The Richmond District, like other neighborhoods, is struggling with the impact of the pandemic. (Sara Gaiser/S.F. Examiner)

City Hall shouldn’t kick people when they’re down

Growing up in the Richmond District, I remember buying toys at King Norman’s on Clement Street, watching a movie at the Coronet, and going to Joe’s for ice cream on Geary. The Richmond that I later raised my family in was a community where businesses once thrived.

But COVID-19 has exposed the failure of the economic policies of the last 12 years in the District. Businesses are closed. Restaurants are struggling. Housing prices have increased. Companies are opting to leave the City. Tenants are breaking their leases. Residents are fleeing. The Richmond District is a bellwether for the City.

Despite the telltale signs of a local economy in distress, City Hall wants to continue the failed policies of the past and raise your taxes. It is unfair and unreasonable to raise taxes on San Franciscans during a public health and economic crisis. I am the only major D1 supervisorial candidate who strongly opposes raising any taxes during COVID-19.

Here’s some facts to consider. Over 2,000 businesses in the Bay Area have permanently closed since March. Nearly 230,000 Californians filed initial unemployment claims during the week that ended on August 1. At San Francisco State University, where I’ve taught for almost 15 years, 131 staff members are losing their jobs this fall.

Sadly, these numbers are projected to increase. This pandemic has thrown middle class and working families into debt and financial insecurity. People are hurting. We shouldn’t kick people when they are down.

Tax supporters argue that we must vote for tax increases in order to close the city’s $1.7 billion deficit. Yet when Supervisors had a chance to trim the budget, they chose instead to vote for salary hikes for city workers. In fact, Supervisors raised their own salaries by 12% when other city workers only got a 3% raise. In the real world, when everyday people can’t make ends meet, they cut spending. Shouldn’t our government do the same?

We should not raise taxes during the pandemic. And we don’t need to when we haven’t even spent the millions we’ve approved in recent years. On September 9, 2020, the California Supreme Court declined a legal challenge to 2018’s Proposition C and unlocked $492 million for city homeless and housing services. We should spend these funds responsibly before raising taxes during our current economic downturn.

City Hall needs new leaders that have the courage to make difficult decisions. We must have an honest public discussion on setting realistic budget priorities for our communities during this period of ongoing deficits. If City Hall continues with the failed policies of the past, more small businesses will close, more companies will move, and more residents will leave. In November, vote for candidates that are not beholden to a political machine, that have tested leadership experience in their communities, and whose policies protect and fight for everyday people.

David Lee is a native San Franciscan and civil rights educator running for District 1 Supervisor.

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