Calls to Action: CitizensUpdates

Succor For San Francisco

As recent election results demonstrate, San Francisco has become ground zero for the effective political philanthropy movement. Next up is the November General Election, which will offer an all-important opportunity to elect a majority of pragmatists to the Board of Supervisors, protect a public-safety-oriented District Attorney, and enact important changes to the city’s charter. In an effort to be helpful, soon GFC will distribute a one-stop donation page containing the recommendations of SF political philanthropies we admire.

Whether or not you live in San Francisco, you should care deeply about the political battles there. That’s because of what success could mean for effective political philanthropy efforts everywhere — including Sacramento, where GFC has labored for more than a decade but taxpayers still get poor value for money, parents still have to worry they short change their children’s futures by sending them to public schools, and jobs still migrate elsewhere. The difference is one of scale: whereas political philanthropists in San Francisco need only six votes to obtain a majority on the Board of Supervisors, political philanthropists in Sacramento need 62 votes to do the same at the State Legislature (41 in the Assembly, 21 in the Senate), and whereas there is an ecosystem of effective political philanthropies operating in San Francisco, that is not yet the case in Sacramento. In our view, state governance will continue to worsen until and unless a scaled ecosystem of effective political philanthropies is active in Sacramento, and our hope is that success in San Francisco will encourage such an ecosystem to evolve. As San Francisco’s effective political philanthropies have demonstrated, that is not only a question of money but also of resolve to operate as professionally as special interests do in the non-finite war for good governance. 

For the first time since before the pandemic, recently I took BART from the San Francisco airport to the Mission where I caught a bus for a lengthy ride to the north end of the city. Train and bus were clean, service was prompt, the bus driver was friendly, and passengers were chatty and civil. Maybe it’s just because Spring is in the air but it’s hard not to feel that hope has returned to San Francisco and not to conclude that effective political philanthropy is one reason why.