[Hpn] SFGate: Care Not Cash loses supervisor's backing
Wed, 25 Jun 2003 08:33:09 -0700
Care Not Cash loses supervisor's backing
Hall defects, leaving Newsom lacking the votes
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback
San Francisco Supervisor Tony Hall came out Tuesday against the voter-
approved measure to reduce cash assistance to the city's homeless,
apparently dashing Supervisor Gavin Newsom's hopes of getting the Board of
Supervisors to implement his Care Not Cash plan.
The measure won on the city ballot last year with nearly 60 percent of the
vote citywide, but key elements were struck down last month by a Superior
Court judge who ruled that only city officials, not the electorate, could
enact such a law.
Hall was considered the swing vote on the measure after Newsom placed it
before the board for consideration.
But Hall said Care Not Cash is full of promises that can't be kept and would
"only be throwing good money after bad."
Care Not Cash, which appeared on the November ballot as Proposition N, would
slash city welfare payments to about 2,400 homeless adults to $59 a month
plus housing and food. They now receive as much as $395 a month. If housing
and food aren't available, the city couldn't reduce a homeless person's cash
As it now stands, Newsom can count on five votes to pass the legislation --
one short of the six needed on the 11-member board.
In addition to Newsom, the supervisors signed on as the legislation's co-
sponsors are Bevan Dufty, Gerardo Sandoval, Jake McGoldrick and Aaron
Expected to join Hall in opposition are board President Matt Gonzalez;
Supervisors Chris Daly, Fiona Ma and Sophie Maxwell, who are promoting an
alternative measure that would have stronger housing guarantees and make it
harder to cut cash aid; and Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who is running against
Newsom for mayor.
Newsom suggested that rejecting the measure at City Hall would be bad
politics and bad policy.
"To defend the status quo is indefensible," he said.
Still, he wasn't ready to concede defeat, saying that he is confident the
court decision will be overturned after the city attorney files an appeal
and the will of the voters will be upheld.
"It's not a question of if, it's when," Newsom said.
On Tuesday the supervisors' Rules Committee, which Hall chairs, sent the
legislation to the full board without recommendation. Newsom has a chance to
squeeze out the six votes he needs, but the prospect is unlikely.
"It will be a close vote," said Gonzalez.
ACTION NEXT MONTH
The full board won't take up the proposal until next month, giving Newsom
more time to persuade one of those on the "no" side to switch positions. But
both sides seemed locked in.
Prop. N was to take effect July 1 but is in legislative and legal limbo.
Even if the board thwarts Newsom's plan, he is sure to keep it a central
theme of his mayoral bid. After Hall's announcement, Newsom would not say
how he plans to use the board's opposition on the campaign trail, saying
he's not thinking about the politics of the showdown.
"I'm focused on the policy," he said.
Newsom's mayoral campaign, however, has been active in garnering support for
Care Not Cash, sending e-mails to supporters and sending a cadre of paid
staff and volunteers to City Hall Monday to help line up public testimony at
another hearing in favor of the measure.
His campaign Web site publicizes a "call to action" to Newsom supporters,
asking them to pressure members of the board to back Care Not Cash.
Gonzalez told Newsom he believes Newsom's mayoral aspirations are driving
his push for Care Not Cash.
Gonzalez said the court handed the board an opportunity to analyze the
proposal and determine whether it is good policy. In Gonzalez's view, it is
"We have to back up and start over," he said.
BUDGET ANALYST'S REPORT
Like Hall, he cited a new report by Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst
Harvey Rose that concluded Prop. N supporters underestimated the cost of the
services promised under the proposition. Rose also predicted that more than
600 homeless people now living in shelters could be displaced if the program
Newsom said he does not accept Rose's findings, calling them inaccurate and
He said he has been assured by the experts in the field, including the
city's welfare chief Trent Rhorer, that the budget has enough money to
implement Prop. N. In addition, supporters say the program is intended to be
phased in and that no one would lose a cash stipend until the services are
But Hall said he doesn't buy it.
"It is abundantly clear to me after studying this proposal for the past
year, looking at the facts contained in the budget analyst's report, that we
would only be throwing good money after bad if we tried to supply the
promised services in Care Not Cash," Hall said.
In opposing Care Not Cash, Hall is taking a political risk. The
neighborhoods he represents in District 7 are among the most conservative in
the city. An overwhelming 72 percent of the voters in his district endorsed
Care Not Cash.
Hall, himself a conservative who prides himself on a streak of independence,
said his decision wasn't based on political considerations.
"My charge as a supervisor is to represent the people of San Francisco and
to, yes, implement the will of the people," he said. "But with my charge
comes a responsibility, a fiduciary responsibility that I must adhere to
when making my decisions in order to be a good supervisor. . . . It's clear
to those who know my voting record that I would be the first to support
Prop. N if it didn't cost you, our taxpayers, more money."
Newsom declined to speculate on what, if any, political fallout Hall will
feel. "That's something for his constituents to decide," he said.
E-mail Rachel Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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