Supes Committee Votes to Defund Mayor’s “Pet Project”

by Adolfo R. Morales on December 4, 2008

A 2-1 majority of the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee voted to cut funds for the Community Justice Center yesterday. While the full Board still has to accept the committee’s recommendation, it was a strong rejection of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to cut funding of crucial social services — while maintaining funding for one of his favorite programs.

With a small public presence of about 40 people, Supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Ross Mirkarimi gave the ayes, while Sean Elsbernd gave the naye to defund the Community Justice Center. Starting at about 2:30 pm and ending almost two hours later, the three Supervisors listened to fellow Supervisors Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, social workers, a judge, budget analysts and members of the general public give the pros and cons on item 8 of the day’s agenda:”De-Appropriating $998,145 of General Fund and $761,021 of Federal Direct Grant Revenue for the Community Justice Center for FY 2008-2009.”

When Board clerk Victor Young read that item 8 was up to discussion, Supervisor Chris Daly spoke first. He vigorously opposed any cuts to existing community service programs, while funding continued for the Community Justice Center. He strongly questioned whether the center could provide the same level of service of currently existing programs.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty disagreed with this characterization. He described the current system as “broken.” He did not see the center as the Mayor’s pet program, as characterized by Daly, but rather as part of a “broad initiative” involving many different people.

After they spoke, a cross section of people spoke for and against this item. The Board’s budget analyst weighed in, ending his remarks not with any hard data or bottom line, but with his team’s conclusion that the proposed cuts were a “policy matter for the Board of Supervisors.”

Both sides displayed extreme respect for the other side’s position. Restraint and calm prevailed. Supervisor McGoldrick at times would break the tedium with witty remarks such as quoting his Irish grandmother’s wisdom that when you “tie a knot of your tongue you can’t untie it with your hand.” He explained his “aye” vote as a result of following the “will of the voters,” referring to the defeat of Proposition L in which the electorate voted against the Community Justice Center. “I have complied to the consent of the governed,” he calmly explained.

Among the public that was invited to speak by McGoldrick, an even number of supporters and opponents of de-funding stood up to voice their opinions. For supporters, the main concern was public safety. They perceived an unnecessarily high crime rate in the area and feared for the safety of many of the spectators to the thriving arts scene around the civic center. A spokesperson for the Arts Initiative spoke of the need for this “exciting area” to be free of crime.

Filed under: Archive