For the tens of thousands of people who poured their sweat and tears into the Bernie Sanders campaign, the last year has been a woeful one. Sanders was tantalizingly close to winning the Democratic presidential primary, despite having the establishment stacked against him. And then what many of those people said during the primary came true: while Bernie could have beaten Trump, Hillary Clinton could not.

For decades, more and more money has flowed into our political process and we have now reached a point where it is considered nearly impossible to hold a House or Senate seat without taking money from billionaires and corporations. The vast majority of our Congress members are beholden to the 1%, as proven by a 20-year study from Princeton. Our country, and our world, deserve better.

For the millions of Americans who agreed with Bernie’s “future to believe in,” there is a very simple explanation for what is wrong with our government: it’s not filled with Bernie Sanders. Here’s how we change that.


The Incorruptibles have a unique set of beliefs that shape their strategy.


If politicians are allowed to take corporate money, they will vote accordingly. Incorruptibles candidates take no corporate money and focus on raising small dollar donations.


Bernie’s first four campaigns for office failed: he ran for U.S. Senate twice and Vermont Governor twice, and never got more than 6% of the vote. But when he ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he was elected and so started his political career. His story holds a lesson for Incorruptible progressives: build your base locally, because power is built at the local level first.


Most progressive local politicians begin taking money from the wrong sources once they begin their campaigns for state or national office. To avoid this they must have a strong grassroots organization larger than their city to support them as they move up from the local level.


Most candidates pick themselves: “Hey everybody, I’m running for office!” But looking at best-practice local organizations around the country, we see that strong grassroots movements convince great, selfless leaders to run, not the other way around.


Half of a politician’s job is to write and vote on laws; the other half is to listen to, educate, and mobilize the people. Bernie has a proven practice of specialized town halls that do just this.


Grassroots organizations can act as an adjunct staff to truly progressive politicians, doing the research and legwork to help get progressive policies passed. This turns the notion of “holding your representatives accountable” upside down and creates a truly participatory government.


The Incorruptibles has begun to set up grassroots chapters in cities nationwide. In time, we envision local TI chapters in every city and county. Much like Indivisible, The Incorruptibles has produced a guide for how to do this. In brief:


The grassroots chapter forms a core team of organizers and begins outreach. As more people join, the growing membership votes on platform, actions, and candidates.


The chapter doesn’t work alone to reinvent the wheel. It contacts other community groups and organizations to help enlarge its coalition. These can include unions, service organizations, churches, NGOs and others.


The Incorruptibles National provides training to facilitate Bernie-style town halls, where the chapter listens to, educates, and mobilizes constituents.


The local chapter organizes to knock on every door in the city. This is unlike conventional campaign canvassing where only likely voters are reached, and where almost no listening takes place on the side of the campaign. It is unlike other “knock every door” canvassing efforts in that residents are given an opportunity to join a local group, becoming a voting member who can affect city policy. This gives the person behind the door real agency and a stake in what they’re being asked to support.


The Incorruptibles National provides training to conduct local educational workshops that empower constituents with knowledge and understanding of the issues. For example, TI presents Les Leopold’s “Runaway Inequality” workshop to help explain in clear terms how the 1% uses corporations and government to siphon money away from working families. This kind of educational training plays well in both blue and red communities and leads a majority of listeners to support the policies in Bernie’s platform.


Each city will develop its own platform, informed by the town halls, door knocking, and inequality workshops, and incorporating the specific needs and demands of constituents.


Incorruptibles candidates grow out of the organization, emerging from the coalition that has formed in the community. They might be activists who have already spent much of their lives fighting for social justice and other causes, they might be political novices from other professions, or they might have been candidates before. Through a participatory democratic process, the local chapter votes and puts together a slate of candidates that is representative of the residents of the city.


Because the candidates are running as a slate, they can pool community resources. Paper material, events, press releases, and social media all publicize the slate of candidates instead of each candidate having their own. Traditional forms of canvassing and phone banking also support the slate; this not only saves money and volunteer time, it also helps build the chapter.


