Don't let Newsom duck

San Francisco's budget pain is only going to get worse

EDITORIAL San Francisco's budget pain is only going to get worse. The mayor is talking about a shortfall of more than $200 million, which is only an early estimate. Once Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes the ax to the state budget, that number will probably rise. And that will lead the mayor, who so far is refusing to talk about new revenue sources, to go about proposing some truly nasty cuts. Programs for the most marginalized in the city — the homeless, the mentally ill, the poor and sick, the low-income renters — will be facing deep cuts or elimination.

Before that happens, large numbers of the people soon to be affected will come down to City Hall and tell their stories. It's an annual event, and it's painful to watch. The supervisors always do their best to save as much as they can, but throughout the entire experience, the mayor — the one who made the cuts in the first place — is typically is entirely missing.

Newsom won't appear before the supervisors. He won't do any sort of public event that isn't carefully scripted. But if he's going to cut tens of millions of dollars that protect his most vulnerable constituents, he ought to have the courage to listen to what they have to say.

When the supervisors hold hearings on the budget cuts, Newsom ought to be there. He shouldn't be able to pretend he doesn't know the impact of what his office is doing.

The supervisors haven't been able to force Newsom to accept monthly questions. But perhaps they can make the case that the mayor — any mayor — should sit through the hearings, listen to the testimony, and answer questions before he or she makes major cuts to any social services. It's worth a try.