Published On: Fri, Oct 12th, 2018

Benioff, Dorsey battle on Twitter over SF ballot measure to help homeless

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Two San Francisco tech moguls got into a heated exchange of tweets Friday over a city ballot measure aimed at ending homelessness.

Jack Dorsey, the head of Square and Twitter, took to the social app he runs to express his opposition to Proposition C, drawing ire from its most vocal supporter, Salesforce chief Marc Benioff.

Prop. C, which appears on the Nov. 6 ballot, would tax the biggest businesses in San Francisco to raise as much as $300 million for homeless programs.

Benioff on Monday came out strong for Prop. C, pledging at least $2 million of company money and his personal fortune to help pass the initiative.

“I want to help fix the homeless problem in SF and California. I don’t believe this (Prop C) is the best way to do it,” Dorsey tweeted, including a link to an earlier tweet by Benioff about his own support for the measure.

Benioff responded: “Hi Jack. Thanks for the feedback. Which homeless programs in our city are you supporting?”

The Salesforce co-CEO then asked Dorsey on Twitter how much money he’s donated to the $37 million, two-year-old Heading Home Initiative, which Benioff helped start with the city for housing homeless families. The program has housed nearly 400 families through rent subsidies.

Benioff noted Dorsey’s estimated net worth of $6 billion — Benioff’s fortune is believed to be around that range as well — and asked how much he has given.

“Exactly (how) much have his companies & personally given back to our city, our homeless programs, public hospitals, & public schools?” Benioff tweeted.

Several hours later, Dorsey responded: “Marc: you’re distracting. This is about me supporting Mayor @LondonBreed for *the* reason she was elected. The Mayor doesn’t support Prop C, and we should listen to her.”

Benioff, who has donated millions of dollars to house homeless families and strongly advocated for more street programs, told The Chronicle on Monday that the only way to significantly reduce the crisis of 7,500 individuals and 1,200 families languishing in the streets is to scale up government spending. Prop. C would generate an amount of funding that about doubles what San Francisco already spends to assist homeless people and keep them housed.

After announcing his support, celebrities including Chris Rock, Jewel and William James Adams Jr., known professionally as rallied around Benioff on Twitter.

Opposition to Prop. C gained momentum in October when Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said in statements that there isn’t enough accountability in the measure to ensure funds would be properly spent. But Benioff, whose Salesforce is the city’s largest private employer and projects approximately $13 billion in revenue this year, said he thinks he can convince other big business leaders to show support.

On Twitter, Dorsey said he supported Breed and Wiener’s stance on the issue, as well as their “commitment” to addressing the homelessness crisis “in the right way.”

“Mayor Breed was elected to fix this,” Dorsey tweeted. “I trust her.”

In response to Dorsey’s original tweet, dozens of people jumped into the comments to criticize his position. Some people called into question the tech billionaire’s motives.

Also referred as the “Our City, Our Home” initiative, Prop. C would impose an average of about 0.5 percent in gross receipts tax on corporate revenue above $50 million. A report by the city’s Office of Economic Analysis concluded 300 to 400 of the largest businesses in San Francisco would be impacted by the tax.

Representatives for Square and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Some businesses have taken a clear stance against the measure. Patrick Collison, CEO of San Francisco payments company Stripe, which opposes Prop. C, said in a tweet he supports Dorsey. Dorsey retweeted Collison’s tweet, broadcasting it to his 4.1 million followers.

Stripe donated $19,999 to the Chamber of Commerce’s “No on Prop. C” campaign. Gensler, a San Francisco design and architecture firm, last month donated $10,000.

Benioff told The Chronicle on Monday, “At the end of the day, it’s going to be — are you for the homeless or not for the homeless? For me it’s binary. I’m for the homeless.”

Melia Russell is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

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