Opinion

Letter: Has San Diego Really Cut Expenses to the Bone?

Letter: Has San Diego Really Cut Expenses to the Bone?

 

In your May 11 Morning Report is an item on pension reform efforts in San Diego and San Jose. The linked piece, “San Diego, San Jose voters asked to cut pensions” compares the cost cutting efforts of the two cities. Here’s a summary:

• San Jose has cut staff 27 percent, San Diego 14 percent

• San Jose now has 5,400 employees for a population of 960,000, or 5.6 per 1,000 population; San Diego now has 10,100 employees for a population of 1,300,000, or 7.8 per 1,000 population

Out of curiosity, I looked at the proposed budgets of the two cities for the upcoming fiscal year, and I would urge readers to examine them. The first thing that leaped out at me is how simple and clean San Jose’s budget appears, and how complex San Diego’s is. San Jose has 22 departments with one or more people assigned; San Diego has 44. San Jose has a finance department with 115 people; San Diego has four organizations (comptroller, treasurer, chief financial officer and financial management), with a total staff of 233.

San Jose, a city manager organization, has a mayor and 10 council members. For some reason, its budget doesn’t show a staffing level, but the budget dollars allocated for the two categories is a total of $9.4 million. In San Diego, the number is $17.9 million. When you look at the detail, you discover our mayor proposes 21 “mayoral representatives” as part of his staff. These are the oft-quoted “mayoral spokespeople” plus other staffers assigned to attend public functions.

Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions, but it’s apparent to this reader that, despite the belt-tightening efforts in San Diego, with the constant self-congratulations that accompany them, there are plenty of opportunities for more cuts by our next “strong” mayor.

Bill Bradshaw lives in Mission Beach.


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Bill Bradshaw

Bill Bradshaw
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16 comments
Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

candidates has presented a plan that purports to completely resolve our infrastructure backlog in four years, but the plan has as its cornerstones a) adding an additional layer of government to coordinate and b) creating an infrastructure lockbox for certain general fund revenue, which is only possible if voter approved. And that's not actually cutting spending, it's increasing spending and putting it in a specific place. The plan tacitly acknowledges the obvious--that we can't fix our infrastructure problems without spending more money on infrastructure.

omarpassons
omarpassons

candidates has presented a plan that purports to completely resolve our infrastructure backlog in four years, but the plan has as its cornerstones a) adding an additional layer of government to coordinate and b) creating an infrastructure lockbox for certain general fund revenue, which is only possible if voter approved. And that's not actually cutting spending, it's increasing spending and putting it in a specific place. The plan tacitly acknowledges the obvious--that we can't fix our infrastructure problems without spending more money on infrastructure.

Brant Will
Brant Will subscribermember

time equivalent number, not total employees. This letter is inaccurate.

brantwill
brantwill

time equivalent number, not total employees. This letter is inaccurate.

Michael Szuch
Michael Szuch subscriber

Time to fire the entire city government, hold criminal investigations into every branches executives, and kick the unions out of town. line up every free-wheeling consultant and lobbyist, tar and feather them, and give 'em one way ticket to DC, back to where they came. Its time to take back our city, declare mandatory transparency and restore proper government.

iseldsply
iseldsply

Time to fire the entire city government, hold criminal investigations into every branches executives, and kick the unions out of town. line up every free-wheeling consultant and lobbyist, tar and feather them, and give 'em one way ticket to DC, back to where they came. Its time to take back our city, declare mandatory transparency and restore proper government.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

As for new revenue, I'm very dubious about the "revenue before cuts" approach. History, at both national and state levels, tells me that leads to fewer cuts as the pressure decreases. Virtually all politicians seem to find ways to spend all monies available. Hard to argue about a trash fee though. That's a freebie we can ill afford, and I'd vote to repeal that ordinance, particularly because it might avoid outsourcing our trash collection, one of the few things I think the city does really well.

toulon
toulon

As for new revenue, I'm very dubious about the "revenue before cuts" approach. History, at both national and state levels, tells me that leads to fewer cuts as the pressure decreases. Virtually all politicians seem to find ways to spend all monies available. Hard to argue about a trash fee though. That's a freebie we can ill afford, and I'd vote to repeal that ordinance, particularly because it might avoid outsourcing our trash collection, one of the few things I think the city does really well.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

What we need is a second peoples initiative saying no tax or fee in the state can be more than 10% over the US average. Starve the fat beast into submission.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

What we need is a second peoples initiative saying no tax or fee in the state can be more than 10% over the US average. Starve the fat beast into submission.

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

government "to the bone" is even the right policy decision. Perhaps the best way to address our city's operation is to evaluate what we must/should do as a city and what resources are required to pay for those things. We are more than twice as big geographically as San Jose (179sm vs 372sm) and much more spread out. I don't assert that this fact alone invalidates all of your comparisons, but doesn't it at least highlight the basic point that population alone is insufficient to evaluate staffing levels?

omarpassons
omarpassons

government "to the bone" is even the right policy decision. Perhaps the best way to address our city's operation is to evaluate what we must/should do as a city and what resources are required to pay for those things. We are more than twice as big geographically as San Jose (179sm vs 372sm) and much more spread out. I don't assert that this fact alone invalidates all of your comparisons, but doesn't it at least highlight the basic point that population alone is insufficient to evaluate staffing levels?

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Someone needs to look at how cities like Phoenix and San Jose, both close to our size, are operated and make some decisions about sacred cows. E.g., why in the world are we operating three golf courses, a cemetery, two general aviation airports plus sports facilities? These are not core functions like libraries, parks, roads and public safety.

toulon
toulon

Someone needs to look at how cities like Phoenix and San Jose, both close to our size, are operated and make some decisions about sacred cows. E.g., why in the world are we operating three golf courses, a cemetery, two general aviation airports plus sports facilities? These are not core functions like libraries, parks, roads and public safety.

James Kistner
James Kistner subscriber

The strong mayor form of government is the worse thing we could have done. You elect a leader to oversee an entity with a billion dollar budget who has little or no CEO/CFO level of experience. They are politicians who are doing nothing more than trying to figure out how to get elected to their next position. With a city manager form of government you have (usually/ideally) a college educated individual with real life experience in dealing with large, complex budgets.

pdblue
pdblue

The strong mayor form of government is the worse thing we could have done. You elect a leader to oversee an entity with a billion dollar budget who has little or no CEO/CFO level of experience. They are politicians who are doing nothing more than trying to figure out how to get elected to their next position. With a city manager form of government you have (usually/ideally) a college educated individual with real life experience in dealing with large, complex budgets.