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Defending the Public Defender; Landlords vs. Tenants

Defending the Public Defender

It's the 21st century? Already?: As I read "The Last of the Burtons?" (Feb. 6), I was deeply offended by Peter Byrne's description of Kimiko Burton, our San Francisco public defender, as a "teeny-bopper" and a "hippie."

How on earth, in describing this 37-year-old professional woman, did Mr. Byrne find it appropriate to use such demeaning and misogynist language? I have seen Ms. Burton publicly debate her male opponent. She presents herself as intelligent, well-spoken, and a credit to her position as leader of the courageous attorneys who represent the indigent in San Francisco criminal courts.

Campaign reporting should be focused primarily on whether someone can do the job. There have been many successful candidates whose fathers were politicians. Yet too often in the media sons are applauded for their dedication to public service while daughters are not taken seriously.

My colleagues and I do not care how our public defender dresses or looks. We care about a candidate's professionalism, character, and ability. Reporting like Mr. Byrne's will only make San Francisco's enlightened voters feel outraged.

This is the 21st century. Women cannot be written off as daddy's little girls anymore.

Georgiana Spradling, Ph.D.
Pacific Heights

Landlords vs. Tenants

It takes a village: Thank you for your article on the new study on housing and rent control ("Legends in Our Own Minds," Matt Smith, Jan. 30). I found it very interesting and well written. Phasing out rent control by allowing newly vacated units to become market-rate units is a great idea. (That has, in fact, already happened in a building I own in S.F., with tenants negotiating lower rents than they paid a year ago because they are earning less money now. Unfortunately, this only works in the tenants' favor, because when the rental market rallies again, we won't be able to raise the rents.) But the idea of a special gross receipts tax or something similar is simply unfair. Why not have a citywide tax? Tell me why the landlords of S.F. should be the ones to subsidize the poor and elderly.

If we as a society determine that the poor and elderly deserve housing subsidies, then all of us -- not just property owners -- should foot the tab. Anything else is simply discrimination by another name.

Name Withheld
Russian Hill

Axed and answered: While Matt Smith brings up some good points in his recent piece on the housing shortage and rent controls, it is obvious he has a huge ax to grind. So in need of a sharpening is his ax that he is willing to use the statistics in the San Francisco Housing Data Book to distort what should still point to huge problems caused by the dot-com boom, not by rent controls.

- The comparison of San Francisco job growth to the rest of the state isn't complete without a comparison of the incomes of those jobs (I think we can assume the dot-com jobs here were on the high end of the pay scale).

- While it's true the rich are overrepresented occupants of rent-controlled units, so are the poor. While 12.6 percent of San Franciscans were below the poverty line in 2000, they made up 19 percent of rent-controlled units.

- The topper is Mr. Smith's use of the elderly as an example of being unsheltered from rent control's benefits. One-third of elderly San Franciscans are unprotected? Well, that means two-thirds are protected. That is a huge overrepresentation, considering the elderly make up only 13.7 percent of households in San Francisco.

So which group of San Franciscans is really being left out in the cold? The younger middle class and working poor. I believe that might make up a large portion of your readers, Matt. And let me tell you, we aren't buying your conclusions drawn from this city-funded report.

Brian Wolfe
Inner Richmond

It's not the NIMBYs' fault: Matt Smith repeatedly refers to the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) neighborhood associations in his argument against rent control. However, the NIMBYs have absolutely nothing to do with rent control. They tend to include wealthier homeowners, not rent-control advocates. Sure, more housing might have lowered rents, but that's a poor argument against rent control. Besides, if a neighborhood votes to limit construction in its living space, what business is it of Matt Smith to disagree? Perhaps Smith should stick to debating rent control. I, for one, would love to hear him explain how keeping market greed in check is a bad thing.

Jeff Hirsch
Duboce Triangle


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