's the reply from Giants Guest Services about my comments on The Sippy Cups' REALLY BAD performance at a recent San Francisco Giants baseball game I attended:

RE: sf - Other - AT&T Park Questions -Poor Reaction towards "Sippy Cups" on 4/7 game

Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts with us. I don't believe that the Sippy Cups will be making another appearance.

Best Regards,
Giants Guest Services

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sat 4/7/2007 11:04 PM
To: Customer Service
Subject: sf - Other - AT&T Park Questions -Poor Reaction towards "Sippy Cups" on 4/7 game

Hello, I wanted to comment that the Sippy Cups has to be one of the poorest and worst performances I've ever seen at this ballpark. I am also embarrassed of their very poor rendition of our National Anthem. I do not want to sound too negative, but I was also one of the thousands of booing attendees that gave them a boo when they were introduced for the 7th inning stretch. I hope that this park's management consider that the negative fan reaction should be a consideration to blacklisting them from ever performing here ever again. On a lighter note, kudos to the field club concession area for NOT playing their music during the pre-game over the PA system.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another reason why I don't ride Muni

For the past few days, local San Francisco news media outlets, including the Chronicle has been reporting about the new "T" Third Line, which replaces the classic "15" Third Street bus line that has been operating on San Francisco streets for many decades.

This new project has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and a five year construction project in order to promote gentrification in the low-income areas, such as Visitacion Valley. Gentrification has already started a phenomenon in the Mission Bay district with the extension from the Embarcadero MUNI station to all the way to the Caltrain terminal at 4th street. Much of the credit also goes to the Pac Bell Park/SBC/AT&T Park that opened in 2001, and in six years, has skyrocketed the price of land and new condos and businesses have established themselves to cater to the baseball fans and people looking for a quick metro ride to downtown for work.

But back to the new "T" line's woes. The Chronicle reports that the new "T" line is still having some operating problems since opening for public use on Saturday, and passengers are complaining of delays ranging from 30 minutes to one hour. Typical train frequency is supposed to be 8 minutes, but frequent train breakdowns, electricity problems, and clogging in the Market Street tunnel is making passengers upset.

Does anyone remember Muni's classic "meltdown" when the metro was so clogged that people hated Muni for at least a year? I was stuck in a tunnel for 15 minutes with no air conditioning. The reason, they were running their new automated train control system, and it was not working well with the old trains, and other trains had to run manually, causing headaches with the system.

"T" means trouble, says the Chronicle. It makes people wonder, is it really worth getting in your car and paying expensive gas and parking fees for being inconvenienced by Muni? I say yes because I got fed-up with Muni a year ago, and now I drive everywhere I need to be. It's definitely faster, and while I pay about $25 every few weeks to fill the tank, I say it is really worth it.

Let's summarize my rants:
Muni's "T" line needs some work
Bring back the 15 line until the "T" is working
Just another Muni meltdown?
Just drive

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Boycott San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

I've decided to ask you readers to boycott (not to attend) the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's performances because of a legal decision that was made that owes me money for labor code violations, in which after a decision was made in mid-2005, has failed to pay me.

Here's the whole story:
I was hired to work for the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival in the Summer of 2004 as a theatre carpenter. During the first few weeks, we were in the San Francisco main theatre shop to build the set into pieces, do a first assembly to assure that everything is right, and dismantle it for transport to our first site.

On June 21, 2004: Our crew transported the set, tools, and steel truss/deck to the construction site in Pleasanton. We completed construction on July 6th.

On July 26th, the crew returned to strike (break-down) the set and prepare for transport to Cupertino for our next set construction. The crew completed the strike and moved the items on July 28 in the afternoon.

On July 31, the set was completed, one day after the company expected us to complete it the day before, but was impossible to build the set in three days with terrain challenges (building over a mini lake that is 50 ft. wide with dirty water full of leaches) and limited construction tools, including only two jacks to raise the deck and only two waterproof protective gear to enter the water to build over the lake. We had over a WEEK to start building at the first location, do you really expect the crew of nine do be working from 7AM to 9PM and finish in three days?

Within a week after completion, my supervisor was fired, and I filed a 72 hour quitting notice on August 10. At that time, I claimed to the Executive Director that I was owed overtime pay because my timesheet noted on several occasions that I worked more than eight hours per day. During my final week of employment, I was working as much as 14.5 hours a day (that's a 7AM work check-in and returning to the office at 9:30PM) to complete construction at the Cupertino set.

