Ex-convicts may soon become a “protected class” in San Francisco – joining African Americans, Latinos, gays, transgender people, pregnant women and the disabled.
A proposal being circulated at City Hall would make it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate against applicants solely because they were “previously incarcerated.”
Sex offenders and perpetrators of some violent crimes would not be covered.
It would also be illegal to ask anyone about their criminal past on an initial job or housing application.
“The mechanics still need to be worked out,” said Supervisor and sheriff candidate Ross Mirkarimi.
“This is a very important discussion on the eve of an immense state prisoner realignment that’s going to return hundreds of prisoners back to San Francisco,” Mirkarimi said.
Ex-cons already are a protected class when it comes to applying for a city job or seeking to live in housing run by the San Francisco Housing Authority.
Recently, however, the Reentry Council of San Francisco – made up of representatives of the mayor’s office, the Police Department, the district attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s Department, the Adult Probation Department and ex-convicts – adopted a resolution urging the city to apply the special status to the private sector as well.
Janan New of the San Francisco Apartment Association condemned the idea, saying state and federal law already prohibits landlords from “arbitrarily discriminating” against applicants.
“When somebody comes to rent housing, we have the ability … to screen someone based only on the ability to pay rent,” New said.
Now, by creating a newly protected class of citizens, New fears the city will unfairly open the door to “where people can litigate because they say, ‘You’re discriminating because I’m an ex-felon.’ ”
“Trust me – I recognize the concern,” said District Attorney and former Police ChiefGeorge Gascón, who backs the plan. “But if we want to reduce the likelihood of people going back to prison, then we have to provide them with an opportunity to reintegrate themselves.”
The city’s Human Rights Commission is preparing to hold hearings on the proposal next week.
Last chance: After a last-ditch meeting that went nowhere, it’s game on for the big pension reform fight.
“We’re going to take it all the way to the finish line,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said after his Monday afternoon sit-down with Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and union leaders went south.
Adachi’s price for keeping his plan off the ballot was a “safety valve” that he wanted inserted into City Hall’s proposal. Under it, city workers would contribute more to their pensions than they have already agreed to if the stock market fails to perform to projections.
The idea was pretty much a nonstarter.
With that, Adachi went over to City Hall and submitted 72,640 signatures to qualify his measure for the November ballot.
Headed east: A delegation of state and regional transit officials jetted over to Shanghai for a $200,000 celebration of the final fabrication of the new Bay Bridge eastern span.
Workers at Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. were still putting some final touches this week on sections of the $6.3 billion span, wrapping up five years of outsourced – and sometimes troubled – bridge production.
Over the weekend, bridge contractors led by American Bridge-Fluor hosted a giant hamburger and hot dog barbecue for hundreds of Chinese workers at the main plant.
Contractors picked up a $150,000 tab for this and other parties – thanks, no doubt, to your toll bridge dollars.
The Bay Area Toll Authority footed a $50,000 party bill, plus an estimated $22,500 for flights and hotels for seven of its commission and staff members – plus two California Transportation Commission reps – to attend.
Caltrans, which has had as many as 65 workers in China for the past five years, insists nobody made a special trip from Sacramento just for the celebration.
In the grove: Retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down the state’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban, will join San Francisco Giants CEOWilliam Neukom, filmmaker Ken Burns, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and ex-Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz as speakers at the annual Bohemian Grove bash this month.
On a lighter note, Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” is speaking on “Lord Rochester’s Joke and the Flaw in Bohemia.”
One tell-tale sign of the secretive July 14-31 gathering will be the stream of private jets landing at Santa Rosa Airport, and the procession of black limousines shuttling big-shot CEOs to the 2,700-acre redwood forest encampment along the Russian River.
(SFgate.com- Philip Matier & Andrew Ross)