Opinion

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 »

The JROTC horror show

The Board of Education has to look beyond the TV sound bites that grossly distort the facts
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OPINION I wish that the adults who want to keep the JROTC program in San Francisco public schools would stop throwing the JROTC students under the bus and blaming the bus driver.

In particular, I'm referring to the March 24 Board of Education meeting, where a resolution about JROTC by commissioners Jill Wynns and Rachel Norton was presented as a first-reading agenda item, which, under our rules, denotes that it should be referred to committee for further discussion. Read more »

Pricing women out of health care

In some cases, women were charged more than 50 percent more — and as much as 140 percent more - for identical health plans.
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OPINION While California faces some of the most challenging economic times in recent history, many residents are losing their jobs — and as a result, their health insurance. And businesses of all sizes are struggling to make ends meet, which often means slicing employee benefits.

As more people are forced to turn to the individual market for their health insurance, women in California are at a distinct disadvantage. Under a practice known as gender rating, health insurers are allowed to charge higher premiums based on a person's gender. Read more »