With the seasons changing and the holidays upon us, it is important to be a little extra careful when driving around San Francisco. The roads are often wet, it gets dark earlier, streets are crowded and everyone is rushing to do last-minute shopping and entertaining. Additionally, drinking at holiday parties may mean more impaired drivers on the roads, so this is a particularly important time of year to pay attention to traffic safety.
The heavy traffic volume in a city of our size and geography requires constant investment in infrastructure and safety measures. Not only is this important to keep people moving efficiently between their destinations; it is also important to support our city’s economy by moving goods and products through and around the City.
Over the years, many people have expressed concern to me about the safety and efficiency of our roadways. Within the last two years, several alarming pedestrian fatalities have led me to investigate legislative remedies to traffic safety challenges, including a proposed double-fine zone on 19th Avenue. While legislation that I introduced to establish such a double-fine zone did not pass, in recent months my staff and I have met with both the SF Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and Caltrans to examine other potential options and to facilitate the collaboration and communication between state and local departments.
As a state highway, 19th Avenue is the major traffic artery between the peninsula and the Golden Gate Bridge. San Franciscans and commuters moving daily between the north and south bay travel it. Commercial vehicles use the road as well, including heavy trucks, which contribute to wear and tear of the road’s surface.
You may have noticed that, while still significant, the flow of traffic along 19th has improved somewhat due to signal timing adjustments. Now cars can travel at a steadier pace without stopping as frequently. Additionally, starting early next year, 12 intersections along 19th Avenue will be upgraded to improve signals, signage and enhance safety features for pedestrians and motorists. These intersections include 19th and: Lincoln Way, Irving, Judah, Noriega, Quintara, Taraval and Vicente streets, Ocean, Eucalyptus and Holloway avenues and Junipero Serra Boulevard.
In the future, it is hoped that all 33 intersections from Interstate 280 to Lake Street will be upgraded in a similar manner.
Sloat Boulevard has long been an area of concern for neighbors as well. Like 19th Avenue, Sloat is unique in that while it is a state highway, it is also a residential thoroughfare. The Lakeshore community is host to schools, churches, senior centers, a YMCA and a large shopping plaza, as well as seasonal concert events at Stern Grove.
This summer, my office met with area neighbors, Caltrans, mayor’s office, SF Department of Parking and Traffic, SF Department of Public Works and the Taraval Police Station, among others, to examine feasible solutions to traffic and safety concerns. Thanks to the community’s efforts, Caltrans and DPT are moving ahead with pedestrian safety improvements in the area. These improvements include “do not block” painting and signs on the eastbound side of Sloat and ladder-striping on the crosswalks near Lowell High School.
There have also been numerous requests for traffic-calming measures around Lake Merced. The DPT and Caltrans are collaborating on the installation of a stop sign at Lake Merced Boulevard and Herbst Road.
If you have questions or concerns, contact my office at (415) 557-2312.
I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
Leland Yee is the speaker pro tempore at the California Assembly.
Steamed chicken feet. Bottled tiger organs. Pearl milk tea. As a young girl growing up in a large Chinese community, I have always felt a sense of belonging. It was never uncommon to smell the pungent stench of raw fish in the markets, to hear the jabbering of ladies speaking in Cantonese or to see gray-haired men playing Mah-jong.
Compared with other Asian adults, my first experiences in America were a breeze. Faced with the difficult challenge of fitting in and changing their language, dress and attitudes, many Asians abandoned their dreams in the “land of opportunity” and left, returning home.
My parents were lucky enough to survive the initial trials and raised a family. Despite losing a few traditions during the transition, my parents have always retained the most integral values of the Chinese culture. And although I struggled for years to identify myself as “American,” I have learned to accept and even embrace my Asian heritage.
Like other first generation Chinese-American children, my parents dragged me out of bed to attend Saturday Chinese school. Not only did I sacrifice my early morning Superman episode, but I also had to complete grueling Chinese homework! My father used to say, “You know, you might not understand now, but when you grow up, you will thank me for teaching you Chinese.” And he was right. Learning Chinese was a priceless gift from my father and has bridged the gap between the two cultures in my life, giving me a deeper appreciation for my Chinese heritage.
