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Todd Gloria Discusses “Reform Before Revenue” And Prop. 8 Ruling

Audio

Aired 8/5/10

San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria joins us today to talk about two of the biggest news stories of the week. We will discuss the council's approval of the "reform before revenue" ballot measure. And, we'll also talk to Councilmember Gloria about Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker's decision to overturn Proposition 8.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. A ballot measure that San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says is unlike any the state has seen before has been approved by the San Diego City Council. The measure proposes a half-cent sales tax increase that is contingent on enacting a package of financial reforms. Supporters are calling the measure Reform Before Revenue and with yesterday's 6-to-2 city council vote, it will appear on the ballot in November. We’ll talk about what’s in this reform package and what it’s promising city voters. I’d like to welcome my guest, San Diego City Council member Todd Gloria. Thank you for coming in.

TODD GLORIA (Member, San Diego City Council): Thanks for including me.

CAVANAUGH: Now, I think that we could agree that this past week has been pretty dramatic at city hall. What has this whole debate over the city’s economic situation done, do you think, for San Diego?

GLORIA: Well, I think it’s focused us on what the real problem is, which is that for too long, I think, people have been standing in their respective corners and not willing to come together for the good of the city. And what we have been able to do with Mayor Sanders, council member Donna Frye and myself, leading this charge of trying to come up with a pragmatic plan that addresses the reforms that we need to reduce the cost of government and revenue that’s necessary to maintain essential services in our city, and that’s what we’re putting forward and that’s what the voters will have a choice on when they go to the ballot in November.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as you say, you’re calling it Reform Before Revenue, the revenue part of the measure is pretty clear, it’s a half-cent increase in the sales tax. But what’s the reform part of this measure?

GLORIA: Well, there’s 10 key reforms but I should also mention this is a temporary, five-year sales tax increase and that’s meant to get us through this difficult recession, which is the primer driver behind a lot of the cuts that we’re seeing. But the 10 reform measures are reform measures that we’ve been working on for some time that the public have asked us to do, whether that’s implementation of managed competition, the reduction to employee compensation in the form of our pensions and some of the fringe benefits that they receive, to getting – outsourcing a number of functions like the Miramar Landfill, rebidding our IT services, a number of cost-cutting measures that, when implemented, we think will realize real savings for the city and then – but that’ll take a while to implement. And what we’re looking for with the new revenue piece is to help get us – bridge that gap until the full savings can be achieved and so that we can get the city through this time without making massive layoffs of uniformed police officers and firefighters, closing libraries and rec centers. That’s a step too far, and I think it’s beyond what most San Diegans are willing to tolerate.

CAVANAUGH: Now, critics point to some of these reforms like the outsourcing that you mentioned and said – say voters already approved that, city council hasn’t moved on it. I know that there’s some debate about that.

GLORIA: Yes, there is.

CAVANAUGH: But the idea of why, indeed, is this involved in a package of reforms that goes along with a sales tax increase when voters have already sort of nudged you along that path towards outsourcing to begin with.

GLORIA: Well, we’ve been working that direction but I think the key is the leverage that this provides to get us to realize and move forward and implement. You know, we have been working in that direction but the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, we can manage competition, absolutely everything that’s available at the city and not save enough money to fill the gap that we’re currently looking at. And so voters need to understand that. You know, we have about half – about $500 million worth of city services that are competition eligible. You know, if you received a 5 or 10% savings, which is what I understand is generally what’s achieved through privatization, you’re talking about $50 million. And our budget deficit for next year is in excess of $70 million. It could be far north of that, so it’s not a real solution to the problem but we’re committed to implementing it. But the fact of the matter is, is the new revenue is also necessary. But we heard loud and clear, I think, from those who typically are tax adverse that they want to see a series of reforms and so we put those in. And the tax will not be levied unless those 10 reforms are realized, and that’s important. I think the voters need to understand that we are serious about reform and about cutting the cost of government.

CAVANAUGH: Now, who is going to determine if those reform goals have been met before the sales tax increase goes into effect?

