It was summer outside, but inside the Board of Supervisors chamber at San Francisco City Hall, a nearly full audience filled the chamber to provide public comment on the city’s budget cuts. They would, however, not get that chance.
Introducing himself as “the human punching bag of budget chair,” District 11 Supervisor John Avalos introduced the 2009 Consolidated Budget and Annual Appropriation, which has been fought over in the Budget and Finance Committee for the past month.
Avalos noted that the Committee had restored $43.7 million in budget cuts, including some to the departments of health and human services and recreation and parks, as well as homeless services.
While there are further cuts that will be restored in the add back process, Avalos said, the budget was nonetheless “the best package I have ever seen.”
The Board promptly voted to continue on the issue of the budget, which meant nothing would happen at least until the board’s meeting next week. While not wanting to comment further on what would be negotiated over the coming week, District 9 Supervisor David Campos said that the Board would focus on setting aside money in the case of an increasingly likely shortage of state funds.
Campos also said the Board would focus on an amendment introduced by District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly that would allow the supervisors to have actual control over expenditure of some budget monies. At present, the Board has no enforcement capacity, so approving a budget and allocating money doesn’t mean the mayor will spend the funds. In April 2007, for example, the board approved by an 8-3 veto-proof majority $33 million for affordable housing, but Mayor Gavin Newsom never spent the money, a move that essentially by passed the board’s decision.
If approved, Daly’s amendment would be placed on the November 3 ballot.
Some 30 people lined up to have their say on the budget, but rules prohibit more comments after a measure has been heard by committee. So of the those signed up had to be repeatedly reminded by Board President David Chiu that the Board had heard “at least 100 hours of public comment already.”
One of those San Franciscans wanted to have his same arrived with an entourage of more than ten people all wearing t-shirts with the words “29,000 PEOPLE RELY ON THE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE.” Yes, it was Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who was protesting moves to cut $1.6 million from his office’s budget.
Wishing the Board a happy Bastille Day, Adachi said that cuts to his office would force the city to hire more private attorneys to act as public defendants, costing the city nearly a million more a year.
Another supporter of Adachi was Valentina Sedeno, the director of the Precita Center in the Mission District, who said the programs operated by the public defendant’s office complement their own youth programming.
Sedeno added that the Precita Center also hoped to get funding back for a $75,000 safe haven program that kept their building on Precita Ave. open until 8 p.m. daily and until midnight twice a month on Fridays.
“It makes a difference if we have kids in our center and off the street,” she said.
Sedeno said the program serves about a hundred youth aged 6-24.
Campos also took the opportunity during the meeting to provide a recognition of commendation to Mixcoatl Anahuac, an 18 year-old traditional Aztec dance troupe based in the Mission District.
The group appeared before the Board in full traditional dance outfits, adding dance to the typical repertoire of a commenter who earlier sang Michael Jackson, a Bible-toting commenter who condemned the board to hell.
“We love this community, and we love the Mission District,” a spokesperson for the group said before the group performed a dance in the chamber.