[Hpn] STREET SHEET E-Zine -- July 2001 -- Part 2

coh coh@sfo.com
Tue, 03 Jul 2001 15:20:37 -0700



Last month, amidst self-congratulatory speeches about helping poor children
receive a high quality education, the U.S. Senate passed an education
package that would keep many of Californias poorest children in homeless
only schools or classrooms.

The Senate bill would permit certain school districts that currently
segregate homeless students to continue to do so, and to receive federal
funding. In effect, the bill will make it legal for these school districts
to segregate homeless students  a practice that clearly has been illegal
under current federal law, which entitles homeless students to a free,
appropriate public education, and prohibits their separation from the
mainstream school environment.

This provision is the result of efforts by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein,
who alone among Democrats joined Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona to push for
federal funding for separate schools for homeless children. As a result, six
schools were grandfathered  five in California, and one in Arizona.

Feinstein appears to have been seduced by the self-serving pleas of the
segregated schools, such as the Transitional Learning Center in Stockton -
a school that segregates children in grades K-6 into three classrooms at a
day center for homeless people, and only provides a four and a half hour
school day. Segregation proponents claim that without separate schools,
homeless students would not attend school, and that separate schools provide
unique services, such as food and counseling. These blatantly false
contentions, apparently endorsed by Feinstein and Kyl, display an arrogant
disregard for current law and practice.

The McKinney-Vento Act requires States to remove barriers to homeless
students enrollment, attendance, and success in school. Separate schools
were created because certain school districts refused to remove these
barriers, in blatant disregard of federal law. Rather than stabilize
children in the same school that they were attending prior to losing their
housing, or in a regular neighborhood school, some school districts have
chosen to increase the disruption and loss in the lives of homeless children
by forcing them into homeless-only schools, thereby depriving children of
the normalcy, stability, resources, and opportunities of the mainstream
education to which they are entitled. And now theyll get federal funding to
do it.

Many school districts in California are complying the McKinney-Vento Act,
with remarkable results. For example, in the Fresno Unified School District,
there has been a decrease in student mobility, increased attendance, and
improved test scores for more than 2,000 children experiencing homelessness
throughout the district  all of whom are educated in regular neighborhood
schools. Like other school districts throughout California and the nation,
the social service needs of homeless students are met without separating
these students from their housed classmates.

Apparently unconcerned with the policy and humanity issues, Feinstein forged
ahead with her efforts, despite the objections of the California Board of
Education, the entire Bay area Congressional delegation, and integrated
education programs throughout the state  programs that the Senator never
bothered to visit.

Segregation should be a thing of the past in America. It is indisputably
unacceptable to segregate children of color, children with disabilities, and
children with a limited knowledge of English to separate schools, and the
same should be true for homeless children. Homelessness is not an
educational condition. Homeless students have the same educational needs as
their housed classmates and are capable of reaching the same academic
standards. Yet separate schools fail to provide curricula equal to that
offered in regular schools, including the opportunity to interact with
students from diverse economic and social backgrounds.

Most people remember the disastrous results of allowing public school
districts to not educate those children they do not want. It is traumatic
enough to lose ones home  to then remove those children from their friends
and school activities is simply cruel.

By championing segregation, Senator Feinstein has sacrificed the futures of
our most vulnerable children. Indeed, the segregation provision is the sad
triumph of politics over policy of prejudice over tolerance; pity over
respect; and charity over justice. History will judge us by the strength of
our opposition.

We urge our readers to contact their members of Congress, including Senator
Feinstein, to demand that the segregation measure be eliminated in the
House/Senate Conference Committee meetings, and to ensure equal educational
opportunities for all students.


King Willies City Budget Power Plays

There is certainly no question that our Citys Mayor is an accomplished
power-broker. His skills in this area are nowhere more evident than the
Citys budget process, where he has managed to consolidate the lions share
of power inside his own office, leaving the City Departments and Board of
Supervisors behind to squabble over the scraps.

The Citys budget process is probably the most important venture in
policy-making that our elected officials must undertake. It determines what
priorities the City sets forward, and it shapes every aspect of life in San
Francisco. The City budget will determine how poor our citizens are, whether
we each have a home to live in, whether we have access to health care, and
even affects our civil and human rights. Within the budget constructs, Mayor
Brown has ensured he has increased control of the Citys budget each year
since his election.

City Departments hold budget hearings around the New Year and submit their
budgets to the Mayors office February 1st. The Mayors office releases it
to the Board of Supervisors on June 1st  a full four months later. The
Board of Supervisors, a larger legislative body, has only six weeks to
review the budget. As a result, the Mayors office has time to comb through
the budget, set priorities, make major funding shifts, and determine
everything the City will fund. The Board has taken steps ensuring it will
have more time next year.

