What happens when two political advocates for education can’t see eye to eye?

If you were a public relations practitioner who is interested in bringing attention to your community cause, what would you do in this scenario?

Check out the events that happened within a few days’ span.

I found out, from my experiences, that political friends oftentimes become advocates of issues wherein they see each other “on opposite sides of the fence.”

Knowing both of these political friends to be sensitive and passionate, the answer to my own question is:

Do your homework. Find out what is really happening by conducting your own investigation. An informal survey, too, if necessary.

Find ways to establish common ground — or negotiate.

If appropriate, publish your investigative results.

One last thing: Communicate to each other. Smile even if it hurts!

AS A REMINDER: I would use the BEN FRANKLIN approach of doing things.

1. Draw a T on a piece of paper.

2. On the left side of the T, write “it’s GOOD to have the campus in Chinatown.”

3. On the right side of the T, write “what’s BAD about having the campus in Chinatown.”

4. You decide. Whichever side has the most answers wins.

As for Adam’s “warning” to the Asian Press, maybe I would have worded it differently. I would have said:

“It has come to my attention that Rodel Rodis has written his column about the Community College of San Francisco’s plans to build its North Beach campus in Chinatown. Enclosed here is State Senator Leland Yee’s position about this situation. We would appreciate your best investigative journalism work to help all of us out. After all, Senator Yee and Mr. Rodis are passionate about education. What can we do to reach common ground? Thank you for your attention.”

Why can’t life be simpler?

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HERE IS THE ORIGINAL E-MAIL MEDIA PRACTITIONERS RECEIVED:

From: [email protected]om
Date: Apr 3, 2007 3:40 AM
Subject: Telltale Signs/ O YEE OF LITTLE FAITH
To: undisclosed-recipients

Telltale Signs/ O YEE OF LITTLE FAITH

Rodel E. Rodis, April 2, 2007

When I was running for re-election to the San Francisco Community College Board many years ago, I met with the publisher and the editorial staff of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. With a reported circulation of 200,000, the paper’s political endorsement was and still is considered vital for the success of any political candidate.

“We’ve had very bad experience endorsing minority candidates,” Bruce Brugman, the 6’5″ burly publisher of the Bay Guardian, candidly told me after I had given my pitch for his paper’s support. “The minority candidates we endorsed turned out to be major disappointments,” he said. “They were bought off.”

Brugman’s views were disgustingly racist and I told him so. He was tarring all minority candidates with the same broad brush, creating yet another negative stereotype. Brugman was declaring, in effect, that it was better to endorse white candidates because they have more integrity and can’t be corrupted as easily as minority candidates.

I was reminded of Brugman’s words this past week when I reviewed the actions of State Senator Leland Yee who denounced City College of San Francisco for planning “in the dead of night” to construct a 17-story building for the Chinatown-North Beach campus across the 31-story San Francisco Hilton Chinatown.

The Chinatown Hilton is owned by Justice Investors, a group which has hired high-priced lobbyists to block the construction of the Chinatown campus because the views of its hotel rooms may be blocked even partially by the new building. According to Chinatown community leader Dr. Henry Der, a former California Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Justice Investors is waging “a mean-spirited campaign of deception to confuse and mislead the Chinatown community and general public” about the proposed Chinatown campus.

“This campaign of deception,” Dr. Der wrote in an AsianWeek op-ed piece, “has purposely made up unsubstantiated, wild-eyed allegations that City College is going to build a “massive high-rise” that will negatively impact Chinatown parking, traffic and Portsmouth Square Park. To create the illusion of legitimacy to their campaign, these paid lobbyists have traipsed out State Senator Leland Yee as a “community leader,” rallying Chinatown against this “high-rise.”

“What this campaign of deception does not disclose is that, according to public records, Hilton Hotel owners and their paid lobbyists and families have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Yee’s political campaigns. Knowing that Justice Investors and their lobbyists are capable of contributing more, Yee has easily, and not surprisingly, kowtowed to Hilton Hotel’s interests, at the expense of immigrant educational needs. Pure and simple, Hilton does not want any building to block its hotel window views.”

