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Policy for Good

Thursday, December 14, 2017

By Cecilia Chen, Director, Public Policy, Northern California Grantmakers

SF Backs Away from Restrictive Donor Rules

Last month, NCG jumped back into public policy with a position on a most unlikely target—opposing changes to San Francisco’s campaign finance and conflict of interest laws before the Ethics Commission. 

Concern over the influence of money prompted a sweeping proposal which included a ban on donations to nonprofits made at the behest of a political official.

The proposed ordinance threatened to chill private-public partnerships in San Francisco and discourage public service among our philanthropic members including participation on nonprofit boards of directors and the city’s many commissions and boards. 

Had it passed, the ordinance would have threatened initiatives bringing together philanthropy, nonprofits, and government within San Francisco such as HOPE SF and NCG’s Nonprofit Displacement Working Group. While NCG believes in accountability, such efforts must be balanced and should not harm San Francisco’s most vulnerable communities and the organizations that support them.   

The proposed ordinance has attracted attention locally and across the state:

In particular, the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles have been criticized for “pay to play” politics.  If passed, the proposed ordinance would have established some of the strictest regulations on behested payments in the state.

Following advocacy efforts by San Francisco nonprofits, several of the most problematic pieces of the ordinance have been amended.  The behested payment ban was removed.  However, it was replaced with an onerous disclosure requirement and several provisions that would discourage public service still remain.  As the ordinance moves to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for final approval in early 2018, NCG will continue to advocate with our partners CalNonprofits, the San Francisco Human Services Network, and Alliance for Justice to address our concerns.

View NCG’s written comments to the San Francisco Ethics Commissions Here >

Dollars and Democracy on the Line

Philanthropy is gearing up for the national count of every person in the country.

Whether it goes well or badly, the Census affects all of us in California – from the number of seats our state gets in Congress to upwards of $76 billion in federal funding for health, education, housing, and transportation.  NCG and our partners in Philanthropy California are joining a statewide effort to ensure that every Californian is counted in the 2020 Census. 

California is at serious risk for an undercount in 2020.  But what does that mean?  At the top of the list, it could mean losing a seat in Congress along with billions of federal dollars.  Problems at the federal level include lack of funding, a new online system, and less door-to-door canvasing.  A recent New York Times article paints a dire picture. Read the Article > 

In California, the risk for an undercount is exacerbated by the high numbers of hard-to-count communities across the state, including immigrants, renters, and homeless individuals.  Many have limited internet making conversations with canvassers critical to getting counted.  More concerning, immigrant and refugee communities fearing deportation may refuse participation.

In order to ensure a better Northern California count, NCG recently sent letters to five counties and 18 cities encouraging them to enroll in the Local Update of Census Addresses, or LUCA, program.  The LUCA program allows cities and counties to update the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of local addresses.  Often the best informed about their housing stock, local officials can ensure that “non-traditional” or “low-visibility” housing are included.  Ensuring that the Census Bureau starts with an accurate address list is critical to ensuring an accurate and complete count overall. 

View a Sample Letter > 

View the Contacted Counties and Cities Here > 

With two years until 2020, there is still much work to be done to ensure a fair and accurate count in California and there are many ways for our members to engage. We look forward to sharing our efforts and hope you will join us in strengthening our democracy.