A tough choice for C.W. Nevius


It's no surprise the C.W. Nevius thinks the city has too many public services and that "some have to go." Nonprofits that get city funds are an easy target. Some of them aren't too good at paperwork, and have a hard time providing tangible evidence of results. (If you run a violence-prevention program for kids, and some of them still get in trouble, can you"prove" that the others didn't because of your help? Of course not.) And there's no doubt some waste and duplication of services in the system.

Some perspective: When I was on the Board of Trustees of Wesleyan University (as an elected member from the Wesleyan Progressive Alumni Network), I constantly complained about waste in the budget. I wanted to know why we spent so much money on dinners for the trustees (most of whom could well afford their own food and wine) when we were cutting ethnic studies programs and tightening up on financial aid. Colin Campbell, the president, gave me a very good answer:

In any $60 million budget, for any public or nonprofit organization, there's going to be some waste. It's unavoidale. And, he said, there are also going to be things that ought to be in the budget but aren't.

(By my second year on the board, they did cut back on wine at lunch, which may have been due to my complaints but was more likely a result of too many of the older board members getting a little looped and falling asleep during the afternoon meetings.)

So yeah, there are things that could be eliminated in the current nonprofit system. There are also a lot of services that ought to be in the city budget, but aren't.


There's just one flaw in our civic personality.

Tough choices.

We'd rather not make them.

That's correct, and it's true for everyone in California, probably everyone in the United States. We want good schools, clean streets, nice parks, plenty of cops and firefighters .. and we don't want to pay for it.

Taxes in this state, and in this country, are the lowest they've been in decades. State spending is back to early 1990s levels. State cuts have forced cities to take on more and more burdens.

So the tough choice isn't whether we can afford to provide public services. It's whether we have the courage to demand that the people who have seen their tax rates plummet while social problems skyrocket pay their fair share. How about that one, Chuck?


People like you are exactly what's wrong with our city.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 11:27 am

Tim, if you think your taxes are too low then send a check to the Franchise Tax Board.

SF, like the state, spends too much money on too many programs for too many people.

The party is OVER. We're broke. We will continue to be broke for the next several years, if not for a decade or more. A severe downsizing of government and services, at all levels, is inevitable.

You and your "progressive" friends are going to finally realize that you are out of other peoples' money.

We as a society are going to have no choice but to return to the model that served us rather well prior to 1970 or so: service organizations, charities, friends and family, each other.

Posted by Scott on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 11:53 am

According to Warren Buffet the rich do not pay their fair share.

"Buffett blasts system that lets him pay less tax than secretary"


Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

Buffet rightly pointed out that his secretary pays taxes at a higher rate than most CEOs.

And San Francisco should be commended for building a much stronger safety net than in other American cities (this, precisely, is the reason we have so many homeless here--homeless people know about our strong safety net, the word is out on the street).

Still, I think Nevius has a point in that non-profits need to be more accountable for their spending. Their is a lot of overlap, and their backoffice work could be integrated to make it more efficient. Some non-profits are living on the take.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

California's supposedly insurmountable deficit amounts to about $1,000 a year per each of its 38 million citizens. There seems no impossible burden as REPUBLICAN governor Arnold has determined the very poorest and most destitute 1.3 million of our citizens can afford to lose $1000 a year in food and rent welfare benefits as their share of the solution: an almost exactly equal per capita share of our $41 billion dollar deficit.

" Together the cuts would eliminate $1.324 billion in grant payments to more than 1.3 million Californians between May 2009 and June 2010.":
http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=11085 -- fourth paragraph.

What about the rest of our good citizens, Arnold? Why not insist they pony up for what their state spends?

Posted by Denis Drew on Jun. 25, 2010 @ 8:45 am

It is all about accountability, and so long as San Francisco's budget season is characterized by ritualized cuts from the Mayor to pet nonprofits of the progressives, and the entire discussion is centered around nonprofits, the vast bulk of the City budget, where the real mid management salary waste is, will be kept off of the table.

By allowing Newsom to define progressives this way, we are reduced to simply negotiating the pace of our surrender and eventual loss, because the nonprofits do not serve but a fraction of San Francisco voters and essential public services upon which most San Franciscans depend languish.

To my mind, progressives would be better off if the nonprofit political complex were allowed to wither and those services were taken away from the private sector and brought into government where they should be.

For profit corporations are more democratic than nonprofits because htey have shareholders checking the board of directors and staff. Nonprofits have only a self perpetuating board and staff which grow cozy, no checks from stakeholders, the community or clients.

Thus, these enterprises seek out new funding sources, missions creep, staffs get hired, and new constituencies are built into an unsustainable political calculus. One example of this is the Dolores Street Services transformation from a HIV/AIDS social services agency from the LGBT community to one serving latino homeless, rendering the gay white males with HIV as second class citizens in an agency which has the Robert Cohen residences as a legacy cash cow but could give a fuck about a constituency they hate.

Being based in a community does not mean that a social services agency is rooted in a community. Seeing how many of these positions get shuffled back to political hacks, that only makes the entire arrangement less legitimate and more vulnerable.


Posted by marcos on Jun. 25, 2010 @ 8:56 am

The Chron reports this morning that pension payments to retired employees are set to rise $60 million per year (that's more than the entire Park & Rec budget)

As long as this continuies, expect to see Park & Rec playgrounds and gyms shut entirely next year.

Public-sector employees have to start paying for their own pensions

Posted by Barton on Jun. 25, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

There's nothing wrong with demanding accountability in nonprofits; there are, indeed, some nonprofits that waste money and fail to deliver on their missions. Some of these services probably ought to be done by the public sector.

But that's not what Nevius is talking about. He wants to cut programs. If a program is badly run, that's one thing -- but to say that because the current management is bloated and unaccountable doesn't mean that the service isn't needed. That's like saying we should abolish the federal government because GW Bush fucked up the job of running it so badly.


Posted by tim on Jun. 25, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

People come to San Francisco specifically to get free meals, needles, etc, and generally take advantage of the kindness of the people here. We are getting worked! We should cut of all funding to these fake "non-profits"

Posted by Guest on Jun. 29, 2010 @ 3:44 pm