Election season is on, and in San Francisco that means one thing:
It’s time to turn homeless people’s lives into political pinball.
That truism was in full swing at a housing transportation and urban planning forum with Supervisor Jane Kim, BART Board of Directors candidate Lateefah Simon and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at Mission High School last Tuesday night.
Inside, the political hopefuls talked housing.
Outside, on the steps of the oh-so-lovely Mission High, camped a handful of urbanization wonks carrying signs emblazoned with “tents are NOT the solution.”
And yes, they were in tents. Their arguments were also in-tense-ly over the top.
Mostly, the critique arose around Kim’s opposition to Proposition Q, which is Supervisor Mark Farrell’s ballot measure to make tent encampments on San Francisco streets illegal.
Wiener is a major supporter.
Now he seems to be making it a central issue in the state senate campaign, which is notably flagging in media coverage.
Under Prop. Q, homeless people’s tents would be confiscated, and those folks would be offered shelter.
Here’s a problem, though: The City’s shelters are full. You or I can see that right now, via the mighty power of the interwebs!
Head to sf311.org/shelter-reservation-waitlist, and you’ll see right now there are 888 souls waiting for shelter.
And there are more than 3,500 folks on our streets, according to the last point in time count.
Wiener rebutted this, and told On Guard the “Pier 80 [shelter]was never at capacity. We can get the people living in tents into shelter, we have the ability to do that right now.”
Sorry Scott. You’re good on a lot of issues, but that’s a clear dodge.
The shelters are full. Full stop.
The public isn’t well versed in homeless population and shelter minutiae, however, so his nonsensical argument — to put homeless people in shelters that don’t exist — may resonate with the public.
Long-time campaign consultant Jim Ross said the public usually only supports homeless measures designed to “take” if The City also “gives.”
He should know. Ross ran then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s ultrasuccessful “Care not Cash” campaign in 2002, which diverted direct money support from the homeless and put it toward housing and services.
“The thing people don’t realize is that in 2000 the exact same measure was on the ballot,” Ross said. But, it lost in that first go-around.
It was, Ross said, “the same issue.”
Here’s the rub: In 2000, the campaign centered around “taking something away from people that don’t have anything,” Ross said. But in 2002 the focus changed to giving homeless people “care” in lieu of cash.
Right now, Ross said, Wiener’s legislation “just takes away the tents.”
Wiener’s campaign pushed back against this. They said that a sales tax, also on the ballot, would fund increased homeless services.
But Ross said that’s too complex for the voting public to understand.
“Voters in general will do addition and subtraction, they won’t do algebra,” he said.
So will Wiener’s gambit to nail Kim on “homes not tents” ultimately be successful? That brings us back to the housing forum, which Wiener’s campaign manager Jeff Sparks called “a sham,” and was actually a Kim rally.
True enough –– there may have been some naked political gain in holding a housing forum featuring only running candidates, and no housing experts.
But if that’s the case, then the number of supporters each candidate each garnered that night spoke volumes.
Mission High School seats more than 1,700 people, and when On Guard arrived the bottom floor was completely filled (though I didn’t get a good look at the balcony).
And outside Mission High?
About 20 or so dedicated Wiener-fans, crying for the tents to come down.
* * *
If there’s one positive thing to be said about national blowhard Donald Trump, at least his (and his supporters) insanity may be unifying folks who may otherwise be at odds.
Though Wiener and Kim are at each other’s throats in their state senate campaign, their volunteers found common ground over Latinos for Trump co-founder Marco Gutierrez recent, stupidly infamous TV utterance.
If Trump loses, he promised, “you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner!”
Of course, that sounds amazing. More tacos, all the time, please. Seems the two campaigns’ supporters felt the same way.
Noted Wiener campaign staffer (and Pokemon master) Armand Domalewski, also a member of SF BARF, was home sick last Friday. By means of subtle anti-Trump solidarity, and perhaps just overall kindness, noted progressive Paulina Maldonado brought Domalewski lunch — a taco.
They posed together hugging for a photo, and the caption read “San Francisco is pro-Taco.”
I hope when Wiener and Kim turn up the heat — and the attack ads — they remember that even their own supporters can find reason for common ground.
* * *
Although not everyone should be weighing in on tacos. Case in point: San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper tweeted her own taco reply last Friday, and it was a forehead slapping doozy.
— Rusty Staples (@rusty_staples) September 2, 2016
“What if there was a Taco BELL truck on ever (sic) corner? #greatidea” she Tweeted.
Let’s hope she’s joking. Because if you live in the taqueria-capital of the United States (thanks, Nate Silver!) and want to eat a white person’s Mexican knockoff cardboard-taste-alike taco …
… some tastes are better kept secret, ya know?