Mission District nonprofits that assist the vulnerable are bracing for the impact of citywide budget cuts, but they refuse to do so quietly. Until final decisions are made, they are rallying their forces to be heard.
“Budget cuts are going to happen, but we as a community need to have a voice and be at the table. These decisions can’t be made without our input,” said Jose Carrasco, youth services manager at Good Samaritan, and one of the organizers of a march planned for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. starting at the 16th Street BART plaza.
“We want to broadcast a really strong, united and vibrant message from Mission District community providers and recipients that we can’t tolerate any cuts in budgets,” said Carrasco. “Our communities vitally need all these services.”
To fill a $576 million hole in the budget, Mayor Gavin Newsom has asked city departments that draw from the general fund to submit a suggested 12.5 percent ongoing budget reduction and an additional 12.5 percent of contingency cuts.
The trickle-down effect of cuts from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Heath are significant because those departments contribute funds to organizations like the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center and many others that reside in the Mission.
Once the mayor releases his final budget decisions on June 1, the Board of Supervisors will duke it out to win concessions for their districts.
The final budget is unlikely to be approved before mid July.
“We are formulating our suggestions to give out on Thursday,” said Carrasco.
The protest on Thursday is a war with multiple strategies—most importantly, organizers said, to ensure that the Mission District is heard. District 9 Supervisor David Campos and District 11’s John Avalos will march and speak at the rally, which will also include community leaders who work with youth, homeless services, health care and workforce development.
“It’s not just for youth because it’s a community-wide issue,” said Emily Claassen of the Mission Community Council.
“I think we also have to look at the issue of stimulus dollars and make sure they go to public sector and community dollars and just not partnerships with constructions companies to do roads and capital projects,” said Eric Quezada, executive director of Dolores Street Community Services, who is keeping an eye on the federal stimulus funds San Francisco will receive.
Claassen, of the Mission Community Council, said, “We want the supervisors and mayor to understand it’s not just people in the neighborhood, but the specialty of the services we provide. We have people come from across the city. It’s not a matter of saying everybody takes off 25 percent. It may cut a program that only provides that service in Spanish or in Mayan.”
According to Claassen, the Mission District has the second highest concentration of children after Bayview Hunter’s Point.
Some of those children were at Everett Middle School on Wednesday afternoon at the Mission Beacon after school program.
Beacon is facing a $30,000 budget cut from the Department of Children Youth and Families. If the cut goes through it will reduce the hours of four of the seven staff positions, and cause some employees to lose their health benefits, Beacon officials said. The number of activities provided may be cut as well.
For the past few days the children have been getting ready for the march by coloring banners and turning in permission slips.
Initially the budget cut was going to be $50,000. But the possibility of losing the program kicked the kids into gear, and some were taken to a Children Advisory Council to speak on Beacon’s behalf.
“We connect with our kids. I don’t think that can be calculated into a number on a spreadsheet,” said Valerie Tulier, director of Mission Beacon.
The city said it was reducing Beacon’s funding because the program’s enrollment level did not warrant the higher level of funding. Although the the city decided to reinstate $20,000, Beacon and the city remain at odds about the enrollment numbers. Mission Loc@l could not confirm the level of student participation.
But at least some of those enrolled are going to Thursday’s march. Tulier said her belief in community activism led her to encourage her charges to participate in the rally. She wants to instill a sense of responsibility in them.
“I tell them don’t just be consumers of services, be a part of the community,” Tulier continued. “Don’t assume that services will always be here. Participate in your reality. They loved it. They felt empowered and like they had a voice.”