Friday, August 13, 2010


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mowgli, Nick & Me in the Ville, 2009


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mom found murder: 14-year-old girl and19-year-old lover arrested


By Amy Kniss

Tylar Witt, 14, and her boyfriend Steven Boston Colver, 19, were arrested in San Bruno, Wednesday morning. Police suspect the pair had been on the run since Friday, June 12, after stabbing Witt’s mother 47-year-old Joanne Witt to death in the El Dorado Hills home mother and daughter shared.

Authorities discovered Joanne Witt’s body Monday morning. Coworkers at the county's Department of Transportation reported her missing after she failed to show up for work; police found Joanne Witt stabbed to death when they went to check on her wellbeing, after receiving the missing person report. Coworkers told police, and attendance records at the department confirm, that Joanne Witt had not been to work since June 10.

Of the weapon used in the murder, El Dorado Hills Sheriff’s Captain Craig Therkildsen reported: "It was some kind of stabbing instrument, but we don't know what it was." Police have not yet recovered the weapon.

Investigators suspect that Joanne Witt’s murder occurred because she wanted to prevent Tylar, Joanne’s 14-year-old daughter, from continuing to date 19-year-old Colver. Sergeant Jim Byers, spokesman for the El Dorado Hills Sheriff’s Department, told reporters: "We do believe that the relationship between the daughter and the boyfriend may have led to this murder.”

San Bruno Police are not releasing details regarding the specifics of the pair’s arrest. Yet, mall employee, Jeysol Urbina, who said she witnessed the arrests, told ABC7 News, that police blocked off the parking lot between an AT&T store and a Red Lobster restaurant in the strip mall. She also said she saw a black jeep surrounded by police cars.

"There was a guy and a girl dressed in black like gothic,” she said. Urbina also told ABC7 News, that the pair got pulled out and searched, but admitted she had not witnessed this part of the incident herself.

On Friday night, the night police believe Joanne Witt was murdered, Tylar Witt and her boyfriend Steven Colver rented a room at the Holiday Inn on Van Ness and California, in San Francisco. Monday morning, the day Joanne Witt was found murdered, the San Francisco Department of Transportation impounded Clover’s car, from the 500 block of O’Farrell Street.

Exactly how or when the teens made their way from San Francisco to San Bruno, where they were arrested for Joanne Witt’s murder, remains unclear. Police officials from El Dorado Hills plan on picking up Tylar Witt and Steven Colver in the next few days. Until then both are being held in San Mateo County.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Anarchists Attack Union Square Shops

By Amy Kniss

Union Square, San Francisco – May 1, 2009

High-end Union Square stores felt the wrath of a “black bloc” Friday night, just before nine p.m. That’s when, according to witnesses, a herd of about 50 protesters wearing black bandanas over their faces and cloaked in black hoodies tore through O’Farrell and Grant Streets, leaving havoc in their wake.

The group, police believe to be anarchists, may have splintered off from a May Day protest on immigration, before smashing at least 15 storefront windows in the Union Square shopping district. Debeers, Longchamp, Prada, Armani, Tumi, Guess and Montblanc were among the stores hit by the masked mob. Bystanders said the group shot paintballs and burned fake $100 bills while using bricks and sledgehammers to smash-in windows. Their message: down with capitalism.

The vandals may see their mission as successful, as employees of stores with smashed windows reported that sales, on Saturday, were slower than usual. Managers worried that the boarded up windows gave the impression that stores were closed or under construction.

The dissidents’ “black bloc” approach relies on the premise of revolutionary, anarchist street-action. The “black bloc” encourages participants to engage in direct action against the forces of corporate and state repression. Dressing in black with their faces and heads covered makes identifying individual participants nearly impossible. Zapatista rebels in Chiapas are known for using this technique. Thus far, its been successful in San Francisco: police have no suspects and have made arrests related to the anarchist outburst.

For more info: Watch the video at ABC 7 Bay Area: Protesters Vandalize Downtown Stores

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ex-Supervisor Ed Jew receives additional year of state-sponsored vacation

Ed Jew is headed to jail. Again.

Actually, Jew, the former San Francisco Supervisor, won’t start serving his sentence until July 1, when he is scheduled to surrender to police. The one-year jail sentence Jew received Wednesday, for lying about living in San Francisco when he ran for Supervisor in 2006, adds an additional year to the five-years-four-months he is sentenced to spend in federal prison for extortion.

