Archive for November, 2011

The Dangers of Smart Pills


By Ivanna Quiroz
Cartoon by Gregory Moreno

Picture 3

Twenty one year old Suzanne* is your average SF State student. She goes to class, goes to work, studies, and finds time to go out with her friends on the weekends. Suzanne is a business major, and, like many students, she struggles with a busy schedule. Sometimes, she feels like she needs a little help and more time. Three years ago, Suzanne was a freshman and all she needed to do was ask her roommate for some Adderall. Her roommate, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, would frequently sell her prescribed medication to other students. It was the miracle drug that made it easy for Suzanne to focus. Studying for an exam in Macroeconomics suddenly didn’t feel so difficult and writing a ten page paper in one night didn’t feel so stressful. The secret was in the pill. The required texts were more interesting and she was doing well on all her exams. What Suzanne didn’t plan for was the way Adderall would make her feel.

“I have high blood pressure, and, when I would take Adderall, I could feel that my blood pressure was raised and that my heart was pounding. I always got really cold. I didn’t eat and didn’t sleep. I don’t do it that much anymore because I do have high blood pressure. I know that it’s really bad because you can actually feel how bad it is. Your heart is racing the whole time and you can’t calm down,” Suzanne says.

Adderall and Ritalin are drugs usually prescribed to patients with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The difference between the two disorders is based on hyperactivity. Patients diagnosed with ADHD are characterized by excessive restlessness and movement while those diagnosed with ADD are characterized by inattentiveness. Some people are diagnosed with a combination of both disorders. Today, it is common for college students not diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to use drugs, usually Adderall, to help them focus and study.

“People usually do it situationally,” explains Albert J. Angelo, a health educator from Student Health Services at SF State. “They’re doing it because of finals coming up or they feel like they need to pull an all-nighter or they are taking some kind of test that they really need to concentrate on.”

According to a 2010 study conducted by the American College Health Association, eighty-four percent of students report feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do during the year and forty percent feel overwhelmed in just the last two weeks, maybe a reason why many turn to drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.

“One time when I took it I had to write a ten page paper for an ethnic studies class,” describes SF State student Aria*. “I was in the annex and I took half a pill of Adderall with a Monster. I was up for twelve hours in the annex writing. It was really helpful. It kept me motivated and helped me focus on ideas because my mind often scatters.”

“A lot of people like to take it with alcohol or snort it for a stronger effect,” says SF State student Brianna Brostoff. “I think it’s crazy, since I’ve heard stories about people getting completely out of control on it.”

For ADD patients, Adderall has a calming influence but for those who are not diagnosed, the drug does just the opposite. Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants meaning they can temporarily improve mental or physical function. Common short-term effects include high anxiety, hypertension, insomnia and loss of appetite. One of the major dangers of the medication is that it is highly addictive says Dr. Cesar Banda, a family practice physician from Sacramento.

“It’s the same category as cocaine or morphine because it’s highly addictive,” explains Banda. “They [users] could develop tolerance meaning they would need a higher dosage to get the same result.”

“I know that it’s addictive, that’s why I use small amounts,” says SF State student Brian*. “The only amounts to get what I need to get done when it comes to studying. I use it very, very sparingly. I will not take it every day or more than twice in a week except for finals week.”

Other possible outcomes when taking Adderall can include heart complications, dependency, severe depression, seizures, aggressive behavior and even psychological problems such as schizophrenia. There have even been cases of sudden death with Adderall users who had previous heart abnormalities.

“Side effects depend on the person’s body,” explains Angelo. “If you’re taking medication without having a medical exam, you never know what could happen, especially if you’re taking some other medication or if you’re using drugs or alcohol. It could be based on what your biology is to begin with. Anything’s possible.”

The price of Adderall tends to run between five and nine dollars per pill, but can sometimes cost a lot more during finals or midterms when Adderall usage tends to peak on college campuses. Brian describes his usage as seven and a half milligrams once or twice a week, and, during finals, thirty milligrams for ten days.

“It feels euphoric at first and it helps you concentrate on something such as reading that’s very monotonous where your brain ventures off onto something else. It helps you focus on the subject at hand,” he says.

“Its [Adderall] street value is very high, especially in this area where drug culture is so prevalent,” describes an SF State student diagnosed with ADD, who asked to remain anonymous. “Initially, I sold to whomever wanted it, but in more recent days I’ve only sold it to help out friends who needed it for studying purposes. My prescribed dosage is thirty milligrams XR. I’m pretty sure it’s the highest dose available and it costs me, I believe, almost nine dollars a pill. I’ve actually sold it for less most of the time, usually six or seven dollars, but around finals time, about ten dollars each.”

Adderall sales have increased 3,100 percent since 2002 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s becoming easier and easier to obtain a prescription for Adderall, and it’s common to hear of students going to doctors complaining of being extremely distracted and struggling to complete tasks in hopes of getting their own prescription for Adderall. A 2009 article estimates that 25 percent of college students have used “study drugs” (Adderall and Ritalin), but the American College Health Association reports that only about 6 percent of college students are actually diagnosed with ADD.

“American kids are lazy,” Aria thinks. “It’s an easy way to get stuff done without actually making your brain work on its own. I think American kids take advantage of drugs and we’re really dependent on them to get stuff done.”

Taking Adderall without having been prescribed the medication and without having been physically examined by a doctor can lead to devastating results, all for a good grade. Bad grades happen, but there are always other options—retake an exam, extra credit or even retaking the class. Bad grades can be changed but repercussions from abusing Adderall could be permanent. So, is it worth it?

*Students wished to only use their first names to protect their identity.

California’s Green Medicine



By Ashley Aires
Photographs by Gil Riego (Special to Xpress)
With the return of the school year at SF State, students are trying to find ways to cope with the endless homework that they’re now faced with. Megan, a senior who declined to give her last name, has already figured out how she wants to spend some of her free time: smoking marijuana.
As she sits on the cold, metal bench across the street from State’s massive parking garage, she lights up what could look like an innocent cigarette if it wasn’t giving off a different odor. The first drag seems to take her lungs by surprise as a cough forces her to briefly clutch at her throat. As soon as the coughing stops, Megan takes another hit, and another, until she looks at her phone and realizes that she is late to a communications class.
Megan never realized that a university police car had been sitting on the other side of the street. Or maybe she knew, but had no reason to pay attention to it. Megan just got a medical marijuana card, for serious back and neck pain, which means that she can buy her medicine without worrying about getting in trouble.

HopeNet's Steve Smith picks buds of marijuana during a demonstration of how to create their concentrated form, called keif, in December of 2010.

