Whose Budget?? Our Budget!!!

root - Posted on 23 July 2009

A Town Hall is organized to respond to the Insane budget cuts that are
posed to dismantle services for poor folks in San Francisco

by Thornton Kimes/PNN

“The city! The city belongs to us!
We don’t need more budget cuts!”
--Dee Allen protest chant

The GA/PAES (San Francisco welfare) worker said, “We can talk to
everyone about you except the Unemployment people. That’s your
responsibility.” I felt like a tennis ball, bounced from a desk in
one building to one in another with a phone on it—and the Unemployment
voice on the other end of the line asked questions from I don’t know
how far away.

How did I get into this mess? Short answer: come close to that “You
can’t fire me, I quit!” knife-edged cliff, decide my last job lost
whatever charm was left even if HR wanted to do more than issue me a
pink slip. I resigned from Goodwill.

The long answer goes back to 1989, just before, during, and after the
earthquake in San Francisco—-though, in truth, it goes much farther
back. But TODAY is, among other things, my 4th time to be enrolled in
the city’s “Hellfare” fun-house hall of mirrors
more-than-3-ring-Catch-22 circus.

Today, we’re eyeballs deep in the economic crisis (Calgon, um, Obama
Take Me Awayyyyy...) that the high stakes capitalists of Wall Street
created and could no longer hide (sort of like those guys you see on
street corners playing that game with the pebble or the coin hidden
under one of three cups, the game that usually empties some of your
wallet—-THOSE guys are good at deception...).

The national and world economy is a ghost of itself, the California
economy was in trouble before the sub-prime mortgage filthy
mcnastiness raised its ugly head to the light of day-—and, yes,
yup-yup, San Francisco is in deep waters too.

The Board of Supervisors and the Mayor are faced with a $500
million-plus budget deficit, though it does seem like Gavin Newsom is
acting like a damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks, wailing
about how there isn’t anything to be done but what must be done—-that
train is gonna shred some flesh from the bones no matter what!

Millions of dollars in cuts have already been made to health care and
other services to very low-income and no-income, barely-housed and
homeless citizens of San Francisco, some of them so stunning in the
scope of what they do to everyone like me that I’m fer sure havin’
that deer in the SUV-blinding-halogen-headlights feeling.

I’ve spent time in the homeless shelter now called Next Door (Geary
and Polk Streets) twice, both times for about 6 months. Next Door and
its country cousin MSC (Multi-Service Center) South, at 5th and Bryant
Streets, are, as you read this, no longer providing 6-month-long case
management beds to stabilize the transition from homeless to housed
for men and women who are healthy, have jobs or want to work. If the
next round of proposed cuts happen, there will be no shelter in San
Francisco providing anything you could call a “stabilizing influence”
for anyone in need.

So much for the “10 Year Plan To End Homelessness”. Feh! to “Care Not
Cash”! Newsome and the Supes say the budget is effed and you and you
and you are too. They don’t have the will, unless many San
Franciscans pressure them to cut other things from the budget—items
like the Opera, Symphony, Ballet, that have deep-pocketed patrons well
capable of covering whatever the city can’t, plus the true
administrative fat--some of it bulging from Newsome’s administrative

I’ve been to two meetings of the Human Services Commission and given
short public comments. The second one was attended by Newsome, who
told the Commission he hates cutting social service safety net
budgets-—but ya gotta do what ya gotta do! Badda bing.

Newsom almost had a shoe thrown at him, but the man behind me trying
to take off the symbolic missile he was wearing was stopped by someone
else demanding that he “show
some respect”.I started wondering if I will regret not shoeing Gavin
Newsom myself, since the man who did it to Bush has considerable
popular support in Iraq.

I went to the March 2nd, 2009 Town Hall Meeting at the Unitarian
Universalist Church at 1187 Franklin Street, just a few blocks from my
SRO hotel, to find out what some Supes in attendance had to say. The
public was going to have its say too and I wanted to deliver some of
my increasing displeasure, fear, and well, regrets about shoes.

There’s an old saying: not enough room to swing a dead cat. Even the
welfare social workers are getting to know what that means. My PAES
case manager recently said her department had been “decimated”.

Decimation, an old word and a nasty punishment—-the Roman Empire used
it, executing 1 in 10 people, be they ordinary citizens, slaves or
soldiers, for mutinies, riots, and other uprisings. City Hall workers
and welfare social workers were hacked and slashed with pink slips
before the Town Hall meeting, and I have a new case manager. Probably
no need to guess what happened to the “old” one.

There were other people there to speak as well, members of the staffs
of organizations helping those of us most in need of assistance.
Colleen Rivecca of the St. Anthony Foundation gave an overview of the
city budget process. She would have had more fun with the “monopoly
money” version that was recently enacted for the education of
interested folks at the Coalition On Homelessness. There were
certainly more than enough people sitting in the pews who would have
volunteered to be chunks of the budget.

Several other people spoke eloquently about what is happening now and
what fresh disasters may be soon transpire; Cindy Gyomi of the Hyde
Street Clinic provided a truly mind-bending example of the
merry-go-round Catch-22’s a low-income mental health system user will
experience, ultimately ending up homeless if nothing is done to at
least hold the line.

Of all the speakers, Melvina Hill, Recreation Director of Kezar
Stadium, got the most enthusiastic, loudest applause. She is well
loved by everyone who uses the stadium, including Special Olympics
community members who later spoke in her defense: the San Francisco
recreation and parks system is also being decidmated, the department
losing half its staff by Summer 2009 due to decisions made February
27th. I wondered if all this frustration and pain might contribute to
the rise of a new local political star on the horizon listening to Ms.
Hill and her supporters.

As for me, the Unemployment folks said no. Not enough room to swing a
dead cat, unless we remember and enforce what the Mistress of
Ceremonies, Tiny (Lisa Gray-Garcia) of Poor Magazine asked the
audience repeatedly: “Who’s budget is it?”

The answer: “Our budget!”


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