By Doug Porter
By the time you read this City Councilman Kevin Faulconer will have taken the oath of office to become San Diego’s 36th Mayor. He will, I think, have about a nine month honeymoon prior to starting his reelection campaign for 2016.
UT-San Diego’s been busy trying to setting the tone with its editorials over the past few days, urging the Democratic Majority on the City Council to appoint a Republican to replace Faulconer, pleading for Council President Todd Gloria to be the new mayor’s ‘bi-partisan partner in reform,” and cheerleading for further policies to privatize public services.
Lost amid the ceremonies and promises of better times are the moves being made to insulate the politics of ‘business as usual’ from public disclosure. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s successful efforts to derail an Open Government initiative and the iMayor’s last-minute issuance of a policy destroying city emails after one year are examples of the true nature of bi-partisan cooperation at the highest levels in local government.
The initial tenor of the incoming administration is likely to be conciliatory rather than combative.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“We’re going to hit the ground running,” said Faulconer, whose election made San Diego the nation’s largest Republican-led city. “If I do my job, the rest takes care of itself.”
John Kern, a Republican consultant unaligned with Faulconer, said that “the notion that Faulconer is a lame duck is lame. There are just too many variables.”
Still, Kern said Faulconer’s task will be to broaden his appeal to neighborhoods and groups that favored Alvarez but “not so much as to scare the hard GOPers.”
There are going to be areas of conflict between the council and the mayor, namely the conflict over the Barrio Logan Community Plan, a developer challenged ordinance raising fees for large projects and hopes of raising the minimum wage.
I predict the new mayor will rely on his allies in the business sector to do the heavy lifting in leading opposition on these issues. Perhaps the Lincoln Club will finance some post-apocalyptic TV ads showing the Navy steaming out of harbor forever, downtown in ruins and starving employees locked out of fast food joints by evil automatons.
I also predict the new mayor will prevail on most if not all these issues in the face of an opposition both divided and demoralized. This could, of course, change, but I’ll believe it when I see actual leadership (and funding) emerging from any of the sectors of the Democratic party.
Open Government Types Fights Back
iMayor Todd Gloria’s last minute announcement of a new city policy requiring deletion of emails older than one year has not pleased local advocates of open government policies.
The news was immediately met with skepticism and outrage from journalists and public watchdogs.
“Emails clearly fall within the definition of a public record,” he wrote. “Further, city records are required to be retained for a minimum of two years…Destruction of public records may also be punishable criminally.”
The justification for creating this new policy was financial concerns, with a spokesperson for Gloria’s saying “If the City of San Diego were to continue with an indefinite e-mail retention period, we would need to look at replacing the archive system in the next fiscal year (and no funding was requested for FY 2015). “One time costs to replace our Nearpoint system range from $400k-$500k.”
Local technology types with Open San Diego have launched a petition urging that this matter be reconsidered. From the body of that entreaty:
This suggested cost is significantly out of line with our experiences. Based on our calculations, you could implement a cloud solution that maintains a 10 year archive of emails for 11,000 city employees2 for an annual cost of $96,0003.
Maintaining local storage would likely cost even less.
The suggestion that storing email is burdensome is a holdover from an era when records were stored in filing cabinets. Keeping an accessible archive of emails is relatively inexpensive. Moreover, it’s essential for city employees to perform their jobs as well as making it possible for San Diegans to understand how their government is working for them.
City Councilman David Alvarez has also asked for a discussion of this matter before the City Council, saying “I believe it conflicts with the spirit of several open government laws.”
The policy is scheduled to become effective March 28th. Sign the petition and/or call your councilperson. Today.
Downsizing on the Books for Balboa Centennial
It would appear as though the people behind Balboa Park Celebration, Inc., are getting concerned about calls for transparency in the face of various news media reports of fundraising failures and organizational dysfunction.
They hustled up a sneak peek at their current financial report for NBC7 reporter Gene Cubbison. According to his report, the group plans to post the certified financial details on their website within the next week or so, though they maintain that it’s not required to make the disclosure under the California Public Records Act.
The chairman revealed that the operation is cash-starved, based on “working numbers” from their auditors for the eight months ending on January 31. As a result, plans for the celebration are being shrunk….
…The original vision for the centennial carried a potential price tag of $50 million, according to planners who were urged to “think big, think globally.”
The starting concept included a series of major productions to attract a global audience of visitors, as well as locals, but corporations and philanthropists wouldn’t back the $50 million sponsorship costs.
