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Monday, February 11, 2013

Cissie Swig, SF Arts Benefactor and Bayview Savior?

Buried in the Entertainment Section of Monday's Chronicle, and article about a local philanthropist going back to school on the East Coast "to develop a strategy for revitalization of Bayview-Hunters Point."  According to the article, "she has spent two years on an idea she had for an advocacy group called the Bayview Alliance. The idea is now on the verge of action, and she'll spend her Harvard year plotting it out with faculty and bouncing it off the 32 fellows in the program.

"During the summer, she is expected to work on her Bayview project. Then it is back in September, when focus on the Bayview project will intensify, with a dissertation to be presented to a faculty panel."

It strikes me as odd to hear of someone who's heart is obviously in the right place creating an advocacy group to revitalize a neighborhood when (1) the city already has a revitalization plan; (2) people who live in and know what's going on in the Bayview don't know anything about Mrs. Swig's advocacy group idea.  Maybe she's been talking to a completely different group of Bayview folks.  The article doesn't imply to whom, and a visit to the only "Bayview Alliance" project website doesn't explain anything, because it's a completely different entity than her group.

Now I know that it may just be the way the reporter has written it, but phrases like "on the verge of action," "plotting it out," and "her Bayview project" are just head-scratching in a patrician, aristocracy-knows-best kind of way.  That she's going to Harvard to bounce her idea off of the 32 fellows in the program instead of coming to the Bayview to talk and get to know the people who live here seems stereotypical of someone with a lot of money who wants to do the right thing but who thinks that bringing down a solution from on-high is the way to go.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be happy to see the revitalization of the Bayview happen, but it needs to be done in concert with the people who live here.  If Cissie Swig can bring people with money to the table, then all the better, just as long as there are Bayview residents and businesses sitting at the table as well.  I just hope the fellows in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative tell her that.

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