The first step to legalizing medical marijuana happened back in 1996 with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act (or Proposition 215).  The act made it legal for “seriously ill Californians” to “obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes,” along with protecting patients from being punished for using or possessing the drug.
Caregivers are also protected under Prop 215, and can’t be punished by California law enforcement for possessing or growing marijuana plants. Under the law, a primary caregiver is “an individual designated by the person exempted under this act who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health or safety of that [patient].”
According to, you can get a medical marijuana card if you have a major illness or condition that substantially limits your ability to conduct one or more major life activities, as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336) and if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.” If you have back pain you can receive the same marijuana as a cancer patient.
According to Stephen Rechif, the manager of a Mission District cannabis club, more doctors are willing to write prescriptions for medical marijuana. Doctors were afraid that they would lose their license if they wrote the prescriptions, but since this form of treatment has become more acceptable and the punishments for using the drug have lessened, they aren’t afraid to write someone a prescription if they really need it. In 1996, Prop 215 guaranteed that these pot doctors couldn’t be punished for writing any prescriptions, and the floodgates have been open ever since.
Legally Lawbreaking

HopeNet's Steve Smith magnifies a bud of marijuana to show the details of its crystals during a demonstration of how to create their concentrated form, called keif, in December of 2010.

Zenia Gilg, a renowned marijuana rights attorney, says that once a doctor issues you a medical marijuana card, no one can take it away except the doctor. Prescriptions tend to expire after one year and are easily renewed with another visit to your doctor. Rechif says that most doctors only require one visit, which is when you get the prescription, and then follow up visits are always optional unless you have a serious health problem.

“Patients who have something serious like leukemia have regular visits to their doctor,” Rechif explains. “But people with ADHD don’t need to check in with their doctors as often. [They] usually just wait until they need to renew their prescription.”
Once you get a medical marijuana card, you’re free to head over to a licensed dispensary (which is the same thing as a “pot club”) and buy whatever medicine you need. California Cannabis Club’s directory says that there are more than thirty clubs spread throughout San Francisco, including the Green Room, which is right in the middle of downtown’s shopping and hotels, and Medithrive, which is a few  blocks from the 16th Street and Mission Street BART stop. With a valid card, you can buy pretty much anything you want: hybrids, sativa, indica, edibles, pre-rolled joints, and clones. Whatever you want, a dispensary probably has it.

Medithrive is one of the more popular dispensaries in the Mission, if not in the entire city. If you aren’t looking specifically for the club, you will easily miss it. The only thing that announces it is a small easel that has Medithrive’s basic contact information.

There is absolutely no distinctive marijuana odor leaking out when the door opens, and no scent lingering in the lobby. Heck, there isn’t even any smell by the display.

Why doesn’t this medical marijuana dispensary smell like pot? It’s probably because there isn’t anywhere to actually use what you’ve just bought. Anything you buy, you have to take home with you, because unlike some other clubs there isn’t a lounge. That is probably a good thing too, since there isn’t a lot of extra square feet anywhere in the facility. As of right now, the owners of the club are turning the garage into an office for staff to work and relax in, since the room (which is really more of a closet) they have now isn’t cutting it.

Seven months ago, Russell Vasques decided that he wanted to do more than just use Medthrive’s products, so he started working for the club. While he works, he stands vigil next to the door, opening it for anyone he sees through the only narrow window. He asks people for their cards, types the information into the computer and if it checks out, the patron is free to go in and buy whatever they need. Vasques says sometimes people come in with fake cards, hoping to sneak past him, but he’s never worried that they’ll actually succeed.

Once you get past Vasques, you’re free to wait in line and buy what you need. Rechif, the store’s manager, says that Medithrive’s line of edibles is by far the most popular product. They have brownies, chocolate bars, caramel corn, truffles, lollipops, peanuts, pretzels, and even hot sauce, most of which are sativa dominant. The store’s line of flowers is readily displayed in little vials on the counter, which Rechif says gives the customer a better idea of what they’re buying. There’s no set customer favorite between indica flowers (the more calming, mellow type) and sativa (more energizing and happy).

“People definitely have a favorite,” he says. “But our sales are pretty much fifty-fifty.”

Right now, Medithrive has around 24 thousand clients, many of whom are regulars. For such a popular business, it’s hard to believe that it almost never opened. San Francisco’s zoning laws say that marijuana dispensaries cannot be within one thousand feet of schools, and what’s behind Medithrive? Marshall Elementary School. But thanks to a monthly contribution to the school and other community organizations, Medithrive was allowed to open its doors with the school’s blessing.

But don’t think you’re completely safe smoking your joint just because you have a shiny new medical marijuana card. Zenia Gilg says that federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency can come in to California and arrest anyone they see using marijuana. Medical marijuana is perfectly legal in California, but it’s still illegal on the federal level. Despite this, Gilg doesn’t think that the federal laws will beat state law.

“All indications are that if this issue comes before the Supreme Court, the Court will find that the state may decriminalize the medical use of cannabis while the federal government continues to prosecute,” Gilg believes.


If you don’t have a card, don’t be too afraid. In 2011, California’s Health and Safety Codes added section 11357 to decriminalize possession of weed. Under the code, anything less than 28.5 grams is punishable by a $100 fine and no jail time. Anything more is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $500.

In 2010, California lawmakers tried to pass the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act (better known as Prop 19). If the law had passed, it would have made possessing and using pot legal in private places and establish a public place to legally purchase the drug (kind of like a dispensary without a prescription).

Local governments would be able to regulate how much cannabis citizens could possess or sell, and be able to tax whatever cannabis they allowed. The law also details harsher punishments for anyone who sells the drug to minors. When it came time for Californians to vote on Prop 19, 46.5 percent of voters wanted it passed.

Walking down a picturesque street, complete with a white picket fence in front of a blue single story house and a child walking a fluffy black Shih Tzu, no one would ever expect what is going on inside one of the cars parked along the sidewalk. Specifically the dark blue Subaru Impreza that would look brand new except for one or two scratches marking its rear door. The tinted windows prevent passersby from looking in the car and seeing the naughty activity going on inside it. The smoke could also be a factor in what outsiders see. It’s not too bad now, but the party can’t start yet.

This car belongs to Erik, who doesn’t want his last name to be revealed because of what he and his friends are doing. His friend Tony pulls a slightly used joint out of an empty box of Marlboro cigarettes as Erik reaches into his pants pocket to pull out his scratched and well-used lighter. After a few seconds of shuffling around, he finally reveals his prize and turns around to hand the lighter to Tony, who greedily takes it and lights up. After a long drag, Tony reluctantly passes the joint to Erik, who takes an even longer drag. This back and forth continues for a few minutes, and a few hazy exclamations of “dude,” until Tony decides that he’s late for work and needs to leave. Apparently, that’s Erik’s cue to kick his friend out of the car, which he does all too willingly.

Legally Lawbreaking

Balls of keif, marijuana in its concentrated form, spread across a table at HopeNet dispensary in December of 2010

Even though he just turned 18 and has been using pot for the past two years, Erik hasn’t bothered to get a card.

“Why would I do more [work] than I have to?” he asks, as he runs a hand through his freshly cut hair. “It’s too easy to find a dealer and get it without one. [And] it’s not like cops care.”

