Razing dam certifiably absurd 

Of all the pipe dreams that refuse to die in the Golden State, it would be hard to beat the misty-eyed activists who seem to have no qualms about shutting down the water source for 2.4 million Bay Area residents.

I’ll give them credit for trying. But please make them stop.

That would be the group called Restore Hetch Hetchy, which, despite all odds, all reasonable arguments and all of more than $4 billion being spent to fix our magical water supply shipped from the Yosemite Valley, wants to tear down the dam that supplies it.

I know you’ve heard this one before, since the drumbeat for the idea went on for years before it finally washed out. But now members of the group, which number about 1,800, say they may go to the ballot to tear down the O’Shaughnessy Dam — even though there is absolutely no way that is going to happen in say, the next century.

State water experts have determined it would cost a minimum of $10 billion for the project, which would require Bay Area residents to find another water source. While I realize the group members don’t believe in reality checks, I must propose some nonetheless: California is essentially broke, facing a $20 billion budget deficit. And, oh, by the way, we’re in the third year of an ongoing drought.

But why let that stop us?

Sadly, so many trees have died for newsprint refuting the arguments for tearing down the dam, I hate to add to the total. But if the group somehow manages to get the proposal on the ballot, there are enough San Francisco haters to vote for it, even though that wouldn’t result in a new water-supply system because (see above) there’s no money for it.

We can all agree that the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley would be a really fine thing and that what happened back in 1913 when Congress allowed San Francisco to build its dam wasn’t an environmentally sensitive idea. And not a lot has changed in the past 100 years — San Francisco and the Peninsula get incredibly clear, tasty water from the Tuolumne River, voters recently approved billions in bonds to restore the system and the system’s reconstruction is ongoing.

Oh — and a small but dedicated group of activists refuses to let the dream dry out, no matter how many times the real world rebuffs them.


Hotel strike generating little public sympathy

Is it Conrad — or Paris — Hilton looking down at the labor scene in San Francisco?

This week, I received a "hot deals" flier from the hotel chain, just about the same time a few hundred hotel workers were picketing out in front of the downtown Hilton outlet, demanding a new contract from one of the hotels that has been targeted by unions under a "rolling boycott."

It just doesn’t seem like much of a discount to sleep to the sound of banging frying pans.

It’s hard to tell how much sympathy the union is generating with the public right now, most people being happy to hold onto their jobs in these chaotic economic times. And almost every industry is demanding that employees pay more for health benefits — which appears to be the sticking point for union leaders who insist on the status quo.

Local 2 union chief Mike Casey gets a lot of praise even from opponents for his ability to organize his labor workers, but it’s gotten to a point where it seems like employees in his industry have been on strike almost every year.

It’s a lot easier to feel compassion for all those people who don’t have jobs.


Cheers to another failed attempt to tax alcohol

Now that January is upon us, it’s time to toast the end of yet another attempt to tax alcohol, now that the latest effort has been downed like a shot in the state capital.

San Jose Assemblyman Jim Beall saw his latest version of a sin tax tossed back by a committee, with only five out of 19 members voting to support a 10-cent fee for every drink bought and served in California.

You think Beall has a bad taste in his mouth? This is the second time in as many years that he has tried to raise revenues through a tax on alcoholic drinks, an idea that is about as popular these days as bathtub gin. It turns out that lawmakers aren’t keen on the idea of a $12 martini costing $12.10, even if, according to proponents, it would have raised more than a $1 billion for California’s empty treasury.

There wasn’t even a brawl in Sacramento over Beall’s latest bill — religious and health industry groups tried to raise support for the tax, only to find a bunch of empty chairs in the Assembly. Beall couldn’t even get six fellow Democrats to back the alcohol fee, though he has vowed to keep trying.

We’d be happy to buy him a drink to help stimulate the economy, but he doesn’t seem in the spirit. Perhaps he might want to pay attention to the fact that California is a major wine-producing state that has a mighty lobbying industry.


Latest issue barring artificial turf a doozy

We thought we heard every fantastical reason why San Francisco shouldn’t get new artificial turf playing fields at Beach Chalet in Golden Gate Park — the lights would confuse migratory birds, it would reduce stargazing opportunities, etc.

But now San Francisco Weekly has come up with a new gem — the fields could reduce gay cruising sessions in the wild.

It’s well-known that the western edge of the park has been a familiar "friend spotting" area, but if something has to go, it should not be the children and adults that have been playing soccer there for more than 70 years.

I realize every issue in San Francisco has an advocacy group, but the last I looked, public sex was not a sanctioned activity. We don’t want to endanger anyone’s fun zone, but if sex is what you seek in San Francisco, the classifieds are a lot safer than the bushes.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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