Council President Discusses Budget Cuts Menu, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
San Diego City Council President Tony Young joins us to discuss the recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and to fill us in on the budget cuts the council is considering for next year. We'll also hear an update on the latest issues affecting Council District 4.
Tony Young, San Diego City Council President, and the representative for Council District 4
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CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The San Diego City Council says it's taking a pro active approach to cutting don San Diego's structural deficit problem. Instead of waiting for the release of mayor, JERRY sanders' budget proposal next month, council member want to come up with t heir own proposal in an effort to trim the $57 millon dollar budget shortfall. Joining me now to talk about the cuts being considered is my guest, San Diego City councilman, Tony Young.. And good morning, thank you for coming in.
YOUNG: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Now, before we get to the budget, councilman young, the city council voted, I just want to talk to you about this for a minute, on the much debated issue of regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries. What kind of regulations did the counsel vote to impose?
YOUNG: Well, what we tried to do is find a way to have these dispensaries be able to operate but in a way in which they didn't affect neighborhoods. And so what we identified were areas that were industrial areas where you can operate these facilities and then try to find a way to make sure that they are -- operate in a way that is safe for the public. So the motivation behind the regulations was to protect neighborhoods?
YOUNG: Well, the motivation is to find some type of regulation. At this point in time, before we voted there was -- essentially you could just spring one up wherever, almost. And there had been a proliferation of these facilities almost a hundred and 65 of them at last count that were all over the place. There was no regulation. So we had to come up with some kind of land use regulation. Now,ing, the council and the city don't have total over sight over these sites. It's a big mess because you have the state that was -- that has allow that allows these things to operate. But then you have the federal government that says they're illegal, and then you have a police department that has decided to pay more attention to the federal laws than the state laws, and then you only have a City Council that has the ability to focus on only a part of that, which is the land use regulation.
CAVANAUGH: So you had a marathon public comment session before you had this vote. What kind of response have you gotten to these new regulations since the vote?
YOUNG: Well, we have had mixed responses. There are certain facts that like the fact that they had easy access to these medical marijuana facilities, and then you had other individuals who felt that, well, listen we have to curb at least the access and the proliferation of these things. So you have an opinion from both sides. The proponents in regards to the users, the people who actually use these for medical purposes are very organized and very vocal. And I think we listened to them for about four and a half hour, and this is it a deliberation that has taken place for the last couple of years. And I believe that the council came up with the best decision that they could actually do.
CAVANAUGH: And when do these new regulations go into effect?
YOUNG: Right away.
CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with San Diego City Council president Tony Young. He represents district four in San Diego. And as I said in the opener. You and other council members are getting out in front of the budget this year, you are taking a proactive approach, and trying to find cuts before the mayor makes his budget cut proposals. Why are you doing that?
YOUNG: I think it's important for the council to establish itself as a leader when it comes to these fiscal issues also. As we become more mature into this council form of government, the council has to be strong also. And this allows the council to say, hey, these are our priorities, these are the things that we think are important when it comes to the budge. We understand that mayor has his ideas and he's going to present them to us, and that's fine; I look forward to it. But the council has traditionally waited for the mayor to say this is where we're gonna go. And I just don't believe that that's good for the citizens of San Diego, because it is a balanced budget proposal that I think we have to come together on at some point in time.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I know one of the big aims is to try to protect public safety, try to protect police, try to protect firefighters as much as possible. So what are some of the ideas that you are proposing to cut the city's budget?
YOUNG: I just want to make sure folks understand, we have been looking at these ideas for a couple of years of we have what you call a San Diego speaks program. When I was a budget chairman, we got out there and listened to the best ideas we could get from the public. We have met with labor unions, we have met with Vince Mudd's group who has a fiscal accountability group. We've met with Carl DeMaio, Carl DeMaio's ideas are on here. So basically all the ideas that we could get over the last two years, we put numbers next to them, how much money we could save, and we are close to almost $47 million when it comes to all of these ideas, none of them which total he impact the service levels that we provide to the citizens. The mayor's doing the same thing. Some of those ideas that we have, he might have in his ultimate budget proposal. And I think if we can put these things together, we request limit the amount of impact on how we provide services to the citizens of San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: Now, going through some of these budget cut proposal to save money for the City of San Diego are really surprising considering the crunch that we've been in for so long. Tell us about -- it's called the 4/10 proposal. It's for some city workers to work four days, ten hours, instead of 5 days, 8 hours. And that saves a lot of money.
YOUNG: It saves a lot of money. And I can't recall exactly how much it save, but it's gonna save millions of dollars, and that was one of the proposals, interesting enough, that came from our labor organizations. And so these are the types of things that are gonna help. And we're looking at all types of ideas that could come out. Like one example would be a seven percent cut in supplies and services just across the board. That could save us -- about $9 million. That's a number of fire engines that could be a library, that could be a park. And so we have to make these decisions based on, I think, a philosophy that the council might have. We have to say these are the things that are important to us, these are the services that we want to preserve, and this is how we could do it, and these proposals are the ones that wee gonna be putting forward to the mayor to say, hey, these are our ideas.
CAVANAUGH: One of the proposals the City Council is looking at may not, you know, really have a great deal of popular backing and I'm knowing of the one of charging people to park at city beaches and region parks. Tell us more about that, what that proposal would cover, and how much revenue the city would generate by charging for that parking.
