Letters to the Editor

Week of Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What about thumb wrestling?:[Supervisor Tom] Ammiano might be playing a bigger role in the "Reefer-Ra" war than it first appears ["Reeferzilla Meets NIMBY-Ra," Matt Smith, Oct. 12]. I enjoyed Matt Smith's column on [Supervisor Ross] Mirkarimi's relentless efforts to make sure every block has a [pot] club to call its own. But there is more! If Ammiano wants to be the next school superintendent, he will need to practice his sumo wrestling skills. Not only is Ammiano paying a pittance in property taxes under Prop. 13; if he wants to be superintendent, he will need to wrestle with a lot of real-taxpaying moms when they learn he sided with Mirkarimi to allow pot clubs within 500 feet of schools. The PTA will go nuts over that.

Kim Stryker
San Francisco

Good things come inPuni packages: I needed a good laugh, and the "Google Buys San Francisco" [comic strip] was right on the mark [Oct. 5]! Go Puni!

Name withheld
San Francisco

Rhythm and News

The moment of misconception: Your article on abstinence ["Abstinence a Go-Go!," Infiltrator, Sept. 28] contained a common misconception about natural family planning. Your author refers to it as the "so-called rhythm method." However, NFP, while based on the same principle, is far more accurate and reliable than the old rhythm method. The rhythm method relied on simply counting the number of days since the woman's last period. However, NFP relies on much more accurate methods of determining when a woman is ovulating such as basal temperature and mucous thickness. NFP, when practiced properly, is far more effective than the rhythm method and as effective as condoms.

Just wanted to bring this to your attention.

Dave Smith
San Francisco

Infiltrator scores again: Great write-up! Especially the "tea-bagging"!

Keep up the muckraking, mockery, and general mind-fucking!

Gene [Last name withheld]
Oakland

S.F. as Welfare Queen

Driving the point home: While I agree with Mr. Smith's general dislike of government pork, I had a good laugh reading a San Francisco columnist, in the home of pork barrel politics, rant about pork barrel politics ["Pig Government," Matt Smith, Sept. 21].

For the 60 percent of San Franciscans who have been here less than five years, let me fill in a few of the facts that Mr. Smith either "forgot" or never knew.

Circa 1972, California voters passed Proposition 13, limiting property taxes. Prop. 13 required an overhaul of the tax code, which was largely written by San Francisco state Sen. Phillip Burton, older brother of just-termed-out Sen. John Burton. This "overhaul" was written to grossly favor San Francisco, exactly the kind of pork politics Matt Smith is ranting about. By specifying that sales-tax dollars were to be distributed where the money was spent, not where it was earned, nor where the person who spent the money lives, a gross asymmetry in the tax code was introduced. The sales-tax laws favor retail business (i.e., tourism, San Francisco's biggest industry), and discourage housing.

Let's take, for example, a person who lives in San Jose, and works in San Jose, but unfortunately spends a night on the town in San Francisco. San Jose provides the space for him to live, a space and favorable business climate for him to work, but San Francisco gets to keep all of the money. San Jose is required to provide fire and police protection, schools, parks, libraries, etc., but doesn't get any money to do it.

As a result, San Jose has a 25,000-unit development planned in Coyote Valley, but won't allow housing development there until enough retail business is there to pay for the services required for the housing. If sales taxes were distributed fairly, they could have built that housing 20 years ago.

It is not surprising that there is no affordable quality housing in San Francisco. The laws written by San Francisco politicians prohibit it! Does anyone really wonder why after years of explosive growth in California, San Francisco is smaller today than it was in 1950?

What does this have to do with pork barrel transportation? Well, let's start with Matt Smith's opening story of trying to walk in the sea of frustrated motorists. Is it really surprising, in a city that has torn down more freeways than it has built in the last 10 years, that motorists are frustrated? This has nothing to do with pork and everything to do with simple incompetence on the part of San Francisco city government. Remember, the Sierra Club says cars are bad.

On the other hand, the Prop. 13 rules mean that commuters are good. They drive in, buy things and pay sales tax and payroll tax (i.e., subsidies to San Francisco), and then leave to demand services from other towns. What could be better for San Francisco? Well, the problem is "The City" wants it both ways. It wants the benefit of commuters, but without paying for anything, like freeways, to benefit commuters. After all, they don't live here.

Mr. Smith bags on BART in particular. And he should, but not for the reasons he thinks. Contrary to what the Sierra Club will tell you, any transportation system, including mass transit, creates sprawl. But, as long as suburbanites continue to work and shop in San Francisco and live somewhere else, sprawl is good for San Francisco.

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