Newsom breaks his silence with the media

Mayor Gavin Newsom (ABC7)
November 19, 2009 11:08:37 PM PST
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom emerged Thursday from nearly three weeks of avoiding the public spotlight, to confront a massive city budget crisis. When the mayor dropped out of the governor's race, he dropped out of sight and steered clear of reporters ? until today.

A smiling Newsom emerged today, even though the issue he wanted to discuss is grim. He told his department heads Thursday that San Francisco faces a $522 million deficit in the next fiscal year.

"I'll be asking for budget cuts in the 20 percent range from departments, with 10 percent contingencies," he said. "To put that in perspective, last year we asked for $12.5 percent. This year, again, now 20."

The city controller, Ben Rosenfield, says one reason for the tough times is the weak real estate market

"Were having major problems with our largest revenue source in the city which is property taxes; makes up over a billion dollars of our budget," said Rosenfield.

"Everything, and I mean everything, is on the table," said Newsom.

The mayor says his break from the media has allowed him to focus on the city's business. He used to hold several press conferences a week, but since dropping out of the governor's race, had avoided the media until now.

"I think I've earned the right after 14 years in local office to try to get things in order here," he said. "I made a big decision about the governor's race."

Why did he drop out?

"My wife and my daughter were being sacrificed. I was eight out of nine days on the road and I missed almost a third of my daughter's life," he said.

Asked if poll numbers and difficulty raising money were a factor in his decision, he said "No. In fact, we had our best quarter? we had 25 events scheduled coming up through the end of the year. The poll numbers were always something we had anticipated, so none of those things impacted. Truly, it was literally to do what I needed to do. It would have taken me away from my daughter, my wife and candidly, the city."

John Avalos is chair of the Supervisors Budget Committee, which along with the mayor, will have to tackle the budget crisis.

"If he's now rolling up his sleeves to work on our budget, it's probably the right thing for him to do right now," said Avalos.

The mayor says that he has attended 62 events over the last couple of weeks in the public with real people. He says he just hasn't appeared before the cameras.


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