When I was a little girl, my father used to tell stories about the value of filial piety. Unheard of to most Americans, filial piety involves a child’s responsibility to respect elders, especially parents. This respect is symbolized in the Chinese story about a young boy who warms the bed for his mother by first sleeping in it.
Unlike obedience and conformity, which is taught in Chinese culture, American culture emphasizes the importance of individualism and freedom of speech, often allowing children to have equal rights in the family hierarchy. Chinese tradition, however, emphasizes parental dominance over children.
Growing up, I struggled with the concept of filial piety, torn between the different American and Chinese values. But I have chosen to honor this traditional value. As my parents’ daughter, I owe them more than I can comprehend. And although China may be thousands of miles away, my way of repaying them is to live by the ideal of filial piety, honoring my parents in every way I can.
What will happen to the heritage of our ancestors if we continue to ignore the different cultures that comprise America? Although learning Chinese has not always been easy for me, I am sure that the difficulty of preserving the Chinese heritage will only increase in the generations to come. I am worried that my grandchildren will not be able to speak a word of Chinese and have no understanding of their heritage. But I am determined to teach my children all about Chinese culture, giving them an opportunity to appreciate it and possibly teach others. And if it comes down to it, I too will drag my kids out of bed to attend Saturday Chinese school.
In the search for my own identity, I have discovered the importance of culture. While living in America, people lose sight of their own culture’s traditions, language and values. But “American” is not the style, attitude or dress that characterizes the people of this nation. Rather, it is the product of countless cultures and traditions integrated into our everyday lives. We should never lose sight of that.
Florence Kwo is a senior at Lowell High School.
The SF Board of Supervisors and the School District Committee held a special hearing Nov. 8 to discuss the state of on-site mental health services at San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) sites and to evaluate the needs and services currently provided. Several experts, representing the Mayor’s Office of Children Youth and their Families, SF Department of Public Health, SFUSD, various non-profit providers and professionals at various Wellness Centers and school sites, testified about the growing need for mental health services at all schools.
The following morning, as I read C.W. Nevius’ column in the SF Chronicle titled “Principal’s blunt look at teen suicide,” I wondered whether the availability of on-site mental health services at Clayton Valley High School would have prevented its recent spate of teen suicides. It was very evident from the hearing the day before that a minimum level of mental health services should be mandated at all schools to address depression, stress, violence and other issues facing our young people today.
About four years ago, Wellness Centers were created at seven high schools (Galileo Academy, Abraham Lincoln, Lowell, Mission, George Washington, John O’Connell and Thurgood Marshall) to provide free, confidential services to students, including health education and assessment; mental health and substance abuse counseling; support and empowerment groups; crisis intervention; and reproductive health services. Community-based organizations provide students with referrals to public and private health providers and educate youth about resources and services available both on and off campus.
Mental health related services are also available at various elementary, middle and high schools throughout the City. However, given the band-aid approach to services, it was concluded that a SFUSD comprehensive mental health plan was needed to assess the needs at all schools, as well as to address and meet the severe needs of students at the county day schools, a specific concern expressed by Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.
The recent passage of state Proposition 63, assessing a 1 percent surcharge on personal incomes above $1 million for mental health funding, could provide $50 million annually to San Francisco. School Board Member Jill Wynns suggested a carve-out of at least $3 million of the funds to expand the Wellness Centers at all high schools in San Francisco.
With these concerns and recommendations in mind, I submitted a resolution urging the mayor and the SF Department of Public Health to move forward with three actions: create a Proposition 63 Children and Youth Stakeholder Sub-Committee to create a comprehensive, child-specific plan for services; to dedicate a portion of the Proposition 63 funds to children and youth mental health services with a focus on prevention and for the funds dedicated to be consistent with the percentage of children affected in the overall populations; and that Proposition 63 funding should also be allocated for expansion of the Wellness Centers program.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a great increase in access to mental health services for youth in San Francisco. The reasons are many, including earlier identification of mental health issues by SFUSD, the presence of state-mandated services for special education students, the state Mental Health Parity Act and the growth of the Healthy Families and Healthy Kids programs. However, there is still much more that needs to be done if San Francisco is to meet its goal of being a family-friendly city. The actions we have taken jointly at the school district and the Board of Supervisors takes us one step closer to this goal.
