Director of Financial Justice Project
City of San Francisco
(Pictured with Oscar the dog)
At the moment, Hamilton; but also many other musicals. Recently saw Tony winner Fun Home, and is delighted Rent is returning to SF so she can introduce it to her 13 and 15 year olds.
In this municipal revenue-starved age, city governments increasingly turn to fines and fees, but they can be counterproductive for low-income citizens. Instead of causing better behavior, they set off a chain reaction for the worse. Those who can’t pay incur further penalties, damage their credit, lose their drivers licenses (and ability to get to jobs and make an income), and occasionally even get jailed. A full 14 percent of California adults have had their driver’s license suspended because they cannot pay court-ordered fines and fees. Plus, fines impact racial groups disparately. And fines imposed on those who cannot pay are obviously a poor source of revenue. The approach becomes a lose-lose for both citizens and city.
SF believes it’s the first city to launch a formal project to evaluate the efficacy and fairness of fines on low-income residents and to consider alternatives. It sees this as an imperative especially considering that recent racial conflict in Ferguson, Mo, arose in part from that city’s emphasis on giving out traffic tickets. SF’s “Financial Justice Project” got started in September, and includes a task force of city departments (eg, tax collector, municipal transit agency, human services, district attorney, child support, and probation) and community organizations (eg, legal aid, criminal justice re-entry assistance, homeless aid). Anne is its first director, reporting to the city treasurer Jose Cisneros. The task force’s 14 members meet once a month to discuss right-sizing fees according to ability to pay, adopting a community service alternative to monetary penalties, or avoiding penalties altogether in some cases in favor of mental health and addiction interventions. SF has already set a precedent: it was the first California county not to charge parents a nightly fee if their child was locked up at juvenile hall. And the San Francisco Superior Court was the first to stop suspending driver’s licenses if offenders couldn’t afford to pay citations. Mayor Ed Lee recently instructed city agencies not to increase fines and fees for the next two fiscal years, despite 3 percent budget cuts. The Financial Justice Project and the Fines and Fees Task Force released their initial findings and recommendations for reform in May.
Anne’s Personal Background
Grew up in Arlington Virginia, went to the University of Virginia (’91), then to Austin TX as a reporter. Later got an MBA and MPA at the University of Texas, and went to NYC to work on community economic development at the Ford Foundation. She and her future husband debated staying in New York or moving to Santa Fe, and compromised by going to SF. There she worked for the Opportunity Fund (a California microfinance program), for California governor Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver as a senior policy adviser, then New America (a think tank “committed to renewing American politics and purpose for the digital age”), and the California Endowment (private health foundation that provides community grants). Since 2003, she has worked with SF city government as an advisor to start programs like “Bank on San Francisco,” encouraging banks to offer free checking accounts to those who can’t qualify for them yet need them as they try to integrate better into commercial society.