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Measure To Fix San Diego Roads Moves Closer To Ballot

Photo caption:

Photo by Claire Trageser

A San Diego worker fills a pothole in the South Park neighborhood on April 29, 2014.

The City Council on Tuesday directed the City Attorney's Office to draft final language for proposed ballot measures that would revise San Diego's obsolete City Charter, including a plan to pay for future infrastructure projects.

The decisions on whether to actually place the measures on the June ballot will be considered by the council at a future meeting. Amendments to the charter — the city's primary governing document — require a public vote.

A modified version of Councilman Mark Kersey's "Rebuild San Diego" plan, which seeks to amend the charter to dedicate future sales tax growth and money from reduced pension payments toward neighborhood upgrades, was supported on a 7-2 vote.

The funding formula would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, a common measure of inflation, over the next 25 years.

Kersey, chairman of the council's Infrastructure Committee, said the backlog of capital projects and maintenance is "the biggest crisis facing the city right now."

Past councils ignored the need to fix up streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks, libraries, recreation centers, and police and fire stations, but wouldn't be able to anymore if his plan is enacted, Kersey said.

"What we've come up with is a dedicated funding stream that is able to be used for both the deferred maintenance backlog — which we know is enormous — as well as the new projects that we know we're going to need," he said.

A definition of infrastructure included in the council action precludes the revenue from being used on a new football stadium or convention center project.

Additionally, language will be added to clarify that the money won't be spent on building new fire stations if a bond measure proposed by Councilwoman Marti Emerald for the November election passes. If her proposal fails, funding would be made available for fire station construction, as well as maintenance.

Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria opposed moving forward with crafting of the final ballot language.

Alvarez said Rebuild San Diego falls short of what the city could accomplish in the next five years.

Gloria said the proposal would not solve the infrastructure problem and would lock up the general fund — which pays for basic city services such as public safety and libraries — for decades.

"This measure would starve non-infrastructure-related city services like the Police Department, fire department and lifeguards for the funds they may need sometime in the future," Gloria said. "You can imagine if public safety would be starved for money, what will happen to other services like code compliance, tree trimming and library hours."

He said San Diego could wind up with new fire stations and libraries without having enough money for firefighters and libraries to staff them.

The measure would include an opt-out provision in case a future recession reduces city revenues. The provision would kick in with a vote of two- thirds of council members.

The plan doesn't include a tax increase, so if it goes on an election ballot, it would require only a simple majority for passage.

Other proposed ballot measures advanced by the City Council were the product of the panel's Charter Review Committee, and generally have to do with updating language in a host of provisions.


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