After the campaign season and elections are over, the chapter helps its elected officials get progressive policies passed. From doing research and legwork, attending city councils and expanding community alliances, to writing letters to the editor and organizing public events or demonstrations, local chapters are a powerful force in passing progressive legislation.

Because the chapter continues its work year-round every year, each campaign brings the grassroots chapter more experience to use for the next election.

Through The Incorruptibles national organization, locally elected officials can move up to the state level with support from constituents in every city that has an Incorruptibles chapter. Once a state has multiple chapters, there will also be a statewide organization that communicates and coordinates with city chapters to run the best slate of candidates for statewide offices.


The basic model outlined above has already been used successfully to forge strong progressive city councils in formerly corporate-controlled cities like Richmond, CA. For over a century, the Bay Area city was effectively ruled by Chevron, whose massive oil refinery makes it the city’s largest employer. Over the decades, Chevron donated to every political campaign – and exercised so much control over the city that in the 1990s it actually had its own desk at City Hall. Every decade the refinery had a leak or explosion that wreaked environmental havoc and sometimes sent thousands of people to local hospitals. The city had the second highest homicide rate in the country, and was known for its police brutality in a city with 36% African Americans and 27% Latinos.

In 2003, Richmond residents had enough. They formed the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which began running candidates for city council and mayor. Today, the RPA has a super-majority on the city council, has pushed through a raft of progressive legislation like rent control and assistance to foreclosed homeowners, and its successful former Green Party Mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, is now running for California Lieutenant Governor. In short, community political activism has turned this city, once dominated by Chevron money, into a leading progressive force in the nation. The way they made it happen in Richmond has become one of the models for The Incorruptibles as it seeks to transform political participation on a local scale nationwide.


The Incorruptibles aims to create 1,000 local chapters by spring of 2018. Those local chapters will mobilize people across America to choose true progressives for candidates in the primaries ahead of the 2018 midterms. These chapters, and city councils, become fertile grounds to produce 1,000 Bernie Sanders – an army of incorruptible officials ready to take back their communities, cities, states and the U.S. Congress from special interests and the corrupting influence of money.

The Incorruptibles co-founder Anna Callahan will be speaking at the Democracy Convention on Thursday, Aug. 3rd, at 1pm on the University of Minnesota campus. To find out more, visit Democracy Convention.

This article was co-published by Nation of Change and

The Incorruptibles, money in politics, Bernie Sanders, incorruptible politicians, city government, local political power, grassroots power

“Yes Man” punks DNC at Politicon

Published on Jul 31, 2017

The DNC has launched a series of town halls to better explain the “Better Deal,” and to call for public participation in crafting an even better “Better Deal” over the next few weeks, under the rubric #DNCTakeBack.

As discussed with a bi-partisan crowd of 100 in the first such town hall (seen here), the “Better Deal” includes a number of election-winning positions that polls show have widespread support across the political spectrum, and that have already been winning state and local elections nationwide, even in heavily Trump-leaning areas.

Until the recent banning of corporate donations to the DNC, the DNC was unable to support such positions because of the outsize influence of key donors, as detailed in transcript below. These positions include Medicare for all (desired by a strong majority of voters overall, and even by 41% of Republicans), free college tuition (desired by 62% of all voters), stronger unions (by an ever growing majority), and public campaign financing and the elimination of corporate lobbying (large majorities of Americans feel corporations, the wealthy, and lobbyists have far too much influence in politics).

It is not fully understood why so few people noticed these positions within the “Better Deal” when it was first unveiled last Monday.

Outfoxed • Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism • exposes Fox News

Published on Dec 22, 2014

Outfoxed shows how the Fox News channel is used to promote and advocate right-wing views. SUBSCRIBE… Follow Robert Greenwald Celebrate 10 years of Brave New Films with our Boxed Set: WATCH MORE:

3:09 During the first few years that Murdoch’s ownership of Fox’s DC affiliate, he had a hands-off approach to new content; partially due to their success. One day orders came from Murdoch’s offices that the network should cut away from their regularly scheduled program and broadcast the RNC’s fawning tribute to Reagan: “we were ordered, from the top, to carry propaganda; Republican, right-wing propaganda”. It foreshadowed what Fox News would later become.

