I think 2008 is going to be the year when we decide as a city if we're serious about San Francisco.
We're going to decide if we want this to be a place where working people can live, a place that isn't just a playground for the rich, a place where the people who drive the buses and clean the hotel rooms and teach in the schools can get to work without commuting 50 miles.
And it's not going to be an easy choice.
See, there's a city charter amendment headed for the November ballot that would set aside a fairly good-size chunk of money, around $30 million per year, for affordable housing. It won't solve the city's housing crisis that would take at least three times as much money, maybe more but it will, for the first time, create a large, predictable fund of money that can be used and leveraged over the next decade to try to create the type of housing this city desperately needs.
And not entirely coincidentally (see: the subprime mortgage crisis), the voters will be considering this in a year when the city is looking pretty broke.
So the mayor, who hates this charter measure (and who won't talk seriously about raising new revenue), is going to go all over town and tell everyone that we can't afford it, that it will mean even more service cuts, that it's fiscally irresponsible ... that whole line. He'll try to blame the supervisors for the cuts in Muni and the Health Department and the library and then he'll run his own candidates in the November board elections, all of whom will oppose the housing measure, and he'll try to sell them as responsible managers of the city's treasury.
And all of us will have to make some choices:
Do we recognize that if we can't build enough low-cost housing, San Francisco will cease to exist as we know it? Are we willing to look at the long run and realize that there will always be good and bad budget years, and that saving the city's middle-class base is actually good management? Are we willing to accept that the budget should be balanced by new taxes on the rich and not by abandoning everyone else?
God, I hope so. Happy holidays. *
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