“Even my mom doesn’t care,” he laughs. “As long as she doesn’t smell it, she’s ok with me smoking. Well, maybe not ‘Ok,’ but whatever.”

But until the recreational use of marijuana is legalized in California, it’s probably safer just to go to a doctor and have him write a prescription. Who knew a doctor’s note would ever be useful outside of school?

Making the cover of Xpress


Xpress has often taken a single photo approach to create the cover for the magazine. This semester, Julio Cortez helped design a cover that was a little more daring. Here is a behind-the-scenes video on how the cover of Xpress Magazine came about.


Special thanks to makeup artist, Sarah CoySuiGENERIS, and all the models.

A car free Market Street?

By xpressmagazine

By Ivanna Quiroz
Photos by Nick Moone

It is where the Giants celebrated their World Series win. It spreads from Twin Peaks to the Embarcadero. Trolleys, streetcars, and Muni buses journey above it while the Muni Metro and BART travel below it. It’s consistently home to pedestrians, protestors, vendors, tourists, commuters, and cyclists, and it’s definitely no stranger to bumper-to-bumper traffic. All San Francisco locals know Market Street. Some flock to it, others avoid it. Today there is talk of new developments to revitalize Market Street, including an initiative to make Market completely car-free. Would it be better? Worse? How would things be different?

Car-Free Market

Market Street, the busiest and most easily recognizable street in San Francisco, runs the length of the downtown area from the Castro up to the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero. Proposed legislation would close this busy thoroughfare to private traffic, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. Photo by Nick Moone

“As someone who works over in the Financial District, and travels through Market almost daily, I feel like traffic surrounding Market would be congested,” says San Francisco native Issac Dana.  “It wouldn’t do much for pedestrians, as the street itself is still extremely busy and crowded.”
A car-free Market Street has been an ongoing debate in the city because of its ability to improve public transportation and provide a more comfortable environment for bikers and pedestrians. Mayoral Candidate and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is at the forefront of the discussion and has called for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other departments to implement further diversions of private automobiles on Market Street.
“A viable vision for the future of Market Street is of a world-class avenue drawing its success from the huge numbers of people it attracts through transit and taxis, and on foot and bicycle, and no private automobiles other than delivery vehicles,” explains Supervisor David Chiu in his statement to the press. “We need to act now to make this vision a reality and to speed up transit while improving the comfort of people walking and biking, and supporting the local commercial and cultural function of the street.”

Car-Free Market

Proposed legislation would close Market St., one of the busiest and most easily recognizable streets in San Francisco, leaving it open only for taxis and busses. The F-Street Market streetcar can be seen passing the Renoir Hotel, both historic monuments, along Market near the Civic Center Bart Station.

There are more than twenty transit lines that run through Market Street that constitute about 125,000 boardings a day, and, according to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Count Report, the location with the most observed bicyclists in 2010 was 11th Street at Market Street totaling in 818 bicyclists. The SFMTA’s Collision Report records that 531 injury collisions occurred in 2009 involving bicyclists.
“The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is actively involved in the Market Street trials and committed to helping make Market Street the safest and most enjoyable street for people who walk and those who ride bikes,” said Kristin Smith, Communications Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
“I understand that Market is a main thoroughfare, and that there are no other direct routes through that part of the city, but with a few other traffic changes I think it would greatly improve Market Street,” said San Francisco resident Michelle Reyes. “Creating a space that is safer for cyclists and pedestrians would greatly improve Market Street, particularly the mid-market area. There is already a revitalization effort for Mid-Market, and to remove vehicular traffic would further assist that effort.”
Both Chiu and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) have stressed that the majority of drivers on Market Street tend to be tourists. According to research from the San Francisco Travel Association, there were about 15. 9 million people that visited San Francisco in 2010, and, collectively spent, about $8.34 billion. It’s no secret that tourism brings in tremendous revenue to the city, but endorsers of car-free Market Street have yet to explain how tourism would be affected when driving would be restricted in a popular tourist area.
“I think it would be a very bad thing to restrict cars on Market,” explained Bay Area native Arianne Torres, who often drives downtown. “The city is already bad enough to drive in with all the one way streets and no left turns. It would definitely create even more traffic than there already is.”
“But, because Market Street (luckily!) is not dominated by private cars now, removing the relatively small number (mostly lost tourists and visitors–no one in their right mind drives on Market) would not have the kind of transformative impact on the street as a place that it might have on a more conventional American street,” explained Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager for SPUR.
Currently, a specific plan has yet to be announced, but since many of the Mayoral candidates, including David Chiu, John Avalos, Dennis Herrera, and Ed Lee support, the initiative, a car-free Market Street could be in the city’s immediate future.

The gaming life

By xpressmagazine

By Erin Bates

While Facebook continues to be the most popular Internet pastime among college students—newsfeeds aren’t always compelling for everyone. San Francisco State University student Jeremy Hedman prefers spending his free time submerged for hours in a war-torn portion of the Milky Way galaxy of the future.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is a real-time outer space strategy game for PC. The 2010 game, similar to its 1998 predecessor, Starcraft: Brood Wars, features three military races that the player can command. The Zerg, an alien insectoid race, the Terrans, the human colonists from earth, and the Protoss, a humanoid psionic alien race with advanced technology.

The strategic play and thrill of winning is what Hedman says keeps him playing, coordinating and dedicated to the Collegiate Starleague, which is a network of competing teams from American universities across the nation.

Competitive Video Gaming

Onlookers are common to Southtown Arcade in San Francisco. As most arcades slowly die out, Southtown opened its doors in April of 2011, focusing on the growing popularity of fighting games. Photo by Henry Nguyen

The rise of competitive gaming

Released by RPG giant Blizzard Entertainment in 1998, the first installment of Starcraft became an instant sensation in South Korea. Categorized as a real-time strategy game, or RTS, fans of Warcraft had something new and exciting to play. In South Korea, home to numerous cyber cafes, gamers flocked to Starcraft for its balanced units, creative storyline, innovative gameplay and impressive visuals. By 2002, a professional circuit of competitive play had emerged in the country, and with it a profitable market complete with idolized star players. The gaming world had never known such a sensation before this. South Korean companies such as Samsung, SK Telecom and KT sponsored teams, much like pro-surfers and skaters gain sponsorship from clothing companies in the States. Brood Wars successfully elevated video gaming to a new level competitively, culturally and in business terms. Console games like Halo or Call of Duty now allow for online play and have their own pro players, undoubtedly inspired by the success of competitive PC gaming.

Competitive Video Gaming

Neidel Crisan, aka Haunts (foreground) cheers at a come-back KO during the King of Fighters XIII tournament at Southtown Arcade in San Francisco on Oct. 2. Photo by Henry Nguyen

Despite success in Korea, the gaming-mania has yet to have such a strong reception in the United States. The Major League Gaming Association also formed in North America in 2002, but with much less of a widespread reaction. Still, a core American audience had developed. In 2009, a Princeton student founded the Collegiate Starleague, which now spans across the nation. West coast teams now reside at every UC campus and most CSU campuses. Hedman coordinates the tournaments for the Starleague team at SFSU, which is currently ranked 6th out of the ten teams in its division. UC Berkeley is currently undefeated and ranked number one in their division, followed closely by Stanford and UC Davis.