Even though he immigrated to the US from China when he was three, Yee has chosen to turn his back on his own community and to support the interests of the Hilton’s millionaire owners. To Yee, Hilton’s interests in preserving its hotel views are more important than the needs of his own community to build a campus that is accessible to the people who live and work there, a campus of 42 classrooms with language and science labs, computer training rooms and a culinary program.

At his Chinatown press conference, Yee claimed that the proposed 17-story City College building would cast a giant shadow over Portsmouth Square. Yee was aware that this charge was baseless as he had been provided with the results of a study which showed that the proposed building’s shadow would only affect a narrow sliver of the northwest corner of the park, and for a very limited period of time during the summer, and no later than 7:45 AM.

The truth did not stop Hilton’s paid lobbyists from spreading the big lie to various ethnic community leaders including Filipino American community leader Alice Bulos who signed a statement, prepared by Hilton’s lobbyists, charging that “the current plan would cast a shadow and obscure the major milestones of Asian American history.”

The height of hypocrisy here is that it is the 31-story Hilton Hotel Chinatown, across from Portsmouth Square, which casts the overwhelming shadow over the park, all day long and all year long.

The Hilton’s paid lobbyists also claimed that the campus would draw 6500 “new” students who would descend on the campus at the same time, causing massive traffic jams and parking congestion.

“I was misled,” said Rudy Asercion, a Filipino American veterans commissioner. “The person who approached us said that there will be 7,000 students coming all at once and there would be no parking spaces. That is really not true, because the classes are going to be staggered throughout the day and night and throughout the week and weekend.”

Campus advocates also point out that about 90% of the students who will attend the proposed campus already live in Chinatown and will simply be walking to the campus or taking public transportation to get there, belying the parking congestion argument.
City College has wanted to build its own Chinatown campus for more than 25 years to replace the current inadequate facility, a former elementary school rented from the School District. But finding a site in the densest part of the city and obtaining the funds to purchase it were major problems until 1997 when San Francisco voters approved bond funds to purchase the Colombo and Fong buildings in Chinatown for the Chinatown campus.

Before that Chinatown campus project could get off the ground, however, suit was filed by the “Friends of the Colombo Building” to preserve the historic building. It turned out the lawsuit was funded by the owner of the adjacent Montgomery Towers building who did not want his towers’ views to be blocked by the proposed 9-story building which was to be built on two sites.

When it was time to get the bond funds from the City to complete the purchase of the buildings, then SF Supervisor Leland Yee, as chair of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee, held up release of the bond monies unless and until City College reached a settlement with the “Friends of the Colombo Building”. Because the funds were needed immediately or the purchase the property would be lost, the Board agreed not to tear down the Colombo Building and to seismically retrofit it at an added cost of $10-M.

But even after the Board yielded to his political blackmail, Yee declared that he still would not release the funds unless the College agreed to reimburse the attorney’s fees that the Montgomery Towers owner had paid to finance the lawsuit. The Board was outraged as the money to pay the $150,000 would come from the general funds of the College. Board members believe that the Montgomery Towers owner contributed heavily to Yee’s political campaign.

The Board then lobbied the other two members of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee to vote to release the funds. But Yee said that, as chair of the committee, he alone had the power to “agendize” the item and if he didn’t put it on the agenda, it didn’t matter if the College had the support of the majority.

As he did then, as he is doing now, Yee has shown that he cares more about the interests of his financial contributors than he does the interests of the people of San Francisco, especially those of minority immigrants.

O Yee of little faith in the people (and a lot of faith in the moneymen), you’re making Bruce Brugman look good.

Send comments to [email protected] Rodel, a 3-term president of the SF Community College Board, was the chair of the Board’s Facilities Committee from 1991 to 2001.

