The virus-fog that’s enveloped the world will slowly dissipate, cleared away by its inability to reach masked, sheltered, and increasingly inoculated or already-infected recruits. As we emerge from our seclusion, like so many gophers looking for our shadows, what will we see? What do we want to see?
Many of us will surface from near house arrest suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children especially, robbed of more than a year of school-based education and interactions, have been scarred by isolation and uncertainty. Unlike the lackluster response during the pandemic, the City should open its arms to give kids a long, warm, unconditional hug. As called on by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, billions of philanthropic and taxpayer dollars should be raised to help schools address the academic and emotional damage done by the pandemic. A volunteer core of therapists should be raised, dedicated to assisting with school curriculum development and onsite counseling. All child-oriented institutions – museums, camps, the Zoo – should be freely accessible for as long as possible, with special exhibits and activities that speak to issues associated with PTSD and newly expanded educational gaps. Kids’ needs should come first all the time, everywhere, now, and forever.
Small businesses, crushed by forced closures, should be granted a two-year tax holiday; sales and property taxes waived for entities with 100 or fewer employees and annual revenues of less than $10 million. If we can give Twitter a tax break, we can do the same for Frames on 3rd, Long Bridge Pizza, and Farley’s.
As San Francisco morphs into whatever personality we adopt next, our municipal government should thoroughly scrub its budget and personnel. The whiff of corruption wafts throughout City Hall, as well as the San Francisco Departments of Building Inspection and Public Works and Public Utilities Commission. Dishonest behavior is more easily hidden in the dark. With sufficient resources, the new owners of the Marina Times and San Francisco Examiner – alongside the San Francisco Chronicle, View, and other media – could reinvigorate San Francisco’s press corps, helping to shine antiseptic light on the shadowy corners of power. Support your local newspaper.
The Mayor should deploy bottom-up, zero-based, or other deep-dive budgeting strategies to craft the government we need now and in the future. The school and college boards, institutions that’ve demonstrated long term structural governance weaknesses, should be fundamentally reformed, or even eliminated.
Many more dogs will inhabit San Francisco post-pandemic, companions for the lonely. With them is increased demand for parks and open spaces, intensifying chronic human-dog conflict. It’s time to fully enforce collection of licensing fees, which a small fraction of animal stewards presently pay, and use the associated revenues to develop engaging, clean, dog-only parks. Many leash holders avoid dedicated dog parks because of their stark, smelly, surfaces. These should be replaced with play areas modeled after Pet Camp’s Savannah Back Country Adventure, featuring well-maintained trees, bridges, and other animal entertainment. Let kids and dogs roam free, without bumping into one another.
A previous pandemic, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, ultimately took the lives of more than 20,000 San Franciscans, most of them gay men, a loss that bludgeoned a future before it could emerge. COVID deaths have been a fraction of that amount, with injuries mostly visited on our psyche, culture, health care system, and economy. If we can survive AIDS – and the 1918 influenza wave that killed more than 3,500 people – we can do so again, hopefully changed for the better.