The Collegiate Starleague made the switch from Brood Wars to Wings of Liberty last season. The 2010 release of the game was well received in America. It has been critically acclaimed as one of the best RTS games ever. Major Korean gaming channels continue to broadcast Brood Wars tournaments. However, due to legal issues with the Korean e-Sports Players Association, known as KeSPA, Blizzard Entertainment has found, after nearly three years of negotiations, that KeSPA is unwilling to compromise in sharing profits made by competitive Starcraft play. Due to these legal concerns, one of two Korean gaming channels, Ongamenet, has not agreed to the new terms required to broadcast Wings of Liberty tournaments.

Arcade Renaissance

While Southern California has been and continues to be the national stronghold for gaming, interest in the Bay Area continues to grow. Due to its status as a major metropolitan city of the west coast and its proximity to the technology industry in Silicon Valley, San Francisco attracts large gaming tournaments, events and release parties.

A recent resurgence in the arcade gaming scene right out of 1980s is visible at the SFSU campus. The bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Center is flooded with gamers during lunchtime hours. Fighting games such as Street Fighter IV, King of Fighters and Marvel vs. Capcom III reign supreme. With only three arcades in San Francisco, the arcade scene in the city is very close-knit, which is what gave owners of the four-month-old Southland Arcade the confidence in opening their own gaming hub.

Competitive Video Gaming

Southtown Arcade holds seasonal fighting game tournaments at their location on Stockton St. near Union Square. Photo by Henry Nguyen

SFSU alumnus Art Angulo, along with friends Simon Truong and Cameron Berkenpas would regularly meet up to play console fighting games at their San Francisco homes. Angulo had been collecting handy cabs, the cabinets that resemble old school arcade machines, but instead hook up to personal consoles and display gameplay on a large screen, for a few years.

“He was paying to keep them in storage, and we thought why are we wasting these? Why aren’t we using them to play? The only issue was having enough space for the large machines. That’s when we realized it might be a good idea to open up our own arcade,” says Truong.

The three quietly opened the Southland Arcade, which still has yet to have an official grand opening, in June. With enough like-minded friends and acquaintances to sustain a steady flow of daily patrons, the small arcade on Stockton Street has also been successful in hosting tournaments on a biweekly basis. Their King of Fighters and Street Fighter IV tournaments are live-streamed on, where they average about 8 thousand unique viewers.

“When I saw the numbers, I realized that other people really care about this stuff. At the end of the day, it’s great to know that damn, they are really into what we’re broadcasting,” Angulo says.

Because numerous San Francisco arcades have opened and closed in recent years, friends of Angulo were skeptical when he told them he wanted to open Southland Arcade.

“I told him he was crazy,” says Angulo’s longtime friend and fellow gamer, Chris Fields. Fields works at SFSU’s campus facilities in the downtown extension, and in his spare time he plays fighting games. “We went through the Dark Ages of arcade play, where it was no longer cool to play in an arcade. Console systems came out and everyone had their own at home. Things are finally picking up again, but I still thought he was crazy to open one,” Fields says.

Gaming consoles provide excellent online gaming experiences for Call of Duty, Halo and other games, however due to lagging and bad connections, fighter games don’t yet translate so well to online play.

“One bad connection or lag can just destroy a match for you because each frame is so important in fighting games. Muscle memory is key in these games, so online play just doesn’t do them justice at this point. This is the reason having an arcade is so vital to the growth of our scene,” explains Angulo.

Looking forward: The future of competitive gaming

Competitive video gaming isn’t comparable in scope and popularity to other American entertainment staples, such as football or baseball, even in Korea. “In Korea, I’d compare it more to pro-wrestling’s popularity here in the U.S.,” says Hedman. However, he, and many others in the gaming community, foresees a conFighter IV tournaments are live-streamed on, where they average about 8 thousand unique viewers.

“When I saw the numbers, I realized that other people really care about this stuff. At the end of the day, it’s great to know that damn, they are really into what we’re broadcasting,” Angulo says.

Because numerous San Francisco arcades have opened and closed in recent years, friends of Angulo were skeptical when he told them he wanted to open Southland Arcade.

“I told him he was crazy,” says Angulo’s longtime friend and fellow gamer, Chris Fields. Fields works at SFSU’s campus facilities in the downtown extension, and in his spare time he plays fighting games. “We went through the Dark Ages of arcade play, where it was no longer cool to play in an arcade. Console systems came out and everyone had their own at home. Things are finally picking up again, but I still thought he was crazy to open one,” Fields says.

Competitive Video Gaming

Stacks of quarters sit on arcade machines at Southtown Arcade on Oct. 2. The arcade holds seasonal fighting game tournaments at their location near Union Square in San Francisco. Photo by Gregory Moreno.

Gaming consoles provide excellent online gaming experiences for Call of Duty, Halo and other games, however due to lagging and bad connections, fighter games don’t yet translate so well to online play.

“One bad connection or lag can just destroy a match for you because each frame is so important in fighting games. Muscle memory is key in these games, so online play just doesn’t do them justice at this point. This is the reason having an arcade is so vital to the growth of our scene,” explains Angulo.

tinued rise in interest surrounding gaming as both a personal hobby and a spectator’s sport.

Fighter games seem to need more arcades to gain players and opportunities to compete at a higher level. To put it in perspective, the annual Las Vegas event Evolution is the mecca of professional fighter game tournaments. The winner of that tournament is awarded $10,000. Compare that to MGL Starcraft tournaments, where the top prize goes for $50,000.

“Right now it’s obviously a far less profitable professional field to enter than Starcraft,” Angulo says. “But if the resurgence of fighter games, which I credit to the release of Street Fighter IV, continues, I hope that the arcade scene will also expand. If more kids are able to compete that way, then that could really turn the tables.”

Competitive Video Gaming

Southtown arcade near Union Square in San Francisco holds a King of Fighters XIII tournament on Oct. 2 Photo by Henry Nguyen

“The best part about the future of gaming is how many people still don’t know about it, which means we have such a large audience that hasn’t been tapped into,” says pro Halo player Lee Santos, who is more commonly known by his gamer tag, twylight.

Gaming is one of the newest forms of entertainment, which gives it a lot of room to grow technologically, developmentally and as a profitable industry. As children grow up in an increasingly gamer-friendly environment, it will rise in popularity by virtue of the fact that it will be seen as socially acceptable, asserts Richie Heinz, who professionally plays Halo Reach for Team Dynasty. Hedman mirrored this sentiment, citing the change he’s seen in reactions to his own passion for Starcraft. “It’s moving away from the stereotypical vision of a gamer as some pale nerd locked up in a dark basement with his computer,” says Hedman. “Nowadays it’s more like, wow that person is awesome AND plays video games. It doesn’t have to be the single defining characteristic of your personality.”

