The San Francisco Propositions: A Working Class View

Workers Action
NoProposition A:City College of San Francisco Parcel Tax
NoProposition B:San Francisco “Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks” bond proposition
YesProposition C:San Francisco Creation of a Housing Trust Fund
NoProposition D:San Francisco Consolidation of Odd-Year Municipal Elections
YesProposition E:San Francisco Gross Receipts Tax on Businesses
YesProposition F:San Francisco Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration/Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
YesProposition G: San Francisco Repeal of the Notion of Corporate Personhood

San Francisco has seven measures on the ballot in November. Here’s our take on them.

Proposition A: We Recommend No
City College of San Francisco Parcel Tax

More “Shared Sacrifice”

Workers Action has been advocating that state and local government solve its budget crisis by taxing the rich. Really, there’s no other reasonable solution. Only the wealthy have any money. Thanks to intensive lobbying on their part, the taxes of the rich have been declining for three decades while the taxes on working people have risen.  Inequalities in wealth are at historic highs.  We call for a united approach that would defend all social services and education where the burden is placed on the wealthy, who have gained or enhanced their wealth at the expense of the general public and workers in particular. We oppose all measures that put any of the public tax burden on working people.

The parcel tax measure advocates have sought a very short-sighted remedy for City College of San Francisco’s deep financial woes and imminent loss of accreditation. This measure, which will require two-thirds of voters’ approval, is unlikely to win. Why? This measure will increase the tax burden on every piece of property in San Francisco. Quite a few property parcels are owned by long-time working class residents who are ill prepared for any increased expenses. There are tens of thousands of parcels in San Francisco. Corporate owners could easily pay. But retired individuals and those barely able to pay their mortgages are not in a position to assume additional burdens.

Tax the Rich or Make the People Pay (More)

This is a regressive tax and it was a mistake for City College advocates to promote it. We expect hard hit voters will reject it.  This approach smacks of the Democratic Party’s failed plans to deal with the crisis: isolate one troubled service, in this case CCSF, and attempt a “share the sacrifice” approach. We don’t have to look far for the hand of the “progressive” wing of the local Democrats in this scheme. Supervisor Avalos gloomily states, “If the parcel tax fails, we’ll see a real diminishment of the effectiveness of City College, and that’s something that would further deteriorate its ability to get accredited.” Thus, voters are asked to fund an educational institution that may not be able to regain its accreditation.  This whole approach flies in the face of what is needed to restore and expand community colleges, not only in San Francisco, but also throughout the state. This approach avoids mass mobilizations to save all educational faculties and social services.

Politicians get to appear that they are getting “solutions” but these “solutions” of attempting to pass tax increases in the ongoing recession, isn’t a solution at all. It’s posturing, and worse, posturing that will lead to burn out among students, faculty and education fairness activists.

Proposition B: No
San Francisco “Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks” Bond

Bonds are an indirect regressive tax.  Banks and other investors buy bonds and derive a profit from the interest. So money is transferred to them. Our parks should be properly funded by taxing the rich.

Proposition C: Yes
San Francisco Creation of a Housing Trust Fund

This is an extremely limited reform that will add 30,000 “affordable” housing units via rehabilitation and new home construction. This is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the need for additional housing units, but it’s worth voting for.

Proposition D:  Yes
Odd-Year Municipal Election Schedule

Liberals often complain about the lack of enthusiasm in local politics. The fix offered here is to combine several office elections. We’re convinced that what is keeping voters from participating in politics isn’t the timing of various municipal office elections. We think it is the lack of relevance of politics in San Francisco to the vast majority of people, specifically working people. A campaign based on working class objectives and not a competition between various pro-business political climbers would electrify San Francisco politics.

Proposition E: Yes
San Francisco Gross Receipts Tax on Businesses

This is a tax measure that would replace the current payroll tax. The gross receipts tax would be modest, but could be amended in the future to be increased.  The current payroll tax plan is poorly enforced by the pro-business political regime of the Democratic Party. And worse, by taxing business on the basis of its payroll, it serves as a disincentive for businesses to hire more workers. This plan won’t address the huge shortfall in the budget that the Democratic party, which has run San Francisco for decades, has run up.  But it does point, however modestly, in the correct direction.

Proposition F: Yes
San Francisco Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration/Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

This measure is simply calling for a study to be conducted that would investigate alternatives to Hetch Hetchy.

Proposition G: Yes
San Francisco Repeal of the Notion of Corporate Personhood

Rejecting the concept of corporate personhood was one of the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a reaction to the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. As a protest vote, this is supportable. Under capitalism, real democracy is non-existent since money is such a crucial factor in campaigns and lobbying. This system treats money as people and working people as things.  If the wealthy wish to assert that their corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals, perhaps these corporations should be subject to the death penalty as well.

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