Reform organization has had a busy year

More than a year after community group the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, first made waves on the Peninsula scene, local officials are saying it has come a long way in representing some of the most underserved areas in San Mateo County.

When the South San Francisco-based local ACORN branch first started making demands of officials at Caltrain and San Bruno for cleanup around the train tracks, officials said then that they were blindsided by requests that cleanup happen as soon as possible.

Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said at the time that the group’s tactics, which included a march to the perceived problem site, felt like an ambush. As their reach expanded to Daly City earlier this year, officials there, including Mayor Maggie Gomez, also took issue with the group’s protest-style tactics and membership fees.

The group found office space earlier this year in South San Francisco, according to local organizer David Sharples. Since then, it has stepped up its reach, taking on other issues including universal health care, foreclosures in South San Francisco, traffic issues in North Fair Oaks and street pavement issues in East Palo Alto.

Just last week, roughly half a dozen T-shirt-adorned ACORN members appeared at a San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting, urging the board to pass a resolution, sponsored by Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, encouraging a three-month moratorium on foreclosures.

And now even those who once took issue with the group are praising it, such as the Daly City mayor.

“Good for them. I have no problem with ACORN,” Gomez said. “I applaud their efforts on all these issues.”

San Bruno Councilmember Jim Ruane, who attended an ACORN-sponsored City Council candidate forum last month, said the group brought up issues such as traffic and limousines parking for lengthy periods of time in the Belle Air neighborhood, where most San Bruno ACORN members reside.

“We told them about the process of going about [traffic calming] and they seemed to be very satisfied with those answers,” Ruane said.

Supervisor Jerry Hill said that, to his knowledge, ACORN had not been heavily involved in county-level issues until recently.

“They had not been around to participate and, to be honest, they had not expressed interest in the past,” Hill said. “But they are now, and they’re giving a voice to an underrepresented constituency that needs to have a voice.”

ACORN’s reach on the Peninsula

Cities and the issues the group is focusing on

» San Bruno Traffic, parking, Election 2007

» Daly City Cleaning up trash in the Crocker neighborhood

» South San Francisco Foreclosure, blighted streets

» East Palo Alto Repaving streets, improving lighting

» North Fair Oaks Traffic calming

» San Mateo County Universal health care, property foreclosures

– Source: ACORN

tramroop@examiner.com

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