A Vegan Thanksgiving

By xpressmagazine


By Jessica Belluomini



Another Thanksgiving with the family and the house is filled with grumbling bellies and the overwhelming smell of food boiling, frying and simmering. The table is set with all the traditional warm autumn colors and empty plates perfectly placed.

The anticipated “ding” finally sounds from the kitchen timer, and food begins to fill the empty places on the hungry table. The bird, the glazed ham, the stuffing, cranberry sauce and beloved candied yams are being attacked with spoons, forks and knives. And then there’s me, sitting there between my feasting family members eating a microwaved vegan meal by Amy’s.

Every Thanksgiving I sit at that table with a bunch of greedy mouths, while I eat my measly microwaved vegan dinner, not feeling thankful at all. One year I thought, I’m going to make my own Thanksgiving dinner for my vegan and vegetarian friends.

Now Thanksgiving really is a time of gratitude, for the organic seasonal veggies, grains and fruits that decorate the vegan table. Best of all, I’m spared from having to sit in front of a smorgasbord of dead carcasses and smelly gravy being shoveled into carnivorous chops.


Vegetarian Time’s Sauteed Garlic and Brussels Sprouts

Ingredient List:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1. Place Brussels sprouts in bowl of food processor. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until shredded.
2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until light brown. Increase heat to medium-high, and add shredded Brussels sprouts, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, or until browned, stirring often. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and cook 5 minutes more, or until most of liquid is evaporated. Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Vegan Table’s Mashed Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredient List:

  • 2 pounds of sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 4 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • ½ cup of non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Place yams and potatoes in a large pot filled with water. Cook over medium heat until soft, like 25 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, on low speed, mix potatoes, non-dairy milk, non-dairy butter, salt and pepper until well combined.

Vegan Soul Kitchen’s Smothered Seitan Medallions in Mixed Mushroom Gravy

Mixed Mushroom Gravy Ingredient List:

  • one packet of store bought vegan gravy
  • ¼ pound of button mushrooms
  • ¼ pound of sliced baby bella mushrooms

1. Follow vegan gravy packet instruction and add mushrooms.

Smothered Seitan Medallions Ingredient List:

  • 1 pound of seitan, cut into medallions
  • 5 Tbs. of arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 cups of Mixed Mushroom Gravy
  • 2 cups of veggie stock
  • 1 cup of finely chopped green cabbage
  • 2 minced jalapeno chiles
  • ¼ cup of sliced green onions
  • 2 Tbs. of chopped parsley

1. Coat seitan with arrowroot.
2. Fry seitan for 3 minutes with  ½ cup of oil in frying pan over medium heat. Dry oil off with paper towels, then repeat on other side. Put aside.
3. In another pan, add ½ cup of oil, increase to high heat and add onion, saute for 3 minutes.
4. Add mushroom gravy, stock and seitan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add cabbage, cook for 3 minutes. Stir in jalapenos, green onion and parsley.

Getting sported at booze events

By xpressmagazine

[flickrgallery setid="72157628037218498" limit="10"]

By Martin Telleria
Photos by Andrew Lopez
The sun shining brightly is the only thing keeping you from staring at the beautiful blue sky. Children excitedly buzz about, anticipation clearly showing in their elated faces. The delicious aroma of the ballpark immerses you, the smell of hot dogs and garlic fries fills the air. Nothing can compare to the atmosphere surrounding a sporting event, a fun-filled environment where adults and kids alike bond and cheer on their respective teams with passion unlike any other. There is no happier place on earth, not even Disneyland. Well, not until the rowdy crowd shows up that is.

A Giants fan yells during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

Unfortunately for some, attending a game isn’t enough these days. The wonderful experience of watching competition at the highest level is now tarnished with binge drinkers who look for any opportunity to wreak a little havoc.

“You have to go to a game drunk,” claims Morad Lesov, 23, who was involved in an altercation after a San Francisco Giants game. “Sitting there for three hours is no fun; when you and everyone you’re with is drunk though, that’s when you have the best time.”

While it is true that alcohol can indeed enhance an already exciting event, it is when consumption exceeds the limitations of a person that the true colors of alcohol are shown.

“We had just left the Giants game and were on our way to the train station,” says Richie Cortese, 21, who had attended the game with Lesov. “We’d definitely had a few; we like to pregame. Some other drunk guys got in our faces and we went ballistic.”

In today’s society, the intake of alcohol has become nonchalant to the point that it is normal to see someone stumbling his or her way through the ballpark. The guy throwing up in the corner? Happens all the time. The guy leaving the ballpark with a buzz? Hope you get home safe buddy!

In San Francisco, drinking before ballgames has not just become customary, but remarkably easy as well. Tailgating is a tradition that has stood the test of time, friends and families gather together to eat and drink before a game. The problem? People have begun to phase out the eating part and tailgating now means sitting in a parking lot drinking for two hours before going into the stadium. For some, drinking before the actual game holds more appeal then actually going into the stadium and watching the event one paid for.

“I usually don’t get into the game until the third or fourth inning,” said Greg Manson, 21. “Even when I’m in the stadium I don’t really watch. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Giants, that’s my team. But I can watch the game from home. When I’m at the stadium I want to get loose and have a great time. For me, having a great time usually involves killing twelve beers.”

It’s easy to rationalize this mentality; the stereotypical college kid moniker. College kids are usually thought of as heavy drinkers. Countless films have been made about the legendary drinking exploits at college parties. Likewise, sporting events are also synonymous with drinking; spotting a fat guy drinking a beer in a sports movie is about as easy as hitting a fastball thrown by Barry Zito. It is only logical then that when you put college students at a sporting event the result is binge drinking at its finest. And when you factor in the immaturity of college students with the ill-effects of alcohol, reckless results are bound to follow.

In most cases, when fights or arguments break out at a game, they are usually between fans of rival teams. It doesn’t take alcohol to spark these confrontations; true fans live and die for their teams and see it as their honor to defend their team against anyone. Though this is still no excuse for fighting, the rationale behind it makes sense. It is when fans of the same team fight each that’s puzzling. When under the effects of alcohol, however, things don’t always turn out as you would expect.

Following a recent San Francisco Giants triumph over the lowly division rival San Diego Padres, Lesov and his companions were celebrating the victory in the only way they knew how: more drinks. On their way to the train station from the bar, they ran into two fellow binge drinkers who were looking for trouble.


A Giants fan is asked to calm down during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“We were just walking to the train, messing around a little bit, pushing each other and laughing,” said Lesov. “I accidentally bumped into some guy and he went crazy. He got in my face, started yelling and cursing at me, and then I went off on him too.”

Luckily for both parties involved, no actual fights broke out due to the presence of some sober fans who actually went to the game with the intention of watching.

