The Safety Net Is a Hammock
Congrats to Messrs. Pasztor and Cothran for their overdue expose of convicted felons working for the San Francisco Housing Authority ("Project Employment," July 22). As a lawyer who's successfully taken that agency to court for its failure to safely house the elderly, I can vouch for all they've written, including the Authority's stonewalling when confronted with clear evidence of its negligence.

Perhaps the best proof of their pudding was in the Guardian's July 22 railing against "the corporate media's hostility to public-sector employment projects" (no tired cliches there!), and its predictably excusing hiring and retaining career criminals as consistent with current law.

While that is unfortunately, and unbelievably, the state of the law, I don't see the Guardian doing anything to change it, like agitpropping for tighter employment standards, for starters. Of course, that would be inconsistent with its view of a one-Party, Workers' State where even hard-core incorrigibles are guaranteed a paycheck, if not the work that's supposed to generate it. Who says the "safety net" hasn't become a hammock?

Don't rest on your bay laurels, guys; it's time to set your sights on Muni. Tell us -- and the grand jury -- what line to take to the Hall of Justice.

G. Michael German, General Counsel
S.F. County Republican Central Committee
Via Internet

Strange Practices at the SFHA
I was glad to read that someone in S.F. is looking into the strange practice of giving known crack dealers and violent offenders what amounts to a free pass to the city's public housing developments ("Project Employment").

As your much-needed research progresses, you might also look into how many Housing Authority-employed felons were working as election workers, poll observers, and "get out the vote" workers during the 49er stadium election.

Ken McCarthy
Via Internet

Steve the Grinning Handbag Says: Crime Is Wrong
I just got through reading your story on convicted felons working for the Housing Authority, and I think you might take more time evaluating what and what does not constitute an appropriate article ("Project Employment").

I've never been arrested and I don't do drugs. I feel that crime is wrong, but the people you're talking about have done their time, and they're apparently trying to get on with their lives and have succeeded in becoming productive members of society.

You don't have anyone working for you that's ever made mistakes or been in trouble?

Lewis Bornmann
Via Internet

Criminals Deserve a Second Chance
A comment by the Housing Authority's spokesman, Ron Sonenshine, in the story on the hiring of 12 convicted drug dealers and other major felons gives one reason to pause ("Project Employment"). Mr. Sonenshine explains that, "Within this socio-economic level, it is common that some individuals may have had an adversarial relationship with the criminal justice system."

Crime cuts across socio-economic levels. The types of crimes the article in your paper points out fit a certain socio-economic level. No one working for the Housing Authority is going to face Ken Starr or Janet Reno or a Senate Select Committee Hearing that's for sure, but it sounds like they are facing criminal prosecution and they are being sentenced.

Your reporters reviewed hundreds of criminal records and came across 12 individuals who had served their time for drug dealing and other crimes. Who really wants to hire someone with a criminal record? And if no one hires them, what will they do? They deserve a second chance and if they have any brains whatsoever they will turn their lives around. Let the courts convict those who are guilty of crimes and sentence them.

Ken Richard
Via Internet

No Apology From the SFHA
I found your artwork on your cover story extremely distasteful and outright racist ("Project Employment"). It depicts a stereotype that I thought had long since disappeared from the hearts and minds of journalists. I was wrong.

The story itself regarding the agency's practice of hiring ex-felons truthfully was an old one that the Independent wrote about several months back. We do, as was reported, need to tighten some of our policies and have begun to examine how best to do this. This agency has come a long way in the past 18 months. Crime is down, the 43 developments have a different feel to them, and the 12,000 residents who reside in public housing are better off today than they were 18 months ago.

Please note that 22 percent of San Francisco's public housing is devoted exclusively to seniors and those who are disabled. You write about four developments where 50 percent of our public housing residents live, and we make no apology in our effort to improve the quality of life for public housing residents.

Ron Sonenshine
San Francisco Housing Authority

Bruzzone Bites Back
I was disheartened by the publication of an anonymous fax in Dog Bites last week ("Summarize This!"), which demeaned my weekly TV series SF/Politics. In private and in public, I have repeatedly complimented the Weekly for its in-depth reporting and feature stories. Members of your staff have been guests on my program. In 1997, the Alliance for Media, a progressive trade group which promotes alternative media, judged SF/Politics the best talk show in the country among 2,000 entrants. More recently, the program was judged for the second time the best talk show series in the Bay Area.

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