February 1997

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February is Black History Month

Mon., Feb. 3, 5:30 Pizza, Mtg. 6:00 p.m.
Meeting of San Franciscans for Tax Justice at New College, 777 Valencia. For more info call 648-1904.
Mon., Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.
"`Famine' as Politics: From Ireland to Africa" with Kevin Danaher, Mkutombo Mpanya, Anuradha Mittal and moderated by Prof. Daniel Cassidy. New College, 777 Valencia. Info 241-1302
Wed., Feb. 12, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
"Portrait of a Politician": From Mineola, Texas, to House Speaker to Mayor-a lively entertaining and personal account of the life and times of the Honorable Willie L. Brown, Jr. UCSF Black Caucus and the Black Student Health Alliance. Enter 513 Parnassus. Info 476-4410.
Wed., Feb. 12, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Board meeting at the office. All welcome.
Thurs., Feb. 13, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
SAN. Unitarian Church, Geary and Franklin.
Thurs., Feb. 13, 12:00 noon
The Bay Area Coalition for Ethical Welfare Reform will rally at the State Building at McAllister and Van Ness.
Fri., Feb. 14
St. Valentine's Day. Hug somebody today!
Tues., Feb. 18, 12:30-3:00 p.m.
Membership meeting: Enola Maxwell of Portrero Hill Neighborhood House on promoting racial harmony and cooperation. Geary and Franklin.
Wed., Feb. 19, 6:30 p.m..
N2N. Women's Building, 18th Street near Valencia.
Thurs., Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m..
Greens. Greening of Cuba, 3 short films, New College Cultural Center, 766 Valencia. $5.00-10.00. Info 339-8140.
In March.
Elderhostel Program-with the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco. Contact Laura Fromm, program coordinator, at 415-929-0202, ext. 15.

Creative Corner
Do you write, read, sing, dance, act, paint, sculpt, cook or create in any way? The idea for such an addition to our network newsletter occurred after publishing last month's report on Agnes Batteiger's venture into paper making. We have many creative individuals in our membership and this should be a place in which to air your talents and projects and interest the rest of us. Make it fairly brief, but tell us about your creative venture and, if possible, give us a sample.

Holidays over, leftovers eaten, gone, scavengers hover. .

San Francisco rain warms the pregnant soil for hatching Spring flame

Wind sleeve catches breeze of warm Hawaiian express and cold northern sneeze. Astrid

Next month, Art in Needlepoint as interpreted by Vi Jacobson.

Regional Meeting
At last month's Bay Area Gray Panthers meeting in Walnut Creek, we discussed local actions as they relate to national issues. We agreed that we need to interact much more with task forces on ways and means to- ward achieving common goals.

The next regional meeting will be held here, in San Francisco. Join us.

Library Alert

The following article is reprinted verbatim from one submitted too late for our print newsletter production. Deetje Boler is a Board member, a former Convenor and an ardent community activist.

"The fight to save the San Francisco Public Library book collection and free and equal access to it has ended in a round one TKO of city librarian Ken Dowlin, who resigned "under fire" at a special Library Commission meeting on January 21. However, the departure ceremony at the meeting included accolades to his "vision" by each member of the Commission in turn, as well as by Art Agnos, Mayor at the time the bond measure to build a new library was passed. The "vision" seems to boil down to bankrupting librarieswith contracts for computer systems and "refining" the concept of "free" public libraries to pay the endless costs thus incurred. The telecommunications industry naturally sees public libraries as a great potential market; technophiles like Dowlin are easy prey.

"What is disconcerting in this case is that two years ago, San Francisco voters passed Prop. E, which almost doubled the annual budget for the library to $35 million but the library has nevertheless overspent this budget by $6 million, and nobody seems to know why. This question is supposed to be answered by an audit to be completed sometime in March.

"Meanwile, there is apparently not enough money to buy new boods or shelve old ones. To add salt to the wound, more than 100,000 (some say more than 200,000 ) items from the collection were trucked, unaccounted for, to the garbage dump and 57,000, according to the library's own figures, have been given away. All the LP records were similarly disposed of, by the way.

"Which brings us to round two. We must deftly ride this wave of new technology without allowing our books to be jettisoned overboard in the scramble to plug into the electronic future. We must protect the longstanding concept of the public library as a sanctuary for books with free and equal access to them.

