Ideas that work: a plan for a new San Francisco - Page 3

With its own public bank, San Francisco could begin to fund and promote more community-centered forms of economic development


More than any other American city, San Francisco relies on a network of faith- and community-based nonprofits to deliver critical health and human services to its poorest and sickest residents. More than 15,000 people are employed in this sector, which had a total budget of almost $800 million in 2000.

Health and human service nonprofits play a significant role in providing a substantial portion of the city's services for seniors, people with AIDS, the homeless, children and youth, people with special physical and mental needs, and those who suffer from substance abuse.

Yet this critical sector finds itself bearing the brunt of cuts and reduction in services caused by the fiscal crisis facing San Francisco.

So what can we do? Here are seven suggestions.

First, conduct a coordinated citywide health and human services needs assessment driven by neighborhoods and communities.

Second, working with service users, service providers, and city employees, create a 10-year plan for health and human services that can guide yearly budget considerations.

Third, as the city implements the 2009 ballot measure that calls for a two-year budget cycle informed by five-year financial plans, require department heads and commissions to include the perspective of professional service providers and service users, including a standards analysis plan and a narrative about the impact on services.

Fourth, open a dialogue with the foundation community on addressing the changing needs of the nonprofit human services community, including community needs, accountability, and funding cycles.

Fifth, depoliticize the request-for-proposals (RFP) process by moving it out of city departments and into the Controller's Office.

Sixth, require city departments that contract with nonprofit health and human service providers to complete their implementation of the recommendations to streamline the city's contracting and monitoring processes approved by the 2003 City Nonprofit Contracting Task Force, and ensure that current procedures and processes are consistent with those recommendations.

And seventh, preserve services for the most vulnerable San Franciscans by focusing on revenue solutions to the city's ongoing structural budget deficit, including November 2010 campaigns to increase the hotel tax and the real property transfer tax. (Debbi Lerman, Human Services Network)


Although these are hard times, there's an opportunity for San Francisco to realize a new model of economic sustainability — by supporting worker cooperatives.

The worker cooperative model is a business form well-suited to the diverse needs of urban areas and is already viable in a broad variety of sectors including manufacturing, service, and retail. A key aspect of worker cooperative development is that its goal is not just the creation of jobs; it's also about making business ownership accessible.

An inspiring new model of economic development is currently taking place with the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. In an ambitious effort, anchor institutions such as the local universities, hospitals, and the City of Cleveland have established procurement agreements with developing worker cooperatives rooted in the struggling urban communities of Cleveland (where unemployment rates are as high as 25 percent). The goal is to redirect the estimated $3 billion that these anchor institutions spend on goods and services toward worker cooperatives in the communities where these institutions are located. The first two business models underway are a commercial laundry service and a solar installation company.

There's also a lot of inspiring work already being done by the worker cooperative community in the Bay Area.


This is a great article and vision but I would offer one important caveat.

You wrote:

"Fifth, depoliticize the request-for-proposals (RFP) process by moving it out of city departments and into the Controller's Office."

This would be very dangerous. The Controller's office is the product of the Mayor's office and can be highly politically compromised.

To give one example, in recent years the Controller has helped undermine the City's fledgling citywide clean energy program, Clean Power SF, by cooking up totally ridiculous, false economic analyses, which purposely and cartoonishly skew numbers to make the program appear financially nonviable.

The RFP process should instead be shifted to a truly independent body which cannot be politically manipulated by future mayors.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 10:00 am

While the idea of using public money to fund a public bank (as opposed to bailouts of private banks and institutions) is an initially appealing idea, in practice it would seem that it would substantially reduce the transparency of how public moneys are utilized by moving the decisions from a democratically elected person or body to individual loan officers, and as private business loans, it is questionable if the results of these individual decisions could be made public.

In addition, the commingling of funds suggested by seeding the bank with public money and then encouraging additional private investment would appear to create a conflict between the bank's purpose of promoting San Franciscan's ideals and it's fiduciary responsibilities to those investors.

Finally, if it is a member-owned credit union in which members elect the board, what would prevent capture of the bank's loan policies by those private investors? Would it be one investor, one vote, or one dollar invested, one vote? Is the former even legal?

