Sharing the pain - Page 2

Newsom's budgetary olive branch does little to ease the impact or win over supervisors
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"When revenue is back, the focus will be on things that are important, but not on services that help the most vulnerable folks," Avalos predicted.

Within three days of Newsom's appearance before the board, Peskin had figured out a mechanism whereby the public could weigh in on Newsom's cuts: he introduced legislation that combines the mayor's $118.5 million proposal with an alternative $8.5 million in cuts that Peskin has proposed.

"So, now there's a de facto collaboration," Peskin told the Guardian. Peskin's package of alternative cuts — which has since been pared back to $5.5 million because duplication with the mayor's list was found — includes budget reductions in the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Emergency Management Department, Fire Department, Police Department, Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the 311 call center, and city grants to the opera, ballet, and symphony. Peskin is also proposed wage freezes that could save another $35 million.

Peskin's counter-move allows the public to weigh in on the combined proposals. It requires department heads to publicly defend cuts to programs, services, and personnel — cuts that were developed, per Newsom's request, behind closed doors. Or as Daly put it: "The mayor's and the board's proposals need to be deliberated not through a staff member to the mayor, but in full view of the public."

The board also wants to publicly discuss the layoffs, which Newsom said would total 399, a number that rose to 409 when the list was actually released. Peskin's legislation also provides an avenue for fired workers or their representatives to publicly air discontent. A list of eliminated positions obtained by the Guardian shortly before press time shows that most of the positions were service providers making less than $70,000. Although union officials have complained that the ranks of highly paid managers has grown sharply since Newsom became mayor (visit sfbg.com for the complete list and more analysis).

SEIU's Robert Haaland estimates that 75 percent of layoffs targeted line workers in service jobs. "As far as we can tell, the pain is all at the bottom," Haaland told the Guardian.

And while Haaland didn't openly support Peskin's counter-proposal — a citywide sliding scale of pay cuts in which the highest earners take a bigger hit and an across-the-board union wage freeze — he acknowledged that at least the proposal targets the powerful Police Officers Association and the Municipal Executives Association, and not just SEIU workers.

Haaland claims that under Newsom's behind-closed-doors method, "the institutional bias of department heads tends to come into play" in making layoff decisions.

"It's human nature. No one talks about it, and I don't know that there's a grand conspiracy," Haaland said, expressing his belief that it's easier for managers to cut people they don't work with than those around them or people at the top. "They also tend to target the union activists, the members who are a pain in the butt, and who they don't like."

Newsom told the Chronicle in a Dec. 15 article that "labor is going to be a principal part of the solution." Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, told the Guardian that "the SFLC is listening to its affiliates to see if there are any collective strategies." But Haaland observed that the city is "contractually obligated to the unions," which may further complicate ongoing negotiations.

With Sup. Bevan Dufty advocating to restore more than $500,000 in HIV/AIDS funding cuts and Sup. Sophie Maxwell is trying to avoid cuts at the Small Business Center, newly sworn-in Sup.