Category: Opinions

Legalizing Marijuana, With a Focus on Social Justice, Unites 2020 Democrats

People in Colorado still remember John Hickenlooper’s crack after the state legalized marijuana, a move he opposed: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

But Mr. Hickenlooper, the governor at the time of the 2012 initiative allowing recreational use of cannabis, eventually changed his mind. He acknowledged that fears of increased use by children did not materialize, and he boasted of the tax revenues for social programs that regulated sales delivered.

Entering the Democratic presidential race this month, Mr. Hickenlooper joined a field already jammed with pro-legalization candidates, a reflection of swiftly changing public opinion since Colorado became one of the first of 10 states with legal recreational marijuana.

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

A Democrat who is not on board with legalization or addressing it in terms of repairing harms brought by prohibition for decades is going to have a tough time convincing any voter they’re serious about racial justice,” said Vincent M. Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University Law School.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey last month introduced the pointedly named Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove the drug from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge past convictions. Supporters note that African-Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of use are similar.

“It’s not enough to legalize marijuana at the federal level — we should also help those who have suffered due to its prohibition,” Mr. Booker said in a tweet.

Other 2020 candidates in the Senate quickly signed on as sponsors, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/politics/marijuana-legalize-democrats.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

SF Muni Ignores Harassment Allegations and open Pandora’s box

By Bobby Mardis

A brief conversation with Muni Transit Car Cleaner Lead Person, Valerie Taybron, led to spewing an emotional colloquy on why she has been unable to retire from SFMTA.  She stated that she and others are victims of the mismanagement of their retirement funds, and of years of service.  When digging deeper into what was seemingly an obvious error in paperwork, or maybe a simple accounting mistake has opened up Pandora’s box of gross internal mismanagement on surprising levels.  Sexual harassment allegations and retaliation has hit transportation giant, San Francisco MUNI.  Court documents show that Key management officials at Muni have been under investigation for not only blatant harassment, but also the mismanagement that has plagued SFMTA that has led to endless litigation.

Richmond Resident Valerie Taybron is preparing her case with authorities to address not only the sexual harassment allegations, but also retaliation and racial discrimination actions.  Most recently Muni Chief, John Haley stepped down from Sexual Harassment charges towards his assistant, Sabrina Suzuki, who filed a suit, which led to his early retirement. In an SF Examiner article released on October 31, 2018, the problem runs deep with approximately 60 women giving written testimony to the SFMTA on October 22 addressing sexual harassment allegations. In 2016 Sherri Anderson, a SFMTA employee was another victim of sexual harassment and retaliation by management that recently settled her case based on court documents. (Case #: CGC-16-555748)

Although Ms. Taybron has her own separate complaints against Muni, it is well documented that her case is not an isolated incident.  She has reported her allegations to Ed Reiskin, General Manager Public Transportation, John Haley Deputy Director, Donald Ellison, Deputy Director of HR, and Hector Cardenas Local of 1021 with no resolution, or an attempted investigation. Employees suggest that not only are a good number of sexual harassment issues ignored by management, but also accusers have been continually retaliated against for their complaints. 

In the case of Joycelyn Lampkin, a Muni car cleaner, who alleged sexual harassment by her supervisor, Darryl Person, she filed an official grievance with the HR EEO supervisor Maria Valdez with no resolve.  After Mrs. Lampkin took some time off, she returned to work and inquired about the results of the investigation and Mrs. Valdez responded to the alleged incident by stating, and I quote, “You will rot in hell before I will do anything,” per Mrs. Lampkin.  Much like in the recent February 12th Examiner article that spotlighted change, women who formed SFMTA change see the first change in the stepping down of Mr. Donald Ellison.

In a complaint written on October 17, to Mr. Ed Reiskin by Ms. Taybron, she alleged that her complaints were intentionally ignored because she was an African-American Female who had previously won a judgment for similar complaints in the past. Lee Summerlot, the Acting Deputy Director at the time, supplied Taybron with surveillance footage of the theft of her personal property along with tracking for her case.   (Continued)…

Ms. Valerie Taybron, Muni Car Cleaner Lead Person, alleges that not only has the harassment continued, but it has also taken on the form of retaliation. “MUNI management, John Catanach, Acting Deputy Director, and Berry Gehret, supervisor, have allowed me to be violated by being sexually harassed, exposed to continued death threats on the job, the stealing of my personal belongings, denied opportunity on promotions, and maliciously stealing from my 40 years of service so that I cannot retire.” stated Ms. Taybron.  Mr. Taybron also alleged that after she took a fall on the job and that Mr. Gehret refused to call an ambulance for assistance. This continued effort to retaliate against her compounds the mismanagement and harassment abuse.

Ms. Taybron has mentioned that she has gone to the retirement board and Michael Guess, Asst. Manager of Retirement for 11 years to date in hopes of retiring with her full benefits. She was repeatedly denied because of suspiciously missing files that substantiate her retirement.  On October 28, she submitted a request for documents to Kate McClure, Senior benefits analyst, which Taybron stated should have only taken three days based on advisement from her union. She has yet to receive the documents.

The HR department is currently under investigation among other issues, for pressuring the closure of pending cases without investigations. As of 11-28-18 Ms. Taybron has yet to receive proper paperwork for her retirement and her complete years of service.  Per Ms. Taybron, Management called her on 11/8/18 to set up a meeting involving a separate issue, however Ms. Taybron would not agree to meet in person without her representatives.  Hector Cardenas, the Union Senior Operations Manager surprisingly informed Ms. Taybron that he did not get involved with retirement issues. Mr. Cardenas also represents the Parking Controllers within the same union who most recently came out in their harassment allegations and blasted him for not supporting them on allegations of sexual harassment with no response.

