Newsom’s sensible ’07 budget

The best aspect of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s record-breaking — but balanced — $6.1 billion budget for 2007-08 is that it focuses on improving long-neglected infrastructure and life-quality issues that directly affect the daily existence of ordinary San Franciscans. It avoids pandering to the demands of loud special interests.

The budget Newsom proposed Friday adds substantial new funding for the basic needs of a civilized urban life. Public Works gets a $5.4 million boost to $36.4 million, the highest total ever allocated for fixing our potholed streets. Another $8.5 million goes to rebuild playgrounds and renovate sports fields.

To improve The City’s crucial public transit network, Muni is budgeted for 150 new bus operators, 18 new field supervisors and 86 new hybrid buses. Streets will be kept cleaner by 28 new street sweepers, and parks kept greener by 15 new gardeners and 35 new custodians.

Helping get more homeless people off the streets and into supportive housing would be 23 new outreach workers. Newsom also wants $700,000 for his proposed Tenderloin community court to prosecute street offenses such as aggressive panhandling, public intoxication and littering — tying directly to mandated treatment when appropriate.

Violent crime rates in The City are worrisome, and the new budget calls for five extra Police Academy classes to put 250 more officers on the streets. With homeless encampments blighting increasing areas of irreplaceable Golden Gate Park, the mayor seeks $1.1 million for 12 fulltime park patrol officers.

One of the biggest battlegrounds in this year’s budget war is likely to be the amount of funding support for housing. Last month, the Board of Supervisors passed two measures allocating $33 million for affordable housing and home-loan aid. Newsom refused to spend the appropriation, insisting it would throw his 2007-08 budget out of balance.

Instead, the mayor proposes $5 million to kick-start a $100 million effort to rebuild dilapidated public housing.

The budget Newsom announced Friday represents a 4.3 percent increase over last year’s spending, and overall workforce expansion would be a conservative 0.6 percent. However, the $117 million reserve fund remains the biggest ever, along with the usual $25 million general fund reserve. And the jobs being added will make a visible difference in the daily quality of city life.

The Examiner supports reining in governmental costs even during relative boom times. In order to balance the bottom line, Newsom had every city department enact a 3 percent cut, saving approximately $24 million. The mayor’s latest budget proposal is solid and sensible, making needed investments in areas of importance. Overall, this is a solid, responsible budget that deserves to be passed without partisan destructiveness.

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