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Sounding Board: Council Officer/Redevelopment

Daily Transcript Question: San Diego is moving to a strong mayor form of government. As a result the City Council will soon be electing a presiding officer. What should be the top three priorities of the new council presiding officer?

As San Diego moves to a strong mayor form of government, the new council presiding officer will need to establish a strong council presence.

The first priority for the presiding officer should be to work with the new mayor to expedite completed audits for 2003 to 2005. We desperately need to get San Diego's finances in order. Yet, until we have a true accounting of how much we owe and how long we can take to pay off our debt, our suggested fixes for the city's finances are completely hypothetical. Completing the past year audits should be priority number one for any elected councilperson.

The presiding officer also needs to prioritize the creation of a strong, smart and transparent budget committee. With the transition to a legislative form of budgeting, the council has an incredible opportunity to commit to a balanced budget. A proficient budget committee should go line-by-line through the budget to identify areas of waste that can be cut, as well as unmet needs that will require dedicated revenue sources.

Finally, the presiding officer must refocus the council on neighborhood issues. San Diegans deserve livable communities with clean streets, healthy beaches and bays, and safe neighborhoods with adequate police and fire services. Our communities are facing hundreds of unfilled potholes, increasing parking shortages and an assault on single-family homes. With so much attention downtown, our neighborhood infrastructure has gone from bad to worse. We need to restructure our priorities at City Hall so that we protect our city neighborhoods.

-- Lorena Gonzalez

Candidate for San Diego City Council, district 2 and vice-president of the League of Conservation Voters San Diego

1. Meet with the mayor and City Attorney and begin to negotiate process for information flow and rules for docketing requests for council hearings. This would hopefully lead to a combined leadership approach/statement to restore public trust and set a new tone.

2. Determine process and solicit applications for membership on council committees; determine status of start-up for Independent Office of Budget Analysis and Office of Legislative Analysis; establish "open door" hours for citizen input and establish Web site and other "suggestion box" process for anyone and solicit input from council members on policy priorities.

3. Request from the mayor's office and review: Backlog of projects and policy recommendations waiting to be heard, rank and schedule; budget reports and forecast assumptions, expenses and income year-to-date department level reports; review job classifications and compensation and benefit packages for all levels of employees.

-- Carolyn Chase

Founder and CEO of San Diego Earth Works and candidate for San Diego City Council, district 2

1. Resolve pension budget woes.

2. Reduce waste and corruption in city government, especially consultants and special interest lobbying.

3. Open up all city council meetings to the public and prepare position papers, both pro and con on all major issues and distribute them via both electronic and hard copy.

-- David Diehl

Candidate for San Diego City Council, district 2

Daily Transcript Question: Under the plan being considered by the City Council, the next mayor of San Diego will not play a role in the city's redevelopment process. What are the specific implications of removing the mayor as a participant in the redevelopment of San Diego?

The City Council has not changed the role of the mayor in redevelopment. State law provides that redevelopment is the responsibility of the city's legislative body. When Proposition F removed the mayor from the legislature, it also removed him or her from the redevelopment board. Most council members are interested in exploring ways to change this.

At a time of historically low interest rates and high demand for housing, redevelopment is one of the most effective tools we have to build infrastructure and housing in San Diego. The blossoming that has happened downtown can happen -- on a smaller scale -- in other areas that we have deemed "blighted." Generally, our city receives only a small fraction (17 percent) of the property taxes we generate. However, in redevelopment areas the vast majority of the property tax revenues collected stay in the city, enabling us to improve San Diego neighborhoods without raising taxes.

The incentives behind district representation sometimes discourage individual council members from taking the risks associated with redevelopment. It is bad for the whole city to let blighted areas sit unimproved. While council members should be involved and even lead redevelopment within their own districts, redevelopment has citywide benefits and impacts. In our new form of government, citywide leadership for redevelopment can best come from the mayor. Most of us are uncomfortable excluding the mayor from redevelopment entirely, and over the coming months we will seek ways to restore a meaningful role for our new mayor.

In the meantime, the Transition Committee recommended that the mayor be appointed as executive director of the Redevelopment Agency until July 2006 to preserve a role for the mayor while we explore additional options.

-- Scott Peters

Council member for district 1

New Section: Sounding Board

Have Your Voice Heard!

The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

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