With so many local propositions on this November's ballot, it's perhaps understandably hard for any single one to stand out. That, of course, is where money comes in. Mission Local reports that a host of billionaire venture capitalists have made their latest funding push for Proposition Q — a measure that would ban tent encampments on city sidewalks.
Just why would a super rich local like Ron Conway, or a wealthy Mill Valley-based venture capitalist like William Oberndorf, pump their money into such a measure? It may have less to do with taking down tents than with propping up the proposition's sponsor, Supervisor Mark Farrell, or so Jennifer Friedenbach, head of the Coalition on Homelessness, speculates.
“You have people investing in a wedge issue to help give publicity to a politician like Mark Farrell, a candidate running an anti-homeless platform and planning on running for mayor in the future,” Friedenbach tells Mission Local. “It’s a way to give money without making a direct contribution. It’s a political strategy and a gross one at that.”
Conway, Oberndorf, and Michael Moritz, another venture capitalist, have all reportedly given $49,999 in support of measure Q, contributions that amount to 60 percent of total funding for the measure. In addition to banning tents on city sidewalks, the measure, the Examiner reports, would allow city officials to clear encampments 24 hours after offering residents some form of shelter.
City officials already have the authority to remove tents, and Supervisor David Campos has promised to rid the Mission of tents by January, just after he terms out of office.
Critics, the Ex notes, see Prop Q as a wedge issue — possibly with the intention of raising Farrell's profile ahead of a future mayoral run. Farrell denies this: “Nobody is getting better by sleeping in tents at night,” he told the paper. “It should be our policy not to incentivize or institutionalize tent encampments but instead prioritize housing, shelter as the alternative.”
Meanwhile Jeff Kositsky, the head of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, told Mission Local that he and his staff are going to continue with their work — regardless of what happens with Prop Q. "Every election cycle homeless people are used as red capes," he noted. "When we politicize this issue, it makes it very hard to solve.”