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Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 | San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders should have known better than to call the Chargers “Super Bowl-bound” last week during his State of the City speech.

But there it was, under Chapter 1 of the paper copy of his speech. The chapter was titled “99 percent of the things in San Diego are going well.”

Here’s how he actually said it: “I have told audiences that 99 percent of the things in the city of San Diego are going extremely well.”

Then he listed those things.

  • San Diego has a vibrant economy.
  • The city is safe.
  • We have Navy and Marines in town
  • The Padres won their division
  • The Chargers are Super Bowl bound.
  • We have an ocean. And nice natural resources.
  • We have ethnic harmony.

Yes, we do have ethnic harmony. That’s good, I suppose, considering the alternative.

What about the Chargers? Since the Chargers’ success is one of seven reasons that 99 percent of things are going well in San Diego, does their heartbreaking loss Sunday now mean that only about 84 percent of things are going well now?

I kid the mayor.

There was more to Sanders’ speech, of course. Quite a lot actually. I wanted to bring a couple of the points to light.

One: A Shiny New Government Building

The mayor announced that the city was going to start thinking about building a new City Hall.

You might expect me to bulldoze the idea. And I feel like doing that. It obviously seems ridiculous for the city to contemplate construction of a new City Hall at the same time the mayor — who came into office because of a financial and political crisis — says the city is even worse off than it was last year.

But I’m not going to bulldoze this idea. It might actually be a good one. There is nothing untrue about Sanders’ assertion that thousands of city employees currently working in random downtown offices will need either a new place to work or new leases for their offices in 2013 and 2014. If Sanders is correct that those leases will cost significantly more to renew and that there might be a developer willing to shoulder the construction costs of a new City Hall in exchange for chance to build a few condos or something, great. Let’s see what a proposal like that would look like.

Some have already started to dig on the mayor for this one, but if there is a better way to house employees than the current system, I’m willing to hear it out.

I can already see the e-mails coming: “But you’re the jerk that said the city couldn’t afford a new library. How can you build a new City Hall?”

Well, first, this is only a good idea to me if the city can actually cut annual operations costs by building a new headquarters. If it can’t, and if a developer would only do it after taking an unacceptable amount of public land for private buildings, I’ll oppose it.

A new library would be a luxury. If the billionaires want to pay for it, go ahead, but the Centre City Development Corp. — which has to be convinced to build a new fire station or two — has more important things to spend taxpayer dollars on than new libraries.

Two: Bye, Bye Bankruptcy

Am I the only one who remembers then-candidate Jerry Sanders talking about bankruptcy like it was one of his favorite surfboards or something? It was in his quiver — an option he could pull out at any time.

Until now.

Think back. Jerry Sanders, when he was running for mayor, even claimed at one point to have been the first candidate to think up the idea of using the threat of bankruptcy to force the city’s employee unions to renegotiate their contracts with the city.

Now, he put together a special chapter in his speech specifically to denounce the idea of bankruptcy:

“…bankruptcy will not be an option for the City of San Diego while I am mayor. Let me repeat that: I do not support nor will I ever recommend that the city ever file for bankruptcy.”

But he also said this during his speech:

“I think it’s fair to say that the problems are more severe, more complicated than what I previously anticipated.”

In other words, he threw bankruptcy out as an option during his campaign for mayor. He said he would have to explore bankruptcy if the employee unions didn’t renegotiate their contracts.

He won the election, became mayor, the unions didn’t renegotiate anything and, after a year of research, he finds out that the city’s financial problems are more severe and complicated than he had imagined.

But now, somehow, he’s a lot farther away from bankruptcy than he was just 15 months ago.

Look, I understand. The mayor has decided his campaign rhetoric is not something to which he wants to stay loyal.

But what does that mean about the other things he said during his campaign. He said, for example, he wouldn’t consider new taxes at all. Then he switched it to a little more flexible position: he wouldn’t consider new tax increases to solve “this problem.”

Finally, we got the latest evolution last week.

“I don’t think city government should be trusted with new tax revenues until we demonstrate the discipline to spend money we already get efficiently and effectively.”

Makes you wonder when that demonstration may come.

Please contact Scott Lewis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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