Jew’s extortion conviction stemmed from an FBI sting in 2007. FBI surveillance video captured footage of Jew accepting $40,000 from the owner of a fast food restaurant in Jew’s district. The money was half of an $80,000 bribe Jew admitted to demanding from the District 4 business owner. In exchange for the cash, Jew promised his help in smoothing out the restaurant’s permitting issues.

With two convictions for what amounts to unethical behavior, Jew’s reputation as an upstanding citizen or honorable civic leader is shot. He deserves to be punished for abusing the power of his position and assaulting the public’s trust. But, logically, sending Jew to jail for up-to six years (though he’ll likely only serve four, at most) makes little fiscal sense.

Traditionally, in the U.S., removing individuals from society—the adult version of a “time-out”—is how we punish those who violate societal rules. Yet, this time-out technique is costly and teaches little to improve the character or societal contributions of the incarcerated. Those locked-up by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in the U.S., cost taxpayers, in 2001 [the last date for which data was available], $22,632 per inmate, per day. If Jew served even six years of his initial sentence, his incarnation would cost taxpayers well over $100,000—twenty thousand more than the $80,000 the FBI caught Jew exhorting from the restaurant owner.

Jew’s lawyer complained about the harsh nature of the charges: "Between the federal and state systems, this punishment is serious. Most politicians don't receive sentences like this." He’s right; usually politicians get off with a slap on the wrist. And in that light this is a serious sentence, but mail fraud, bribery and extortion are serious crimes. Still, Jew will spend most of his time in the sort of facility where Martha Stewart spent a few months, on a so-called federally sponsored vacation – and possibly another eight months in country jail.

What’s the point of jailing Jew? To teach Jew a lesson for a crime he won't likely have the opportunity to commit again, even after serving his sentence? Why spend the money incarcerating a non-violent offender?

Maybe he should experience what it’s like not to have recourse to hot water or consistent electricity and live surrounded by garbage. Who is he to judge? No water use, garbage activity or power showed up for the Sunset District house where Jew claimed he lived when her ran for Supervisor.

Let’s slap a tracking bracelet on the ousted-supervisor and relegate him to pay his debt to society by serving his time in a shelter or one of the city’s single-resident-occupancy hotels. Make him spend the next five years volunteering in the neighborhood he represented, but never lived. His lesson may be long, but it should not be unnecessarily costly.

Amy Kniss SF Law and Politics Examiner

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sentient Supervisor settles score: Labor left seatless on Golden Gate Bridge Board

By Amy Kniss

Supervisor Chris Daly doesn’t much care for Larry Mazzola, Jr., nor does he have much reason to. The Local 38 Plumbers Union, of which Mazzola, Jr., is the assistant business manager, supported Rob Black against Daly in 2006. According to Daly, Local 38 set the tone to what Daly described as the “nastiest political race in San Francisco history" and spent $15,000 on an attack mailer that directed recipients to

Daly prevailed in the 2006 race, despite Local 38’s opposition.

“This is what politics is about,” according to Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. Political campaigns are brutal. “It’s part of what we do,” she continued, “it’s our job essentially.” Alioto-Pier acknowledges that Daly’s election bid was rough, but said, “Come on, get over it. Grow up.”

She believes once you prevail in an election you forget the sting and harsh encounters you endured in the campaign, or at least you should if you’re going to fairly and effectively serve the city and the residents of San Francisco. “The fact that he is still brooding about it really shows something about his character,” said Alioto-Pier.

Daly would agree and he doesn’t think that’s a bad thing. As a ‘sentient being,’ Daly says, “Sure, yes, absolutely, my personal experiences influence my political decisions.” He thinks this is true for us all, including Alioto-Pier: the personal-is-political and all that.

Mazzola, Jr., threw his wrench into the ring in his bid for the number-two seat on the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District Board (GGTD), knowing it was a seat traditionally, but not legislatively, reserved for a Labor representative. Perhaps Mazzola, Jr., thought Labor’s endorsement would provide mitigating circumstances powerful enough to pressure Daly into forgetting their bad blood, or at least approving Mazzola, Jr.’s, appointment to the GGTD. No such luck.

During the Rules Committee hearing to fill empty seats on the GGTD, March 5, the sentient Supervisor revealed that time had yet to heal the wounds he suffered at the hands of Local 38 back in 2006. Daly told Mazzola, Jr., flat out: "You’re not going to get my support.” Daly actually seemed surprised that Mazzola, Jr., would have such a sense of entitlement to appear before the Committee. “If I were you,” Daly said, “I wouldn't be standing in front of me asking for this position." To which Mazzola, Jr., replied, “I don’t want your support.”