Fiona Ma is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 4.
Editor’s Note: Avrim Ben-Izak is the owner of a storefront “Canadian pharmacy” on Geary Boulevard. He has been involved in this business since November 2003 and began doing research on the Canadian pharmacy phenomenon in 2002. In this column, he answers some of the most-common questions concerning buying drugs from Canada.
Q: There is a lot of information floating around about ordering prescriptions from Canada. What is the real story? Is this legal or not?
Ben-Izak: There is a law against importing drugs from other countries – that has been a federal law for years. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given legal waivers to people ordering 90-day supplies for personal use only. So, although there is a law against it, the FDA is allowing it as long as certain guidelines are followed.
Q: What exactly are those guidelines?
Ben-Izak: Aside from the 90-day supply maximum, schedule I, II and III drugs are banned. These are narcotic-based drugs, sleeping pills, pain pills or any medication that can be abused or is habit-forming.
Q: What about safety? The FDA says they can’t guarantee the safety of drugs from Canada.
Ben-Izak: This is propaganda put out by the drug manufacturers in collusion with the FDA. Seventy-five percent of the drugs sold in Canada are manufactured in the U.S. They are shipped to Canada and re-imported to the U.S. The drugs that are manufactured in Canada come under the strict control of Health Canada, which is Canada’s version of the FDA. Its guidelines for approving a drug are at least as strict as the United State’s FDA. The only real variance is that Health Canada usually accepts the FDA test results of drugs that are approved in the U.S.
Q: If most of these drugs are being re-imported, why can’t we buy these drugs here at the price Canadians pay?
Ben-Izak: The reason is that Canada has price controls. That is, any manufacturer that wants to sell its drugs in Canada must sell them for a price set by the Canadian government. This is because Canada has a form of socialized medicine and pays for a lot of the population’s medical expenses with government funds. Since the government is the purchaser of the majority of the drugs sold in Canada, they can set the price.
Q: What about ordering over the Internet or through “800” numbers. Is it safe?
Ben-Izak: Ordering over the Internet is safe as long as you’re dealing with a reputable pharmacy. How to find a reputable pharmacy is a little trickier. When I order over the Internet, I check out the websites that the SF Dept. of Health lists on its site and research any other sites of interest. I can’t personally recommend any of the “800” pharmacies that are advertising on various media because I simply haven’t done enough research in this area or know people who have experience doing this.
Q: What about people who don’t have computers or do not want to use “800” numbers?
Ben-Izak: There are now storefront locations where a person can go to order from Canada. These types of operations charge the same as if the client went directly to the Internet to order. Instead of raising prices, they are paid a referral fee from the Canadian pharmacy they are doing business with.
Q: Are there any hidden charges?
Ben-Izak: There are no hidden charges. There is a shipping fee of $14.99, which can include numerous prescriptions. The fee is per order so it behooves a customer to fill all their prescription needs at the same time.
Q: How long does it take to get medications from a U.S. store doing business with Canada?
Ben-Izak: It takes about 10 days and the order is shipped directly to the client, not to the U.S. business.
Q: How long do you think this cross-border ordering will continue?
Ben-Izak: As long as the drug companies are allowed to overcharge the American public, this will continue. It has reached a point where the only way this flood from the north will stop is for the drug manufacturers to lower their prices to something close to Canadian prices.
Q: The drug manufacturers claim that they need to charge high prices to support their research and development. Is this true?
Ben-Izak: Not even close! The drug manufacturers spend only 8 percent on research and development. The federal government subsidizes the drug companies an additional 5 percent with our tax dollars (for a total of 13 percent) for their R&D. These companies spend 16 percent of their income on advertising, which is double what they spend on research and development.
Q: What do you think the solution will be?
Ben-Izak: The U.S. has to go to a form of socialized or government subsidized medicine. We are the only developed nation that does not take care of all of its citizens when it comes to health care. We are the wealthiest country on Earth, yet a large part of the population is falling through the cracks when it comes to health care. With the aging Baby Boomer population getting older, the problem is only going to get worse.
Ben-Izak’s business, Discount Canadian Pharmaceuticals, is located at 5345 Geary Blvd. For more information, call 831-8602.