Feb. 8 2012 10:02 AM

This time, the mayoral hopeful isn't telling the truth about volunteerism

Carl DeMaio
Photo by David Rolland
Last Thursday morning, San Diego Councilmember and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio interrupted a nonprofit community program in progress to complain in front of TV cameras that there's not enough volunteer service happening in San Diego and that community facilities are underused.

DeMaio spokesperson Jeff Powell arrived at the North Clairemont Recreation Center to find Kim Bruch on the playground leading five children in a Tiny Tots program, for which she says she recovers costs but makes no money. Powell asked Bruch to remove the kids from the playground during DeMaio's press event, which had the candidate unveiling a plan to increase volunteerism. Powell later said that DeMaio's policy is to make sure children aren't shown on camera without parental consent.

Or maybe Powell was just surprised to encounter a community program in action, because the center is otherwise closed at that time, and his first thought was to get rid of it, lest the TV photojournalists find it interesting, show it and undercut DeMaio's message. Bruch told CityBeat that Powell didn't say anything about parental consent when he asked her to stop her program.

The second scenario would be par for the course for DeMaio, who has a history of twisting the truth so that it fits a narrative he wishes were reality. This is his roadmap to election: Lie to voters about a problem that only he knows how to fix. Bruch says the North Clairemont Recreation Center often teems with activity; it's not underused by a long shot. But the bigger problem is the narrative DeMaio is molding about volunteerism and paid city labor.

DeMaio wants you to believe that city-employee labor unions are robbing you, the taxpayer, by thwarting any attempt by the city to encourage volunteerism. He wants you to think the unions rammed laws through a compliant City Council that block the use of volunteers to provide city services. Once again, DeMaio is lying.

Last July, City attorney Jan Goldsmith issued an analysis of the city's legal ability to use volunteers. He concluded that the city may not supplant union workers with volunteers. The city could lay off union workers and replace them later with volunteers, but not if the goal in the first place was to save money by replacing paid labor with free labor. Goldsmith relied on a 44-year-old state law—the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act—to reach his conclusion, not city law. DeMaio wants you to think that he can march into the Mayor's office and immediately change it. He can't. The mayor of San Diego has no power to change state law. And thank heaven for that.

DeMaio can legally expand volunteer city service, as long as new volunteers are supplementing paid labor and not replacing it. But he wants to roughly double what volunteers are currently doing to reach a goal of 1 million hours of service per year by 2016. To put that in perspective, it would be equal to adding another 240 volunteers if those people were to volunteer 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. If each volunteer worked a more reasonable 10 hours a week, that would require 960 new volunteers. Doable? Maybe. Is there enough legal volunteer work to go around? We don't know. How much additional bureaucracy would it take to coordinate and train all those people? Another good question.

But considering that nine of every 10 things out of DeMaio's gaping mouth is anti-union, we don't believe for a second that his true goal is to augment existing city services with helpful volunteers.

No, his goal is to become mayor—and surround himself with an ideologically similar City Council—so that he can privatize public services as much as legally possible. His method is to turn public opinion against the unions. The problem is that when the whole truth is explained to voters, the picture becomes far less starkly black and white. So, the easiest way for DeMaio to attain his goal is to flat-out lie.

If you're leaning toward supporting him, please just do us—and your city—the simple favor of questioning all of his statements.

What do you think? Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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