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Ex-Cons in San Francisco May Soon Enjoy ‘Protected Class’ Status

A proposed law would bar landlords and business owners from inquiring about the criminal past of any prospective tenant or employee.

by
Jack Dunphy

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July 18, 2011 - 12:00 am
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When I grow weary of being a lonely conservative in Los Angeles, when I get frustrated at living in one of the bluest of cities in the bluest of states, when I begin to despair of being represented by a liberal at every last level of local, state, and federal government . . .

I remind myself it could always be worse in San Francisco.

And indeed it is worse. San Francisco is a city of abundant beauty and charm, but it is governed by people so far out on the left fringe that they make their counterparts in Los Angeles look like pikers. For proof of this, I refer you to this story in the July 13 San Francisco Chronicle, in which it is reported that the city’s ex-convicts may soon enjoy “protected class” status, joining blacks, Latinos, homosexuals, the transgendered, pregnant women, and the disabled. Yes, you read that correctly: the city may soon adopt a law that will make it illegal to discriminate against criminals. The proposed law would bar landlords and business owners from inquiring about the criminal past of any prospective tenant or employee. As if to show they haven’t completely lost their minds, the law’s proponents say sex offenders and those convicted of “some violent crimes” would not be covered.

Some violent crimes? Dare one ask where the line might be drawn? First-degree murder and, sorry, you’re out of luck, but second-degree or manslaughter gets you the third-floor walk-up in Pacific Heights with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or how about this scenario: a burglar sneaks into the home of some luckless landlord and relieves him of his television set, DVD player, jewelry, and some cash, but by some miracle is arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison. But when he walks out of the big house with his parole papers in hand, he goes right back to the same landlord and applies to rent an apartment. Can the landlord object? No, the proposed law would not allow it. Our unfortunate landlord would have little recourse, even if his new tenant asked for his help in carrying the television set that once belonged to him up the stairs.

Ex-cons in San Francisco already enjoy protected class status when applying for city jobs or for public housing, but the city’s “Reentry Council,” made up of representatives of the mayor’s office, the Police Department, the district attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s Department, the Adult Probation Department, and ex-convicts, now urge the city to apply these protections to private businesses as well.

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