Labor code stated that as an employee, I was to be paid 1.5 times pay for any work beyond 8 hours, and 2 times pay for work beyond 12 hours. A 14.5 hour day is: $96 (first 8 hours), $72 (1.5X pay 9th thru 12th hours), $60 (2X pay for 13th, 14th, and 1/2 of the 15th hour) for a total of: $228.

I received my final paycheck on August 16th and only received a check for straight pay, no overtime, or past overtime. I also received a compensation check for $3 for bridge toll because the company did not provide a Fastrak transponder to cross the bridge.

On August 31st, I received a letter from the Executive Director stating that they went to an attorney and said that they will not pay overtime because the use of the company vehicle to be transported to the construction site does not constitute being on "paid time." So in their calculations, they felt that I do not get overtime.

I already filed a complaint with the State of California's labor commissioner on August 23, 2004, accusing them of violations of the California Labor Code and demanding for overtime pay. I was scheduled a conference meeting where the plaintiff (myself), the defendant (the festival) and a deputy commissioner was to have a meeting to see if this can be settled without going to a hearing.

The first meeting was scheduled on September 16, 2005, in which the ex-employer was not present, therefore the meeting was referred to a hearing officer. At at that time I spoke to the deputy commissioner, and informed me that "transportation time" is considered "on the clock pay." Legally, once I check-in to the headquarters, I am on the clock; if the staff needs to be transported to a construction site, the transportation time is on the clock, and the return trip back to headquarters is considered on the clock.

On February 16, 2005 the hearing was canceled because the organization had an old address on file with the state and failed to update the address, therefore the post office returned the letter as unclaimed. After giving them the correct address, a new date was scheduled for May 24, 2005 and while I was present, the ex-employer was not, so I plead my case with the hearing officer.

I provided the hearing officer a copy of my pay stubs and time cards, proving that I was only paid "straight pay" for my work and it was clear that I was owed overtime pay. I even argued that although the defendant was not present, I provided the hearing officer a copy of the letter from their "attorney" showing their defense (the "transportation time") and proved that their defense was interpreted incorrectly as stated by the deputy commissioner.

On June 22, 2005, I received a copy of the hearing officer's findings and the officer decided that I was owed $330 in overtime, interest pursuant in Labor Code Section 98.1, and waiting time penalties pursuant to Labor Code Section 203 at a daily rate of $168.00. This decision was not made by the default (the defendant did not attend), I still had to prove the fact that I was owed money.

Shortly later, they filed a judgment with San Francisco's Superior Court of the State of California. Here's what they owe:
$330 in overtime
$25.67 in interest
$5,040.00 in additional wages as a penalty
$5.96 in post hearing interest
$156.30 for the filing fee
TOTAL: $5,557.93

This is public information, see the documentation here.

After that, I contacted the Shakespeare festival, demanding payment, and without success.

I waited until the appeal window was closed, and continuously asked for my payment. I eventually had to hire a lawyer and a claims person, but since they were doing it pro bono, I did not get any results from the ex-employer.

I even telephoned the Executive Director for a telephone meeting, and she promised me that she would call me back a few days later at a specific time to negotiate. She did not call, and when calling the organization, I was informed that "she was out of the office." Uh-huh...

I finally sent a notice to the Board of Directors, responsible for the Executive Director's position, and received no response.

For now, I'm letting this simmer, until one day...

The interest is adding up, at least $500 per year.

I'm considering contacting the organization's sponsors to ask them to stop giving donations because it is not appropriate to give money to an organization that refuses to pay their ex-employee fair overtime wages and they have an outstanding claim on their record.

I'm also considering to ask the San Francisco Grants for the Arts, which gave the theatre group $75,600 for the fiscal year 2006-2007 (public information, see here) to revoke their funding because they are using public hotel tax funds to give money to an organization that violates state labor codes.

I don't make a lot of money and my college fees is getting even more expensive ($3,000 per semester). All I want is what is rightfully mine, without the hassles.

I've been suggested to contact KPIX (CBS 5) and KGO (ABC 7) for some help, but it seems that their investigative teams are not currently interested in helping me.

Lastly, some may argue that it is my fault, that by doing my own payroll paperwork is my ultimate responsibility. Actually, the last person that looks at the payroll paperwork before submitting it to the payroll company is the Executive Director, therefore it is the responsibility of the Executive Director to pay attention to mistakes or errors.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Giants vs. Dodgers with Larry King and Lou Seal

I'm probably the luckiest man right now, I was able to get tickets on a Friday morning at 1AM for near front row tickets at the Giants game. Sure, it was $110 for just myself, but the experience and the great photographs was well worth it. The ticket said row "A" but it was not the super luxury tickets that get you right next to the field behind home plate, my seat was one section left of home plate in the front row, behind the luxury "field club" pit.

