The public was back in full swing this morning with their message of share the pain. But this time it was in addition to a new message on a neon green sticker: Let’s Move Forward, Not Backwards.

The Budget and Finance Committee meeting began at 11 a.m. and by 1 p.m. San Francisco residents were lining up for public comment, back to share their view on the mayor’s proposed city budget cuts.  While last week’s message came from public health workers supporting the supes idea to take from police and security to give to social programs, this week it was don’t cut security from places where they’re needed most—mainly hospitals and museums.

The mayor’s 2009-2010 budget proposed contracting out work in six areas, including security at City Hall, the Hall of Justice and the Department of Emergency Management, guards at two museums and security at Department of Public Health Hospitals.

Angry hospital workers and security officers referred to guards from private companies as “mall cops” and “scabs.”

Brenda Barros, a senior unit clerk at a medical clinic, said her difficult patients have already told her that they would never listen to a “rent-a-cop.”

SEIU Local 1021 workers addressed the committee early in the meeting
SEIU Local 1021 workers addressed the committee early in the meeting

“That lowers the continuum of care,” said Emma Gerould, union representative for San Francisco General Hospital.  “General Hospital is a level one trauma center, you need the highest level of security there, and the most skilled and professional—what’s there now.”

Gerould and Barros shared their view with friend and 13-year veteran hospital security officer Michael Tong.

“Let us not just look at the savings, let us look at the safety,” said one concerned resident during his two minutes.

But most workers were optimistic and thought that the board would back the public and reject privatizing the services. And they appeared to be right.  District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said, “I’d be concerned for us to be compromising any of our security force in the area.”


But that was far from the end.  At 7 p.m. it was still going on and public comment concerning the annual salary ordinance was saved for the end.  More than one hundred people, a great many of them under 18, lined up to implore the committee not to cut after school programs.

When four small children from Booker T. Washington Summer Camp addressed the committee the room broke out in applause.

“If I had a dollar for every time the government took money I’d be richer than them,” said one little boy.

They were followed by several speakers with similar messages, including Linda Stevens, who’s raising her grandson in Ingleside.  Stevens choked up while addressing the committee as she reminded them about the services that “saved” her grandson, a student in special education.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and I’m blessed to have my own personal village,” she said, fighting back tears.

Even Supervisor Mirkarimi appeared moved, and nodded his head a few times when the speaker was particularly passionate.

The line for public comment went all the way down to the supes offices
The line for public comment went all the way down to the supes offices

Most residents came from the Western Addition and said youth programs keep the kids off the streets and help them get through school.  Eighteen-year-old Joshua Torrey spoke on behalf of Ella Hill Clutch community center, which he said recently helped him graduate from Abraham Lincoln High School, by providing a place for him to do his homework and play basketball instead of getting into trouble.

“Before I was there I was one of those kids out there in the street doing bad stuff,” he said.  “But I went, and I stayed.  It’s helped me.”

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly said no decisions would be made until next week.

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