Seeing Red

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By Sarah Phelan

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Red is for children: a color coded map shows where most kids (the red patches) now live in the City,

For all the crowing about the passage of Newsom's budget (we’ll get to that soon), the progressive majority remains in the driving seat when it comes to setting priorities and making decisions at City Hall.

Consider two key votes that the progressives won at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

First, Sups. Aaron Peskin, Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, Jake McGoldrick, Ross Mirkarimi and Geraldo Sandoval voted for a charter amendment that will require the mayor to show up for monthly policy discussions at the Board. Their vote gives San Francisco residents the opportunity to clarify whether they really want to require that a monthly mayoral appearance be mandatory for anyone and everyone who holds the Mayor’s job.

In case you thought you’d already voted for this requirement last fall, the answer is, yes and no.

In 2006, 56.36 percent of San Francisco voters approved Measure I. But this was only a policy statement that asked, but did not demand, that the Mayor attend. And shortly after Prop. I passed, and with the progressives on the Board driving the policy on all the important issues of the day, like more foot patrol, more access to health care and a ban on plastic bag, Newsom sidestepped the will of the people, by declaring that he’d hold townhall meetings, instead.

Lest you are thinking, well, couldn’t the Board simply show up to these town halls and discuss policy there, the answer is, No, actually, they can’t. At least not without being guilty of massive violations of the Brown Act.

So, now the Board (fresh from wrangling with the Mayor over a budget whose police and potholes priorities seemed decidedly un San Franciscan) has given people another chance to clarify their intentions, this time without any "but you don't have to show up if you don't feel like it" style loopholes.

If this wasn’t enough of a push back against the Mayor’s machine, which has repeatedly claimed that Newsom appearing at the Board would only amount to political theater, (Why? Has Newsom nothing serious to say? Surely he can't be that afraid of discussing policy with the Board, face to face?) the progressives suceeded in slowing down Newsom's attempted and rushed privatization of three of the City's golf courses.

Only this time, it was Sup. Sophie Maxwell, who was leading the charge, demanding that no decision be made on this matter, until the City gets the results of an independent study that analyzes whether it makes sense to convert these courses into soccer fields, instead .
This time, voting for the delay were Maxwell, Peskin, Daly, Ammiano, McGoldrick and Mirkarimi.

As for Newsom’s $6 billion budget, which Daly says amounts to "afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted, even that didn’t pass without some major amendments. Those changes began a few weeks ago when the Budget Committee's decided to cut the original proposal by $22 million, so as to restore $4 million in HIV/AIDS funds, along with a bunch of programs for families and children.

Yesterday, progressives on the Board also challenged cuts to in-patient psychiatric beds, critical care nurses, and Buster’s Place, the only 24-hour homeless shelter in town.

In the end, $1 million was restored to Buster’s Place, while $240,000 was also set aside for two nursing positions, with both dollops coming from the $10 million that had been allocated for affordable family rental housing.

With that pot then shrinking to $8.5 million, the message to working-class families in the Bay Area seems to be: “Why don't you just leave--and don’t bother coming back.”

Newsom’s own proposed budget document notes, “the City has a resident workforce of 433,000 and an additional 590,500 workers commute into the City each day, bringing the City’s total daily workforce to more than one million.”

And there are now more dogs than children in the City by the Bay. Maybe that is the direction Newsom wants to take the city: a more commuters, condos and canines, less residents, families and children kind of City?

But for now, the residents of San Francisco won’t even have a chance to vote on the affordable housing question, which surely is the most pressing crisis this city faces.

Yesterday, four progressives—Daly, Mirkarimi, Ammiano and Sandoval—tried to put a charter amendment on the ballot that would set aside two and half cents on each $100 of assessed property tax for the next 15 years to support affordable housing programs; require the Mayor to prepare an affordable housing plan every 3 years, and affirm City policy, urging the Redevelopment Agency to use at least 50 percent of its tax increment funds for low and moderate income housing, until at least 2023.

Maybe such a charter amendment will make it onto the next ballot. (All it will take is two more progressives). But Until, then, much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who lured all the children away when the Mayor and Corporation wouldn’t pay him his dues, the East Bay will continue to lure away San Francisco's working class families and children, and with them, the fun and laughter that young people create.
Hopefully, a childless city is the kind of nightmare that the good people of San Francisco will want to prevent. But if they don't do something about it soon, all they will be left with are more empty schools and rusting playgrounds, a sad reminder of what they once had, back in the Summer of Love glory days, and beyond.