First, that Prop. A is virtually uncontested speaks to its merits, not the absence of scrutiny, as Shafer would have readers believe. I agree with Shafer that such unanimity is uncommon in San Francisco, but clearly voters should be encouraged, not disheartened, by the enthusiastic, across-the-board support Prop. A generates.
Next, to minimize the direct impact conventioneers have on San Francisco's economy, as Shafer did, is to ignore a major source of revenue for the city. In fact, conventioneers pump more than $700 million into our city's economy annually -- hardly a figure to dismiss lightly. Other cities are furiously working to add convention and meeting space to accommodate a rapidly growing convention industry. Failure to expand the complex would cause it to become the smallest convention space of all significant North American markets. We must maintain our place as one of the premier convention cities fully available to accommodate additional groups -- groups that we are presently turning away.
Shafer also mentioned that hotels and labor unions will benefit from the passage of Prop. A. What is wrong with that? The key point is that many visitor-dependent industries benefit from Prop. A in addition to hotels and labor: restaurants, taxis, retail stores, and many other small businesses. The additional hotel tax will generate more tax revenues for organizations now receiving hotel-tax money: arts and cultural organizations, recreational facilities, low-income housing, and the city's General Fund. And the additional revenue generated by Prop. A will go toward things we need like health care and social services.
The 2 percent increase in the hotel tax to pay for Prop. A will encourage, not discourage, visitors from coming to San Francisco. The increase is simply not large enough to make hotel costs prohibitive, as Shafer suggests. In fact, even with the increase, San Francisco will remain in the same hotel-tax range as other major convention cities.
Finally, of all the assertions made by Shafer, the most "mind-boggling" is his comment referring to a lack of need for jobs. Frankly, anyone who reaches such a conclusion must be living in a well-insulated ivory tower, far from the roar of combat and the screams of the wounded of our society. A few years ago, when asked to help someone find employment, I would say, "Give me a week or two." Today, I can make no such promise. To say that San Francisco's high rate of employment discounts the need for more jobs is unreasonable. Our convention business is a major source of employment for San Francisco. Prop. A will create more jobs -- which San Francisco needs -- strengthen the economy, and benefit all residents. And that is why every member of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor Willie Brown, and hundreds of other San Franciscans are voting Yes on A.
Walter L. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer
San Francisco Labor Council
As incumbent members of the Democratic County Central Committee, we were dismayed to read your biased cover story on our former chair, Matthew Rothschild ("Judging Matthew Rothschild," Feb. 28). According to George Cothran, Rothschild's candidacy for judge has no redeeming values, but we disagree.
Working under his chairmanship, we found Rothschild to be a dedicated, thoroughly prepared, humane person who handled himself with extraordinary grace and professionalism under extreme pressure. He took over the San Francisco Democratic Party at a difficult time -- when California Democrats were in disarray due to the 1994 Republican victories in Congress. He managed to salvage our infrastructure and keep both our office and our executive director, even though the party had no money and was owed substantial funds from out-of-pocket voter-registration programs. We believe we are the only county Democratic Party in the state to consistently keep an office open all year.
In his story, Cothran strongly implies that the committee's endorsement of Rothschild for judge was in payment for political favors. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was overwhelmingly endorsed even by members who had seriously opposed him in the past and who had never received any political consideration from him at any time. With all due respect for Cothran's writing talent and his grasp of San Francisco politics, we believe such unfair hit pieces make for delicious reading by the malicious. It seems Cothran has his own agenda for the upcoming election.
Natalie Berg, Chair
Michael Bornstein, Jeanna Haney, Martha Knutzen, Lee Ann Prifti, John Riordan, Jim West, Claire Zvanski
San Francisco Democratic Party
Trial and Error
Your article on the race for municipal judge ("Judging Matthew Rothschild") misunderstands the role of this very local judge and qualifications for such an office. A good Municipal Court judge is one who handles everyday contract, landlord-tenant, and property disputes with fairness and pragmatism. These are skills that have nothing to do with the number of jury trials that any attorney has participated in.
I'm by no means a member of any Democratic Party establishment, but I'm supporting Matt Rothschild because I've known him for 15 years and know that he will work harder than any other judge and will approach this task with the same intensity (to be the best judge) that he has approached other tasks over this period.
Michael Bernick, BART Director
On the Margin
It is ironic that George Cothran, who espouses the virtues of legal experience and importance of judicial demeanor in selecting Municipal Court judges ("Judging Matthew Rothschild"), did not give equal time to the candidate for that race who is the most qualified. While denouncing political cronyism, you have marginalized Kay Tsenin because you believe she does not have enough money to win -- ignoring her small but dedicated volunteer political organization and forgetting that Tsenin won 43 percent of the vote against a well-known Superior Court judge.
Tsenin has been in private practice for 22 years. Her income is dependent upon success/redress for her client rather than public-sector salaried types.
Tsenin's legal experience is more broadly diversified: representing working people in all areas of Municipal Court; that is, misdemeanors, unlawful detainers (representing both landlords and tenants), juvenile matters, criminal matters. In the last 15 years Ron Albers has been doing only criminal law. Tsenin has successfully tried and won employment cases for employees, including a major sex-harassment case in Fresno; provided services pro bono on gay and lesbian issues; and represented the neighborhood people of the Richmond in probate and complicated civil matters before the Superior Court.
Last but not least, she has been a judge pro tempore (acting as judge) and practiced mediation and arbitration for more than 10 years -- qualities needed by a good judge; experiences foreign to lawyers like Albers and Rothschild.
Using your own criteria, if we want qualified judges and not political hacks, Tsenin is the most qualified. She should not be cavalierly dismissed. This is a runoff election; she deserves to win it.