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Funding cuts for AIDS housing a worthy first battle for HIV-positive supervisor

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Newly appointed District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, center, takes the oath of office at City Hall on Monday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)


San Francisco’s first openly HIV-positive supervisor, Jeff Sheehy, is already facing his first major ask from his community.

Nearly 250 people bordering on homelessness, many of whom are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, are seeing their housing subsidies cut by Mayor Ed Lee.

Will Sheehy push to restore that funding?

Mayor Lee made the cuts in the wake of 2016’s failed Proposition K, which promised millions of dollars for San Francisco homeless programs. That includes a $3.1 million cut in funding to the AIDS Housing Alliance, leaving potentially dozens of homeless and HIV-positive San Franciscans at risk.

Some may sleep on our streets, a “solution” no one wants.

The mayor approved 2016’s budget last year, with millions of dollars factored in under the assumption Prop. K would pass. But as moderate and progressive Democrats tussled over a ridiculous number of propositions on last year’s ballot, Prop. K failed under a sea of in-fighting — including the god-awful, hate-filled Proposition Q, authored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, which promised to take tents away from people living on the street.

According to Brian Basinger, head of AIDS Housing Alliance, Mayor Lee said he would not release the $3.1 million to the organization — crucial to subsidize (and not even fully) housing for at least 250 San Franciscans — after Prop. K failed.

The City of St. Francis is cold, indeed.

“It’s ridiculous not to provide subsidies to keep people in their homes or help them secure new housing,” said Basinger, who noted, “the cost of shelter is so much higher.”

The Mayor’s Office insists it’s not a cut, because the funding was never technically released from the budget.

“The proposed $3.1 million increase to fund expanded rental subsidies is part of the $30 million that cannot continue at this time due to the loss of the sales tax funding,” the Mayor’s Office wrote to On Guard. “However, it is important to note that this is NEW funding that hasn’t yet been spent, so it is inaccurate to call this a ‘elimination of a program’ or a ‘reduction in spending.’”

That’s silly verbal gymnastics. It was in the budget, period.

The money would have helped people who are working, or on disability, to make that last few hundred-dollar leap toward housing they can just barely afford. And though not all who receive subsidies from AIDS Housing Alliance are diagnosed with HIV, many are in need, ranging from three senior women in the Mission to a 60-year-old homeless person with cancer. One third of those helped by the program have HIV or AIDS, Basinger said.

Sheehy couldn’t be reached by On Guard to say whether he would fight, or even work collaboratively, with the man who appointed him to find new funding for the program.

I can only imagine that conversation. “Hey Mayor Lee, thanks for the job! Now pony up the dough, or else.”

At Sheehy’s swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom noted that as a former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club in the late 1990s, he was assailed by Sheehy with deep questions to make sure he would fight for the LGBT community.

Sheehy was a ball-buster.

“I didn’t have my sea legs yet and wasn’t prepared for the assault of questioning,” Newsom told me.

And on Sunday, the new supervisor and his allies touted Sheehy’s ties to the HIV/AIDS community.

“One of the reasons I’m here is I am HIV-positive,” Sheehy told the crowd. “I am committed to the survivor community.”

Not everyone gets this chance, Supervisor Sheehy. You put your HIV/AIDS bonafides on display for all of San Francisco to see — and now, immediately, you can back up your words.

* * *

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the much-touted progressive leader, is in the hot seat. He did not endorse nor campaign in the District 11 supervisor race between progressive Kimberly Alvarenga, a queer Latina, and moderate Ahsha Safai — practically a nemesis of some progressives.

Peskin said at the Democratic Party board months ago that Dems should stay neutral because the house of labor was split on the two candidates, as it was a proxy war for labor groups who supported Safai and labor groups who supported Alvarenga.

Word is, former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and his half of progressives are none too happy with Peskin for his inaction.

But at least one city politico is deeply grateful to Peskin, whose influence might’ve tipped the 400 winning votes the other way: Safai himself.

At his swearing-in on Sunday at City Hall, Safai ended his speech with a shout-out to Peskin.

“Thank you for keeping your word and staying neutral,” he said.

Peskin sat right in the front row.

* * *

Speaking of Tom Ammiano, his fantastic comedy show “Mincing Words” has been renewed for more shows at The Marsh between Jan. 14 and Feb. 25. And I fully recommend it.

Tom wrings comedic gold out of his time in public office in that nowheresville called Sacramento. His opener had me howling, as he said he had to contend with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accusation that he was a “girly-man” in one ear, and former mayor Willie Brown in the other.

What did politico-turned-pseudo-corporate lobbyist Slick Willie whisper to Ammiano?

“Take the check, take the check!”

* * *

The poor BARF and YIMBY folks can’t catch a break. The Bay Area Renters Federation and Yes in My Backyard groups, who conflict with progressive dems over whether and how The City should build more housing — BARF and YIMBY say “always!” — have been taking it on the chin politically.

But their woes reached a new level on Friday night when a car rammed right through the wall of their headquarters, said YIMBY founder Laura Clark.

Clark said it was an “old guy who was going the wrong way down Natoma” street. Photos showed the car’s hood fully inside the building.

As one commenter on the carnage noted, that’s probably not what the group meant by Yes in My Backyard.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at Facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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