Jose Cisneros

Treasurer

San Francisco, CA

José Cisneros is the elected Treasurer for the City and County of San Francisco. As Treasurer, he serves as the City's banker and Chief Investment Officer, managing all tax and revenue collection for San Francisco. Appointed in 2004, and first elected in 2005, Cisneros has used his experience in the tech and banking industry to enhance and modernize taxpayer systems and successfully manage the City’s portfolio through a major recession. Treasurer Cisneros believes that his role of safeguarding the City’s money extends to all San Francisco residents, and continues to expand his role as a financial educator and advocate for low-income San Franciscans through award winning programs like Kindergarten to College, Bank on San Francisco and Smart Money Coaching. Cisneros serves on the FDIC Committee on Economic Inclusion, was Vice Chair on the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and is the Chair of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform how fees and fines impact our city's most vulnerable residents. Too often government programs and courts levy fines and fees on people, partly to generate revenue to balance public budgets. There is often an insidious unintended impact of this practice---to push people into poverty. These fines and fees can knock people down so hard they can’t get back up. Poor people and people of color are usually hit the hardest. These financial penalties can make government a driver of inequality, not an equalizer.

Solution

The Financial Justice Project was launched in November 2016. The Project is housed in the Office of the San Francisco Treasurer, the entity in charge of revenue collection for the City and County. Together the Project works with community organizations, advocates, city and county departments, and the courts to enact reforms that result in meaningful change for low-income San Franciscans.


Problem

A major driver of the slow restaurant permit process was that first-time applicants were repeatedly asked for the same information on different permit forms across several City agencies. The delay in permitting review meant increased costs for the businesses along with significant frustration and counter-productive work effort by city staff from each department who were required to separately reach out to obtain necessary information to fulfill their review. This could delay the application review process by days or weeks. The old process also involved hard copy referrals to Zoning and Fire departments. Restaurant permit applicants were stifled with a prolonged process and wait times that could become prohibitively expensive.

Solution

We used technological innovation to improve San Francisco’s restaurant permitting process. This offers restaurant entrepreneurs a seamless experience. An applicant seeking a restaurant permit can use the information provided to the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector to pre-populate and standardize the information needed by the other agencies involved in the restaurant permitting process. Staff can view and easily update information on a multi-dimensional application and make referrals to other departments such as fire and zoning all with a mere click of a button.


Problem

Nearly half of all Americans say they couldn’t cover an unplanned $400 expense, and nearly two-thirds of American workers would struggle to cover a $1,000 crisis. This struggle is shared by half of the 40,000 private sector workers at San Francisco International Airport earn less than $50,000 annually. With the excessive cost of housing in the Bay Area, nearly one in three airport workers commute from outside of the nine Bay Area counties to work at SFO. The nature of airport work coupled with the Bay Area’s high cost of living creates additional financial challenges for these workers including long commutes, high transportation costs, irregular work schedules and work hours misaligned with dependent care schedules.

Solution

In collaboration with airport workers and their unions and SFO and their tenant employers, the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) will design and pilot a Worker Fund. We will define how employees access the funds, the amount of funds accessible to each employee, and how to administer and evaluate the Fund. The Worker Fund would provide employees access to funds to manage financial hardships such as a car breakdown, a high winter heating bill, or a medical emergency. Access to this benefit in the workplace could help workers stabilize and make ends meet, maintain their jobs, and reduce reliance on predatory financial services that can be detrimental to their financial well-being and often trap borrowers in a cycle of debt.