Progressive Punch--San Francisco's Prop C Goes into Effect
On September 9th, the California State Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal against the San Francisco’s Prop C 2018 voter ballot initiative, effectively making it law in the city of San Francisco.
Prop C institutes an approximate 1% tax on businesses in the city making more than $50 million in revenues, the money from which goes directly to help the homeless in the city. The proposition passed with 61% of the vote, and opponents--led by the city Chamber of Commerce--immediately brought a lawsuit claiming that since it was a tax it needed 67% (two-thirds) of the vote to become law. All state courts rejected that argument!
The proposition affects the top 300-400 businesses in San Francisco, and will provide about $300 million per year for homeless services. Since the lawsuits began, the tax has been collected and placed in escrow, and there is now $492 million waiting to be disbursed. According to the text of this new law, this money is ONLY allowed to be spent on homeless services, and cannot be redistributed or redirected to pay off debts or anything else. San Francisco generally allocates about $380 million per year on homeless services, but much of this is often redirected to other things such as paying off general fund shortfalls or siphoned into other departments.
The money from this initiative is very explicitly directed, and oversight is managed by an independent nine citizen control board. The money must be spent in the following ways:
50%+ must be spent on providing housing to homeless residents directly--either through rents or paying for houses directly. At least 20% of that money must be spent on homeless youth, and 36% must be spent on homeless families--both of which groups have been neglected for various reasons by the city’s normal homeless programs.
25%+ must be spent on providing mental health services to the city’s homeless.
Up to 15% must go to those who are in danger of becoming homeless in the city, or who have very recently become homeless.
And finally, up to 10% would go to increasing support for temporary shelters and improving hygiene services for the homeless.
As of 2018, there were approximately 7,500 homeless people in San Francisco, and at least 4,353 of those were unable to get into homeless shelters in the city because these were overfull, or people did not feel safe in them.
The city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing estimates that this proposition will house 5,000 of the city's homeless residents, provide mental health services to 10,000 people, and help 30,000 people with eviction protections and short-term assistance, and also expand shelter beds by about 1,000 over the next 10 years. That's a huge chunk of the city's homeless.
This proposition is simply a HUGE progressive victory, and is something I think any large or moderate city where voters can put propositions on the ballot should seriously consider. My opinion is that the proposition is a very good thing because it takes excess money from where it currently exists--big businesses--and puts it back to where it is needed most--the ultra poor. Of course one of the biggest issues with the economy today is that money is being transferred to the top en masse, and once there, companies generally just sit on it and do nothing. This fixes at least a small bit of that.
For those of you wondering about the politics behind this, this measure was, of course, opposed by San Francisco’s neoliberal mayor, London Breed, who campaigned extensively on helping the homeless, but then when a golden chance to do that was dropped in her lap (this proposition), she fought hard against it. Can’t have people taking money from your donors, I guess! It was also opposed by then Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
The measure was supported hugely by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who spent a lot of money campaigning for it, saying it is “a moral obligation for companies enjoying the success of the tech boom”. It was also supported by a number of homeless non-profits and support groups, Nancy Pelosi (?!?), and also Mark Leno--a progressive politician who narrowly lost the initial election for mayor to London Breed.
Now that the measure is law, after initially supporting the lawsuits that delayed the assistance, London Breed has come out claiming it as a victory, saying it will eventually house 1,500 homeless people. Not only is she talking out of both sides of her mouth, but she is also telling lies and downplaying the proposition's effectiveness to the public. As always, the Democrats only reluctantly support the populace, and only when forced to do so.
For those of you not familiar with homeless "tent cities" in today's larger cities in the United States, I strongly encourage you to go to Google or DuckDuckGo or whichever search engine you use and type in "homeless tent city san francisco" or "homeless tent city bay area" and look in the "images" tab on the results page to have a look at how people are really living nowadays. These tent cities are everywhere, showing just how capitalism today is affecting thousands and thousands of people across the country.
Since Covid-19, and many people losing their jobs and homes, these tent cities have only gotten larger, and I can only imagine that the 2018 numbers for the homeless provided above have only increased. It has been eye-opening these last 10 years watching the tent cities develop.
Still, this is a real win--one that could help thousands of people get back on their feet. I encourage anyone with the time and ability to try to help get similar measures implemented in your own communities.