Meanwhile, the Mayors current budget instructions have demanded baseline
budgets from the Departments. A baseline budget is the amount of funding the
Department received the year before  in other words, no new funding, and
cost increases must be funded within the total amount from the year before.
The budget instructions from the Mayors office have become increasingly
restrictive each year.

This has dramatically changed the way Departments prioritize. Previously,
City Departments would garner input from the community through their budget
hearings and submit a budget to the Mayor that would reflect the total needs
of those communities the Department is supposed to serve. Now, Departments
submit budgets that must cut services just to make up for cost of living
increases. The Mayors office is then able to do its own prioritizing of new
programs that it wants to fund. But the Mayor has no hearings or other ways
to garner systematic community input.

The Department of Public Health is notorious for making up for these cuts by
hiding them under inflated salary savings, which is the amount of money
the City saves by leaving jobs open. By forcing the Departments budget to
reflect 10% in salary savings  twice the normal amount of attrition  they
are unable to refill vacant positions. While it appears that the City is
fully funding programs, in fact the vacant positions remain vacant,
therefore the services are not being offered. These stealthy budget cuts are
hard to place a number on, and as such are difficult to organize around. And
the resulting impact on poor folks ability to access treatment is

The City charter allows for Supervisors to add money back into the budget
(new funds authorized by the Board are called add-backs), but the Supes
must first locate these funds by finding other items to eliminate from the
City budget. For the past few years, the Mayor required that the Boards
add-backs be one time funding, meaning any new program funded by the Board
is funded for only one year. In contrast, new programs funded by the Mayor
enjoy annual funding every year. This means the Board must re-fund their
programs each year, making these programs very unstable  and extremely
minimizing any impact the entire participation of the Board will have in the
budget process. With one time add-backs, the Board cannot fully re-shape the
budget, shift priorities, or do much of anything but merely tinker with the

An example of this is the money for back rent and eviction assistance funded
a few years back by the Supervisors. Once started, the program was a huge
success. However, a year later it wasnt included in the Department of Human
Services budget, due to the baseline budget requirement. The Mayor didnt
bother funding it, either. So the Supervisors had to add it back with
savings found by cutting from other programs. This has happened every year
for three years, and has destabilized the program  a vital component in
efforts to fight gentrification and evictions.

Lastly, the Mayor utilizes his veto power to ensure he gets what he wants in
the City budget. Last year, he threatened to veto the entire City budget if
a program to prosecute homeless people for quality-of-life infractions was

Our not-so-newly-elected Board of Supervisors is now positioned to radically
reverse the power structure. They can now demand their add-backs be funded
every year. They can now pool enough votes to override the Mayors veto.
They can now threaten funding for Mayor Browns pet initiatives. And they
can now resist their diminished position and finally demand that notoriously
money-grubbing and pork-laden city departments (like SFPD, SFFD, the Dept.
of Public Works, and the Mayors office itself) turn squandered tax dollars
over to address the real crisis our City faces.

San Francisco is a wealthy city with a permanent underclass whose most basic
needs  living wage jobs, housing and health care  are not being met. We
must meet those needs.

To learn more about the Peoples Budget Collaborative, or to get involved,
contact Riva Enteen at 415 / 285.1055.



The City budget process is not even over yet, and the Coalition on
Homelessness has already chalked up some successes for homeless and poor

 The money to prosecute homeless people for being homeless has been taken
out of the budget.

 A uniform grievance procedure  modeled after the shelter grievance
procedure  for people in substance abuse treatment programs has been
funded. Folks suffering from addictive disorders will enjoy some increased
rights  they will have access to an advocate and an independent panel will
decide whether or not they should be put out of a program. It will force
substance abuse programs to begin following their own policies.

 The Coalition has been embarked on a campaign for treatment on demand for
several years. We advocated for its creation, and continue to support the
Treatment on Demand Planning Councils efforts. This year they got an
additional $500,000 to treat Latinos in jails; African Americans, Samoans
and Asian women in mental health programs.

 We also got two mental health initiatives funded, including the peer
counseling treatment program funded last year, and an access advocate for
mental health.


Right To A Roof! 
Organized Labor and COH to Join Forces

On July 10th, 2001 Laborfest and the Coalition On Homelessness will present
Right To A Roof. This evening of music and spoken word will gather support
for the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund; crucial federal
legislation to end the national housing/homelessness crisis. The evening
takes place at the Musicians Union at 116- 9th Street at 7:00 p.m. and will
feature the civil rights-style gospel of Bay City Love, labor-themed
bluegrass by the Wobbly Giraffe and poetry by members of POOR Magazines Po
Poets Project.

