New board, old pain

Incoming supervisors will face unprecedented cuts
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sarah@sfbg.com

One of the first tasks awaiting the new Board of Supervisors in January 2009 is to make unprecedented cuts to the city budget as San Francisco seeks to balance a $125 million mid-year shortfall and address a projected $450 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2009.

"It's hard to understand the magnitude of what lays at our doorstep," termed-out board president Aaron Peskin told the incoming supervisors when it became clear that he lacked the votes to enact a proposed package of cuts before his last day in office (see "Sharing the pain," 12/17/08).

"This is going to require a huge amount of selflessness, of sharing the pain among those who can share it the most and the least," warned Peskin, whose last day on the job is Jan. 6.

Newly sworn-in Sup. David Campos cited the magnitude of cuts as one of the reasons he voted not to move Peskin's legislation out of a committee last week.

"I need more time to understand the proposal", said Campos, who took office in early December, only to find himself confronting "the worst crisis since the Depression," as Mayor Gavin Newsom called it during a visit to the board.

"And this way, the new board gets to weigh in," added Campos, who joins seven returning supervisors — Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd, Sophie Maxwell, and Ross Mirkarimi — and three new supervisors: John Avalos, David Chiu, and Eric Mar.

The decision to delay budgetary cuts until 2009 also secured an extra month of grace for community service providers. Peskin and the Mayor's Office agreed that cuts scheduled for mid-January won't kick in until Feb. 20.

But, as Daly noted as he urged the board to kill Newsom's million-dollar, Tenderloin-based Community Justice Court, the 409 pink slips that were recently issued predominantly to front-line city workers have not been rescinded.

"And folks will have to find many more millions to avert terrible community cuts," Daly observed. Peskin warned that the CJC could cost $2 million annually if the federal government isn't willing to fund it next year.

Daly argued that defunding the CJC was a "no-brainer," citing the project's lack of community support and the fact that the services it aims to divert people to — substance abuse, mental health, and homeless programs — are up for cuts.

But Daly failed to get a veto-proof super-majority after Sup. Gerardo Sandoval, who was elected to the Superior Court in November, recused himself, and Sup. Bevan Dufty, who has his eye on Room 200, voted in favor of the mayor's project.

"I don't see this as a new program, but one that tries to tie together what's already in the community justice system," Dufty said.

With the bad fiscal news expected to snowball in 2009, Daly says he plans to call for hearings to examine the possibility of more cuts to upper-level city managers.

"It's incumbent upon us to make sure there is not fat left in the city budget, especially when it comes to upper-level managers, as we are trimming the resources available to those who are more vulnerable," Daly explained.