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Sanders hopes to be remembered for financial reforms

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In his final press conference as San Diego's mayor, Jerry Sanders said Wednesday he would like to be remembered for helping end the city's financial troubles.

The former San Diego police chief inherited a city that had garnered national headlines because of its pension woes, giving San Diego the unfortunate nickname of "Enron-by-the-Sea."

But under Sanders, whose seven-year tenure at City Hall ends Monday, San Diego has seen its credit rating restored, its reserves quadrupled and its structural budget deficit disappear.

"I hope [my legacy] will be that we turned this city around financially," he said. "When we stepped into this place, I don’t think anybody had an inkling how bad things were. We worked tirelessly to really solve a lot of that. I hope that's what we'll be remembered for."

Appearing relaxed and content, Sanders needled members of the press for their coverage – and Public Records Act requests – while acknowledging he was always treated fairly.

He also thanked everyone from city volunteers to council members as he prepared to head off with his wife to Italy for a three-month vacation.

"It's been tough on City Council," he said. "They have weathered the storm. They weathered the pension scandal and then a recession, and they made tough decisions every time they met. I don't necessarily agree with every one of them, but I certainly respect the fact they never shirked their duties."

Sanders helped push through reforms to the city's retiree health care system and city employee pension system that, he said, will enable the city to save approximately $2 billion over the next 25-30 years.

He also has overseen the introduction of managed competition, including the outsourcing of the city's information technology services.

Sanders cited the impending expansion of the Convention Center and the proposed renovation of Balboa's Plaza de Panama as highlights of his tenure.

"I think the Convention Center expansion is one of the most critical things we could have done," he said. "I'm very proud of the fact we've got it to the point where we have it now. It creates 7,000 new jobs that are permanent (and) 4,000 construction jobs. We turn away a year's worth of business every single year. This allows us to keep the largest conventions and also to attract new, large conventions."

Sanders was candid about some of his shortcomings, admitting the protracted battle over the height of the Sunroad building in Kearny Mesa was a "learning experience."

The 26-year veteran of law enforcement said the mayoral job hasn't always been fun.

"I've enjoyed it from the perspective that we've been able to get a lot done," he said. "But I'm not a politician by nature. I'm not a politician by training, and I found politics to be a relatively difficult occupation."

Sanders said the three years it took city officials to settle its financial reporting case with the Securities and Exchange Commission was one of the most difficult things he's ever done.

Once he gets back from Italy, Sanders will head up the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I wish Mayor-elect (Bob) Filner the best," he said. "I think in San Diego, we all have a vested interest in this city moving ahead. I don't think it's a time for partisan politics."

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San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Company Website

402 West Broadway Ste., 1000
San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive(s):

Jerry Sanders

  • Chief Executive Officer, President

Ruben Barrales

  • Chief Executive Officer

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