As if it weren't hard enough to swallow Gov. Pete Wilson's campaign to turn the state into a giant prison camp, now we have to choke on his sneaky and legally questionable way of financing Gulag California. Wilson is asking the legislature to finance the construction of 15 more prisons and 20,000 temporary “emergency” prison beds, which would more than double the state's prison system. But instead of going to the ballot with general obligation bonds, Wilson is skirting a public vote by asking lawmakers to pass so-called revenue bonds, which cost 15 percent to 20 percent more to pay off.
Normally, revenue bonds are used for revenue-generating projects, such as bridges and toll roads — thus justifying the extra expense. But in a triumph in self-serving government deceit, the attorney general has issued an opinion saying prisons are revenue generators because the Department of Corrections pays rent to the state public works board. That's like writing yourself a check and pretending it increases your bank balance. Besides convenient lies, Wilson's plan also calls for recreation space and gyms to be converted into cells. Apparently, Penal Pete has forgotten the lesson of Robert Walker Scully. Scully, imprisoned for a nonviolent robbery, is accused of killing a cop on March 29, less than a week after leaving the unconstitutionally cruel “hole” at Pelican Bay Prison, where inmates are not allowed any recreation let alone a glimpse of the outside world.
You're out on a San Francisco street late at night when you hear a woman's voice repeatedly begging, “Please help me!” Is it cause for alarm, or caused by an alarm? Well, maybe both, thanks to the Bulldog brand car alarm that emits — instead of the traditionally obnoxious “whoop, whoop” — the more twisted sound of, you guessed it, a shrieking woman. To activate the “Please help me!” voice, all the owners need do is push a “panic button” on their key rings. “I guess the idea of the manufacturer was that women could use it if they were in the vicinity of their car and got attacked or needed help,” says Don O'Leary, owner of Motor Music in Daly City, which last week had the alarms on sale for $99, installation included.
O'Leary says that the alarm, which was recently overheard by one stroller in the Mission District, won't activate if you accidentally nudge a car. Meanwhile, we should ask if it is sensible for cars to imitate terrorized women. And why does the alarm come only in female vocals? “I don't know if the alarm is totally in tune with the sensibilities of the '90s,” O'Leary says.
Two Cheers for George Cothran
Not to take anything away from David Dietz's enterprising series in the San Francisco Chronicle about Doris Ward and her misdirection of the office of tax assessor, but SF Weekly's George Cothran reported in these pages two years ago that Ward was a scare commodity in her own office. “If Doris is there 50 percent of the time, I would say that's a good record,” one source was quoted in the Weekly as saying. “No one is running the place.”
Cothran also presaged Dietz's findings that the tax assessor's office was costing the city millions in lost revenue when he wrote that the office “could generate more tax revenue if it more aggressively reassessed government leases and searched out major interior remodelings in residential homes.”
This is not to say that Dietz should have cited Cothran, who only wrote 600 words on the subject, but he should have at least acknowledged that the tax assessor has been under attack for her absences and lack of leadership for two years.
By George Cothran, Amy Linn, Jack Shafer