By Brittany Shoot
October 12, 2018

In the November election, San Franciscans will be asked to vote on what should seem like a simple question: do voters want business taxes to fund additional services and preventative measures to deal with the city’s homelessness epidemic?

It’ll cost the city’s businesses up to $300 million in taxes annually, and some the city’s business leaders—in addition to local politicians—are deeply divided on whether Proposition C is the best method for further supporting services for the homeless and alleviating the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Look no further than a Twitter spat between that began Friday, with the chief executive of both Twitter and payment processor Square, Jack Dorsey, weighing in with his support of San Francisco mayor London Breed, who has come out against Prop C.

Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has been a vocal backer of the bill to combat homelessness and spent $1 million of his own and Salesforce’s money so far in support (with another $1 million promised). He responded directly to Dorsey, asking what he has done at either Twitter or Square to help combat and alleviate the suffering often literally at Dorsey’s companies’ front doors on San Francisco’s Market Street.

Dorsey was referring to San Francisco mayor London Breed’s statement posted to Medium in early October, in which she wrote that the city needs to audit the $300 million it already spends on homelessness. Breed wrote that since she took office in July 2018, her administration has been working to audit existing spending, already over $300 million, before authorizing additional funds that would essentially double the amount the city of over 870,000 residents spends on homelessness services and prevention. “Proposition C does not audit the money the City already spends,” she explained.

Proposition C, which is on November 2018 ballot in San Francisco, would raise up to an estimated $300 million annually from taxing the gross receipts over $50 million that a business receives in the city, and from a payroll tax on certain administrative offices. There would be no expiration on these taxes. The roughly $300 million would go into a dedicated fund to support services for homeless individuals, as well as programs to prevent homelessness.

Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor, current California Lt. Governor, and the Democratic candidate running to replace retiring governor Jerry Brown, also does not support Prop C.

By now, the visibility of San Francisco’s homelessness crisis is becoming well-known well beyond the Bay Area. Earlier this year, a medical conference canceled its annual meeting due to how distressing San Francisco’s streets have become to visitors. The city’s Public Works department even recently launched a so-called “Poop Patrol” to clean the sidewalks as a basic health and safety issue for all.

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