Days before the Nov. 6 election, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff joined city and state leaders to convince voters that taxing wealthy companies such as his own is The City’s best shot at reducing the number of homeless people on its streets.
Proposition C, a local ballot measure coming before voters next week, is expected to raise nearly $300 million annually for homelessness initiatives by raising the gross receipts tax by an average .5 percent for San Francisco businesses earning more than $50 million.
The measure has not only proven to be divisive in the business community, but also in City Hall — Mayor London Breed, as well as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, are among its opponents. At a last rally and voter drive held at Dolores Park on Saturday to convince skeptics of the measures’ merits, Benioff explained that he stands behind Prop. C because homelessness has affected his business.
“One of the things about being the largest employer in San Francisco is my customers are coming to San Francisco, my employees are coming to San Francisco, and I have never seen [as] huge [of an] impact on my business as it is with homelessness,” said Benioff, who has personally contributed some $2 million to the Prop. C campaign.
When asked about corporate responsibility in solving one of The City’s biggest and most persistent crises, Benioff said that Salesforce, like so many other successful companies operating in The City, “ has been built on the back of San Francisco.”
“It’s time we can all give back and that’s what Prop. C allows us to do,” he said.
It is a demand long voiced by advocates for the homeless who have authored Prop. C, and one that many at City Hall appear to stand behind.
“Politicians talk a lot about ending homelessness…and we have been doing that for decades,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who was joined by fellow supervisors Jane Kim, Hillary Ronen and Vallie Brown, as well as former city supervisor and local democratic party chair David Campos, Assemblymember Phil Ting, former State Sen. Mark Leno and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
“The folks who put Prop. C together actually decided to look at what it would take to get beyond the talk and actually make the investments in exits to homelessness,” he said.
Coalition on Homelessness director Jennifer Friedenbach, who spearheaded the measure, advocated for its passage from a moral perspective.
“Homeless people are 25 years older than [their actual age],” said Friedenbach. “We are literally killing people through our collective inaction.”
The money raised by Prop. C would create new housing, fund mental health services and add some 1,000 new emergency shelter beds, among other things.
Ensuring that San Franciscans don’t become homeless in the first place — and if they do, that they find a way back on their feet quickly through access to shelter beds, services and housing — is the “vision that Prop. C is bringing,” said Friedenbach.
Benioff said that he is confident that Prop. C will work because it is based on a formula that has proven to be successful in addressing homelessness nationally.
“If you look at the homeless veterans data, it’s down 4 percent here in San Francisco and 5 percent nationally. How did they do it? They combine homes and vouchers with social services,” he said. “It’s exactly the same formula that we are expecting right here for Prop. C — it’s that winning formula that will reduce homelessness.”