At a budget town hall meeting Monday night, nonprofits and their clients pleaded with Mayor Ed Lee and city department heads to spare them from budget cuts.
The hearing at Horace Mann Middle School offered a familiar budget season scene. Speakers ranging from high school students in after-school programs to seniors in need of legal help spoke about their struggles and how the nonprofits helped them.
The city’s budget deficit for next year is now estimated at $170 million, substantially less than the $458 million projected earlier. It shrank thanks to improved hotel, payroll and sales tax revenues, the controller told the Chronicle.
But while some are seeing the economic recovery unfold, others have been left behind, said Mario Paz, executive director of Good Samaritan Family Resource Center.
“I was struck to hear that there is a tale of two cities in District 9,” said Supervisor David Campos. “This idea that in the same neighborhood you have people who are doing well and people who are not is something that we have to keep in mind as we try to make these decisions about the budget.”
Anibal Pacheco, 86, spoke about how La Raza Centro Legal, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance, helped him get back his Medicaid and social security benefits.
Meanwhile, the city has told La Raza that it has to reduce its budget request by 40 percent, which will mean fewer services.
“In light of Holy Week, I think you can make this miracle happen: don’t underfund La Raza Centro Legal,” Pacheco pleaded with the mayor during the public comment period.
Lee said he hopes the cuts will be evenly distributed, but told the audience of about 50 people that they “need to do their part.”
Pablo Palominos, the executive director of Columbia Boys and Girls Club on Guerrero Street, said the nonprofit is not under threat of losing funding, but he attended to stay on the politicians’ radar.
The mayor encouraged the 50 or so residents who attended the meeting to vote for a neighborhood park bond on the ballot in November.
He also told them to vote against a proposal known as the Water Sustainability and Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012, which would restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to its original state.
Proponents of the measure say it does not call for dismantling Hetch Hetchy’s O’Shaughnessy Dam, but rather creates a water recycling capacity to filter and reuse water.
Lee urged the audience to “read it carefully,” though he did not elaborate on why he doesn’t like the proposal.
“I know a trick when I see it,” he said. “In my opinion it’s not good for our city.”