Ruminations on Reparations
On April 19, 1972, John B. Connally, Jr., then-U.S. secretary of the treasury, declared at the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in Washington, D.C.: “A democracy unsatisfied (by support of the people] cannot long survive…. We live in probably the most turbulent and tormented times in the history of this nation. Criticize … disagree, yes, but also we have as leaders an obligation to be fair and keep in perspective what we are and what we hope to be.”
Now that taxpayer claims overcharging the City and County for collecting and disposing trash from municipal properties have been paid by the monopoly known as Recology, Inc. in the amount of $25 million as a credit against future charges, citizens would expect the expired five-year contract with the monopoly for residential and commercial trash to foster competitive bidding for that garbage collection. An ordinance by the Board of Supervisors and mayor will effectuate the end of such monopoly. Your scribe expected Boara d President Aaron Peskin to introduce that long-deserved law, but at press time, there has been exasperating silence from the crafty Telegraph Hill official. Meanwhile, Republic Services won the municipal properties trash contract and is ready with others to bid for private properties’ collection and environmental reclamation.
Last December, San Franciscans got a look at the handiwork of the San Francisco African American Reparation Advisory Committee’s “Reparations Plan,” prepared by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission staff and numbering 58 pages. It emanates from then-Board President Shamman Walton’s February 2020 resolution adopted that December. The Committee consists of 15 members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, including someone who has experienced incarceration, homelessness and public housing residence.
The Committee recommends a $5 million payment to any African-American aged 18 years or older who satisfies two of eight criteria, some of which don’t even mandate having lived in San Francisco or possessing even some flimsy connection to our City.
As the Washington Examiner noted last month, taxpayers whose forebearers didn’t own slaves or died in the Civil War or possessed any U.S. ancestors before the Civil War, will pay “reparations,” even to people convicted and imprisoned for crimes they committed.
As a Harvard Magazine reader commented last month, the collection line for taxpayer money will ultimately include women denied until 1919 their voting rights, handicapped people without government-enforced opportunities, Asians excluded from immigration to America or public schools herein, Jews enslaved in Egypt or suffering discrimination here. Everyone can seek such reward. With City Hall approvals, an independent “Office of Reparations” and a Reparation Stakeholder Authority “independent of the City and County” must be established and funded. Happy Days will be here again for such appointees.
While reparations were oozing through City Hall, the author of the legislation creating the San Francisco African-American Reparations Committee, the same Supervisor Walton, was confidentially exonerated by City Hall’s Human Resources director on July 5, 2022, for verbally harassing Sheriff’s Cadet Emare Butler who unsuccessfully appealed such whitewash to the Civil Service Commission where it was similarly denied. Walton had previously demanded Board of Education Commissioner Ann Hsu’s resignation for use of alleged racist language. It’s permissible, obviously, for him to use the N-word toward the young Black cadet who asked him to remove his belt and metal, like all others entering City Hall but, wait: Walton’s Chief of Staff Natalie Gee announced the N-word is only racist if someone who isn’t Black utters it, and the incident was “normal” communication between two Black males and a “sign of solidarity.” You can’t make this anemic result up!
Meanwhile, Harvard University’s student newspaper, The Crimson, revealed that more than 80% of Harvard’s faculty identify politically as “liberal” or “very liberal” and just 1% of those surveyed of 1,100 members of the faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences characterized themselves as “conservative.” None claimed to be “very conservative.” Only 25% supported increasing faculty diversity by hiring more conservative-leaning professors and 31% opposed employing conservative professors to increase ideological diversity.
Thanks to the Common Sense Party (more on that in April) member Marc Norton, I’m pleased to report San Francisco Heritage on Jan. 25, 2022, conveyed a meritorious recommendation to our Planning Commission to preserve as historic 369 Valley St. (in Noe Valley), consisting of two “earthquake shacks” configured as one cottage, to save it from development. I second the effort.
As Civil War chaplain Father Abram Joseph Ryan noted in “A Land Without Ruins”: “A land without ruins is a land without memories is a land without history.” May we always commemorate San Francisco’s fire and earthquake of April 18, 1906.
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.
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