Monday, June 06, 2005 | After the financial meltdown of Enron and other corporate scandals, Congress passed sweeping legislation holding boards of directors responsible for corporate acts.

We elect our local officials to manage multi-hundred million dollar budgets, thousands of employees, and assets worth hundreds of million dollars. Isn’t it reasonable to test a candidate’s knowledge of these issues? Testing is routine in the private sector.

It is clear from the meltdown at San Diego City Hall that our current group of elected officials do not understand basic financial management. Getting an audit done on time is a basic fiduciary responsibility, and its delinquency will cost San Diego taxpayers dearly in the future. Who is going to pay for the mismanagement, the legal fees, the higher interest rates on debt, the underfunding of infrastructure, and the resulting higher costs due to the lack of proper maintenance programs. The answer is clear that we, the taxpayers, will have to pay the increased costs of the city’s financial debacle.

What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?

My suggestion: a test that would cover issues about which the candidate will be required to make decisions. The test would be taken when a candidate files to run for public office.

What would we test? Let’s start with fiduciary responsibility, a rudimentary knowledge of finance and accounting, amortization schedules, earmarked funds, fixed versus variable costs, etc. A candidate doesn’t have to be an accountant or an economist to understand these concepts, but if they do not understand them, do we want them overseeing our city?

Here are some examples:

LEAD San Diego or another community group could offer the test and provide the results to the voters. They may or may not change a person’s view of a candidate but as one voter I would like to know more of the real qualifications of the candidates.

Tom Carter, an active community member who ran for mayor of San Diego in 1992, is proud of his role in helping to save the Park in the Park.

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