The National Affordable Housing Trust Fund will establish permanent funding
for new housing construction, using the existing surplus interest from
Federal Housing Administration Bonds. Federal policy has been geared towards
steadily shrinking the budget for housing for the past three decades.

The Coalitions Housing Workgroup will make a short presentation on the
Unemployed Workers Movement of the 1930s that contributed to the
establishment of the affordable housing safety net. That movement has many
valuable lessons for the housing struggle today.

Housing shortages such as San Franciscos arent anything new. During both
boom-times and busts, we experience waves of evictions, homelessness and
gentrification. Unemployed workers in the 1930s organized creative struggles
that forced the government to build low-cost housing and ended thousands of
eviction. At the end of World War II, returning service people, unemployed
and trade unionists trade faced a severe housing crisis that even the New
Deal hadnt addressed completely. The International Longshoremen and
Warehouse Union (ILWU), led actions, including office occupations and work
stoppages, to force federal representatives to build new affordable housing.

During the Great Depression, when the police came to evict black people in
Harlem, thousands would turn out to defy the sheriffs. Neighborhood councils
aided by radical activists would confront marshal when they came to carry
out court-ordered evictions. Through such direct actions, landlords were
deterred from evicting.

As a result of the struggle against urban renewal/removal programs of the
1960s and 70s, local government was forced to produced new subsidized
housing units. At that time, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency used the
power of eminent domain to demolish thousands of units of working-class
housing in the Western Addition, South of Market and Manilatown
neighborhoods. San Francisco non-profit housing developers such as TODCO and
Mission Housing and Development exist because communities organized to
demand control of housing development without profiteers.

Unfortunately, it was during this time that some organized labor heads
actually supported the demolition of working class housing-because of
political paybacks and wrong-headed assumptions that by simply stimulating
jobs. Even ILWU President Harry Bridges was instrumental in signing off on
the destruction of housing in the South OF Market area. By joining forces,
the Coalition on Homelessness and Laborfest hope to set a new agenda of
solidarity working for the things all workers need  jobs, housing and


Our Word is our Weapon: The Selected Writings of Subcomandante Marcos

It all started at midnight January 1 1994 when a group of masked guerillas
came down from a mountain in southeastern Mexico, raised arms against a
corrupt Mexican government, and demanded Justice, and Liberty, and

By the time the news broke the next morning a place called Chiapas would
become a household word, and a pipe smoking, black ski-masked Zapatista
named Subcomandante Marcos would become a spokesman for not only an
uprising, but of a generation of revolutionaries.

Some would label Marcos a terrorist; others, through his writing, a new
voice of liberation. But it is through his many letters that he enlightens
the world on not only the problems of classism, but the poor, and the
effects of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism is international finances
strategy of removing all labor, environmental and human rights
considerations from national laws. They accomplished this through North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization
(WTO). He tells what happens to third world indigenous peoples when
power-mad countries Like The United States of America, and his own country,
Mexico, sink their claws in the poor and drain them of everything land, oil,
food, education, leaving them with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution,
and disease.

You cannot beat what you cannot see. This is the reason the Zapatistas wear
masks, and are nameless. We are the faceless ones, Marcos writes, Being
silent our voices are passing away. To the Zapatista movement this is very
important. As Marcos explains it is time we broke out of the history of pain
and humiliation and make our new history, and with this our own pantheon of
Revolutionary Gods such as Pancho Villa, Zapata, and El Che.

Their voices ring out from these letters, some are funny, some are so
intense they make you cringe when you realize all they want is what the rest
of the world takes advantage of everyday, but thinks nothing about. Three
words that have changed history: Liberty, Justice, Democracy. And with their
voice they will scream ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! or YA BASTA!

The Word is our Weapon is an amazing collection of letters that not only
record a struggle that has been going on for 509 years but let us in to the
secret world of the Zapatista through their eyes and through their myths,
their stories. Through the letters we see everyday life - from children
fighting over candy to Marcos letting the author of a lost poem know how he
missed whispering it into the ear of his lady. In the eyes of the world
Marcos is not only a solider and a leader in the truest sense of the word,
but also a poet, and a hero. And through this timeless work he has showed us
the Zapatistas struggle is justified.

George Tirado

Our Word Is Our Weapon : Selected Writings
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Seven Stories Press
ISBN:     1583220364


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