HA HA HA. Yeah, right. I know, I know. I have less than 90 hours before I likely become homeless. And here I am, showing how water repairs are completed- just as my property manager claimed in court. Fact is, my property manager went right into court, and along with my slumlord’s attorney, smugly proclaimed “all water repairs have been made. Everything was completely fixed. A long time ago.” LIES!
That was on February 21, 2017.
Welp, judge and court found in their favor.
My claims were apparently bogus?
It’s only gotten worse… (March 3, 2017 at 5 PM):
Don’t ever go to court, if you don’t have to. That’s my advice. Certainly when opposing an attorney, and if you are unable to hire one to defend yourself. Lesson learned. A bit late, but oh well. Justice doesn’t matter. What’s the saying about if the facts are against you… argue the law. Welp.
They went on to state that I was the only resident to ever make a complaint about having water issues. Couldn’t introduce facts like a neighbor had ABC News come out to her apartment and film a news segment about the water issues. It was disallowed, denied because it was considered “hearsay.” Forget that nearly every resident won’t dare to risk their homes while living in poverty, on welfare, or retirement savings. “That’s Fresno.” As the saying goes…
Also, the 111-page Code Enforcement report of violations to my property was not allowed either. Judge deemed it “irrelevant.”
Then there is the fact I caught them in the midst of all their lies. Repairs are done? Why is the third water heater not yet installed? Oh, judge felt I was baiting and antagonizing. Dismissed, stricken. I disputed that “water shut-offs were always done with proper notice and were seldom, and never for long.”
Judge asked me how I intended to “PROVE” how long water was shut-off for. And showed my own submitted evidence of notices given. Now, how did I intend to prove they were given on days when water was not shut off? And on multiple days that I “claimed” that water had been shut off, there were no notices? Judge asked me, “Do you have proof? Otherwise I’m dismissing this as conjecture. There are notices right here. They gave them to you. You even provided them as exhibits, yourself! They fixed everything. So what is it you are trying to claim?”
Uh, I withheld January rent for ongoing issues – back to when I moved in in 2015. And water repairs were begun in November, but no closer to being “fixed” before January 5th. Despite all the promises and water shut-offs. I was in court on my 46th birthday (February 21st). Still. Not. Done. Judge chose to see things differently. I wonder how she’d see things if she lived here?
Today is March 3rd 2017. Below are images of my apartment complex. FLOODED.
And Fresno County Code Enforcement verified ALL of my claims. Needed a new toilet, repairs to kitchen and bathroom sinks, new door knob, new dead bolt… Huh.
I tried to introduce proof that property maintenance has been improperly installing toilets. Six citations for improperly installed toilets and five improperly installed doors… “Objection! That isn’t even HIS apartment unit! IRRELEVANT! And he’s claiming something from up to two years ago?!!!” Sustained. Uh, historical precedent? That six toilets were found by the Fresno Code Enforcement Inspector to be improperly installed, just like mine. Same owner, same maintenance staff. Same property. The fact that it is such a large apartment complex (over 200 units and $100,000+ in monthly rental income) just means it has multiple street addresses. One property. Welp.
I mentioned neighbors having issues. “Your honor! Property management has already stated no other person has EVER complained. And your Honor, you already deemed my witness to be highly credible!” Sustained. Judge to me: “Do you have anything substantial to show, say, or prove? Because I won’t allow you to introduce any hearsay or conversations you claimed to have had, evidence against other properties different from the one you live in, and old reports have no bearing on your present case.”
I knew I was doomed when the judge started interrogating me herself, without prompt from Plaintiff’s attorney. Especially the negatively-toned line of questions. ““Isn’t it fair to say that construction work takes longer and problems arise? Isn’t it true that the property manager worked to fix everything? They served notices of water shut-offs. They have fixed everything.” Your honor, I have introduced documents into evidence claiming repairs would be done by the end of November, then December 3rd. Yet, later notices detailed replacing the pipes, installing a new water heater, and replacing other parts. Later they admitted to not even having ordered the replacement pipes by the days they claimed they would be shutting off water to replace them. How could work have been completed in December when they didn’t even ORDER a water heater until the end of January? Their claim to have worked on fixing things was highly inaccurate. Informing us to fill our bath tubs with water to flush our toilets is cause for concern over Implied Warranty issues. Further, “infrequent,” “occasional,” and “seldom” hardly seem descriptive of the water shut-offs. Plaintiff’s attorney stated that water was never off for long, and the least inconvenience possible. But water shut-offs included Thanksgiving Day, December 23rd, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, AND both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“I don’t consider you to be a plumbing expert, so I will not allow your argument. You are done talking now. I won’t allow you any further statements. I’m deliberating on my decision…” WOW.
Anyways. I lost. Notice to Vacate is Tuesday, March 7th at 6:01 AM.
What did I do wrong? Fight for my tenant rights? I understand what happened. Poor City of Fresno needs to protect its more wealthy patrons. Yes, even slumlords. Can’t have disinvestment and blight because they all leave. The City of Fresno owns over 1,000 blighted and abandoned properties. They have no idea what to do with them. They’re worth less than nothing. I’ve tried to suggest many low-cost solutions. They won’t listen and don’t care. They’re pretty much all “owned” by the now defunct Fresno CDA (Community Development Agency). Which has transformed into many new agency names: Downtown Fresno Partnership, Economic Revitalization Committee, Downtown Revitalization Fund, OCEP, and more.
I expect to be homeless in less than 90 hours.
I know the reality I face. No future landlord or property manager will allow me to defend how I got wrongfully evicted. They’ll see “eviction on record” and won’t rent to me. Life is like this. Always. Nothing can be done about it. Just hope for the best.
None of this “matters.” Doesn’t matter that the Fresno Fire Department is here right now in order to help a disabled senior, my downstairs neighbor, exit her unit. Which she cannot do on her own, due to the flooding. No evidence matters at all. I already lost my court case for an Unlawful Detainer Judgment. I already fought for my tenant rights under the California Civil Code 1941.1 “Implied Warranty of Habitability.” And judge found I had no case, no merit, no claim. Judge found in favor of the slumlord. It’s already done.
Que será, será.
Oh, and about slumlords in Fresno. Early this morning (about 2:30 AM) there was a big fire in my neighboring apartment building. Embers wafting to about 25 feet in the air. It was terrible, devastating. I took some photos, actually. The Fire Chief was interviewing a tenant. She claimed she was at home when it started, and she didn’t know how it started. WAIT. WHAT??? Not a squatter? She had PG&E utilities and all? Paid rent? Seriously? It’s apparently okay to have plywood doors and windows in Fresno? Holy shit.
BTW, I still LOVE my M42 to sony E-Mount tilt lens adapter. If you’ve got a photographer’s eye, you may notice the subtle shifting of focal plane in a few photos. Isolating a subject, throwing some specific areas into softer focus or out-of-focus. Notice the depth of field on the two left-most firefighters? Notice the two on the right? Same distance from my lens, but softer focus. The background on the right feathers into soft out-of-focus bokeh. The gear, especially that one oxygen tank were intended to be my focal point here:
Those seventeen curved aperture blades on my Zeiss Jena Tessar 80/2.8 allow all this red light lens flare roll-off. It’s a damn wicked thing that most lenses just cannot accomplish. This:
Hello and thank you for visiting. Please forgive me, I have no idea how to properly express all of this. At any moment, a Fresno County Sheriff is going to come and serve me a 5-Day Notice to Vacate — to lock me out of my apartment.
I am being evicted. Forced to be homeless. Again.
I fought my landlord for negligence, turning off water, not having access to hot water for the past three months, and overall breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability (for a long list of Building Code violations that went neglected for nearly one and one-half years in my apartment). Welp, I lost. So now I owe: back rent, attorney fees, late fees, and service fees. This eviction will stay on my housing record for SEVEN years. I face an impossible situation. Living on less than $900 SSI Disability, trying to immediately secure housing, not enough savings for moving fees, no transportation, physically disabled, and liens against any future income… Meanwhile, my landlord is a direct relative of this horrific Bay Area slumlord.
I’ve suffered some of the most severe injustices. Six years ago, I also lost all that I owned. I know this portrays me as some sort of really bad and irresponsible person. Although I’ve done no wrong. I am disallowed the opportunity to defend myself against negative assertions, prejudices, and foregone conclusions. That’s just how this works.
A losing battle, one I don’t even get to fight.
I ask the impossible of you. I ask that you take me at my word.
That I am open. Honest. Intelligent. Capable. That I constantly strive to be a person of great integrity. That I am not negative. (Ha ha, see what I did there? Ha ha). All I’ve wanted is a chance to live with purpose, help make the world a better place. I’ve lived through extenuating circumstances that allow me a unique perspective on the country’s most serious problems, like: poverty, food security, welfare, blight, education, and job creation for the most disadvantaged.
I have an interminable passion for analyzing difficult topics, breaking them down into their faults/strengths/core strategies/objectives, then brainstorming & researching innovative solutions. My wish is to help implement better solutions to the most difficult socio-economic problems of our times. Social justice for all.
