Tonight’s “Funding our Future” town hall meeting was in turn inspiring, frustrating, maddening and energizing. Overall, it was great to see so many people turn out on a weeknight — the large auditorium at Marina Middle School was completely filled, with an overflow crowd watching a TV feed in the school’s cafeteria. I got to the event 40 minutes early, but even then the parking was almost full.
The organizers, dubbed the “Sherman Six,” started this whole effort in January after feeling angry about proposed budget cuts. Then the event caught on like wildfire, causing the Sherman Six some sleepless nights wondering how they were going to accommodate a thousand adults and at least a hundred children in Child Watch. But the event came off without a hitch, and appeared beautifully and extensively organized. My heartfelt thanks to the Sherman Six and all of the other parents and community members who pitched in to make this happen — I am hoping it will mark a turning point in our community’s engagement in the policy (and political) process — locally and at the state level.
So . . . any solutions? Well, it depends on how you define “solution.” I think my takeaway from our state legislators (Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee, and Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano and Fiona Ma) was that there are lots of ideas out there to reform California’s tax structure and governance system, but not a clear front-runner — nor anything that will happen in the next two years. Even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, I appreciated the bluntness of Senator Yee’s statement that no matter how upset we get, ”cuts are coming. They’re coming.” I do think we have to resign ourselves to hunkering down and getting through this, learning how to be smarter and do without things we’d rather have or used to have at some point in the past. Fairness will be a crucial part of this discussion, and there is clearly anger at perceived unfairness around the Superintendent’s proposed cuts.
As one UESF member said to me after the meeting, “we’re sitting on a tinderbox.” Teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff are angry, and they want to be sure that cuts are not landing disproportionately on them. And while I do believe that the Superintendent and his cabinet are trying hard to be as fair and strategic as possible about the cuts, I acknowledge that people at the school sites need more convincing.
If you weren’t able to attend the event, SFGOV-TV did record it and will re-broadcast it sometime this week. I also imagine the program will be available in their Video on Demand area in the coming days. I’ll post a link when it’s up.