San Franciscans urge more funds for homeless, poor & youth FWD

Tom Boland (
Fri, 24 Jul 1998 14:59:55 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  San Francisco Examiner - June 21, 1998 - Page D 1


     Gregory Lewis of the Examiner Staff

Hundreds of people packed City Hall Saturday to urge the Board of
Supervisors to spend more money on the young, the poor and the homeless.

The main concern expressed by people attending the Supervisors' Finance
Committee hearing was the need for more quality, affordable child care. And
many complained that The City's budgeting process - particularly residents'
input - leaves a lot to be desired.

Joe Wilson, of Coleman Advocates for Youth and Children, attacked the
process - "it's an obstacle to input,  rather than encouragement" - and
Mayor Brown's child care budget.

Brown's budget includes $20million from the state Calworks program, which
provides subsidized child care for families connected to the welfare system
and only $200,000 for child care for families with no connection to
welfare, Wilson said.

"I'd like to point out another inconsistency in Mayor Brown's budget,"
Wilson said. "He sets aside $525,000 for City Hall employees' child care.
That's 35 children. $15,000 per child. If Willie Brown wants to have a
Cadillac child care program, so be it. But drive that Cadillac to Bayview-
Hunters Point, the Tenderloin . . . and to Visitacion Valley."

The members of the Finance Committee - Mabel Teng, Gavin Newsom and Barbara
Kaufman - listened to several hours of testimony during the public hearing
on San Francisco's budget.

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, the line of speakers
stretched down the aisle and out into the hallway.

Teng, showing foresight and a foreshadowing of a personal budget priority,
brought toys and made available the supervisors' hearing room for kids who
came to the hearing with their parents. That allowed restless children and
weary parents waiting hours in some cases to seek respite from the wait.

"The People's Budget'

People expressed concerns ranging from support for Laguna Honda Hospital,
to more staff for recreational centers. They attacked Budget Analyst Harvey
Rose's cuts, and rejected Brown's budget, opting instead for what they
termed "The People's Budget."

Michelle Harper, who fled a domestic violence situation and ended up
homeless along with her two children, typified a number of single parents
at the hearing when she urged funding for the parental stress hot line - a
$200,000 request that was cut from the Department of Public Health's

"I don't have family here," she said. "When (my son) went into a fit, I
didn't know what to do. The simple act of calling them, them listening to
me and not judging me, telling me what I'm doing right kept me from hitting
my child.

"It doesn't always happen between 9 and 5," she said. "That's why it needs
to be 24 hours."

Manny Bonilla and Johnny Reardon were two of numerous people who spoke out
for more money for homeless and other social services.

They charged that the mayor's budgeting of $3.2 million for a temporary
shelter and $5 million for drug treatment would produce only temporary

"A Band-Aid'

"Gentleman, this is not a solution," Bonilla said in Spanish. "It's a
Band-Aid to cover up the problem, the reality."

Brown has proposed $8.4 million more than in last year's adopted budget for
homeless programs, including money for 600 additional beds at the Mission
Rock shelter.

Others wanted to talk about transportation.

"I am here to urge approval of full funding on behalf of the Municipal
Railway," said neighborhood activist Carmen Ramirez, who has put together
several town hall meetings on Muni. "The problems have been identified ad
nauseam. . . . Be part of Muni solutions. Give Muni its full budget. It
will be the first appropriate funding it will have in 12 years."

But not every citizen came begging. Some complained about the process.

One woman called the format "ludicrous" and warned the supervisors that
until poor people get their fair share of the city budget "we'll be in your

"You have one public hearing on a $3.9 billion budget," she said, "with a
$101 million surplus and you give us two minutes to come forward. If this
is what we call democracy, I don't think it is."

Translation services

Despite complaints about the budget process, for the first time translation
services in Spanish and Cantonese were provided.

But even that produced a tense moment when the company hired to provide the
service sent a translator but no communications equipment.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Teng, an immigrant herself who speaks Mandarin
and Cantonese, worried that non-English speakers might have to be put into
another room or in the hallway to receive translation services.

"What - we're going to have first class and second class?" she fumed.

Although it delayed the start of the hearing 30 minutes, the equipment
arrived shortly thereafter.

Still, after approximately 200 speakers, "There were no surprises," said
Kaufman, the board president. "There was not one new idea presented. All
the stuff we've heard before. We've been getting letters."

Teng said she was "genuinely impressed" by those who made the case for
in-home care workers.

The Finance Committee will review the mayor's spending plan next week,
beginning Tuesday. The committee can alter the budget, but in order to add
programs, it must subtract that same amount. The final budget is expected
to be submitted to the full board July 6.

While Teng, Newsom and Kaufman were required to be at Saturday's public
hearing, Supervisors Mark Leno and Sue Bierman - both of whom sat through
five hours of the six-plus-hour session - and Supervisor Amos Brown were
not required to be there.

Sunshine law

There were never six supervisors in the room at the same time to avoid
sunshine law violations.

For Leno, the newest supervisor, it was a moving experience.

"I heard a lot of need and concern and human voices," he said, suggesting
that the full board should hear the public's voices. "It takes time and
energy but these are the voices the budget serves. I found it extremely

But it also complicated the process for him.

While it didn't change his mind about the programs he will push next week,
he said, "It only makes it more difficult to speak to the additional needs
that have not directly reached my desk."


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