The Mayor's Offensive

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By Sarah Phelan

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Photo by Charles Russo
Mayor Gavin Newsom only shows up to self congratulatory budget events that seek to make him look good

Mayor Gavin Newsom is happy to be center stage when it comes to attacking Sup. Chris Daly. At last week's budget rally, Newsom made it look as if Daly had unilaterally decided to cut funding to pothole repairs and police academies. (In reality Daly was responding to Newsom's cuts to affordable housing and public health.)
This week, Newsom made it look as if Daly had randomly decided to talk about unsubstantiated allegations that the mayor was doing cocaine, while sleeping with the wife of his campaign manager. (In reality, Daly was referring, in the context of Newsom's proposed cuts to substance abuse treatment programs, to the mayor's self-professed alcohol problem, as well as his refusal to deal head on with widespread whisperings about cocaine use.)
Either way, and without a declared challenger in the mayor's race this fall, bashing Daly is a far easier for the Mayor than say, explaining to poor folks why you are proposing cutting funding for programs that help poor poeople, such as affordable rental housing in favor of increasing funding for programs that help the middle class, such as affordable homeownership. Or explaining why you are cutting the only 24-hour homeless shelter in town, when your proposal to add rangers to Golden Gate Park strongly suggests the homeless situation is getting worse.
So it came as no surprise that Mayor Gavin Newsom chose not to mingle with the hundreds of poor folks that lined up last night at City Hall to talk about the damage that his proposed cuts to affordable housing and public health will inflict on them and their already fragile communities.
As the rules stand, the Mayor doesn't have to attend such hearings, but his absence from the trenches (he wasn't around for Tuesday night's Beilensen hearings either, when 300 people showed up to talk about the true cost of cutting substance abuse treatment and other public health programs--a hearing which has received almost no media coverage other than a fixation with Daly's "cocaine" remarks) led Sup. Tom Ammiano to observe, "I think there is not a full accounting by the mayor himself to this budget when he does not have to attend these meetings."
With Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier cooking up Ms. Manners rules of engagement for the Board of Supervisors following what she deems "offensive" comments by her colleague Sup.Chris Daly, how about her also asking the Mayor to be present for the annual budget hearings, during which folks wait for hours, just to speak on the record for a couple minutes?
Because Newsom's absence, in the face of all this budgetary angst among people of very limited means, is beginning to come across as more than a tad offensive.