PNN City Hall Beat: Negative Decorations


root - Posted on 23 July 2009

by Bruce Allison/PNN

As the crew at POOR Magazine are settling into our new digs, our scholars and techscholars were busy working to get the computers and office ready. This means that the elder, disabled, and poverty scholars have a space to do their work. This elder, disabled scholar has been keeping up my City Hall beat for PNN by attending three meetings a day to figure out the budget.

During one of my recent trips, I attended the Negative Decorations rally, where groups like SEIU 1021, Huckleberry House, The Coalition on the Homelessness, St. James Infirmary, Planning for Elders, and others were present, forming to create a 3,000 foot picket circle surrounding the south-side of San Francisco city hall, a line extending from Grove St. to the east and McAllistor to the west. With voices in unison, we cried, "No Justice, No Peace!" We then marched up the steps of City Hall, heading towards the supervisor's chambers chanting, "No Justice, No Peace!" We marched into the chambers and sat down, waiting until our item was called. They were voting on other things that day, like San Francisco General Hospital receiving a new backup genorator due to it going out every other month. In case of an earthquake the lack of this would be a hardship for the community. They had already spent the money retroactively without the supervisors permission. Due to the age of the genorator, the supervisors voted unanimously to do this.

Then our item came up, the Negative Decorations. A Negative Decoration is to take away the dead-wood that the mayor has kept in his budget, such as choeffers for fire capitains at a set salary of $100,000 annually, a minister that is managing nothing with a salary of $200,000 per year, or the cost of hosing the houseless at $100,000 for four people, along with countless others that total in 90 million dollars. The order by the President of the Board of Supervisors, David Chiu. Chiu said, "All people willing to speak, line up at the center aisle"

Me and three others lined up, including Bruce, the Director of Huckleberry House, and his allies. They talked about the budget, and how it will close a 40- year program for runaway youth. Then Bruce Allison, Elder Scholar, stood up and and projected his article written about the hosing of the houseless, and how the negative decorations would give back $100,000 under this program and be able to save the SRO Collaboratives.

After 300 people spoke in favor of the Negative Decoration, only 3 people spoke against it, one was Rob Black, the Chairman of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, claiming the city needs this business. Black was followed by a religious gentleman claiming that the prostitutes and lazy people should be cut off, pointing to senior homeless people, people with mental and emotional problems, women who have no alternative to feed their family other than prostitute, and people who are using illigal medicine to solve their problems. He was asked to leave after he had finished speaking, and I'm sure is still rambling on today. The final person to speak, the only republican left in San Francisco, said "this will raise taxes and businesses will close if you do this". This was after four hours of people speaking in favor of Negative Decorations.

When it was time for the Board of Supervisors to speak, Sean Elsbernd, through the monkey-wrench in the event by sending it back to the committee, delaying it by one month. The next day, I entered the Human Services Commission meeting to talk about a cut of one hundred people and agencies who assist in helping the homeless. This, along with comments from groups like Tenderloin Health, argued that they would no longer be able to serve the community. Tenderloin Health has 100 seats for people, wheras groups like Glide that receive the same amount of money only have 40. Due to these closures of shelters elderly and disabled homeless people will in the end cost more money because they will go the City General with aches and pains, as well as reports of loitering will increase because they will have nowhere to go.

A few days later, this pover scholar went to a private meeting with the Director of Adult Services, Anne Hinton, who used creative techniques, such as combining food services in the richer area to save meals in the poorer neighborhoods of the city. Due to federal law, all seniors in a group meal-site have to pay the same ($1.50), even though lots of them live in affluent areas. Hinton said, "I got bad news", She explained that she has to cancel the Share of Cost program that the city pays, allowing benefits for the homeless. I left the meeting.

The next meeting I went to, a few days later, was at the Department of Public Health. Dr. Marshall H. Katz said to the Health Commissioners, "you guys don't mean anything, all you are is a soundboard to the mayor. He makes the decisions in this city. What testimony these people will say, that don't mean anything either". Public comment began. 30 million dollars is going to buy new furniture for a building that will not be constructed for the next ten years. While doing that, they will have to close the Adult Day Health Center in Laguna-Honda that covers the entire western part of San Francisco. It will cost the city more money in the long run with having to put the Adults in homes and nursing facilities. As this poverty scholar got up and mentioned, "you can take a few less of your La-z Boys and open up this Adult Day Health Center".

If you are interested in seeing these changes through, write or call Sean Elsberned, Carmen Chu, or Michela Alioto-Pierce, the Supervisors of the western part of the city. Or you can email me, bruce@poormagazine.org. I will get back to you.

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