Prop. N Ruling Helps Newsom
By Gino Rembetes
At first glance, a Superior Court judge’s recent estopment of the “Care
Not Cash” initiative (Prop. N) that city voters approved last November
might appear to boost the political stock of progressive mayoral
candidates Sup. Tom Ammiano and former Sup. Angela Alioto.
The judge, Ronald Quidachay, didn’t take issue with Prop. N’s intent of
drastically paring financial assistance to the needy. His ruling deals
with process; the power to set welfare criteria and amounts rests solely
with county officials, he declared.
How many San Franciscans agree with Prop. N is difficult to gauge.
Although it won with about 60 percent, voter turnout in the city was just
over 40 percent, so the ayes represented only about 25 percent of the
city’s eligible voters.
This puts some political realities into play: First, turnouts in
mayoral elections are usually well below 40 percent. Second, conservatives
always vote, and Quidachay’s ruling will turn them out in droves this
November. Third, just how bad an idea Prop. N is wouldn’t become apparent
overnight; it would take several months for it to work its evil to the
extent that voters would see the light.
These realities work to the advantage of another mayoral candidate,
Sup. Gavin Newsom, who is Prop. N’s author.
Progressives might argue that Quidachay’s decision underscores Newsom’s
ignorance of the law. Or they might say he foisted Prop. N on the voters,
knowing that if it passed it would be thrown out in court and he could use
that to political advantage.
The progressives’ best hope, if one assumes that homelessness remains a
front-burner issue, is for the state Court of Appeal to overturn the
ruling in time for Prop. N to take effect July 1 as originally scheduled.
That would leave four months for the measure’s predictable results -
increases in homelessness and attendant crime - to manifest before the
election. It’s not much time, but it may be just enough to tip the scales.
If the appeal process takes too long or Quidachay’s ruling is upheld,
it becomes a no-lose situation for Newsom, because the longer Prop. N is
kept from becoming policy, the more mileage he gets.
Even if Sup. Tony Hall enters the mayoral race, that doesn’t
necessarily hurt Newsom, because instant-runoff voting, if it’s
implemented on time, will enable conservatives to vote for both of them.
There’s something else the progressive candidates and their supporters
can do in the meantime: raise voters’ awareness of the harm that Prop. N
will do, even if its advocates have the best of intentions.
The Bush administration (some call it a junta, others call it a reich)
is building the nation’s war machine at a huge cost to social services.
California’s gray governor seems most interested in building prisons
and making sure that the “correctional” officers’ union continues to feed
his campaign coffers, and that also lays waste to social services because
the state budget is under a huge strain, which President Bush and the
GOP-controlled Congress are doing their best to exacerbate.
So the state has little or no money for cities, counties, school and
community college districts, etc.
With San Francisco facing its own whopping deficit, mayoral candidates
must thus be prepared to discuss how the city will pay for the services
hyped by Prop. N’s advocates as it looks for money for police and fire
protection, medical care, street and sidewalk repairs, recreational
facilities operation and upkeep, etc.
Gino Rembetes is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist and
progressive activist. E-mail him at