That might explain the arguably overheated rhetoric coming from DeMaio and his City Council colleague, Kevin Faulconer, as they campaign against the measure, which would raise the sales tax in San Diego by half a cent, for five years, if and when a series of financial reforms are accomplished.
DeMaio and Faulconer breathlessly argue that our untrustworthy city leaders will surely funnel the new tax revenue—estimated at $515 million over five years—into a system that doles out lavish retirement payments, but they don’t say that the money would go into the city’s general-purpose fund, only about 15 percent of which finances pensions, as the San Diego Union-Tribune has noted.
And they say these devious politicians purposefully refused to earmark the tax revenue for essential services such as police and fire protection. Well, yes, they did that on purpose—because earmarking tax revenue that way triggers a state law that requires two-thirds of the voters to say “Yes” for successful passage. Earmarking this revenue would have turned Prop. D into a pointless waste of time.
But they’re right about one thing: There’s little in the form of guarantees. The most important of the required reforms embedded in Prop. D are vague. That’s why a task force of business leaders last week released an analysis of the measure that included three recommendations that they believe would make Prop. D successful as a budget-balancing solution. And this is another place where DeMaio and Faulconer are right: There is no legal force behind the recommendations, which were officially endorsed in a 6-2 City Council vote on Monday; codified as a mere resolution, there is no tangible ramification if the mayor and council don’t abide, other than a bigger budget deficit.
Mayor Jerry Sanders said that agreeing to the three recommendations represented a contract with the public, a commitment to do more than the minimum required in exchange for their additional 20 cents on every $40 purchase. But it’s really a gesture to the business establishment in hopes of securing coveted Yes on D endorsements from the private-sector leaders in the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. If the suit-and-tie crowd believes Monday’s action is something more than an empty promise, they’ll say “Yes” to D.
That’s the kind of sticky-sweet togetherness we’re already seeing between the Republican Sanders and the Democrats on the City Council. City Councilmember Donna Frye, who in the past has been bitterly critical of the mayor, looked at Sanders during the meeting on Monday and said, “I, for one, respect you and greatly appreciate your leadership.” Councilmember Tony Young, who a few years ago positioned himself as a force against mayoral power grabs, followed by calling Sanders a “wonderful leader.” Yeesh.
If Sanders and the business community stand alongside the council Democrats and the city employee unions, it would serve to marginalize DeMaio and Faulconer and their strange bedfellow, former City attorney Mike Aguirre, perhaps giving Prop. D the push it needs to get over that 50-50 hump—not to mention boosting Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher’s mayoral hopes against possible rivals DeMaio and Faulconer should Sanders and his new friends make good on their promises.
Interestingly, one person not experiencing the euphoria of Monday’s love-in was the council’s Independent Budget Analyst, Andrea Tevlin, who cautioned her bosses against committing to the specifics in the business task force’s recommendations. Despite the best intentions, Tevlin said, external factors might render them unreachable.
However, those words of warning paled when compared with the sobering task force analysis, which said the city’s financial condition is far worse than it’s being made out to be by the backers of Prop. D. Vince Mudd, the lead singer of the task force, said Monday that Prop. D is the only deficit-busting plan he’s aware of. Ouch! That’s got to hurt DeMaio, who’s offered up a series of cost-cutting proposals that haven’t been vetted by anyone not on his payroll.
He might want to forward those to the task force before it’s too late.
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