YOUNG: We're not sure if that's gonna make it into the budget resolution. It still could be a discussion burg our budget process. That's one of the ideas we got from the public during our San Diego speech process. And it could save millions of dollars. $20 million or more. There are variations of that idea. Maybe it could be individuals who are from the City of San Diego don't have to pay at all. Individuals that come out -- come from outside the City of San Diego would have to pay. There are a lot of options there. But I think the important thing is that we're putting ideas like that on the table. And then we have to compare, say, okay, would you make nonresidents pay for parking at the beach or would you want to close down certain services? And to this point, that's where we are right now. And I think it's important for the citizenry to weigh in on these types of issues, and figure out if this is something that they might want to do.
CAVANAUGH: Just a question that pops to mind, how would you tell a resident form another resident?
YOUNG: I don't know. That's a good question. And as I said, I'm not necessarily supportive of that idea, but it's an idea that we have placed on the table, and we have a number attached to it. Which is really important because conceptual -- these ideas that are just purely conceptual, they're not gonna be really helpful to us. We have to actually identify a number. And that way we can actually make some decisions based on empirical data.
CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with San Diego City Council president Tony Young, and we're talking about some of the budget cuts the city counsel is thinking of proposing in advance of mayor sanders' budget proposal scheduled out next month. We have a caller on the line. Michael is calling from Clairemont. Good morning, Michael, welcome to These Days.
MICHAEL: Thank you very much, and good morning to both of you, and thank you to the council member for all the hard work he does for San Diego. My question is about trash collection. I know this is something that's been talked a lot about recently referred to as the idea of competitive bidding. I'm not exactly sure how that would save money. But I'm wondering if the council collectively is going to have the political courage to put the idea back of asking the citizens of San Diego to pay monthly trash bills, like everybody else, all the other 18 jurisdictions in the county, and plus cities in California. It's my understanding that each if they charged a low amount from past studies, the lowest of the counties, somewhere around 14, $15 a household, that that would wipe out about 75 or 80 percent of the deficit. Is that even on the table?
YOUNG: At this point in time, it's not on the table for our budget resolution that we're going to be voting on on April 12th. But Mike, I do understand that there is an equity issue here. We have some of our most wealthy individuals who get their trash collected for free. Some of them, you know, million dollar mansions can get their trash picked up for free, and then you have some of our poorest residents who live in apartment complexes have to pay for it. So the equity issue is very important to me. I what I think though we need to make sure as a council we have to focus on the issues that are in front of us, which is this budget deficit and the things that we can do without a public vote. And until we get through all of these issues, I don't think it's important -- it's something that I don't think we can actually put it on the ballot at this point in time.
CAVANAUGH: Another one of the ideas that you have about cutting is the reduction of city issued cellphones. As I say, these types of budget reductions I would have thought had been made already since the city was -- has been in such a fiscal crisis for such a long time. And yet you've been able to find a number of these one would imagine since I don't have a city cellphone, harmless budget cuts, you know, that can save the city a lot of money.
YOUNG: Well, we've submitted that it could save almost $700,000, and again, it could be a fire engine when it comes to our brownouts. And obviously there are some issues there. Productivity is important, and we have to look at that as we go through the process. But the important thing is is that we look at everything, we try to find consensus, and what else is im-- the other thing that's important is as we vote on this resolution on April 12th, the one that we're going to submit to the public to say these are the things that are important to us, that if we get five votes, we're showing everybody that we have the ability to insert into our -- into the budget process regardless of what the mayor does. And I think that's gonna be a really key thing here.
CAVANAUGH: Do you think that these cuts are gonna influence the mayor's billion proposal?
YOUNG: Well, I think so. I think the mayor -- working with the mayor, he has been terrific. He's been also allowing us to talk about some of these issues. And some of the issues, I'm certain, are already gonna be in his budget. Some of these issues could be in his budget in his main revise. He has to submit it, his first one, April 15th, and then May 15th, I believe he actually has to come with the revised based on the new revenues that come in or have come in. So these things could be placed there. I just think the mayor is our partner to a certain degree, but also we have to be independent and advocate for our communities the way that only we know how.
CAVANAUGH: Councilman young, before I let you go, can I want to ask you specifically about the govern's proposal to eliminate local redevelopment agencies. I know representing district four, you have been critical about the number of redevelopment projects that are located in downtown San Diego. But what is your over all feeling about this proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies?
YOUNG: Well, I really haven't been critical of the fact that we're doing a great job downtown redeveloping something that used to be an eye sore for the City of San Diego. But what I'm saying is that, and I've said over and over again, is that the governor's proposal is misguided. It takes away local control, and more importantly, it takes away local monies to do things that are important to us. Ask to me, it's a shame that we have representatives who are actually from this area who have gone up to Sacramento and have advocated taking away millions of millions of dollars in development in communities like mine because they can't balance their own billion.
CAVANAUGH: We are gonna talk a lot more about these subjecting including the budget, when your budget who profiles actually come out. Thank you for joining us to this morning?
YOUNG: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with San Diego City Council president Tony Young. If you would like to comment, please go on-line. KPBS.org/These Days. Coming up we'll hear an update on the nuclear crisis in Japan. That's as These Days continues here on KPBS.