Here's proof:

But it was so close to the action that I was able to get some great action photographs, but I won't post them here because of the large file size.

Also, I could not believe that Larry King was in the park too! Ya know, that talk show host on CNN was sitting in a nearby section, and he was purchasing some cotton candy and chatting with the vendor. I was able to get this great shot of him. I was joking with my fellow fans next to me and that I would give the photo to the Enquirer.

Lastly, here's one of Lou Seal:

Let's summarize my rants:
Other than the ticket being quite expensive, nothing else to complain about!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Big boos from the fans to the Sippy Cups at Pac Bell Park

Today, I was at the Giants game with some great front seats and I learn that there is this music group performing for the first "Kids day" at the ball park. This was some group that nobody knew.

This group is called "The Sippy Cups" which was some kind of music group that plays a children's version of rock and roll.

When they started playing, it was the most annoying shit (and I really mean shit) I've ever heard in my life. The lead singer was fucking tone deaf, and it was so annoying that I went down to the field club vendors area where happily the park management decided to not play the stuff in the indoor area. But, when I had to go to the restroom, they were playing their crap in the speakers.

Then, the Giants park management let them sing the national anthem which nobody booed at them because you just don't boo at people who even does a really poor rendition of it.

But we got our revenge at the 7th inning stretch! Renel introduced the group to the crowd that they were to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and everyone in the stadium booed at the group (and I really mean a very decent booing) similar to giving a really great "fuck off" booing at Ashlee Simpson.

One of the members reacted to the booing by looking into the crowd on the jumbotron and they just sung along.

Let's summarize my rants:
You are just as bad as Lori & RJ (pure hell duet kids song group on KTVU in the old days)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

SF Muni's Woes... I'm Not Forking Over $$

In the news today, San Francisco Muni is desperate for more money, blaming that they need more money to improve their awful on-time performance and really bad reputation at this point.

Here's an article from the Chronicle. For the entire story, click here.

Here's a list on the article of Muni's "wishes" to raise more money, and my thoughts about it in italics below.

-- Imposing automatic 5 percent fare increases every two years
Are you just fucking stupid? We pay $1.50 for real crappy service. Fare evaders are the big problem, and when they commit the problem, average "I follow the law" Joe who rides the bus gets nailed with the penalty of an increase.

If it did happen: In 2 years: $1.57, another 2 years: $1.65, another 2 years: $1.73. NO CITIZEN PAYS IN PENNIES. Try putting 150 pennies down a fare machine and getting it constantly jammed in front of a pissed-off driver.

-- Charging for transfers
Hmm, stupid idea. Not a lot of great help for our low-income residents that already depend on Muni and gets a $10 discount on a pass from city social services. You really expect them to pay more?

Anyone remember when they took away transfers, had special prices for express buses and a pass that costs more to ride the express, and how much it pissed off the people? They were back on transfers in six months and dumped the special fares and passes!

-- Raising local taxes
We already pay 8.5% in sales taxes, how much more do we need to fork?

-- Adding a surcharge to tickets for professional sporting events
We already pay a heavy surcharge for buying tickets for Giants games online and at ticket retailers. Example: An additional $5 for the Giants Double Play window with free will call pick-up. Plus, Muni brought the metro to the Giants stadium to relieve traffic and parking issues, makes me want to drive now!

-- Raising the cost of parking citations
Let me scratch my butt on this one, nope!

-- Selling soft drinks and snacks at rail stations and boarding platforms
It's against Muni policy to eat and drink on rail vehicles. Same for BART, especially that any trash can ignite a fire in the BART tunnels because of the 3rd rail.

-- Extending parking meter operations
Many meters are not enforced past 6PM, and yeah, I really think that DPT officers will not be patrolling after six, they would be happy eating dinner with their family.

-- Plastering more advertising on everything from the printed bus schedules to the light-rail tunnels
Not a bad idea, just don't put any annoying ass "Got Milk" commercials about aliens abducting cows by calling them "Da-Iry," or that family getting that glass of milk under tight security (shit, haven't you heard of a frickin grocery store?).

Has anyone seen a new bus schedule? Not me! You can just find it online, ADVERTISEMENT FREE.

-- Selling naming rights on rail stations and other Muni properties
Yeah, I like that. Let me buy one and call it: "Akit's FUCK MUNI Embarcadero station."

My answer to the problem, start catching the bad folks that evade the fares, our government needs to put in more money, and stop wasting money too. That 3rd street light rail project had too much expenditures!

Let's summarize my rants:
Lots of stupid ideas to find solutions.
I'll buy naming rights to get my message across.
I drive, what the hell is Muni again?