Sharing the pain - Page 3

Newsom's budgetary olive branch does little to ease the impact or win over supervisors

David Campos stressed the need for a meaningful vetting process.

"It's important for us to have a process that sheds light on the human impacts of the proposed cuts so we have a better sense of what it means to citizens of San Francisco," Campos said at a Dec. 12 board committee hearing.

Campos also made it clear that he is not afraid to target the arts, arguing that deep-pocketed patrons can help ease their pain, even as advocates countered that attacking entertainment will further deplete the city's coffers by potentially hurting tourism. "As much as we appreciate the need to support the arts, we're going to have to look at other avenues some of those folks can turn to, to get the funding that is needed," Campos warned. "People who have the greatest needs don't have those options. "

With repeated rounds of painful cuts predicted in the next six months, Peskin told a Dec. 12 Government Audits and Oversight Committee hearing that it's critical for the board to express its priorities. "These include keeping Rec and Park facilities open, providing basic mental health services, and preserving public sector jobs," Peskin said. "It's also important that everyone share the pain, but not necessary that everyone share the pain equally."

Outside the meeting, laid-off worker Allanda Turner described her pain and the devastation she feels at being let go in the midst of a recession. "I'm a parent. I just purchased a home. I'm feeling almost no hope at all," said Turner, who fears she will be applying for the medical services, unemployment, and food stamps that she refers clients to as part of her job with the city's Human Services Agency.

"The mayor always says he advocates for the poor, but we are the most underpaid," she said. Meanwhile, while her colleagues claim that their department "gave Newsom what he wanted" by adding layoffs to an original list of cuts that included fewer jobs.

"These are unit clerks, employment specialists, eligibility workers, and line workers," said Sin Yee Poon, a DHS contract manager. "Eight of them are child-protection workers."

There will be one last meeting of the current Board of Supervisors in January, and both incoming and outgoing members are already specuutf8g that unless Peskin's legislation passes with a veto-proof majority, the mayor will veto it and this period of symbolic unity will come to an abrupt end.

"We have the capacity, the ingenuity, and the spirit to solve this," Newsom told the board. "It's going to take all of us working together. It's in that spirit that I am here. The mid-year solution — difficult and painful as it is — it's the easy part. The difficult part comes in the next four months."

But as legislators explore the possibility of adding to their budget tools in the future through charter amendments and special elections, one aide stressed the importance of taking an active role now.

"It's important for the board to set the stage now for the budget discussions in the spring."