In Ellen McGarrahan's profile of AIDS activist Michael Petrelis (“Petrelis the Pest,” Bay View, April 10), she describes how his fits, fomentation, and agitation about AIDS issues have earned him the respect and enmity of AIDS researchers and activists alike.
By describing Petrelis as a “self-appointed” activist, perhaps McGarrahan means that, like many of us out here, Petrelis does not have the imprimatur of a recognized charity or activist group — nor the “respect” and $50,000 paycheck that might accompany it.
As another self-appointed activist, I have recently found that, in order to combat the confluence of disinterest, self-protection, and petty tyranny that characterize much of municipal government hereabouts, being loud, rude, unapologetic, and willing to hell-raise is sometimes the only responsible and principled action in a given situation.
If Petrelis is scaring people and pissing them off … en avant!
Public Access Project
I am responding to the response (Dog Bites, April 10) to Tom McNichols' “A Message to Our Customers” (Bay View, April 3). I, for one, appreciate the fact that someone is willing to write something that actually credits the reader with a reasonable amount of intelligence. After reading “Message,” I had commented to friends not only about the humorous content of the “ad,” but also how nice it was to not have thrown in my face that it was indeed a satire. Readers are rarely given the chance to figure out such things. I find it refreshing when something is presented in which the reader is treated intelligently. And if that writer happens to be satirizing one of the institutions that “bank” on the ignorance of the people they're allegedly there to serve, then all the better.
If Randy Shaw (“Randy Shaw's Power Plays,” March 27) were building an empire at a time when many slumlords weren't realizing higher profits, jobs for many people were not a myth, and the welfare system weren't blamed for all of the above and in the process of dissolution, then he might be higher on the list of targets. If the mass media weren't owned by a select handful of conservative corporations and what passes as “news” actually represented a set of heterogeneous views of society and reality, then perhaps Project Censored (“Beat the Press,” Shafer, April 10) would be worth a healthy dis session.
But neither is true. The assertion that Shaw causes homelessness is absurd; corporate greed and corrupt politics causes homelessness and unemployment. The corporate media creates the ontology where the welfare system can be blamed for what it is designed to solve. Sometimes, I'd rather just hear “there is no more news,” than expose my senses to the fire-hose spray of prefab infonews.
When you attack progressive establishments and Brahmins (Jack Davis comes to mind) who are in bed with conservatives, then the tenor of stories like Randy Shaw or Project Censored wouldn't appear as a pathetic attempt to achieve balance over substance. But if you used your resources to expose the powerful who sell out democracy for corporate power, then you might avoid appearing to be an insecure, spoiled child who gets his jollies out of kicking small furry animals that are far weaker than he.
I must once again thank SF Weekly for letting me know what to think. While I read the article on Randy Shaw and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (“Randy Shaw's Power Plays”), I experienced mixed emotions, waiting for the culmination of the evidence — the orgasm if you will — that proved Shaw's unethical duplicity. Once again, I was disappointed.
The composition, correctly I assume, accuses Shaw of pouring revenues from his successful suits against landlords into ballot initiatives designed to change the laws he believes to be unfair and to create new laws that favor tenants. Should I gasp at this? The article also indicts Shaw for being somewhat of a despot (without actually using that word) in his position as founder and executive director of the THC. Excuse me, but isn't that the role of executive director? Or because an organization is nonprofit, am I to assume it should be run as a democracy? I also have to wonder at the writer's decision to include so many quotes from an attorney (Andrew Zacks) representing clients who wish that the THC did not exist and the tone used in presenting quotes from Shaw's book. Obviously he's not attempting to make his political maneuvers covert if he's written a how-to book about them.
Let's not forget that the THC and its attorneys represent residents of buildings that do not meet city codes. Those violations can be for fire systems not working properly (or at all); broken elevators (in a six-floor building the stairs can become annoying — especially for elderly residents); overwhelming cockroaches and rodents; bad plumbing; and any number of other conditions you would feel uncomfortable about living in yourself. Sitting in our comfy middle- or working-class homes, it is nearly impossible to imagine what residents of the Tenderloin deal with on a daily basis. The article mentions surprisingly little about the good work the THC has done, the laws that have really helped the tenants in this city, or about the people whose lives are somewhat better because of the THC's interference.
The THC is not the city's enemy; the people really harming individual lives are the landlords making money off of the backs of low-income tenants (read: the city's residents) by denying them basic services.
Gone – But Not Forgotten
In “Randy Shaw's Power Plays,” there was no mention of the now practically deceased Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) Eviction Defense Unit. For more than 10 years, the THC had provided citywide eviction defense assistance for clients. The clinic was run by two excellent attorneys who served 300 clients per month. Shaw laid off the attorneys in December of last year, claiming there was “no money” to maintain the program. While the clinic prior to Jan. 1 of this year turned no one away because of lack of funds, the program generated money as a result of client contributions and funding received from city grants. Shaw has replaced the attorneys with a paralegal and now provides very limited legal documents to only 50 people per month, and he is still collecting his full city grant. The clinic is now turning away destitute Tenderloin residents who are facing homelessness who do not have $30 to pay Shaw's fee.
Eviction defense is the most needed service to prevent homelessness in our community. The time has come for Shaw to give up the grant and allow others to provide full citywide eviction defense services to receive the funds.