6:30 Former Fox News reporters and bookers say that they are afraid to be seen “talking to the wrong people”. Working for Fox meant you were constantly being monitored. It created a culture of fear. If you challenged the heads of the network On ideological matters, you were history.

10:45 “Some People Say” – FOX uses the phrase “some people say” to mask opinion as news.

19:04 Fox News contributors are under paid contract for their appearance; if they deviate from the party lines, they might not get asked back onto shows.

21:22 Fox News went after Richard Clarke as soon as it was apparent that he was going to paint the Bush administration in a bad light. For Fox News, “mudding” arguments is almost as good as winning them. So, they didn’t need to definitely prove that Clarke, a former member of the Bush Administration, was angling for a position in a Kerry Whitehouse, they just had to make it look like a possibility.

22:28 They put weak-looking , lesser known liberals up against photogenic, self-assured conservatives.

26:29 Republicans accounted for 83% of the guests while Democrats accounted for 17% of guest on the network’s most prestigious show. Of those democrats, most were either centrist or conservative.

27:50 Stories they Cover…Stories they Ignore – Management set the tone for stories: Jesse Jackson was always to be painted in a negative light, as were immigrants. Culture war issues – abortion, affirmative action, gay marriage – were often covered while ignoring issues regarding the economy, health care, and the environment.

34:38 O’Reilly’s show is a good example of everything that is wrong with Fox News —
Stories are selected to prop-up the Republican party and their point of view; O’Reilly is very hostile to guest who disagrees with him; and he distorts and misrepresent things.

42:00 Many Fox News stories are meant to generate fear; for example, stories about what to do if there’s a “dirty bomb” attack. Fear is a great motivator and organizer; even when there is no real evidence for it. Terrorism is the ultimate fear-baiting; and when people are fearful, they are more likely to support military interventions. Talking about terrorism also means that you can avoid talking about other issues, like the economy.

46:29 Fox made the decision to present the Iraq war as a success. “The senior producer told the two or three writers for her news hour…’now, just keep in mind that it’s all good. This is such a fair and balance issue. Keep it positive. We got to emphasize all the good we are doing”.

48:43 Knowledge Networks Poll – It’s a simple survey about fact regarding current events. The more likely people were to watch Fox News, the more misinformed they were and the more likely they were to back the Bush Administration.

50:49 Fox News repeats and propagates the Republican Party platform. It was widely known that the Fox reporter covering the 2000 Bush campaign was married to a Bush campaigner. This wouldn’t have been allowed at CNN.

52:47 Election Night 2000 – The first guy to call the election for Bush was the head of Fox’s New’s election analyze division; Bush’s first cousin. He called it a clear win, when in fact it was too close too call.

59:16 The Republican send out “the message of the day” so that conservative talk radio, Fox News, and Republican elected officials will all be talking about the same issues, in the same way.

58:41 2004 Election; coverage of Bush was always glowing, while Kerry was shown in a negative light.

1:02:51 During the 2004 election, Fox News painted a very rosy picture of the American economy and by selecting statistics which showed just that. Of course, they credited Bush for the “good” economy. When the stock market had a bad day, they claimed it was because of fear over the prospect of a Kerry presidency.

1:05:28 Murdoch is foremost a politician and this is what makes him dangerous.

1:06:57 The Fox Effect – It made other news organization more conservative because they saw how well Fox did.

1:09:13 A Call to Action – Media control is a political issue. People need to demand accuracy.

Time to think outside nation-states (

Bitcoin approaches a decisive moment: are you in control of your private keys? Meanwhile, we discuss a step further: disintermediating politics.