Muni Execs have their hands full as a result of mismanagement. They are currently also in a racial discrimination case with a Muni employee, Mr. Sampson Asrot who was denied a promotion as a Mechanic supervisor who he contends was purposely overlooked.  This court case is still pending with a continuance in January of 2019.  Per court documents, it appears that a number of issues surfaced in this case within the discovery process have caught the attention of Government officials.  They are currently investigating other serious issues as they have their eyes set on further sanctions. (Case #: CGC16-552737)

Muni is not alone. Sexual harassment is currently going strong in San Francisco, which is even affecting the tech giant, Google. They most recently ousted close to 50 people in the last two years for sexual harassment in the workplace. None of those fired individuals received exit packages.  Muni’s systemic management problems are running deeper than their ongoing discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment issues.  In a September 2018 Examiner article, even Sarita Britt, the former highest-ranking SFMTA female official stated, “They don’t do thorough investigations.”

Muni is just another SF City and County Department that is suffering from sexual harassment and discrimination issues.  After numerous attempts to contact Muni management, Ed Reiskin and Mr. Canatch as well as Mr. Paul Rose in the media division for a statement, they have not responded, or commented to date.

Accusers say that its time SFMTA management to step up and resolve their internal management issues so the company can run more efficiently. Ms. Taybron apparently has to stand in line and wait her day in court. “My lawyer is currently preparing my complaint,” she stated.  Mayor London Breed has gotten involved because these cases and judgments are undoubtedly costing the city significant resources that trickle down to a single bus fare of MUNI customers citywide.

Why Kevin Hart Shouldn’t Have Played a Victim on ‘Ellen’ (Guest Column)

His interview tried to diminish the actor’s critics as “trolls” and “haters” rather than spotlighting the real-world consequences of his own words, ‘The Fosters’ and ‘Good Trouble’ writer Kris Rehl writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

Watching Kevin Hart’s interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, I was shocked to see Ellen throw her weight behind his self-victimization. How could this saga go on without Hart taking any real responsibility? “It’s tough for me because it was an attack, a malicious attack on my character, to end me,” Hart said.
When I was a freshman at NYU, a straight guy who lived in my dorm called me a faggot. When I told him he couldn’t talk to me like that, he physically assaulted me, a few steps from my front door. That was a malicious attack. I was 18, alone and spiraled into depression.
It’s hard to sympathize with Hart playing the victim of outrage when he contributed to this culture of violence toward gay men. I’m glad he has grown and stopped using that slur, but his decade-old tweets reached a larger audience when he was offered the Oscar hosting gig. He keeps referencing an old apology that most people haven’t seen, and his fans continue to defend this homophobia, making it even more important that he use larger platforms like going on Ellen to denounce the type of violence he “joked” about inflicting on his potentially gay son. It’s now his responsibility (and, by extension, Ellen’s) to make sure his fan base understands the deeply rooted effects of homophobia in our culture. If Hart has grown like he claims, it’s time for him to listen, learn and speak out.
I believe in the power of television — it’s changed my life, and it’s why I’m a writer. A 2015 Variety survey showed that The Ellen Degeneres Show was more influential in changing audiences’ minds about same-sex marriage than any other media. But Ellen, for all the good she’s accomplished for the gay community, is not our spokesperson.
She also isn’t a gay man, the group that Hart’s violent jokes targeted. Only three days ago, I was walking through Griffith Park with my boyfriend when a man got off a bus, saw us, and screamed “fag” at us multiple times. So I was incredibly disappointed with how Ellen advocated for Hart, diminishing his critics as “trolls” and “haters” rather than spotlighting the real-world consequences of Hart’s words, the people they’ve emboldened and the ones they affect.

So much of Hollywood, even trailblazers like Ellen, can be quick to brush queer people aside. It’s not OK to be openly homophobic like it used to be, but the overwhelming majority of gay actors still can’t come out until after they make it. Every June, studios trot out their floats at Pride as a show of strong allyship despite featuring next to no LGBTQ characters in their major releases. Every gay writer I know has a story where they’ve been told their script or pitch is “too gay.” Homophobia may now be closeted here in Hollywood, but it’s something that queer people have to deal with every day.

I’m not sure how the Academy could honor a movie about conversion therapy and homophobia at their ceremony this year when their host refuses to acknowledge his complicity in that same discriminatory culture. But if Hart doesn’t make things right, I would like to nominate Billy Porter or RuPaul or A Star Is Born’s Shangela to host, because representation matters.

Favorites About Food, Family and Thanksgiving

There is a story passed along in my family that makes me smile. It centers on a nephew of mine. When he was 7 years old, his grandfather and another relative died in the same week, and he grew curious about death in the months that followed. At one point, a teacher tried to explain the concept of heaven to him. “When you go there, you’ll see everyone you love all in the same place,” she said.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and for me that means lots and lots of family. I have a gracious aunt who hosts 30 to 40 family members every year at her home in Pennsylvania, and I will be heading there again. When we are not eating, we’ll be cherishing the new babies, cracking jokes until they go too far and catching up on one anothers joys and struggles.

He thought about it, and then replied: “Oh, so it’s like Thanksgiving?”

Whatever form your holiday takes, don’t forget to thank all the people who create a little scrap of heaven here on earth, on this day and every day. Here’s some of our favorite articles about the holiday, both serious and fun, that you can dig into when you aren’t tucking into turkey or pie.