Supervisors urge shift of $82 million from cops and fire to health

Public Defender Jeff Adachi was among the handful of politicians protesting the mayor’s proposed cuts Wednesday. Photo by Hank Drew/The Public Press. [See video from the protest]

In a day of protest inside and outside City Hall, the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee shoved a wrench in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s interim budget Wednesday, while nearly 1,000 rallied outside for more equitable cuts to save health services.

The committee approved shifting $82 million from the mayor’s interim public safety budget to the San Francisco Department of Public Health and other city departments getting cut by Newsom’s budget ax.

"I truly do not believe this budget reflects the priorities of this city," Board President David Chiu said.

District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, the committee chair, proposed moving $42 million from police, $17 million from the sheriff and $23 million from firefighters to departments facing cuts. Avalos called his proposal “an equitable approach that we don’t already have. I don‘t see how we can get the mayor involved without this amendment.”


[Public Press video by Hank Drew. Editing by Clare Roberts]

The amendment goes to the full board next week for a final vote. The interim budget helps the city pay its bills until approval of the final 2009-2010 budget.

The committee’s budget salvo challenges the mayor’s plan to take $169 million from the Department of Public Health to help close the city’s $438 million budget deficit while leaving the police, sheriff and fire departments intact.

It also sets up a potential veto battle with Newsom: Supervisor Bevan Dufty, a consistent Newsom supporter, could be a key swing vote preventing a veto-proof majority from approving the proposal.
Dufty opposed the measure, saying he would not “vote for something that is going to be used to send a message" to the mayor. On a more conciliatory note he added that his vote was not a rejection of the other board members’ concerns.

Supervisor Carmen Chu, who also voted against the resolution, asked for patience from her colleagues: “I think this is a budget we haven’t seen before. We’re going to have to have collaboration. I think the approach is not quite right.”

Outside, at a protest on the steps of City Hall, Supervisor Chris Daly said Newsom was “gutting the social safety net to pump up law enforcement." His speech was part of a day of action organized by Budget Justice, a coalition of community organizations affected by cuts.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and a protest organizer, said community groups want a fair budget that “shares the pain” with equitable cuts across the board. “San Francisco’s budget should protect economically and politically vulnerable citizens, not cut their services for political expediency,” Friedenbach said.

Budget Justice organized the protest to oppose cuts to health and human services, specifically $22.8 million being cut from community groups that serve people with mentally illnesses or addictions — cuts that will close drop-in centers and reduce the number of mental health counselors.









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