Posts Tagged 'substance abuse'

Budget Justice Rally Rocks SF City Hall

Budget Justice Rally Rocks SF City Hall

“Mayor Newsom said ‘We have a near-perfect budget.'”
Hell no! .. We have a budget with a lot of blood on the floor.”
” It’s your blood it’s our blood and all of our blood!”

Supervisor John Avalos

Hundreds marched from Hallidie Plaza to San Francisco City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed city budget, which contains deep cuts to address a looming $438 million general fund deficit.

Organized by a coalition called Budget Justice, which includes Coleman Advocates, the Coalition on Homelessness, SEIU and others, the rally and march brought out a wide cross-section of people whose lives would be directly affected by cuts to the city’s health and human services programs. Homeless people, veterans, the elderly, AIDS patients, organizations that aid victims of violence and sexual abuse, people in need of mental-health therapy or programs for recovery from substance abuse, and single room occupancy residents were all represented. ( SF Bay Guardian Blog, June 11, 2009)

See Guardian editorial “Dismantling the Newsom Budget” below.
See video by  Bill Carpenter.
Thanks to Patricia Jackson for the photos.
See the leaflet for the event (pdf).

Dismantling the Newsom budget

The mayor’s cheery line may sound good when he’s out of town running for governor,
but it’s not going to play so well on the streets of San Francisco.

Guardian Editorial

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom was upbeat when he delivered his budget proposal last week. It won’t be that bad, he told everyone — “At the end of the day, it’s a math problem.”

Well, actually, it’s not. At the end of the day, it’s job losses, major cuts to city services, and hidden taxes — most of them, despite the mayor’s rhetoric, falling on the backs of the poor.

You can’t cut $70 million from the Department of Public Health — which is already operating at bare-bones levels after years of previous cuts — without significant impacts on health care for San Franciscans. You can’t cut $19 million out of the Human Services Agency without badly hurting homeless and needy people. You can’t raise Muni fares to $2 without taking cash out of the pockets of working-class people. The mayor’s cheery line may sound good when he’s out of town running for governor, but it’s not going to play so well on the streets of San Francisco.

Just for the record, here are a few of the proposed cuts:

A 21-bed acute psychiatric unit would be shut and replaced with an 18-bed unit for milder cases. Where would the seriously mentally ill go?

The number of home-healthcare workers, the folks who take care of the very sick who need skilled clinical services in the home, would be cut by 30 percent. Those clients would either suffer, go to (expensive) hospitals, or die.

Ongoing outpatient mental health services would be limited to the most severe cases. People who are, for now, only moderately mentally ill would lose access to care (until, without care, they become severely mentally ill).

The emergency food-bag program for seniors will lose $50,000, so hungry senior citizens won’t get to eat.

Almost $3 million will be cut from community-based organizations that provide direct, frontline services to the homeless.

Almost half of the city’s recreation directors — people who provide direct services and mentoring to at-risk youth — will be laid off.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic Eviction Defense Center, the only place that offers free legal defense for Ellis Act evictions, will lose funding, leaving hundreds of tenants at risk of losing their homes.

Drop-in centers will close. Programs for homeless youth will shut down. More homeless people with increasingly more serious mental illness will be wandering the streets with nowhere to go for help.

Mayor Newsom brags in his campaign ads about creating private-sector jobs — but the budget will mean layoffs not just for city employees but for perhaps 1,000 nonprofit workers. That dwarfs the job creation he’s claiming — and defies the Obama administration’s call for government and private business to try to preserve and create jobs.

This isn’t a math problem. It’s a political problem, and the supervisors need to make it very clear that the mayor’s budget isn’t going to fly.

The supervisors need to take the budget apart, piece by piece, and reset its priorities. Newsom increases funding for police investigators by $7 million, while cutting the Public Defender’s Office by $2 million. He’s preserving his own bloated political operation (a big press office, highly paid special assistants and programs like 311 that are part of his gubernatorial campaign) while eliminating big parts of the social safety net. He’s raising bus fares, but not taxes on downtown.

“The mayor has presented his vision,” Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Budget Committee, explained. “Now our priorities have to be presented.”

