I keep hearing that Mayor Gavin Newsom will probably get his way around two key issues currently being proposed in City Hall, namely his $185 million housing bond for the November ballot, and the (FY) 2004-05 city budget. But how can we, the so-called “progressive” community, allow this to happen?
Under Newsom’s proposed housing bond, $135 million will go to supportive housing for homeless and very low-income, and to affordable rental housing for families and seniors. But an extra $50 million would subsidize potential homebuyers who earn $99,000 (105% of the Average Median Income). $50 million would be allocated to people who can currently afford to live comfortably in this city! I’m not crazy about bonds, because they are regressive. But this housing bond could prove vital in addressing the housing crisis currently facing the city’s neediest residents, as well as the city’s growing homelessness problem. Why must we get permission from Westside homeowners so that Eastside renters may gain access to a dignified place to live?
Furthermore, San Franciscans, including members of the Board of Supervisors, should be outraged that this year’s budget is once again balanced on the backs of the city’s poor and working class. Newsom is misleading when he claims that his proposed budget will cause minor inconveniences and shared, but manageable, pain for all. Approximately $190 million of the budget cuts, about 61% of the total cuts, come from reductions, department operating cuts, and cuts to employee retirement contributions. This means that all the neighborhood clinics are being cut and the homeless, poor and immigrants will lose access to life-and-death services. The city will put medical care to jail inmates out to bid, which will bring about competitive bidding of contracts between the Department of Public Health and private companies. City workers are losing their jobs at a frightening rate. The city’s social safety net is being downsized, and lives of San Francisco’s most vulnerable are being devastated.
On the other hand, Newsom proposes tax increases, namely in the form of a gross receipts tax for larger businesses, consisting of $25 million, or 8.1% of the revenue necessary to address the deficit. I’m not a mathematician, but it is clear to me that San Francisco’s wealthiest are carrying much less of the burden in Newsom’s budget proposal. During a time of crisis, more than ever, we should be discussing viable revenue options such as a general Transit Assessment fee and a restructuring of the current payroll tax so that big businesses pay their fair share.
The Board of Supervisors must have the political courage to meaningfully challenge the Mayor’s housing policies and budget priorities. The only two Supervisors to oppose Newsom’s housing bond proposal are Supervisors Matt Gonzalez and Chris Daly. I have not yet heard anyone on the Board publicly criticize Mayor Newsom’s proposed budget.
We must organize in our communities to ensure that the Board of Supervisors doesn’t roll over on these, and other issues, that impact our communities. The future of our city depends on it.
Renee Saucedo is an organizer at La Raza Centro Legal and the SF Day Labor Program. She is also a candidate for Supervisor, District 9.