Town Hall audience has appetite for cuts and taxes 

If the crowd of about 300 randomly selected San Francisco residents at a town hall Saturday were to solve The City’s $522.2 million deficit dilemma, there would be cuts, and taxes.

Sitting at tables with every department head in The City – from police chief to the director of the Department of Children, Youth & Their Families – the residents clicked away on $40 remote controls to log their votes while Mayor Gavin Newsom ran the show with all the enthusiasm of a game show host.

The random sampling was on the older side, and old-time San Francisco, with 32 percent saying they were 61 or older and 67 percent reporting that they lived in San Francisco for 11 or more years.

Health and Human Services was the most important thing provided by government, according to the group, while public transportation was the most used government service.

The group seemed supportive of reducing salaries and overtime costs for Muni operators, civilianizing the Police Department and increasing fees for parks. The group was less decisive on cutting back firefighter and police hours.

And there was heavy support for taxes, especially increased sales and hotel taxes, and for fees, especially a proposed sugary soda and alcohol fee.

“The idea is to remove a little of the intimidation of City Hall,” Newsom said, adding that “real people” seldom have the chance to make their voices heard by lawmakers. “I’ve always said there’s about 150 people who run The City.”

On Thursday, 24,000 people logged on to a two-hour town hall held online, Newsom said.

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Brent Begin

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