In this post I want to respond to some of the questions and comments from the readers today. 

William Wallace wrote:

I’d be curious to see how many San Diego citizens really have any clue about what’s going on in their government.  For one, citizen engagement is really low.

William, the people are far smarter and far more engaged that you may think. I’ve always believed that one of the biggest problems with the folks at City Hall is the low view they have of the general public. They consider the public stupid. Indeed, as they hope to get away with some of their shenanigans, the folks at City Hall actually count on the public being stupid.

I trust the public to figure it out far more than I trust the so-called elite at City Hall. In fact, the whole concept behind our San Diego Citizens’ Budget Project was to merely shine a light on city government, bring the facts out to public light, and let the people decide. You may recall that in 2003 when we first launched the project, City Hall’s response was to “shoot the messenger” and try to mislead the public.  We took things right to the people and haven’t looked back.

And the people “got it.” To them the facts are pretty clear: the politicians at City Hall mis-spent the city onto the brink of bankruptcy. They issued false and misleading financial statements to hide their financial problems from the public and bondholders.  City Hall lacks efficiency and accountability, causing the cost of service to be far higher than it ought to be. More money into a broken system isn’t the solution. Wholesale reform and streamlining of city government is needed instead.  

How do I know? The write-in votes for Donna Frye in 2004, the forced resignation of Dick Murphy in 2005, the election of a reform-minded Mayor Jerry Sanders in 2005, the overwhelming passage of Props B and C despite a well-funded misleading ad campaigns by the unions … the list goes on and on. 

So yes, the people do have a clue about what’s going on and they seem to be doing a pretty decent job of taking back control of their city government.

Gene wrote:

I am confused, I have an email account, am a PD member and I personally do NOT have an axe to grind with the Mayor, but according to you, my opinions “don’t count”.  It is this kind of the “employees don’t matter” attitude at City Hall that is causing people to leave as much as anything else!

And later:

Since you were instrumental in the outsourcing of gov’t jobs in Indianapolis and we know that is the direction Mayor Sanders is heading, can we expect to see the SD Metropolitan Police and Fire Departments (outsourced) as well?

Gene, of course your opinion counts. And of course I value the fact that you work on behalf of the city as a city employee. My point is while your opinion as a unionized city worker counts, so do the opinions of the general taxpaying public. All too often the folks at City Hall get so wrapped up by the personalities and interests inside the four walls of City Hall that they seem to forget about the masses in the public. 

As to your question on outsourcing, I really am not interested in outsourcing as much as instilling competition and accountability. At the end of the day, I don’t care who wins managed competitions (government employees or outside contractors) as long as the taxpayer gets a better service at a lower price. Managed competition, if properly done with contract accountability, can produce both. On police and fire outsourcing? Of course not; the City Charter prohibits it and you probably already know that.

Dale wrote:

Any concerns about John Torrell bailing out?  Seems to me that Mr. Torrell hit the nail on the head.

Dale, yes I am concerned that John left. I met with John early into his tenure as City Auditor and was quite impressed. He gave me confidence that he was a “tell-it-like-it-is” guy. He inherited a complete mess from his predecessor but did a remarkable job in implementing some important processes within the auditor’s office to standardize and professionalize the operation and enhance internal controls. 

In the end I have no doubt that the conflict-of-interest of having the auditor report to the mayor led to John’s departure. That’s not a dig against Mayor Sanders, it just is the reality of a dysfunctional reporting relationship. The auditor should always be 100 percent independent from management and currently at City Hall, it is not. I’ve offered two alternative reforms: an elected auditor position or, at the least, an auditor appointed for a ten year term subject to removal only by a unanimous vote of the council. 

David wrote:

I love your take-off from ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’  If Jerry is driving, the City Council is working the break, and the public is along for the ride, where is Mike Aguirre?

Good question David. Aguirre told the mayor and the council that he would not provide them with legal advice during their ride. He’s on a motor scooter following our car screaming for us to pull over so he can make a citizen’s arrest for a broken tail light. You can read all about it in his next “interim” report.


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