Last month, SFForest Alliance was granted its 501(c)4 status as a non-profit organization. Here are some questions we’ve been asked, and our answers.
1) What’s a 501(c)4?
It’s a form of non-profit organization that’s devoted to social welfare (in our case, preserving public parks for the public). Unlike the 501(c)3 organizations, these are allowed to lobby and endorse candidates. (The downside is that donations aren’t tax deductible.)
2) Why did we choose to be a 501(c)4?
We discussed this at length, trying to decide what form the organization should take. We chose this form because of the nature of the problem: The threat to our parks, especially our Natural Areas, comes from the way they are being managed by the city of San Francisco. The solutions are political, because the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department and the city are both ultimately answerable to the people of San Francisco via our elected officials. Unless we can engage in political activity, we cannot be effective in protecting our parks.
3) Why did you pick these Supervisor candidates to endorse?
We sent questionnaires to all the supervisor candidates in the race this year [i.e. 2012]. Based on the returns and their public record, we looked for those most likely to help protect our parks from the planned tree-felling, habitat destruction, pesticide use, and access restrictions. We endorse Joel Engardio, FX Crowley, and Andrew Bley for District 7; and Hope Johnson and Christina Olague for District 5. We have made no endorsements in other district races.
4) What is the main activity of SFForest?
Our main effort is to inform the public. Most people don’t know what is planned for the parks. A lot of tree-felling and pesticide use is localized and people discover them only when the notices are posted, days before the action. Trails are closed off and hidden. While funding is denied some important areas of the city’s responsibilities, money is wasted on things people don’t want – but only know about after the decisions are made.
5) What about the political side of it?
We will conduct public outreach; we will talk to and lobby our elected officials; we will speak out at public meetings in support of our parks and against the destruction planned for them. While we endorse the candidates who support our efforts, we are willing and interested in talking to everyone, even those who have opposing viewpoints.