There is so much I still wish to do, share, collaborate on, and contribute. I am ready to move anywhere. Do anything. Help in any ways I can. Overwork me and underpay me. Please just give me a chance. Anybody want to help? Hire me. Fund me to move and work on a difficult issue? Start a nonprofit? Develop urban farms, commercial kitchens, co-share workspaces?
California needs $100 billion to repair its failing infrastructure. Saipan has over 50 blighted properties among major thoroughfares- where tourism is the primary revenue engine. Will Baton Rouge lose up to $1.4 billion in FEMA relief funds to fraud and corruption like New Orleans did after Hurricane Katrina (according to the GAO)?
Don’t we need as many capable people as possible working to address our critical needs? I want to join in and help. I’d be thrilled to work, even for less than $1,000 per month. Anywhere.
Do I care that I undermine my own value? Nope. Just having an opportunity is more important than wealth. Is it relevant that last year my Scope of Work was $30/hour for a major university’s business incubator, innovation, and entrepreneurship program? Nope. Impoverished regions always cite their “brain drain,” where talented workers leave for greener pastures and better jobs elsewhere. Lack of talent in impoverished communities. Okay. Hire me or fund me. Pay my moving costs. I can assure you that I am just as desperate as these poor communities are: Cincinnati, Gainesville, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, El Paso, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Saipan. Yet, I also have skills from working with some of the world’s top talent and businesses. My hardship (and desperation) is what also makes me available. If I were still successful, maybe you recognize the irony of how I wouldn’t be pleading for a chance to move and work in the worst of places? For barely any pay.
I just want a chance. A job. The ability to do good work on the most difficult problems our society faces. The world may discredit me, prejudice against me, and come to unfounded conclusions… all based on my current circumstances of hardship. Is there anybody still willing to actually listen and consider my abilities?
How can I possibly prove myself when society already judges so unfairly against me? Public perception, negative stigma, unjust conclusions. Isn’t this one exact problem that all impoverished and disadvantaged people face? Lack of consideration, inclusion, opportunity. Criminalized without reason.
Everything about my circumstances absolutely sickens me and leaves me numb. I’ve done nothing wrong. I have no recourse. No discussion allowed. I’ve tried so hard. I’ve suffered so much. I don’t understand.
Once I receive my 5-Day Notice to Vacate…
I do not know what is next for me.
It seems nearly impossible for me to break whatever innate behavioral programming “most people” hold. An uphill battle to even garner a conversation. See? I already seem like I’m negative and whining with an intro like this. I’m an optimist and idealist, this is why I keep trying. To break through, to reach somebody willing to engage in one. single. conversation.
I cannot possibly address everything, nobody would read all those words. Either I find somebody open-minded enough to want to talk, or I don’t. I recognize the odds are severely stacked against me. I’ve gone up against this before. Everywhere. All the time. If I thought like everybody else in the world, I wouldn’t be needed. If every social program or economic revitalization worked, poverty would already be solved. Clearly that isn’t the case. How does one fight the status quo? How could I possibly appeal to your own personal ambitions if I don’t know what they are?
I’m ready to move on from trying to engage in dialogue with Saipan and the CNMI. Momentum is waning and I see the law of diminishing returns already setting in. I’m offering whatever I can, to dedicate myself and my life, work tirelessly, with integrity. And… for almost nothing in return. Seriously. Just an opportunity. Because I want to help do something amazing. Different. Unique. Impactful. I know what my “market value” should be. I also know that I don’t care, and that I’m too desperate – or motivated – to care.
I’m living 20% below the federally-defined poverty line. LOL. All because people are so willing to judge me rather than listen or talk with me, incapable of seeing what I am. Looking at me and treating me like I’m not even human. It’s not like I’m deformed or dumb or rude. Confirmation bias: people see & hear what they want to. I don’t prioritize wealth, so this part is easy. I know that makes people feel uneasy, skeptical, dubious… that I could possibly be what I claim. Yeah, I’m more open and honest than I should be, I know. It’s a fault of mine.
Have I scared you away? Okay, just another ‘filter.’ Rest easy, others are just like this, too. Preconceived judgments are tough to break. Chances are you would not be the open-mind leader I seek. The one reading my words, valuing my thoughts, recognizing my value. Okay.
Is it that hard to believe somebody wants to do good? Push them out, dismiss them, ignore them, must be crazy. Gosh, what does that say about our world and our society as a whole?
Whatever, you’re seeking to accomplish… I’m offering help and support. I could post links for hundreds of business models, books, resources, white papers, research studies, statistics, and other data. The fact is, if one hasn’t already sought them out on one’s own, why would one bother to read tens of thousands of pages for thousands of hours? Just because I post some link? Hardly. Why not get me involved, with all that I wish to offer? My knowledge, experience, exposure, interests, and ideas? What would it cost?
That there might be the issue? Guess what?
I’m ONLY available because I’ve suffered from terrible loss, pain, suffering, and trauma. I wasn’t contacting the CNMI when I was making $80K in my mid-20’s. Or when I worked for the biggest fashion designers. Or after I established my professional photography business and charged up to $1600 for a single pet portrait. Or when I sold my oil painted canvases for $1500-2500 each. Or when I had my own business with clients as big as The Museum of Natural History in New York, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and SF Jazz.
No. I’m contacting you NOW. Because all of that is gone.
My loss could turn into something beneficial for some community willing to try. Wanting improvements and innovation. Any community leader, politician, or nonprofit/NGO/agency has the ability to help allow me to transform my current life from hardship into something beneficial. All it takes is giving me a chance to help the world. Sadly, I know… Most are too judgmental of my circumstance– or offer– to even bother. Life goes on. So do the world’s problems and biggest issues…
Soon, I’ll be forced to seek other communities. The five weeks of intensive, exclusive research I’ve done into the CNMI will be in my rearview as I look towards dozens of other impoverished communities possibly willing to consider my offer to help. I’ll bet it will be the same process I’ve faced before. Pretty much nothing. I’d be willing to bet that the first city, the first leaders to contact me will be where I’d move to. I really don’t care where. I just want the challenge of helping to solve the most difficult issues. I know I can contribute something. I’d prefer Saipan and the CNMI. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m going wherever I’d be valued and able to participate. Detroit, El Paso, Camden, East St. Louis, Albuquerque, Philadephia, Flint, Baltimore, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina…
I would look forward to starting a dialogue. Sincerely,
Hafa Adai. Since I posted “I Want to Help Saipan,” I’ve received over 100 unique visitors from the CNMI and Guam, accounting for roughly 200 page views. In barely one week. Thank you. It’s a start.
It seems I’m still up against a lot of the same prevailing mindset. People everywhere believe nobody knows their community’s struggles, without living there. Even though the persistence of hardship, poverty, lack of advanced educational attainment, corruption, inept politicians, and greed are literally everywhere. True, localized problems are always unique, yet I believe the same general principles and problems exist. However, solutions need to be applied based on local. Resources, talents, interests, needs, etc.
“Nobody is stopping you from moving here.”
Each person who dismisses me by saying this has every right to think as they think. “Just wait, if you move here, you’ll see how SaipanSucks.” I get it. What might one in the CNMI know of East Palo Alto or Camden, NJ or Albuquerque? Are their problems more similar or different?
Whether anybody is willing to consider things from MY perspective seems inconsequential. Move 6,000 miles? Without enough financial resources to ever leave the CNMI? With so many discontent and cynical? Where many would rather prejudge me and put me down (or Saipan and the CNMI down) rather than openly engage in productive conversation? Where corruption, greed, and nepotism are rampant. Where funding is scarce. Where educated leaders are few. Doesn’t reflect any of the open-mindedness I seek.
Doesn’t sound very promising, and involves every sort of risk for my own future. All I’ve asked is for people to chime in. There is no “Donate” button on my site. I’ve not asked for money. Just time and effort. I haven’t asked for a job. I’ve asked for dialogue. I’ve asked what can I do to help.
Let’s consider what it would take for me to move. Flight, moving costs, shipping costs, short-term motel or apartment rental, not having ANY furniture or essentials like a bed, mattress, cooking pots/pans, tv, and hundreds of other needs. Think it’s cost-effective enough for me to bring my own power surge protector/extension cords or cordless drill or inkjet printer? What of my few books? Silverware, sewing machine, clothes? USPS shipping seems to cost about $250 per 40-pound box to Saipan.
How much of my entire life can I pack into the two allowed suitcases and a carry-on bag? I’d be living on $735 per month without my current California state subsidy to SSI Disability. Without any interest, without further discussion about potential opportunity, this would be a completely irresponsible gamble for me to take. That’s just how I see it, and it’s my life being determined. If it’s about the CNMI, then it just takes a few minutes for anybody who wants to to open a discussion with me.
If it’s not worth that to you, then it sure as hell isn’t worth it to me. Not dedicating my effort and my life and my livelihood. Not for such unknowns. I’ll move on, I’ll seek another region, another city. One that aligns with my interests and has the same types of hardships and challenges as the CNMI. I’ll find one. Or, maybe I won’t. Maybe I don’t move anywhere. Okay, then, I don’t.
