Here are some highlights from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ town hall forum Thursday night, when he and his chief financial aide detailed their proposed plan to regain access to the financial markets.

  • Sanders reaffirmed his anti-tax stance, saying an era of cuts will come long before any proposal to raise more revenue:

I think the citizens have very clearly said, “When you have the management controls in place, when you show us that you’re operating as efficiently and as effectively as possible, when you show us you’ve streamlined, and what you do is exactly what you need to do” … then I think at that point the community has every right to make a decision on what they pay in city services.

It may very well be at some point, in the not too distant future, that there’s a level of trust that we’ve put in these reforms, with the transparency, with the oversight, so then the citizens say, “We’d like longer library hours,” or “We’d like more police officers,” or “We’d like more firefighters in our communities,” or “We’d like more parks in our communities.” That’s a decision the communities are going to have to make.

Two town hall forum attendees had different takes on the mayor’s anti-tax stance.

Council President Scott Peters said, “In the short term, I totally agree that there’s no room to talk about revenue enhancements.” He added, “As far as talking about new revenues in 2008? Yeah, that’s not a question for me.”

Joan Raymond, president of the city’s blue-collar workers’ union, said she thought residents will feel the pinch of Sanders’ plan to cut services and decide they want to pay more to keep the level of services high.

“It sounds like he’s waiting for the community to get so upset to the point that they finally demand it,” she said.

  • Sanders touted one of Kroll’s proposed remedies that he panned just months earlier: affording the internal auditor more independence.

When city Auditor John Torell proclaimed his desire to become insulated from the Mayor’s Office so that there wouldn’t be pressure from his superiors to sign off on the city’s disclosures, Sanders rejected the idea. He should be accountable for all departments of the city, even the one checking his financial staff’s work, he said then.

Under Thursday’s proposal, which copies the suggestions of Kroll, the mayor trumpeted the move as a step toward better internal controls with City Hall.

Sanders is proposing that the mayor and council choose an auditor who will serve out a 10-year term. Under the plan, the auditor can only be fired by a three-fourths vote of the council or two-thirds vote of the new audit committee.

The mayor said:

I think we need to do everything possible to send a message of unqualified reform to the financial markets and to the citizens of San Diego. I believe the level of independence that this individual will be granted will do just that.

  • Sanders justified reading his prepared speech by invoking the event’s importance during his opening remarks:

I think the information we’re going to talk about tonight is really important. I think it’s important to this city, I think it’s important to the rest of the United States, and I think it’s important to our children. That’s the reason I’m going to read some prepared remarks tonight, so I don’t gloss over anything that I think is important.

It may have been a special occasion for the city, but it was actually pretty ordinary for Sanders’ speaking habits. The mayor is known for reading directly from prepared remarks during his press conferences and speeches in front of the City Council.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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