Public Press wins an Excellence in Journalism award for ‘Public Schools, Private Money,’ in the winter 2014 edition

 



Winter print edition
ON SALE NOW

Issue No. 5 of the San Francisco Public Press, a broadsheet, full-color local newspaper, will soon be available for just $1 at more than 50 retail outlets and through online mail order ($4). The special section this issue tackles the Healthy San Francisco program, the city's unique attempt at local “universal” health care. We found that the quality of the care is great, but there is a high hidden cost in the form of reliance on federal grants and an overstretched network of community clinics that are facing a flood of new patients.

Back issues of No. 1, 2, 3 & 4 are also available for mail order. Read select stories from the first four issues online: Fall 2011 select stories  | Issue 4 ... Spring 2011 select stories | Issue 3 ... Fall 2010 select stories | Issue 2 ... Summer 2010 select stories | Issue 1

Winter 2011

Payday loan industry: the stories

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Feb 3 2012 - 9:44pm

Public Press writer Rick Jurgens reported on San Francisco's payday loan industry in our Winter 2011 print edition. He found that large corporations like Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse are among the biggest backers of these profitable low-finance firms. A subsequent whirl around the world of social media has revealed that payday loans are a fact of financial life for many, and some alternatives do exist. 

100% ad-free news for the 99%

Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — Dec 30 2011 - 2:15pm

In the Public Press, elites don’t dictate coverage

If you missed it, the Winter 2011 edition of the Public Press (Issue 5) went on sale in November, and it came on the heels of a national conversation about how to fund and fortify community journalism. This is the editorial on page 2.

Issue 5 of the San Francisco Public Press, an ad-free nonprofit local newspaper, takes cues from noncommercial magazines, some of which have become influential of late. One model was Adbusters, the “culturejammer” magazine that inspired the global Occupy movement. Our approach at the Public Press has always been to look for stories that see the city and the Bay Area from the viewpoint of average people instead of just the elites, whose concerns are well represented. While we don’t practice advocacy journalism, we do strive to cover, in depth, stories and communities that commercially funded media don’t often pay attention to.

California legislature may expand lending limit

Rick Jurgens, SF Public Press — Dec 15 2011 - 5:18pm

LEGISLATION: Lawmaker wants to raise payday loan limit to $500; others want restrictions

“Fast Easy Cash when you want it!” That’s the promise on the cover of an application for a “cash ’til payday” loan from DFC Global Corp. The company operates eight Money Mart stores in San Francisco, more than any other payday lender. But fast money comes at a high price —an annual percentage rate up to 459 percent. Currently, California has a $300 limit on each payday loan. But legislation pending in Sacramento would raise the maximum amount to $500. While supporters of the bill say the loans benefit working people, consumer advocates worry that borrowing at high interest rates can sink poor people further into debt. That was the concern of the San Francisco city attorney’s office, which this fall settled a suit with a payday lender accused of exceeding the legal limit.

Big banks help payday lenders offer quick cash at steep prices

Rick Jurgens, SF Public Press — Dec 15 2011 - 5:17pm

BUSINESS: Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse among biggest backers of profitable low-finance firms

Even as the Occupy San Francisco encampment at the base of Market Street expressed outrage at big banks and high finance, it remained business as usual at some of the city’s less glamorous financial establishments. San Franciso-based Wells Fargo, as well as other banks, are investing big money in firms that lend money at rates they are prohibited from offering. High-interest, unsecured “payday” loans are readily available at 32 establishments along Market Street and in low-income communities around the city. The banks’ names and brands are nowhere to be seen, but they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in businesses that charge an annual percentage rate of 400 percent or more, a practice once considered by the state of California to be “usury.”

Bucking a punitive trend, San Francisco lets students own up to misdeeds instead of getting kicked out of school

Jeremy Adam Smith, SF Public Press — Dec 11 2011 - 1:45am

How one big-city district cut suspensions and expulsions — and why they may rise again

These articles were produced through a reporting collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity.

