[Hpn] SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Homelessness an issue in S.F. - United Press International - Dec 08. 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Tue, 9 Dec 2003 16:38:03 -0500


Analysis: Homelessness an issue in S.F.

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Hil Anderson - United Press International - Dec 08. 2003

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The standoff over San Francisco's
homeless could prove to be the deciding factor Tuesday as the
Green Party reaches for its first victory in a big-city mayoral
race against a Democrat who has been painted as an enemy of the
poor by members of the city's sizable left-wing community.

The Green Party's candidate, County Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, was
locked in a tight race with Democrat Gavin Newsom on Monday as
the final full day of campaigning swirled through the streets of
the city under the eye of the late-arriving national media.

Mayoral races in San Francisco have frequently been bruising
affairs between high profile and often-colorful candidates, but
the 2003 runoff between Gonzalez and Newsome poses the
tantalizing prospect of a Green knocking off a candidate from one
of the two major parties in a major election.

Because the polls have been so tight in recent weeks, political
observers have had their heads filled with pre-Christmas sugar
plum visions of the Greens emerging as a force to be reckoned
with in a key presidential state. Portraying Tuesday's vote as a
referendum on the Greens' ascendancy to the mainstream, however,
clearly overlooks the city's insular political nature.

San Francisco is by far one of the nation's most beautiful and
recognized city, and it is also an historic bastion of big-city
Democratic loyalty that even Gonzalez hasn't cut himself off
from.

"I joined the Green Party because it's a party with good
Democratic values," Gonzalez told San Francisco television
station KTVU Monday.

The city by the Bay is also a traditionally liberal city that has
hosted the beatniks of North Beach, the hippies of Haight-Ashbury
and the gay movement in the Castro. It is that tradition that has
skewed the perceptions of San Francisco politics and has
virtually cast the election in terms of class warfare when it
comes down to the homeless and the city's low-income residents.

The wedge issue has been the controversial "Care, Not Cash"
ballot initiative that Newsom championed while on the San
Francisco County Board of Supervisors and was seen as a concerted
effort to run the poor out of their humble homes in one of the
costliest cities in the nation.

Seen through the left-shift of the political prism in San
Francisco, Newsom is vilified as a pro-growth lapdog of the
business community, which is allegedly bent on gentrifying the
city even though the elderly, sick and blue-collar will have to
be sent packing.

The homeless were also seen as a target of the business community
through the 2002 "Care, Not Cash," plan, which would have
improved social services but cut off cash General Assistance
payments to the legions of street people dug into some parts of
the downtown area.

The proposal was approved by the voters but later killed through
court litigation, which neither solved the problem nor ended the
idea of cutting off aid payments to derelicts.

Newsom has listed the addressing of the homeless issue as a major
plank in his economic platform aimed at drawing more businesses
to town -- and San Francisco's location on a peninsula means most
commercial activity is clustered in and immediately around
downtown.

"San Franciscans are increasingly frustrated with aggressive and
improper solicitation, which threatens our safety and diminishes
quality of life for everyone," Newsom said

To that end, not only would the homeless be weaned rather
abruptly from their monthly stipend, but they also would be
prohibited from panhandling beleaguered tourists and office
workers at hot spots such as freeway ramps, bus stops and
automated teller machines. Violators would be subject to arrest
after the appropriate warnings from the city's no-nonsense police
force.

Gonzalez has not forcibly challenged Newsom on the issue since
being portrayed as a champion of aggressive panhandlers probably
wouldn't appeal to too many voters regardless of their politics.

What Gonzalez wants to do is increase, or at least to maintain,
the size of San Francisco low-income housing pool. The run-down
residency hotels and apartment houses began to decline during the
1990s when the high-tech boom fueled demand for office space and
new upper-income housing in the venerable low-income downtown
neighborhoods such the Tenderloin, South of Market, the Mission
and South of Market.

The San Francisco Chronicle last week endorsed Newsom both for
his willingness to improve the downtown business climate and for
Gonzalez's perceived lack of a solid plan for the homeless
situation.

"Gonzalez's own homeless proposal -- posted just recently on his
campaign Web site -- reveals a hodgepodge of ideas that have been
floating around City Hall for years, hardly the kind of initiative
needed
for the city's most obvious crisis," the newspaper concluded.

But an endorsement by the Chronicle is seen by some activists as
proof that Newsom is in the pocket of the business community, and
that may draw suspicious San Francisco voters to the Green Party.

"The greens that have held office have tried to bring ethics to
city government," Gonzlez said to KTVU Monday. "I'm pleased that
the electorate in San Francisco is really smart and isn't fooled."

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