I have frequently mumbled about how, if the Federal TARP funds did not result in the anticipated increased lending, then the Feds should have just started their own bank and lent the money directly. However, either of these feel-good ideas would seem to create a big new can to put worms in.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

But it will never happen because voters lack confidence in government to do this, hell progressive activists, including many in City Hall, lack confidence in government to do this.

This idea will never see the light of day because it will require a tremendous level of organizing that proponents have proven unwilling to engage in after City funding for the nonprofits materializes.

To the contrary, efforts at structural reform to rebuild confidence in the ability of government to deliver core services have been sandbagged by the nonprofits who prefer to "raise more revenue" than to address the structural corruption that governs how existing dollars are spent because they benefit from it.


Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

I think that only states can charter banks

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

The City could use its authority to go into business (Redevelopment or a new agency) to apply to the state for a banking charter.

Not sure if it would be possible to federally insure SF's bank; the Bank of North Dakota, the only public bank in the US is not FDIC insured.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 16, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

Re: the Housing proposal put forth by Amy Beinart. Well written proposal. Starts off with a nice, comfy name-dropping of every San Franciscan's favorite boogyman: the Dot-Commer. Never mind that they all left town years ago, it's a hallmark of good propaganda to begin by reminding everyone how it's all Snowball's fault. Then on to a wonderful idea about stopping that scourge of "low-income families", the evil T.I.C. Have you ever considered that so many multiunit buildings get broken up into Tenancy-In-Common sales because of the wrongheaded belief that anyone who dares to own property is inherently evil as well as the many punitive and draconian codes dealing with landlords? You've made it untenable for anyone to own more than one residence in SF and you act dismayed at the glut of T.I.C.'s on the market? I'm all for insuring renters are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are strictly guaranteed to the full extant of the law (I was a renter for last 22 years after all), but balance is needed in order to bring about the desired results: lower rents and more families. This lack of balance is essentially what has happened of late with the Unions and their unfeasibly high benefits and wages. Oh wait, let me guess. Miss Beinart has a Boogyman culprit for that mess as well? No doubt.

In any case, her proposed solution of allowing "Nonprofits" to "take over" and run housing for people with a low income (i.e. - all renters in SF) is nothing less than a undisguised first step to outlawing all privately owned residential rental units. So, under Beinart's wonderful, completely fair, and totally not communist plan, people would no longer be able to apply for apartments based on their references and credit, but rather they would go downtown and wait in line and some bureaucrat working for a "Nonprofit" would decide where they were going to live and when and if they could move into another apartment. Sounds really great! Now, who can we get to run this for us? Hmmm.... any ideas Amy? What? You could do it? Awesome how that all worked out!

Next we have a proposed law which would require owners to offer tenants the right to buy the unit they occupy at a price "based on the last best offer from a bona fide purchaser". What does that even mean? Are you saying that whatever price the unit sold for when it was last on the market is the same price that the current owner is now required to offer to the current renters of the unit before it can be placed again on the open real estate market? Why would anyone ever buy a property if that was the law? Owning the unit would just mean that you would be responsible for the outrageous San Francisco property taxes as well as the upkeep of the unit, only to be able to sell the property with no gain (not even a nominal increase to reflect inflation/cost of living), whereas renting the place leaves you with no responsibility whatsoever and a low rent written in stone for eternity. But let's say the renter does want to own. And he/she buys the unit fro the evil landlord. What about their subtenant? You know... their roommate? Everyone in SF has at least one. What about the roommate? Doesn't that now make the newly anointed owner of the unit officially an evil landlord? And what ridiculous laws are you going to come up with to regulate that? And where does it end?

All in all, this was a typically hare-brained fantasy for a town where "Nonprofit" means that you don't have to prove what you're doing is producing positive results because it's being paid for by the very people you're determined to run out of town. In other words, it's brilliant! Keep up the good work!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

Also from this author

  • City College will appeal

    "City College neither ignored nor fought ACCJC's recommendations, as many people wish we had."

  • Transforming Pride in our schools

    It takes more than a one-time discussion or film screening to support queer youth

  • Developers should pay -- on time

    It's boom time -- a good moment to end bust-time business breaks