What would it take? Maybe. Maybe some knowledge of others who would share in whatever cause. To improve schools or after-school programs. Enterprise and small business. Environment. Vocational training. Agriculture and food justice. Wanting to open a commercial kitchen. Whatever, anything at all. But all are too complex for me to continue these one-sided blog posts– without knowing more from your end. I cannot specify everything from here on the mainland.
I won’t write 40 speculative business plans and PnL’s. Trying to cover every single potentiality. Why would I? That’s useless, unproductive. I’m investing a lot of time and energy already. Sure, I’ve read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages of documents, policies, briefs, surveys, stats, reports, news articles about the CNMI. I try to get myself informed. You don’t have to care. Sympathy doesn’t hold any value. It’s still easy to say I don’t know. Okay. Fine. Why not share with me how you see things, what can be done, who I might speak with, what you’d like for your future on the CNMI. Maybe. Or, don’t.
Take multiple problems, and address them. A more complex solution. These are available. There are proofs-of-concept. Yes, they have proven to work. Yes, they have found funding. Yes they can do good. Great things. Where are we looking? For what combination of factors? How could they be adjusted to be most beneficial. Most viable? I’m not sure. Local input would be vital. More discussion.
Money is available. There are grants. There are corporate grants. Foundations. Philanthropies. Charitable causes. Social venture funds. And even social funding sources (like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Kiva). There are appropriations in city, commonwealth, and federal budgets. There are specific targets like revitalization, reducing blight, job creation, environmentalism, social justice, health and nutrition, fighting poverty, crime, rehabilitation, hiring disadvantaged persons, education, and more. Where to start, what to work on?
I dream of introducing a commercial kitchen.
Take a blighted building. Maybe damaged in Typhoon Soudelor, or some other neglected, vacant building. Work with Habitat for Humanity of Guam or some other agencies and/or local contractors to renovate it into something amazing. Train some youth in basic carpentry skills for future jobs.
Costs can be reduced through some sort of exchange. A time bank or alternative currency. Credit for when the business opens, future meals. Venue rental for a large party or wedding. Anything at all. Create a meeting place for professionals, student groups, social groups, meetup groups. Town hall meetings, conferences, parent groups, civic engagement. Make it a cafe and restaurant.
Train and hire those from culinary, hospitality, and business management programs from the likes of NMC, OVR, CNMI SBDC, or the CNMI Strategic Workforce Action Team offer. The NMTI culinary program fits this perfectly. Eucon International University and Taiwan’s Ching Kuo Institute of Management and Health are funding training for restaurant and hotel jobs, hospitality, elderly care, and noni fruit cultivation on the CNMI. Hyatt has a funding RFP currently available. Congressman Kilili was instrumental if gaining $13 million in funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative for the CNMI.
Grow fruits and vegetables. Or noni fruit. Or mushrooms. Or all of those. Seek USDA funding. Hire disabled veterans or other disadvantaged people. Seek environmental funding for food security as urban, organic farming. Reclaim restaurant and grocery compost and convert it into nutritious soil components. Involve with local middle schools and high schools. Other schools in the U.S. have started community gardens as a method of teaching environmental awareness and preservation. Some also hold a farmers market to sell their crops, expanding their educational outreach to include business and financial management to the students.
Nearly everybody can cook or bake something amazing.
One doesn’t need to be a “chef” or have gone to CIA (Culinary Institute of America). Just like a person can make one’s own clothes without being a fashion designer by trade. I’ve never heard a single person proclaim they are an accountant simply because they file their own taxes. But many hold family recipes, perhaps passed down for generations. And these can be amazing. Better than those by highly-acclaimed CIA-trained chefs. Let’s monetize this.
What is it you make? There is no bias. Anything at all. Jams, pasta sauces, empanadas, tamales, kelaguen mannok, roti canai and dipping sauces, bibimbap, curries, rotisserie meats, slow-cooked BBQ, bacon, handmade salmon or andouille sausages, seafood paella, congee, gyoza, pies, scones, brioche, quiche, flan, cookies, unique ice cream flavors, mung bean brittle, satay, pad see ew with black beans.
Use our commercial kitchen, with pro-grade appliances and supplies. If you do not have good credit, let us establish the line of credit needed for your food supplies. Buy in bulk, save money, lower costs, lower prices. Teach classes, make some money. Or exchange labor hours for NMC tuition. Distribute goods to affiliated restaurants and cafes. Sell at farmers markets. Help furnish more delicious and nutritious meals to the PSS (public school system).
Learn all that is needed to open a restaurant or food truck. Get help, support other local businesses; and they can help support you. Offer potential for secondary income for those who seek it. Come bake almond brioche one day per week, and let’s see if you can earn an extra $800 per month. Meanwhile, taking the unemployed and putting some to work improves the economy, the tax revenues, the CNMI. For infrastructure. For public officials and governance. For more growth and support. For expansion, another commercial kitchen or restaurant or cafe. More programs. More double ovens or cottage industries. Or maybe to start an artisan coffee roastery. Or handmade cheeses. Local pickles or kimchi. Maybe a facility for canning and jarring. Or to license a fantastic pressure-treated pasteurizing process developed by NASA. Or to dehydrate, powderize, or package food stuffs in order to diversify markets.
Grow some crops, maybe aquaponics. Maybe a vertical farm. Maybe hiring veterans. Maybe mushrooms. Let’s learn what would be most beneficial. What do restaurants or farmers markets or resident need most — that are cost-prohibitive? Fresh coconut juice or coconut milk or coconut oil? Ghee? Honey? Vanilla? Saffron? Strawberries? Let’s find out. Name it.
Together, let’s brainstorm.
How many effective AND cost-effective ways can we work with to solve the CNMI’s biggest issues. Fresh produce, lower costs, reducing carbon, saving the environment. Healthier food at lower prices. Longer shelf lifes, less preservatives. Maybe half-cooked prepared foods for those busy working long hours. Job creation. Food security. Renovate a blighted building. Prepare more construction workers, allowing more capable residents to help with the next major typhoon. Create social space, meeting space, conference space. Increase land value. Increase neighboring businesses’ re-investment into their workplaces. Increase tax revenues, helping to propel infrastructure and other localized improvements. Advance educational means and goals. Build a stronger, tighter community. Clean up trash and waste. Repurpose materials, divert them from the overflowing landfills.
It doesn’t have to be a commercial kitchen, social space, and urban farm. It could be anything. That’s why I really need input. A mentoring program that helps pay college tuition. A health care system to provide for the rapidly growing senior population. A satellite health care center staffed with nurse practicioners. A public transit system. A creative makers lab. Maybe. Anything at all.
You tell me. How can I help you, Saipan, and the CNMI?
Let’s figure it out. Otherwise, I’m only able to conclude that it’s not responsible nor viable for me to move to the CNMI. I have a lot at stake. My move is final. Permanent. I have no reasonable ability to move again. All I want is for a community to give me a reason. Tell me about the how. Rather than saying I DON’T KNOW, why not ask me? Talk with me. Tell me.
I’ve received an email about interest in renewable energy for the CNMI, for instance. Okay, good. Let’s start there. Utilities are outrageously expensive. The incinerators and power plants have some added funding for improvements. Let’s review how Elon Musk got EPA funding for Tesla. Well, his massive, multi-BILLION dollar tax incentives from the State of Nevada (for his GigaFactory) won’t be applicable from the CNMI. Alright. So, how can renewable energy get funded? How can it avoid the pitfalls of all the renewable energy scams?
One CNMI Senator has contacted me directly about environmental conservation for Rota. Sure, let’s work this through. Let’s discuss the rights of the indigenous Chamarro and Carolinians and increasing their historical preservation and recognition. Let’s discuss water pollution along the coastlines and illegal fishing activities. How about a time bank currency? Instead of asking people to simply volunteer for beach and trash cleanups, let’s work with local business partners to incentivize the necessary work.
A contest to design a local monument? A coastal preserve to fight rising ocean levels? Maya Lin shocked a lot of people when she won the design contest for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Carolyn Davidson was paid $35 for designing the Nike Swoosh logo while she was still a graphic design student at Portland State University. Any who followed Frank Gehry’s work prior to the stunning architectural marvel the Guggenhim Bilbao, would be amazed that design came from him. But he’d worked on it, and various iterations of the Disney Concert Hall before the Guggenheim got green-lighted. Talent and inspirational work can come from the most unexpected sources.
Airlines use vacant seats as commodities all the time — frequent flier mileage programs. What about empty movie theater seats? Empty restaurant tables? Empty desks in NMC classes? Can we swap those and fulfill multiple issues at once? Why not? “Volunteer” for 2.5 hours and get a free movie ticket or meal at a restaurant or something else of value. If somebody has an advanced, necessary skill like land surveying or electrical engineering or environmental law… Trade for a free advertisement spot with tv or newspaper or billboard space. Know how to fix cars or boats? Exchange some hours to the park service or coast guard and maybe the Small Business Administration “waives” your annual business license fees? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe anything.
It’s all about unmet needs and underutilized resources.
I still hope more local CNMI residents and leaders will be in touch.
