Mayor Farrell to unveil $11 billion budget with focus on street cleaning, homelessness

Less than two months before he leaves San Francisco’s top post, Mayor Mark Farrell will unveil today an $11 billion city budget for next fiscal year, a more than $900 million increase in spending that adds more than 300 government employees as it boosts services around homelessness and street cleaning.

Farrell has announced many of the budget initiatives ahead of today’s planned 1 p.m. budget address at City Hall, where he will highlight these efforts once again in an approximate 20-minute speech.

“While our local economy continues to thrive, San Francisco faces real challenges every single day,” reads a draft of Farrell’s budget speech. “A mother should not have to choose between paying her utility bills or paying her rent, leaving her vulnerable to eviction and homelessness. We know that clean streets, free of syringes and human waste, should be the norm, not the exception. That parking your car should not induce a panic attack for fear of a break-in.”

Farrell’s budget builds on the efforts of late Mayor Ed Lee, who died Dec. 12, and adds new initiatives, like a street medicine team to hand out buprenorphine to wean drug addicts off of heroin and a new syringe litter cleanup squad. It doubles The City’s spending on Homeward Bound, a program that sends homeless people home to family or friends by paying for their bus tickets, and funds 200 more supportive housing units for the homeless.

The budget also includes about $3 million for staffing and other work related to a larger envisioned project by Farrell to create a citywide fiber internet network connecting all homes and businesses.

Farrell’s budget balancing was made easier by recent news of more revenues than anticipated.

The budget proposal requires approval by the Board of Supervisors, a process that often results in political drama. Some of the drama has already begun.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, said Wednesday that Farrell cut her out of the budget process and suggested it was political payback. Cohen voted against Farrell becoming mayor in January and was sharply critical of the board ousting then-Acting Mayor London Breed, who is now a June 5 mayoral candidate.

“It’s disappointing to see how he’s chosen to be,” Cohen said of Farrell. “He’s chosen to pay back my ‘no’ vote by excluding me in the budget process.” She said the mayor never met with her to discuss her priorities.

“Mayor Farrell met with a majority of the Board of Supervisors in the course of putting together his balanced budget,” mayoral spokesperson Deirdre Hussey said in a statement. “Only a few Supervisors did not request a meeting with Mayor Farrell to advocate for their district, in which case the meetings did not take place.”

Cohen also suggested Farrell has taken ideas the board set as budget priorities through her committee but “ironically, presents them as his own.”

Hussey said Farrell “has taken their feedback into serious consideration as part of this collaboration.”

Not included in Farrell’s budget proposal is District Attorney George Gascon’s request of $1 million for a task force to combat auto break-ins. But the proposal does fund three police academy classes for 130 officers next fiscal year. There is also $2 million for the purchase of Tasers.

There’s no funding in the budget for safe-injection sites or the $4 million requested by the Elections Commission to build an open-source voting system; instead, there’s about $300,000 for further research. There’s also no funding for a pending proposal to raise the minimum wage from $15 to $16.68 on July 1 for city contractors covered by the minimum compensation ordinance, such employees at the airport or in homeless shelters.

Farrell’s budget includes some homeless services contingent upon the June passage of Proposition D, a commercial rent tax hike, including $3.5 million for a long-promised, transitional-aged youth navigation center. If the measure fails, the services won’t launch.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who introduced the pay-hike proposal and is up for election in June, said he would like to find a way to fund it. He didn’t have anything to say critical of Farrell, just the overall budget process.

“The Board of Supervisors should be full partners in developing the city budget,” Sheehy said. “By the time we get it, we have a month. That just doesn’t make much sense.”

The full board is expected to vote on the budget proposal on July 17 or July 24, after it goes through the budget committee. By then, San Francisco’s new mayor is expected to be in office, as early as July 10, once the election results are certified.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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