Friday, 9 October 2009

Work interrupted by bombing and strafing

From: Edward Hasbrouck

Copies to:,,,,,,,,,,

Subject: Blue Angels noise and danger

Dear members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors:

Since I can’t concentrate on my writing work with the Blue Angels simulating bombing and strafing overhead at frequent but unpredictable intervals, and I can’t conduct business on the telephone without risking being drowned out by the noise (and having it seem to my callers as though I am calling them, rudely, from on the street or inside a factory), I’m using the time as best I can: to urge you once again to consider a resolution (1) officially requesting that the Navy not conduct low-altitude high-noise operations over San Francisco, and (2) withholding any financial or other support of the City and County for the Blue Angels.

I realize that you have no direct control over the Navy’s decision to conduct these operations. But I think it highly likely that the Navy wouldn’t do this in the face of official opposition from the City and County government, and probably not without de facto subsidies in the form of provision of support and infrastructure for this “entertainment”.

Many San Francisco businesses operate at substantially reduced efficiency for a week every year due to the Blue Angels. If businesses in San Francisco operate, on average, at only 90% efficiency for this week every year (personally, I operate at about 10%) , how many tens of millions of dollars does that cost residents and workers in the City and County?

When I worked in large downtown highrise buildings with sealed windows, we still found that the noise interfered with our ability to conduct business by phone. Working at home as a writer and consultant with this noise is impossible for me, even with new double-paned windows tightly shut. While the noise isn’t always continuous, it is just frequent enough that it destroys my concentration, and severe enough that it takes a long time to regain my concentration and start to get work done again.

I have made determined efforts, spending hours on the phone, trying to make a formal complaint about the noise and the danger posed by the low-level overflights. You should know that neither the Navy, the FAA, nor the Fleet Week organizers will disclose any formal mechanism for making such complaints or having them logged. So far as I know, none of my annual complaints have ever been recorded, responded to, or acted on.

At an absolute minimum, I strongly urge you to require, as a condition of their permits for use of City and County facilities for events to which they will invite the Blue Angels, that Fleet Week sponsors (1) publicize and include on their Web site and in event posters and advertisements the entity responsible for receiving such complaints, with an e-mail address and phone number to which noise or other complaints can be made, and (2) ensure that such complaints are logged and reported to the Navy, the FAA, the City and County, and the public, so that they can be considered in future decisions about the relationship of the City and County to Fleet Week and the Blue Angels. If third parties or Federal agencies won’t do this, the City and County could and should do it yourselves.

I also strongly urge each of you individually — regardless of what, if any, action is contemplated by the Board of Supervisors — to monitor the process by which permit applications and any other City and County preparations, sponsorship, invitations, or provision of support services for Fleet Week are decided, and advertise any public hearings or meetings to consider these issues to constituents in your districts and city-wide, well in advance, so that concerned San Franciscans will have an opportunity to be heard in those decisions.

Were there to be a full public debate on this issue, many other issues would be brought to the table, including the role of the Blue Angels as a propaganda and recruiting program for the military, funded because it succeeds in its goal of making bombing and strafing look harmless, cool, and fun, to civilians in general and potential enlistees in particular.

I realize that by the time the jets arrive overhead it is too late to change what has been decided this year. The same is true every year. I implore you to place this on your agenda well in advance, and to make sure that the public gets broad notice of the decisions, so that before next year’s Fleet Week (if there is to be one) there will be a chance for meaningful public debate and public hearing. Should you or any City and County permit-issuance or other decision-making body hold such a hearing, I request that I be included on the witness list, so that I can testify as to the years of damage that the noise of the Blue Angels has caused to my work, both as an employee and as a self-employed person.

I have copied the Fleet Week organizers on this message. I am also contacting the principal commercial sponsor of Fleet Week, CVS Pharmacy (1 CVS Drive, Woonsocket , RI 02895, 401-765-1500), to let them know how much their association with this disruption of my ability to make a living damages their reputation in San Francisco and my willingness to do business with them, and to urge them not to repeat the mistake of sponsoring this event, particularly if it includes the Blue Angels.

I look forward to hearing from you with your commitment to ensure that there is a well-advertised public forum for debate before the Blue Angels are invited back to San Francisco, and that a well-advertised system is put in place to accept and record noise and nuisance complaints.


Edward Hasbrouck

[At CVS corporate headquarters in Rhode Island — a state where, unfortunately, the Navy has particular influence on the local economy — the switchboard operator at at 401-765-1500 was unsure to whom to refer me. I ended up in someone’s voicemail, but haven’t yet gotten a call back, and don’t know for sure if they are the person responsible for CVS’s decision to pay to have San Francisco harassed for a week by a contingent of fighter jets (although I’m sure there are plenty of people in other parts of the country who will now chime in that they would be happy to contribute to a fund to have San Francisco harassed year-round by the entire Air Force, or to relocate live-fire aerial exercises to San Francisco airspace). The switchboard operator at CVS was pleasant, and seemed to be trying to find me the right person, rather than putting me off. It didn’t sound like they had gotten any other calls (yet), so even a few more might help a lot. CVS’s Executive Vice Priesident and Chief Marketing Officer is Helena B. Foulkes. The City and County of San Francisco can’t afford to sponsor Fleet Week, so they they depend on corporate sponsors to pay for it. You can e-mail CVS through a form on their Web site, but who knows where that goes; it’s probably better to call and/or send a postal letter.]

[Update: Same-day one-word response from Supervisor Chris Daly: “Agreed”.]

[Further update, 15 October 2009: In response to a voicemail message I left for CVS marketing director Helena Foulkes, I finally got a call back this morning from CVS, although not from her. Mike DeAngelis (direct line 401-770-2645,, CVS Director of Public Relations, told me he was “part of a group” that made the decision for CVS to sponsor Fleet Week and the Blue Angels in San Francisco, in response to a solicitation from the Mayor’s office. No surprise there; perhaps His Newsomness realized that it would be easier to rope in an out-of-town company unfamiliar with San Francisco. Nobody in the CVS store in San Francisco was involved in the decision, and nobody told the people making the decision in corporate headquarters in Rhode Island that Fleet Week or the Blue Angles were at all controversial or disliked by anyone in San Francisco. DeAngelis wouldn’t say how much the sponsorship cost CVS, but did say that it was only a one-year sponsorship commitment in order to promote CVS’s entry into San Francisco through acquisition of another chain that has a store in San Francisco. So if you have an opinion about having a week of bombing and strafing practice overhead, you should let CVS know how you feel before they make their decision for next year. DeAngelis was polite, apologized that no one from CVS had called me back sooner, listened to what I had to say, said he would report it back to the other decision-makers, and thanked me for contacting them and letting them know what I thought of the Blue Angels (I can’t work with them overhead) and whoever pays to have them keep me from working for a week every year (I curse them).]

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 9 October 2009, 09:18 ( 9:18 AM)

That's what they get for living in San Francisco.

Posted by: bbot, 10 October 2009, 00:45 (12:45 AM)

Whiney whiney crybaby. The Blue Angels are part of the San Francisco landscape, and has been for decades. Are you also one of those people calling for banning nudity at Bay to Breakers because you gasp saw a man's junk?

Posted by: Kevin, 13 October 2009, 20:06 ( 8:06 PM)
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