The latest production team has outlined backup plans ranging from $22 million to $2 million. With assets and liabilities now balanced at under $600,000, the $2 million plan seems most do-able, planners said.
Meanwhile, citizen activists whose critiques have helped bring this matter into the open, continue to press their claims.
David Lundlin has written to the Tourism Marketing District board (the primary funding mechanism for the centennial) asking for their assistance in getting BCPI to respond in a timely fashion to California Public Records Act requests.
The NBC story included Ben Clay, chairman of the Balboa Park Celebration Inc., asserting that public outreach was part of the planning process. I guess that’s true, depending on who you consider the public to be.
George Mullin emailed me a UT-San Diego story from back in 2012 recounting a five person delegation dispatched to Panama aiming to get the local government to consider putting together a centennial proposal.
So in the age of email, cellphones, facebook, and twitter…why did FIVE PEOPLE need to go all the way to PANAMA to discuss some vague idea about having Panama involved in the Centennial??? Couldn’t leadership have already determined Panamanian interest via email and such?…and had an actual proposal in hand for the meeting? I’m sure one or two people could have handled a personal meeting as well.
Lord only knows what or if taxpayers paid for this (and probably other) junkets. What we do know is an organization whose executives were making six figure salaries has yet to produce anything tangible in the way of plans for an event scheduled to begin in 10 months.
Balboa Park Celebration Inc maintains that it’s not required to disclosure internal documents under the California Public Records Act.
Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg
An initiative to break California into six states has been cleared to gather signatures, and wealthy Silicon Valley supporter Timothy Draper hopes it will make the ballot this coming November.
Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik took a closer look at this idea and generally thinks it’s a bad idea.
Draper’s roots in Silicon Valley inevitably raise the suspicion that his goal is to preserve the economic advantages of his home region by sloughing off the burden imposed on its residents by other, less vibrant, parts of the state. His proposed state of Silicon Valley would incorporate everything from San Francisco to Monterey, Santa Cruz and the East Bay.
He says that’s not so, but as the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office observes, not only would Silicon Valley be the richest new state, but the Central Valley state of Central California — Fresno, Merced, etc. — would instantly become the poorest state in the nation, with an annual per capita income $150 less than that of Mississippi.
Draper dismisses that finding. “All six will be among the richest states in the country,” he declares, “though that might be 10 years down the road.” The key, he says, is that their citizens will be so close to their governments that “some sacred cows will go away and special interests might fade into the distance. They’re going to be created in modern terms.”
It turns out that Draper’s optimism is based upon the economic model forged by the nation of Singapore. As Hiltzik points out, that nation-state’s rise as an economic forces was “fueled by a rigidly and centrally managed economy and a government that ruthlessly punishes dissent.”
Draper’s idea has the surface sheen of an easy, obvious solution to government complexity, but there are far more direct and cheaper ways to achieve his goals. It’s true that Californians have lost contact with their government as more budgeting and administration has been upstreamed to Sacramento.
But that’s not because California’s big; it’s because the financing strictures of Proposition 13 forced the state government into the role of the chief disburser of money to local governments and school boards. That’s taken decision-making for everything from pothole repair to art and music classes out of the hands of the locals.
But you hardly have to create six whole new states to give it back; you need to restructure the tax and budgeting system — not an easy job, but a lot easier than the one Draper advocates.
And then there are all the other inconvenient details with breaking the state into six parts, like water rights and that pesky requirement that nay such move would have to be approved by the US Congress.
The UT-San Diego editorial board is upset with the Service Employees International Union over the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act, a ballot initiative that would cap a hospital’s gross charges at no more than 25 percent above the actual cost of providing care.
They say it’s about intimidation and bullying, along with “microscopic bureaucratic oversight/harassment.” They call it “blackmail” and “extortion” to force hospitals to accept conditions allowing SEIU and easier shot at organizing workers.
Of course if hospitals would simply show a little transparency about their prices and costs, like dispensing Tylenol that costs .015 cents and charging $1.50 or saline with 1000X mark up, maybe there wouldn’t be any public interest in such a measure. Just sayin…
On This Day: 1908 – The U.S. government declared open war on on domestic anarchists. 1931 – The first jazz record to sell a million copies was recorded. It was “Minnie The Moocher” by Cab Calloway. 1991 – Rodney King was severely beaten by Los Angeles police officers. The scene was captured on amateur video.
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