Posterized: Public Defender Takes Budget Battle To the Streets

In this space we've detailed the increasingly strident and -- at times -- surreal game of "budget chicken" between Public Defender Jeff Adachi and the mayor and his allies. Mayor Gavin Newsom is set to submit a budget on June 1, and Newsom Spokesman Nathan Ballard has repeatedly said that if Adachi doesn't comply with the mayor's edict that all departments trim 25 percent off their budgets, it will simply be done for him on the first of June.

Adachi has all along stated such a move would be penny-wise, pound-foolish -- he is Constitutionally mandated to take cases, and if he runs out of money, he'll have to farm cases out to private attorneys, who charge more than the city's. And he's found a new way to make this argument: An eye-catching poster, thousands of postcards (with the mayor's address printed on them) and a budding letter-writing and phone campaign aimed at besieging Newsom with requests to leave Adachi's budget alone.

"Yes, that does look like me," Adachi says slyly of the above image. The poster features Adachi -- that's him, no question -- in a 49ers uniform wearing the number "6th" -- it's the Sixth Amendment that requires the appointment of a state-funded attorney for the indigent. The poster we saw in a Lower Haight storefront also came equipped with a neon green card emblazoned with Newsom's work e-mail and phone number, and a message urging folks to call and lobby for the public defender's office.
Adachi said the artwork was donated by local artist Doug Minkler and former Santa Clara County public defender Aram James; the public defender said he's spent around $800 of his own money printing up thousands of posters and post cards -- which will be distributed by his Facebook friends (!) and other volunteers.

The public defender says he thinks this is what it might take for Newsom to return his calls. Adachi said he's been trying to arrange a sit-down meeting with the mayor for several weeks and hasn't heard back yet. He also hasn't heard if his budget will be gutted come June 1 as Ballard has promised -- though he says he's been informed "through the grapevine" that public safety agencies such as the police and fire department may not be subjected to the 25 percent-off scalpel.

In the meantime, Adachi's nascent phone campaign to the mayor's office apparently hasn't taken off yet. We called the number listed on his poster and asked the receptionist if others have done the same to talk about the public defender. "We get all kinds of calls, day in and day out," she reported. "But not about the public defender." 

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