Instead of being kicked out for fighting, stealing, talking back or other disruptive behavior, public school students in San Francisco are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators or engage in community service. All these practices fall under the umbrella of “restorative justice” — asking wrongdoers to make amends before resorting to punishment. The program launched in 2009 when the Board of Education asked schools to find alternatives to suspension and expulsion. In the previous seven years, suspensions in San Francisco spiked by 152 percent, to a total of 4,341 — mostly African Americans, who despite being one-tenth of the district made up half of suspensions and more than half of expulsions. But the data — along with interviews with parents, students and educators — reveal that progress so far is halting and uneven. Critics say that’s because the transition from punitive to restorative justice is underfunded and haphazardly evaluated. The resulting picture is a school-by-school patchwork, at best an unfinished project to reform the traditional juvenile discipline paradigm.

Across San Francisco region, expulsion rates and attitudes toward punishment vary widely

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Dec 11 2011 - 1:43am

While there are many aspects of culture and politics that unite the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of more than 7 million people, attitudes toward school discipline do not seem to be among them. What happens to students when they disrupt the classroom or commit crimes depends largely on where they live. That is because approaches to expulsion and suspension vary widely across school districts and across the region. While reforms such as restorative justice appear to coincide with decreases in expulsion rates across the region in the last year or two, school administrators at the county and local level have a wide range of views on the best ways to preserve order in schools after a student has misbehaved.

After anti-trafficking team shifted focus to prostitution arrests, police retool investigations

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Nov 30 2011 - 12:25pm

Special victims unit to take a new victim-centered approach to human rights violations 

The little-noticed use of San Francisco’s human trafficking task force to arrest street prostitutes over the summer underscores a sharp nationwide debate on how local law enforcement can help rescue victims of economic and sexual slavery. Until October, the city’s anti-trafficking team operated out of the San Francisco Police Department’s vice crimes unit. With the help of a federal-state grant, the team racked up more than 15 investigations of suspected traffickers. But in the spring it altered its tactics, making large-scale arrests of dozens of prostitutes in the Polk Gulch neighborhood, in response to complaints from neighbors.

Some employers drop private health plans for San Francisco’s subsidized public option

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 9:08am

Unintended consequences of city’s effort at universal health care

A San Francisco requirement that businesses pay for their employees’ health needs has led to more workers having some form of health care. But after businesses initially stepped up to buy private health insurance for more of their workers, there has been a steady retreat. Since 2008, a growing percentage of employers have ditched private insurance for a cheaper way of meeting the law’s requirements: city-engineered reimbursement accounts, which cost companies half or less what they previously paid for traditional insurance.

Participants appreciate safety-net health access program, but note gaps

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 9:02am

Customer service is a problem as patient load continues to grow

Most participants in Healthy San Francisco, the city’s 2007 initiative to expand care to more than 50,000 uninsured patients, appreciate the overall access to preventative care and treatment for chronic health conditions. A 2009 survey showed that more than nine in 10 are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the program. Patients cite the affordability of the program and the quality of care they receive from the health care practitioners. But program participants and medical care providers also note the inconsistency in the services they receive under Healthy San Francisco.

Medical records supporting San Francisco’s universal care add millions to official cost

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 6:25am

Clinics scramble for money to switch to electronic health records

The San Francisco Department of Public Health says it is ahead of the curve in rolling out databases that keep tabs on tens of thousands of patients across a citywide network of clinics and hospitals. The rollout is needed not just to make a local form of “universal health care” work, but also to meet a 2014 deadline under national health reform. And the city says it spent just $3.4 million on new patient-tracking technology. Not bad for an unprecedented charity care initiative whose total budget has grown to $177 million just this past year. But while clinics and hospitals across the city are now linked up to a common intake tool that eliminates overbilling and duplicated medical appointments, that is only the first step in making the Healthy San Francisco program successful, directors of local health centers and technology experts say. A separate and much more complex piece of technology — electronic health records — is proving difficult and expensive.

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