It’s easy to sit back and judge that I don’t know, cannot know, wouldn’t be of any use. I’ve furnished a lot of ideas, information, research, case studies, examples, links, and experience. Strategies, plans, quotes, citations. You can read my words, furnish nothing, and yet you are proven right by default. Because I won’t engage in defending myself to your negative assertions, and you already presume you are right. I don’t know. You have that right. I can’t and won’t stop you. Couldn’t even if I wanted to. You needn’t qualify yourself in any manner. That you’ve experience dealing with think tanks from M.I.T. and Stanford University. What you’ve read. What you know. How many leading politicians you’ve worked with directly. What your work experience is like. Whether you also have experienced hardship and can address these difficult issues better than those in charge, who have not. Therefore, you ARE already right. I’d rather somebody ask, “What do you think about helping to solve ________ ?” Or “I’d like to work with you.” Or any other discussion that can help propel change, improvements, or make an impact in the CNMI.
No doubt you have questions, doubts, skepticisms. About me.
About what I want. About what I offer. About the WHY.
I’d ask for open-mindedness, but I realize that isn’t fully possible. I know that any claims towards my abilities may seem arrogant or defensive or condescending. I know I shouldn’t offer such “open truths” about my own struggles and hardships. I know how I experience judgment and dismissiveness. How I am labeled. How I am predetermined to be incapable, if I live in poverty or must’ve failed in some manner- to once become homeless and on welfare.
Huh. Okay. Please get all that out of your system.
Please consider my words. What have I asked for?
Not one thing other than a conversation.
I am aware that I have a very capable mind. That I think differently than most. Again, I don’t mean to boast, and this is not intended to reflect any sort of egotism. My point is that the “status quo” is hard to fight. We each spend our entire lives building up our own belief systems. Trying to challenge that with innovative solutions or unique views is already nearly impossible. Add on that I offer so many reasons for anybody to discredit me.
– He must want something.
– There must be something wrong with him.
– His story doesn’t sound possible.
– Maybe he’s crazy or delusional.
– Why would he want to move HERE?
– Our problems can’t be fixed.
– He thinks he knows better than all of us, that’s absurd.
So, why Saipan? Why the CNMI?
Simple, from my perspective.
I wish to move to a new, permanent home/region. Help work to solve the hard issues. I figure I understand hardship about as well as anybody. I understand the uphill battles. I know how it feels when the world and society disowns you. I still hold my spirit and want to fight. For myself, for others, for a better world. For a specific community. To feel valued, to belong, to believe I am important and have made an impact. To help others. To use what skills I believe I have. I’m talking about seeking out the most impoverished communities and regions. And the CNMI seems a lot more appealing than Cleveland or Detroit or East St. Louis IL or Camden NJ or El Paso. Yeah? Make sense? Okay.
Also, I must recognize that these major cities (like Detroit, for example) have many capable people. They have more available funding, more visibility. Within a much larger community. I said I want to fight the hardest problems, so what about an insular economic community, a U.S. Commonwealth that isn’t even an afterthought to most Americans? A place as far away in mindset and miles as the Philippines or Japan. And also lacking in visibility, economic opportunity, educational institutions, stricken with corruption, and less economic aid.
But a beautiful island culture and environment! Okay!
So, I start with where I’d wish to go. To start the next portion of my life. If there is no opportunity, then I can still try to connect with Detroit or Cincinnati or others. There is always hardship, everywhere.
Please allow me, indulge me.
I’ll use a 5-point scale, or spectrum, to define things:
Okay, let’s set a baseline. Putting your savings into a bank account that earns less than one-half of one-percent APR interest while inflation rates at 3%+ per year is an absolute negative. You lose spending power, that’s a guarantee. A net loss. An “absolute negative (failure).” Make sense?
Now, let’s consider some various problems and solutions.
All those on welfare are a net-negative to the economy. No, this is no judgment on a person or people. Please understand, I am one such person. I mean, it draws costs. Without return. Negative. And it perpetuates. Unless that person can gain employment and become a working citizen again. Productive, tax-paying, economic contributor. Positive. Value.
I’m not claiming they hold NO value. Not true. But there are ways to turn these programs into positive economic values, we just have to recognize completely different solutions are available. Instead of employing (paid) staff to serve, drive, haul, administrate, etc… Instead of relying on donated canned foods. Instead of perpetuating a cycle of need. What can be done?
Why not start a community garden? Have disadvantaged and low-income people help tend to fruits and vegetables. Once a week, young students can use it for after-school care and learn agricultural techniques, learn to appreciate our environment. That’s also free child care for low-income working families. Do you know that over 60% of all people living in poverty have at least one household member working full-time? It’s true. Crops can go towards the needy. Perhaps some crops can be sold at farmers markets or to local restaurants. Drivers can be hired to collect compost, turning it into valuable soil. Or maybe organic, aquaponic techniques are used to cultivate the food. Lessening the footprint and increasing yields. Less transit time, no carbon, more shelf days of freshness. More nutrients. Lower costs.
It’s all about matching unmet needs with underutilized resources.
Brainstorm a problem, any problem, and there are solutions available that can address multiple challenges at once.
So, human capital? Absolutely. Okay, maybe some cannot work on the garden. Live too far away, students in school, whatever reason. But we now have a replenishable commodity– produce: fruits, vegetables. Somebody wants to “volunteer” to help paint a school in need? Or help coach a sports team? Or mentor foster children? Again, anything where labor cannot be afforded at minimum wage, or lacks funding. Okay, work an hour and receive a voucher for fresh produce. Now more food stamps budget can go towards essentials like baby formula. Make sense?
Expand the circle, the supply chain. A local restaurant wishes to have their windows cleaned and sidewalk swept weekly. But, budget is tight, the economy is tough. Minimum wage is rising, costs continually go up. Okay. A local resident regularly cleans their streetfront. That’s worth produce vouchers. Those are now exchanged with the restaurateur. She uses them to purchase vegetables for her menu, and feeds the worker in exchange. Why does this work? Because labor costs for food prep are already set, rent is already set. Food costs are roughly 30% of menu pricing. So, essentially… The worker gets a $10 meal for an hour’s work. The restaurateur exchanges $3 in labor costs. The community farm earns income that helps pay for supplies and equipment. Everybody benefits. A STRONG POSITIVE.
How many were positively affected? How much “more” did this cost compared to staffing and running a food bank? What about the work skills to all those involved. A sense of training, of responsibility, of belonging. Of being valued.
It is my belief that ANY major issue can be solved in this manner. Let’s figure it out, let’s talk.
Could the CNMI consider some program like an alternative currency? To help solve multiple issues with extremely low financial obligations. Not necessarily a literal replication of either model. But the framework of either. It’s all about matching unmet needs with underutilized resources. Maybe it is renovating blighted or typhoon-damaged buildings. Or opening a greenhouse for food justice and employing the disabled.
– A sort of community currency to improve and sustain the beautiful environment of the CNMI. This proof-of-concept example in Brazil quickly converted one of their poorest favelas into a recipient of the United Nations Environmental Program’s highest award, the Globe Sustainable City Award.
– A Saber system (not necessarily for education), but one that exchanges work for another need. With an important “multiplier” to optimize financial resources and solutions to critical needs within the CNMI.
BUT WAIT. You wonder about counterfeiting? I mean, it’s a currency. It’s valuable. I’m speculating on your response, but trust that I have heard it all before. Let’s follow this. Nothing is that difficult. Hire some local woodworker to make 2,000 tokens out of bamboo. Make them labor intensive enough that it isn’t worthwhile to counterfeit. No, we don’t need to waste funds on getting BSI to manufacture custom casino chips, as cool as those might look. Ours could be even better. Take discarded compact discs, divert them from landfill. Help save the landfill site(s) from further overflow and save the precious environment. Punch them into “coins.” Then find a local silk-screen printer with what is called a “pad stamp.” Like they use to imprint golf balls and other irregular objects. Put a silk-screened logo on them. Nice.
Can’t afford their services? Really? Exchange some free meals from one of the participating restaurants, again at less than 50% of value by trade. Or with a participating retailer. We just cut costs. We just got business to a printer, a restaurant, a community farm. To the disadvantaged people in need. We created jobs. Training, employable skills, networking. Sales of produce helps produce income. Therefore, this could become a revenue engine and possibly self-sustaining. Future funding could then address another need– let’s say an improved water supply or advanced education. Maybe a public transit bus system. Whatever.
Now, just think, isn’t ALL OF THAT better than simply perpetuating a food bank? Sucking more funding. (I have nothing against food banks, they do good and noble work. Just an example). Always supplying a demand, but never solving the actual problem? I think so. And I know it can be done. It’s been done all over the world. Throughout history. Over 4,000 alternative currencies are in operation right now, today. They work.
So, why did I title this post “This is Awkward”? Oh…
Uhhh, oh, yeah. Because I really don’t like bringing up myself and talking so much about me. Putting my personal info out there. Describing more of my challenges or difficulties. Justifying things that are unknowable. Any who have tried to find me on social media, I’m not active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. You won’t find me active on Yelp. I don’t use my Real Name for Amazon reviews or on Yelp or Meetup. Sorry. My life has been threatened by my own family. So, I don’t want them to find me. Sure, I could create a ‘fake’ name and accounts. IMO, it’s all the same. Then I’d be required to lie. Then I’d eventually need to explain my deceit to those I am asking to trust me, to work with me. Awkward.
