March 1997 Newsletter

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March is Women's History Month
Wed., March 12, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Board meeting at the office. All welcome.
Thurs., March 13, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
SAN. Unitarian Church, Geary and Franklin.
Thurs., March 13, 7:00 p.m.
SF Greens: Thinking Green: Ecofeminists and The Greens, Video and Discussion. New College Cultural Center, 766 Valencia St. Adm. $5-$10.
Sat., March 15, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Action Assembly! Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 DeHaro St. Bring lunch. Info, Domestic Action Movement 759-6624, 928-1205, or 826-8080.
Tues., March 18, 12:30-3:00 p.m.
General meeting: Social Security discussion. Read about it, form some opinions, and be prepared with questions.
Sat., March. 22, 1:00 p.m.
S.F. Alliance for Democracy. New College, 777 Valencia.
Wed., March 26, 6:30 p.m. N2N. Women's Building, 18th Street near Valencia.
In March
Elderhostel Program-with the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco. Contact Laura Fromm, Program Coordinator, at 415-929-0202, ext. 15.

More on Taxes
Last month we talked a lot about taxes and how they are manipulated to benefit certain groups.

In mid-February the State Board of Equalization ruled that bank ATMs are personal property, not building improvements, and thus cannot be included local in property taxes for local. The Board estimates this will save the state banking industry about $1,500,000 a year! Some county tax people say that is an understatement-plus banks are now free to sue lo- cal entities for refunds for overpayments for the last four years. This change was led by Board member Rex Halverson, a former corporate lawyer for Bank of America. Mitzi

Help in Our Decision-Making
We encourage you to attend our monthly Board of Directors', second Wednesday monthly at 1:30 p.m. Important Gray Panthers decisions are made, such as endorsements of socially progressive actions, speakers for future meetings and our positions on issues such as the public library's criteria for disposal of books.

Additionally, it's fun to be around social activists in a smaller group and have access to the newsletters we receive, not only from many of the 50 national GPs networks but from other progressive organizations. We also have quite a few interesting magazines and books. Our office hours are 11:00 a.m. to l:00 p.m. at 1182 Market Street, Room 203. Hope to see you there.

Video Showing in the Office
We will be showing an hour-long video at our office based on Marilyn Waring's book, Who's Counting, with views and ideas about a better way to index our society's health, March 25 and 26, at noon. Bring your lunch and join us.

This book investigates the validity of our national Gross National Product as an index of the health of our society. For example, the Valdez oil spill is counted as a plus while volunteer work and the nurturing work needed in a home, especially with children, is not counted at all.

Our GNP measures only paid services and commodity sales, so the 1,000 points of light are a minus while clearcutting old growth forests and using up finite resources, such as oil, are a plus.

Library Alert
The following article is reprinted verbatim as submitted by Deetje Boler, 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 Li- brary Commission meeting on January 21. However, the departure ceremony at the meeting included ac- colades to his "vision" by each member of the Com- mission 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 bank- rupting libraries with contracts for computer systems and "refining" the concept of "free" public libraries to pay the endless costs thus incurred. The telecom- munications 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.

Meanwhile, there is apparently not enough money to buy new books 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, ac- cording 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 sanctu- ary 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 puplic 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

Two More Opinions
Now we have President Bill talking about his plans to "prepare our people for the bold new world of the 21st century, the new promise of the global economy, the Information Age, unimagined new work, life-en- hancing technology." He wants uniform national tests for reading and math. Off he goes into the future, where "every 12 year old must be able to log onto the Internet," ready to succeed in "the knowledge econ- omy of the 21st century." All of this is sweet music to the electronics industry. Alexander Cockburn in Anderson Valley Advertiser 2/12/97.

Re the internet: "I'm a regular surfer the same way I am a [car] driver ... I use it [the internet] the same way, to get someplace." Umberto Eco at City Arts Talk in December.

February Meeting
In keeping with the spirit of Valentine's Day and Black History Month, Enola Maxwell gave us a message of love and inspiration to continue our work for social justice.

Enola has been at the forefront of every organiza- tion and coalition to help people work within the sys- tem to solve their problems. As the director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House she works with people of all ages educating them to be tolerant and work together to achieve a better environment for the community in which they live so they can develop their human potential to better themselves and work for improving the neighborhood.

Senior Action Network
Senior Action Network held their general meeting, February 13, to celebrate Black History Month and present two topics of vital concern to us, Social Security Reform and the Balanced Budget Amendment.

Dan Schulder, from the National Council of Senior Citizens, described the perils and pitfalls of the Bal- anced Budget Amendment that will be voted upon by Congress the end of February.

If passed by Congress, some of the consequences predicted by passage of the amendment would be a decline in public investments and a cut in Federal spending. Social Security and Medicare would be re- duced and poverty among older persons would in- crease. The Balanced Budget Amendment is a bad idea and should be defeated.

Katie Johnson, a representative from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, described the three proposals of the 13-member advi- sory committee appointed to find solutions for keep- ing Social Security functioning well into the 20th century. These proposals will be presented and dis- cussed in detail at the GP March meeting. Rebecca

Study for Our March Meeting
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.

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