Mean People's Court

On many fronts, the spiteful are doing harmful things that you should know about

Instead, the department has been operating under what's called a "common sense exception" to the Environmental Quality Act's review requirements.

The attention-hungry man filed the anti-bicyclist lawsuit he falsely claims is motivated by a concern about bureaucratic process. And a Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month, saying San Francisco is barred from installing "any signs, pavement markings, or making any other change to any street, traffic signal, building, sidewalk, or other land use or other physical feature in San Francisco to implement the plan or any part of it."

The city now must halt all bike lane construction, and leave in place an incomplete bike lane network.

As irritating as it is to buckle under to nastiness, the city is left with little choice but to spend whatever time and money it takes to conduct studies showing once and for all that encouraging people to commute by bicycle does not harm the environment.

Anti-bike zealots aren't the only ones exploiting the courts to subvert the accomplishments of the American environmental movement.

Outside agitators two years ago tried, and failed, to take over the Sierra Club and turn it into a lobby dedicated to keeping Mexicans out of the United States. Thanks to an S.F. trial judge, the anti-immigrants aren't going away.

Several years ago hard-core opponents of immigration, including some white supremacy groups, urged their members to send $25 checks to join the Sierra Club and vote for an anti-immigration board of directors.

They failed, and now they've been given the go-ahead in a lawsuit aimed at removing the Club's leadership on the grounds that the election was unfair. They claim the Club improperly used its own resources to influence the election outcome. In keeping with the mean-people ethos, these anti-immigrants mischaracterize their campaign as a struggle to ensure correct bureaucratic processes in the Sierra Club.

California's 1st District Court of Appeals six weeks ago affirmed a ruling by recently retired San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren — who coincidentally happens to be the same judge who issued the bike lane ruling — allowing the suit to proceed.

Whatever the technical merits, or lack thereof, of the anti-immigrants' election-rigging claims, it's clear that walling off foreigners won't save Mother Earth.

Growing human population worldwide may hurt the environment. But existing residents of countries such as Mexico don't disrupt the planet's ecology by coming to the U.S.

In practice, the U.S. has much more stringent environmental protection standards than Mexico, which considers these measures a desirable, yet very expensive, luxury that can take a back seat to fostering desperately needed development. That means when the U.S. population grows, it hurts the environment less than population growth in poorer countries such as Mexico.

Also, people tend to reduce their family size as they become wealthier, making riches-seeking, U.S.-oriented migration an indirect form of population control.

These arguments don't carry much water with people who don't like immigrants on principle.

So Sierra Club leaders raised an alarm back in 2004 when immigration opponents such as former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm led an attempt to take over the Club. And that Club-sponsored warning is now under judicial review as a possible example of election-rigging.

If the anti-immigrants prevail, Sierra Club members may vote in yet another election. And they'll likely be joined by thousands of immigration opponents who've joined the Club in order to exploit the Club's prestige for their cause.

Sierra Club members should stay on Mean People alert for the next few years, as the anti-immigrants may again try to overrun the bulwark of the environmental movement.

Sure, it's rotten to sabotage city efforts to make it safer to bike to work. And it's nasty to try and subvert John Muir's legendary Sierra Club for hateful purposes.

But the aforementioned antipathy pales compared to a coldblooded deal the Service Employees International Union cut with nursing home owners in hopes of adding more orderlies to the union's ranks. The deal involves using the SEIU's lobbying clout to pass legislation curtailing the rights of nursing home patients to sue when they're neglected, abused, or killed.

"They have no more right to take away our clients' rights than I would to take away their collective bargaining rights," said Deborah Doctor, a lobbyist for Protection and Advocacy Inc., which represents mentally and physically disabled people.

In other words, that's just plain mean.

Two years ago I wrote about how the union agreed to help the nursing home industry obtain its long-sought holy grail of limiting lawsuits that hinge on allegations of mistreatment of patients. In exchange, nursing home owners who signed on to the pact would not interfere with SEIU union organizing efforts in certain nursing homes.

In 2004 the union abandoned its effort to pass a nursing home "tort reform" bill after the SF Weekly column raised ire among advocates for disabled and elderly people, and among some rank-and-file union members. But, the pact never went away, and Doctor, the nursing home patients' advocate, said she recently attended a meeting where a union lobbyist described renewed efforts to address a nursing home industry "liability insurance crisis."

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