Mayor London Breed's 2021 Budget Proposal Speech

Delivered June 1, 2021

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Good afternoon.

To all the community members, city staff, and Elected officials -- I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here.

Not just because we are announcing that we have officially balanced our latest two year-budget.

Though that is important.

No, I’m happy because I’m here in Chinatown -- in front of actual people again. 

This is the first time in so long that I’ve seen so many familiar faces and City leaders gathered together in one place. 

Over the past few weeks, San Francisco has really started to open up.

You can see it everywhere -- 
People going to museums and baseball games, 
Enjoying the incredible outdoor dining spaces
And families in our parks and playgrounds like this one right here where we are today.  

I had the opportunity to go to the Symphony last week, and, yes, the performance was incredible, but just being at Davies Symphony Hall was magic. 
It was San Francisco coming back to life!

People are excited for what’s coming. And I’m excited to be here today with all of you.

I want to recognize my Budget Director Ashley Groffenberger and her incredible team. 
Thank you for the hours and hours of work you put in working with labor, community stakeholders and our city departments to get this budget balanced, and delivered on time. 

Now, I have always believed in what this City can do -- but standing here today I’m more confident than ever in our ability to rise and to deliver. 

Because, over the last year, I’ve seen what we can do.  

All of us, we’ve been tested like never before.

Our spirit, our resilience, and our compassion for one another have all been tested.   

The past year has been hard. We’ve all been tired. We’ve been worn down. We’ve faced challenges with our mental health. Our kids have suffered. Our seniors have suffered.

Our outlook, at times, was pretty dark.

But through it all, we held together. 

And now, today, gathered together at Willie Woo Woo Playground, we are in the light. 

No, COVID is not gone, but the number of people in the hospital is lower than it’s been since March of last year. 

And almost 80% of eligible people have been vaccinated. 

Thanks to the hard work of so many, thanks to our healthcare providers, our community partners, our city workers, and the people of this City, 
I can finally declare with pride and confidence that we are literally out of the woods.  

Now, we haven’t done this alone.

We have had strong support from the state and federal government,
Including Governor Gavin Newsom, who has led California and delivered for our workers, our small businesses, and our most vulnerable residents through programs like Project Homekey.  

And thanks to the American Rescue Plan put forward by President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we don’t have a crushing budget deficit. 

What we do have is an opportunity. 

An opportunity to take all that we’ve lived through, and all the lessons we’ve learned, and focus on what matters most.

That’s what this budget is about. 

It’s about fulfilling the many promises we’ve made,

Delivering on fundamental change,

And lifting up our entire City. 

Now, we are here in Chinatown, because we know this neighborhood was hit first, and it was hit hard.  

February is normally an amazing time for this community when the Lunar New Year celebrations bring visitors from all over the world.

But in February of last year, things were dark. 

The Lunar New Year Parade was cancelled. Tourists had disappeared. Small businesses were struggling. The streets were empty.  

And in the months since then, this neighborhood has continued to suffer.

From the loss of visitors, yes, but also from disgusting xenophobia and shocking acts of violence.
  
Seniors are afraid to leave their homes to run errands.
Families worried for their safety.

What is happening right now, in particular the attacks against our elders, is shameful for our City. 
It is shameful for our country.  

Just last week, I was out to lunch at R&G Lounge down the street from here with a woman named Ms. Wong. After my grandmother passed away, Ms. Wong became my adopted grandmother. 

She is so warm and kind, but just like my grandmother, you don’t want to get on her bad side. and she fills me with such joy when I see her. She tells me she’s proud of me, and shows me pictures of her “other” grandchildren. She is truly a beautiful spirit.  
When I see these attacks against our Asian seniors, I think of my grandmother. I think of Ms. Wong. I think of how I would feel if someone laid their hands on one of them.  
And it breaks my heart every single time. Every single time.

An attack against any of us is an attack against all of us.

I have been proud to stand with leaders like Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting to not only call for unity against theses racist attacks, but to bring forward solutions, to support our residents and to send a clear message: 
The disgusting attacks against our API community must end now. 

And that doesn’t just mean having more law enforcement on our streets.

It means continuing and expanding programs like our Community Guardians.  

These multi-racial patrol teams are walking the streets in this neighborhood, in Visitacion Valley, the Inner Richmond, the Tenderloin, on San Bruno Avenue, and other areas.

They know the community -- they are from these communities -- and they are bridging cultural divides, building relationships, and watching out for the most vulnerable.  

This is exactly the kind of program my budget will invest in. 

It means continuing to fund the senior escort program, which is serving members of this community.  

We are also launching our ambitious plans to have Community Ambassadors up and down the Mid-Market corridor and across all of Downtown and the waterfront.  

Again, these are ambassadors who are watching our blocks. 
Calling for services for those who are struggling. 
Giving directions to those who are lost.
Offering a friendly face for those in need.  

But let’s be clear: keeping our City safe also requires law enforcement.

