Supes hunt for SEIU budget dollars

Back in August, I wrote that state budget cuts and worse-than-expected property tax revenue would mean that “November will be marked by painful budget adjustments. Mark your calendars.” Those of you who did should not be surprised that financial fights have already started at City Hall, and they will only get worse.

The Board of Supervisors is currently debating whether and how to avoid 45 to 70 layoffs and hundreds of demotions and transfers of nursing assistants and clerks who are members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021. In June, Mistermayor’s office agreed to delay further SEIU layoffs until mid-November and to support revenue measures on November’s ballot. The hope was that a new tax would bring in cash so the cuts could ultimately be avoided.

Of course, tax measures polled miserably so none actually made it to voters. Now, the SEIU and progressives on the board are looking for another source of money to prevent the planned cutbacks.

Recently we learned that The City can expect about $34 million from a federal government program to reimburse public hospitals for services, but the money has to go through the state, and no one is certain how long that will take. Supervisors Chris Daly and John Avalos are leading the charge to borrow against this promise of federal money to save SEIU jobs.

Plan A was to take a $7.5 million “loan” from The City’s general fund reserve to restore SEIU positions. That proposal failed before the Board of Supervisors last week because it did not have the requisite eight votes (supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Sophie Maxwell voted no).

Undeterred, Daly on Tuesday rolled out Plan B: Let’s take the $7.5 million from another pot of money already designated for the Department of Public Health. (The money is already appropriated to other public health salaries and benefits, a fact that didn’t seem to bother Plan B’s supporters.) This new proposal will be considered by the board’s Budget and Finance Committee next week. But because it also needs eight votes by the full board to pass, it will probably meet the same fate as Plan A.

Sure, one or more supervisors could change their vote and pass Plan B, but that’s unlikely given recent revenue revelations. In the days since Plan A failed, we have learned that property and payroll taxes have disappointed even our lowest expectations. The city controller’s quarterly budget report, released Monday, puts us at $53.1 million in the hole. Because we are bound by the City Charter to have a balanced budget, all departments are facing another round of cuts. To make matters worse, word from the state is that it’s short $6 billion for this fiscal year, which will likely affect local funding.

The current (and continuing) fight to save SEIU positions may be made even more fierce by the fact that elections for SEIU officials are set to take place in January, so the already-formidable union leadership has an incentive to demonstrate its mettle.

The Christmas tree is already up in Union Square, but the mood around City Hall is anything but festive.

Thanks for the memories – and laughs – Nate

When Nathan Ballard announced Monday that he was stepping down from his position as Mistermayor’s chief spokesman, I’ll admit I was a little heartbroken. Ballard will stay on until February as an adviser, but it won’t be the same. Granted, he and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but he was great at his job and on more than one occasion I opened the paper to see one of his hilarious quotes that made my day.

Here are my five favorites:

  • On the Board of Supervisors passing up the lowest bidder on a sewage contract: “We’re facing a huge budget deficit and Aaron Peskin is throwing around money like Eliot Spitzer in a brothel.”
  • On a proposal to eliminate horse-drawn carriages in The City: “A ban on the horse and buggy? What’s next, a ban on powdered wigs, monocles and dueling?”
  • On new Bay to Breakers rules: “Don’t worry, you’ll still be allowed to dress up as Michael Phelps taking a bong hit.”
  • On the time Terry Childs locked city computers and would only give the password to Mistermayor: “Working for Gavin Newsom is sometimes like being in the middle of a novel by Tom Clancy. In this chapter, the mayor questions the hacker, who hands over the secret code.”
  • On a proposal that The City get into the business of dispensing pot: “The mayor will have to hash this out with public health officials. It’s the mayor’s job to weed out bad legislation. And to be blunt, this sounds pretty bad.”

Not shockingly, SF leaders want world peace

As is often the case, this week’s futile gesture to the international community was sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar. My fellow San Franciscans, in case you thought otherwise, it’s now official: The Board or Supervisors endorses “the first World March for Peace calling for the end of war and nuclear arms, and the elimination of violence of all kinds.”

Bay Area NewsMelissa Griffin

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