By Rebecca Bowe
Hundreds marched from Hallidie Plaza to San Francisco City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposed city budget, which contains deep cuts to address a looming $438 million general fund deficit.
Organized by a coalition called Budget Justice, which includes Coleman Advocates, the Coalition on Homelessness, SEIU and others, the rally and march brought out a wide cross-section of people whose lives would be directly affected by cuts to the city's health and human services programs. Homeless people, veterans, the elderly, AIDS patients, organizations that aid victims of violence and sexual abuse, people in need of mental-health therapy or programs for recovery from substance abuse, and single room occupancy residents were all represented.
Sups. John Avalos and Chris Daly delivered rousing speeches and hurled scathing criticism at Newsom's proposed budget. They called for sharing the pain more equitably, and a number of speakers advocated for progressive revenue measures that could help stave off the worst of the bloodshed.
Sup. John Avalos took the podium just before heading into City Hall to lead the Budget & Finance Committee meeting and implored the people gathered out front to come into the board chambers to make their voices heard. “Mayor Newsom, he told us, he said: We have a near-perfect budget. Do we have a near-perfect budget?” Avalos asked, then paused while everyone cried out, “Nooo!!!!!” “Hell no!” he echoed. “We have a budget with a lot of blood on the floor. It’s your blood it’s our blood and all of our blood!”
“I didn’t have high expectations” for the mayor’s proposed budget, Sup. Chris Daly said, “but I was shocked. I was appalled.” Daly charged that even as services to the city’s vulnerable populations are being slashed, “the politically connected and the powerful get huge increases. That is not going to happen in the city and county of San Francisco, because we are not going to allow that to happen! And we will come back, and we will keep coming back, and we will fight! We will not rest until we see justice in the city and county of Saint Francis.”
Sharen Hewitt, Executive Director of the Community Leadership Academy & Emergency Response Project, a nonprofit that helps people traumatized by violence, spoke passionately about the mayor’s proposed budget cuts. “I just left Sunnydale,” she told the crowd, referring to a public-housing development in Visitacion Valley and one of the most impoverished areas of the city. “Sunnydale – you know where it’s at? This is not an issue of budget,” she continued. “This is an issue for my community of life and death.”