Jared Blumenfeld, general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, told the city’s Budget and Finance Committee last Wednesday that because of the economy, plans to eliminate six management positions and three administrative assistants are still on.

Although the three supervisors who serve on the committee paid attention, Blumenfeld’s closest listeners were employees who were issued pink slips in late February.

We cannot afford to let these directors go. They are the ones keeping the lid on the violence in this city,” said Michael Slate, a San Francisco resident and police lieutenant at Northern Station.

“They have my back as much as any police officer has had my back. The word is already on the street about what will happen if these programs close.”

“You’ve made difficult decisions,” District Supervisor Avalos told the general manager as he approached the microphone. “And I will challenge you on a lot of those choices.”

Recreation and Parks needs to save $11.4 million to balance its budget, according to Blumenfeld. Staff cuts will chip away $4 million from that deficit starting May 1, when the layoffs go into effect.

Blumenfeld said he considered many other options, including raising day camp fees by $14, entrance fees for the botanical garden, having a taxi stand in many park locations, reducing mowing to once a month, and even reducing the heat in swimming pools. The latter would save more than $5,700 a day, according to the general manager.

The committee, however, indicated that Blumenfeld had failed to come with original or sufficient ideas for raising revenue and made the decision for layoffs too quickly.

Blumenfeld suggested electronic locks to open restrooms, instead of staff.

“Is that going to cost me my job?” someone shouted from a bank of park employees who attended the meeting.

“Be real,” another hollered.

“I am being real,” said the general manager, looking over his shoulder.

“We have hired people in critical positions I would fight day in and day out for,” said Blumenfeld, inspiring a collective groan from his employees.

Employees came to fight for their jobs wearing purple stickers that said “Save Our Jobs” and waving pink flyers. They crowded outside the chamber office before the meeting.

“If you could let me know which comments,” said Blumenfeld, when told by the committee to stay, listen and respond to public comments.

“All of them,” someone shouted.

Blumenfeld gave few specifics about the consequences in services that the layoffs would have. He did say that the department would have to make some tough choices regarding park and gym hours.

St. Mary’s Recreation Center is down to a gym and it’s still undecided if the Alice Chalmers Clubhouse, on 670 Brunswick and Lowell Roemer Way, will be open mornings or afternoons. One thing is for certain—the clubhouse will be open part time. It is not yet known, however, what will happen to programs like Tiny Tot, a children’s development program in the morning, or the after-school programs for kids with nowhere to go after school. One, however, will be canceled.

Rocio Babilonia, a 28-year-old Mission District resident, arrived at the meeting with two strollers. She’s a babysitter and uses Ninos Unidos Park, on 23rd and Folsom, to take many of the children she babysits.

“I take them to the music classes and other programs they have there,” said Babilonia. “We’re all worried, even though our supervisor isn’t getting laid off, it’s important to come to these meetings and let them know what you think.”

In a contentious portion of the meeting, Avalos asked Blumenfeld to define privatization. The director skirted the question, and insisted if private entities do eventually come in to operate in closed offices, it would be for the communities’ benefit.

The meeting was led by John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi and Carmen Chu. Both David Campos and Bevan Dufty were absent.

The committee and Blumenfeld listened to three hours of public comment. Many argued that park staff members had roots in the community and a big influence on young people.

At one point, Avalos asked, “What are we going to do this summer?” The room broke out in applause.

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