Fiscal solidarity

Pub date June 29, 2010

OPINION As Mayor Gavin Newsom prepares to skip town for the bleak limelight of Sacramento, he has left a resounding parting shot with massive budget cuts to those San Franciscans most in need of public aid: seniors, youth, homeless people, folks with mental illnesses, health clinic patients … the list goes on.

Newsom has balanced his final budget (and his campaign for lieutenant governor) largely on the backs of the poor, working-class, multiracial, and immigrant San Franciscans, as well as the nonprofits and city workers who deliver vital services.

The Newsom budget actually adds costs: by cutting services for the treatment and prevention of substance abuse and for youth crime prevention and supportive housing, for instance, it destabilizes lives and forces people right back into the treatment systems that are being cut — adding new human and fiscal costs.

"Every cut has a constituency," Newsom’s PR people say repeatedly. And that’s precisely what the mayor is counting on — that each "constituency" will fight on its own, for its own fiscal scraps. He’s wrong.

As members of a broad coalition of community and neighborhood-based organizations, labor unions, and civic leaders and residents across the city, we stand together in opposition to Newsom’s cuts-only budget and his attempts to divide "constituencies."

Fiscal solidarity means we recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all. "Constituencies" are in fact people whose lives cut across multiple budget line items. Cutting city parks is also a senior issue, as well as a youth issue. Closing mental health programs for the poor is not only an unnecessary moral outrage — it’s a public health and safety issue.

As members and supporters of unions and nonprofits, which are sometimes pit against each other in budget cut wars, we declare mutual support. The mayor’s cuts will mean drastically reduced services for those who need them most and deep staff cuts for city employees and nonprofit workers. We may work for different institutions under different budget line-items, but we’re fighting together as one community — one big "constituency."

Budget wars artificially divide communities that overlap and intermingle. Expressions of unity are put to the test by the budget "add-back" process that forces community groups to scuffle for scraps of cash — groups serving populations in critical need are set against each other, and whole communities are reduced to line-items.

We’re standing against fiscal wedge politics and demanding a real alternative. The budget must protect those most in need and be balanced by cutting first from the top instead of the bottom.

We are united for solutions — progressive tax measures on key wealth sectors that can and must pay their fair share to keep San Francisco the beautiful, thriving, diverse, and culturally rich city it is. We’re standing up for the city Newsom’s leaving, for the communities he’s cutting, and for progressive revenue — a tax to make downtown hotels pay their fair share, and a gross receipts tax on large businesses for starters.

Mayor Newsom: if you cut one of us, you cut us all.

This statement was signed by Christopher Cook, Budget Justice Coalition; Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021*; Gordon Mar, Jobs with Justice*; Eric Quezada, Dolores Street Community Services*; N’Tanya Lee, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth*; Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness; Guiliana Milanese, Jobs with Justice*; Christina Olague, Senior Action Network*; Sheila Tully, California Faculty Association, SF State*; Chelsea Boilard, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth*; Joseph Smooke, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center*; Carl Finamore, delegate, SF Labor Council*

* names for ID purposes only