Oh, my site analytics and tracking shows that one person out there found some Easter eggs. No, not really. I mean, followed through to my Disqus (private profile) and went onto my SF Giants blog. Hey, no worries. It’s public domain. It’s gotten more than 250,000 page views in the two years since I launched it. Even if I don’t optimize my SEO for personal reasons (family, again). I applaud you. Whoever YOU are. One person in the CNMI. That’s my type of thing. I do that. I follow what you did, I do that type of thing myself. I appreciate your thorough investigation. Props. I wish you’d drop me a line or comment, per-maybe-haps we think alike?
I’m not shooting these days. I struggle with so many things. Mostly trying to better my life, constantly fighting uphill. Against my human rights, my civil rights, for opportunities. But I’m proud of some of my images, some of my work. I especially enjoyed my period of “experimental photography.” I made my own film developers (yes, film!) from all sorts of household ingredients. It started with developing film in coffee. Then tea. Then orange peels, rosemary, Tang, wine, juice, tree bark. Yes, seriously. It was wild. I dreamt of one day having a gallery show. I had gained a fair amount of attention with my work. I always thoroughly enjoyed doing it. And sharing, building community.
This image was created on two cameras using multiple exposures on Fuji Sensia 100 film. One camera was medium format, so a larger film frame size, hence the variance in what I call “interlaced images.” And “shooting through the sprockets.” You can notice the emphasis of longer wavelengths (reds and oranges) compared to shorter color wavelengths (blues) in how the multiple exposure images “interlace” between the light and shadows:
For this image, I used a technique called “microclicing” to slowly advance a multiple exposure on Ilford HP5-Plus 110-format film. I developed this in my own homemade half-coffee, half-tea film developer I called CaffandHalf. The sepia toning is an inherent quality of the developer ingredients:
This was taken in a science museum (Exploratorium) exhibit about “How Comets Are Formed.” Shot in black and white JPEG. I colorized it to effect in post-processing (Photoshop and other editing software). The exhibit drops tiny pieces of dry ice from a conveyor belt into a vat of water, they spin around and form exciting “comet tails.” That’s this:
I shot this image just days before I met, hung out with, and shot with one of the most spectacular, world-famous photographers Ben Von Wong. Sometimes your whole life of learning, work, preparation, and enthusiasm can help you get lucky. Here’s a fire performer that uses two lighted “Fire Whips.” Both are cracking here, and those are the flame trails you see. Believe it or not, this was shot with the cheapest interchangeable lens camera (Sony A3000) ever sold, and a $100 manual focus legacy Zeiss Jena Tessar 80mm f/2.8 lens from the old M42 camera mount. Hey, use what you got, and do the most with it:
Dang. I didn’t intend to turn this into a photo blog.
To a more somber topic.
I’m currently facing eviction. No, not for any sordid reason. Because I’ve lived for 16 months in my current apartment, often without access to hot water. And occasional running water shutoffs without notice. This is California Civil Code 1941.1, known as The Implied Warranty of Habitability. And about a dozen building code violations. Certified by the Code Enforcement Inspector and his expert report. I am quite familiar, due to my housing rights advocacy experience and other social justice work. So, I withheld rent until this problem was at least discussed with me, or resolved. Instead, my landlord denied conversation and retaliated by serving me an eviction notice. The day after I called Fresno Code Enforcement and filed a complaint, I got served my first 3-day pay or quit notice.
I’m advocating for myself and my own tenant rights, but also for 50 other apartment units in my complex and nearly 75 residents that cannot or will not speak up for themselves. Realize that there has been only ONE communal one-hundred gallon hot water boiler for all 50 of these units. For years. I’m fighting and jeopardizing my housing. To fight for social justice for all. This is what I do. I am capable, I know my rights, I don’t accept that some slumlord should be entitled to “get away” with this simply because due process is so intimidating and exhaustive.
I’m somewhat frightened to post my full personal info (including address), but I really don’t even care any longer. Come what will. I’m tired of hiding, tired of fighting for my personal privacy. I want better than this.
These are horrific people, beyond what most can even imagine.
Reddy, my landlord, is a direct relative of Bay Area slumlords. Criminals. Human traffickers. Rapists. Killers. Convicted of witness tampering, immigration fraud.
I’m not dense. I know I could blackout my personal info before uploading it. Or otherwise blur/edit it. Six years I’ve lived my life in fear of my own sick and abusive parents. Enough. I won’t continue living like that forever. So, whatever. For so long I’ve suffered what I never deserved in the first place.
Good news? Do I have ANY? Well, yes. I got a new toilet, sorry I don’t mean to be crude. My bathroom and kitchen sink were repaired. My front door got replaced, I had a one-inch gap in the doorknob cut-out that allowed air in, and rattled. My font door strike plate didn’t allow my deadbolt to latch shut, that’s fixed. I got a functioning smoke detector. Not bad. But it cost me, I’ve jeopardized my housing. Stupid trade-off, I know. And my security deposit was paid by a nonprofit, so I won’t get it back. I cannot afford to move. Oops.
Here’s a photo I took of the water main pipe that connected to our water heater just two weeks ago. Yes, every apartment tenant was drinking and using water from this pipe, until recently. The only way to bring attention to these MAJOR issues was by standing up to my slumlord property owners and calling Code Enforcement. Otherwise this water main wouldn’t have ever been noticed– or replaced! Imagine.
As if I don’t have enough issues…
No hot water, no running water… Slumlords… Eviction…
I’ve got two finance issues to contend with. The IRS claims I owe back taxes for the year I was homeless. When I addressed them with my dispute, they denied my defense. I get no judge, no jury, no trial. I know what happens. The same agency that made an error won’t admit to it. Regardless of my proof. That I never lived at the claimed address, that other people share my common name and surname. That I have evidence I had not worked or earned any income. That my social security number proves this. That I even formally closed my business of record. So? IRS wiped my bank account in an imposed bank lien. $450 *GONE*. All my savings. No recourse. They set the law, they are the law.
Meanwhile, my credit union drew in the numeric field of my personal check. I made payment for my January 2017 credit card bill. How did they overdraw my account by $1,000? How did that “i” get drawn on my check? What about the LEGAL requirement that they honor the amount as it is hand-written. How did CHASE bank honor this and convey the wrongful amount? My credit union is to blame, but they simply voided the transaction and said “sorry.” CHASE claims it doesn’t verify in the universal electronic clearing house software (“Catalyst”). So, my $1,000 is floating in hyperspace. Unavailable to me to live on for the past three weeks.
I swear I couldn’t even make this stuff up. What happened when I called the Fresno Police Department? I got a callback from a Fraud Department Detective. Here’s my conversation with her, in summation:
Me: “A perfect sequence of events had to take place for this error to happen. I find that unlikely. I’d like to request an investigation. If for no other reason, so that this NEVER happens again- to anybody.”
FPD: “But there’s no fraud, you said it paid your credit card bill. So you have all your money.”
Me: “It wasn’t that much. They overdrew funds. There is an added number written by hand on my check. They are required to use the hand-written amount. How did CHASE not also confirm the handwritten amount? Where is the balance of my funds? I do not have that $1,000. I’d clearly describe this as ‘not having my money.'”
FPD: “There is nothing I can do. There is nothing you can do. There is nothing to be done. I am telling you this isn’t fraud. Your money isn’t gone. It paid your bill.”
Me: “No, it OVERDREW my account. And my bill wasn’t that much. And the balance isn’t in my accounts. I don’t feel the issue here is whether these funds paid MY own credit card or not. The process is flawed. Would you take this more seriously if the payee were somebody other than myself? Because, the “error” is the same. And the money is missing just the same.”
FPD: “Let me tell you something. You need to learn how the world works, and learn to deal with it. I won’t take a report. I won’t file a fraud case. You said yourself that you paid your own bill. There is no issue. There is no theft. There is no fraud.”
Me: “Respectfully, that is untrue. I don’t have the money. How can anybody be certain that this isn’t fraud. All I wish is that you confirm it. And help ensure this confluence of errors is never allowed to happen again- to anybody.”
FPD: “Okay… (laughing loudly)… You want me to start, give you a case number. Start a file. Do you know where that report would go?”
Me: “… I don’t know… Probably straight to the bank?”
FPD: “MY. TRASH. CAN.”
How does a police Detective talk to a citizen in such a manner? I did nothing wrong. I have no criminal record. No drug history. No history of violence. I did not raise my voice. I did not curse. I explained. I asked, I requested help.
I know that this world is full of people like this. I know I can help others…
So. Out $450 due to a wrongful bank lien. Out $1,000 due to some non-fraud with my bank and credit union. No water, no hot water. Today I got served my Unlawful Detainer (lawsuit/eviction). Like the police and medical professionals and social services didn’t once steal away my entire life already. Without cause, without justification. I got no trial. I had no hearing. I was given no opportunity to even defend or explain myself. The ACLU wouoldn’t even take my case. Free legal services wouldn’t even listen, only hearing that I must be crazy. An INVOLUNTARY commission (5150) is a clinical definition. A wrongful label I live with. In poverty. On welfare. And every sort of judgment and condescencion most people cannot even imagine. Like I’m not even human. Pathetic. Useless. I get ridiculed. I know. If you’ve ever felt this way, believe me I KNOW.