GLORIA: Well, our city auditor is, our independent city auditor, Eduardo Luna, will be tasked with doing that. The mayor will – office will provide the data or the sort of information and then he’ll make that certification. And he, you know, is not a politician. He doesn’t have to face election. And so we’re taking that out of the political realm to allow someone who very frequently comes to council and tells us things we don’t want to hear necessarily, you know, about where we’re falling short in the city. And we expect him to do that again, and if he doesn’t certify it then we can’t proceed with levying that tax. And so what the – I think the best thing about all of this is that it really incentivizes absolutely everybody on all sides of the spectrum to get the job done because if we don’t, we’re going to see massive reductions to central services in the city.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria and we are talking about the half-cent sales tax increase financial reform ballot measure that was approved by the city council yesterday. And I know that you, Todd Gloria, you voted for the sales tax increase when it was just the sales tax increase.

GLORIA: Correct.

CAVANAUGH: And I’m wondering if you think that this package is a better ballot measure than the last one?

GLORIA: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. You know, I think Donna Frye did us all a favor when she asked us to put on the brakes and give it some more thought. And so we spent almost two weeks—it was a flurry of activity but it was the most transparent process I think that we’ve ever seen in the city about a real dialogue around the financial challenges that we have and really inviting everyone to the table. And what we did was take, you know, my concerns about new revenue, and if you look at the Kroll Report and SEC, absolutely everyone has told us, San Diego, get your act together. You need new revenue in order to solve your budget problems. And so I’ve tried to champion that particular issue because I want to solve the budget problem for real. I don’t want to continue to, you know, do fancy Sacramento-style bait and switch routines that just prolong our pain forever. But Donna’s, you know, noted that the voters are skeptical and that they need to see reform. And so what we did is, we listened. We listened to our colleagues on – who wanted to see managed competition, we listened to the mayor who wants to see additional reductions to employee compensation and we put those all in a package that says you got to do these first before you can get the new revenue. And it represents a compromise on my part because I, you know, I obviously was willing to move forward with new revenue on its own but I think essentially what we’ve come up with is a far stronger package that can show the voters that we are dead serious about reform but also very much needing that new revenue in order to maintain those essential services.

CAVANAUGH: And there have been a range of people who have spoken out in support of this new reform package. Tell us about that.

GLORIA: Well, you know, that’s – that’s exactly right. Because I think we’ve been so inclusive and so transparent, we have been able to build a coalition that I think is really impressive. Six council members, Mayor Sanders, we have seen support from our labor unions and, just yesterday, we had a number of people from the business community who had originally come out saying that they were deadset against this to now saying they’re open to it and they’re going to look closely and work with us to try and make it better. So I think we’re building a coalition that is indicative of what I think San Diegans always want, which is a pragmatic, practical approach to the way that they – we do government here. And it represents recognition that reasonable people can come to the middle and solve a real problem, and it goes back to what I was saying before where I think a large part of our problem for a lot of years now has been people not willing to do that, to just stand in their corner and holler and yell at one another and not really solve the problem. And what we’re doing today with now the Mayor, Donna and I putting this forward, is something that I think is just a very moderate, reasonable package that can, again, solve a number of our city’s financial challenges in the long run while injecting the new revenue we need to preserve our core city functions like police and fire.

CAVANAUGH: Now how important do you think it is to have the mayor’s support on this?

GLORIA: Well, I think it’s critical. I think for a couple of reasons. Number one is, I think he’s done an outstanding job as mayor and I think people know that he has worked very hard to put the city back on a strong financial footing but he’s also someone who ran saying that he would not support new taxes. And I think what he’s saying is, is that he’s done many reforms. We have a commitment now to do many more. But we need this additional revenue. And, you know, I think that the mayor is known for his leadership and his leadership on this issue will be very helpful in, I think, convincing the voters that this is the right thing to do.

CAVANAUGH: Now, opponents, critics…

GLORIA: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …like Councilman Carl DeMaio, are calling this plan ‘a dash for cash.’ They are saying that it’s not – these reforms are not real reforms and that we’re just – the city council is just going to the voters for money.

