Mayor London Breed's 2020 Budget Speech

Delivered July 31, 2020

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Hello. I’m San Francisco Mayor London Breed.  

I want to start today by thanking everyone in San Francisco.

Thank you for your patience, for your resilience, and for listening to our public health leaders.

I know the last several months haven’t been easy for anyone.

They certainly haven’t been easy for me.  

Every day I hear about the struggles people are going through from friends, from family members, and from the community. 

While San Francisco has been a leader in the fight against this pandemic, every day we suffer losses.

People are losing their jobs,

•    People are losing their grip on their mental health,
•    And worst of all, people are losing family members to this disease.

But even as we endure these losses, I’m hopeful for the future. 

These months of public health crisis and social unrest have shown us that when we come together, 

•    We can have the hard conversations and make the tough choices to do what needs to be done.
•    Not just to save lives, but to address systemic racism head on and change society as we know it. 

Now I know today is about our budget and our path forward, but as we step into the future --  one that I’m hopeful for --  it’s important we take a moment to recognize where we’ve come from.

At the beginning of this year, we were living in a different world. 

Our unemployment rate was at a historic low.

Tourism was at an all-time high. 

Our hotels were full. 

We all had plans to shape the future of this city we all love. 

I know I had plans -- to address housing and homelessness. To reimagine our mental health system.

To improve transportation, make our streets safer, and build a more equitable City. 

To lift up those who too often are left behind.

Like I said, we had a lot of plans. 

What we didn’t have plans for was the coronavirus -- but it certainly had plans for us. 

So here we are today in a very different San Francisco, with small businesses closing, and schools struggling to bring kids back to classrooms.

With over 180,000 San Franciscans filing for unemployment.

And facing a $1.5 billion dollar budget deficit.  

While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our City like never before,

•    and while its impacts have been devastating, especially to our lower-income communities and our seniors, 
•    We have seen San Francisco come together in a way that makes me proud. 

Proud to be Mayor, yes, but also proud to be a San Franciscan. 

We’ve worked together to make sure thousands of people had access to medical support, testing, food, and housing. 

We’ve moved forward emergency policies 

•    To protect tenants and businesses from evictions,
•    Give people emergency sick leave,
•    And keep workers safe. 

We’ve raised millions of dollars in donations through Give2SF to support small businesses, workers, and vulnerable residents.

We’ve seen people organize to check on elderly neighbors or to deliver groceries for those who can’t leave the house. 

While nursing homes across the country have been devastated by this virus, we haven’t had a single death among the over 700 residents at Laguna Honda hospital.

We’ve seen community groups rise up to support our most vulnerable residents in the Bayview, the Mission and other hard-hit areas. 

We’ve seen the spirit of San Francisco rise to meet this challenge, to flatten the curve, and then rise once again when the virus came back a second time.

And today, we are proposing a balanced budget that closes that $1.5 billion dollar deficit, while still meeting the needs of our City. 

Through all of this, we have continued to protect our public workforce. 

Let’s be clear -- when we talk about 180,000 San Franciscans applying for unemployment -- not one of those people is doing so because the City cut their job.  

Not one.

As our economy plummeted, we wanted our City workers to focus on their health and the health of their families, and on serving our residents during this crisis, 

•    not on whether or not they would have a paycheck. 

With the budget I’m proposing today, I want to continue to prevent all layoffs. 

But to do that, we need our labor partners to work with us.

We need them to agree to delay any planned wage increases for two years. 

So far, we are having good conversations with the Fire Fighters and the Police Officers on delaying their raises, 
•    And I’m hopeful other unions will agree to do the same.  

I don’t think this is too much to ask.

Our entire City is suffering right now, and we all need to do our part to share in that sacrifice.

I want to be very clear -- if the unions don’t agree to delay their raises, then we will be forced to lay people off. 

We will be forced to cut city services. 

We don’t want to see those unemployment numbers go up because we are forced into layoffs.  

That’s not what I want, it’s not what anyone wants.

I’m hopeful that our labor partners will step up and work with us in the coming weeks.  

Because there is a lot we have to do with this budget, including continuing to fund our ongoing COVID response.  

We all know we are living with COVID for the next year, and likely longer than that.

San Francisco has been a national leader in responding to this pandemic, thanks to our efforts to:

•    Follow the data,
•    Build a testing system from scratch,
•    Create a robust contact tracing team,
•    And provide food, support, and shelter for our most vulnerable residents. 

We will keep doing everything we can to get this City through this pandemic, and hopefully the federal government will continue to provide the necessary support.   

But we know the federal government won’t cover everything. 

That’s why we are putting $93 million dollars from our general fund toward supporting our continued COVID response.  

This is a significant investment, but honestly, it’s not really a choice.  

Without a strong and sustained COVID response, 

•    our students won’t return to school, 
•    people won’t go back to work, 
•    and our economy won’t recover. 

But even as we continue to wrestle with COVID, we can’t lose sight of other key priorities.  

Our homeless crisis didn’t go away with COVID, and in fact, COVID has made it even more challenging.

I know people are frustrated with what they see on our streets.

We have had to reduce capacity in our existing shelters by 70%, leaving more people out on the streets, 

•    and our outreach workers continue to do very difficult work all while practicing social distancing.

We’ve met this challenge by moving thousands of people into hotel rooms, trailers, safe sleeping sites, and new emergency shelters.

This work took an amazing effort from city staff and our 
non-profit partners, work that normally takes months and years of planning done in a matter of weeks. 

