SF police, fire heads shocked by proposed cuts

June 11, 2009 6:15:13 PM PDT
San Francisco city leaders claim they are stunned by massive budget cuts to safety agencies that were announced in a televised committee meeting Wednesday. Hundreds of police and firefighter jobs could be on the line, if the cuts are approved.

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"The Board of Supervisors needs to consider the value of human life," San Francisco police Commissioner Tip Mazzucco said.

Mazzucco left nothing to interpretation at a hastily called news conference, nor did the fire and police chiefs when they said what the cuts would do.

"About 50 less firefighters on duty per day," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

"It would be 325 police officers," San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong said.

San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessy was also concerned.

"I'd probably have to close an entire jail facility and we'd probably have to limit the number of people would come into custody," Hennessy said.

The supervisors' budget committee Wednesday approved cutting $82 million from public safety agencies in the interim budget.

The so-called "bridge budget" needs to be ready when the fiscal year begins July 1 so the city can continue paying its bills while the mayor and board finalize next year's budget.

But the proposed cuts took everyone by surprise, most of all the mayor who said he had just picked his new police chief but would not divulge who.

"I was about to make an announcement and now I'm trying to explain what's going on and candidly, I'm at a loss," Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

Supervisor John Avalos voted for cuts and says the money is needed to fund social service programs.

These proposed cuts now go before the full board which has to send the interim budget to the mayor by the end of this month.

He could veto it, but if he does it could stop all city spending.

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