City Government? we don’t need no stinkin’ government

By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner

This is the 3rd installment in the stinkin’ series.  It’s called City government? we don’t need no stinkin’ government.

Before we gird our collective loins to confront a scam called “Tourism Marketing District” I will pose this question: Why do we need city government?

Here’s a straightforward answer: to provide us with safe and pleasant surroundings so we can pursue our daily lives with a minimum of hassle – activities that include making a living, developing our talents, safeguarding the next generation, trying to be happy….

The answer hold true in Barrio Logan, Point Loma, and Mira Mesa.  Del Cerro, Pacific Beach, and Paradise Hills.  Up north in Carmel Valley and Rancho Bernardo.  City Heights and Linda Vista.  All of us want to come home to a stable, good neighborhood.

It should come as no surprise that it costs a lot money to provide neighborhood basics like adequate police protection, parks and playgrounds, street lights that work, clean water from our taps, swept-up streets, librarians, sewer pipes that don’t burst, and smooth roads.  So how are our San Diego neighborhoods doing?

Outgoing Mayor Sanders tells us everything is A-ok.  But that’s not true.  Since Sanders took office seven years ago neighborhood maintenance, environmental services, and community planning have deteriorated.  The city remains paralyzed by chronic budget deficits and a staggering pension debt.

Mayor Sanders finagled a budget ‘surplus’ to coincide with his final term in office but it was a fake.  It fizzled before he could duck out of office.  Our city and neighborhood ‘quality of life’ continue to sink in deep red ink.

The mayor didn’t directly cause the city’s financial crisis.  He simply added his name to the top of the list of San Diego city officials castigated in the investigative 2005 Kroll Report for “non-transparency, obfuscation, and denial of fiscal reality.”  In plain English: fudging the facts, juggling the numbers, evasion, cover-up…In other words, he didn’t do his job.

The following information leads up to the “Tourism Marketing District” scam.  In dealing with individuals — once they pile up debt, run out money and can’t pay their bills their options are limited.  They can come clean with family and/or creditors and create a long-term plan to whittle down the problem and eventually emerge intact.  Or they can deny their fiscal reality and attempt to bail themselves out through antisocial mechanisms (rob a bank? put the squeeze on a relative? skip town? invent a Ponzi scheme?).

In the case of the city — San Diego has piled up debt, run out of money, and no longer pays the bills that keep our neighborhoods in good working order.   City departments have been hollowed out and it’s only a matter of time before the cracks will widen and deepen in Carmel Valley and Rancho Bernardo, just like in Barrio Logan and Linda Vista.

The city has chosen not to come clean.  It’s chosen the other alternative — the creation of antisocial mechanisms that keep fooling the public… obfuscating… juggling the numbers… betraying the voters.  Yes, that’s precisely why the Tourism Marketing District was invented.

The Tourism Marketing District is the latest maneuver by San Diego’s self-serving, tunnel-visioned tourism hustlers to undercut the General Fund and line their own pockets.  Over its proposed lifetime the TMD would divert more than $1 billion from San Diego’s General Fund and transfer those riches directly into the pockets of the city’s hotel and tourism industry.  Hoteliers with the biggest pockets — foreign as well as local — reap the biggest reward.

Let’s go through this once more.  The General Fund is San Diego’s most important pot of money for keeping the entire city operating at acceptable levels.  To maintain a healthy and desirable city, basic taxes and fees go into the General Fund and are spent on daily civic and personal necessities like police, fire, parks, and libraries – services that create safe and pleasant neighborhoods for people throughout the city.

It’s antisocial to rob a bank.  It’s criminal to rob the city’s General Fund. 

This Tuesday at 2pm the City Council will be making crucial decisions about the antisocial scam called the Tourism Marketing District — a DEAD END for San Diego.

By email and phone you can remind your elected representatives that starving our General Fund will ultimately destroy the ability of city government to meet the needs of our neighborhoods and residents.  

Here’s how to reach your City Council members.  Do it today.

D1 Sherri Lightner 619-236-6611

D2 Kevin Faulconer 619-236-6622

D3 Todd Gloria 619-236-6633

D4 Tony Young 619-236-6644

D5 Carl DeMaio 619-236-6655

D6 Lori Zapf 619-236-6616

D7 Marti Emerald 619-236-6677

D8 David Alvarez 619-236-6688


Norma Damashek is a long-time civic activist who focuses on promoting decision-making that serves the public good. She has spearheaded community-based coalitions and served on city and regional-government task forces and as past president of San Diego’s League of Women Voters. She opines on her website NumbersRunner.


  1. avatarAnna Daniels says

    This article goes right to the worm eaten heart of the matter. The argument for cutting city services due to the economic crisis (caused by City worker pensions and benefits, according to the oft repeated narrative) quickly shape shifted into shutting down any proposals to raise revenues and began the process of privatizing government functions. This bait and shift argument– “We can’t afford xyz services” became the “we all can agree that government is incapable of providing the z services that remain after the cuts” has become the new normal. The assumptions have not been put to public debate and there are few voices who challenge them.
    As Norma makes clear ( and so does Jim Miller in his article today) there are powerful, wealthy influences who stand to gain from “we don’t need no stinkin government.” The question is, will we let them?