Letters

Welcome Wagon
I was surprised by Jack Shafer's article ("Welcome to S.F. -- Give Us Your Money," Shafer, March 6), which entirely missed the point of Proposition A, the March 26 ballot proposal to fund additional facilities for Moscone Center. Apparently Shafer does not fully understand the positive impact the convention and tourism industry has on our city. Here are the indisputable facts regarding the need for Prop. A.

First, that Prop. A is virtually uncontested speaks to its merits, not the absence of scrutiny, as Shafer would have readers believe. I agree with Shafer that such unanimity is uncommon in San Francisco, but clearly voters should be encouraged, not disheartened, by the enthusiastic, across-the-board support Prop. A generates.

Next, to minimize the direct impact conventioneers have on San Francisco's economy, as Shafer did, is to ignore a major source of revenue for the city. In fact, conventioneers pump more than $700 million into our city's economy annually -- hardly a figure to dismiss lightly. Other cities are furiously working to add convention and meeting space to accommodate a rapidly growing convention industry. Failure to expand the complex would cause it to become the smallest convention space of all significant North American markets. We must maintain our place as one of the premier convention cities fully available to accommodate additional groups -- groups that we are presently turning away.

Shafer also mentioned that hotels and labor unions will benefit from the passage of Prop. A. What is wrong with that? The key point is that many visitor-dependent industries benefit from Prop. A in addition to hotels and labor: restaurants, taxis, retail stores, and many other small businesses. The additional hotel tax will generate more tax revenues for organizations now receiving hotel-tax money: arts and cultural organizations, recreational facilities, low-income housing, and the city's General Fund. And the additional revenue generated by Prop. A will go toward things we need like health care and social services.

The 2 percent increase in the hotel tax to pay for Prop. A will encourage, not discourage, visitors from coming to San Francisco. The increase is simply not large enough to make hotel costs prohibitive, as Shafer suggests. In fact, even with the increase, San Francisco will remain in the same hotel-tax range as other major convention cities.

Finally, of all the assertions made by Shafer, the most "mind-boggling" is his comment referring to a lack of need for jobs. Frankly, anyone who reaches such a conclusion must be living in a well-insulated ivory tower, far from the roar of combat and the screams of the wounded of our society. A few years ago, when asked to help someone find employment, I would say, "Give me a week or two." Today, I can make no such promise. To say that San Francisco's high rate of employment discounts the need for more jobs is unreasonable. Our convention business is a major source of employment for San Francisco. Prop. A will create more jobs -- which San Francisco needs -- strengthen the economy, and benefit all residents. And that is why every member of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor Willie Brown, and hundreds of other San Franciscans are voting Yes on A.

Walter L. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer
San Francisco Labor Council

Party Lines
As incumbent members of the Democratic County Central Committee, we were dismayed to read your biased cover story on our former chair, Matthew Rothschild ("Judging Matthew Rothschild," Feb. 28). According to George Cothran, Rothschild's candidacy for judge has no redeeming values, but we disagree.

Working under his chairmanship, we found Rothschild to be a dedicated, thoroughly prepared, humane person who handled himself with extraordinary grace and professionalism under extreme pressure. He took over the San Francisco Democratic Party at a difficult time -- when California Democrats were in disarray due to the 1994 Republican victories in Congress. He managed to salvage our infrastructure and keep both our office and our executive director, even though the party had no money and was owed substantial funds from out-of-pocket voter-registration programs. We believe we are the only county Democratic Party in the state to consistently keep an office open all year.

In his story, Cothran strongly implies that the committee's endorsement of Rothschild for judge was in payment for political favors. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was overwhelmingly endorsed even by members who had seriously opposed him in the past and who had never received any political consideration from him at any time. With all due respect for Cothran's writing talent and his grasp of San Francisco politics, we believe such unfair hit pieces make for delicious reading by the malicious. It seems Cothran has his own agenda for the upcoming election.

Natalie Berg, Chair
Michael Bornstein, Jeanna Haney, Martha Knutzen, Lee Ann Prifti, John Riordan, Jim West, Claire Zvanski

San Francisco Democratic Party

Trial and Error
Your article on the race for municipal judge ("Judging Matthew Rothschild") misunderstands the role of this very local judge and qualifications for such an office. A good Municipal Court judge is one who handles everyday contract, landlord-tenant, and property disputes with fairness and pragmatism. These are skills that have nothing to do with the number of jury trials that any attorney has participated in.

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