All because my family could gain over $600,000 from me, my property, my possessions, my bank accounts. My condo, my car, my photography gear, my belongings. And no, they didn’t own them. I did. Stealing my beloved dog away from me. Overdrawing all my bank accounts. Not even paying off my credit cards or utilities. Leaving a wake of credit destruction upon me for seven years. Leaving me unable to get a drivers license because of however they sold my car. I don’t even know. I just know that I cannot get a license, I’ve tried.
Oh, and dang. I started my morning with my water shut off. Using bottled water to fill my coffee maker, I accidentally broke my coffee carafe. Great, just great. Uh-huh. lol.
So, why Saipan? Why am I available to do such work for so little?
Why do I wish to move? How could I have no friends or support network?
The bigger question is why the heck do I care to help the world that has done nothing but destroy me?
I don’t know. I keep trying to figure that one out. My brain doesn’t quit. My spirit is relentless. It is inherent in my nature to enjoy helping others. Maybe I still believe in myself only because that’s all I have left, when nobody else does. But, just maybe, I can stop similar hardships from happening to others.
If only somebody somewhere chooses to believe in me and ever give me a chance.
I’m ready. I don’t ask much. Only for a chance to do some good.
I’ve received a fair amount of traffic here. I appreciate it. But not because of some vain notion based on social media. Because you have taken time, because you invested your own energy. Please, share my offer to help Saipan. Maybe you know an educator or nonprofit or business owner or politician. Maybe you are poor yourself. Fed up, wishing there were more opportunities for you. I cannot BRING them with me. But I believe that I can help create them. But not alone. With you, with your help, with others in the CNMI.
Internet and social media doesn’t have to be solely for weather reports, cat videos, whimsical memes and GIFs, and porn. I know of many instances where it started something magnificent. Ben Von Wong quit his day job to do photography when he reached 100,000 Facebook followers. An Apple engineer got recruited from New Zealand and hired from his LinkedIn profile. I know a photographer who sold his image from flickr to Frank Zappa for an album cover. I know a garage band from Michigan that sold a song (from their old MySpace page) to Nike for tv commercials. I was once hired to cover two successive SF auto shows for a well-recognized car website. Three days later, the founder thanked me. He claimed my images “got picked up by the AP newswire and other media agencies and delivered him an unusual surge of 60,000 additional page views. Here’s one before-and-after of my delivered images:
I could go on and on. If there are ways to help yourself, me, and the rest of the CNMI; what is it worth? A few minutes? Linking or referring somebody to my offer to help? Sending me an email or responding via Disqus comment? Ask me anything. I’m doing all I can. How can a cause for justice gain momentum? Don’t do it for me. Do it only if you believe in trying, if you deem there is any chance of doing good and making an impact. If there’s an inkling in your mind that the velocity of getting me to the CNMI could be beneficial. Or, simply to ask a trusted friend, “Hey, do you think this guy is for real?”
Yeah, I’d love to move to Saipan and the CNMI.
I want to help. I want to contribute.
I want to fight for SOcial JUstice for All! soju
I appreciate your time, interest, and consideration.
I’m tired of one-way conversations where I do all the ‘talking.
I’d like to hear from you. Thank you.
My name is David Pan. I’m 45 years old, Chinese-American, and have worked in varied industries from professional sports to fashion design to event production to photography to business incubation to entrepreneurialism to social justice advocacy, policy, and nonprofits. I am looking to define the next portion of my life. I want to help change the world, make it better. I want to help make a difference. I want to help develop economic revitalization. I would like to become a valued member of a new community. I want to fight for social justice for all. I am prepared to move anywhere, do anything, help in whatever way I fit in.
I would like an opportunity to help YOU, Saipan, and the CNMI.
I believe I hold a very unique blend of skills. I’d like any chance to prove it, to use them. I hope you will please contact me.
———— please feel free to share this —————
[A similar version of this post is available:
as a downloadable, formatted, printable, six-page PDF here]
My entire life has formed me into who I am. I like to solve problems. I challenge myself towards divergent thinking, creative problem-solving techniques. I enjoy reading and research. I work hard, with integrity. I like to face the most difficult issues with innovative solutions. I like working with others. I do not need to be in charge. I appreciate being part of a team. I enjoy having a sense of community and making a difference.
I wish to move to Saipan and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. I’d like to call your home my home.
I understand you may face incredible social, economic, and infrastructure challenges. How can I help?
I’ve worked with top policy makers, politicians, nonprofits, NGOs, advocacy groups, community groups, educators, media, artists, and industry leaders. I’ve worked with business incubator and vocational rehabilitation programs. Food justice. Tenant advocacy. Housing rights. Subsidized housing councils. Legal advocacy groups. Code enforcement. Department of Health. Department of Building Inspection. Superintendents of Education. Chambers of Commerce. Mayors of San Francisco and Councilpersons. City and County Supervisors. Chiefs of Police. Economic revitalization programs. Economic and Community Development officers from big companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, the Golden State Warriors, and Flickr. Chefs and restaurateurs. Tech labs, maker labs, and think tanks. Student groups. Celebrities. Famous artists and photographers.
I helped launch Tommy Girl and other ventures (like Blue Label) for Tommy Hilfiger; Old Navy for Gap; chictopia.com; and Spiële (an activewear company). I developed a social business venture project — and nearly landed Al Gore onto my Board of Directors– to focus on social and environmental justice within the apparel manufacturing industry. I helped produce a major fundraising event for the original Mario Botta designed SF MOMA. I helped produce the largest fashion show on the west coast (Macy’s Passport) two consecutive years. I helped run the Fashion Office of the former San Francisco Fashion Center. I’ve worked beside Olympic-level coaches. My ambitions and work ethic have enabled me to accomplish some of my wildest dreams.
I’ve been influenced by some of the foremost artists, trend setters, and creative minds of our time. Ad agencies like Foote, Cone & Belding, Peter Arnell Group, and Goodby-Silverstein; talent management like IMG, Croft PR, and Ford Models; artists for everybody from Disney, Bechtel, Chevron, Oracle, Microsoft, Porsche, General Motors, EA Games; creative design firms like IDEO and RoBrady; and a founder of CMYK Maagazine. I’ve held personal relationships to leading artists, architects, and photographers like John Mattos, Richard Leech, Buckminster Fuller, Isamu Noguchi, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Fred Pardini, Nike photographer Marcus Eriksson, Beatnik photographer Larry Keenan, National Geographic photographer Nate Johnson, Marius Muresanu, Gerald Bybee, and Ben Von Wong.
I’ve worked alongside dozens of top fashion designers, Vera Wang, Bill Blass, Carolina Herrera, Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui, John Bartlett, Thierry Mugler, Tommy Hilfiger. My working knowledge extends to design companies like New Balance, Calvin Klein, Nike, Club Monaco, FUBU, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Sharper Image, and others. I’ve worked with and/or personally known singers, actors, and celebrities like Usher, Aaliyah, Roberta Flack, Shemar Moore, Robin Williams, Savion Glover, the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow, the Fugees, KRS One, and more. Behind-the-scenes talent for some of the most successful Hollywood blockbusters, San Francisco and New York City restaurants, and multi-platinum recording artists. I’ve learned from personal conversations with renowned chefs Jacques Pepin, Mario Botoli, Patrick Woodside, and Nigella Lawson. I’ve had the fortune to meet gifted authors like Brian Greene, Dave Eggers, and Tom Robbins. I’ve learned, from the inside, what helps allow companies like Odwalla Juice and Rollerblade become hugely successful trends.
I’d like to believe that at least a tiny bit of the knowledge they’ve generously imparted to me has sunk in.
How can I help you? Can we talk?
I understand Saipan previously had apparel manufacturing as a major economic engine. I also understand you may hold strong misgivings and judgments against me for having been a part of this exploitative business. If only you would allow me an opportunity to explain my stance and my perspectives. I quit my career because of their unconscionable practices. Have all these garment workers left? What became of all those industrial sewing machines and equipment? What can be done with this equipment, if it is still on Saipan in disrepair and neglect? Can we discuss this?
Is internet access difficult, or restricted to fairly slow speeds? Sure, I’ve read your previous $1.2M NTIA Broadband grant and 2016 $8M IT&E broadband grant for the CNMI (and the related 2014 CNMI Broadband Survey/Report). What other major infrastructure challenges do you face? Was the water system built around WWII and now deteriorated? Are your water mains massively corroded galvanized steel? I understand most NMI residents drink bottled water due to the poor taste of the available tap water? Does your electrical grid become overloaded during typhoons or on hot days?
