Business Group Wants Guaranteed Reforms In Addition To Prop.D
A group of local business leaders released a report this week calling for the city to commit to a number of fiscal reforms to go along with Proposition D. What kind of reforms are the business leaders calling for? And, how important will support from the business community be to the Prop. D campaign?
David Rolland, editor of San Diego CityBeat.
Teresa Connors, Regional News Editor for the North County Times.
Alisa Joyce Barba, independent editor with NPR member stations.
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
GLORIA PENNER (Host): But let’s move on to what else is going to be on the ballot of the people, the voters of the City of San Diego. They have a proposition on the November ballot which promises to bring in an extra $100 million to the cash-poor, deficit-ridden general fund of the City of San Diego. What? They want to raise the city sales tax by half of one percent but before the sales tax can go into effect, ten conditions have to be met. Now, according to a task force, those conditions need more teeth. So, David, first of all, where did this task force come from?
DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, San Diego CityBeat): I believe this is a group of business people, civic minded business people who have been involved for years in civic affairs in San Diego and I believe they were put together by a very – by Jerry Sanders a year or so ago to help him navigate these rough waters.
PENNER: So this is the same task force that existed last year.
ROLLAND: I believe so.
PENNER: And it’s kind of resurfaced.
ROLLAND: I think so.
PENNER: And it does represent the business community.
ROLLAND: Yeah, and it’s – their leader is Vince Mudd, who has been involved in, you know, the business community and in the Chamber of Commerce and that sort of thing and is a fairly well respected guy. And their report essentially kind of ripped into both sides of the Prop D debate and the reason it did that is because it provided even starker, more daunting numbers than we’ve really been throwing around. We’ve been throwing around this number of $72-$73 million as the deficit heading into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st, 2011. We’ve been throwing around $72-$73 million as that number that we’ve got to close. So when the Prop D people say – the Yes on D people say, well, we’re going to – if you vote yes on this tax increase it’s going to give us another $103 million, which will allow us to restore some cuts, particularly in the fire department, where we currently have rolling brownouts and not enough fire coverage. They’re saying, look, you’ve got to include the retiree healthcare deficit in this city. It’s un – it’s largely unfunded and it is spiraling upward, it’s going to get worse. So they’re saying $103 million ain’t gonna do it. And like you said in your intro, you’ve got to get – you’ve got to be serious about the reforms that are talked about in the ballot measure.
PENNER: Okay, so, Alisa, the ballot measure is already created, it’s on the ballot. Along comes a task force and says we need more teeth in this. So what do they want? Do they want the city to commit to the task force report? Or do they want the ballot measure rewritten or what?
ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Independent Consultant, NPR News): They’re looking to the mayor and to the city council to come up with some resolutions that – they’re non-binding resolutions but that’s – they cannot change the writing, what’s in the proposition. What’s in the proposition, which only has to be passed by a simple majority is that if they fulfill these ten requirements they will have the sales tax on all sales in the city for the next five years. That will generate a certain amount of income and that income will go into the general fund. They are saying that the – many of the proceeds will be able to restore these city services. That’s always kind of the scary thing that they put out there like, you know, your fire – your fire station will be closed, the police will be closed. But there’s nothing binding them to put them to that, and they could just go to pay this pension deficit and that’s the concern is that it’s window dressing, that it’s not really solving anything and it doesn’t really – it puts a bandaid on a gaping wound.
PENNER: Well, part of it, of course, Teresa, you come from North County where North County has had a lot of issues with the business versus labor going on there. Now this is a strong business group and if the council and the mayor embrace these changes coming in from a strong business group, can we see that the business community, which has kind of been a little fretful about the idea of Proposition D and making these changes, can we see them pouring some money into Proposition D to get it passed?
TERESA CONNORS (News Editor, North County Times): Proposition D is absolutely mind boggling. When you ask taxpayers to vote for a sales tax increase, that’s a daunting enough task in itself. To couch that, to frame that in a measure that has 9, 10 conditions attached to it, asking them to not only buy in but understand that, really, I think, really sets it up for failure. I mean, it’s…
PENNER: You raise such an interesting issue and we only have minutes left but I’m going to quickly throw it out to our listeners. Do you understand Proposition D? What would make you vote for or against it if you are a City of San Diego voter? Let’s get that out on the table because I think you’ve raised a clear issue, Teresa. Alisa, what do you think? You think that the public really doesn’t understand what’s going on here?
BARBA: No, I don’t. I really don’t. I think that it’s tremendously complicated and I think what the public is going to see is the most simplistic things out there, which is – all I can see right now are – is No on D signs. I don’t see any Yes on D. I don’t see a strong argument out there that is – anybody’s paying attention to that says yes on D.
PENNER: 1-888-895-5727. It’s a race against the clock now but we can still take a call or two if you want to come in and talk to us about D. Let’s go back, David, because you’re the one who has read the report. When – Haven’t you? Yes, you have.
ROLLAND: I have.
PENNER: Okay, so…
ROLLAND: Don’t ask me to retain all of it but I read it.
PENNER: That’s right. You’re doing a good job. Right now, the whole idea is privatize, take city services and put them out to bid with the private sector, and it looks like they’re already starting to do that. The news today is that the publishing arm of the City of San Diego and the vehicle maintenance arm are going to be put out to bid. Now, is that a good thing?
ROLLAND: It’s a good thing for the Yes on D people so they can say that, yes, we are doing this. A few years ago, I think it was in 2006, voters passed Prop C, which said we want the City to privatize some services. And so the pro-privatization people have been hollering and screaming and yelling for years, saying you’re not complying with the will of the voters, you’re not outsourcing all these services. You know, it is a complicated process when you have to negotiate with unions who have the right to collective bargaining. And so they have a seat at the table and they’ve been working out this outsourcing guide, basically, which is the blueprint for how we’re going to outsource some of the city services.
PENNER: Okay, so let’s say that city officials, the council, the mayor, don’t accept the changes that the task force is recommending. Will we see the business community financing a No on Prop D campaign?
ROLLAND: That’s really the $73 million question, I suppose. Jerry Sanders asked and was granted a delay from the business folks in coming down with an endorsement on whether they’re going to say yes or no on…
PENNER: The Chamber of Commerce.
ROLLAND: Yeah, and they said, okay, we’ll delay because Jerry wanted some more time to make his case. So we will see. I think, you know, and the council is very cognizant of that. They are going – they’re docketing this report that we’ve been talking about for, I believe, Monday’s meeting. They’re going to talk about it. They’re going to pass a resolution saying, yeah, we’re down with what this report says, and the No on D people will say, well, that doesn’t matter because you can’t change what the proposition’s going to do and, you know. So we’ll see – we’ll see if they – if they can comply with what the business community wants to do.
PENNER: Excellent. Thank you very much. That’s David Rolland of San Diego CityBeat. Also with us today, thank you, Alisa Joyce Barba with NPR member stations, an independent editor, and Teresa Connors, regional news editor for the North County Times. Thanks to our listeners and our callers. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.