Tag Archives: Jose Cisneros

A More Civilized Payday Loan

UPDATE: Added video of the press conference.

Typically, not a lot of big news comes out of the county treasurer’s office. You know, they handle money. It’s an important thing, but not really all that exciting to those who decide what is news.

Not so with San Francisco’s Treasurer, José Cisneros. He helped to pioneer the working families credit, a local match of the earned income tax credit, and Bank On San Francisco, a program to get low income folks to get a bank account rather than using expensive check cashers.

And now, he’s got another plan, and it’s quite good.  It goes after the rather egregious interest rates charged by payday loan sharks operators.  They are small loans, less than $300, to tide you over until your next check. However, a typical fee for that $300 is $45, which, when paid back on time, results in an astronomical 459% APR. Yikes! Typically, people who get these loans end up going through at least 10 before they can break the cycle.

So, Treasurer Cisneros has a better idea, it’s called Payday Plus SF, and essentially it is the same thing, minus all the crazy fees. From an op-ed in the LA Times about it:

San Francisco and the credit unions are taking an important first step to solve the problem. The new loans will set up cash-strapped consumers to succeed, not fail. You can borrow up to $500, and, crucially, you don’t need to pay it all back two weeks later. You can spread out your payments up to six months. And the interest rate is 18%.

The participating credit unions will offer people opportunities to build their credit scores and take advantage of financial counseling. They worked together through the city’s Bank on San Francisco program, which pushes financial institutions to offer affordable products that work for lower-income consumers. (Anne Stuhldreher in LA Times)

Simply put, the program allows low-income earners a chance to get out of a tight situation without punishing them for their economic situation. What a radical concept.

The San Francisco 2009 Ballot

Well, there have been more interesting years in the history of San Francisco elections, but nonetheless, ballots have hit mail boxes, and there are a few things to vote on.  So, I figured I’d take a quick stroll through the ballot. I’ll start with the unnoposed candidates and then meander down through the 5 ballot measures.

City Attorney

Dennis Herrera

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Incumbent City Attorney Dennis Herrera is running his second unnopposed election after winning in a squeaker against Jim Lazarus, currently a policy advisor for the SF Chamber of Commerce, in 2001. Herrera’s work against Prop 8 makes him very popular within the LGBT community as well as the progressive community at large.  He has also focused much of his public work on environmental issues by trying to shut down the Mirant Power plant, which emits some rather disgusting levels of pollution when it is operating.


José Cisneros

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Disclosure: I’m helping out the campaign with the web presence.

Treasurer Cisneros is also running unopposed.  Five years into a successful stint as treasurer, he has done some great work trying make San Francisco a more livable city for those of all economic conditions.  He worked with Mayor Gavin Newsom to create the Working Families Credit to spur low-income wage earners to file for taxes in order to get the earned income tax credit as well as a local match.  The Bank On San Francisco program has become a model to be emulated by muncipalities and states across the country. It encourages low-income San Franciscans to get bank accounts and avoid the high check-cashing fees. I’m helping the campaign out because I have enormous respect for Cisneros, an openly gay Latino elected official. I’ll be happy to cast my vote for him.

Proposition A: Budgeting

Prop A would put the City on a 2-year budget cycle and would require the City to adopt a five-year financial plan along with a host of other good government budgeting measures.

Originally the plan was to put a more comprehensive budget reform on the budget, but as the plan was getting drafted items kept falling out as one side or another objected.  So, we’re left with a pretty milquetoast little proposition. Is it worth voting for? PI lean towards yes. The 2-year cycle will be mildly helpful, and can’t really hurt.

The main opposition has come from those who would like to see more wholesale budget reforms, their main point being that the voters won’t want to change the budget process twice. I’m not sure I buy that argument. I’m going to vote YES.

Prop B: Eliminating Staff requirements

Why the City Charter has a requirment that each supervisor has exactly two aides is beyond me.  This measure wouldn’t affect the budget for the supervisors’ offices or really change anything of substance. But, sure, why not? I’m going to vote YES.

Prop C: Renaming Candlestick Park

There are big numbers for this being tossed about, but I can’t see that there are going to companies lining up to be the third brand name on Candlestick Park.  We’ll probably get a few million dollars, half of which is required to go to the parks system. Some people are sentimental about the name of the ‘Stick. Me, not so much. I say if somebody wants to buy it, why not? I’m voting Yes.

Prop D: Mid-Market Sign District

This is the most controversial measure on the ballot. The idea here is to create some sort of Times Square-like district on Market between 5th and 7th Streets. The area used to contain many theaters and the like, but has now gradually changed to have more porn theaters than anything else.  It’s not a very good neighborhood, and could use any sort of revenue. 20% of the revenue goes to the City, 40% if the building where the ads are going is not used  “for the arts.”

I’m just not sure that putting a bunch of “hi-tech” signs on Market street is really going to solve anything. I’m not a big fan of Times Square in New York, let alone trying to shoehorn one into place in SF.  I’m leaning No on this one, but I probably won’t make up my mind really until I mail the ballot back.

Prop E: Advertisements on City Property

In 2002, the City voted in favor of a “no new billboards” policy. This would just extend this to other street furniture. Existing contracts could be renewed, but the City couldn’t start selling new ads.  I’m with the bulk of the Board of Supes. Enough is enough. I’m voting Yes.