Whose Budget?? Our Budget!!! A Town Hall is organized to respond to the Insane budget cuts that are posed to dismantle services

POOR correspondent - Posted on 22 June 2010

Thornton Kimes/PNN
Monday, March 9, 2009

“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 waist.

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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