Activists seek larger piece of S.F. pie for needy

Tom Boland (
Tue, 22 Jun 1999 10:28:51 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  San Francisco Examiner - June 20, 1999


     Budget surplus still not enough
     to provide for city's disadvantaged

     Rachel Gordon of The Examiner Staff

     Despite Mayor Willie Brown's record spending proposal
for San Francisco's upcoming budget, community activists
said even more money is needed to help seniors, the
homeless, the sick, disadvantaged kids, tenants and the
working poor.

That's in addition to requests made at City Hall on
Saturday to pump more cash into libraries, parks, health
clinics and child care programs.

The mayor's proposed $4.2 billion budget, crafted in
flush economic times when tax revenue is flooding into
city coffers, is seeking more money for cops, the
Municipal Railway and parks. Brown calls for hiring 1,000
new employees, and leaving $25 million in reserves for
emergencies, with no tax hikes or layoffs.

Unlike his predecessor, Frank Jordan, who faced several
$100 million-plus deficits when the nation's economy was
in the tank, Brown began the current budget process with a
$100 million-plus surplus - good news for any mayor, and
particularly for Brown, who wants voters to re-elect him
in November.

Still, many people say the plan doesn't go far enough to
help those most in need.

More than 200 San Francisco residents, service providers
and advocates testified during a marathon session
convened by the Board of Supervisors Finance and Labor
Committee at City Hall on Saturday to solicit public
comment on the mayor's budget.

The budget should reflect the will and the need of the
people,"  said Supervisor Leland Yee, chairmasn of the
finance panel.  "It's the people's budget, and to that
extent we need to reach out to the people of San

And if the four-hour hearing was any indication, the
people were not shy with their pleas and demands.

Herbert Aliga, a junior at Thurgood Marshall Academic
High School in The City, argued for more health clinics in
public high schools. Currently, only Balboa High School
has such an operation, and the mayor has proposed an extra
$200,000 to open one more. Aliga wants The City to spend
$1.4 million for clinics in seven more schools.

"If the health clinics are in our schools, the students
will use them because they'll be in our face, every day,"
he said.  "They'll be accessible to people with mental
health problems, (and those) who want STD (sexually
transmitted disease) prevention help and other needs."

Arthur Jackson, who serves on the Commission on Aging,
wanted more money for senior services. He said at least $2
million is needed - for meal programs, legal advocacy,
housing support and transit, among other services.

He and other senior activists said waiting lists for food
programs include many elderly.

"We must have a zero tolerance for hungry seniors,"
Jackson said.

Now that the mayor's budget is in the board's hands, there
is sure to be tinkering.

Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst Harvey Rose is
proposing some $15 million in cuts from Brown's plan, in
what he sees as duplicative and unneeded programs and

It is unclear to what extent the supervisors will follow
Rose's recommendations, but board President Tom Ammiano

"We're going to have some wiggle room,"  he said. The
board will consider adopting the budget on July 19.

One of the more controversial elements is a relatively
small line-item initiative in the city attorney's

Brown wants to give the office $250,000 to hire two or
three attorneys and an investigator to prosecute
nuisance crimes, such as public drunkenness, urinating
in public and camping illegally in the parks.

Currently, such cases fall under the jurisdiction of the
district attorney, who hasn't made prosecution of
quality-of-life crimes a priority.

Homeless advocates want the money eliminated from the
budget because it will  "further escalate the attack on
homeless people, poor people and particularly youth of
color,"  said Judy Appel, staff attorney for the
Coalition on Homelessness.

She said she'd rather see the money go to programs that
would help get people off the streets, using substance
abuse services and affordable housing.

City Attorney Louise Renne defended the plan, and said she
hopes her attorneys will not only prosecute, but help link
people to social services.

"A lot of merchants, a lot of people in the
neighborhoods, are complaining that something has to be
done,"  she said.

At the end of public testimony, Supervisor Sue Bierman,
who serves on the finance committee, thanked everyone for
participating, but didn't make any promises.

"It's going to be hard to know just where we go with all of
this,"  she said.

The Finance and Labor Committee will hold another session
for public comment on the budget Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to
7 p.m. in the legislative chamber in City Hall.


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