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Sounding Board: Funding Priorities

Daily Transcript Question: What should be the priorities for the next mayor with regard to the financing of the city's pension deficit, the funding of long-delayed infrastructure maintenance and the continued operation of core city services?

In regards to financing the city's pension deficit, the first order of business is to seek and full and final review of the legality of the benefits granted in 1996 and 2002-deals that we now know were fraught with conflicts of interest among decision makers.

Next, the mayor should seek an accurate calculation of the actual size of the pension deficit-which is higher than the city currently reports due to "rosy assumptions" in the actuarial formula used by SDCERS. The public has a right to a full and accurate disclosure of the pension liability today and in the future.

Finally, the mayor should ensure that city employees pay their fair share of the cost of the retirement benefits-a requirement of the City Charter that was violated when the city struck deals to pick up the employees' contributions to the system as well as the city's contribution.

On infrastructure and maintenance, the mayor should focus on restoring confidence on Wall Street so the city can get back into the bond market to fund much-needed infrastructure projects. Second, the mayor should establish a citizens' audit committee to review all funds derived from developer fees and residential fees that are supposed to be channeled to infrastructure projects. We have seen these monies "hijacked" over the years to cover the general fund deficit. Funds earmarked for infrastructure must go to that purpose. Opening both infrastructure and city services to competitive bidding would also help maximize efficiencies in both areas.

-- Carl DeMaio

President and Founder, The Performance Institute

Everyone agrees police and fire services are critical first needs. But the city has ignored its crumbling infrastructure (water and sewer) for years, then adopted an aggressive plan, then stopped the work when the financial crisis hit. Meanwhile, materials costs have skyrocketed in 2005 (as reported in The Daily Transcript 3/21/05 "China's voracious appetite for materials drives up costs in West" and 9/30/05 "A host of factors keep driving building materials costs upward") and the pipes continue to collapse. Underground infrastructure is invisible by its very nature.

In future city financial priorities, "out of sight, out of mind" will exacerbate an already desperate situation. Rebuilding the water and wastewater system must be a top priority.

-- Debbie Day

Executive Director, Engineering & General Contractors Association (EGCA)

San Diego Daily Transcript Question: The strategic planning committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority announced that the expansion of Lindbergh Field is not an option. Given that finding, the airport will likely need to be relocated. Assuming the airport could be moved to any appropriate site in the county -- such as existing civilian or military airport sites or available open space -- where would you recommend the airport be relocated and why?

I think it's premature to take the second runway off the table for Lindbergh field. Aviation as we know it today will not exist 10 years from now, planes will be larger and require less runway space for landings and take-offs. I do not live nor represent the citizens that would be affected by a second runway but I believe that all options must stay on the table for study and further discussion. I also believe that the science of future aviation and airport requirements needs to be clearly examined and reported.

-- Francisco J. Parra

Councilman, National City

Complete Coverage: 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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