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Budget committee blocks Supervisor Kim’s proposal to boost street cleaning

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Supervisor Jane Kim’s proposal to use leftover city funding for additional street cleaning was blocked in committee Thursday. (File photo by Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Jane Kim’s proposal to boost street cleaning services by millions of dollars was defeated Thursday by a Board of Supervisors committee.

Kim, who is running for mayor, wants The City to invest $2.5 million in left-over money in this year’s budget in more street cleaners to address a rise in complaints over feces, litter and needles.

But the proposal was rejected by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee in a 2-1 vote Thursday. The more moderate Supervisors Malia Cohen and Catherine Stefani opposed the proposal, while the more progressive Supervisor Sandra Fewer supported it.

Cohen argued against adding more spending mid-year outside of the usual budget process. Instead, Cohen said Kim should wait to see what Mayor Mark Farrell will propose in his budget proposal due to the board for review and adoption by June 1.

Farrell’s budget director, Melissa Whitehouse, said that budget discussions with city departments have begun and supplementals do not consider “all the trade offs” of the city’s priorities.
“Street cleaning is and will be a priority in the budget,” Whitehouse said.

But Kim said The City shouldn’t wait and that approving the spending now would deliver needed services much sooner.

Kim argued that the board has routinely approved budget supplementals in past years that Cohen herself voted for, including funding for HIV services or more Homeless Outreach Team workers.

Cohen said there was a difference in those supplementals, suggesting there was an emerging need or a more immediate crisis documented, although Kim argued they were similar.

During Thursday’ budget committee hearing Kim said that the number of calls for street cleaning services proves The City needs to invest more. “Back in 2015 we had 40,000.In 2017, that number almost doubled to 80,000. This year, just in this fiscal year, in the first six months, we’ve had 50,000 calls for services, which means we are on track to hit 100,000 this year,” she said.

After the hearing, Cohen, who is supporting board president London Breed for mayor, said the mayor’s race did not factor into her decision to block the spending request. She reiterated her position that mid-year spending proposals are justifiable only in emergency situations and said she didn’t think street cleanliness rose to that level.

When asked if she thought Cohen was holding up her proposal to avoid letting her score political points in the mayoral contest, Kim said she “can’t guess” what Cohen’s intentions are and could only take her “statements at face value.”

Kim is not done fighting for the proposal just yet. She intends to turn to a rarely used procedure of bypassing a board committee to force a vote at the full board with four supervisor signatures.

While skeptics have suggested she is only making street cleanliness a priority now to benefit her campaign, Kim said that conditions have worsened in recent years and she has led other efforts before, including supporting a portable toilet program run by Public Works.

She also noted that she began working on the spending proposal last year, before Mayor Ed Lee’s death in December and the subsequent scheduling of the June mayoral election.

Kim’s proposal would allocate $1.6 million to add more street cleaners who are paid $17.71 hourly, or $39.31 per hour with fringe benefits. That would result in an 8 percent increase in current staffing, or about 19 more cleaners.

The City would purchase two more street sweepers, bringing the total to six. The Tenderloin Neighborhood Litter Reduction and Workforce Development Grant would get a funding boost as well with $230,000 in funding to allow the TL Clean nonprofit program to increase its current five days a week cleaning to seven days per week.

Kim said the nonprofit expansion could happen right away and the hiring of more cleaners likely in May, but if The City waits for the budget approval, hires wouldn’t happen until September at the earliest.

Public Works could use the remaining $100,000 to purchase equipment like brooms, shovels, pickers, bags, cleaning chemicals, uniforms, and personal protective equipment.

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