Holiday blues - Page 2

Newsom defies board's vote to restore public-health worker salaries
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An estimated $34 million in federal funding is expected to flow into city coffers for health services by mid-2010, but Arellano indicated that the mayor intends to use that money to help balance next year's deficit.

As the city considers midyear slashes to cope with next year's monstrous $522 million shortfall, the spirit of cooperation that Newsom publicly emphasized at the outset of last year's budget cycle now seems dead. Chiu told the Guardian that the only way the board was able to achieve a palatable budget back in July was through controversial partnership with the Mayor's Office. But when supervisors approached Newsom with alternative solutions for restoring the DPH layoffs, "the mayor was not interested in exploring these different options," Chiu explained.

Now, Chiu said he's worried by the implications of the mayor's defiant approach to the board. "We have two branches of government — legislative and executive. Eleven of us are required to set laws for the city, and the mayor is supposed to carry it out. I hope and believe that the mayor would respect the roles of our respective branches," Chiu said, carefully choosing his words when asked for his perspective on this trend. "I don't know how we are going to get through next year if we can't ... not just agree to disagree, but figure out where we agree."

Chiu's persistent search for common ground stands in contrast to Daly's more adversarial approach. In July, just before the board signed off on the 2009-10 budget, Daly floated a proposal to place $300 million on reserve — which would require additional board action to spend, thereby giving supervisors some leverage — but it failed to pass.

Daly also proposed a placing a charter amendment on the ballot that would have required the mayor to fund certain board-approved programs that supervisors deemed especially important. But that failed too when only Sups. Mirkarimi, David Campos and Eric Mar supported it. In a recent conversation with the Guardian, Daly indicated that this possibility could be revived. "It doesn't matter how many supervisors it takes" to pass legislation, Daly said. "[The mayor] wants to govern unilaterally, and that's not okay."

As for the mayor's latest announcement that he wouldn't spend the money to restore DPH salaries, Daly said it's not over yet. "There will be meetings. There will be discussions," he said. "We're going to move on this."

At the same time, midyear cuts are speeding through the pipeline. By Dec. 4, city department heads will have to figure out how to slash their current budgets by 4 percent. By Feb. 20, Newsom is asking for plans to cut an additional 20 percent, plus an extra 10 percent in contingency funding in order to address next year's gaping deficit.

Those "adjustments," as they're called in bureaucratic jargon, promise to be painful. As the next city budget squabble comes into focus on the horizon, the question of revenue measures is still out there and isn't helped by the current acrimony at City Hall.

Progressive supervisors are also moving to tackle spending areas they deem wasteful, such as a surge in high-dollar management salaries or some of the mayor’s pet projects. Newsom is angling for opening the condo conversion floodgates by letting people buy their way out of the lottery system — a one-time moneymaker that progressives find repugnant because it depletes rental-housing stock.

As the city grows more financially anemic, accusations of mismanagement abound. After the board's vote on DPH cuts, Newsom was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that progressive supervisors are in a "reality-free zone."

But Farahkhan and other SEIU employees who are facing layoffs during the holidays believe Newsom is the one who is living on a different planet.