Skip to main content

View Diary: CA-Gov: Schwarzengger running away with it (273 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Come on (0+ / 0-)

    Your little black and white analysis of why S.F. voters such as myself elected Gavin and supported Care Not Cash is weak.  The homeless problem in the City was out of control and the Board of Supervisors, as usual, paid lip service to the problem but did nothing of substance.  The Board of Supervisors was totally ineffective on the issue (as they tend to be with all issues) and the only way to address the problem (or at least change the way in which the problem was being dealt with) was to completely circumvent the Board.

    I'm really sick of people like you who criticize any new ideas re the homeless problem in the City, defend the status quo and have NO NEW IDEAS.  You're conservative in your liberalism and afraid of change.  Get over it.

    •  You are looking at the problem (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      one dimensionally, and without any actual understanding of the parties involved, the political stakeholders, or the dynamics of the actual problem of homelessness.  

      Care not cash was a cynical plan supported by the power brokers of the SF hotel and restaurant lobby and extensively spun by media consultants to look counterintuitively altruistic.  The supes, with Ammiano at the forefront, had plans on the table that would have actually helped homeless people rather than just try to force them out of town, but Newsom, out of contempt for the legislative process, took his pet issue to the public instead of compromising.  The bottom line is that he won because he had good propaganda.

      Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

      The city of SF spends about $200 million annually on social services for the homeless (Lelchuk 2002a).  These services include shelters, soup kitchens, subsidized health care, clothing vouchers and detoxification and mental health services.  Still, even with such large expenditures, the problem persists and is perceptibly worsening.  Gavin Newsom, a former member of the SF County Board of Supervisors elected Mayor in 2003, is of the opinion that the reason for this inadequacy is twofold.  First, he claims along with city budget analyst Harvey Rose, that the services provided by the city and county of SF are taken advantage of by homeless from other cities in the bay area who do not live in San Francisco, thus overloading the system.  Secondly, he insists, the $395 per month which the city pays to thousands of homeless in the way of General Assistance (G.A.) funds is largely spent on drugs, thus perpetuating the cycle of substance addiction and exacerbating the impact of homelessness, putting an inordinate amount of strain on the network of social services (

      In a plan to curb this supposed trend Newsom and Rose co-authored an initiative entitled “Care Not Cash” which would largely eliminate GA, cutting the amount of funds given to homeless from $395 per month to $59 per month.  Supposedly the money which would be withheld would be used to bolster the existing service network and thus have the effect of getting more people out of homelessness.  Considering that no provision in the initiative was made for how these hypothetical services would be provided, it is difficult not to perceive Care Not Cash (otherwise known as proposition N) as a ploy to make SF a less hospitable place for the homeless in the hope that they will just leave town.  This interpretation was confirmed for me personally when I asked Mr. Newsom at a press conference to elaborate on the “Care” part of “Care not Cash.”  Newsom skirted the issue by simply repeating that he believed GA funds were being used to buy drugs and that such a practice had to stop.  I left with the feeling that Newsom was little more than a preprogrammed mouthpiece for the SF hotel and restaurant lobbies (the largest contributors to the prop. N campaign).

      In a column published by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the director of the Department of Human services Trent Rhorer gave his first public announcement on how the $13.9 million dollars to be saved by the cuts were to be spent.  “$2.5 million will be used to cover monthly $59 benefit checks, $7.2 million will be spent to develop about 1,000 city-managed hotel rooms, and about $3 million will be directed to mental and behavioral health services.  Of the remaining funds, some $100,000 will pay for food” (San Francisco Bay Guardian 4/9/2003).  To say nothing of the inadequacy of 1,000 rooms for the housing of at least 3,000 individuals (14,000 if you include those who would become displaced due to loss of GA funds),  Let’s consider the issue of food, let's see... $100,000 divided by 3,000 people comes out to be about $35 per person per year.  Now I know that food can be purchased cheaply in bulk but even by the most frugal estimates $35 per person per year does not amount to anything even closely resembling adequate nutrition.  Rhorer insisted that the money would be able to stretch further once the plan was implemented because homeless who do not live in San Francisco would no longer be draining county resources in the form of cash assistance.  The office of DHS failed to provide any data in support of his assertion that “out of towners” eat up all the checks.  In addition, while the program is structured so that no individual will have their assistance cut until such time as they access social services, the services which would trigger the cut in benefits could be just about anything.  One night in a shelter could cause a homeless person to permanently lose 85% of their income.  Furthermore, it is not taken into account that many homeless people are not what are called “visibly homeless,” rather, they live in transitional or informal housing, paying portions of their assistance checks to friends in return for a couch to sleep on.  Were such individuals faced with a loss of this income they would likely wind up on the streets.  It is for this reason that Care Not Cash could have the effect of causing the homeless population to boom rather than shrink.  