I understand utilities bills are supremely expensive- even though as high as 30%+ of the CNMI residents live in poverty. Can you look to newer solutions? Wind, geothermal and/or solar? For instance, Iceland and Costa Rica generate 100% of their power needs through renewable energy. Elon Musk’s, Tesla, has fast-tracked an 80 megawatt battery backup substation for the Los Angeles grid. What kind of value proposition would it take to incentivize such implementation for the CNMI?
When was the last time a major benefactor like Ford Foundation (or other philanthropies) helped support the CNMI in any manner? I ask because I don’t know if they ever have. How “forgotten” and “overlooked” and “neglected” is the CNMI in “America?” Can I help you change this? There are others, many others. There are social venture funds. Many avenues which just might be available. With diligence and effort. What can I help with to propel this cause? Tell me. Do you need a projected PnL? Five-year, ten-year, 25-year? Is job creation your foremost priority? Fighting poverty? Environmental preservation and stewardship? Affordable housing? Infrastructure and technology? Manufacturing? Advanced education? It is my understanding that your only college, NMC, received its reaffirmed WASC accreditation through 2020, but currently offers only two bachelor degree programs? It’s quite a conundrum, reflected by the overall lack of advanced educational attainment on the CNMI.
How do you commonly lure top talent to Saipan? Teachers who come and go every couple years? Corporate suits whose only wish is to exploit your lower minimum wage compared to mainland USA? Sure, I know many American and foreign companies have come and gone. Saipan has a new resort and casino, right? But has tourism still dropped, especially from South Korea and/or Japan? How do you compete to retain your best talent, instead of losing it from Saipan and the CNMI for the greater opportunities and more lucrative salaries available elsewhere?
I recognize that the Northern Mariana Islands are quite insular. In community, economy, culture, even in spoken languages at home. You’d be right to be wary of outsiders. Of people like me.
I want to ask what I can help offer. What can I do?
How can I help Saipan and the CNMI?
With any major issue(s) Saipan and the NMI face. How much harder is it to have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, or dairy products that are not grown locally? How can we work to fix this? How about rooftop gardens, like in Tel Aviv and Brooklyn? Or vertical gardens? I know that NMI residents do not share the same convenience as I currently do; for example, $50+ purchases from Amazon.com includes free shipping to me in California. But not so for you. So, what parts of your essential needs can be identified as easily manufactured on Saipan? Thus reducing your applied shipping costs.
I’d love to discuss this in detail. Furniture? Clothing? Household goods? Agriculture? I know that millions of California residents (and those in 20 other participating states) can apply for AT&T Access, a subsidized broadband internet service for the low-income and those on welfare. The standard speed is 12 Gbps (minimum) for $10 per month. Usually speed tests prove 14 Gbps. Are NMI residents able to get 12+ Mbps broadband? At what price? Do you require cheap computers?
I am trying to express that I understand how far away the CNMI is. In time zones, distance, mindset, in terms of federal/government subsidies and related economic aid. I’d look forward to moving to Saipan and working to address any of these pressing issues. With you.
I appreciate challenges.
I believe in social justice.
I do not seek personal wealth.
You also have a beautiful, idyllic island setting. Even though island life, surely, is not perfect for everyone. Perhaps far from it. I am certain you are already working in many ways to preserve the incredible local environment and surrounding beauty. How many new ways can environmental policy be addressed without sacrificing everybody’s necessary quality-of-life? And in a cost effective manner, since the CNMI economy is reliant on more outside products (import) than you ship out as suppliers/manufacturers (export). A tough half-billion dollar swing in net exports from 2003-14? From a net-positive $344M in 2003 to net-negative $155M in 2012?
Is there any conversation I can have about helping you re-balance this import/export equation?
What would it cost? How much would it be worth? How many jobs would be created? What kind of projections for growth and expansion? What funding sources might be available? What market sectors or industries are most viable? What can I do as one part of that much larger conversation? What about less-standardized methods, like considering a parallel to Curitiba in Brazil?
What I’d like to work on is solving something difficult.
I wish to believe I can help.
Utilizing my expansive background and creativity. Combined with you and your entire Saipan community. Imagine a massive, combined knowledge base. How effective that could be. Yes, I understand that in late-2015 the CNMI created a “special commission on economic opportunity” to address the widespread issue of poverty in the CNMI. How’s that commission and program going? I’ve extensive background working with such matters. Can I help? Can we discuss methods that have been tried elsewhere? What types of pitfalls do many economic development programs ultimately become victim to? What works? How and why? I’d like to help Saipan and the CNMI.
Anything. Economic revitalization. How much do restaurants plan for food costs in proportion to menu pricing? What ways can old, neglected, blighted buildings be re-purposed? How can renovation and (typhoon) repair costs be reduced, while still aspiring to do more, with less? How can unemployed community members be put to back to work? Let’s review what ways urban planning and building codes in Santa Barbara, CA and Riverside, CA are successful compared to the miserable ways of other metropolitan regions, like Fresno, CA.
What processes have made FEMA disaster relief funds so challenging for the most impoverished of New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) compared to those more affluent? How has the landlocked city of Atlanta successfully developed its economic revitalization in ways that Detroit and New Orleans have otherwise failed? What can be learned (both good and bad) from the poorest U.S. cities; like Fresno, CA and East Palo Alto, CA and East St. Louis, IL and Camden, NJ?
How does the City of San Francisco spend one-quarter of a BILLION dollars to address homelessness and yet have no idea where their money is even going, and still have no idea how to solve this constant issue? I’ve met with two SF Mayors and many SF City Council members, as well as their previous Chief of Police and dozens of agency heads. I’ve met with the business owners and landlords. I’ve met with subsidized housing tenants in their SRO hotels. I’ve met the Executive Directors of big nonprofits and advocacy groups. I only see the smug arrogance in United Way’s Rise Together program proclaiming they’ll reduce poverty by 50% in the entire San Francisco Bay Area by 2020. I’d hope to convey some of what I’ve learned- both the good and the bad. Mostly, how I believe these agencies and organizations perpetually set themselves up to fail.
What are the best, most impactful nonprofits, foundations, advocacy groups , and methodologies that can be transferred to help Saipan revitalize? Teaching people to cook healthy meals on a welfare budget? Like serving over 1 million meals annually on a budget of barely $1.5 million at the largest soup kitchen in San Francisco. I can explain food justice programs and commercial kitchens (La Cucina and 18 Reasons in San Francisco, FoodLab Detroit, and Tree of Life in Fresno, CA). I’ve only ever met one subsidized housing director that had amazingly innovative ways to successfully engage with tenants. All the others did not. Is this shocking?
What works for Noisebridge and Tech Shop SF maker labs in San Francisco that fails so terribly at Fresno Ideaworks? Why are policy makers so incapable of addressing the most challenging issues? What of all the “silent crimes” that go unnoticed or unresolved. Things like foster children “aging out” of the foster care system when they turn eighteen. What happens then? They are simply forgotten, most often neglected. Victims of human trafficking, sex trafficking, or domestic abuse. Those with mental health issues or physical disabilities. The solutions aren’t only in how we can help them, but how we can help them in ways in which they can help society as well.
What kinds of jobs can be created for disabled veterans?
Or those formerly incarcerated? I’ve met with an after-school program director that only hires those formerly incarcerated to care for at-risk kids in an underprivileged neighborhood in San Francisco. Great program. They’ve been running successfully for years and just got funding to purchase their building. A for-profit business venture hires formerly incarcerated and those rehabbed from substance abuse to bake cheesecakes. Business is booming, they sell for more than $25 at local Whole Foods grocery stores. Another example is a silk-screen printing business. They hire those most at-risk and make shirts for some of the large music festivals, nonprofits, events, and other big clients.
For those without high school diplomas? Perhaps we can discuss social justice cafes that are popping up all over. I know, I’ve met with the owners and managers and program directors. There’s one such in Berkeley, CA that drew the former manager of acclaimed, world-famous chef Alice Waters’ cafe to run their operation. Legit talent being drawn to helping a great cause AND still getting paid. A restaurant here in Fresno opened last spring that only employs those mentally or physically disabled. They have all kinds of support from the local community, the most powerful politicians lunch there, they are also strongly connected with the local chapter of SCORE (and the Fresno chapter of the Small Business Administration, SBA). Again, business is booming. They’re also getting more catering jobs than they can even keep up with!
What can I share with you, specifically, about their operations? Plenty. I’m not just running off names I researched on Google. I can furnish a contact and you can speak to them directly, verify my assertions… How they hold “group” sessions each Tuesday, to help ensure their employees acclimate and can enjoy their work productively. I know about their menu planning process, their target numbers, their business plan. How they source their fruits– because I suggested my method to them! I’ve literally spent time meeting with hundreds like these.
Are the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota still in recovery efforts from Typhoon Soudelor on August 2, 2015? Are buildings blighted, left abandoned, unrepaired? Are families still displaced? Did workers lose their jobs and businesses shut down? How can we reduce the risk of this recurring? How can we identify unmet needs and match those to underutilized resources?
I believe I can help tackle ANY of these difficult questions. I know, this might seem exceptionally arrogant. Please forgive me, that isn’t my intention, not at all. Challenge me. Set a problem in front of me, help allow me to move to Saipan, and let’s figure out how I can help you solve these issues, together. Build a team, an innovative strategy, a plan, a budget; whatever it takes. I am ready.
