End to city budget stonewalling

It was welcome news for San Francisco that the Board of Supervisors passed Mayor Gavin Newsom’s election-year budget last Tuesday without indulging in destructive stonewalling. The $6.1 billion budget is the largest in city history, but it appears to be supported by sufficient revenues and also preserves a record-breaking $117 million supplementary reserve fund.

Especially important is that this 2007-08 budget shifts more funding into curing long-neglected infrastructure and life-quality problems that directly impact the daily existence of ordinary San Franciscans. Public Works will receive the most money ever allocated for fixing potholed streets. Beleaguered Muni riders can expect some improvement in service with 150 more drivers and 86 new hybrid buses.

To combat The City’s troubling rise in violent crime rates, five extra police academy classes will soon put 250 new officers on duty. Our shamefully messy streets will be kept cleaner by additional sweepers and threadbare parks kept greener by additional gardeners and custodians. Extra funds are set for renovating aging playgrounds and sports fields. Additional outreach workers will be deployed to help transition the homeless off the streets and into supportive housing.

Naturally, the Board of Supervisors had its own vision of spending priorities. Ultimately the members removed $23 million from the mayor’s budget items and shifted the money into other programs — generally opting to maximize help for the least fortunate while again postponing action on infrastructure and life-quality needs.

This sort of compromise typifies the give-and-take of constructive politics. But what happened earlier this spring was more problematic. While Supervisor Chris Daly still chaired the Budget and Finance Committee, he pushed through a $33 million package for affordable housing that Newsom promptly refused to allocate.

The mayor insisted additional major spending would unbalance the pending budget, which he had already reduced by $24 million by imposing a 3 percent cut on every city department. The dispute quickly escalated into a nasty personal feud, and Daly threatened to delay budget approval.

As a result, Board President Aaron Peskin took over as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, pressing for timely passage of an acceptable budget. When the full board voted Tuesday to approve the budget, no member would second Daly’s motions to remove another $25 million from the mayor’s programs.

Examiner editorials consistently support greater availability of genuinely affordable rentals and home-owning opportunities throughout the Bay Area. But numerous legitimate public needs compete for limited governmental dollars. Tunnel vision on only a few issues at the expense of the big picture is a major mistake.

The productive taxpayers who make San Francisco successful are long overdue for having their streets repaired and their buses run on time. We commend the Board of Supervisors majority for moving effectively to fulfill some essential needs of a civilized urban life.

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