Thank you for taking a bit of time out of your day to read this blog. A wise man once said that when you have the floor, “be quick,” “be funny,” and “be over.” I hope to keep that in mind today here in the Café.

If enough of you want, I can write about the new organization I am heading up, the San Diego Institute for Policy Research. But that has been covered elsewhere and there is no reason to bore people with the press release materials. Our website should be up and running by the end of the month and, I hope, I will be asked back to the Café to chat in depth about the effort and what we hope to accomplish.

Instead, I would like to talk with you about why many of us think that there are fundamental reforms that still need to take place in our city.

First, the city must restructure its pension system. It is absolutely clear that a combination of factors — increased longevity, term limited elected officials, politically engaged employee unions, district only-elections, political opposition to high public sector salaries, politically weak civic organizations, and an increasingly volatile equities market, create a poisonous situation that makes it nearly impossible for San Diego to successfully manage a defined benefit plan. It is simply too easy and too attractive for leaders and organizations focused on the short term to over promise and under invest. The result is the catastrophe in pension funding the city now faces. This is NOT to assign blame to anyone but rather admit that this combination of factors creates problems throughout the country but is especially problematic in our community. 

Second, San Diego must get out of the business of non-core functions. Giving credit where credit is due — turning “6-to-6” back over to the school district was a great thing. But there are still too many “nice-to-haves” in the city’s operations. The city HAS to go through and cut out these programs and put systems in place so that, when times are better, mission creep does not once again have the city in the business of sponsoring exhibits of Faberge Eggs or swim programs costing $3,000+ per participant.

Third, the city must undertake a comprehensive review of its benefit packages — and especially look at the number of health plans it offers. It also needs to review what has to be one of the strangest benefit plan designs ever created. The city has created a plan which is horribly skewed against workers who head up a household and are the only member of the household who gets benefits and dramatically favors those workers who have a partner with benefits. From what I can tell there is no good reason to structure the plan this way. Maybe by musing out loud in my next post someone can explain it to me.


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