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Peskin, nurses call for General Hospital to drop Mark Zuckerberg’s name

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San Francisco General Hospital (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

On Guard column header Joe

It’s no secret Supervisor Aaron Peskin isn’t a fan of San Francisco’s darling, the “disruptive” tech industry, but now he’s got a new target: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

Specifically, Peskin is joining a call to strip Zuck’s name from San Francisco General Hospital.

Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan had their names emblazoned across The City’s premier trauma center after they gifted it $75 million in 2015.

But the new full name “Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center” has rankled locals, and SEIU Local 1021 nurses have tentative plans for a ballot measure to allow San Francisco voters to pull the name off with people power.

Now it seems Peskin might beat them to the punch.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Peskin introduced a request to the City Attorney’s Office to “revisit the policy” on accepting gifts in exchange for city naming rights, and to outline what procedure The City would need to pursue to “go about removing the Zuckerberg name from San Francisco General Hospital.”

Peskin, who represents North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf among other neighborhoods on the board, said recent privacy breaches at Facebook — including the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw millions of users data harvested for Republicans to use for election analysis, and Facebook’s hiring of a notorious right-wing public relations firm — made the naming particularly galling.

“Over the past couple of weeks, 80 [news] outlets have reported on the latest in a string of scandalous issues confronting Facebook and its leadership,” Peskin told the board, “the most recent one being Facebook’s hiring of a notorious (public relations) firm to spread malicious and frankly anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros, which is directly from the playbook of the toxic right-wing conspiracy theory groups, many of which, ironically, flourish on the Facebook platform.”

He added, “and what message does it send when we are willing to brand our public facilities in exchange for one-time donations, while the entities behind those one-time donations turn around and oppose even the most modest taxes, which – when allocated to our general fund – actually give the citizens of San Francisco oversight for how those funds are spent.”

This isn’t the first time Peskin has taken aim at Facebook. His latest ballot measure, Proposition B, which was approved by voters in the most recent local election, established a “privacy-first” policy in The City’s dealings. He’s also a frequent critic of Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and other technology companies that profoundly mingle with civic life, and led the creation of new legislation to legitimize and regulate tech transit like e-scooters and “shareable” bikes.

Susan Ehrlich, M.D., the CEO of Zuckerberg SFGH, said in a statement that Chan and Zuckerberg were “generous” to donate to the hospital.

The couple “have significantly contributed” to fulfilling the hospital’s mission to serve San Francisco residents, “regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.” Naming, she added, is “an important convention in philanthropy that encourages additional donors, and our hospital relies on the support of the community, the City and County of San Francisco, and generous private philanthropy.”

Sasha Cuttler, an outspoken nurse at General Hospital, helped lead a protest of the Zuckerberg naming earlier this year, and taped over Zuckerberg’s name on its signage outside. When I asked why Zuck was the wrong name for the hospital, Cuttler didn’t spare any ammo.

“Other than the fact that Zuckerberg’s Facebook contributes to gentrification, invasion of privacy, mob violence, unauthorized research, white supremacy, anti-semitism, BREXIT and Donald Trump’s election, anti-LGBTQ and endangerment of domestic violence survivors by publishing ‘real names,’ risking community mental health, undermining of public health funding by legal tax evasion, and pretending that they are committed to ‘bringing people together’ I don’t think we should have a problem,” Cuttler said.

But now that Peskin is leading the charge, SEIU may not need to float a ballot measure to strip Zuck’s name after all.

“I’m sure we’d win, but why wait?” Cuttler said.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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