This can’t be a modest, typical budget negotiation with the supervisors tweaking a few items here and there. This is a battle for San Francisco, for its future and its soul, and the supervisors need to start talking, today, about how they’re going to fight back. *

See the June 11, 2009 BeyondChron article “Supes Push for a More Equitable Budget,” describing the SF Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee’s passing an amendment cutting $82 million out of the Police, Fire and Sheriff Departments – so that the City can more adequately fund the Public Health Department and Human Services Agency, and more evenly “spread the pain” of the financial crisis among various agencies.

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Shrinking Government: Newsom’s budget cuts public health and city employees — includes no new taxes.

SF Bay Guardian, June 3, 2009

Shrinking government

Newsom’s budget cuts public health and city employees — and includes no new taxes

By Steven T. Jones

Mayor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2009-10 city budget June 1, proclaiming it far better than doomsayers predicted and emphasizing how he minimized cuts to health and human services that he once said could be as deep as 25 percent in order to bridge a $438 million budget deficit.

“It doesn’t come close to balancing on the backs of our health and human services agencies, as some had feared,” Newsom told the department heads, elected supervisors, and journalists who were tightly packed into his office for the announcement event.

But there’s still plenty of pain in a city budget where the General Fund — the portion of the budget local officials can control — would be reduced by more than 11 percent, its only reduction in recent memory. And at a time when every reasonable Democrat in Sacramento has been nearly begging for tax hikes to prevent budget blood, San Francisco’s Democratic mayor proudly proclaimed that there are no new taxes in the budget.

“We didn’t raise taxes, and we didn’t borrow,” he said. You can almost hear that line being repeated in the ads he’ll be running as he campaigns for governor.

Newsom proposes slashing the city’s public health budget by $128.4 million, or 8 percent (a total of 400 employees), while the human services budget would take a $15.9 million hit, or 2 percent. “That’s a lot, but by no means is it devastating,” Newsom said, noting that he restored some of the deepest cuts that were the subject of alarming public hearings. “I listened to the public comments at the Board of Supervisors… Things got a lot better than the headlines and the hearings.”

The proposed budget includes 1,603 full-time-equivalent layoffs, or a 5.8 reduction in the city’s workforce, trimming more than $75.5 million from the general fund budget. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services is cutting back its workweek to 37.5 hours to further trim costs.

“The smoke hasn’t cleared yet and there’s a lot of devastation in this budget that isn’t being talked about,” Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee, said at the event. Newsom’s budget will be analyzed and then face its first committee hearing June 17, with approval by the full board required by July 31.

“The mayor told us a lot about what’s in the budget, but not a lot about what’s not in the budget, so we’ll spend a few days figuring that out,” board President David Chiu told the Guardian.

The budget was aided greatly by more than $80 million in federal stimulus funds and other one-time revenue sources (such as $10 million from the sale of city-owned energy turbines) that were used to plug this year’s gap and offset cuts by the state and depressed tax revenue.

Although Newsom doesn’t want to raise taxes, licenses and fees would go up 41 percent, increasing revenue by $64 million to $220 million. Some of those proposed fee hikes range from the cost of parking in city-owned garages to admission fees for city-owned facilities such as the Strybing Arboretum. Muni riders will also see fares hiked to $2.

There will also be deep cuts to some key city functions. The Department of Emergency Management would take a 24 percent cut under the mayor’s plan, while the Department of Building Inspection faces a 20 percent cut to expenditures and a 29 percent reduction in staff.

The Planning Department would also take a hit of about 7 percent, with most of that focused on the department’s long-range planning functions, which were slashed by 19 percent to $4.7 million.

But it’s not an entirely austere budget. The police and fire departments have status quo budgets with no layoffs. Travel expenses would increase 13.5 percent to $2.9 million and the cost of food purchased by the city would rise 127 percent to $7 million.

The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development — which often uses public funds to subsidize private sector projects — would get a 32 percent increase, to $24.7 million.

It’s unclear how much the Mayor’s Office has shared the budget pain. During the presentation, Newsom said his office’s budget has been cut by 28 percent, but he later clarified that was spread over the five years he has been mayor. Yet even that is tough to account for given that some functions have been shuffled to other departments.

