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In our city, it is often difficult to have a real debate on real issues without it deteriorating into a political name-calling contest to avoid talking about the facts. However, there is nothing quite like an election to escalate the game.

One current example is the debate about Proposition C. Heaven help anyone who wants to discuss the actual ballot language, ask questions or try to educate the public. This type of activity is strongly discouraged and guaranteed to trigger the war of words.

That was made abundantly clear after a September 2006 meeting of the Rules Committee during which the details of Prop C were debated.

I, as well as others, raised the issue that the plain language of Prop C does not exclude police, fire and lifeguards from having their jobs contracted out. Even though the Mayor has said that he does not “intend” to contract out our public safety services to the lowest responsible bidder, I pointed out during the meeting that Prop C’s ballot language does not include that “intention” in the long list of exemptions.

Nor are these “intentions” mentioned in the ballot argument in favor of Prop C.

The next day and right on cue, the name-calling began in earnest. A Sept. 21, 2006 article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Outsourcing measure’s details in flux, reported that the Mayor described the debate about Prop C as “smoke screens,” “desperate” and “throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick in people’s minds.” While he thinks, “the details are important” he’s “not sure voters are interested in the details.”

Most recently, according to Evan McLaughlin‘s Oct. 6, 2006 story in the voiceofsandiego.org, the mayor’s spokesperson, Fred Sainz, said that any talk of contracting out police, fire or lifeguard services, “continues to be a political red herring that’s aimed at misinforming voters on this issue.”

Really?

So why then, did the mayor come to City Council on Monday, Oct. 9 to state his intentions to place a measure on the 2008 ballot that would ban outsourcing of public safety jobs?

Why would anyone support, let alone advocate, spending more taxpayer money to vote on the same issue again in 2008 if it really is a “political red herring”? Or could it be that Prop C is a poorly worded ballot measure, created in haste that allows the contracting out of public safety services?

Either way, the public should not rely on the war of words to decide how to vote. Read the ballot measure for yourself to see if it exempts public safety services, and then decide who is telling you the truth about herrings, red or otherwise.

DONNA FRYE

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