San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell vowed weeks ago to veto a bill appropriating emergency funds to clean up hazardous waste on San Francisco streets but is now countering that potentially unpopular move with a promise to hire additional city staff expressly to clean up used syringes.
Via press release, Farrell announced ten new city hires for needle retrieval duty:
Ten additional workers will be hired specifically for syringe cleanup duties. [...] The new hires—who will be contracted through the San Francisco AIDS Foundation—will conduct targeted sweeps of hot spots based on complaint data collected from 311, the City’s one-stop center for reporting information on municipal services. Along with increasing staffing, the City will add an additional three disposal boxes for used needles.
On Twitter, Farrell declared “this is an epidemic and we’re taking action now.”
We're taking an aggressive approach to clean up syringes on SF streets. I'm expanding the Rapid Response team -- so when residents call in about needles, we're staffed to respond immediately. We will have more people on the ground. This is an epidemic & we are taking action now. pic.twitter.com/Ras8g5ZIFc— Mark Farrell (@MarkFarrellSF) April 23, 2018
Established in 2016, the Department of Public Health created the Rapid Response Team to “respond to syringe litter in real time” in collaboration with SF Public Works and, interestingly, the San Francisco Library.
Presently, the team has only four members.
The announcement of new hires comes after Farrell promised to nix a contentious piece of legislation passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this month that would have put $1.1 million in unused Public Works money toward street clean up, with an emphasis on trash, syringes, and feces.
The bill, which passed 6-5, proved surprisingly divisive, as critics acknowledged the need for additional diligence in keeping hazardous waste off sidewalks but balked at disrupting the budget process to scoop up cash from other programs.
Despite the veto, Farrell tried to mollify those fed up with the trashy condition of certain city streets by promising “street cleaning will be a top priority” in future endeavors.