The news we see every day are bad omen for the nation-state era: tech giants enforcing the status quo by providing surveillance tools to old powers, corrupt and innefficient nations barely being able to handle elections without being hacked, borders that make some people powerless. The bright side is many people around the world are realizing it is time to think and build alternatives outside the nation-state, and in July we met them.

At OuiShare Fest 17 in Paris, Virgile Deville and Pia Mancini from our foundation met innovators from all over Europe and the Americas. In summary, we discussed how to move on from the current political chaos:

“What I’d like to share is this notion of not feeling trapped in the existing system. There’s a way to build alternative systems.” – Watch Pia’s message for the Oui Share community below.


Aligned with this spirit, Civicist interviewed Santiago Siri for an article that tries to imagine the technologies and institutions needed to disintermediate political power: “Coding for a World Run by Liquid Democracy”. It is a time to long for an alternative government, and to despair of one.

Some concrete projects for alternative systems were hinted this month as Ethereum tokens became popular. After all, you can’t have a new political system without disrupting the global economy. How do you raise 25 million without a bank involved? We interviewed Herb Stephens about how ICOs work, the current state of Ethereum, tokens and financial sovereignty outside of the current structures of centralized banks and centralized markets.

Def Con hackers made quick work of electronic voting machines

Published on Jul 31, 2017

At Def Con — an annual hacking conference held in Las Vegas — hackers were given the rare chance to crack into US voting machines. It took one person just 90 minutes to hack in and vote remotely on one of the machines.

Read more:



Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, announces his bid to be the Democratic party’s nominee to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on May 31, 2017, in West Baltimore.

July 24 2017 (

ONE UNHERALDED REASON for Trumpcare’s many difficulties was a sea change in public opinion. A new Associated Press poll finds that 62 percent now agree the federal government has a responsibility to provide health coverage to all Americans, up from 52 percent in March. Republicans looking to take away coverage ran headlong into this wave of support for a bigger governmental role in health care.

“Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. — once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away,” President Trump concluded.

Indeed, when Kansas Republican Jerry Moran issued the statement that effectively killed the bill’s hopes, his opposition was described in the press as having come from a conservative direction. And while it was cloaked in right-wing rhetoric around choice, the politics of the statement leaned decidedly left. “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans,” said Moran, fully aware that protections for pre-existing conditions, couples with lower overall costs, require a robust government intervention in health care.

Capitalizing on the new politics, progressive groups have distributed a “People’s Platform” that includes a Medicare-for-All single-payer system. And in state capitols, activists have demanded single payer, hoping a demonstration project proving the concept will catch fire, the way a universal system in Saskatchewan in the 1940s migrated to the rest of Canada.

The movement has won some incremental victories, but has yet to get over the top. Vermont passed the framework legislatively and then abandoned it. Colorado’s quiet effort was crushed at the ballot box. California has spent 25 years trying to pass something without success, and this year’s effort is stalled. A Medicaid buy-in bill in Nevada this year drew a veto from its Republican governor. New York’s odd conservative control of the Senate seems to foreclose a solution there in the near term.

There is one state, however, where a combination of fewer institutional barriers and existing health care structures could make health-care-for-all an achievable reality: Maryland.

It will take a grassroots groundswell and electoral victories, especially in next year’s governor’s race. One prominent gubernatorial candidate, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, has ardently endorsed single payer. “We have the opportunity in this state to make sure that we don’t have any more neighbors burying loved ones because they didn’t have access to health care,” Jealous said at an event where Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed him for governor.

If elected, Jealous would face fewer procedural obstacles than those that have dogged California in its long battle to establish a single-payer system. While Maryland, like California, has robust Democratic supermajorities in the legislature, there is no two-thirds requirement to raise taxes, and no budgeting straitjacket mandating certain percentages of state spending to education or other priorities.

And while states do need federal waivers to incorporate programs like Medicare into a state-run program, Maryland is the only state to already hold a Medicare waiver. It enables a unique system known as all-payer rate setting, which serves as the basis for universal health care in several industrialized nations. In other words, while other states would have to begin from scratch to overhaul their health care systems, Maryland has a head start.

