Originally published in the San Francisco Business Times
WalletHub recently voted San Francisco one of the worst run cities in the United States. It is clear from living in one of the most expensive cities in the country that revenue to run the city is not the problem. The real problem is how we’ve been spending that money.
Making changes will require a combined effort — not only government but a combination of private and public partnerships. We need to treat our problems as a “state of emergency” which requires quick decisions and if necessary, changes to current laws or ordinances that may be in our way.
There are three areas that I believe could be addressed now and show immediate results.
1. City Beautification
We all know our city streets are filthy to the point that they are a public health hazard. Coming off the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the 280 and 101 are the city’s major arteries. Let’s start here to create a clean and welcoming path to our city. In every major U.S. city, these arteries are fresh with flowers, plants and no litter.
In order to pay for this, the city could partner with “Keep America Beautiful,” an organization that has been instrumental in creating cleaner, safer urban environments. The city could also team up with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to secure sponsorships from businesses and local individuals for replanting projects. As a “thank you”, the city could install a road sign with donors’ names on it.
2. Short-term and Long-term Programs To End Homelessness
Homelessness is clearly not a money issue – we have more money set aside for homelessness than programs to help. Here is where we need to take emergency measures to end the homeless crisis immediately.
We need to reinstate laws that will enable us to test individuals for mental health, stability, and drug use. Once evaluated, we should be able to send them to a recovery facility where they can stay safe and be taken care of. Right now, the longest the city can keep someone is 72 hours before they are released. If doctors view someone as completely unable to take care of themselves, then the legal process begins to try to have a Public Guardian appointed for them. This is where we have a major roadblock. We can’t change the laws or the process right away, but we can add more beds to prevent overflow, offer more legal help and add more Public Guardians.
We have the old Laguna Honda Hospital, which is vacant, available and can hold up to 6,400 patients. The hospital was closed due to state seismic requirements, but as a shelter during a state of emergency, we could order cots, tents and whatever is needed to have almost every single homeless person under a roof tonight. Next door is the soon to be vacant Youth Guidance Center along with the old Women’s cabins with which could also be converted easily to emergency housing. This would enable us to concentrate care in one location.
My plan offers the ability immediately to have permanent solutions to housing our homeless population and provide them with a centralized care facility that will save tax dollars while providing real care to the disadvantaged.
3. Improve Government Efficiency
Here is where the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors need to come together. Our city votes in or creates programs that raise our taxes, but aren’t held to producing real results. If we adopted “Zero-based budgeting,” each proposed expenditure could be evaluated against its achievements. If a program is not meeting its mission, its budget would be cut or eliminated. If it’s succeeding, it will receive more money.
If you’d like to get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Facebook at FixSF.