New progressive org holds first meeting
The evening of February 19 marked the first general meeting of the progressive organization recently rechristened “SFVision,” ironically to distinguish itself from a Ron Conway project called “VisionSF.” The group plans to meet at the Women's Building on the third Friday of every other month, as well as holding events in various neighborhoods. The next general meeting is scheduled for April 29 (NOT the third Friday!), and will include discussions of police-community relations and taking back the SFDCCC from the developers.
The night was led off by Salon.com founder and Season of the Witch author David Talbot, who co-chairs the organization and describes himself as a reluctant activist. Talbot wrote one of the most incisive articles on the current state of the city back in 2012; since then, official corruption, police violence, massive displacement - conditions in general - continued to deteriorate to the point where he just felt he had to do more. “Division Street” makes a perfect metaphor for the raging battle between haves and have-nots, says Talbot, and he thinks that Ed Lee has “turned the homeless problem into a fullblown crisis.”
Talbot likened the current moment to the 1980s AIDS epidemic, when people wanted to round up, tattoo, and quarantine the victims. But we stood up against it, he says, truly becoming the “City of St Francis.”
Homeless advocates Jennifer Friedenbach and Paul Boden elaborated on the issue. There aren't anywhere near enough resources; 250-300 people go through a single homeless center every day. Many homeless have deep traumas and health issues; they are simply thrown out onto the street where their health continues to deteriorate until they require hospitalization or worse. “We've spent a lot more money keeping people homeless” than it would take to fix the problem.
It's important to get the word out that the “police response” to homelessness – using the police to harass and lock up the homeless instead of actually providing them a place to live – is a very expensive response, besides being inhumane. In 2015, 11,000 citations were given to homeless people (85% of the received at least one ticket) for sleeping in the “wrong place”; then we taxpayers got to pay the costs of court and jail.
What do we need to deal with the homeless situation? Money for housing, of course. We need to work with our federal legislators to restore funding that was lost in the early 80s. Additionally, a 1% hotel tax could do a lot of good.
Tim Redmond said a few words about the political situation. It wasn't the “invisible hand” that created the housing crisis – conscious decisions like tax breaks for tech firms and allowing tech shuttles and businesses like Airbnb to simply ignore the law did it. It is essential that we retain the Board of Supervisors and take back the local Democratic central committee to reverse the situation. The endorsements of the SFDCCC make a big difference, as we saw in the last election. A progressive slate is being compiled for that body by folks like Tom Ammiano and Aaron Peskin.
We next got to meet several of the candidates to replace some of our most progressive supervisors in the Fall. Hillary Ronen, David Campos' chief of staff, is running in District 9. She has spent much of her time here working with immigrant workers, and wrote the first version of the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. Ronen chided the Mayor for being “not a long-term thinker,” a terrible negotiator, and for not working with the community. She pledged to build 5000 affordable units in the Mission, as well as more homeless centers, and to introduce universal preschool to help keep families in the area.
Dean Preston, running to replace London Breed as D5 supervisor, has been living in the district for 20 years. A civil rights lawyer, he has been battling evictions since the first dotcom boom. He is the founder and executive director of Tenants Together, and was a major player in defeating the anti-rent control proposition of 2008. He has organized several tenants' boot camps. Preston believes he can win because people in the district have a history of mobilizing against things they don't like.
Kimberly Alvarenga is running in District 11. Formerly director of Tom Ammiano's Assembly District, Alvarenga would be the first lesbian elected to the BOS since Leslie Katz left in 2001, and the city's first lesbian officeholder since Carole Migden retired. Living in Crocker-Amazon with her wife and three-year-old son, she has held positions with Catholic Charities and Bay Area Legal Aid, and currently serves as political director for SEIU Local 1021.
The meeting ended with a visit from Archbishop Franzo King of the Church of St. John Coltrane, which is currently facing eviction from its location in the Fillmore (how many times can people get evicted from the Fillmore?). Bishop King said he just came over to see what was happening with folks in the Mission, and stressed the need for neighborhoods to join together to resist the selling of our city to the highest bidder.
You can help with the Church's struggle to keep its home at this link.