The document shows a proposed 60 percent increase in the Mayor’s Office budget, although the lion’s share of that comes from the Mayor’s Office of Housing’s one-time financial support for some long-awaited projects, including rebuilding the Hunters View housing and support services project for low-income people connected to the Central YMCA, and an apartment project on 29th Avenue for people with disabilities.

Avalos has said he will look to find money by cutting some of the highly paid policy czars and communications specialists added to the Mayor’s Office in recent years, as well as Newsom’s cherished 311 call center and the Community Justice Court he created. Supervisors are also expected to resist Newsom’s penchant for privatization. Newsom proposed to privatize seven city functions, from jail health services and security guards and city-owned facilities, and to consolidate another 14 functions between various city departments.

Newsom pledged to work with supervisors who want to change the budget, continuing the rhetoric of cooperation that he opened the budget season with in January, which supervisors say hasn’t been matched by his actions or the secretive nature of this budget. “This budget is by no means done,” Newsom said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

In fact, Newsom warned that the budget news could be even worse than his budget outlines. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about new cuts that could total $175 million or more for San Francisco only, although Newsom only included $25 million of that in his budget because it went to the printer on May 22 and the total hit is still unclear. “So,” Newsom said, “we’re by no means out of the woods.”

Newsom Budget Figures Don’t Add Up

BeyondChron, June 2, 2009

Newsom Budget Figures Don’t Add Up
by Paul Hogarth

Mayor Gavin Newsom must assume that when releasing a budget everyone expects to have cuts, the press will just take a few pictures, jot down some snappy quotes, and – maybe – read his one-page press release. Beyond Chron, however, bothered to review the whole proposal, and the numbers contradict what Newsom said in his speech – where he assured us Public Health cuts would be less severe than feared. The budget has over $100 million in cuts for that Department, not $43 million as he claimed. Newsom also said the Mayor’s Office would get a 28% cut, but the figures show only 9% of his staff are being laid off – and the division that runs his media operation would actually get bigger. And in a strange twist, Newsom said he really didn’t like some cuts that he proposed – and would “count on” the Supervisors to restore them during the add-back process, but left unsaid where to find the money. As San Francisco faces its worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, Newsom bragged that Police and Fire are getting no layoffs – while the rich and Downtown businesses will not be paying more taxes. He also warned more budget cuts are coming from the state, echoing the threats of Governor Schwarzenegger.  (Article continues below.)

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Please join the June 10th march “REAL DEAL OR NO DEAL” to save vital services for San Francisco’s most vulnerable elderly, disabled, minority, and low-wage working people.

Wedneday, June 10, 3 PM.  Meet at Hallidie Plaza (Market St betw. 4th & 5th Sts)
We will march to, and around City Hall.

We demand: (1) Supervisors, resist the devastating cuts in the Mayor’s budget, which will be announced by then, (2) Make cuts instead to a growing list of unnecessary, less necessary services, or services for those better able to pay for them, (3) approve fair revenue measures to assure stable funding for our working population, and (4) stop making budget decisions in secret.   Download a poster for this event

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June 1st is when the Mayor has to submit a budget, and over the next month the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Committee will scrutinize his proposal, and offer some amendments before final passage in July. Newsom took the unilateral step of making $71 million in mid-year cuts earlier this year without approval of the legislative branch, and the question now is how the Board will handle another onslaught of painful decisions – in a way that most fairly “shares the pain” to protect the most vulnerable. But first, Gavin needed his orchestrated press event.

I’ve attended my share of press conferences in Room 200 – but yesterday’s one appeared calculated to keep most local media at bay. Rather than have Mayor Newsom speak in the reception area, we were ushered into a back room. Then, we were told we could not go inside – but could watch from behind a doorway, as elected officials and department heads crowded in to take their seats. Before the event started, the staff asked homeless rights advocate Jennifer Friedenbach to leave because she was not “credentialed press” – although she was there to cover the event for Street Sheet. Later on, the only courtesy that Newsom’s staff gave us was for each reporter to briefly step into the room (one at a time) to take photos of the Mayor giving his speech.