That means making sure we have officers on our streets, walking beats, and responding to crimes. 

Right now, every year, we lose about 80 officers who either retire or leave the force for other reasons. 

If we don’t replace those officers with new recruits, our police force will shrink. 
We will lose foot beats. 
We won’t be able to quickly respond to 911 calls. 
We won’t be able to make arrests to hold people accountable.  

That will not make our City safer. 

So in this budget, we are proposing two police academy classes each of the next two years so we don’t lose officers.  

The good news is, as we add these academy classes, our police force is becoming more diverse.

Since 2009, the proportion of recruits in our classes has increased from the:
Black community by 45%,
The Latino Community by 78%
And the Asian Community by 79%.

Removing bias starts right there. By making sure the people in uniform reflect -- and understand -- the communities they serve. 

And we know we can’t stop every crime, and sadly there will be victims in our City. But I want all residents and visitors to feel safe when they step forward to report a crime, especially our seniors.

So we are creating a new Office of Justice Innovation that will coordinate the City’s response to victims across all communities, including with targeted support for the API community. 

This new team will also continue our groundbreaking work to find more effective ways to respond to people who call for help. 

Our Street Crisis Response Team is already taking our most challenging mental health calls, the people who too often end up in bad situations when confronted by law enforcement.

We’ve got four teams already out on the streets, with two more coming soon. And we are adding a seventh team in this budget. 

Why? Because these teams are working.  

I’ve seen the results myself.

A few weeks ago I went out with the Street Crisis Response Team. 

We arrived on scene in Fisherman’s Wharf to find a man with no shoes. 
Talking to himself. Walking in and out of traffic. 
The kind of lost soul too many of us have seen too often and wondered “why is no one doing anything?” 

A police officer had arrived on the scene first, but when the Street Crisis Response Team showed up, I could see the relief in the officer’s eyes.

He knew he wasn’t the one for this call. He knew there was a better way.  

It took time, over an hour, and multiple conversations. But eventually that gentleman ended up getting care from paramedics and a clinician.  

It didn’t end in violence, or everyone just walking away. 

Better solutions deliver better outcomes. That’s how we make a difference.  

And now in this budget we are expanding our Street Response Teams to include Wellness teams composed of a paramedic and a homeless outreach worker that will respond to even more calls that would better benefit from a non-police response. 

And we are also adding new Street Overdose Response Teams to help curb the crisis of overdoses in our City. 

Fentanyl is destroying lives not just here in San Francisco, but across this country. 

That’s why we will continue to push for Overdose Prevention Programs with the help of Senator Scott Wiener at the state level. 

And we will expand our Street Medicine Team and treatment programs that have been effective in preventing overdoses and helping people get off opioids and meth. 

As we increase these services, we also need to continue to enforce our laws against drug dealing. 
Our police officers are on pace to seize more fentanyl than ever before this year. 
We need every level of our criminal justice system to step in to stop this drug dealing from torturing the Tenderloin and other neighborhoods.  

Our residents and those who are suffering on our street deserve better.  

And as we change how we respond to people out on the street, we also need places for people to go.

We can have all the outreach teams in the world, 
but if we don’t have housing, shelter, and treatment beds, we are going to see those same people right back out on the street again and again and again. 

The good news is, it’s taken a lot of work, but we have a plan, starting with treatment beds.  

In this Budget, we are funding the acquisition and operation of over 340 new treatment beds, 
And we have a plan to acquire facilities for up to 300 more treatment beds so we can keep growing our pipeline.
That’s a plan for over 640 new beds on top of the over 2,000 beds we already have.   

That is a real change. That is a long-term difference.

So when we see someone in need, or when we have a family member who is suffering, we can have somewhere for them to go. 

So people can heal, instead of falling apart on our streets.  

We are taking the same approach with our Homelessness Recovery Plan, which will create more permanent supportive housing and places for people to go.  

This plan, which launched last year calls for at least 6,000 placements for people by July 2022, including the largest expansion of permanent supportive housing in 20 years.  

And this plan is already working. 

We have fewer people living in tents on our streets than at the height of the pandemic. 
Than even before the pandemic.

And we are moving people out of our Shelter-in-Place hotels right now into permanent housing.   

Each of these stories is a success, and a life changed.  

People like the vulnerable senior with schizophrenia who had been homeless in the Mission for 45 years. Let’s call him Tyrone. 

Our homeless outreach workers had known Tyrone for a long-time, but it wasn’t until they got him into a hotel and connected to services, that he began to relax. That he had the opportunity to heal.

After many attempts of housing offers, Tyrone recently moved into permanent supportive housing. 

Think about that -- 45 years homeless, and now he’s housed. Permanently. 

So yes, our Homelessness Recovery Plan is working.  

But with this budget, we are pushing beyond that goal. 

Over the next two years, between local, state, and federal funding, we are putting $1 billion dollars into action here in 
San Francisco.

