Amid a fiscal crisis, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted today to appropriate nearly $2 million in an effort to postpone planned layoffs of city public health and clerical workers for two months, until after the holidays.
The city has an estimated $522 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year, and a newly revised deficit for the current year of $53 million.
Supervisors John Avalos, Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos and Eric Mar have led an effort in recent weeks to appropriate $8 million to stem layoffs and demotions affecting some 500 employees represented by the Service Employees International Union.
They say the workers are mostly working-class women and minorities.
"The impacts of these cuts have fallen disproportionately on our frontline workers," Avalos said today. He called for "sharing the pain" among higher-paid city employees.
Of the 500 employees, about 70 were expected to be laid off this month, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom's office.
The supervisors in favor of the appropriation believe additional state and federal money may be forthcoming and could be used to reverse those cuts. The city controller's office has said it is uncertain if and when the money will arrive.
One vote shy of the necessary eight votes to approve the $8 million appropriation today, the board instead approved somewhat of a
compromise, an amendment introduced by Campos: $1.9 million to postpone the layoffs until January.
The board continued a vote on the rest of the money until Dec. 15.
Campos said the issue was about "fairness" and said he wanted workers at least not to have to lose their jobs before the holiday season.
One of the dissenters, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, argued that even if all 11 supervisors voted in favor, "the mayor is not going to spend it."
Elsbernd accused Campos of giving the workers "false hope."
"I hate being the Grinch who has to stand up and say that, but everybody here knows that to be the truth," he said.
Campos responded that even though the board can't control what Newsom does, "At least we can send a very clear message about what our values are."
Elsbernd also noted that nine supervisors -- including those pushing for the current appropriation -- earlier this year voted in favor of
the budget approving the layoffs.
Elsbernd said the cuts the board will face in two weeks "are going to be much more severe than this."
Earlier today, Newsom indicated he would indeed not spend the $8 million if the board approved it.
The mayor's office late this afternoon did not have an immediate response to the two-month postponement offered by the board.
An SEIU delegation headed to Newsom's office, saying they were going to press him to relent.