By Doug Porter
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a pile o’ promises in his decidedly optimistic State of the City speech last night.
“Never before has there been so much promise for our future,” said the Mayor. “After a decade of crises and crashes, San Diego is writing its comeback story and each of us has a line to contribute.”
Twin task forces will tackle paying for a football stadium and figuring out a way for locals to make enough money to afford tickets for seats at football games. Streets will be repaired, government will become more efficient and the city will have a year round facility for the homeless.
If the mayor had given a reality based speech at the Balboa Theater last night, he would had to deal with uncomfortable truths, like:
- The Independent Budget Analyst report saying the city is on track to end up $96.4 million behind the money he’s already proposed for infrastructure spending.
- Hundreds of San Diego Police officers are eligible for retirement and others are leaving at an alarming rate for better paying jobs elsewhere in law enforcement.
- Expansion in the local workforce by way of bringing in new industries–if such a thing happens– is likely to be filled by underemployed or workers who’ve simply quit looking.
- San Diego is not exempt from the forces within Congress looking to cut Social Security benefits, the reality of 35% of a workforce in positions with no pensions or companies encouraged by policy to outsource or use contract employees. (The middle class is shrinking because it’s the profitable path for corporate America)
- What the city would do –if wages actually did rise–about all the shuttered industries like fast food restaurants and hotels whose business model is predicated on low wages and government subsidies for their workforce.
I’d Like Some Meat with that Gravy
No mayor in his right mind would present a negative outlook in a State of the City speech. I get that. But platitudes won’t fill a dinner plate. They’re the gravy (or the salsa) that we’d like to have but can live without.
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria proposed specific legislation and executive actions in his speech last year along with his platitudes. And it’s not for lack of trying that they haven’t been achieved.
The Football Stadium
Mayor Faulconer said last night that by the end of January he will announce a task force of civic leaders to recommend a location and financing plan to replace Qualcomm Stadium. Only two locations are under consideration: Mission Valley and downtown as part of a convention center expansion.
From the Los Angeles Times:
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer promised Wednesday night that by this fall a plan will be ready for public consideration on building a new Chargers stadium and keeping “our football team” from moving to Los Angeles.
“At no point in San Diego’s history has the possibility of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles been more real,” Faulconer said in his State of the City address.
“It is time for us, as a community, to come together to decide the future of the Chargers in San Diego,” he said during a 35-minute speech that also dealt with civic issues of infrastructure, policing, reforming city’s finances, and outsourcing city government jobs.
Deja Vu, All Over Again
Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego pointed out that this sounded familiar:
In June 2002, the L.A. Times’ Tony Perry wrote that San Diego seemed like it was “rising to the challenge of preventing the Chargers football team from moving to Los Angeles.”
The big development was that Mayor Dick Murphy had formed a task force “to ponder how the city can keep the NFL team without unduly raiding the civic treasury.”
Perry might as well cut and paste the story this week.
Twelve years and a much-hyped first speech from Mayor Kevin Faulconer later, and that was the big news again: Faulconer is forming a new task force to, well, ponder how the city can keep the NFL team without unduly raiding the civic treasury.
And the football team’s spokesman wasn’t too thrilled. From UT-San Diego:
The mayor said the proposal would have to be “a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers,” but didn’t specify what kind of contributions from the city, in either resources or money, he could support.
The Chargers had little to say about Faulconer’s plan.
“After 13 — now going on 14 — years of work by the Chargers, the speech contained no specifics, and so there is nothing for us to comment on,” said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the team.
Democrats on the Council Respond
City Councilmembers Todd Gloria and David Alvarez issued what amounted to the local version of a rebuttal to Mayor Faulconer’s speech, saying in part:
In a speech about opportunity, the Mayor missed an opportunity tonight. San Diegans needed to hear that the city is going to stop hemorrhaging police officers to other jurisdictions. We needed to hear a comprehensive solution to our entire $3 billion infrastructure problem, and we needed to hear that he was going to help more San Diegans make ends meet…
…Since the Mayor is not offering solutions, we will work together on several measures to address the real challenges facing the city, including stabilizing the San Diego Police Department to allow officers to again focus on community policing, encouraging small business growth through appropriate city investment, and ensuring the city is supporting the education of local youth with appropriate programming and services.
