UPDATE, 5:30 P.M.: MAYORAL SPOKESMAN SAYS NO MONEY WILL BE SPENT TO STAVE OFF LAYOFFS; DETAILS BELOW
It'd be cruel to lay off scads of city workers right before Thanksgiving -- so let's think about axing 'em right before Christmas.
Okay, it's not that simple. But that's essentially the thinking behind the Board of Supervisors' actions today, in which they potentially staved off the possibility of laying off an indeterminate number of SEIU workers in the Department of Public Health -- until next month.
In order to keep the workers on the payroll until until at least mid-December, the city will siphon $1.8 million out of a "reserve fund" within the Department of Public Health. While the term "reserve fund" conjures up images of a Scrooge MacDuck-like bin of money sitting idly, this fund is actually already earmarked to pay other workers in the department. If it is not restocked, then they
will be facing departure. But, assure SEIU officials and their governmental allies
, worry not: State funds are on the way.
We've written a bit about this,
but here's the story in a tight synopsis:
Because there were no revenue
measures on the November ballot, the mayor claims the city has to lay
off or reassign 500-plus SEIU workers. The SEIU, meanwhile, says
nothing of the sort is needed: The Department of Public Health is in
the black and the aforementioned state funds are coming.
With that in mind, Supervisors John Avalos and Chris Daly proposed "borrowing" $7.9 million from the city's General Fund to keep those workers employed. They didn't have the votes for this -- and, what's more, the city controller forbade the move, stating the city's financial state is so precarious that it can no longer spend any money not already budgeted for.
Daly then pulled a switcheroo, proposing, instead, to take the money from the aforementioned Department of Public Health fund.
It appeared doubtful that Daly would find seven allies to join him in his endeavor -- but mercurial swing Supervisor Sophie Maxwell was convinced this afternoon to cast the eighth vote for a compromise: tapping $1.8 million out of the DPH fund and then revisiting this matter on Dec. 15. At that time, the supes will decide whether to spend $6.1 million more and keep the SEIU workers on the payroll for the foreseeable future (if the workers' do not hold onto their jobs, layoffs will commence in January).
Ah, but here's the rub: Despite the veto-proof majority of eight votes, it doesn't necessarily mean jack. That's because even eight -- hell even 11
-- supes can vote to allot money for a proposal ... and then the mayor is under no obligation to spend it
. So, if Gavin Newsom really and truly doesn't want the SEIU to prevail, he simply has to sit on his hands, not spend the money, and watch the workers get laid off.
That, it appears, is exactly what will happen. Newsom's spokesman, Joe Arellano, wrote SF Weekly
that "No, Mayor Newsom is not going to spend money we don't have."
You may recall that Daly attempted to get a charter amendment onto the ballot to curtail this nasty, anti-democratic loophole in city governance. But he couldn't convince his colleagues to vote for it -- and, even if he could, it almost certainly would have been defeated thanks to a barrage of Newsom-backed money and the easy strategy of tying Daly-generated policy to Daly's personality
The very real possibility of this whole vote being a farce was mentioned explicitly by Maxwell today, who noted that the "mayor won't spend the money anyway."
Daly, never at a loss for words, had a comeback: "The mayor has been so erratic these days, maybe he will spend these funds."