City Funds Could Assist AIDS Victims

Times Staff Writer

About $554,000 is available in the City of San Diego's budget for helping AIDS victims, but coming up with the money immediately and in the near future would require cutting other municipal programs, according to a memo released Wednesday by City Manager John Lockwood.

The memo to City Council members came after three councilmen last week called on the city to find $750,000 to help fund AIDS programs--with $250,000 to be allocated immediately.

Ed Struiksma, who with fellow Councilmen Wes Pratt and Bob Filner asked the city for the extra funds, praised the memo as a "positive step" toward getting the city to do more "in the battle against AIDS."

"I want to make it very clear that the level of commitment from the city should be much higher," he said.

Struiksma said Pratt was working to put the issue of additional AIDS funding on the agenda of the Public Services and Safety Committee, where a recommendation could be made to bring it before the full council.

Result of Demonstration

Lockwood "has identified that there is money available and it's now a policy question for the council," said Filner.

The funding request was inspired by a Jan. 11 demonstration for more money for victims of AIDS outside Mayor Maureen O'Connor's State of the City address.

Two days later, the three councilmen criticized as inadequate the $150,000 that the city has spent on AIDS assistance agencies so far.

They called for an immediate expenditure of $250,000, as well as another $500,000 by July.

The councilmen also challenged the county government to put up an additional $750,000 for AIDS services to help create a pool of $1.5 million in local money, with hopes of attracting matching grants from state and federal governments.

The county's chief administrative officer, however, said last week that the county does not have the money for the $750,000 expenditure. He said the county is already pumping from $1.7 million to $2 million into for AIDS services.

Lockwood's memo on Wednesday said that there is $250,000 in a federal revenue-sharing contingency fund, as well as an additional $210,000 in community development block grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the remaining five months of the fiscal year. The balance in the city's general reserve fund is about $94,000, the memorandum said.

Others Vying for Grants

But the memorandum noted that a host of organizations--ranging from the San Diego Unified School District, low-income housing, to the Community Service Center for the Disabled--were vying for community development grants when the budget was put together last year.

Paul Downey, spokesman for Mayor Maureen O'Connor, said opening the budgetary process at mid-year to consider additional AIDS funding would be "unfair" to other groups and programs that were vying for city dollars last year and were turned down.

"The mayor would like to see more police officers . . . ," he said. "That's a big priority for her and that's just one example. Do we want more firefighters? Do we want more parks? There are a lot of problems and the council has to weigh carefully its priorities."

He said that although the mayor was "sympathetic to the plight of groups seeking funding for AIDS," the time to weigh such funding is during budgetary hearing, which begin in May.

Filner, Pratt and Struiksma have said they want the additional $750,000 to be divided among the San Diego AIDS project, the AIDS Assistance Fund and the Center for Social Services Inc. The agencies provide transportation, food, housing and legal services for AIDS patients.

According to the office of County Public Health Services, 727 AIDS cases were diagnosed in the county between 1981 and 1987.

Of that number, 379 have died of of AIDS, which renders the body's immune system helpless to infections and rare cancers.

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