I know that your inclination may be to simply dismiss me. I know because I’ve contacted and spoken with many other leaders. I know that most will pre-determine and assess that they don’t need help. Most don’t wish to acknowledge any faults or flaws. It’s easier to ignore me than to begin a dialogue. Life will go on… All I am asking is, can I help you and Saipan and the CNMI?
This is an entirely one-way conversation– my contacting you. Please forgive that I feel a necessary defense to the most common prejudices held against me. My claims may seem wildly delusional. Why would I assert all of these things and say that I’m not concerned about my income?
“He must want something”. Those four words make everybody skeptical and defensive. I want to help. It’s really that simple. “There must be something wrong with him… If others didn’t give him a chance, that justifies why I shouldn’t either… My time is valuable and I won’t spend 15 minutes reading this rant and garbage and his self-proclamations…” But what if these few minutes lead to me being able to help you with hundreds or thousands of my labor hours towards your cause? What if I hold any ability to help contribute to the solutions to problems you presently face and are already working resolutely to solve?
Please offer me a chance, please consider my help.
No, I do not surmise to know Saipan and the CNMI better than you.
Yes, I’ve done “some” research. No, it isn’t simply my ability to Google. I want to help apply systems, processes, strategies. Be it as broad as you wish, or give me one singular goal. Do you seek help solving food justice? Or a public transit system for the poor? Might I be of better service by diversifying and working in conjunction with multiple teams to implement solutions? Open a commercial kitchen. Launch a startup to manufacture electric bicycles for eco-friendly and inexpensive transportation. I don’t claim to be an expert on everything. Not hardly. What talents do you have readily available? A grant writer? An attorney focused on import/export treatises? Skilled, but unemployed construction workers? Hospitality and service workers earning unsustainable wages? Procurement specialists?
I believe I have a unique and valuable skill set. I’ve worked and lived among the most affluent. The powerful and influential. I’ve also lived in hardship, among the most impoverished and disadvantaged. I believe I can be a “bridge” between those impoverished and those creating policy. I feel comfortable speaking with and understanding both sides equally. I’d like to help bring a voice to those who either cannot or do not speak up for themselves. I’ve also known or worked with many famous people, celebrities, actors, artists, dancers, and pro athletes. I enjoy sharing my many experiences, what I’ve learned from prominent artists. I’ve previously guest-lectured (voluntarily, without compensation) at college programs about my work experiences: City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Cal State Monterey Bay, and Fresno City College. Perhaps these are other ways in which I can help; bring further cultural enrichment, arts or athletics programming to Saipan? I know you’d have no reason to believe any of this. Try me. Ask me. Challenge me. I welcome any conversation or discussion we may have.
Can I help Saipan? Together, let’s identify a market need that can be met by creating jobs for those most economically-distressed. Maybe it is slow-cooking meats or making coconut husk mattresses. Maybe a Saber tutoring system (framework) that helps offer NMC scholarships to youth, for training the elderly in how to use technology and social media to communicate (safely and privately) with their loved ones. Maybe it is formulating a stronger relationship with Habitat for Humanity Guam to train Saipan residents on how to better protect and repair structures from typhoons. Maybe it is finding a unique way to divert landfill, to help keep the CNMI beautiful, and also re-purpose materials into needed commodities. Perhaps a portion of the Saipan FY2017 Budget ($200,000 for the Mayor of Saipan for cleanup and beautification projects?) can be purposed towards such a project? Do you need cheap computers or smart phones or tablets to enhance education? I don’t know. YOU KNOW.
I cannot know the specifics until I have the chance to learn them. From you.
From those in charge. From community and business leaders. From Saipan residents. From the entire CNMI community. I’ve read your Saipan budgets. Still, I have extremely limited knowledge of your Saipan FY2017 budget, like the “NOP” (Number of Positions) restrictions. My understanding is that you may have other means, such as the WIA (Workforce Investment Agency) being excluded from this Saipan NOP mandate. Further, I know that certain jobs (government) may require compliance to a 90-day posting for job vacancy or position available. Okay. I’m familiar with some such language and procedures. We could work this out.
I’m not trying to speak to you about how to do your job, or how to consider fund allocations– to allow me potential work on Saipan. I believe there are legitimate channels, if Saipan would wish to consider hiring me. The Commonwealth Development Authority, Workforce Investment Agency, Dept. of the Interior OIA TAP funds, Commonwealth Worker Fee Funds, CNMI Disability Network Partners, Dept. of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce, State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), and other budgeted programs.
My interest isn’t in title or power or wealth. My interest is contributing, making an impact, helping to improve our world.
SOcial JUstice for all.
I am open-minded. A tireless worker. I am hopeful.
After basically running the business incubator program at Fresno State for a couple months, I am again seeking work. My Scope of Work was not renewed because they wanted to further exploit my vulnerable position by cutting my workload to 35% of what I was getting. 15 hours for July at $30/hour. Because they’d often schedule me for only one hour per day, I’d have nearly three hours of public transit time and suffer severe physical pain- to be ordered to not include most of my work hours as billable. Legal misclassification of Independent Contractor versus employee is only one of the major issues here.
Everything is in serious jeopardy. I basically worked hard for nothing. My net income is less than 5%; after taxes, work-related expenses, and Disability benefit deductions. My PASS plan application has already been denied. My appeal was denied. My Disability “overpay” appeal was denied. Essentially, all of my previous work income goes to pay Social Security Disability for what they determined I now owe them.
I am working to distribute this “Open Letter” to any and all who are willing to read it. I want to help create social justice. I cannot do it alone. I cannot engage in conversation because I cannot find those who are willing to listen. Together, let’s change the world.
Hello y’all. Tough times. Physical restrictions, constantly living in poverty (SSI Disability), not having home internet, and spending virtually all of my time with bad free wifi access researching and contacting to community/policy leaders.
This past week, I’ve met with all sorts of professionals and leaders within the Fresno community. Long list. Cliff Tutelian is one of the most significant property owners in downtown Fresno. Alvaro started and owns Misc. Trading Company. Lupe is the founder and owner of Bebe O’s vintage clothing store in the Tower District. Sean Staicer is a front man for Bitwise Industies. Gina and Bob Estrada had an artists’ reception at their wonderful Gallery Strada in Riverpark. The Estradas business runs an investment portfolio of more than $1 billion. I also met with artists like Brenda Allison and Bill Roeser.
I met with so many more people, organizations, and leaders this week. Jeff Macon, Director of Innovate Fresno State at the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Shawn at Valley Small Business Development Corporation (VSBDC). Jim Santos, a mentor at Fresno SCORE in the local Fresno SBA office. Moe and Sandra at the management office for Manchester Shopping Center. Scott Christensen at Newmark-Grubb Realty. Barney Morris at Resources for Independence Central Valley (RICV). The Superintendent of Fresno County Office of Education and FCOE Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Program Director Bob Bullwinkel. FCOE supervises 32 school districts encompassing 220,000 students. I also spent two-and-a-half hours in a one-on-one meeting with Principal Taylor from newly opened Patiño High School for Entrepreneurship.
I had multiple phone conversations and email communications this week with the owner of the historic Radin-Kamp Building (the former J.C.Penney) on Fulton Street Mall. He’s a former Fresno State grad that lives and works out of Thousand Oaks. He’s got credentials as a nuclear engineer, electrical engineer, and real estate magnate. He purchased the Radin-Kamp to much applause and fanfare as some “local” owner that wouldn’t leave the beautiful property neglected (as the previous abesentee landlord did, same as the Patterson and Helm and Bank of Italy Buildings). That was two years ago. Since then? Well, a major fire in the boarded up building destroyed the property. He’s filed applications. He’s made boastful promises. But he’s done nothing. It’s a 150,000 square-foot site. The historic building registry ties preservation laws to it. Expensive obstacles and time-consuming. Fire damaged and destroyed. More expensive repairs. California building codes are some of the strictest in the U.S. Neglected. Blighted. Hazardous, with dead animals and squatters inside. And yet, he refutes my claims that he will face challenges to renovate and re-open it for anything less than $325/sq. ft. ($50 million). Not to even mention his plans to construct a below-grade (underground) parking garage for 80+ parking spaces! Huh.
Market rates won’t support his building costs. Hence, Fresno is rampant with blight. I proposed to help secure HALF of his necessary funding. I see ways. Fresno’s Downtown Revitalization Fund, CDBG, job creation bills, and many other sources. It ain’t like he would’ve had anything to lose. Would you believe I offered to work on this project for FREE? lol. I want to help Fresno. It’s absolutely hopeless.
Overall, I’ve met with hundreds of the most influential people in Fresno– with no success. It seems I am only dismissed or discredited. I am condescended to. Practically laughed at. Yet, Fresno remains one of the poorest major cities in the nation. Leadership is lacking, failing, incompetent, without vision, just awful. I keep trying to do whatever I can to help, to contribute, even volunteer. How can I find a way to help when everybody ignores or discredits me for trying? Those incumbent don’t think there are problems. They don’t face them daily.