MARYLAND IS THE only state in America where all hospitals must charge the same rate for services to patients, regardless of what insurance they carry. There’s some variance between hospitals, but every patient in a particular hospital pays the same. Other states experience huge, seemingly random differences in hospital costs, depending on the insurer (or lack thereof).

Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission has set hospital reimbursement rates for over 40 years. The state obtained a federal waiver to include Medicaid and Medicare in its all-payer system, with the goal of keeping cost increases below Medicare growth. And it’s worked, creating the lowest rate of growth in hospital costs in America.

In 2014, to prevent hospitals from making up profit margins through volume, Maryland tweaked the system, adding global budgeting. “The traditional way it worked, every hospital got a rate card,” said Joshua Sharfstein, an associate dean at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a former head of Maryland’s Health Department. “Now you get a number, which is the total revenue for the year.”

Because the global budget doesn’t change based on the number of admissions, this creates hospital incentives toward better outcomes. “It makes the health system focused on keeping people healthy rather than just treating illnesses,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, a state advocacy group. That includes increased preventive treatment, using case managers to connect patients to primary care, eliminating unnecessary tests, and encouraging good health outside the hospital walls.

Three years into global budgeting, the state is “meeting or exceeding” its goals, according to a January Health Affairs study. Hospital revenue growth is well below counterparts nationwide, or the growth of Maryland’s economy. Plus, state hospitals have saved $429 million for Medicare, more in three years than it targeted for five. Most important, every state hospital (all of which are nonprofit) and every insurer in Maryland are on board with the system.

If a centralized rate-setter bands every insurer together to negotiate prices, all payer can functionally act like single payer in terms of bringing down costs. All payer reduces hospital and insurer overhead, since billing costs are known in advance. And because the Affordable Care Act caps the amountsinsurers can take in as profits, lower hospital costs should flow back to the individual in the form of smaller premiums.

This is why five countries — France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and The Netherlands — use all-payer rate setting as the basis for their universal health care systems. These countries have been found to control costs far better than America’s fragmented system.

The system only applies to hospital payments, not primary care doctors or clinicians. However, last year Maryland submitted a “progression plan” to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with the goal of expanding the system by January 2019. That would line up with the swearing in of Maryland’s next governor.

Other states have looked to Maryland as a model. Pennsylvania has adopted global budgeting for rural hospitals. And in the wake of its single-payer failure, Vermont moved to an all-payer accountable care organization, where providers are paid based on health outcomes for the population. “In some ways it’s more radical [than single payer] if you’re able to get the incentives right,” said Joshua Sharfstein. But the true test of Maryland-style all payer is whether it can support universal coverage for every resident.

MARYLAND HAS A DISCOURAGING history with single payer. Health Care is a Human Right Maryland, an affiliate of Physicians for a National Health Program, did push a bill for several years in the state legislature. “In 2012, we had the bill in the House of Delegates, we lined up what we thought were enough votes in committee,” said Dr. Eric Naumberg, a member of the group’s leadership council. “But the leadership said you can’t bring this to the floor, and then we had seven votes instead of 12.”

Naumberg’s group has since focused on rallying support at the national level. “There are a lot of roadblocks set up for state single payer,” he said, including waivers necessary to incorporate Medicare and Medicaid and potential challenges under federal law regarding employer-based coverage.

Indeed, local politicians aren’t getting pushed yet. “I am not hearing a groundswell of support for a single-payer system or radically re-doing what we currently do,” said Shelly Hettleman, a member of the House of Delegates from Baltimore. “My constituents want to fix the system rather than totally reinvent it.”

However, with Maryland’s novel all-payer structure, you could potentially reinvent health care outcomes by merely tweaking the system. For example, expanding all payer across the health care system, along with tight regulation of insurers to keep premiums low, could mimic some benefits of single payer. Even Vincent DeMarco, who flat-out rejected the notion of state-level single payer, agreed. “If we can do that, we can achieve the same goals in a way that’s doable,” DeMarco said.

