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Roundtable: City Budget, Goldsmith Vs. Briggs, SANDAG And The Media

Faulconer proposes budget

CORRECTION: The original version of this story did not include new spending on police and the arts. The story has been updated.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Thursday released a proposed budget on Thursday that focuses most of its firepower on the nuts and bolts of the city: streets, sidewalks, street lights and flood control.

The $3.3 billion proposal also includes money for wetlands restoration in Mission Bay Park, youth employment, expanded hours at some recreation centers and homework help at libraries.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

Here are some of the highlights:

• $109 million for street repairs

• $372.7 million for infrastructure projects

• $130 million for the climate action plan

• $16.5 million for flood prevention

The general fund is budgeted to increase 3 percent, or $38 million — a slower increase than the recent past.

The budget also includes $8.3 million in funding for four police academies and $5.9 million for the second year of compensation increases in the five-year police contract. Also included: an increase of $1.4 million in arts and culture spending for a total of $14 million for 2017.

Photo caption: Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveils a $3.3 billion spending plan for the city of Sa...

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveils a $3.3 billion spending plan for the city of San Diego's next fiscal year, April 14, 2016.

Jan Goldsmith vs. Cory Briggs

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith really, really doesn’t like the so-called Citizens’ Plan to raise hotel taxes.

Goldsmith says the problems with the plan — created by San Diegans for Open Government, whose attorney is Cory Briggs — could force him to recommend that the City Council not place the measure on the November ballot and perhaps file suit to block it.

Attorney Cory Briggs says Goldsmith's analysis represents an attempt by the city to disenfranchise the voters.

Among the problems Goldsmith finds with the measure: It addresses more than one issue in violation of state law; it gives hoteliers improper control of city tax money; it widens the number of potential litigants against the city; and it includes a “poison pill” invalidating the entire measure if any provision is found illegal, which Goldsmith says would make it very difficult to sell bonds.

Briggs also announced this week that he had come to an agreement with the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, which he sued on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government. The tourism folks, however, said a settlement was news to them.

Photo caption: San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at council meeting February 25, 2014.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at council meeting February 25, 2014.

SANDAG and the media

The San Diego Association of Governments spent $500,000 in 2015 on outside consultants to help it craft a media strategy for its $200 billion transportation plan.

That fact might be unremarkable, except it is taxpayer money and the association already pays its own 12 communications professionals to the tune of $1 million a year.

The previous plan was panned four years ago by environmentalists, who sued over the lack of measures to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

The current plan has been panned for not focusing enough on public transit, so the message SANDAG wanted to get out was that the plan balanced spending for roads and public transit.

It is not unusual for public agencies to put out information on plans, actions and initiatives. But a public agency trying to shape media coverage to persuade the public by pitching stories and offering guests can be questionable.

The agency used social media with limited success and coordinated messages with elected officials. The SANDAG board unanimously approved the plan in October 2015.

Photo caption: Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.

Photo by Associated Press

Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.

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