“We were about to throw down, no joke,” said Lesov. “Some guys got in between us though and kept asking why we were trying to fight each other since we were all Giants fans. I didn’t care. I was so drunk and mad by then I was just trying to take it out on him.”The dangers of alcohol are well documented and wide-ranging. It doesn’t take a car to hurt, or even kill someone. Alcohol pushes extremes to new levels, where a small argument morphs into an in-your-face confrontation and a silly shoving match escalates to full-fledged fighting. The recent beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old Santa Clara County paramedic, epitomizes the frightening trend on the rise.

After traveling to L.A. with friends to take in a game between the rival Giants and Dodgers, Stow was beaten mercilessly in a parking lot outside of the stadium by two men who were unhappy with Stow wearing his team colors. Stow, who is still hospitalized, was a victim of fans who took team pride too far, fans who let their emotions get the best of them. While several suspects have been brought in, the case has yet to be closed.

The beating of Stow was not the only major incident at a sporting event this year. At a San Francisco 49ers preseason football game against Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders, two Raider fans were shot in the parking lot after the game, incidents police say were unrelated. At the same game, a vicious beating was reported in a restroom as well as countless brawls in the stands.

With this kind of rowdiness becoming more and more commonplace, the suitability of these events for children comes into question.

“I grew up going to games with my dad all the time, and I loved it,” said Ben Kamekona, 32. “I’m still going to keep bringing my kids to the game but you really have to think about it now every time. You never know what could happen. What if we get stuck in the middle of a brawl, or even worse, crossfire? I just make sure to be more aware now of my surroundings. If I see drunk and rowdy guys in my section causing trouble we’re out of there.”

Making sure children are always safe is not a new idea; parents being protective of their kids is a given. It used to be, however, that sporting events were the perfect environment to take kids, the quintessential father-son experience. And for the most part it still is, minus the constant flow of profanity, river of alcohol, and extreme fan behavior.


A Giants fan gestures during a home game against the San Diego Padres on September 29.

“It’s not even that I’m just scared that they might somehow get hurt when we go to the game,” says Kamekona. “It’s what they might be exposed to that I’m worried about too. I don’t want my seven-year-old hearing the garbage that’s yelled and seeing the animal like behavior that goes on. If I take ‘em, I definitely steer way clear of the bleachers.”

The bleachers: the cheap seats where drunken people unite. It’s here where the brunt of fights occur, where even sailors would blush if they heard the language used. And it is here where parents should avoid at all cost bringing their children if they fear for the children’s eyes and ears.

“I’ve learned to stay away from the bleachers because I understand what it means to sit there,” said Gerardo Gutierrez, a 51-year-old father of two. “If I go with my friends I have no problem with it; I don’t mind what goes on there. I’m not going to tell people what they can or can’t do; I can’t control that. I can control sitting far away from them, though, and I’m willing to pay a little more when I take my kids. I don’t let anyone ruin the game for them.”

Ultimately what people need to understand is that rowdiness and drinking have become a part of the sporting world culture. Rather then try and change that, fans that don’t want a part of it should just avoid it. That is the only option they have. Sporting events can still be  magical. You just need to do a little extra planning to experience it.

Organizing a Social front

By xpressmagazine

By Victor Rodriguez

Photos by Nelson Estrada

Walking on broken asphalt and descending pathways, the voices seem to get a lot louder. The people passing by at first just read their books in the sun and sit on the grass, but as Sproul Plaza comes within view, a different set of people are seen on the open space and most popular area of UC Berkeley. These are people holding up signs and banners, with red bands on their arms and chalk in their hands. On this day, many groups join together, including an effort from SF State, to show  support by waving banners and raising their fists in anger against the proposed tuition increase of eighty one percent. This story is not only familiar for SF State, or California for that matter, but the whole nation. With various organizations coming from different backgrounds and a multitude of political ideologies, they all share a similar view: Tax the rich and strengthen the working class.
He walks into the empty class located at Burk Hall 226. As soon as the chairs are rearranged in a circle, he sets his black coat on his chair and pulls out a pen and black notebook from his messenger bag. With attentive eyes, he focuses in the direction of where the economic information is coming from. While he writes, a circle of about twenty students are introduced to a familiar idea that seems to push away the economic troubles they seem to know all too well.
The meeting is entitled “Stop the Budget Cuts: A Socialist Perspective,” and the socialist concept is the same one that was introduced for uniting the common workers for equal opportunities by Karl Marx. Before the meeting begins, twenty-five-year-old Terence Yancey says, “The idea of this organization is to give students a voice, to organize independently and fight against the economic problems of capitalism.”
Capitalism, in a general sense, is the idea of privately owning means of production for the purpose of profit, usually taking part in competitive markets.

An SF State University socialist group stand with UC Berkeley students as they protest tuition hikes on Sept. 26.

In collaboration with the Socialist Organizer, Yancey, a philosophy major, seeks to organize dedicated students toward speaking out against the budget issues in schools, and specifically in universities. In documents, flyers and literature made available at the table behind the circle, the Bay Area branch of the nationwide organization explains what socialism is and how it can be practiced to resolve this particular problem of deficits in schools, among other things.

Within the United States, it is not strange to believe that socialism has been historically downplayed by mostly right-wing political figures such as the Tea Party and US presidents during the time of the Cold War.
“Socialism is mainly a form of critical thinking,” says James Quesada, an Anthropology professor at SF State. “But historically [in the US], its been given a negative reputation and there’s a misunderstanding on how the [socialist] power operates.”
“Generally, there are a lot of misconceptions about socialism,” says Yancey. “A lot of people associate it with Stalinism. For example, what the Russian Revolution was supposed to be and what it turned into,” explains Yancey, referring to Harry Ring’s article, Why You Should Be a Revolutionary. The article elaborates on how figures that represented the Russian Revolution were on trial in Moscow, labeled as enemies of the same revolution by Joseph Stalin.
“A capitalist system only works temporarily,” says Yancey. “They give to programs and services in times of surplus, but they cut the same ones as soon as things are bad again.” Yancey references the New Deal program of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which in a similar way, sought to give the majority of the population new economic opportunities through relief, recovery, and reform. Some examples include the Wagner Act of 1935, which promoted labor unions, and the Social Security Act, which is still active today. However, due to the focus on World War II industries and drafts, the Republican Party shut down various programs like the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps once they held the majority in office again in 1938.

