So there’s a bit of buzz in town about an imminent visit from Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, who is now a professor at Harvard. He was then-Governor George W. Bush’s top domestic advisor when Bush was running for president.

Goldsmith is coming to speak at a forum titled “Lessons in Government Efficiency.” It’s a $500-per person fundraiser being put on by the committee pushing Mayor Jerry Sanders’ privatization (or “managed competition”) ballot initiative in November. Goldsmith, as Indianapolis’ mayor, successfully pushed through similar projects.

So far as I can tell – and please correct me if I’m wrong – the last time Goldsmith made a heralded visit to San Diego was in 1996 when he spoke at the Republican National Convention, an event most people pretty much regard as disastrous for the city of San Diego’s finances.

Goldsmith spoke about his success turning government jobs into private sector jobs:

We competed out more than 70 services, saving taxpayers more than $240 million while improving customer service. We are working with churches to discourage teenage pregnancy and encourage responsible fatherhood. And we are paying welfare providers by how many people they get back into the workforce.

Cue the humorous, if painful, digression

The mayor of San Diego at the time, Susan Golding, also spoke at the convention, calling San Diego the “first great city of the 21st century.” And she described her successes at the finest city’s helm:

We knew what we wanted: more jobs, safer streets, healthier, more tightly knit neighborhoods. We knew that if you want more of something, you tax it less. So we cut business taxes in half … and then we cut them in half again. We cut water and sewer fees by over half.

That sewer rate plan really turned out to be a great idea. Golding, of course, like most San Diego leaders, was good at not taxing but not very adept at not spending. To pay for the convention where she got to trumpet her success, she raided the employee pension fund and set a precedent that has poisoned City Hall for nearly a decade.


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