Thursday, January 15, 2009
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders struck a realistic tone in last night’s State of the City address. He touched on the city’s precarious financial situation, its dwindling water supply and called on residents to step up if they want to make things better. KPBS reporter Katie Orr has details.
The Mayor wasted no time in laying out the challenges facing San Diego. He spoke in front of a large crowd at the Balboa Theater downtown. Sanders began by addressing the financial situation. The city cut 870 jobs and reformed the pension system. But Sanders says the recession has shrunk the general fund revenues and raised pension fund payments. He says no one should expect help from the State.
Sanders: This year an even larger deficit loom, Sacramento is more likely to hurt us than help us and we’ll again need to make painful decisions. That scenario could repeat itself, next year and the year after.
Less money in the city coffers also will also means fewer city services. Sanders says citizens enjoy and demand things like libraries, park facilities and trash pick-up. But he says people may take those services for granted.
Sanders: What draws so many people here is our quality of life. Yet many view our quality of life as a birthright, rather than something that needs to be sustained through determination and even sacrifice.
But less money does not mean the Mayor wants to curtail development. He says his office will move forward on an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. And he says he’s hopeful a deal with the San Diego Unified School District will finally produce a new Central Library. Sanders also hopes to tap into the regions abundant supply of sunshine by boosting the city’s solar power capacity. But all that sunny weather has also meant drought for the past few years. And Sanders emphasized that time is running out for voluntary water conservation.
Sanders: By this spring, we will most likely need to move to a Level 2 Water Emergency, in which conservation is mandatory and wasteful water practices are not just discouraged, but will have financial consequences.
There was a lot of applause from the audience throughout the speech. And the Mayor’s address seemed to be well received from several city council members. District 2 Councilman Kevin Faulconer says Sanders stuck the right tone.
Faulconer: I will tell you, I was, really appreciative on the, on the focus that the Mayor had on the future, the need to make tough decisions. But the optimism that, knows that we can get in done as San Diegan if all of us work together, business, labor, the council.
District 4 Councilman Tony Young agreed with the focus of the speech. He’s optimistic the Mayor and Council will be able to work together to deal with the city’s challenges in the coming year. And he appreciated the Mayor’s vision.
Young: He was very frank. He really hit the issue that I thought was the most important, which was the budget. And the fact that we don’t have enough money to pay for the resources that we have traditionally provided.
Sanders ended his speech by saying he’s approaching the coming year with optimism. And he offered citizens a little perspective, saying deciding what to build and how to spend money aren’t life or death issues, but rather, quality of life issues. He says on the city’s worst day, people living in San Diego are better off than many others.
Katie Orr, KPBS News.