Newsom continues to evade issue of open dialogue
Restricts Mission District town hall meeting
to monologue lecture on healthcare access
Mayor Gavin Newsom reviews written questions from audience members
at Cesar Chavez Elementary School during yesterday's Mission District
Town Hall meeting.
March 27, 2007
Yesterday's Mission District town hall meeting reaffirmed Mayor
Gavin Newsom's failure and fear of complying with San Francisco
constituent request that he answers questions in open chambers,
to be held to account for his policies.
What was advertised to be a discussion turned into a 2-hour lecture
at Cesar Chavez Elementary School on the subject of San Francisco's
unprecedented Health Access Plan (SFHAP), originated by Supervisor
Tom Ammiano in 2006, extending upon San Francisco's universal
health access plan.
The mayor refused discussion on all other resident concerns.
"We want a town hall dialogue not a town hall lecture,"
yelled attendees, demanding to be heard on issues of their, not
of the mayor's choice.
Several yellow feathered chicken protesters held signs saying
"Mr Mayor, are you afraid to face questions about the issues?"
Between the outbursts of public protest, the mayor continued
to promote these already highly publicized health plans.
82,000 people are currently uninsured in San Francisco, many
of them living in the Mission District.
While the extended health coverage will provide those under the
age of 25 with affordable insurance, SFHAP will grant access to
medical free care for those who qualify.
There are no monthly premiums for SFHAP but the coverage is non-portable,
available only to residents of San Francisco.
"This projects costs, lets say 200 million dollars, a lot
of people are concerned how we're going to pay for it. Were going
to pay for it by redirecting $104 million of existing health-care
expenditures that comes from the city," Newsom said.
Private residents and businesses will share the rest of the financial
burden, while state and federal money will account for the smallest
part, about $10 million.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association is suing the city to halt
the employer contribution part of the plan and has threatened
to shut down for one day in protest.
The patient co-pays for the health access plan are $10 for primary
care, and up to $150 for emergency care.
"The reason why were doing that is that we want to incentivize
primary care," Newsom explained. "We want to get you
before that ulcer bursts."
The first phase of implementation of SFHAP will begin in June.
"We're going to implement slowly, responsibly, and with
an eye to keeping our minds open to criticism and arguments,"
Criticism and arguments did follow, often loudly, when the mayor
refused demands to speak freely, and in person, without reading
preferred questions from cards.
"We can go down the path of where we all feel good because
we got something off our chest but we didn't get anything done,
or we can go down the path where we have a constructive dialogue,"
Newsom responded to sounds of whistling discontent.
Most of those questions were redirected to the city's public
health director, Dr. Mitch Katz.
Director of San Franciscos Health Department Mitch Katz,
"This seems more like a staged campaign. An unscripted
dialogue between the mayor and the supervisors would tell us more,"
Jeremy Pollack, a member of the Chicken Group said.
The mayor received a brief applause when he announced that SFHAP
is also available to undocumented residents.
"We've got to encourage them to get into this program without
fear and terror of believing that somehow this city is going to
turn them in to the Feds," Newsom said.
San Francisco has pioneered these solutions and has been proclaimed
a model city by Time Magazine, inspiring nation-wide health insurance
Newsom, when asked by reporters if he was considering a change
in format, responded: "I don't think it was difficult at
all. I thought we were able to answer over 60 questions... when
you're able to answer over 60 questions from the audience, you're
able to drill down on a topic in a more meaningful way."