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San Francisco anti-tax business group got trolled by housing activists

Fast Co.Exist 2018-08-11 00:33:54

[Photo: courtesy of]

In November, voters in San Francisco–by some measures the most expensive city in the country–will decide on a ballot measure called “Our City, Our Home” that could raise up to $300 million per year to fund subsidized housing and new services to help get homeless people off the streets. The money would come from a “gross receipts tax” averaging 0.5% on companies’ annual revenue over $50 million. That could affect about 300 firms, reckons the city’s Chamber of Commerce, who aren’t happy about it, as it has made abundantly clear in a recently launched opposition campaign called Right Priority, Wrong Approach.

Alan Auerbach is an expert in tax policy. It takes a PhD in economics to understand how the problem of homelessness is so big that San Francisco is better off not doing anything about it.

— Right Priority Wrong Approach (@WrongApproachSF) August 8, 2018

But good luck googling it. You’re likely to find only a parody website and social media accounts set up by pranksters sympathetic to the ballot measure. In their excitement, tax opponents apparently neglected to register the domain, which pro-tax advocates snapped up to build a parody site. Their biting sarcasm extends to the campaign’s supposed mission statement: “Because we care about homelessness . . . but we care more about our tax breaks.”

The campaign website also features Onion-style photos and fake quotes from tax opponents or skeptics. One, from Chamber of Commerce VP of public policy Jim Lazarus reads, “Homelessness is the No. 1 issue facing SF. But it’s not fair to ask the largest corporations to pay a little more–especially after Trump just cut their taxes.” (I have spoken with Lazarus, and his arguments are more nuanced than that.)

Related: San Fran ballot initiative would tax big business to fight homelessness

The pranksters also snapped up the email account, the Facebook page RightPriorityWrongApproach, and the Twitter account @WrongApproachSF.

Even in one of the world’s technology capitals, it seems, many businesses could benefit from some digital marketing and social media training.