S.F. Cuts Back; Newsom Squanders

Cities throughout California are facing deficits similar to the state’s problems.  Naturally, government-program saturated San Francisco has not been spared from ominous budget problems, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is taking drastic measures – at least that’s what he’s leading the public to believe.  And, to reward himself, his staff is getting an extreme makeover. 

According to The San Francisco Chronicle (January 18, 2008), Newsom’s calls for fiscal conservation were contradicted with self-serving, expensive “improvements.” “After eliminating jobs and ordering departments to make drastic cuts to brace for a $229 million budget deficit, [the mayor] went on a spending spree to create an office at City Hall for his newly recruited team of aides.” 

In November, Newsom “ordered all city agencies covered by the general fund to absorb 13 percent across-the-board cuts and the following month eliminated more than 1,700 unfilled city jobs.”  This announcement gave the public a distraction while he planned a “dream team” overhaul to surround him.  

The cuts helped to build his ultra-hip “bullpen – complete with $78,000 in new furniture and flat screen TVs[, which] opened across the hallway from the mayor’s office just in time for his second-term inauguration Jan. 8… [It] cost more than $139,700, records show.”  The bullpen, a part of Newsom’s office, “was paid for out of the City Hall building services budget, not by Newsom’s office, according to [the] city controller.” 

Newsom spared no expense on new staff to charge the bullpen – “He made staffing changes that will cost the city an extra $500,000 or more over the next 18 months, including hiring half a dozen new senior staff members, some at six-figure salaries.”  These exclusive employees are a perfect fit to fill the $9,454.61 worth of new chairs.  

Like a person who’s gone “under the knife,” Newsom sheathed some of his most obvious enhancements.  He “[distributed] hefty pay raises to other members of his inner circle, some of whom he created new job titles, such as director of climate protection initiatives….”  Previously cut city jobs were “refilled” when, “[his] administration [forced] other departments to foot the bill by paying for some of his aides’ salaries.”  

Although hard to believe, there was one person who benefited from Newsom’s indulgences even more than he did. Newsom promised “…to make sweeping staff changes and to start his second term with a clean slate, but to do that he had to provide a “$500,000 severance package expected to be paid to [the] Public Utilities Commission General Manager.” 

Newsom’s extravagance is blatant, wasteful hypocrisy that takes advantage of the people who re-elected him.  Newsom, who has long been touted as a new kind of politician, has shown through his actions that he’s really one of the old, notorious, corrupt kinds of politicians who tell voters what they want to hear while doing exactly the opposite.  Maybe the city needs an extreme makeover of its own – a new mayor.

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