Maryland has a relatively low number of uninsured, about 6.7 percent of the population as of 2015. With a cost control mechanism already in place, getting them covered could prove cheaper and easier than other states. “I think you can combine alternative payment approaches with single payer, but you don’t hear about that much,” said Joshua Sharfstein.

Dan Morhaim, a House of Delegates member and an emergency room physician, suggested that the state could offer a benefit package he likened to tiers of coverage in education. “There’s public school, and if you are well-off you pay more to get tutored or go to private school. And you try to bring up that floor broadly and consistently.”

It would obviously still be a huge lift. Entrenched interests still see their survival attached to the status quo. While all hospitals in Maryland are not-for-profit (which is no guarantee against profit-taking), insurers, drug companies, and doctors not currently under price regulation can be expected to put up a fight. And with state balanced budget requirements, you would have to finance a state-run health plan, opening up the tax wars even though individual out-of-pocket costs could drop.

Two things work in Maryland’s favor. First, there’s the renewed support for single payer generally, particularly among progressive activists. Morhaim said that a recent op-ed he wrote for the Baltimore Sun about de-linking health insurance from employment got a wider response than he’s ever seen. “My email box flooded,” Morhaim said.

Second, there’s the promise of the Ben Jealous campaign. He can be expected to put single payer at the top of his agenda for the next year, to a public growing more open to the idea. And Jealous is not a novice at getting the seemingly unattainable done in Maryland politics, mounting lobbying campaigns that helped legalize same-sex marriage, abolish the death penalty, and pass a state version of the DREAM Act. “We are not here simply to elect me governor,” Jealous said at a recent speech. “You do not elect politicians to make change happen, you elect politicians to make it a little easier for a movement to make change happen.”

Jealous’ boldness has already moved Democratic primary opponents in his direction, of which there could be as many as seven. Alec Ross, a Hillary Clinton adviser during the 2016 campaign, who has a controversial plan to have investors loan working mothers money for child care, says he supports a state-based public option. Liberal State Sen. Rich Madaleno endorsed a public option as well, and has said he would “treat health care as a human right.”

Madaleno’s website rejects the idea that states can manage a single-payer plan alone. “One of the cornerstones of single-payer is that the government can negotiate and enforce prices. States can’t do that, only the national government,” it reads. But Maryland actually does precisely this kind of negotiation for hospitals, and could expand it.

Jealous’s nomination, followed up by the defeat of incumbent Republican Larry Hogan in November, would at least put single payer on the agenda in a state with a lot of relative advantages to getting it done. He would have a lot of policy support, with a deep well of knowledge in leadership roles at nonprofit hospitals, as well as from the many members of the part-time legislature who work in the health care system when not in session.

Would Maryland politicians be willing to fight for single payer? “I think the political system would be willing to take that on if the person who argued for it won the election,” Morhaim said. “It’s up to the voters.”

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“SF Supervisor Peskin ramps up drive to rename Justin Herman Plaza [aka Chelsea Manning Plaza]” by J.K. Dineen

July 27, 2017 (

For decades, Justin Herman Plaza has been a place where protesters gather to march up Market Street, an open space for skateboarders to grind and BMX riders to do flips, the site of mass pillow fights on Valentine’s Day and where Cal football fans rally before the Big Game against Stanford.

Now the plaza is subject of something less physical — its very name.

This week, Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution recommending that the Recreation and Park Department strip mid-century redevelopment czar Justin Herman’s name from the plaza, temporarily renaming it Embarcadero Plaza while city policy makers come up with a new moniker.

Herman, who died of a heart attack in 1971, was a driving force behind the redevelopment that displaced thousands of residents — mainly African Americans and Japanese Americans — from 60 city blocks of the Western Addition and Fillmore district in the 1960s. His policies also moved mostly poor people from parts of Chinatown and South of Market.

Peskin said that Herman, who presided over the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency from 1959 to 1971, “personified a dark chapter in modern San Francisco history.”

