Newsom gives his 'State of the City'

January 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom returned to tradition Wednesday night by giving an 80-minute State of the City address in front of an audience. It is quite a change from last year when he posted a series of lengthy speeches on YouTube.

"We need to focus on the seminal priority of the year and that's stimulating job growth," said Newsom.

Newsom made it clear he is intent on creating jobs in San Francisco where the city's unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent.

The mayor says his plan will help, he wants an extension of the biotech tax credit to 2014, a payroll tax exemption on all new jobs for the next two years, and tax credits for small businesses that provide health care to employees.

"These are the kind of companies we want, our fate and future are tied to, and that's why these tax incentives are meaningful and purposeful," said Newsom.

Newsom is also calling for an innovation fund, which would offer $11.5 million in loans to new and existing businesses from biotech to clean tech.

Board president David Chiu says all of it sounds good, but wonders if it is feasable as the city faces a huge budget deficit.

"When you're talking about a half billion dollars that we have to cut in city services, if you have to add on top of that, tax breaks, we need to be careful," said Chiu.

The mayor also outlined his other priorities for the year, including reducing the truancy rate among students by creating a resource center and taking a more aggressive approach toward homelessness by increasing already existing services.

"I will not leave office until we reduce the street population by half, and we reduce the overall population by at least a third," said Newsom.

Many in the audience were impressed that the mayor, who dropped out of the governor's race in October, appears to have renewed enthusiasm for his job.

"This is the mayor of a few years ago that's focused on so many important issues," said Jim Lazarus from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

"It was Gavin at his best," said former mayor Willie Brown.

The mayor did not spend too much time talking about the projected budget deficit, but he did say something needs to be done about skyrocketing pension costs for city employees.

He will hold a series of budget town hall meetings next month.