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Discussions over allocating city budget surplus deferred to next week

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 6, 2006

After several hours of discussion, City officials decided to continue talks about allocating the City's budget surplus to art funding and violence prevention programs to next week.

The city's Budget and Finance committee referred proposed appropriattions targeting $7.8 milllion to support city art programs to the Government Audit and Oversight Committee at Supervisor and committee chair Tom Ammiano's request.

The committee agreed to continue their discussion concerning the appropriation of $10.8 million of the $137 million budget surplus to violence prevention programs to give various organizations enough time to prepare written documentation discussing how they would spend the funds.

"There is a shroud of secrecy and no one can write on a single page of paper of how the money is spent," Supervisor Aaron Peskin said. "Why do I have to ask for that after six weeks? It's outrageous."

Supervisor Aaron Peskin
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

The opening proposal in regards to City arts funding was to allocate $500,000 to be divided by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Grants for the Arts program, Supervisor Fiona Ma said.

Supervisor Fiona Ma

The Grants for the Arts would use their funding to create a model arts program that looks at neighborhoods that are currently not being served, director Kary Schulman said. $150,000 of that proposed funding would go to grants to local artists.

"Community artists would be given the money," she said.

The committee revised the latest ordinance to offer the entire $500,000 to the Grants for the Arts program.

"The portion of funding for the individual artist program seemed to light to me," Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said. "I want to increase the amount of individual artist programs so that we can think of creative solutions of bringing the arts to underprivileged communities."

The committee eventually motioned to table the discussion for next week's meeting.

"I don't think this supplemental is ready for discussion and should go back to regular annual budget funding discussions," Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said.

As the committee concluded discussion regarding funding the John Swett Elementary School, Supervisor Tom Ammiano came to the meeting and asked the committee to refer the arts funding ordinance to the Government Audit and Oversight Committee. The committee agreed.

Ammiano said that his committee will be discussing the arts funding ordinance at their meeting on Monday.

An extensive discussion occurred concerning an ordinance that would appropriate $10.8 mil. to fund various violence prevention program services. For example, money from the ordinance would go to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice funding evening reporting centers for youth, director Allen Nance said.

Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Director Allen Nance

Funding would also support the Mayor's Office of Community Development's proposed time banking program, said Dwayne Jones, director of community investment and outcomes. The program will engage members of various communities to exchange services, such as computer repairs, with members of other local communities.

"It allows us to re-instill core values and altruistic behaviors that become community currency," he said.

After an extensive discussion, the committee decided to continue the discussion next week in order to give various organizations time to present how the money is going to be allocated.

"I want to see it all in writing," Supervisor Elsbernd said. "I want to be able to double check what you all say and to at least be able to send it to the budget analyst."

Many locals appealed to the committee to make a decision on the violence prevention service ordinance during the public comment portion of the discussion.

Becky Masaki, executive director of the Asian Women's Shelter, asked the committee to fully support domestic violence and assault services. Masaki recalled one Tina, a Vietnamese woman and her three children who took advantage of the organization's programs.

"Her two daughters are in college, one is in high school and Tina is an upstanding citizen of this community," she said.

Masaki said that she would be using the funding for shelter repairs, fulfill community-driven prevention campaigns, and train 50 more oncall language advocates to meet the needs of language groups throughout the city.

Jennifer Grant, program director of the Riley Center, said that the agency is about to lose 24 hour coverage because they are in a financial crisis. The center offers safe and confidential services for any woman in abusive relationships and her children.

"A woman came all the way from Vallejo recalling that her mother had used our services five years ago," she said. "That is the reason why we provide these services."

Regnado Woods, director of the "Up from Darkness" program also advocated for the ordinance, which would help create violence intervention programs in the Western Addition.

Up From Darkess Program Director, Regnaldo Woods

"People from the ages 18 to 20 are the most arrested, incarcerated and hopeless," he said. "This grant will help create community pathways for young adults to high-end careers."

Sunset District resident Carolyn Tran agreed.

"Violence affects many communities of color and by funding these programs empower us to make transformations in those communities," she said.




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