“This is a public admission that the city made mistakes” in its urban renewal policies of the 1950s and 1960s, Peskin said. “This is a cathartic and important first step in a two-step process.”

While the renaming seems to have broad political support — all 10 of Peskin’s colleagues co-sponsored the ordinance at Tuesday’s board meeting — the effort will inevitably prompt a re-examination not just of Herman’s role in the city history, but also a debate over whose name the space should bear.

“When you name a street or a monument or a park after a person, you are making a statement about what the community values,” said Rachel Brahinsky, a professor of urban studies at the University of San Francisco who has studied Herman’s legacy. “It’s a way of deciding which side of history the city wants to uphold.”

Even before Peskin’s resolution there were campaigns to rename the space after another person. One group wants to call it Maya Angelou Memorial Plaza, after the late poet who spent her formative years in San Francisco and was the city’s first African American street car conductor.

A competing faction wants it to be called David Johnson Plaza, after the 90-year-old African American photographer and community activist known for his black-and-white photographs that captured the Fillmore district before parts of it were bulldozed.

Ironically, one public official who will play a role in the renaming process worked as a special assistant to Herman in the late 1960s. Recreation and Park Commission President Mark Buell did stints in Herman’s office in 1966 and ’67 and again in 1970, after returning from the Vietnam War.

Buell would support renaming the plaza, even though he says Herman was a complicated leader who did a lot of good for the city. He said that removal of thousands of families and destruction of Victorian buildings in the Western Addition was wrong, even if many of the units were dilapidated and owned by predatory slumlords.

“I would be the first to say it was a flawed approach,” Buell said. “The flaw was the cultural disruption of the community, that part of the fabric of the city.”

He said that Herman was “a product of his time.” The urban renewal program Herman oversaw — similar to what Robert Moses carried out in New York — was driven by federal government programs offering two-thirds of the funding to rebuild “deteriorating communities.” That enticement led to the destruction and rebuilding of big chunks of many cities.

Buell also cited Herman’s positive accomplishments: He was ahead of his time in hiring a diverse workforce. He personally paid for Bayview leader Eloise Westbrook to go to Washington, D.C., to lobby for increased funds for public housing in a San Francisco that — even in the 1960s — was far too expensive for many people. He also battled hotel owners over the Yerba Buena redevelopment and pushed for integrated affordable housing in Diamond Heights.

Buell also said Herman wasn’t operating in isolation — he carried out his duties under three mayors, who had ideas of their own.

“There is a lot of blame to go around,” Buell said.

San Francisco resident Julie Mastrine, a performance artist who has spent a lot of time at Justin Herman Plaza, has gathered more than 11,000 signatures to rename the plaza. At first she said that she thought Angelou would be an appropriate namesake but became more of a Johnson partisan after learning more about the photographer.

Either way, she wants it changed. “It upset me that this place I enjoy so much is named after someone I don’t think should be honored in this way,” she said.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s wife, writer Jacqueline Sue, put together a package of information about her husband and has been lobbying members of the Board of Supervisors. Johnson, who was originally from Jacksonville, Fla., turns 91 next Thursday. He came to San Francisco after serving in the Navy to study with Ansel Adams and in 1971 sued the San Francisco school district over desegregation enforcement.

He said he gets a kick from the idea the plaza might one day bear his name.

“I think it’s a splendid idea,” Johnson said. “If it’s going to happen, it’s good that it’s happening now. Not next year or five years from now.

“I never met Mr. Herman,” Johnson said. “But I met a lot of the results of his work. Many of my friends lived in those fantastic, beautiful Victorians in the Fillmore. That entire area got wiped out.”

David Glassberg, a University of Massachusetts history professor, said naming public spaces after individuals “calls attention to places and keeps the memory alive of people who otherwise might be forgotten.”

At the same time, he said, there is a logic to naming parks or plaza after “something that makes it easier to find.”

“Embarcadero Plaza is not a bad name,” he said.

J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @sfjkdineen

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