Shopping Cart War: SF Mayor Shoots Self in Foot

Coalition on Homelessness, SF (
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 09:26:22 -0800

Hey Friends-

Thanks for all the messages of concern and encouragement.  For anyone 
who has followed San Francisco's shopping cart war closely, the 
latest article about Mayor Will-LIE Brown's cynical attempt to court 
"moderate" voters gives a rare glimpse into the magnitude of the 
man's arrogance.  It is truly as big as all outdoors.

It also shows how Mayor Brown is willfully maintaining his denial of 
the of the emergency condition of over 15,000 people forced to sleep 
on San Francisco's streets every night.  We had over 160 homeless 
deaths in San Francisco last year, the highest number in the decade 
that we been tracking them.  If Willie Brown were a true leader 
perhaps he might address the spiraling number of homeless deaths, 
instead of trying to drive homeless San Franciscans out of town.

The election's not for a few weeks, we'll keep you posted.


chance martin
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco

S.F. Abandons Cart Retrieval
Mayor says he never intended to strip homeless of belongings
Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, Chronicle Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 13, 1999
1999 San Francisco Chronicle


San Francisco's plan to start confiscating shopping carts from the
homeless was abruptly held up yesterday -- the apparent victim of
politics, bad public relations and a mayor who supposedly OKd the plan
but now claims he never knew about it.

``I don't expect any police officer to initiate anything in reference to
shopping carts,'' a contentious Mayor Willie Brown said at a news
conference, just before putting the controversial shopping cart
``recovery'' program on hold.

In fact, Brown said he ``had no idea'' where the media got the
impression that police were planning to seize the carts in the first
place, telling reporters, ``I'm not familiar with anyone planning to do

Funny, just last Friday, Police Chief Fred Lau was quoted as saying that
the goal of the plan -- which was to have been implemented this week --
was to ``take back carts that have been stolen from stores and markets
around the city.''

Funnier still, last Saturday, before the issue blew up, Brown seemed
very familiar with the plan, telling KCBS's Bob Melrose that stolen
property is just that -- and stolen property should be returned.

``Whether they are homeless or not, that item must not be allowed to
remain in the hands of the person who has stolen it,'' Brown said.

It wasn't long before the storm of reaction came in. Rival mayoral
candidate Frank Jordan, who first broached the plan when he was mayor,
called it a mistake. And Supervisor Tom Ammiano called it wrongheaded.

By yesterday, Brown was blaming the media and his critics for the
``hysteria.'' The mayor said the last thing he needed was to pick a
fight with the left and appear hostile to the homeless with only three
weeks before the election. ``I'm not trying to get the Giuliani vote,''
he said. According to Brown, the media and his critics took a ``leaked''
document that was ``probably a legitimate, goodwill attempt to outline''
all the possibilities of such a recovery program and ``spooked people
into thinking that some kind of Nazi raid was about to come down.''

Brown was referring to a pair of very public city notices and memos sent
out last week, issued after a meeting in which the mayor supposedly gave
the nod for the cart program.

The first memo was signed by the heads of the Police Department, the
Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Park Department. The
notice outlines the ``recovery'' policy, right down to the city lockers
where the belongings of the homeless were to be stored after their carts
were seized.

The second memo is a police operations order, which instructs district
police on how to go about seizing the carts, even detailing what
citations could be issued if need be.

When showed the memos yesterday, Brown replied: ``You ought to go talk
to the Police Department. . . . I don't run any of those agencies

Whatever the case, mayoral spokeswoman Kandace Bender tells us that
instead of a crackdown, the city now will spend the ``next several
weeks'` doing ``outreach.''

In other words, rather than seize any carts from the homeless, cops and
social workers will instead try to talk them into voluntarily giving up
their carts.

The city will also work to get the homeless to go into various programs.

As for where the ``cart recovery policy'' will go after that is anyone's
guess -- although, off the record, city officials say the odds are the
program will be implemented ``as humanely as possible'' down the line.

Word of the suspension did little to assuage the fears of the homeless
or their advocates. ``It could just be suspended until the media is less
interested,'' said Judy Appel, a staff attorney for the Coalition on

At the perennial shopping cart encampment in U.N. Plaza yesterday, news
that the seizure program was being held in abeyance was greeted with a
chorus of lusty cheers.

``No way Willie was going to get this thing through -- no how,'' said
Tim Showalter, 29, as he lolled in the muddy grass at the west edge of
the plaza, surrounded by 30 carts parked end to end like a Conestoga
wagon train.

Now, over at City Hall, it looks like Willie's the one circling the

--and not everybody's pleased.

At the nearby U.N. Cafe, where owner Rick Chhiu starts his shift each
day by hosing off the urine and feces near his front door, word of the
aborted crackdown fetched a howl.

``What happened? I'll tell you what happened! No power, that's what,''
Chhiu said, waving his hands over his head. ``This city has no power to
clean up this mess!''

1999 San Francisco Chronicle   Page A1


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chance martin
Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
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San Francisco, CA 94102
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