The Wreckage that Mayor Jerry Sanders Leaves Behind

“Sanders said another savings in the works will come from using managed competition to lower the cost of city employees performing jobs that private companies can do for less. One such job is residential trash services. San Diego city employees are paid to collect trash. Most other California cities contract with a private company and residents pay for their own trash services.

“We don’t have to have government employees mow the laws in our parks. We don’t have to have government employees pick up trash,” Sanders said.  Mayor Jerry Sanders reviews his legacy at La Jolla luncheon  La Jolla Light 9/11/12

Three months to go in the last term of our first strong mayor — Jerry Sanders, and the legacy polishing tour has begun.  No doubt his remarks played well at the La Jolla luncheon.  Sanders is broadly perceived as an avuncular type who hasn’t threatened the smooth flow of day to day life or the high self regard of the people who really matter in San Diego while he took on the task of balancing the city budget.

There has been no such Mayor Sanders legacy tour in City Heights.  Can you imagine our mayor delivering the same speech to the folks who patronize the Mariscos San Germán Taco Truck,  or the Au Chau or Denny’s restaurants?

Mayor Jerry Sanders?  Our mayor has seldom appeared in City Heights, except for a few of the budget hearings.  Otherwise he never had a reason to appear in City Heights.  We are not the people who really matter, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been affected by his eight years in office.  Regard the wreckage that has become the “new normal.”

Sanders assumed office in late 2005 after a special election.  He spoke immediately about reducing the city workforce.   By 2006, it was apparent that he had taken a neutron bomb approach to city services– keep the buildings open while wiping out the workforce that did anything more than keep the lights on and the doors open.  In City Heights, that had an immediate impact.  We lost our Community Service Center, the only center south of Rte 8.  This was the most heavily used Community Service Center in the city, where City Heights residents paid their utility bills and found a consolidated service point for accessing city services.  These Community Service Centers continued to exist north of Rte 8 as “boutique” services for more affluent communities until they too finally succumbed to the budget ax.

We lost Park and Recreation staff who supported the soccer fields and other programs.  The cost of swimming in the municipal pool increased.  Library hours were decreased, and kids had no place to go to complete homework assignments on a computer, as required by their schools.  Then our police storefront community service centers, with their multilingual staff were left out of subsequent budgets.  Code compliance positions were cut.  The City Heights Weingart Library Performance Annex- our cultural gem- was threatened with dissolution.

When we turned out to protest these cuts– and we did, our mayor revealed how deeply he was both annoyed and threatened by our challenges.   In a KPBS interview in 2008 , he described the citizens who waited hours to address the city council budget hearings, standing  there with babies in their arms and detailing  the impact of the loss of library hours or threatened branch closures as if they were special interest groups.

Only an utterly juiceless technocrat would ever ever dismiss the calls for support of vital, core city services as those of a special interest group.  Citizens who support their  libraries are special interest groups?  Park and Recreation supporters are special interest groups?  This same mayor spent our summer vacation a while back surveying football stadiums to determine how to pitch yet another diversion of our public funds to private entities.

The damage that has been done is not only to our most visible core services.  The behind the scenes machinations that have lead to the privatization of city services and secretive agreements with private entities cannot be ignored.  It is a convenient lie to think that the people who pick up our trash, develop summer reading programs for our kids, mow the lawns in our parks  and monitor soccer fields pushed the city towards bankruptcy.  Can you imagine the response if Sanders said to this luncheon group- “If we weren’t such a short sighted  self indulgent bunch, we would all be paying $15 a month for trash pick up and we would be having  a whole different discussion about city services. ”  The chicken cordon bleu would have hit the fan.  That is not the legacy polishing speech.

City  Heights is the secret sauce for “doing the job for less.”  We’ll work two non-living wage jobs with no health care benefits and walk four miles home from our janitorial jobs downtown that end after the buses haves stopped running.   We will continue to be starved of public investments and services. We are one side of the privatization coin- the tails you lose side.

The question for voters in City Heights is whether we will embrace the new normal.   Carl DeMaio is certainly pointing us down that path.  He too, is working on his legacy.


