The year ahead in San Francisco and the Bay Area will bring several issues to the fore, some of them challenging our faith as lovers of freedom. It may seem an oversimplification, but in general our liberties do diminish as government, however well-intentioned, steps up its activity in our lives.
Barring surprises, here are the salient local issues The Examiner has identified that could test our commitment to a free society:
Health care: In 2007, businesses operating in The City will find themselves struggling with a municipal mandate to provide health insurance to their employees. As they wrestle with diktats that put their very survival on the line, an excruciating concern we’ve heard especially from restaurateurs, all but the smallest employers also have been told by voters they’ll have to grant sick leave to their workers.
Crime: Government’s first duty is maintaining the physical safety of citizens. Because of alarming homicide rates, along with a general sense that crimes against property are out of control, this could surpass health care as the top issue. Foot patrols, surveillance cameras, civil actions against gang members — we’ll watch to see if these initiatives, started last year, show progress.
Redevelopment: Efforts to reinvigorate neighborhoods in Bayview-Hunters Point and Treasure Island show much economic promise. Too often lost in the civic enthusiasm, however, is the moral issue of property rights. The City must reassure homeowners they’ll not be displaced so that other private developers may profit.
Schools: Students further their educational aims best in an atmosphere of choice, especially when they’re not treated as pawns in various social engineering schemes. Charter schools have demonstrated their effectiveness and should be expanded. And why not a local voucher plan?
Sex trafficking: It blackened the Bay Area’s reputation for tolerance when federal raids in 2005 and more revelations in 2006 forced us to confront the appalling fact that slavery — of foreign women coerced into prostitution — thrives in our midst. This is not a legal market of willing people, but a violent, subterranean flesh-peddling industry. The City took laudable first steps to curb it, but must take care that its effort to regulate this illicit behavior doesn’t drive it further and more violently underground.
Subsidized professional sports: In city after city the era of taxpayer-financed arenas and stadiums — a grotesque form of corporate welfare — seemsmercifully to be waning. The 49ers’ announcement that the team would pull out of San Francisco and move to Santa Clara cast the issue into stark relief. The City’s political class should be in no rush to buy them back.
These issues, of course, are carry-overs, and others — private versus socialized Wi-Fi for The City, perhaps, or the forced greening of small businesses? — no doubt will emerge to enliven the mayoral election. Stay tuned.