On my frequent trips through City Heights there have been few visual indications that we are approaching the elections. No, I am not complaining. I’ve seen one “DeMaio for Mayor” sign a few blocks away, and my block boasts two “Filner for Mayor” yard signs and a “No on 32” sign and that’s about it. It is difficult to gauge “voter enthusiasm” in our brand new 9th District, with the City Heights community at its core.
Many of us living in the inner city communities and south of Route 8 will remember Mayor Sanders as the leader who performed triage with a hatchet upon a flat-lined city budget. He destroyed the villages writ small while saving the only village that really counts–powerful business interests and an entrenched downtown establishment.
Mayor Sanders’ recent endorsement of Carl DeMaio raises the obvious question–Will Carl DeMaio, if elected, embrace the same governance policies and attitudes? The corollary of course is–Does City Heights want more of the same?
Carl DeMaio and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla on a Leash After DeMaio released his Roadmap to Recovery, he went on a PR tour to tout the document as the only solution to the city’s budget crisis. I received an email that he would be in City Heights, and found myself one evening sitting with a small group of older people in a room with a fired up Carl DeMaio.
If you have ever attended a revival meeting–and I have– the presence of a telegenic preacher man holding the good book and exhorting the one path to salvation is the stock in trade. There was a smiling Carl DeMaio exuding confidence and holding that Roadmap up for all to see while he launched into a sermon to the residents assembled there. The Roadmap to Recovery hinged upon slaying Satan in the form of the pension obligation and all else would pretty much fall into place.
During the question and answer period afterward I raised a few issues. I noted that city employees do not receive Social Security, a fact which he didn’t seem to find worth conveying and which few citizens knew. Since he consistently held up the private sector model, I asked if his plan would return city employees to the Social Security system. He responded that entrance into Social Security is not required. DeMaio was instead opting for some kind of hybrid, which is not the private sector model–yet. The broader context for this remark is the right wing pressure to privatize Social Security. DeMaio may be acting locally, but he is clearly thinking about national policy too.
I also raised the issue about city trash pick-up on private streets in his district. Some streets in gated communities at the time were receiving free trash services, yet none of us in the room could park our cars on those streets or take walks on their sidewalks.
Mayor Sanders had decided to eliminate these trash services for private entities. This budget decision impacted trailer parks in some of the poorest districts and a number of gated private communities in some of the most affluent district, including DeMaio’s.
His response to this question of basic fairness and public access was the most revelatory of his responses that evening. He said that the amount of money involved with that trash service was not even worth noting. He sternly responded that the city pension obligation was the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room and talk of anything else was a meaningless diversion.
Later that year, DeMaio would hold up the $30,000 a year that the city chips in for the civic organist as an example of unfettered profligacy in the one billion dollar budget. He dismissed charges that this line item constituted little more than a rounding error. It is evident that in his mind some rounding errors are more equal than others–like the free trash service.
Carl DeMaio has left unaddressed the issue of basic fairness and access to city services. The larger context of high unemployment in the county and the attendant downward push on wages in the private sector likewise receives no comment. DeMaio keeps the eight hundred pound gorilla on a leash and trots it out for boos, hisses and ideological effect when it suits him, which is often. Will that noise cancel out the voices expressing concern over the way that the General Fund is systematically and consciously being starved of revenue?
If Carl DeMaio becomes mayor, he will do so as someone who sees governing as an opportunity to dismantle whole parts of government via privatization while continuing to whittle away at existing services which he considers excessive. Taxes will not be raised, but fees will be charged where possible. ( Park and Recreation has been directed to provide a report on fees and fee structures. We will soon find out what is possible.)
We joke in City Heights that we are the last served and the first cut when the General Fund swells or contracts. We also know that this is not a laughing matter.
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