Newsom spoke for about an hour, outlining his budget proposal and how he “looked forward” to working with the Supervisors over the next month. Despite the City facing a half-a-billion dollar deficit, Newsom said he had a “balanced budget with no taxes and no borrowing” which “doesn’t come close” to balancing it on the backs of Public Health (DPH) or Human Services (HSA). The Mayor had asked all Department Heads to make 12.5% in cuts, but these agencies that serve the poorest were spared from such an extent – adding, he said, that HSA only had $27 million in cuts, and DPH only about $43 million.

It wasn’t until reading the 430-page document that I learned this was at best misleading, and at worst a lie. You can probably get $43 million in Public Health by just counting the cuts to various contract services like substance abuse, mental health, Health At Home, community health, ambulatory care and emergency services. But that still doesn’t count the $100 million in net budget cuts to S.F. General Hospital and Laguna Honda. Newsom also claimed the City will be getting $80 million in federal stimulus funds to help with Medi-Cal reimbursements. Turns out the actual figure is $37 million.

Newsom acknowledged that “layoffs are in the budget,” and 1,603 positions would have to be eliminated. The Mayor added that he cut 28% out of his own budget, which he used to point out that everyone was asked to tighten their belts. But the budget proposal shows that the Mayor’s Office would get a 60% increase, although much of that includes various funds and services. Just looking at what percentage of staff would be laid off in that department, it’s only 9% – or less than the 12% target Newsom gave to all other agencies. The Mayor’s Office of Public Policy & Finance (which includes his bloated media relations division) will actually get 29% more than this year under his proposal.

In a bizarre (almost Orwellian) moment, Newsom lamented some of his cuts – and said he hoped the Board of Supervisors would reverse them. Specifically, he mentioned the mental health and substance abuse cuts in the Health Department budget. “I’m counting on [the Board] to add back the things I don’t want cut,” he said. But the Mayor’s budget proposal is supposed to be just that – his proposal – and the political fight then happens as the Supervisors debate his funding priorities, and vote to make any changes.

I asked Newsom why propose these cuts in the first place if he wants them reversed, and he replied “because I have to submit a balanced budget.” I pointed out the Supervisors also must pass a balanced budget, and he replied they could use the “add-back” process. But “add-backs” are only possible if there’s money, which is no guarantee in this year’s fiscal crisis. Newsom said that the Board’s Budget Analyst Harvey Rose would figure it out later, like he does “every year” – even though this is no ordinary year.

One group the Mayor bragged won’t see layoffs is the Police, despite the controversy about them taking millions from Muni in “work orders” to patrol buses. Now, a Channel 7 investigative report shows the cops aren’t doing what they’re getting paid for in that program. The Supervisors may have pried $5 million from Police to give back to the MTA, but the Mayor’s Police budget still has a $14 million line item for work orders. Newsom adds the Fire Department won’t have cuts, while the Firefighters Union pays his consultant – Eric Jaye – to run the campaign against “rolling brownouts” that would save money.

The Mayor concluded his remarks by discussing what could make our budget worse: the unresolved fiscal crisis in Sacramento. Governor Schwarzenegger’s May revise proposed borrowing money from city and county governments to help the state’s financial situation, which could blow another $175 million hole in the City’s deficit. Newsom called it a “done deal” in his speech, but I got him to acknowledge (after the speech) that two-thirds of the state legislature must still approve it – before Arnold has carte blanche to raid California’s broke localities.

Newsom also addressed the state’s recent special election, and said the “message was clear – the people want us to find $6 billion in more cuts.” That’s a disturbing analysis, as polling evidence shows that the voters did not vote “for cuts” when they rejected a fatally flawed budget package that was the product of political extortion. The state budget can also be balanced with deeply popular revenue measures – such as an oil severance tax, or restoring upper-income tax brackets to what Republican Governors Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan agreed to during hard times. We need to fight for this.

Gavin Newsom wants to be Governor, but his analysis of the state budget mess is the last thing progressives need right now – and calls into question whether he’s ready for prime time. As Schwarzenegger pushes for an “all-cuts” budget, we need Democrats in Sacramento who fight back – and help build momentum and public outrage against the two-thirds rule. Newsom supports lowering the threshold to pass a state budget, but he has not shown the willingness to lead on this issue. For now, progressives should be looking elsewhere …


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