Newsom's Orwellian doublespeak on city layoffs


One of the things that irritates people most about Mayor Gavin Newsom is his Orwellian doublespeak, in which he makes claims that conflict with his actions, and that was on vivid display with his recent decision to lay off 15,000 city workers and then hire most of them back for shorter workweeks.

These are frontline workers (managers, cops, and firefighters were excluded) who will either be fired or take a 6.25 percent pay cut – while the public will see a rollback in the hours devoted to providing city services – but Newsom’s press release claims that he’s actually helping both the workers and the public.

“Mayor Newsom used his YouTube update this week to discuss the City's budget and his plan to save thousands of city jobs and services by offering 37.5 hour part time positions to most city employees. This proposal will allow the City to maintain services for residents, while saving the City an estimated $50 million. San Francisco faces a projected $522 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year.” the press release, which was sent out on Saturday (presumably so the media ignores it), begins.

As the Chronicle reported that day, none of the affected employees are happy about this “offer” they can’t refuse, and their unions are even talking about suing the city. As for this plan to “maintain services,” that’s based simply on Newsom’s demand that city employees – who, because of the layoffs in previous years, are often already doing several people’s jobs – do 40 hours of work in 37.5 hours.

Now, this reduced workweek plan might not be so terrible if Newsom had worked on it with the unions, made deeper cuts to senior management and his taxpayer-paid political team in recent years, coupled it with a push to try to increase local taxes, and been honest about its impact to city services and the local economy.

Instead, we hear that we must burn the village in order to save it, which was dubbed the “enlightened approach” in the press release (which failed to mention that Newsom plans to not rehire an unspecified number of the employees he’s firing). "The point is to keep people employed and to keep their benefits," Big Brother Newsom said in the press release.

Later in the release, Newsom goes on to laud Thursday’s Day of Action events, in which speaker after speaker called for increased taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals in order to prevent continued cuts to the public education system – despite the fact that Newsom has been the single biggest obstacle in San Francisco to such tax increases. “They're shutting down opportunities. Its [sic] impacted faculty, its [sic] impacted morale, and it's going to devastate the economy of the state unless we wake up and say enough's enough,” Newsom said, sounding like the sympathetic populist instead the mayor who has proudly touted the fact that his budgets haven’t raised taxes, relying entirely on cuts.

Big Brother couldn’t have said it better himself.

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