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Friday, October 25, 2002

Opinion: San Francisco Business Never Tires of Bashing Homeless People

By Chance Martin

What folks at the “Care Not Cash” campaign aren’t saying is that Proposition N failed to pick up even one single endorsement from any existing homeless service agency or advocacy group in San Francisco. This is not, as Gavin Newsom claimed in a recent debate, because “they are vested in the status quo,” but because people who work on homeless issues are certain Proposition N would make homelessness in San Francisco even worse than it is now.

The assertion by Proposition N proponents that widespread visible homelessness is responsible for the downturn in the local economy simply does not hold up. Hospitality concerns in every major American city report drops in occupancy rates, regardless of whether the cities have large, visible homeless populations. The San Francisco Business Times (9/9/02) reports Anaheim, California’s hotel occupancy rate in June was down by 7.3 percent from June 2001, while San Francisco’s occupancy rate for June was down 6.7 percent from June 2001. (Reference:  http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2002/09/09/newscolu mn2.html)

Also, the San Francisco Business Times rightly credits “the dot-com meltdown, the energy crisis, a state budget deficit, the Sept. 11 attacks, the drop in the stock market and prolonged reductions in corporate travel” for the downturn in local occupancy rates, but doesn’t mention homelessness. (Reference: http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2002/08/26/newscolumn3.html)

The business community’s willingness to support Proposition N is part of a larger agenda. The Committee on Jobs, lobbyists representing the interests of San Francisco’s 40 largest corporate citizens, donated 35 percent of the so-called Care Not Cash campaign’s reported total (9/30 reporting period) of $567,139. They also led last summer’s business tax lawsuit settlement, creating over $60 million in lost city revenues and leading to drastic cuts in vital services. Ending district supervisor elections also numbers among the many items on COJ’s ambitious agenda to create a favorable business climate at the expense of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and most vulnerable residents.

After seven failed ballot initiatives in the last eight years – all funded by these same downtown business interests, and all punitively aimed at homeless people – it should be readily apparent to all what the Committee on Jobs, the Hotel Council, and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association really “care” about.

It should also be clear by now that pushing yet another mean-spirited, blame-game, anti-poor people ballot measure will never ameliorate homelessness in San Francisco.

Chance Martin is a member of the Coalition on Homelessness.