GLORIA: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Now, I don’t – I’m not asking you to respond point by point to those criticisms but I want to make a larger issue and that is this feeling against any kind of tax request – this tax request, a sales tax hike, is very deep in San Diego’s bones.

GLORIA: Umm-hmm. Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: I mean, we just don’t like tax increases here. So how do you overcome that hurdle?

GLORIA: Well, nobody does. I certainly don’t either, you know, but we know that there’s a cost to government. You know, there is a cost to getting a police officer on your doorstep when you need one, to let the water come out of the faucet when you turn it on. I mean, there’s a cost to what we do. And I think what we’re seeing now in terms of the opposition is that there are simply some folks who will never ever, under any circumstance, for, really, ideological and partisan reasons not support any kind of new revenue. And when those folks asked for these reforms, we put it in there. They demanded Reform Before Revenue, we’ve done that. We can’t levy the tax until the reforms have been implemented and certified by our independent city auditor. They’re the ones who asked for managed competition to be implemented. That’s in there. They want to see additional reductions our employee compensation and pensions. That’s in there. And so we’ve heard them. We’ve implemented them and included it into our package and yet they’re still in opposition. And so, you know, I can’t play that game, you know, of this sort of, you know, partisanship that you see in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. You know, it’s a nothing for either of those locations. And so we really shouldn’t have that on the local level. At the end of the day, the municipal government is about filling potholes and getting firefighters to your house when you need one, and there’s really not a partisan angle to that. And I think that when you look at the package that Donna, the mayor and I put forward, Republicans and Democrats putting together, you know, it’s something in there – It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, there’s real concessions on the part of labor, myself, you know, I’m – that I’ve seen that I’m not particularly 100% happy with it, but it’s a compromise and it moves the ball forward and it helps get the city on a stronger financial footing. So, you know, I understand that there are some people that simply just are tax averse but as they advocate that position, if that’s realized, if that’s what we achieve is, you know, defeating this measure, we’re going to have to make substantial reductions to essential city services and I don’t think people support that either.

CAVANAUGH: I hope you won’t be offended if I say we’re not used to seeing the San Diego City Council move quite this quickly, I must say. And I’m wondering what is it that you heard during the debate about the city’s financial state that prompted you and perhaps other members on the council to move quickly on this ballot measure to get it before voters in November?

GLORIA: Well, we had a deadline. Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, right? We had to put forward something by this Friday if we wanted to make it for the November ballot. And what we know is that without new revenue, next year’s budget, the fiscal year 2012 budget, will contain massive reductions to police, fire, libraries and rec centers. And we at least have to give the voters the opportunity to choose. And if we didn’t come up with a package of reforms and revenue by this Friday, we would have missed that deadline and so the decision would have been made. You know, we would have to make those cuts and the voters would never have gotten the opportunity. So that deadline helped focus us. I was somewhat frustrated because for – since I’d got into office, you know, I’d been talking a lot about the fact that new revenue would be necessary if we’re to keep the city in the shape that we want it in but, you know, that’s a difficult conversation oftentimes for elected officials to have. But this deadline helped really focus us and I think Donna’s leadership and the mayor have been really helpful in getting us to a place where I think the reasonable people can meet in the middle and get the job done.

CAVANAUGH: I want to switch gears, if I can, for a moment now because, Todd Gloria, you’re past chairman of San Diego’s LGBT Community…

GLORIA: Umm-hmm. Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …Center, and I know that you released a statement yesterday on the overturning of Proposition 8. I’d like you to share your thoughts about that.

GLORIA: Well, it’s a – it was a great day. It was a wonderful day. You know, obviously, as an openly gay man, you know, when Proposition 8 passed, it hurt personally. You know, it hurt my heart because it made me think that a majority of Californians didn’t want me and people like me to have full equality. And what this ruling does is it reminds us all that in America, we all are to be treated the same and that you can’t have a separate and unequal system of marriage in this country. And the judge’s ruling was extremely eloquent, I think, and just very affirming to those of us that have relationships that don’t match the traditional mold that has been looked at by government and saying, again, just under our Constitution, we’re all the same. And that’s what yesterday was about, it was just very emotional, overwhelming and I’m just overjoyed.

