Clean, Green and Hypocritical

What do teenage manual laborers, new patrol officers, and cuts in renewable energy have in common? All are coming to the City of San Francisco, thanks to City Supervisor Scott Wiener.

On June 26th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed Mr. Wiener’s “Clean, Green, and Safe” budget proposal, which will double the number of patrol officers, grow funding for the Recreations and Parks Department which has an ongoing program that enlists school students in tree trimming and weed pulling, and give money to the Department of Public Works (DPW) which is currently spraying San Francisco’s sidewalks with water four hours per day, five days per week, during California’s ongoing severe drought.

“I’ve supported many pro-environment initiatives,” Mr. Wiener’s website says. “San Francisco has led the way for years in finding innovative approaches to protecting our environment.”

Of these “environmentally friendly” innovative approaches, Weiner’s budget proposes to add $2.7 million to DPW’s funds in order “to keep our streets, sidewalks, and public spaces clean and our green landscaping thriving,” according to the San Francisco Forest Alliance. This means the City will continue its new policy of spraying water on Market Street’s concrete sidewalks. When asked if the policy to clean the sidewalks with water will continue despite the State’s current severe drought conditions, DPW Spokesperson, Rachel Gordon, answered: “Yes.”

Mr. Weiner furthered his innovative approach to protecting our environment by siding with the decision to eliminate the funds that would allow residents of San Francisco access to 100% renewable energy. Instead, Weiner agreed with Mayor Ed Lee to cut all $19.5 Million from the renewable energy program, CleanPowerSF, which would have been “the City’s clean power program that will provide San Francisco with a 100%, California-certified renewable energy alternative.” The funding cut to CleanPowerSF was viewed as the likely end to its existence. No renewable energy options are available to residents of San Francisco.

Clean: Teenagers Performing Park Maintenance

The new budget also proposes to provide Parks and Recreation with approximately $2 million in additional funds for park maintenance, according to the San Francisco Forest Alliance. But, since 2012, local high school teenagers have provided approximately 2,100 hours of manual labor in park maintenance at a rate of $100 for three days of work.

“Workers in San Francisco deserve the right to earn a fair wage,” Mr. Weiner said on his website. But some say paying minors approximately $7 per hour for manual labor work isn’t a fair wage, especially considering San Francisco’s annual overall budget of approximately $8.6 Billion, with an added estimated $2 million specifically for weed pulling and tree trimming. Of the schools represented by the students, 10 were public, 2 were private.

Safe: Doubling the Number of Patrol Officers

Lastly, the Clean, Green, and Safe budget proposed $2.7 Million to double the number of patrol officers in the City’s parks. Part of the new patrol officers’ duties will be to enforce the City’s existing law that does not allow for sleeping at night in any park. “With this new funding, we will bolster our ability to mitigate these basic quality of life issues.”

Unfortunately, the biggest quality of life issue in San Francisco isn’t an empty soda can on the ground, but rather the homeless families who have nowhere to go. Last year, the number of homeless families in the City reached a record high, and many use the City’s parks as a place to stay when no other options are available.

Why don’t these homeless families go to shelters at night? Well, last year the shelter waitlist reached a record high at 268 families and, contrary to widespread belief, most homeless people in San Francisco are from San Francisco.

Doubling patrol officers means homeless people will encounter yet another barrier in their daily struggle for human rights. The continued spread of laws and policies over the past two years to remove homeless people from San Francisco in order to “beautify” the City is rampant and blatant. Doubling the patrol officers, providing $2.7 Million for their effort, is another feather in the Board of Supervisors gilded cap.

What this Means (The Subtext)

What does “Green” mean to you? Does it mean elimination of all renewable energy? Does it mean increasing water usage during the State’s most severe drought, one which the State’s Governor asked all citizens to decrease their water usage by 20%?

What does “Clean” mean to you? Are your hands clean if you employ minors to do manual labor at low pay? Are the City’s weeds being pulled by the poor adults who need “the right to be pay a fair wage,” or are they being pulled by low-pay minors in order to bolster the City’s bottom line?

What does “Safe” mean to you? Are the homeless families safe after you wake them up from sleeping in a park, tell them to leave, but don’t provide shelter for them to go to? Does it make sense to provide more funding for patrol officers, or would it make more sense to provide more funding for homeless family shelters?

What does it mean when “Clean,” “Green” and “Safe” are nothing more than words to paint a politician as good for the people when, in reality, their actions are nothing but detrimental? How is the public supposed to understand the truth when the truth is being hidden so well? As budget proposals like this continue to turn the City “Dirty, Environmentally Wasteful and Hazardous,” San Francisco’s original colors of peace, love, and human rights will forever be stained.

The original version of this article was written for The Street Sheet, a newspaper produced by the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. The newspaper is given by the Coalition to homeless persons who the are then able to sell the newspapers on the street and keep the money they make from these sales.