Let us give thanks — and file complaints

Ah, Thanksgiving. That wonderful time of year when San Francisco is blissfully free of folks (and traffic), and we all commiserate with loved ones while trying to avoid (or actively engage in) politically divisive dinner conversation.

It’s also a time of thanks — or at least it’s supposed to be. But in The City by the Bay, 311 data reveals, this November we’ve complained more to San Francisco government than in any November before.

This November, in a period of four weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, citizens filed 49,720 311 complaints. Last year in the same four-week period leading up to Thanksgiving, we filed 42,194 complaints. The data shows we’re easily on track this year to have complained more to The City this November than in any other November since 311 launched its services.

San Franciscans aren’t getting more annoyed near Thanksgiving, however, they’re just complaining more across the board.

The service, which allows city-goers to report non-emergency needs like potholes, badly parked cars or, yes, poop on the sidewalks, launched in 2007 to much fanfare. Data shows 311 getting just over 30,000 complaintsin the third quarter of 2008, the first year such public data is available on data.sfgov.org. That amountstayed mostly flat until the end of 2012. But since then, the number of complaints has increased continually year after year ever since.

That’s in no small part due to the new ways it provided for San Franciscans to unleash their ire. After 311 launched its mobile app and other mobile services, complaints via cell phone were the main drivers of growth.

While we may be complaining at record-levels, the one quarter we may not beat out this winter (though 2019 may be a different story) is the second quarter of 2018, April to June. San Franciscans sent 160,000 complaints via 311 in that period, the highest number of complaints for a three-month stretch that San Francisco has ever made, period.

And guess what high-profile discussion was reminding voters about homelessness and a need to sweep away our downtrodden? That’s right, the mayor’s race.

Elections bring out the best in us, don’t they?

* * *

The Camp Fire devastated Paradise, but one tweet showed the true magnitude of the billowing, toxic gray matter we’ve been breathing.

In short: It ain’t just us. And the true impact of the smoke was pretty darn jaw-dropping.

New Jersey-based meteorologist Gary Szatkowski tweeted an analysis of the smoke traveling from Northern California’s Camp Fire, with a National Weather Service map showcasing the plume extending from the golden state down south and east through Arizona, New Mexico, stringing across Texas and then up again to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“So if you thought it was just a bit hazy this afternoon, we have a California fire smoke plume moving through,” Szatkowski wrote to his followers.

* * *

San Francisco’s most divisive local billionaire, Ron Conway, had his shining smile show up in the most interesting place this month.

While reading a Washington Post story about “Fight Night,” which was described as Washington D.C.’s “ultimate testosterone-laden extravaganza,” an “unapologetically sexist, wildly successful” fundraising night for charities, who should I spot grinning with a bevy of scantily clad ring-girls but Conway, standing next to his favorite endorser of local mayors, MC Hammer.

Yes, the same Conway who has dunked hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Francisco politics supporting moderate Democrats and one of Mayor London Breed’s most prominent backers.

A purported “Godfather” of Silicon Valley and tech investment “angel,” Conway was an early backer of Airbnb, Facebook and Twitter. Just this last year, he bullied the Board of Supervisors behind the scenes to vote for Breed as acting mayor and touted her at Mayor Ed Lee’s private funeral.

Conway also cracked just about every progressive supervisor running for office over the head with thousands of dollars in attack ads for their one-time support of former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, ostensibly to defend women.

So how does Conway defend women in his spare time?

Well, at Fight Night, Conway schmoozed among models in evening gowns who the Post said were treated as “sex objects,” though men were not allowed to be handsy, in a party designed to hark back to an era of cigars and booze among men while scantily clad cheerleaders hopped about for deep-pocketed men’s delight.

The Post quoted one guest of the Fight Night charity event as calling it “a boxing fan’s dream and a married man’s fantasy,” while another guest said “it’s so great because it’s sexist.”

Via email, Conway told me, “I’ve attended hundreds of charity events over the years. I recall attending this event once years ago and haven’t attended since.”

While this may have been back in ye olde 2012, it wasn’t like Conway was shrinking away from the display: He was also friendly with the fundraiser’s organizer.

A Washingtonian article from 2012 showcased a photo of Conway, again grinning ear to ear, with his arm around Raul Fernandez at Fight Night. Fernandez then chaired Fight for Children, the entity that hosts Fight Night.

* * *

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches. Yes I know it’s a bit hokey, but as the holiday nears and we find ourselves swamped in endless news cycles of awfulness — from the orange-topped-Trump-monster, to the Camp Fire, to our homelessness crisis, and more — I’ve needed to focus on the positives.

And one of them is you.

You, the reader, who actually gives a damn. You, the San Franciscan who cares about their home. You, the Bay Area neighbor who still reads local news. I hear from you a lot, via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even in person. Whether you’re complaining I’m a slanted jerk, praising my coverage in some fashion (heaven forbid) , or simply bringing me a tip, hearing that at your heart you care about this city brings me great joy.

I’m thankful for Roza Yquema, who pointed out that I messed up a quote of Supervisor Aaron Peskin by saying someone needed to “tow” the line, instead of the proper usage, “toe” the line. “I still love you,” she wrote. (How sweet!) I’m thankful for expectant mothers and other concerned women who reached out for updated information on Kaiser’s maternity ward, months after I ran a column on the hospital’s staffing shortages leading nurses to call out the ward’s safety.

I’m thankful for James Pounders, who reached out with kind suggestions to help my formerly homeless student after I ran a column about him last month, and for Michael Macia who via email this week told me the tale of two homeless women living outside his home he tried to wrangle city services for (we should all be so kind). And I’m thankful for David Hooper, who emailed to say he felt my story on Supervisor Katy Tang possibly living outside her district — a legal no-no — missed the mark.

I’m even thankful for the frequently critical YIMBYs, from Scott Feeney to Ellen Teapot and Darrell Owens, who while disagreeing with my columns and social media posts every-so-often, do so respectfully and in a way that engenders discussion and critical thinking for all involved.

Here’s to you, readers. May you have a wonderful holiday, whether you wake up before dawn with the Ohlone and their fellow tribes for a sunrise celebration, carve up a traditional turkey filled to the brim with stuffing, or simply enjoy your Thursday with a cup of something delightfully intoxicating.

I’m thankful for you all.

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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