"Beyond that, our public libraries are uniquely the social mechanism for carrying the words of one generation to the next, at the same time making them accessible in the present, thanks to the services of the librarians. Bookstores are nice, but they don't have the older books that a public library preserves and their books are not free. University libraries are nice, but they're not accessible to all.

"Library books are a major link to the past. The Gray Panthers are uniquely suited to assert this need, as an intergenerational matter. Each generation owes it to the prior generation to cherish the books that have come down to it through the services of past librarians and to pass these books along to the next generation. The public library makes it possible for everyone to use and enjoy the books in this process.

"Let San Francisco's struggle to preserve its library books serve as a wake-up call to other communities to look to their books. We have heard reports of book dumping, card catalog destruction, fee-charging, private funding with various strings attached etc. in other cities. Let us know what's happening in your area. We will report back a summary to all. LOOK TO YOUR LIBRARIES before it's too late." Deetje Boler

January Meeting
Those of us who braved the miserable weather heard a fine talk by Marc Norton of San Franciscans for Tax Justice on taxes and how tax policy affects our lives. There are two kinds of taxes-progressive and regressive. Progressive taxes generally are correlated with ability to pay and increase as income increases. Regressive taxes are flat-the same for everyone regardless of income. Income tax is progressive; sales tax is regressive. So is Social Security-not only the same percent of wages. but worse, with a no-tax cutoff over $62,500.

Marc discussed state and local efforts, unfortunately so far unsuccessful, to make taxes more progressive. Some examples-Prop. O in 1994 to tax downtown interests to help pay for Muni. Forty-five percent of voting San Franciscans were for it in spite of the money and media blitz against it. Five local progressive tax proposals by Supervisor Ammiano in 1995 were promptly buried by the Board of Supervisors. On Props 217 and 218 last November, in the last week before the vote, $2,000,000 was dumped into the "no" coffers of 217 to prevent the state income tax rate going back up to 11%, a rate which would have affected only the richest 1%. This was a straight class vote Statewide. which barely lost. In S.F. it passed with 64%. Inequality of wealth equals inequality of power. Tax policy is one weapon in the effort to make the distribution of wealth more equal.

Some Miscellany About Taxes
Federal Income Tax: in 1981, the Reagan tax cut was 23% over 3 years; the maximum rate on taxable income was reduced from 70% to 50%-maximum rates are levied on really high incomes, thus directly benefiting the wealthiest Americans. In 1986, that maximum was lowered to 28%. Currently, it is 39.6%. Business income taxes were 48% in the early Reagan administration subsidies for excess CEO pay were eliminated and stock options and other executive perks came out of corporate profits; by $200.9 billion if multinational corporations were charged taxes on the income they earn in the U.S. (they aren't?!!); by $126 billion if foreign tax credits for multinational corporations were eliminated. Just for starters.

Tax policy is a powerful weapon. Mitzi

February Meeting
Enola Maxwell, Director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House will speak to the membership at our February meeting.

Enola Maxwell is well known in the community for bringing diverse groups together, encouraging them to talk about their differences and helping them to solve their problems so that they can work together to promote harmony and improve the quality of life in the community. Don't miss this opportunity to hear this dynamic speaker.

Tuesday, February 18, 12:30-3:00, First Unitarian Church, Franklin and Geary.

In Honor of Miriam Rothschild
Miriam Rothschild's 90th birthday was celebrated with a fund raising party for the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation at Wolfe House on January 12. Miriam has been a life-long activist and crusader against the erosion of the Bill of Rights by the FBI in the 1940s and up to the present day.

On the same day as her birthday was celebrated the S.F. Chronicle/Examiner ran a story about how the FBI is trying to get the S.F. police to void their agree- ment not to spy on political activists, to keep their rec- ords private, and to use a civilian review board for oversight. The FBI is setting up joint agency coun- terterrorism centers in big cities around the country. At the birthday party, Mayor Willie Brown declared the day Miriam Rothschild Day. In addition, he promised both NCARL and Miriam that the S.F. po- lice force would not invalidate the agreement while he was Mayor.

If the S.F. Police Department becomes part of the FBI task force to combat terrorism, investigations of lawful political and religious activity could be con- ducted even if there if no "reasonable indication" of a crime. The City's participation in the task force would eliminate both the chief's approval and civilian oversight.