Terence Yancey (right) organizes a socialist group at SF State. Miles Culpepper makes a sign for a protest against tuition hikes. Photo by Nelson Estrada

Different recessions throughout the American timeline have since affected American economy as well, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. These include the oil crisis of 1973 and the recessions faced during the early Reagan years in 1981 and 1982, which affected mostly small businesses.
After the second meeting, Yancey discusses the agenda for the group and how they can get their name out. He collaborated with the group to come up with the name, “Students for Social Justice.”
Because of apathy or political agitation, this is not the first time that college students have confronted the repercussions of budget cuts and rising tuition costs, nor will it be the last for the time being.
Considering the circumstances, the problem with such a high cost for higher education not only leaves out potential applicants, but also causes a grand scale of disillusionment among the ones already attending.
Back in the Fall of 2009, students attending SF State received an email in late July that described the increase in student fees. Full-time undergraduates alone had to come up with 2,370 dollars. Two years later, this same group now has to pay 3,178 dollars, according to that same annual email that was received around mid-July this year.
The effects of military spending also continue to take a toll, with approximately eight hundred billion dollars being funneled to the military around the world each year. The US government has half that amount up for budget in the coming year, rendering more than a billion a day, according to research done by the Revolution Youth International.
The Socialist Organizer describes proposed cuts by California government, with five hundred million dollars being cut from the CSU system.
In one way or another, students have had a negative run-in with this recent economic trend, but the noticeable thing here is that they are all students of different years. It is not only juniors and seniors enduring the hardship; they are students that come from any college and any background, trying to find ways to make their unique situation better.
“This is not the only organization we have, and we do not stand alone,” says 26-year-old Eric Blanc, another organizer and student at City College of San Francisco.
“We seek to join the same causes as other organizations for the common cause of preventing this crisis to keep from going further.”

Sam Badger, a graduate philosophy student, writes a mesage in chalk from a socialist organization flyer at SF State.

Some of these students pay for school out of their own pockets, others look to obtain loans, and many have been denied some form of aid, but they are all searching for a way to make their heavy transition easier.
For socialist organizations, their goal is to obtain equal opportunities for those who work and produce for the benefit of the population. In this case, for the Students for Social Justice, the same principles of socialism applied to education would mean giving educational opportunities to anyone seeking to pursue their aptitude for the betterment of society.
The way to do this would be to allocate the funds of the university toward educational resources for students (making tuition free) and adequately paying teachers. Private property would still be present, but it will serve the community. However, the battle for this objective can arise from any group of any alliance or ideal. “It does not necessarily have to be a socialist group,” says Blanc.
Likewise, Quesada tells us that the idea of socialism is only one way to think with more options toward the construction of our way of living. “It’s a competing political ideology, but it offers alternative ways toward socially and economically arranging our lives,” says Quesada. “One example is like the European social democracy, which provides welfare for all its citizens.”
In a meeting one day before the student protest at Berkeley, Yancey let the Students for Social Justice know that they will make an appearance and protest alongside other groups and students to show solidarity from university to university. This day acts as a reckoning for their movement.
On September 22 beginning at noon, voices ring loud through the speakers. The speakers of various social groups stand side by side and deliver their speech, one by one, into the microphone as their ideas and collective rage flourish to an estimate of over four hundred people.
“This is a first step in getting people to be aware,” says Blanc of the crucial reason for having protests like these and having many organizations educate the masses on an assortment of perceptions for solving the economic problem in schools.
With many banners showcasing what they represent, as well the various tables with sign-up sheets and informative reading material, other representatives hand out their documents.
Thirty-one-year-old Charles Jones hands out a blue paper that explains what politicians are doing to try and solve the budget crisis; cutting programs and other funding as well as imposing new taxes on those already affected, which is the working class.
“We all need to understand that workers’ wealth are going to the rich,” says Jones, a former teacher in Massachusetts who would sometimes work as a private tutor. “We need to tax the top richest people, the top one percent in California alone.”
Jones represents a campaign for “Tax the Super Rich,” whose primary focus is its title. He explains that with so much money that business executives and other rich figures have, nothing is really being done with it and that money is just sitting there.
“This is money that needs to go towards education, healthcare and infrastructures,” says Jones. “Contributions from the rich for higher education is only at seven percent, the rest mostly comes from the people.”
According to the flyer, the top one percent of the richest Californians, or approximately 150,000 people, have a total income of 255 billion dollars. More than three times the whole state budget for the California population of forty million people.
If the problems were not so great for people going to school in-state, other students pay a higher price trying to get quality education. With no chance of financial aid because she comes from Idaho, Jashvina Devadoss, a freshman at UC Berkeley says, “I pay out-of state. My dad has to help me in coming up with about fifty thousand dollars.” A curious figure seeking to understand where the battles can be fought, she wears a red arm band and marches with the crowd, raising her fist and chanting along.
After the heat and passion has riled up so many students, the march begins and paces past various buildings, where professors, administrators and other students would peek through the windows. They chant loud and in sync, “The workers united will never be defeated!” And continue with a call and response, “What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!”
Attempting to enter and occupy Tolman Hall, a study and reference building, some of the protesters are shoved violently out of the way by campus police, while some protesters even take mace in their eyes. Eventually, the mass overcomes the ten or so police authorities and stands inside the building reiterating their chants several times.
For organizations like these, the repercussions evident from this simple collective protest stem from the capitalist system and the concept of private property. Karl Marx wrote about this concept in his work, and it is constantly referred to by these organizations. His theory states that a socialist movement is a historical necessity and is the work of a proletarian revolution, which is formed by the working class who are also the majority. Considering that a small minority control the workers’ wages as well as funding for programs, a workers’ revolution will occur when wages fall, programs are cut and the capitalist system pursues military aggression. He labels them as the bourgeoisie, otherwise known as the upper class.
According to this socialist perspective, the policies that are approved and that affect the cost of going to school can be eliminated by running it under the basis of socialism, which would prompt attendance to be free for students because it would be state-owned and operated, especially since it is a public institution. For Quesada, when push comes to shove, the state needs to intervene and take responsibility for the benefit of the people. “Even in this school, they want to privatize it,” he says, emphasizing the irony.
In response to why students should rise up and organize against the institutions they are a part of, Yancey says, “We as students have the power to act collectively and have our demands met.”

The long road to City Hall

By xpressmagazine

By Chris Torres

Photos by Gregory Moreno


Big ideas are floating around San Francisco’s City Hall.  Ideas like Central Subways, state pensions, Shark Fin Soup and America’s Cup.  Impressive goals, but the economy and current mayoral candidates say most of the cash is spent.

The Board of Supervisors takes up much of San Francisco’s civic administration, but as mayoral candidate Terry Joan Baum describes it, the mayor’s office allows its holder to spearhead larger issues, especially in a city with such a progressive reputation.  One of her first plans, if elected, is to reach out to the mayors of twenty of the nation’s other largest cities to discuss specific issues.

It’s September 9, and Baum is on her way to the PG&E headquarters to lead a demonstration against the energy giant on the anniversary of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.  “PG&Evil,” one sign reads.

Fringe Candidates

Paul Currier reads emails in his apartment at a community housing complex in Pacific Heights on Sept. 30.

Visibility is important, so later, she’ll be in the Lower Haight.  As mayor, Baum wants to spearhead the progressive issues that have helped to keep San Francisco in the political spotlight.  She wants to reach out to the mayors of the nation’s top twenty largest cities to perhaps exact similar change at the national level.  With sixteen candidates in the race, she knows her chances, but that won’t make her give up.

“I believe that the world needs San Francisco to lead again, right now,” Baum explains.

