Sanders Focuses On Finances, Development In State Of City
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders wants to get the city back on track financially in the next 18 months. Sanders spoke about his goals for San Diego in his State of the City speech Wednesday night.
The mayor didn’t waste any time explaining how San Diego should fix its financial problems. The city recently closed a $180 million budget gap. But future deficits are projected for at least five more years. Still, Sanders said the city’s situation isn’t as bad as some critics believe.
“Hard times give rise to extremist views, but we’ve experienced nothing that warrants the simplistic arguments you hear for bankruptcy, or for decimating our services, or for pinning our hopes on pension take-backs that courts have said are illegal,” he said.
Sanders said he’ll take the next 18 months to develop a plan to fix San Diego’s structural budget problem. The city spends more money than it takes in. The mayor also touched on the pension. San Diego paid a record breaking $154 million into its pension fund last year. But Sanders said reforms are already in place. (Story continues below)
“Under our hybrid pension system begun last year for new hires, costs are cut, excessive perks are eliminated and no one will again receive a pension that takes advantage of the taxpayers,” he said.
And Sanders promised to look out for taxpayers as the city considers several major development projects. He supports expansion of the downtown convention center. He said that brings millions of dollars to San Diego and creates thousands of jobs. The mayor said a new central library and new city hall could also enhance the quality life for San Diegans. But he said the city will walk away from the projects if they undercut the general fund. Still, Sanders urged compromise when talking about the possibility of using taxpayer money to help build a new Chargers football stadium.
“The current focus is on using a stadium as a catalyst to extend redevelopment east of downtown, in the same way that Petco Park brought $1.7 billion in construction and economic activity to East Village,” he said.
Sanders said the stadium issue needs to be resolved. He said if a deal is reached it could go before the voters as soon as 2012.
Councilman Carl DeMaio said the convention center expansion could be good for the city. But he said San Diego shouldn’t be thinking about other major development projects right now.
“We need to keep our focus on fixing the financial problems and laying the ground work for community infrastructure,” he said. “Some of these other projects, like a new city hall, I don’t think is the right priority nor do I think it’s financially advisable.”
Lorena Gonzalez liked hearing the mayor talk about large development projects. The leader of the San Diego Labor Council said the projects would put more middle class people to work. But she disagreed with Sanders on another point. She said labor unions have not been preventing San Diego from outsourcing some city services.
“The unions have actually pushed for some clear rules on managed competition. We’ve asked for them to move forward on rules that were previously agreed to by the mayor’s office. We keep that position, she said. “We want to see these rules put in place. And to make sure that when managed competition is implemented, that it’s implemented in a fair way that protects health care, workers that are currently working and that it’s good for everybody.”
The City Council’s Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin wanted Sanders to go into more detail about how to fix the city’s budget problems.
“I didn’t think he was specific at all. I was looking for more details about what he really plans for the next 18 months to eliminate the structural budget deficit,” she said.
Tevlin said her office recently made some suggestions and she wanted to hear about some of them in the mayor’s speech. Sanders did say the city council hasn’t been afraid to make tough decisions, even if those decisions are unpopular. And he sees more tough decisions ahead.