Dem Mayor plays unions in budget stunt

False bargaining choice: Layoffs or givebacks

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will unveil a record $6.5 billion budget today that includes threatened layoffs of 250 to 350 city workers to help erase a projected $338 million deficit, City Hall sources say. The layoffs, along with the elimination of hundreds of unfilled positions, would be among the most extensive that City Hall has seen in years - affecting everything from the Public Health Department and Human Services to the Recreation and Park Department.

Whether workers actually lose their jobs, however, may depend in part on whether Newsom gets what he wants from city employee unions - namely, $29 million worth of givebacks.

"The unions that have contributed thus far have definitely helped to save jobs and preserve vital services," Phil Ginsburg, the mayor's chief of staff, said Friday. "Obviously, if additional unions also decide to contribute, it will minimize the impact of a very difficult budget year on all of us."

Without union concessions, the cost to the city of pay raises and improved benefits for the existing workforce - coupled with the expense of new hires - is predicted to hit $143 million next year.

New hires? That's right. The city may be staring at hard times, but it's also taking on a surge of new police officers, nurses and Municipal Railway workers - with Muni alone looking to add 169 positions in fiscal 2008-09.

So far, however, clerks and trade unions have said "no way" to pay cuts.

Firefighters have tentatively agreed to give up some extra pay now, in exchange for sweetened pensions down the road.

Still, firefighters union President John Hanley says getting the rank and file to sign on will be "a tough sale ... with gas at $4 a gallon and younger firefighters worrying about buying diapers."

Then there are the cops. They were asked by the mayor's office to give up $4.5 million in holiday pay, but they aren't budging.

"We feel strongly that it's the city's responsibility to know their financial situation when they negotiate a contract," Gary Delagnes, president of the Police Officers Association, told us after talks between his union and the city broke off late last week.

The city has gotten a couple of unions to go along with the program - including a $1 million giveback from city laborers for job training and apprenticeship programs, and a $2.8 million annual concession from city managers.

And if Newsom can't get deals from the bigger unions?

"Then we'll have to plan accordingly," said mayoral spokeswoman Giselle Barry.

Cat and mouse: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is being unusually cagey about his big budget presentation today, and the reason may have a lot to do with Tuesday's election.

Chronicle reporter Heather Knight tells us that as of Friday afternoon, none of the members of the Board of Supervisors had gotten their invites to the ceremony where Newsom will announce his spending plan for fiscal 2008-09.

Newsom has never followed the mayoral tradition of presenting the budget in the board's chambers, opting to go out into the community instead. But board members have typically received formal invitations with several days to spare.

Newsom spokeswoman Giselle Barry said Friday that the presentation will take place at 10:30 a.m. today somewhere in the southeast part of the city, but she wouldn't divulge where.

Folks at the artists colony at the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, however, say they know just where it will be - in the auditorium of Building 101, the hub of the colony. Artist David Trachtenberg said the mayor's press staff already has toured the building and reserved the space.

The shipyard, of course, is at the center of Propositions G and F, the competing plans for developing Hunters Point and Candlestick Point on Tuesday's ballot. Newsom supports Prop. G and opposes Prop. F, and some e-mails circulating among the artists, most of whom are voting the same way as Newsom, have said to keep the location of his presentation secret so Prop. F protesters won't know where to show up.

"I would be shocked if the discussion of the propositions were not involved somehow," Trachtenberg said. "I'm sure it's going to be brought up. ... Voters tend to get last-minute information before they go to the polls, and this is a last-minute event."

Trachtenberg also pointed out that there's a guard gate at the shipyard, making it a "controlled environment."

Supervisor Chris Daly, who supports Prop. F, said the mayor was clearly presenting his budget there for "opportunistic purposes."

Return to sender: There was a time when no East Bay election was complete without a barrage of mail bearing the photo of Ron Dellums and touting his endorsement.

No more.

After Dellums' rocky first year as Oakland mayor, the value of his once-coveted endorsement has dropped faster than the price of an Antioch tract home.

Not only did Dellums decline to get involved in his own city's council races, but his presence in the state races also has barely amounted to a peep.

Dellums endorsed Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, in the contest for termed-out state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's seat. But her mailers merely list the mayor's name along with those of other supporters.

It's no accident. Poll after poll taken by the various campaigns shows that the onetime political icon's approval ratings have dropped from the stratosphere to as low as the mid-30s.

Not exactly gold.

These days, the hot ticket is Dellums' former protege Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland - and that's why it's her face that appears with Hancock's on campaign billboards.

Cross-eyed: San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong called in all of her command staff, plus all the captains and civilian managers, for a big meeting the other day to go over the department's new "vision statement."

About 30 minutes into the session, the facilitator turned to Capt. Tim Hettrich of Mission Station and asked for his thoughts.

"It's like the man who walked in the desert for seven days," the 40-year veteran of the force replied. "No food, no water - just a giant mirage."


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