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HERE’S THE E-MAIL RODEL RODIS SENT TO ME:

From: [email protected]
Date: Apr 4, 2007 8:46 PM
Subject: Fwd: ASIAN PRESS BEWARE

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2007 20:43:49 EDT
Subject: ASIAN PRESS BEWARE

Mr. Keigwin,

I am so heartened to know that my tax dollars are being put to good use to pay a government employee like you to warn the Asian press to beware of my article and to urge the Asian press not to publish it.

You write that my column is “filled with several lies and distortions against Senator Yee”. Could you be specific and indentify what facts I stated were “lies and distortions”. As you know, there is a difference between opinion and fact. We may have a difference of opinion as to whose interests your boss is really protecting but that is opinion, not fact. So what fact did I state was a lie?

My column is syndicated in several newspapers. Why is it in “poor taste” to send the same syndicated column to different newspapers? Sen. Leland Yee’s column appears in more Asian (and non-Asian) community newspapers than mine does. Are his columns “unique” to each of the newspapers he sends his columns to?

Your disengenuity in parsing that last point is exactly the issue that I am raising about your boss. He calls our proposed 17-story building a “montrosity” while he is mute about the “low-rise neighborhood’s” 31-story Chinatown Hilton that overshadows Portsmouth Square all year long.

Perhaps if we had contributed to Sen. Yee’s campaign just as the Justice Investors folks have done, we might be able to count on Sen. Yee to support our Chinatown campus.

Too bad.

RODEL E. RODIS
San Francisco Community College Board

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: “Keigwin, Adam” < [email protected]>
To: “Keigwin, Adam”
Sent: Tuesday, April 3, 2007 10:12:24 AM
Subject: Asian press beware

I just wanted to send a quick note so that you are aware that Rodel Rodis is sending or likely has already sent you a column filled with several lies and distortions regarding Senator Yee. As you know, Senator Yee is leading an effort with a number of community members in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown against the community college’s efforts to build a 17-story monstrosity in the low-rise neighborhood. The Senator supports a campus in Chinatown , but not a 17-story skyscraper and not a plan that was just recently sprung on the community without their input and after being told that it would be a low-rise campus. Contrary to Rodel’s rhetoric, the only interests the Senator is beholden to are the community’s interests and fighting to make sure the community has input into this decision.

Rather than have a healthy debate on the issue, Rodel has decided to spread a smear campaign against Dr. Yee. Rodel has also submitted the same column to nearly every Asian publication, which in and of itself is in poor taste by not giving each publication their own unique column. I would urge you not to print this column.

If you are interested, below is the release that outlines the concerns brought to us by many people in the community. Thanks.
Adam J. Keigwin

Office of Senator Leland Y. Yee, Ph.D.
Assistant President pro Tem
California State Senate, District 8
(916) 651-4008
www.senate.ca.gov/yee

Community Rejects Massive Tower in Chinatown

Friday, March 23, 2007

17-story community college tower would cast shadow on city’s busiest park

SAN FRANCISCO – The unique character of one of San Francisco’s most historic neighborhoods is in serious jeopardy from a plan to build a 17-story, 238 foot skyscraper to house a new Chinatown/North Beach campus for City College of San Francisco. Today, community leaders led by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), rallied in Chinatown against the high-rise encroachment.

“The City College has completely disregarded the wishes of this community,” said Senator Yee. “While we all support a campus in Chinatown, we are not interested in a skyscraper that will severely impact the quality of life for our businesses, families, and children. Our community and students deserve better.”

The plan would not only cost over $120 million, it will take needed parking spaces for businesses, add to traffic congestion, and cast a shadow on Portsmouth Square, the busiest park in San Francisco.