Police Chief Fred Lau said that before S.F. joins the task force, "There's a lot of questions that have to be asked and answered."

Proposals For the Future of Social Security
A Federal advisory panel made the suggestion that the U.S. consider investing Social Security revenues in the stock market to insure the solvency of the retirement program. But panel members disagreed on who should decide how the money is invested.

Currently Social Security payroll taxes not needed for today's benefits are invested in Government long- term bonds. After two years of work the advisory panel agreed that Social Security could receive a much higher return by investing some of the money in stocks. However panel members disagreed over what level of financial risk workers and retirees would find acceptable.

Social Security was created in 1935 and is the na- tion's biggest most successful insurance program. It would also be a bonanza for Wall Street if billions of dollars were invested in stocks.

Robert M. Ball, a panel member and Social Secu- rity administrator for three decades, said, "There is no need for radical change. To maintain its long-term health Social Security requires only a series of moder- ate adjustments to revenues and expenses." The Clinton Administration and Republicans in Congress realizing that Social Security is an explosive issue among voters want to study the proposals before taking action.

Labor representatives on the panel are opposed to the proposals to replace part of Social Security with compulsory private savings that would be invested in stocks and bonds. Labor unions are organizing a campaign against these "radical reforms." Propo- nents of personal savings accounts reject the charac- terization of their proposal as radical. They comment that in the early 1930s Social Security was considered radical.

Social Security pays monthly cash benefits to 44 million people: 31 million retirees, 7 million survivors and 6 million disabled people.

The first baby boomers will reach the age of 65 in 2011. The social Security trust fund now has assets of more than $550 billion, and the surplus is expected to rise to $2.8 trillion in 2018. But then, the Administra- tion says, the assets will begin to decline as payments to retirees begin to exceed the revenues paid by work- ers. By 2029, if the system is unchanged, the trust fund will be depleted, and revenues, will cover only three-fourths of benefit costs.

Excerpted from an article in the New York Times, January 7, 1997.

The March membership meeting will focus on the proposals put forth by the panel and the pros and cons of personal savings accounts and investments. Come prepared to ask questions.

FYI . . .
Notice to the Public from the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board of the City and County of San Francisco.

New allowable increase for 1997-1998: March 1, 1997-February 28, 1998, 1.8%. This amount is based on 60% of the increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Bay Area, which was 3.0% for the year ending November 1996.

Board Affairs
Officers for 1997 were chosen at the first Board of Directors meeting of the year on Jan. 8, Convenor is Karen Talbott, co-convenors are Arosa and Rebecca, and treasurer is Mary Frances.

Correction to last month's member list: Rhoda Norman is a continuing Board member.

Will the Feds Jail the Doctors?
In November, California legalized medical marijuana. Since then the war-on-drugs generals have been huffing and puffing about breaking federal law and undermining our whole drug fight.

I hope they are right about undermining. It is time to change our drug policies.

"Under the banner of getting tough on drugs we have squandered billions of tax dollars, trampled civil liberties, diverted police from chasing violent crimi- nals, clogged the justice system, given the U.S. the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, and in the bargain reduced job prospects for millions of youth by giving them criminal records. And after all this our real drug problems-hard-core abuse and addiction- remain largely untouched.

"But politicians seem to suffer from historical amnesia on drug issues. Since 1914 they have scapegoated one chemical bogeyman after another and then made promiscuous promises about each "tough" new drug law they pass. While drug prohibition has grown increasingly punitive and costly, it has never been any more effective than alcohol prohibition was.

"The president should convene a fully independent national commission on drug policy- with members from all points of view. Its charge should be to conduct a rigorous cost-benefit analysis comparing existing policy with the full range of alternatives. It should study the public-health-based drug policies developed by other nations, many of which more effectively reduce the harms associated with drug use and are far less repressive and costly. Then the commission should disseminate its findings directly to the public to spur the truly democratic debate on drug policy we've never had." I'm not so sure about "independent commissions" these days. Otherwise, to the above I say, Amen. Mitzi

The quotation above is from an article by Professor Craig Reinerman of UC Santa Cruz in the SF Chronicle of Nov. 15, 1996.

Editor's Note: See also, editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine for the last week of January.

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board:Agnes Batteiger, Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

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