No job credit for the law-abiding in San Francisco 

On Wednesday, the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors will take up a bill that would give a payroll tax credit to local employers who hire ex-felons. I imagine this new law, if enacted, would lead to lots of employment rejection letters for nonfelonious citizens. Letters like this:

Click on the photo at right to see a chart of current hiring-based payroll tax breaks available to businesses.

Dear Mr. Morgan,

We at the Mediocris Circus wish to thank you for submitting an application for the position of feline habitat maintenance associate. I read in The San Francisco Examiner that the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16 to 24 is about 18 percent, which must explain why we received so many applications from persons like you, a recent graduate of San Francisco State University.

We regret to inform you that you are not qualified for the position, as you have no criminal record and we are looking to capitalize on recent tax incentives to hire ex-felons.

Sure, we were disappointed last year when supervisors John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi and Sean Elsbernd killed the mayor’s proposal to give a citywide payroll tax break for all new jobs created for unemployed persons in 2010 and 2011. At the time, Mirkarimi lamented, “I’m concerned that we are using buzzwords like ‘tax credit’ and ‘rebate’ at a time when we are feeling the impact of an economic downturn.”

As you can imagine, we were grateful that Mirkarimi did an about-face and passed a law giving a big  tax credit for employers who hire ex-felons. Considering the fact that no one knew how many employers in San Francisco actually employed ex-offenders, or how many employers would take advantage of the payroll tax break, or whether it would lower criminal recidivism rates, or how it would impact The City’s budget, we really couldn’t believe our luck!

See, in recent years, federal, state and citywide programs have treated ex-felons, veterans and persons with low incomes (as you may be) the same when dispensing payroll tax credits for employers. So you were probably on equal footing with felons before Mirkarimi’s law, but now with a tax credit of $10,125 for every full-time ex-felon we hire, there’s just no comparison. The only group that even comes close to being as valuable as ex-felons is chronically unemployed disabled vets, and hiring them only gets us a payroll tax credit of $9,600. As a mere law-abiding college graduate, you are really at the bottom of the ladder.

Take heart, though. Studies show that unemployment leads to increased rates of property crimes. So you’re likely to be an ex-felon someday. We encourage you to reapply at that time.


Renters can post signs for elections

Here’s one for the “consequences of letting ’em down easy” file.

Because some people have been using “my landlord won’t let me” as the excuse to get out of putting up signs for Assemblyman Somethingorother, state representatives are laboring under the assumption that hoards of renters are being oppressed.

And so, as the state faces a $3.7 billion shortfall, our legislators in Sacramento took the time to pass a new law that gives all tenants the right to post signs (up to 6 square feet in size) on rental property so long as it is related to a current election or political issue. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Signs can be posted 90 days before a vote on an issue or election and must be taken down 15 days after.

Nevermind that the sign can be blinking neon. And set aside the fact that there’s no restriction on what election it must refer to. No, my favorite aspect of this new law is that it permits signs related to “issues that are before a public commission, public board or elected local body for a vote.”

We here in San Francisco don’t need to look past City Hall to see the smorgasbord of issues voted on by our Board of Supervisors. Signs about the Happy Meal ban, the Israeli conflict with ships off the coast of Gaza and Armenian genocide will all be fair game for tenants.

Renters may love this new law, but just remember it means no more excuses when the wide-eyed, poster-toting volunteers for Supervisor Whosherbucket come knocking.

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Melissa Griffin

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