Monday, January 17, 2011

It's all Randy Shaw's fault

Matt Smith of SF Weekly and Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron and the Tenderloin Housing Coalition have had a bad relationship for years. But there was a time when they were on the same page politically---at the sit-in demonstration against the Hastings College plan to build a parking garage on nearby property on the edge of the Tenderloin. Both Smith and Shaw wanted UC to build housing on the property, but, unlike Shaw, Smith and Supervisor Chris Daly, who was arrested at the demonstration, were part of the city's nascent anti-car movement led by the SF Bicycle Coalition.

It probably doesn't help their relationship that Shaw has never had much interest in the great bike-based anti-car movement in San Francisco. Smith came out of the closet as a bike zealot in 2005, when he wrote about his death-defying daily commute by bike to the SF Weekly's office South of Market. And he took the injunction against the Bicycle Plan real hard in 2006, making a personal attack on me that was stupid even by bike nut standards. Of course he didn't bother talking to me before he wrote the hit-piece, but that's not an unusual modis operandi for Smith; he did the same thing to Randy Shaw several years ago.

In last week's Weekly, Smith has another dumb attack on Shaw:

When Newsom became mayor seven years ago, he was faced with a quandary: He campaigned on a promise to end homelessness, yet had no serious plan to do so. Any steps toward reform promised backlash from leftists. In a political masterstroke, he handed much of his antihomelessness policy to left-wing political broker Randy Shaw, who ran a nonprofit whose main pre-Newsom activity was handling benefit checks for indigent people. The left was politically paralyzed from seriously criticizing the mayor on the issue. But Shaw was no property manager or social service provider, and he made an expensive mess of efforts to house the indigent. Given wings, Lee could scotch the city's politically compromised antihomelessness programs and build a system run by competent professionals like himself (Jan. 12, 2011, SF Weekly).

Homelessness in SF? It's all Randy Shaw's fault! Newsom was elected Mayor of San Francisco primarily because he convinced city voters that he was serious about doing something about the growing homeless squalor on city streets and in city parks, beginning with Care Not Cash, which ended the city's policy of handing out cash to the homeless, a policy that in effect only enabled them to continue to live on city streets. Care Not Cash has in fact been a significant success, as have Newsom's subsequent programs to deal with homelessness---Project Homeless Connect, Homeward Bound, and supportive housing.

Supportive housing is where Randy Shaw and the Tenderloin Housing Coalition come in, since Shaw and that organization have been managing/leasing SRO hotels for the city to house the formerly homeless. In short Shaw has never made homeless policy; he's simply a sub-contractor for the city as it continues to struggle with what is now clearly a permanent problem for every big city in the country.

The city's left has been reluctant to criticize the city's homeless programs because of Randy Shaw? Pure fantasy. City progs have been mindlessly slamming Newsom on homelessness ever since he beat their boy, Matt Gonzalez, in 2003. Newsom offered voters a clear choice: either do something about homelessness, beginning with Care Not Cash, or continue the status quo with Gonzalez, who offered nothing but Marxist verbiage about the "roots" of homelessness but no policy alternatives to Care Not Cash.

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