Photo By Velobry


If you’re like me, you might have been a little lost by the jargon and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo at more than a few points during the yesterday’s last-minute budget negotiations at the board of supervisors meeting, so here’s a rundown of what actually happened.

Winners include the public defender’s office, public financing of elections, and the board. Losers – the opera, ballet, symphony and police.

First order of business, the San Francisco city budget was actually passed on a 9-2 vote. The two nay votes were provided by Supervisors Carmen Chu from District 4, and Sean Elsbernd, from District 7.

Their nay votes came after District 9 Supervisor David Campos added a caveat that created a $45 million funding reserve from the city’s  seven largest agencies. Funds placed in reserve are still allocated, but the departments will have to get approval from the board’s finance committee to spend them.  This gives the board further control over spending as they can deny funds from the reserve.

And, the control comes over the agencies Mayor Newsom considered a high priority,  most notably the police and fire departments.  In short, if the mayor takes from the board’s favorites restored $44,000, the board will hold back from his faves that now have $45,000 in reserve .

The divide  of the $45,000 reserve goes like this:

SFPD – $11,946,917,
Department of Public Health – $11,879,446,
Human Services Agency – $7,018,640,
SFFD – $6,513,675
County Sheriff – $4,896,549.
General Services Agency (think 311) – $1,177,552, and the
Department of Emergency Management – $1,567,222,

“Nothing will happen to that money,” if the mayor follows the budget, Campos said after the meeting. He described the reserve funds as “insurance.”

Daly tried to get even more insurance with a motion to require the mayor to spend certain funds designated by the board but lost 4-7.

Alioto-Pier, Avalos, Chiu, Chu, Dufty, Elsbernd and Maxwell voted nay. Campos’s motion for the $45 million reserve, however, passed 7-4, with supervisors Alioto-Pier, Chu, Dufty and Elsbernd voting against it. Alioto-Pier and Dufty went on to support the final budget even with the addition of the $45 million  reserve.

Elsbernd, supervisor of District 7 which covers much of the area west of Twin Peaks, referred to the reserve measure as perhaps the worst piece of legislation he had ever seen, and “a piece of paper put together at the last minute.”

The funding placed in reserve was “a significant issue,” in her no vote, Chu said. She said it would impact the work of the San Francisco Police Department and possibly mean fewer officers in the streets.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi also had a big win Tuesday when the board voted 7-4 to cut $900,000 in funding from the Superior Court’s Indigent Defense Fund, and then voted 9-2, in separate votes to allocate $650,000 to the public defender’s office and $250,000 to the district attorney.

District Six Supervisor Chris Daly opposed supplying any additional funds to the district attorney’s office.

Adachi said the restoration of the funds prevent the layoffs of seven public defenders, each of whom handle an average of 218 cases , as well as three juvenile social workers, who each have case loads of 50 to 100 kids per year.

In addition the Mo’MAGIC and BMAGIC programs, operating in the Western Addition and Bayview/Hunter’s Point, will be able to continue.

After approving the city budget, District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced his fellow Green Party member the “Reverend” Billy Talen of The Church of Life After Shopping for a commendation.

The San Francisco native is a performance artist, activist and is running against Michael Bloomberg for mayor of New York City. You can read more about Talen at this profile on Fog City Journal.

On the losing side today, health and human services and public protection.  Supervisor John Avalos tried to increase the city’s sales takes by a quarter of a percent for new funding, and if passed, the measure would have gone to voters at the November 3, 2009 election.

But, it needed  eight votes to pass, so the measure went down 6-4, with Daly absent and Supervisors Alioto-Pier, Chu, Dufty and Elsbernd voting no.

Police lost money for one deputy chief and two commanders when Supervisor Daly proposed the cuts to give the money to the campaign public financing fund–or what he calls “the first true test of this amalgamated public financing system in San Francisco.”

The funds will be available for next year’s elections.

The public financing fund will also get 2.5 percent of  the hotel tax.

It was  a bad day for the arts,  as the opera, ballet and American Conservatory Theater all received a 35 percent cut in general fund support, for a total sum of $510,000. That money will go instead to the children’s services restoration fund. Mirkarimi’s measure narrowly passed on a vote of 6-5.

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Armand is a photojournalism and multimedia student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and is originally from Baton Rouge, La. His work history includes being a paper pusher in Los Angeles and a youth program coordinator in Ramallah, and is currently a student editor at Mission Local, which means he gets to read a lot of news and tell people what to do.

He also waits for the day when bacon and buffalo sauce combine on one plate.

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  1. It is difficult to consider a budget when only one side of the ledger (spending) is addressed. Which may have been the substance of this particular meeting, but even so, there is a much bigger story, more interesting too, than the crumbs the various city agencies and arts organizations win or lose. I think the authorities, local, state and national would just as soon keep us focused on the crumbs.

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  2. Tough economic times have clearly made for a lot of tough decisions at the budget level. That being said, it’s great to see that the public financing funding was restored. This is a program which will pay for itself hundreds of times over with more efficient, effective government.

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