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Sounding Board: Funding Priorities/Voters' Voices

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?

The next mayor should rely solely on City Attorney Mike Aguirre to chart the city's course with respect to the city's pension deficit.

This should include aggressively attempting to set aside illegal benefits and, if the city attorney recommends, stopping payments until that issue is resolved. Aguirre, by experience, intellect and work ethic, is well-suited to the role of spearheading the city's response to the pension issue.

The current council -- with the exception of Councilwoman Donna Frye -- has not shown the capability and/or willingness to seriously tackle our financial issues, and four of them helped cause the problems. The new mayor will never develop a successful team to manage the pension crisis from the council; that is why he or she must partner with the city attorney.

Core services will continue to be funded, but the next mayor needs to seriously assess whether we have properly prioritized the city's core functions. It is time to re-examine whether funding for the 1,000-year fire is a priority at a time when rec centers are open just two-thirds of their former hours and pools are closed. The firefighters union is weakened by the involvement of its leadership in the pension underfunding, and now is the time to put its budget back into proper perspective.

Sale of city property may be necessary to resume long-delayed infrastructure maintenance.

And the next mayor needs to remember that the infrastructure needs most of us are talking about do not include a new football stadium for the San Diego Chargers. Mayor Frye or Jerry Sanders must lead the fight to stop the Chargers' ballot initiative and prevent a several hundred million dollar land giveaway to the Chargers.

-- Bob Ottilie


The Daily Transcript question: What role, if any, should voters play in resolving the city's financial crisis?

Voters should absolutely be a part of the process.

As I recall, democracy means governance by the people for the people. Unfortunately, we have seen that delegation of responsibility is not working.

Proposals should be placed before the voters and let them choose: 1) Raise taxes and keep the inflated pension benefits in place, or 2) Roll benefits back to something reasonable (say pre proposal I) and tighten the city's belt.

The real question, however, is who works for whom?

Do city employees work for the citizens of San Diego, or do the citizens work for the city employees? I think that all government employees work for the citizenry, but maybe I missed the boat somewhere along the way. Maybe it's re-education camp for me.

However, like most other problems, the pendulum has swung too far. In this case to labor/employees and it is time to rein in these absurd benefits and start over. No doubt the actions of the retirement board have been illegal, especially with the self-dealing benefits to the fire chief and others. The board needs to be revamped and much more independently structured to prevent self-dealing.

The unfortunate thing is that once again, we, the working citizens, are forced to be pitted labor against non-labor.

It is obvious that the council is pro-labor as evidenced by its decision to vote in favor of the "living wage," so naturally it has a conflict in even trying to fix the problem. If you and I as Joe and Jane Citizen were broke or almost broke, would you raise your kids' allowance or go take on more debt? Of course not. You and I would tighten our belts, cut out lots of expenses and go without to make ends meet. A very foreign concept to government.

It is obvious from the recovery plans submitted by the mayoral candidates that Donna Frye thinks the taxpayers should pick up the tab for all city ills and pay more taxes. Isn't socialism great? Well, voters won't stand for it and any plan to bail out the city should be voted on by the citizens who will bear the results.

That last time I looked, we were still the people -- or did I miss the boat again?

-- David P. Ferguson

Goldman Ferguson Partners

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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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