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Tenderloin Taxes – LexBlog


Is it wrong for a city government to make the deliberate choice of trying to be more sensitive to and accommodating of street crime? While there may be good reason to be more understanding and less harsh than governments have historically been when they viewed crime as a social and moral failing rather than the last recourse of victims and the end result of oppression, it presents something of a problem for local businesses, particularly in the Tenderloin of Frisco.

Another merchant revolt is in the works four months after small business owners in the Castro penned a letter to various city officials demanding, among other things, that 35 beds in the city’s shelter system be designated for unhoused people in the LGBTQ neighborhood. This time, business owners in the beleaguered Tenderloin are demanding a refund of last year’s taxes and fees to help them cover the costs of trying to sustain businesses amid the crime and drug dealing on the neighborhood’s streets.

A group calling itself the Tenderloin Business Coalition has issued a petition, stating that it finds “the City of San Francisco to be derelict in its duty to ensure a basic and adequate standard of safety on the streets of the Tenderloin.”

There are many businesses in the Tenderloin area. Some rent premises and pay taxes. Others, not so much.

According to one of the organization’s leaders, Dan Williams, 38, “the drug market controls the sidewalk and it’s just not safe to be in the Tenderloin.”

Customers aren’t willing to come into the neighborhood, said Williams. “We won’t survive,” he explained.

While people may be in general agreement that neither the buying nor selling of drugs is a horrendous crime worthy of decades of imprisonment, they nonetheless prefer not to thread their way through the gamut of junkies to get to their favorite merchant. Theoretically, this makes the shoppers wrong, and perhaps druggist, but short of the police forcing people to buy in the Tenderloin at gunpoint, there isn’t much to be done that will help business owners when nobody walks in their doors.

And, of course, these are the businesses of San Francisco, so naturally they too want to be as accommodating as possible.

Drugs have always been a part of the street tableau, said Williams, and he’s gotten used to regular negotiations with street dealers.

“Usually, it’s pretty congenial,” he said. “We know who each other are and we ask them to move along when we open our business and where I’m at, it’s pretty well understood, and we have a good relationship worked out. Other places in the Tenderloin don’t have this relationship worked out. In most places, I don’t think the business owners feel comfortable or safe engaging with drug dealers, and that’s where you’d think the police would come in.”

So to some extent, the problem vexing Tenderloin businesses isn’t that the streets are owned by drug dealers with the city’s blessing, but that they just haven’t learned how to establish rapport with drug dealers.

The Tenderloin Business Coalition has issued a petition to San Francisco demanding the refund of taxes. The rationale is that the city has failed to provide the business owners with the services the city is supposed to provide, resulting in a climate where business cannot survive. Of course, you don’t get a tax refund because government doesn’t use your money the way you would prefer, but perhaps the point here is that if Frisco has money to hand out to people based on their race and gender, why not to taxpaying businesses that are about to fail because the city no longer enforces law?

Or perhaps this is just a way to let Mayor London Breed know they are not entirely thrilled with her leadership.

Is it wrong of Tenderloin business owners to put their own capitalist, money-grubbing self-interest ahead of rights of the marginalized to both get the drugs to which society had made them addicted and to sell the drugs for lack of a Harvard Ph.D.? Well, this is Frisco, so the question isn’t all that easy to answer.

As Williams, a leader of the coalition, explains, business owners want people to patronize their businesses, but he refuses to condemn the reality that the sidewalks are owned by the drug dealers and normies just won’t brave a little risk to give the business owners money.

Perhaps the dream is that if there were more police on the streets, keeping the drug dealers and junkies from bothering the normies so that they can feel safer, everyone would be able to feel empowered? After all, why can’t the woke fantasy happen to accommodate everyone’s needs and desires so the Tenderloin can be home to both crime and business, fulfilling Frisco’s destiny as the city where woke works its magic?

And then businesses can pay their rent and their taxes while mothers and children step over the junkies lying on the street with a syringe protruding from their arm, unsure whether he might grab their purse or is already dead of an overdose, comfortable in the knowledge that a police officer isn’t far away to deter the stray bullets of drug dealers when they’re compelled to defend their small piece of sidewalk turf.


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