Last evening I spoke against Prop. A (the local measure that would put taxpayers more on the hook for government retirement benefits) at the endorsement meeting of the SF Black Leadership Forum. I think I did all right, though I'm not sure whether I convinced anyone of our perspective on it. There were about 10 members there plus two or three others present to talk about other measures. At least one woman present, maybe two, agreed with us -- but probably for the wrong reasons.
One member who spoke out forcefully seemed to be a Prop. A supporter. He disputed my claims and also said the piece I quoted from the Chronicle ( http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/2010-04-26/news/20868777_1_city-workers-city-controller-ben-rosenfield-overtime ) sounded like it had been written by the Koch brothers. I said it was Rachel Gordon of the Chronicle, and he said "who is now a government employee". I responded that maybe she realized what a good deal they were getting.
A woman who was present pointedly disagreed with him when he questioned my assertion that Prop. A would let the politicians take money out of the Retiree Health Care Trust Fund immediately. She said her union (I think a chapter of the SEIU) is opposed to Prop. A, because they think it's going to let the fund be raided. She also contradicted his assertion that nobody besides the LPSF opposes Prop. A, mentioning the Green Party and the League of Pissed Off Voters as being opposed, and I think maybe one or two other organizations which I unfortunately didn't write down at the time. I thought one of them she mentioned might have been the Harvey Milk Club, but I checked their page ( http://www.milkclub.org/endorsements2013 ) and they are supporting it. The only surprise in the left-wing group's endorsements is they are taking no position on Prop. D.
Also appearing at the event was a speaker for Prop. A (Nate Lucas??), who didn't seem too effective to me but did focus almost entirely on how it would be good for workers, which may be what some of them wanted to hear, and speakers for and against propositions B and C, and for Prop. D.
I brought a bagful of pennies as a prop, moving piles of them around on the table to illustrate what Prop. A would do. I think it's a nice visual aid which worked well in that setting since we were all sitting at a big table, and I'll probably use it again if the opportunity presents itself.
Besides the back-and-forth noted above, the questions asked were mainly those that we were advised of in advance:
Please be prepared to explain why you feel you or your proposition should be endorsed by SFBLF.
We will then ask you to answer the following questions:
1. How will your proposition will help the African American community?
2. Who is the sponsor and what have they proposed or supported that supported and addressed the issues facing the African American community.
3. If you receive our endorsement will you be able to financially help our efforts to advertise your endorsement in newspapers, slate cards, and other public media?
In response to the third question, I explained our budget situation and the $1000 campaign spending cap, but left the door open to suggest that if they wanted to work with us, we might be able to reallocate some of our planned ad money. The union woman told me afterward that her union has money to spend to oppose Prop. A, and is just looking for a campaign to pour it into. She said they have resources for phone banking, and that she'd follow up and get in touch with me. Given the legal constraints, and that they may want to use different messaging than we do, I'm not sure how much room there may be for cooperation, but I said I'd be happy to talk to her.
In response to the first question, I asked whether anyone there thought blacks were adequately represented in city government (of course none of them did), and pointed out that this measure would be giving more resources to a relatively well-off group in which African-Americans are under-represented, referencing the $93,000 average city government salary quoted in the Chronicle article and asking what the average black person's salary is in SF (of course much less).
In response to the second question, I admitted the Libertarian Party hasn't always been as engaged with the black community and addressing its issues as we should be, but told them I am very interested in seeing us aggressively go after social justice issues. I mentioned our opposition to the War on Drugs and its disproportionate effect on blacks and Hispanics, and the SF Weekly's revelation of the huge scandal that 60% of the people in SF county jail have not been convicted of anything (see http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2012/11/barred_from_freedom_stats_pret.php ). Finally I mentioned the letter below from a founder of the Black Panther Party about the tragic shooting of a 13-year-old by the police in Sonoma County on Oct. 22 (see below -- thanks for posting this, John!).
My hope is that they came away with more faith in our good intentions and a slightly better opinion of the libertarian movement, even if they don't end up agreeing with us on this measure. Dr. James Calloway, who was chairing the meeting, said he'd let presenters know the results of their endorsement vote. I'm not optimistic, but we'll see.
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))