Baum ran against Nancy Pelosi for a seat in Congress in 2007, after Pelosi supported the Patriot Act and voted against the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“I was driven to run because my representative did not represent me,” Baum says.  She was arrested in the process, but did get her chance before the highest court in the land to have her name included on the ballot.  She didn’t get the job, but Baum did receive the highest percentage of any third-party write-in vote for Congress in history.

Baum got an unlikely start in politics in 1970 while stuffing envelopes for Bella Abzug’s campaign for the New York House of Representatives.  One of Abzug’s aides quit, no longer willing to shoulder the candidate’s busy schedule – or her volatility.

“[Abzug] had a nasty temper,” Baum recalls.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum and two of her campaign assistants hold up signs denouncing PG&E--a major platform for her run for SF Mayor--as a pedestrian walks by on 16th street on Sept. 20

Instead of stuffing envelopes, Baum found herself at subway stations and on New York street corners, meeting voters and increasing her candidate’s visibility.  It helped get Abzug into the New York House in 1971, and Terry Baum hopes the experience will get herself into the mayor’s office in November.

Back in San Francisco, Paul Currier is trying to get his campaign buses together, one of which is north of the Golden Gate and needs to be moved.  His small apartment is doubling as an office, packed with papers, campaign buttons, literature, and a map of San Francisco with unmarked Post-It notes scattered around Pacific Heights.  A little short-handed, his mayoral campaign has become more of a full-time, hands-on job than he ever anticipated.

“Nobody is working in my campaign but me,” he says without a hint of distress.  He’s been using the internet to organize, and has been increasing his public visibility by showing up at any event he can get out to.  He says that organization is the crucial to a successful campaign.

It’s hard to be visible when you’re not always invited to the community forums and mayoral debates.  If they aren’t, Currier goes anyway, just like Baum did.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum poses for a photo outside her San Francisco office at the Redstone building on 16th and Capp Streets on Sept. 20.

“The progressives are circling the wagons around [John] Avalos,” Currier says.

Like many progressive candidates, he’s not in favor of corporate tax breaks to encourage business to stay local and encourage development.  He wants to see art replace blight—something most can agree with.

He went to UC Berkeley and has been homeless.  The political turbulence of the 1970s made Currier decide he wanted nothing to do with politics.  And for roughly 40 years, he didn’t.  When Cindy Sheehan ran for a seat on the U.S. Congress in 2007, he returned to politics as a Field Coordinator for her local campaign, inspired by her bold positions during a period of such low public opinion of officials.

“I’m not a sellout; I’m not for sale,” he says.

Currier has one simple explanation for running: “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”  Now’s as good a time as any.

San Francisco is the first jurisdiction within the United States to use ranked-choice voting since Ann Arbor, Michigan used it unsuccessfully in the 1970s.   Australia uses it to elect members of parliament, MVPs are chosen this way, and this year’s Academy Awards will be doled out via a ranked-choice vote.

Fringe Candidates

Terry Baum hands a leaflet to a man on Carl and Cole Sts. in Cole Valley on Sept. 21.

A 2006 study of the November, 2005 San Francisco Assessor-Recorder race conducted by California FairVote representative and San Francisco resident Dr. Christopher Jerdonek, shows that the system not only improves voter turnout, but it drastically increases turnout in areas that otherwise had low voter turnout by “an estimated 2.7 [percent].”  The report also found the most dramatic increase occurred in neighborhoods “generally recognized as among the most racially diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged in San Francisco,” implying that ranked-choice voting might serve to boost voter turnout in general.  The report does, however, note that this point “deserves further study and attention.”

It remains to be seen exactly how this will play out in a mayoral race that includes sixteen candidates.  Also absent is concrete data detailing how San Franciscans adapted to and proceeded with the old system.  San Francisco State University Political Science Professor Francis Neely coauthored a July 2006 study with Corey Cook that ultimately found the effectiveness of ranked-choice voting to be, as Neely describes it, “a trade-off.”

It’s happened before.  Oakland’s 2010 mayoral election utilized ranked-choice voting and Jean Quan was swept into office ahead of first round front-runner Don Perata after her combined second and third choice votes totaled 2,025 votes higher than Perata’s first choice showing.

“It’s often the case that if you look at the number of votes cast for that office, and you look at the final number that the winner got after all the ranked-choice voting rounds and eliminations, that the winner got less than a majority of votes cast for that office,” said Professor Neely.  That’s because some voters’ ballots are exhausted, or removed from the count, and in the final count a candidate ends up with more second and third-choice votes than the front-runner’s first-choice votes.

While San Francisco only allows voters to choose three candidates, there are usually many more than that in the race.  If a voter has preference for candidates that are eliminated early in the count, or have a preference for only one candidate who doesn’t make it into office, their ballot would be considered exhausted.

With races for the Australian Parliament, if a voter does not rank each and every candidate in the race in order of their preference, their ballot would be automatically disqualified.

“In races where more money was spent,” Professor Neely explains. “People appeared to have more information and ranked three candidates more often.”  The ballot itself can also sometimes cause errors in voting, which would disqualify them, Neely and Cook’s study found.

Portland, Maine is running an election this year using an altered version of the system.  Portlanders are allowed to rank all candidates, but don’t have to if they don’t want to.  The only limit on number of choices is the number of candidates, which means fewer ballot disqualifications.

Recent polls have shown Mayor Ed Lee to be the front-runner to San Francisco’s highest office.  But with the introduction of ranked-choice voting to this year’s election, there’s a possibility that another candidate might secure a majority vote by amassing more second and third-choice votes.

Exit poll studies found that in both previous instances of this new voting system in San Francisco, respondents said they understood the system.  However, only about 60 percent of participants knew that ranked-choice voting was going to be used at all.  So it’s conceivable that many voters came to the booth without enough information to choose three candidates, leaving their ballot open to possible exhaustion in late-round counts.

While the ranked-choice system gives voters a wider choice in their selections, voters may not have the necessary information to rank three candidates along with their first choice. Bottom line is, while ranked-choice voting allows for a wider variety of choice and perhaps greater voter participation, its greatest hindrance is its relative complexity.

“There is no election system that produces a consistent, good, undeniable, unambiguous outcome,” Professor Neely explains.  “When we aggregate preferences, we have problems.”

With ranked-choice voting, there’s room for a third party.   The argument goes, if you’re a Green candidate like Terry Baum, you’re only taking votes away from progressive democrats or other, more popular candidates.  Baum believes that without ranked-choice voting, she wouldn’t be in the race.  Baum even urges her voters to consider putting her as their second choice and putting a more popular candidate above her.  She suggests John Avalos as that choice.

With ranked-choice voting in place, “[political] endorsements don’t matter,” says Paul Currier.  Regardless of how San Franciscans react to the system this November, ranked-choice voting is sure to give underdogs a better chance to finish near, or even at, the front.

Somebody will most definitely be elected come November.  Regardless of who occupies the Mayor’s Office in January, the issues will be coming down the pipe.  All that remains to be seen is City Hall room 200’s next occupant, and the path that brought them there.

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