Anna Daniels

I left a moribund Western Pennsylvania mill town the year that Richard M. Nixon was not impeached for crimes against the American people, and set off in search of truth, beauty, justice and a beat I could dance to. Here I am.


  1. avatarbob dorn says

    That San Diego STILL has a trickle-down mayor who prefers garbage and parking lot mafiosi to public employees is … Mayberry. Get out the vote.

  2. avatar says

    Privatizing the work force means that, instead of city workers doing the job at a decent pay level with benefits, private companies will hire desperate people at subminimum wages and no benefits. This is what passes for reducing the cost of government.

    • avatarRB says

      There are NO city workers, public or private, who work for sub-minimum wages.
      And there is a middle ground between Cadillac benefits and no benefits.

      • avatarAnna Daniels says

        The path to privatization clearly has a component that continues to chip away at the “livable wage” ordinance. Here’s a recent example The path to privatization includes chipping away at the minimum wage. Richard Rider recently described the minimum wage as a deterrent for hiring youth.
        The path to privatization requires describing and repeating the words “greedy” and “Cadillac benefits” when referring to public sector workers.

        • avatarRB says

          Here are the wonderful results for young people, with a public sector work force, a minimum wage, one party controlling Sacramento, and a living wage ordinance locally.

          “The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for August 2012 is 12.7 percent. “The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African-Americans for August 2012 is 22.4 percent. ” “f the labor force participation rate were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.7 percent.”

          • avatarAnna Daniels says

            RB- how about a straight answer? Do you support repealing the minimum wage for 18-29 year olds?

  3. avatar says

    The mayor is no city manager. He has rendered the city non functional. Have you ever tried to get a building permit, get an answer to a phone call, get a prompt response to a 911 call, get records from the City Clerks office, or information from the City treasurer? The strong mayor form of government is dysfunctional and should be repealed.

    • avatarAnna Daniels says

      The strategy behind privatization is to make government non-functional and non-responsive to citizen needs. Citizens lose trust and interest in their own government and become quite willing to hand off the whole hot mess to—-the private sector, which is ready and willing to step in. Mayor Sanders has fulfilled his role.

      • avatarAndy Cohen says

        This is the key to understanding Republican philosophy, I think: It’s a self fulfilling prophecy of design. Tell people how government doesn’t work, cannot work; refuse to provide the funding or basic resources to make government function properly or efficiently; deliberately make it as difficult as possible for city workers to do their jobs efficiently and effectively; complain about how bad city services are and how ineffective and feckless government is. Then make the case for privatization/outsourcing. Voila! Republican strategy in a nutshell!

  4. avatarthoughtfulbear says

    The utter folly of throwing over the city-manager form of local government, for a so-called “strong mayor,” has just that for its poster-boy – and the negative “legacy” to match.

    A weak person thrust into a “strong” position, is still a weak person. And NOT SUITABLE.

    History has shown, repeatedly, that it’s the strength the person brings to the position – and NOT the other way around.

  5. avatar says

    This is a great “destroy the village to save it” piece based on the scorched earth policy of downtown puppet Mayor Jerry Sanders in San Diego’s neediest community of City Heights. No responsible selective cost-cutting with attention to the special needs of certain areas? It’s a crime.

    Cutting maintenance and hours for Park and Rec playing fields and libraries is counter-intuitive if you want to keep children and youth off the streets and out of gangs. And it’s outrageous to have eliminated the Community Service Center that provided one-stop assistance to area residents for bill-paying and obtaining information about our city’s complicated alphabet-soup agencies that exist to help the poorest citizens.

    Sanders is just a preview of things to come if San Diegans enable the Great Privatizer, Carl DeMaio, in the November election. Wake up, folks. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Realize that Congressman Bob Filner doesn’t throw people under the bus: he has spent a lifetime helping constituents and, in the process, he’s strengthened the bonds of community.That’s the kind of person we need for Mayor.

    Bob Filner for Mayor of San Diego.

  6. avatarDoug Porter says

    Quote of the Day: (from a Don Bauder story over at the Reader)

    “I personally believe that if we vote for DeMaio, we get Manchester as mayor,” says Norma Damashek, former president of the League of Women Voters. And that means San Diego will get a stadium, whether or not it’s affordable.