Tax breaks for Twitter, not for ex-offenders


Mayor Ed Lee, a big promoter of the Twitter tax break, won't support a tax break aimed at encouraging businesses to hire ex-offenders.

I'm not a big fan of any tax breaks -- mostly because I don't think they work. The typical payroll tax break saves a company a few hundred dollars a year -- nowhere near enough to make an actual difference in a hiring decision.

The Mirkarimi tax break for hiring ex-offenders is much richer -- up to $10,000 per hire. That's real money for some companies -- although, again, I don't know how many actual ex-offenders will get jobs because of it.

Still: The city's facing a serious problem. More than 65 percent of the people now in county jail will eventually be arrested again. The recidivism number goes as high as 75 percent for state prison inmates. And under the governor's realignment plan, San Francisco will be getting around 650 new state prison shifted into our local jail and probation system every year.

And I don't hear many people at City Hall talking about it.

Lee told the Examiner that the Mirkarimi tax break is "not comprehensive enough." Huh? The Twitter tax break was broad, in some cases arbitrary. Now a plan that is aimed not at a high-tech company but at people who have been released from jail and will have serious problems finding employment is "not comprehensive enough."

Look: San Francisco has an interest -- a direct public-safety and economic interest -- in finding work for ex-offenders: If they don't get employed, they're almost certain to go back to crime. Employment is no guarantee that a former inmate will break out of the criminal cycle -- but unemployment is a pretty good guarantee that he or she won't.

So let's be consistent here. If tax breaks work to create or preserve employment, it's cheaper to follow the Mirkarimi plan and give incentives to employers for hiring ex-offenders than it is to re-arrest, re-try and re-incarcerate them. If the Twitter deal made sense, then this one clearly does, too.

Again: I'm not pushing this or any tax break for employers. But what's Lee's alternative? I asked his press spokesperson, Christine Falvey, to share with me the mayor's plan for handing the influx of new inmates (all of whom will be released within a year or two of arrival in the SF county jail), but she hasn't gotten back to me.

We all know what's really going on here -- nobody wants to do anything that looks like it's aimed at helping criminals. I get it. But it's just stupid, since criminals without jobs tend to stay criminals -- and that's not good for anyone in San Francisco.

UPDATE: Falvey emailed me back. She didn't lay out any plan, but did say this:

"The mayor has not stated the he opposes the legislation but in its current form, it seems too narrow. He would like to see some of the categories broadened to include other populations that need support in job placement and retention. The legislation has not been voted on yet and he looks forward to reviewing the final version."




committed crimes while not giving them to those who haven't?

Why do we reward those who broke the rules on the backs of those who played by the rules?

Lee is quite correct here, and understands how the majority feel about this issue. The peoples' mayor gets it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

All we want is to be able to help solve some of our crime problem. The article clearly specifies that bringing these criminals back to jail cost a lot more money... So the tax break is more like a spending break.

The twitter break doesn't improve our democracy. On the contrary, I agreed to the tax break on twitter because a portion of those proceeds were going directly back into my campaign, buying my position as a mayor and protecting each other's interest.

It's time we/you grow up and think about the big picture of our decisions and not always think on the line of ideologies and left vs right.

Posted by Ed Lee Office on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

How could one be so short-sighted or have lost complete grasp on reality not to realize that the Twitter tax break only served to elect Ed Lee?

This is a crime that prevents the smooth functioning of our democracy. It's called legalized corruption. Is it legal? Sure the guy who gets elected received money from a corporation that has given him a list of action items they need to be acted on so their profit can increase. Sure it's legal, the supreme court says so. Does that make it ethical? No it doesn't do any of us any good in supporting our democratic process.

Some crimes are ok, others aren't, that's how our legal system has been set up... Nothing else.

Posted by Edward on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

How could anyone believe the nonsense we were given...that we matched the deal that Twitter could get from San they moved to a rather blighted area of the city...and that they kept their jobs in the city. They also expect us to believe that Twitter is a key player in something called 'social media' that is a big part of something called the 'inturnet'? (sorry if I misspelled the word that they made up, it had something to do with computer networks). Fairy tale nonsense! Just how stupid do they thing we are??? Obviously the explanation that Ed Lee did it just to get a campaign donation makes much more sense!!! He obviously needed to do something so blatant and obvious in order to win, everyone knows that!!!! If not, he had NO chance of beating John Avalos.

Posted by District 3 Vet on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

The recidivism rate is totally inflated due to the criteria for prison violations--preponderance and heresay (I'm serious folks, if someone 'thought' it, you get violated). With the realignment, and the custody coming back to the county, I can't imagine that prisoners will be violated without just cause. That one small technicality will seriously drop the rate almost overnight.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

Lee would be right to veto the bill because it focuses on only one segment of our population and leaves many unprotected. Our Progressive sensibilities should call for a bill that extends the original intent to other segments in need:

Ex Convict: $10,000 tax credit
No High School Diploma: $8,000
Over age 55: $7,500
Body Mass Index over 30: $8,000
Alcoholic: $9,000
Smoker: $2,000
Clinically Depressed: $5,000
Irritable bowel syndrome: $20,000
Chronic Offensive Body Odor: $15,000
Fired from last job: $7,500
Out of Work over 1 year; $5,000
Kids in Pre-School: $6,000
Likely to become pregnant: $8,000

This list is obviously incomplete. To provide transparency it should be posted conspicuously in every HR office so that all applicants know exactly what their score is.

Posted by District 3 Vet on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

Just imagine the incredible pressure Mr Ed would be under if he attempted to go against the wishes of one of the largest corporate interest groups in the country.
Why risk his re-electability by supporting a measure that could ultimately save the taxpayers money, reclaim lives, make our streets safer.....but piss off big money donors, when he can support tax breaks for other corporations that ultimately end up costing us money.
Welcome to the big leagues Mr 'non-politician' Mayor.
"La Familia" is still celebrating.
The city families are apprehensive.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

Why would a private prison corporation be interested in what the mayor of San Francisco does?

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

Open your eyes and see the big picture.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

I think you mean, close your eyes and pretend you're as dumb as me- Mr Monk

Posted by Guest on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

It just seems a little far-fetched to me. Private prison lobbyists aren't sneaking into the homes of former criminals and encouraging them to re-offend. They seem to have no problem doing that on their own initiative. Besides there's a lot of debate as to whether rehabilitative corrections works at all. From a purely quantitative viewpoint the evidence is grim.

The problem is our society - we value the short over the long-term and vindictive vs. rehabilitative justice. We suffer a high rate of societal violence due to many factors which I don't believe are easily correctable in either the short or medium term.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 02, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

Local jails are at the county level and house only short-term prisoners - less than one year.

Private prisons are consierably cheaper to run, which is why so many States have them.

Lee is correct to veto this. We should use tax breaks only to attract and retain businesses in SF, and not to play social engineering games.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2011 @ 1:54 am