"No Grand Ideas" in Newsom's New Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Calls jubilant outburst his Howard Dean moment

     San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $6.48 billion  city budget with targeted cuts to close "the biggest budget deficit in our  history."

          San Francisco is facing a $483 million deficit for the coming  fiscal year.
         
    "There are no grand ideas," Newsom proclaimed, arguing there could  be only many small solutions, including department cuts, layoffs, new revenue  measures and concessions from city unions to reduce salaries and overtime.
         
    Newsom said the city had been confronting thousands more layoffs  of city workers, but under his budget, about 350 city workers would be facing  layoffs this summer. None of those laid off would be police officers or  firefighters, he said.
         
    Newsom stressed that the budget included no new tax increases, and  prioritized investment in infrastructure, jobs, public safety and fighting  homelessness.
         
    "We were able to avoid, I think, the kind of cataclysmic  expectation of devastation" that some anticipated, Newsom said.
         
    He delivered the announcement to department heads, city officials  and reporters inside a crowded art gallery at Market and Sixth streets.
       
     Newsom specifically mentioned funding to repave Market Street,  part of the much hoped for revitalization of the formerly bustling mid-Market  business and theater district. He also noted the budget included funding for  new arts programs in the area and 30 new beat officers to police the  neighborhood.
         
    Other funding items Newsom highlighted included workforce  development projects, an increase in summer jobs and summer camps for youth,  and money for to build new or renovate existing branch libraries.
         
    He said there would be no cuts to community-based arts programs.
         
    The budget also includes $5.9 million for improvements to the  Police Department's scandal-plagued crime lab.
         
    "If that's all I'm going to get, I'll take it," said police  Assistant Chief Jeff Godown, who is in charge of reforming the lab, after the  announcement.
         
    Two of the city's biggest departments, Public Health and Human  Services, will be reduced by $22.1 million and $10.6 million respectively,  according to Newsom, though he stressed that represented only a small  fraction of their total budgets.
         
    Newsom said the budget would prioritize residential drug treatment  and would eliminate those outpatient clinics that "don't work."
       
    The city's universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco, will remain fully funded, he said.

    While domestic violence programs under the Human Services  department would remain intact, Newsom noted there would be controversial  cuts to its nutrition program.

    The budget would also add hundreds of units of supportive housing  for the homeless, according to Newsom.

    Another controversial proposal in the budget for a one-time fee  for city apartment owners to convert their properties to condominiums is  expected to produce "a big-time ideological discussion" with the Board of  Supervisors, Newsom said.

    The board will consider Newsom's budget in the coming weeks.

    Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said many of the  challenges Newsom's budget will face at the board will center around cuts to  public health and social services.

    Chiu said he wants to make sure proposed cuts to the city's  low-income single-room occupancy hotels are fully restored.

    Budget and Finance Committee chair Supervisor John Avalos said the  condo-conversion fee will draw the most fire from supervisors. He claimed it  would open the door to more speculation in the market and put vulnerable  residents, seniors and families at risk.

    Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said there is currently a "huge  backlog" in the city's condo conversion program, which is attractive to  owners because it raises property values. He said the fee would accelerate  the program and that the conversion requires tenant approval.