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City Budget Watchdog

City won't move mental health clinic, raises privacy concerns

Lizzy Tomei, The Public Press — Aug 3 2009 - 11:34am

After protests by patient advocates, the city last week reversed its decision to move an Outer Mission geriatric mental health program more than two miles west, meaning elderly clients may continue to receive care in the neighborhood.

But the decision was accompanied by another controversy — whether mentally ill patients belonged in the media spotlight when their clinic was threatened with relocation.

The Department of Public Health expressed concern that patient privacy laws may have been violated at a July 24 press conference staged outside the clinic. A spokeswoman cited media coverage of the event that featured video and interviews with clients who have mental illnesses.

Fire department OT pay increased amid citywide budget cuts

Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jul 15 2009 - 4:00pm

The San Francisco Fire Department is the only major city division whose overtime pay has grown in the last year -– straining the budget in a season when nearly every department has had to make painful sacrifices to help bridge a $438 million deficit.

And as politicians tussled last month with firefighters and police over more than $80 million in proposed cuts, neither side in the debate focused on what all acknowledge as a worrisome development: the expensive and unrestrained growth of firefighters' extra pay for working longer hours.

The unparalleled growth can be traced to a series of events. First, overtime spending spiked after voters passed a 2004 proposition requiring 24-hour staffing. Spending continued to climb in 2007, after Mayor Gavin Newsom and the fire union negotiated a large election-year pay increase for fire employees, while instituting a hiring freeze and mandatory overtime. The department said that was the right decision because paying overtime is cheaper than hiring new full-time employees with benefits.

Research and graphic by Mary Catherine Plunkett/The Public Press

The city's four other large departments -- police, sheriff, transportation and public health -- all managed to decrease overtime by an average of 21 percent in the last year. And they are slated for 39 percent in further cuts in the next year.

But firefighters racked up $26.4 million in overtime in fiscal year 2008-09, an increase of 14 percent. For the coming year, firefighters foresee a cut in overtime of 18 percent.

Supes on: the budget — 'Our side allowed the mayor to get what they wanted,' says Mirkarimi

Hank Drew, The Public Press — Jul 10 2009 - 12:47pm

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi recently spoke with The Public Press about government waste and the need for budget process reform.

While "delighted" that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was able to "extract" $45 million from Mayor Gavin Newsom's budget, Mirkarimi said he was still unhappy with the budget process as a whole. He said he would like to see the budget changed to a two-year cycle from the current one-year cycle or at least have the budget submitted before June 1.

A tale of two zip codes

Christopher D. Cook, Race, Poverty & the Environment — Jul 7 2009 - 2:18pm

Recession worsens rights gap between rich and poor

At the corner of Turk and Hyde Streets in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, just a few blocks from the glittering commerce and bustling tourism of Union Square, lies a little slice of the Third World that visitors rarely see — unless they go to India or Africa.

In just a minute’s stroll, fashion stores and boutiques hustling Armani and Prada, and European-style cafes peddling panini, cappuccino and white wine give way to adult book stores, liquor markets, pay day loan stores, overnight SRO (single-room occupancy) hotels, drug rehab clinics and bargain-basement deals on crack.

Nestled in the heart of downtown between Union Square and Civic Center (the city’s house of government), the Tenderloin is a chaotic theater of suffering, struggle and survival, performed in the open every day yet eerily separate from nearby neighborhoods that rank among the nation’s wealthiest.

Supes on: The budget - David Campos says the debate between public safety and public health is a 'false choice'

Lizzy Tomei, The Public Press — Jul 6 2009 - 9:17pm

District 9 Supervisor David Campos spoke about his approach to tackling the multimillion-dollar budget deficit. A former police commissioner, Campos is currently chair of the Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee and a member of the budget and finance committee.

Conflicting interests: City unions wage lobbying war to stem cuts

Michael Pistorio, The Public Press — Jul 1 2009 - 4:48pm

San Francisco’s budget fight has swung into high gear, with two heavy weights – public safety and health – sparring over money and launching intensive campaigns to sway public and supervisorial opinion any way they can. While lobbying is typically connoted with big business using money and power to influence legislation – think tobacco, auto and pharmaceutical industries – this season’s coalitions of interest groups include police officers, healthcare workers, firefighters and city attorneys, and all are hitting the streets and City Hall corridors hard to get their message out.

Supes on: the budget — Cutbacks are fiscal 'armageddon,' Daly says

Hank Drew, The Public Press — Jun 25 2009 - 1:23pm

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly sat down with the Public Press to discuss the budget crisis, his legislative priorities, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s political agenda and the circumstances surrounding this year's budget.

Mayor restores funding for Tenderloin drop-in center

Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jun 22 2009 - 4:24pm

In a reprieve for San Francisco mental health services, Mayor Gavin Newsom restored funding to the decades-old Tenderloin Self Help Center, a drop-in counseling and service provider, according to Jackie Jenks, executive director of the parent organization, Central City Hospitality House.

Vote moves $82 million from public safety to public health

Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jun 17 2009 - 11:17am

In a day of high tensions, as hundreds of San Francisco firefighters and public health activists held loud, competing rallies outside City Hall, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday sent a message to Mayor Gavin Newsom: Let's rework the budget priorities together.

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