Opinion

A bailout for the middle class

Unfortunately, the middle-class bailout is stuck in Congress.
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OPINION I don't need to remind you that our economy is in trouble. The current banking crisis has demonstrated to all of us just how fragile and susceptible to manipulation our current system is. President Obama has spent billions of dollars and untold hours trying to bail out our failing banks and financial institutions. Whatever your opinions about his efforts, I think we can all agree we should also be helping out American workers — the real engine of the economy. Read more »

The deadbeat church

Catholic archdiocese tries to duck $15 million in real estate taxes
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news@sfbg.com

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco is trying to duck paying as much as $15 million in city taxes, according to documents filed by the city assessor's office.

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting argues that the archdiocese, which governs a collection of churches, schools, parking lots, commercial buildings, and other real property in the city, shifted 232 parcels of land from two church-held corporations to another church corporation in April 2008, triggering real estate transfer taxes.

The legal issues are complicated, and church lawyer Philip Jelsma wouldn't ret Read more »

A hard look at the prison budget

Not only is this system inhumane and counterproductive, it's also expensive: it costs about $40,000 dollars a year to keep a prisoner behind bars.
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OPINION Last week's grim budget news from Sacramento reminded me of Edward Lorenz's often-quoted maxim, according to which the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas. California's budget, which we have consistently ignored and abused since the passage of Proposition 13, turns out not to have been limitless. And many residents, for whom our prison system had been invisible, may have found out for the first time that our correctional apparatus constitutes more than 7 percent of the state's annual budget. Read more »

Racial justice: A to G spells victory

Education outcomes for black children - right here in San Francisco - are the worst of the state's urban districts
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OPINION On Tuesday, May 19, poor and working-class families of color packed the San Francisco School Board with a powerful message of hope, opportunity, and justice: we want the right to a secure future in our own city. Read more »

How to fix public transit

With a higher gas tax and tolls on freeways (measures a recent San Francisco Planning and Urban Research analysis shows to be among the most cost-effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), we can make public transit work better
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OPINION As San Franciscans deal with the shock of ever-worsening budget cuts, it's time we look to fundamental structural changes in the way government does business. That's a scary thought because, as Naomi Klein warns, free market ideologues use shocks to accomplish a very damaging type of structural change that cuts public service, increases privatization, and strengthens class division. Read more »

CJC just criminalizes the poor

My mother and I didn't get affordable housing, mental health services, or access to free child-care for my infant son because I was arrested.
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OPINION Two SF police officers stood; another was in the car at the curb, door ajar, lights flashing onto the sidewalk. It was 3:00 p.m. and the lights, the three police officers, and the squad car were all focused on one small man huddled next to a shopping cart and a torn Hefty bag, shining steel handcuffs glittering off his deep brown wrists. The man said nothing as they arrested him. His "crime": sitting, standing, sleeping while houseless in San Francisco.

It's illegal to be houseless in the United States. Read more »

Pitting poor against poor

For whatever short-term savings Prop. 1E might provide, the long-term consequences are disastrous
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OPINION In 2004, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), to fund the expansion of community-based mental health services. MHSA is funded through a 1 percent tax on the portion of a taxpayer's income in excess of $1 million. It was a form of uniquely appropriate progressive taxation, making the rich pay for all the ways they test our sanity, made especially acute today in the wake of foreclosures and job losses.

Today, Gov. Schwarzenegger is leading a bipartisan assault on Prop. Read more »

Do the right thing, Dianne

With EFCA finally within reach, Sen. Feinstein has announced that she is looking for a "less divisive" option
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OPINION At the end of World War II, approximately 36 percent of American workers belonged to a union. Today that number has shrunk to about 12 percent, lagging behind the world's other industrial democracies. But now, with a Democratic president in office, we have a realistic chance of enacting the most significant piece of labor legislation in decades, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would protect the right of workers to organize into a union.Read more »

No balance in two-year budget

A two-year budget would make the Mayor's Office even more insulated from the public and members of the board on the decisions that affect us the most.
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OPINION There's no more important decision made by the Board of Supervisors than that of the city's annual budget. Every year the board sets the city's priorities by appropriating more than $6 billion. In good economic times, the board uses the budget process to set new policy directions for San Francisco. In bad times, the annual budget is the board's only real chance to save vital services by making targeted appropriations while strategically reducing other parts of the budget.

That's why a charter amendment to have only biannual budgeting is a bad idea.Read more »

Reject the Fisher Museum

We cannot bear the thought of the series of traffic signals inside the park, near the Spanish El Presidio and the 160- year-old U.S. Army Post
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OPINION The Presidio Trust Board and the National Park Service in December rejected Gap Inc. founder Don Fisher's proposed art museum in the Presidio. They complete their review of his second offer next month. They should reject the second offer as well, and the game will be over.

Fisher and his family should stop trying to convince the Park Service to bend its rules. They should set aside their pride and their own preferences in deference to those of the Park Service and the city of San Francisco. Read more »