Sun | Nov 18, 2018

San Francisco to vote on taxing rich businesses for homeless

Published:Monday | October 15, 2018 | 10:05 AM
A measure on San Francisco's November 6 ballot would levy an extra tax on hundreds of the city's wealthiest companies to raise $300 million for homelessness and mental health services. It's the latest battle between big business and social services advocates who say that companies such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce can afford to help solve severe inequities caused by business success. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco has come to be known around the world as a place for aggressive panhandling, open-air drug use and sprawling tent camps, the dirt and despair all the more remarkable for the city’s immense wealth.

Some streets are so filthy that officials launched a special “poop patrol,” and a young tech worker created “Snapcrap” — an app to report the filth.

Morning commuters walk briskly past homeless people huddled against subway walls.

In the city’s squalid downtown sector, the frail and sick shuffle along in wheelchairs or stumble around, sometimes half-clothed.

The situation has become so dire that a coalition of activists collected enough signatures to put a measure on the city’s November 6 ballot.

Proposition C would tax hundreds of San Francisco’s wealthiest companies to help thousands of homeless and mentally ill residents, an effort that failed earlier this year in Seattle.

San Francisco’s measure is expected to raise $300 million a year, nearly doubling what the city already spends.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” says Marc Benioff, founder of cloud-computing giant Salesforce and a fourth-generation San Franciscan, who is supporting the measure even though his company would pay an additional $10 million a year if it passes.

“Nobody should have to live like this. They don’t need to live like this. We can get this under control.”

“We have to do it. We have to try something,” said Sunshine Powers, who owns a tie-dye boutique, Love on Haight, in the city’s historic Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood.

“If my community is bad, nobody is going to want to come here.”

The proposition is the latest battle between big business and social services advocates who demand that corporate America pay to solve inequities exacerbated by its success.

In San Francisco, it’s also become an intriguing fight between recently elected Mayor London Breed, who is siding with the city’s Chamber of Commerce in urging a no vote, and philanthropist Benioff, whose company is San Francisco’s largest private employer with 8,400 workers.

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