San Diego City Councilman and Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio this week led a cadre of elected officials and business leaders to Mexicali and Tijuana during what his campaign described as a two-day jobs tour.
The visit is part of DeMaio’s ongoing effort to increase his base of support with Hispanic voters approaching the November election.
He has consistently trailed Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, who for 20 years has represented the heavily minority congressional district that includes San Diego’s Mexican border, among Hispanic voters, though in a recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA DeMaio trailed there by only 2 percent, compared to 17 percent in a previous poll.
“My focus is all about jobs, jobs and more jobs,” DeMaio was quoted as saying in a press release distributed by his campaign. “There are numerous ways we can work together to create jobs on both sides of the border if we are willing to overcome stereotypes and work together.”
DeMaio first announced his Mexican expedition in early August at a debate that focused on border-related issues sponsored by UCSD’s Institute of the Americas. He was booed by debate attendees when he said he hadn’t visited Mexico so far this year.
Councilmen-elect Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman joined DeMaio on the tour. San Diego Chamber of Commerce CEO Ruben Barrales and San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Cafferty also met with business leaders in Tijuana.
Calling for ocean economic study, DeMaio continues move to middle
In the months leading up to the June mayoral primary, DeMaio rarely shifted his focus from the issues that have defined his role in San Diego politics, pension reform and infrastructure repair especially.
The months since have seen him address previously ignored areas, such as education and the environment.
He continued that theme this week, releasing his “Clean Coasts 2020” plan, a series of proposals for what he calls San Diego’s “blue economy.”
He called for an economic impact study of job sectors related to the coast and ocean, which would include the tourism, maritime, research and biotech industries, as well as small businesses like surf shops.
He was joined by Jess Pointing, director of SDSU’s Center for Surf Research in calling for the new economic impact report.
SDCERS payment to strain next mayor’s first budget
After the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System earned only 0.4 percent on its investments during the most recent fiscal year, the city’s annual payment to the fund is expected to increase by roughly $8 million next year.
For whoever becomes the city’s next mayor, that means finding $8 million in an already razor thin budget with service levels and infrastructure funding still well below previous marks.
The two candidates took different approaches to describing how they’ll make room for the increased payment.
Filner said the money will have to mean less in services or infrastructure funding than residents could otherwise expect.
“This is just another example of why getting control of the city's pension expenses is so important," he wrote in an email. “The $5 (million) to $10 million is going to have to come directly out of services for residents. My plan to cap pensionable pay will save the city nearly a billion dollars in pension-related liability.”
The payment could also be made from the city’s reserve fund, which now stands at 11 percent of the city’s $1.1 billion budget, over $100 million.
DeMaio, however, said he’d be able to make the payment without reducing spending or dipping into the reserve.
Residents have been propositioned with a false choice between cutting spending and increasing revenue, he said. Instead, he’d save the money by finding more cost efficiencies in City Hall.
“It may require that we’re more aggressive with labor costs in the city,” DeMaio said. “This is a cost of labor. If pensions cost us more money, we might try to find more savings in labor contracts. That’s what a business would do.”
Imposing savings through the next labor contract would require City Council votes that aren’t guaranteed. Sherman and Kersey, along with Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, have already pledged that they wouldn’t vote to overturn the city’s negotiating position of a five-year pay freeze for labor.
But that pledge isn’t the same thing as a promise to vote to impose a contract in the event that negotiations reach an impasse. Doing that would require a fifth vote, which may come down to which candidate wins November’s election in the 1st District.