With the hope that the matter could be settled eventually, the Rules Committee held off on filling the seats. When the Board of Supervisors revisited the GGTD appointments on March 31, Mazzola, Jr., was still the unanimous choice of Labor. Again the decision was postponed. Board President and Supervisor Daly both urged Labor to choose a candidate “more qualified” and informed on transportation issues to represent Labor on the GGTD.

Few believe this was an argument about personal qualifications, despite Daly’s assurance that the Board chose the most qualified candidate for the position when it appointed David Snyder the GGTD on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. Perhaps that is because, ironically, Supervisor Daly actually supported Mr. Mazzola, Jr., during an earlier bid for the GGTD seat — pre-2006 obviously. Daly said as much during the March 5 Rules Committee hearing. So, his claim that Mr. Mazzola, Jr., was “patently unqualified for the position” with the bridge transportation district appears somewhat disingenuous.

Supervisor Daly, however, says that his vote for Mazzola, Jr., in 2001, Daly’s first year in office, was a mistake. “In the last eight years,” Daly said, “it is one of five or six votes I regret.” When Daly took charge of the Rules Committee he vowed to limit such mistakes by making sure that candidates for all boards and committees were thoroughly vetted and qualified for positions before appointing them to serve.

Despite voting for Mazzola, Jr., in 2001, Daly maintains that his vote this week, against the Labor representative, was not motivated by Mazzola. Jr.’s ties to Local 38 or the union’s contributions to Rob Black’s 2006 campaign against Daly. Daly admits that Mazzola, Jr., was not qualified for the position on the GGTD in 2001: saying, “My standards have gone up as my career has gone forward. I shouldn’t have voted for him then.” Daly didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

While he maintains his commitment to elevated standards, Daly also says he’s able to let go of political bad blood. “I have the ability to work through things with people who are willing to move forward,” said Daly. He points to Burke Strunsky in 2002, an earlier opponent that Daly says ran a “mean-spirited” campaign. Daly worked with Strunsky on Proposition H. According to Daly, Strunsky basically authored the bill banning handguns in San Francisco. “So you see,” said Daly, “ I am capable of working with people who’ve opposed me.” He maintains, that the Mazzola, Jr., matter is less about Daly’s naive vote in 2001 for an under-qualified candidate or Local 38’s political tactics during the 2006 race than it is about the higher standards that Daly says the Rules Committee now holds appointment candidates.

For more info: Check out Fog City Journal's play-by-play coverage of the final appointment hearing during the Board of Supervisors' Meeting April 14, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oops she did it again: Background-check anyone?

Tamara Hofmann, 48, isn’t charged with a crime. Her 20-year-old boyfriend is. Sixto Balbuena, Hoffman’s former student, is charged with stabbing Samuel Valdivia, Hoffman’s 18-year-old student-lover, to death upon finding them together Hoffman’s bedroom.

With one lover dead and another jailed Ms. Hofmann may find herself lonely. She is not subject to criminal charges for sleeping with Valdivia, technically an adult at 18. Nor was Hoffman charged for engaging in a “suspected” sexual relationship with Balbuena, only 17 at the time, according to a 2006 Chandler police report.

Hofmann will likely face disciplinary action at El Dorado High School in Chandler, Az., where she was Valdivia’s math teacher. But what is to stop her from taking another student under her tutelage? Taking on young male students appears to be a pattern for Hofmann: one that causes her few consequences. After all, she secured a position in the Math Department of El Dorado High School after leaving her teaching position at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Az. when allegations surfaced that she was sleeping with Balbuena, a 17-year-old student.

Background-check anyone?

According to Sgt. Joe Favazzo, of the Chandler Police Department, Hofmann is under investigation for “potential misconduct” regarding her inappropriate relationship with Valdivia. However, since Valdivia was 18 when they were together, it is unlikely that Hafmann can be charged with criminal conduct – after all violating workplace prohibitions, like “No Sex with Students,” will only get you fired if no law is broken in the process.

Here's hoping the 48-year-old seductress finds herself with early-onset menopause. Perhaps that would curb her predatory appetite for her young male students. Until then, the Arizona Department of Education may want to consider revoking her teaching credential for “moral turpitude” or some such offense.