In the Tenderloin alone we’ve moved over 500 people and hundreds of tents off the streets in the last six weeks.

We are expanding those efforts to other neighborhoods like SOMA and the Mission. 

While we are seeing some progress, frankly, it’s clearly not enough.

We need more than short-term hotel rooms. We need more than parking lots for safe sleeping sites. 

We need housing. Lots of housing. 

That’s why this budget funds 1,500 new units of supportive housing, 

•    Which is part of our Homeless Recovery Plan to move 4,500 people from hotels, shelters and the street into housing in the next two years. 

It will help us as a City meet the needs of the unsheltered, and of our residents who are frustrated by the conditions they see every day in our neighborhoods. 

We also can’t lose the progress we’ve made on improving our mental health system, including funding Mental Health SF. 

That means adding more mental health beds, 

•    expanding our Behavioral Health Access Center so people can get immediate care when they need it,
•    and improving the system of care for the people struggling with mental illness and addiction.  

We are also creating new Crisis Response Teams so that when you call 911 or 311 because someone on the street is clearly having a mental breakdown, 

•    we can send a team which includes a paramedic, a clinician, and a behavioral health peer. 

We need to shift the burden for mental health response calls away from the police.

It’s not fair to ask our officers to do the work of mental health professionals, and it’s not effective for those in crisis. 

This is a key piece of our police reform efforts.

In addition to doing the work to change how we as a City respond to calls for service, I’ve also laid out three other major areas for police reform:

•    Addressing accountability and bias,
•    Getting rid of military-grade weapons and equipment,
•    And redirecting law enforcement funding towards the African-American community.

While all are important, it’s the last one I want to talk about today.  

As a black woman who grew up in poverty in this city, police brutality was all too common.

It was something we expected and our complaints were usually ignored. 

Two months ago, the murder of George Floyd shook this country to its core in a way that I have never seen before.  

And people responded like I have never seen before.   

Seeing people, not just African-Americans, rise up against police brutality gave me hope that real change in this country is possible.  

But for those who support this movement, for those who truly believe that Black Lives Matter, it’s important that we listen to Black Voices.

It’s important that we allow black people to lead this movement. 

And I’m not just talking about me or any of our black elected leaders who have been fighting this fight for generations.

I mean we have to listen to the people in the community.

We have to listen to the people who have seen and lived the devastation resulting from decades of disinvestment.  

We have to listen to the people who don’t come to City Hall because they’ve known too many broken promises made by those in this building who believe they know what is best for black people in this city. 

That’s why the first thing Supervisor Shamann Walton and I said when we announced we wanted to reprioritize funding to support the black community was that this had to be a community-led process.

And earlier this week, the Human Rights Commission released an initial report that highlighted what the community wants us to focus on.

This report is the first step in guiding not just the investments we make with this budget, but the change we need to make in the years to come.

Changing the inequities in our country won’t happen overnight.

We won’t change the fact that African Americans have the lowest median household income in San Francisco overnight.

We won’t change the fact that Black people have the highest mortality rate for nine of the top ten causes of death in San Francisco overnight. 

We won’t change the fact that the graduation rate for African-American students in our public schools is just 53% over night. 

We won’t change the fact that nearly half San Francisco Police Department use-of-force cases involve Black people over night. 

But we will change these facts. 

With this budget we are listening to the community and prioritizing investments in the African-American community around: 

•    Housing,
•    Mental health and wellness,
•    Workforce development,
•    Economic justice,
•    Education,
•    Advocacy and Accountability  

As a first step in this effort, we will redirect $120 million dollars from law enforcement to support these priorities over the next two years. 

Let me repeat that -- this $120 million dollars is a first step. 

If we are going to make real change, we need to do the hard work. 

It’s going to take all of us coming together day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

I often talk about how I overcame poverty, despair, and violence to become Mayor.

My goal with these investments and this change in how we prioritize the Black community is simple:

•    I want my story, my experience to be the norm and not the exception
•    I want black girls growing up today to rise up not in spite of their upbringing here in this great City, but because of it. 
•    I want black boys growing up today to thrive because we choose to change how this city, and this country, treats our young black men. Not as a statistic or an inevitable tragedy, but as an important part of our city’s future. 

If we accomplish nothing more than that during my time as Mayor, I will leave this office proud. 

I want to end by acknowledging the leadership of a few of the people who are central to this budget process. 

First, I want to thank Board President Norman Yee and Budget Chair Supervisor Sandy Fewer for continuing to be strong and collaborative leaders whose focus on equity is more important than ever. 

Over the coming weeks, we will work with both of them and the Board of Supervisors to finalize this budget so that we can continue to deliver for the people of San Francisco.

I want to thank our Controller Ben Rosenfield for the work that he and his team have put in, as well as all the City Departments who have worked to find ways for us to close this deficit.  

Finally, I want to thank my budget team led by Ashley Groffenberger and Kelly Kirkpatrick.

San Francisco is lucky to have these two strong, smart women leading this challenging process.

Now, I want to introduce Ashley, who is going to give a short presentation on our budget.  

Slideshow presentation ]

Thank you, Ashley. 

Nothing about this pandemic is easy, nothing is certain. 

But I believe that the more transparent we are with the facts, and the more honest we are with the challenges we face, the better off we will all be.

I know we will get this budget passed, we will continue to keep people healthy and safe, and we will get through this challenging time together. 

Thank you.