I got a chance to talk to Fred Sainz from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office last night about Jerry Butkiewicz’s comments to me the other day.

Butkiewicz, the head of the union of local unions, laid into Jay Goldstone, the mayor’s chief financial officer, at a meeting Thursday of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Butkiewicz said he felt insulted by the way the mayor was “threatening” public employee unions and he was upset that the city was going to try to balance its budget with layoffs. He contended that while concessions from the unions might be needed, you have to do it in a more tactful way. And, he said, no amount of layoffs would be enough to solve the financial problem and that there was evidence that the city was actually hiring managers while firing low-level workers.

Sainz, you might imagine, had a different view.

“Personnel costs make up 77 percent of the city’s budget. You don’t have to be too much of a rocket scientist to figure out that we are going to have to cut personnel to control the budget,” Sainz said.

Sainz said Butkiewicz’s suggestion that the city was adding managers at the same time it was cutting the “guy who mows the lawns where your kid is going to play soccer” was untrue.

“That’s a wonderful perception, but when we separate fact from fiction, it’s clear we haven’t added any management types and we plan to cut management,” Sainz said. “What we hear repeatedly from our line-level people is ‘If you can only get those line-level supervisors out of our way we can get the job done more easily.’ And the mayor is taking them at their word.”

Sainz said the mayor planned to cut 100 so-called “full-time equivalent” management positions at the city, which he said amounted to cutting 100 people who were right now collecting paychecks.

But the mayor has not identified which positions he plans to cut nor which services the city should do without. My biggest question about the mayor’s much-touted five-year plan has been, of course, “Where’s the beef?” It’s one thing to say you have a big financial problem. It’s another thing to offer a solution. We’ve all been saying that there’s a problem for years. But yet another recitation of the pending deficit is what the mayor presented.

I don’t necessarily think the mayor should have all his ducks in order by now. I think he may deserve more time. But I had thought that if he unveiled a “five-year plan,” he wouldn’t do it without identifying those things. Was I wrong to think that the five-year plan would offer specific solutions to the financial problems along with details about what areas would be cut?

Yes, Sainz said.

“That was an incorrect impression. This is a plan that expressed liabilities. Solving the problem is a complex subject area that will require significant analysis in coming months. We have to prepare residents for the fact that we’re likely going to have to cut their service levels,” Sainz said.

I told Sainz that I felt like we already had a few years worth of reports telling us how bad off the city is financially, what good was the mayor’s five-year plan if it was just another one of those?

“Never have you seen this much detail on the problem,” Sainz said.

SCOTT LEWIS

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