Paying for the Mayor’s Promises
The Reader’s Don Bauder, who’s seen and heard more than a few State of the City speeches in his decades of reporting on San Diego politics, followed the money (or lack thereof) behind the current mayor’s agenda:
In November, Andrea Tevlin, independent budget analyst, said that the city’s infrastructure deficit is above $2 billion, more than double the level of 2012. And that doesn’t include added costs to satisfy new storm-water regulations or expenses for new infrastructure. Multiple measures to combat long-term drought and climate change are not included in that number.
“If you look at road repair, water and sewer lines, basic infrastructure, $2 billion sounds like a lowball figure,” says Steve Erie, professor of political science and director emeritus of the Urban Studies and Planning Program at the University of California San Diego. In the city of San Diego, “Infrastructure will always finish last competing with convention centers and subsidized sports stadiums. This is a town that has never figured out how to do infrastructure….”
…Independent budget analyst Tevlin says that to tackle the infrastructure problem, “It is clear that the city must find new revenue sources.” Compared to other cities, “San Diego’s fees and taxes are low.” To wit: San Diego’s sales tax is 8 percent; San Jose’s and San Francisco’s are 8.75 percent; Los Angeles’s 9.0; and Seattle’s 9.5. San Diego’s transit occupancy (hotel) tax is 12.5 percent; the Los Angeles rate is above 15 percent and San Francisco above 16. San Diego has no parking tax, but Los Angeles has one at 10 percent and San Francisco 25. San Diego has no utility users tax; many other cities have one from 1 to 11 percent. San Diego has free refuse collection; no other major California city does. San Diego’s storm-water fees are lower than those in other state cities.
Following Proposition 13, “Other California cities found new revenue sources. San Diego has not,” says Erie, lamenting the “tax averse” citizenry. The voters routinely reject bond issues. “As a result, San Diego infrastructure and public services suffer.”
Bauder also noted in the comments portion of the story:
For roughly six months before the ballpark vote in 1998, the U-T did not report on fire main breaks and other infrastructure breakdowns. Expect the same again.
And now for some (slightly amusing) news from our nation’s capitol…
Senators to Go on the Record on Climate Change
From The Hill:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet….
…The Sanders measure asks whether lawmakers agree with the overwhelming consensus of scientists who say climate change is impacting the planet and is worsened by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Democrats believe the measure could be a tough vote for some Republicans, particularly GOP senators running for reelection in 2016 in states carred by President Obama in 2012.
Elected officials should not be in the business of rejecting science. pic.twitter.com/adbctytvHy
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 8, 2015
Congressman Issa: Off the Wall, for Real This Time
Also from The Hill:
It appears new House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) really doesn’t want to sit in the shadow of his predecessor and fellow Republican, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
One of the Utah Republican’s first acts since taking over the Oversight gavel: Removing portraits of Issa and other past chairmen from the walls of the Oversight hearing room, committee sources told The Hill.
A Chaffetz spokeswoman said it’s much ado about nothing. But Issa allies see the move as a slap in the face to the last chairman, who tapped Chaffetz in 2011 as chairman of the Oversight subcommittee on national security. Issa’s likeness, they note, had only been hanging in Rayburn 2154 for two months….
….Chaffetz also made all Oversight committee staffers re-apply for their jobs and ended up replacing about 60 percent of the roughly 60 staffers who had served under Issa.
On This Day: 1870 – A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” appeared in “Harper’s Weekly.” The cartoon used the donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party for the first time. 1938 – The CIO miners’ union in the Grass Valley area of California struck for higher wages, union recognition, and the 8-hour day. The strike was defeated when vigilantes and law enforcement officials expelled 400 miners and their families from the area. 1967 – The Rolling Stones performed on TV’s “Ed Sullivan Show” and were forced to change their lyrics of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.”
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