Newsom takes the budget battle to public

Mayor Gavin Newsom came out swinging for his budget priorities — and against his board nemesis Supervisor Chris Daly — at a rally attended by hundreds of people on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday.

Last week, Daly introduced a motion that would slash $37 million in funding from the mayor’s proposed city budget and redirect the money toward housing and health services. The spending cuts include $6.4 million for street resurfacing, $3 million for salaries of one police academy class, $2.5 million for street-tree planting, $1.7 million for pothole repairs, $500,000 for a small-business assistance center, and $700,000 to jumpstart a new court program in the Tenderloin for low-level offenses including aggressive panhandling.

“We are here fighting to keep these priorities,” Newsom told the crowd. “This is just the beginning of the process. If you go away, this supervisor will succeed in eliminating all of these programs.”

The event, organized by the Mayor’s Office and also promoted on his re-election campaign Web site, drew groups ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to members of Local 261, the Laborers International Union. The nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest featured several members dressed as trees.

Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jim Lazarus said he was concerned about Daly’s attempt and its timing.

“I’ve never seen a budget process where proposed cuts and reappropriations are basically put forward as a motion on the front end, before the budget analyst’s report, before department hearings. It’s unbelievable.”

In the crowd, several dozen members of Newsom’s staff helped keep the cheering up. Some members of the crowd held up hand-painted signs that were coordinated — after work hours, according to the mayor’s spokesperson — by the head of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.

Even Daly attended, albeit briefly, riding by on his bicycle on the way to another engagement, he said.

“Considering Gavin put the whole weight of the Mayor’s Office and the re-election campaign behind it, it was pretty weak,” Daly said.

Daly was originally scheduled to hold a dueling press conference at the same place and time but sent out a press release Tuesday canceling his event, as well as Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee at which his spending proposal was to be discussed.

Daly on Tuesday said he was canceling the meeting due to his concern that Newsom’s rally was illegally using city resources for what was in essence a campaign event.

Newsom rejected Daly’s charges and said it was appropriate for him to advance his budget priorities. Newsom also said he believed Daly canceled the budget committee meeting because he didn’t have the votes to pass his motion.

Daly conceded that some members of the budget committee, while supporting the affordable housing funding he has championed, are also “concerned about the cut list,” and he said he has been working with some members to come up with “a package they would be more comfortable with.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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