This historic investment will allow us to:
Provide up to 4,000 more new placements to get people off the street,
Including 1,000 new units of permanent supportive housing in addition to the 1,500 we are already adding.  

We will add two new safe parking sites, and create a new 40 bed emergency shelter for families.

And we will serve over 7,000 households with prevention services because we know keeping people housed is the easiest way to end homelessness.

More housing, more placements, more people living indoors, off the streets.

Yes, this is an historic investment for our City. 

But we have to be honest with ourselves. If we are going to see change on our streets, it takes more than money. We also have to have the will to make change. 

So to be clear:

We will lead with services to get people the housing and help they need.

For those with complex needs, we will do everything we can to assist them and get them on the path to recovery. We know it’s not easy, but that’s our commitment. 

And for those exhibiting harmful behavior, whether to themselves or others, or those refusing assistance, we will use every tool we have to get them into treatment and services. To get them indoors. 

We won’t accept people just staying on the streets when we have places for them to go.  

If we focus and invest right, we have a real chance to make a fundamental change for those who are living on our streets, and for our City.  

We also know that our recovery isn’t just about getting back to where we were -- it’s about taking on the existing disparities laid bare by this pandemic.

We saw the devastating impacts on our Latino community, those who lived in crowded conditions, 
who didn’t have access to healthcare, 
who had no choice but to go to work, 
who didn’t have a lot of trust in the government officials.  

We saw the systemic racism many of us have known all too well for far too long in the African-American community exposed by COVID, and by the murder of George Floyd. 

We saw our transgender community suffer from disproportionate impacts.  

We saw our young people devastated, and women pushed out of the workforce at a higher rate than men when our schools shut down.  

We witnessed all of this, and it’s clear we have a duty to commit to an equitable recovery.  

And that’s what this budget does.  

We will continue our historic investment in the African-American community by continuing to fund our Dreamkeeper Initiative.

We will make sure our recovery has a dedicated Community Response that includes spending $57 million to fund programs in impacted communities to deliver:
Workforce, small business, and economic relief;
Food security;
Testing, vaccines, and mental health support;
Community resource hubs;
And arts, culture and recreation programs. 

We will build on our Guaranteed Income pilot programs that are already moving forward by adding a new program to deliver payment to members of the transgender community.  

Our Women and Family First Initiative will offer job training to women and free childcare so they can get back in the workforce.  

We will also fund mental health support for public school students, 
and continue our Opportunities for All, which is providing our young people paid internships and setting them on the path to success.  

We are backfilling our lost hotel taxes to ensure the arts and artists can continue to thrive.   

And we are setting aside funding to purchase a site for the LGBT Cultural Museum, so we finally have a home to celebrate all those that fought for equality in this City.  

We are funding affordable housing, improving playgrounds like this one we stand in today, improving our streets, and replacing aging city infrastructure. 

We are investing in our transportation system, delivering over $90 million dollars to support Muni and bike and pedestrian safety projects, because if we don’t have a fully functioning transportation system, people won’t be able to get to work and school.  

And, of course, we are making sure that our COVID response is still funded because we know we still need that infrastructure for testing, outbreak management, shelter-in-place hotels, and feeding support in the months ahead.

Like I said, we are out of the woods, but one thing we’ve learned over the last year -- we never know what lies ahead.

This pandemic did not give us notice, and neither will the next earthquake. 

That’s why we have to do the hard work to prepare. 

Remember -- over the last year, during the worst of our budget crisis, we did not have to lay off any city workers because we had strong reserves to carry us through.  

So we are taking the opportunity now, today, to maintain our reserves for the next downturn.  

We were so lucky to receive tremendous support from the Federal Government to help stabilize us, but there are still challenging times ahead.

I know responsibility doesn’t grab headlines -- but it’s what leaders do. We don’t raid our reserves unnecessarily -- we protect and grow them.  

That’s how we will weather any challenge that comes our way. 

Because we are a resilient City. The people of this City are strong and resilient.

The people of this neighborhood, of Chinatown, are resilient.

It’s in their history.

The oldest Chinatown in this Country.  

After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, almost all of Chinatown, like much of San Francisco, burned to the ground.

At that time, there were people from outside this community who said let’s move Chinatown down to the southeast part of the City. Or across the river to Oakland. 

But you know who disagreed with them?  The people who lived here. 
The people who loved their homes, their neighborhood, their community.  
The people who knew this was a proud place built by those that came before, and would welcome all those who came after.  

So the people in Chinatown fought to stay. They fought for their home.

And they won. 

And out of the ashes of that great fire, they rebuilt this incredible neighborhood.  

That’s the story of Chinatown -- and it’s the story of 
San Francisco.

Not even a global pandemic can knock us out. San Francisco is coming back!

With this budget, with these investments, we have the path to get us where we need to be,
But it’s the people of this City that will propel us down that path. 

Our spirit will carry us forward.

San Francisco isn’t going anywhere except straight ahead into what I see as a bright future.

I’m so excited to work with all of you to make this City shine like never before.

Thank you.