      Upon reflection Proposition N does little to help the homeless; rather it does much to make their lives even more difficult than they already are.  An exploration of who exactly supported this proposition begins to explain why.  The largest supporters of Care Not Cash consisted of The Committee on Jobs (a lobbying group for downtown businesses including The Gap, Williams-Sonoma, Bechtel, Charles Schwab and AT&T), the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Greater Geary Merchants and Residents Association, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the Marina Merchant’s Association, the San Francisco Construction and Trades Council, and the Association of Small Property Owners of SF (Lelchuk 2002b).  In this particular context, these organizations are solidly on the side of the interests of the wealthy business community.  By definition, the interests of the business community extend no further than to increase profit margins.  

      By way of example, here are some of the comments made on behalf of Prop N. supporters in order to explain the reasons for that support.  Ken Cleveland, director of government and public affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association claimed that the presence of homeless people in San Francisco hurt business and lowered the quality of life for everyone else.  He went on record in the San Francisco Chronicle, saying “It’s gotten to the point where we’re ashamed to bring new industry into San Francisco to build their businesses and hire people and create local jobs... We’re ashamed to go out there and tout San Francisco as a good place to live.” (Lelchuk 2002b).  Patricia Breslin, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association similarly characterized homeless people as an impediment to commerce, saying, “Going out to eat is an entire experience... As good as the dining experience is in a restaurant, it has to be accompanied by a hassle-free way to arrive and depart from that business” (Lelchuk 2002b).  John Hurley, the owner of Home Restaurant at the intersection of Church and Market Streets, echoed these statements and added to the argument by characterizing the homeless as drug-addicts.  Complaining about the impact of a nearby needle exchange program, he says “People get drugs, do an immediate shoot-up, an only make it a few hundred feet before they pass out... The merchants in that area have drugged homeless all over their doorsteps” (Lelchuk 2002b).  The commonality of all of these statements is the conceptualization of homeless people not really as people at all so much as physical obstacles to the operation of businesses.  This perspective leads to solutions that emphasize removal of the offending persons from areas of commerce and de-emphasizes any attention to the needs of the homeless population itself.  The interests of commerce are served more immediately and cheaply to pressure the homeless to go elsewhere rather than to develop any real services aimed at helping them out of poverty.  

      Further evidence of the business community’s preference for getting rid of homeless people rather than helping them lies in the lack of support for Proposition “O” during the same election (Lelchuk 2002c).  Proposition “O,” written by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, was referred to as “Exits from Homelessness.”  It was designed specifically to ensure that Proposition N lived up to it’s promise of providing services such as health-care, housing, drug treatment and mental health programs with the money saved by cutting G.A. checks.  It did this by closing loopholes in Proposition N that would allow individual homeless people to lose their G.A. because of a single night in a shelter or meal at a soup kitchen.  Proposition O would make such a funding cut contingent upon the homeless individual receiving some form of long-term housing like a room in a residence hotel or permanent shelter.  Furthermore, Prop. O would close another loophole which prevented individuals in informal housing arrangements from receiving cash to pay their rent, in lieu of a voucher system.  Under Care not Cash many people in such arrangements would wind up on the streets because of the refusal of their “landlord” to accept these vouchers.  Proposition O would allow them to continue to get cash for such a purpose (Lelchuk 2002c).  While Proposition N enjoyed the widespread support of the business community in San Francisco, Proposition O had no support whatsoever from the same groups.  Considering that Prop O proposed to do nothing more than to make Prop N actually work, it seems obvious that the motives for the support for prop N came not from a desire to help the homeless, but rather from the desire to evict them from the city of San Francisco.

      Business interests see homelessness as a public nuisance which drives away customers and lowers rents and property values in certain neighborhoods.  Such interests have no desire to “help” homeless people; they only want to make them go away.  This is, in theory, what Care Not Cash would do.  It would make life in San Francisco so inhospitable as to force many homeless to get up and leave.  At least, that’s what the business community would like to see.  A report by the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness sums up the situation nicely, stating that:

      The pervasive portrayal of homelessness as primarily stemming from personal problems and the consequent push to address visible homelessness through criminal and social control measures is chiefly associated with big business interests.  San Francisco’s influential downtown business organizations, along with the city’s moderate and conservative sectors, claim that homeless people are harmful to the economy and to the quality of life in the city, and therefore must be removed from sight.  [Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco 2004]

      P.S.  Your posts have been quite aggressive and condescending in tone.  I don't appreciate that.  As a lawyer, you should be well aware of the line between disagreement with someone's argument and ad hominem attack.  This is, of course, a basic lawyering skill.  

      "Leave the gun ... take the cannoli." -8.38, -7.69

      by Balam on Tue Aug 29, 2006 at 02:24:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  P.P.S. (0+ / 0-)

        I retract the part about Lawyering skills.  I got two different posters mixed up.  

        The part about JTA's trollish attitude however, stays.

        "Leave the gun ... take the cannoli." -8.38, -7.69

        by Balam on Tue Aug 29, 2006 at 03:13:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site