CAVANAUGH: Did you have – I know you’ve been very busy lately. Have you had a chance to read the ruling?

GLORIA: I read some excerpts of it and it’s just extremely – it’s exquisite. You know, the passages that I’ve read about, you know, that the other side just simply could not make a plausible argument for why we should be denied this equality under the law. You know, we’re simply asking for the same recognition that everyone else gets. And what we know is that from marriage, you get a thousand rights – are conveyed to married couples that folks who aren’t married don’t receive. And you cannot confer those rights or those responsibilities on one set of people and not another. And so, yeah, that’s going to be a part of my weekend reading, I think, just to – because it is that – it is worth the read. But the other thing important to note is that we know it’s not over. But last night, you know, we had almost 2,000 of San Diegans come together and celebrate and the energy was great and I think it’s going to help sustain us for the fight that lies ahead.

CAVANAUGH: And tell – I’d like you to speculate a little bit on the fight that lies ahead because it sounds as if, from what I understand, that this decision has been stayed…

GLORIA: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …or will soon be stayed and there are plans – look like there are going to be more legal challenges.

GLORIA: Well, of course, and I would acknowledge that if we lost, we probably would’ve made – We would make the same effort. You know, this is a difficult issue and it represents substantial change. But when you look at countries like Mexico and Argentina and other – Spain, places that have conferred this right, places that you might not be – might not think would do it before the United States would, we know that this is where the world is going. And, you know, my ability to marry the person that I love has no implication on my neighbor. It doesn’t – the world does not end. You know, Argentina did not fall into the ocean…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

GLORIA: …when they legalized this. And ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s a good thing for our city, our state, our country when people are allowed to love the person that they love, to live in a committed relationship, to raise families, to pay taxes, and I think that’s at the essence of what that decision was yesterday, that when we treat everybody the same we are living up to our values as Americans and we’re creating a better community.

CAVANAUGH: Your very career as an openly gay politician in San Diego would’ve been unthinkable within a person’s lifetime.

GLORIA: Correct.

CAVANAUGH: And now we see that the Prop 8 has been overturned.

GLORIA: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: It may mean that, indeed, same sex marriage is going to be legal in California for…

GLORIA: It will.

CAVANAUGH: And I’m wondering, if there are any other civil rights barriers for gay people that you would like to see knocked down?

GLORIA: Oh, absolutely. You know, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the – precluding people, LGBT people, from serving openly in the military needs to end. I think we’re getting closer every day to that happening. We know that there are real issues when it comes to employment discrimination, hate crimes, even on the local level, you know, right now I’m currently carrying legislation that is called the Equal Benefits Ordinance. As we look to privatizing a lot of city services, the city for a long time has had domestic partner benefits, and I want to make sure that as we contract out the services that contractors are expected to treat their employees the same whether they’re gay or they’re straight. The idea being that, you know, if you have two city contractors sitting next to one another, one’s straight and gets a multitude of benefits which essentially adds to more pay, next to a gay contractor who gets nothing by comparison, well, that’s not fair. And so we want equal pay for equal work and so on a local level we’re working on that. But certainly on the state and national level, there’s much more work to be done. Marriage just happens to be at the forefront now but, you know, we have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a lot of time. You know social change takes a long, long time but, as you said, you know, growing up—and I had a teacher tell me once that gay people could never serve in office. And I remember sort of scratching my head about that. And here I am. So we know that things can change. It just takes time.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you so much for speaking with us today.

GLORIA: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: We had a lot to talk about with San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria. Maybe next time we can take some calls.

GLORIA: Love to.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. And I want to let everyone know a programming note, that Monday on These Days we wish you will join us as we discuss what the ruling overturning Prop 8 means for California and what comes next for both supporters and opponents of the federal court decision. That’s Monday morning right here on These Days here on KPBS. If you’d like to comment, go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Coming up, we’ll find out what San Diego’s new water recycling pilot program is all about, that’s as These Days continues here on KPBS.

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