Front page of Issue 16

The winter 2015 print edition is in stores now. Special report on the persistence of segregation in local public schools. Plus: 24-page insert commemorating the now shuttered weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian, produced by the newspaper’s former staff.

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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.

Newsom vetoes pro-tenant ordinances

Samantha McGirr, The Public Press — Jul 15 2009 - 12:18am

Mayor Gavin Newsom has vetoed three pro-tenant laws designed primarily to aid low-income tenants during the recession.

The laws would have capped rent increases at 8 percent annually, and landlords would have been unable to raise rents if an additional person moved in as long as occupancy remained within the housing code limit.

Supes vote to expand MTA's power to parks

Patricia Decker, The Public Press — Jul 14 2009 - 4:39pm

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to grant jurisdiction to the Municipal Transportation Agency over the city’s parks, strengthening the possibility that metered spaces could appear in Golden Gate Park as early as next spring.

Bay Area Video Coalition to run Access SF

Jul 13 2009 - 2:17pm

Samantha McGirr
The Public Press

City officials have chosen Bay Area Video Coalition to assume operations of the public access television stations in San Francisco, Media Alliance reports.

Drop in hotel-room taxes forces deep funding cuts for arts

Deidre Murphy, The Public Press — Jul 13 2009 - 12:27pm

A long-standing program that utilizes San Francisco hotel-tax revenue to fund the arts is facing dramatic cutbacks, and a number of cultural programs are now endangered.

The city of San Francisco uses a significant amount of money from its 14 percent hotel-room tax for Grants for the Arts, an international model for supporting cultural programs. Of that 14 percent, Grants for the Arts gets 6.4 percent.

However, occupancy rates in San Francisco hotels have dropped 10.2 percent in a year, and room rates are down –- from some $156 to $128 -– as well.

Two SF vault fires in 30 days; officials demand investigation

Jul 13 2009 - 11:19am

By Samantha McGirr
The Public Press

An underground electrical vault that recently burst into flames at Fourth and Market streets, marks the second explosion at a PG&E sub-station in just over a month, KGO reported Monday. City officials are now demanding an investigation.

No injuries were reported in the electrical fire, which firefighters quelled with carbon dioxide as opposed to water.

Salary reductions, furloughs on deck for UC system

Jul 10 2009 - 3:58pm

University of California President Mark Yudof has announced plans for a new proposal targeting salary reductions and furloughs as the University of California struggles to come to terms with its burdening budget crisis. The Board of Regents will meet next week to discuss the proposals, which would go into effect  Sept. 1.
The finalized measures would remain through Aug. 31 next year, but under subject of renewal by the UC Regents.

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.

With meters in Golden Gate Park, drivers could 'share the pain'

Patricia Decker, The Public Press — Jul 9 2009 - 10:01pm

San Francisco could be one step closer to getting parking meters in the park.

A committee of the Board of Supervisors Wednesday endorsed key legislation needed to make that possible.

If approved by the full board, the Municipal Transportation Agency would be granted jurisdiction over the parks, and could roll out a plan to install parking fee machines to convert more than 1,800 parking spaces in the eastern portion of Golden Gate Park to metered spaces by April 2010.

Bay Area commuters spend two days a year stuck in traffic

Jul 9 2009 - 6:20pm

Kirsty Brown
The Public Press
According to the Urban Mobility Report, Bay Area commuters spend 50 hours a year stuck in traffic.
The San Francisco -- Oakland and San Jose areas rank amongst the most delayed regions in the country, according to the report produced using data from the Federal Highways Commission.

Cigarette prices set to increase ... again

Jul 8 2009 - 9:43pm

By Kirsty Brown
The Public Press

The San Francisco Board of supervisors has unanimously voted to increase the price of cigarettes by 20 cents per pack. This rise will make an additional $6 million a year, which is to be used to help clean up discarded cigarette butts.
Cigarette butts currently make up around 25 percent of all litter and their decomposition is harmful to the environment releasing toxic substances into the ground.

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.

Late-night San Francisco budget plan adds back millions to health and welfare spending

Kevin Stark, The Public Press — Jul 1 2009 - 11:22pm

After a month of political jockeying, protests and two days of marathon budget negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget Committee approved a framework budget for the coming fiscal year.

Shipyard protest targets Lennar, Navy plans for toxic land

Hank Drew and Patricia Decker, The Public Press — Jul 1 2009 - 8:52pm

More than 100 protesters enjoyed a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon in the shadow of one of the most toxic plots of land in California.

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.

Big cities grow as economic crisis hits

Jul 1 2009 - 4:01pm

By Kirsty Brown
The Public Press

Populations of the largest U.S. cities are on the rise, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The West Coast, in particular, has seen the highest growth, with Los Angeles topping the "Fastest Growing US Cities" poll.

SF dance group told to stop the music

Jun 30 2009 - 2:51pm

By Patricia Decker
The Public Press

While thousands of revelers were dancing in the streets at Sunday's Gay Pride celebration, a group of swing dancers in Golden Gate Park was told to beat it.