[Hpn] SFGate: It's Whack-a-Mole welfare reform in S.F.

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Thu, 31 Jul 2003 09:01:32 -0700

It's Whack-a-Mole welfare reform in S.F.

Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2003
2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/07/31/BA233525.DTL

 San Francisco residents interested in figuring out whether Care Not Cash or
some hybrid is going to become law had better get out their scorecards to
keep track of the machinations at City Hall.

Voters approved the Care Not Cash welfare reform initiative last fall, only
to have a judge knock it down on the grounds that the Board of Supervisors,
not the electorate, can decide how much aid to give the poor. That ruling
prompted Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who sponsored the ballot measure, to put
it before the Board of Supervisors for consideration.

His bill, like the initiative, would slash the amount of money poor and
homeless people could receive from the city's General Assistance fund. In
lieu of a full cash grant, it would provide them with housing and other
services. But Newsom, who is running for mayor, has had a rough time finding
enough votes to get it passed. One concern of critics is that under Newsom's
plan, housing could be defined as only a bed in a shelter.

In the meantime, Supervisor Chris Daly won board and mayoral approval for an
alternative, dubbed "Real Housing, Real Care." Daly's plan also reduces the
cash stipend but says housing cannot be just a shelter bed. At the very
least, Daly's alternative says, it must be a room in a residential hotel or
a slot in a residential treatment program. The board approved that measure
on July 15, Mayor Willie Brown signed it on Friday, and now it's law.

But it's not the end of the story.

Newsom's Care Not Cash bill is up for a vote before the Board of Supervisors
on Aug. 12 after securing approval from the board's Finance Committee
Wednesday. If the supervisors give their approval, Care Not Cash would trump
Daly's law because it was voted on last. As of now, Newsom still hasn't
lined up the six votes he needs to pass the measure.

Supervisor Tony Hall, meanwhile, has proposed his own legislation. He likes
to call it the "Homeless Accountability Act." It has a triggering device
that would require the Department of Human Services, which runs the city's
welfare system, to get special permission from the Board of Supervisors to
spend more than $11.9 million a year on whichever welfare program eventually
wins out. "It's a safeguard for the taxpayers," Hall said.

Hall's bill would apply to Care Not Cash if it's approved by the board, or
Daly's law, or the initiative approved by voters if the judge's ruling is
overturned on appeal.

Fine, said Newsom, he'll sign on as co-sponsor. But Hall said he still
wouldn't support Care Not Cash. Instead, he is promoting another proposal,
one that combines the Homeless Accountability Act and Care Not Cash -- two
ideas rolled into one. Hall called it a completely different baby from Care
Not Cash. 

"I can touch it, I can see it, I can smell it," he said.

Neat and tidy? Not so fast. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick is one of the people
Newsom was counting on to vote for Care Not Cash. McGoldrick said he'd still
vote for Care Not Cash. And he'll vote for Hall's Homeless Accountability
Act if it stands alone. But when it comes to Hall's combined version,
McGoldrick is holding out. Don't count me in, was the message he gave

That leaves the fate of general relief welfare reform in San Francisco up in
the air. And the other supervisors haven't even gotten a chance to offer
amendments yet. 

E-mail Rachel Gordon at rgordon@sfchronicle.com.

2003 San Francisco Chronicle

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chance martin, Project Coordinator
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