Current city codes only allow for three-story buildings (5 stories with a special permit), but because City College is a state agency they may be able to sidestep local building codes. In October 2006, the City College surprised the Chinatown North Beach community with the high-rise plan across from Portsmouth Square . The original proposal was to construct two low-rise buildings which had broad community support. In contrast, the new proposed tower would be the tallest academic building on the West Coast.

“We have long supported a new campus, including the original two-building proposal; but the current plan is not a college campus,” said Al Cheng, a retired educator who serves as Co-Chair of the Chinese Culture Center. “It is a massive high-rise that negatively affects the area, because it is incompatible with the character and culture of the Chinatown neighborhood. It fails to meet the City’s zoning and height requirements for the area. It also violates the ordinance that restricts buildings from creating shadows on open spaces, and will block the flow of light and energy to Portsmouth Square and St. Mary’s Chinese Schools and Center.”

” City College desperately needs a new Chinatown Campus to serve an underserved community,” said John Rizzo, Trustee of City College. “I support it 100 percent. But we need to work collaboratively with the community we are trying to serve to come up with a design in which we can all be proud.”

Community leaders also announced the formation of the Educational Coalition for Responsible Development, a group organized to oppose development of a College high-rise in low-rise Chinatown and North Beach.

###

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AND SERENDIPITOUSLY, RODEL SENDS ME AN E-MAIL ABOUT MEDIA RELATIONS:

From: [email protected]
Date: Apr 5, 2007 10:04 PM
Subject: Fwd: Campaign Hot Tip — April 6, 2007
To: [email protected]

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Campaign Hot Tips”
To: “Subscriber”
Date: Fri, 06 Apr 2007 00:02:03 -0500
Subject: Campaign Hot Tip — April 6, 2007
———————————————–
To view or comment on this post online,
please visit http://www.CampaignHotTips.com
———————————————–

Campaign Hot Tips — April 6, 2007

A DOZEN SECRETS FOR DEALING WITH THE PRESS
by Chuck Muth (guest blogger)

1.) If you avoid the press, they’ll avoid you…or worse, roast you like a marshmallow. Don’t duck the press. Learn to work with them. They’ll never be your “friend”…but if you treat them professionally, many will be friendly.

2.) It’s OK to take them to breakfast or lunch. Get to know them…and let them get to know you in a setting other than a press conference.

3.) There’s no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t ever want to see it in print…don’t say it.

4.) Be accessible. Reporters are on deadlines. If you cannot be reached in a timely manner, they’ll just find someone else to quote. Return reporters’ phone calls promptly.

5.) Be candid. Reporters are used to being “spun.” But they don’t like it. Give it to them straight…and you’re much more likely to be interviewed in the future.

6.) Never pick a fight with someone who buys paper by the ton and ink by the barrel (or bandwidth by the gigabyte). If you have a problem with a reporter, try to work it out PRIVATELY between yourselves. Only if your credibility is at stake and you can’t resolve the matter directly with the reporter should you go to his or her boss. And only as a last resort should you “go nuclear” and criticize the paper or media outlet publicly.

7.) “No comment” is an acceptable answer. Reporters are free to ask you any question they like. That doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

8.) Be yourself. Political reporters have generally been doing their jobs for a LONG time. They can smell a phony a mile away.

9.) Never lie to a reporter. You can lose your mind…and some reporters will still give you a pass. But once you lose your credibility, you can never get it back.

10.) If you’re a candidate, be prepared to answer in 30 seconds or less why you’re running for office.

11.) If you want your campaign to be taken seriously, then present a serious evaluation of your chances for winning. A Republican candidate with no money, living in a Democrat district, and running against a cash-flush incumbent, who simply says, “I’m going to win” without being able to demonstrate HOW will not be taken seriously by the press.

12.) Read the papers that you want to cover you and your campaign.

Prof. Chuck Muth, PhD
Doctor of Psephology (home-schooled)

Campaign Secrets LLC

1765 Ridgemill Terrace
Dacula, GA 30019
US

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YOUR COMMENTS ARE APPRECIATED.

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