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My dad has a really fantastic saying about being realistic and dealing with the situation at hand. Unfortunately, it’s too crude to repeat in polite company (or even in front of you guys), but a sanitized version would be: “You’ve got to walk with the legs that you’ve got.”
Here’s where we are San Diego: We are in major debt, we have crumbling infrastructure, we have libraries and swimming pools that are rarely open, we have recruitment and retention problems in our public-safety workforce, we have an underfunded and expensive pension, we have an extraordinarily high level of dysfunction in City Hall, we have a council and city attorney at loggerheads, we have a mayor who (sigh) is already in re-election mode, and we have a justifiably-yet-unproductively angry citizenry.
That’s our situation. How do we improve it?
Well, I’m no municipal expert, but it seems to me that money is the answer. We just don’t have enough of it.
There are three ways to fix that: (1) You can borrow and mortgage the kids’ futures; (2) You can cut expenses further; (3) Or you can raise revenues.
(Note: I’m not including bankruptcy because, realistically, our city won’t qualify for bankruptcy as long as it can pay its debts as they come due, and we are well within our ability to do that, even with our current underfunded pension.)
Option No. 1 is as much a part of the problem as it is a solution. Sure, we’ll want to bond some infrastructure projects when Wall Street re-issues our preferred-rate credit card, but we need better solutions to the regular shortfalls that have caused us to do the penny-wise and pound-foolish things like deferring infrastructure maintenance.
Option No. 2 is a work in progress, supposedly. But already deep cuts in the mayor’s five-year plan don’t solve the problems either, and some cuts leave our city a lot less livable.
Option No.3 is the solution that dares not speak its name. The dreaded “T” word!
There has been a very, very quiet acknowledgement even by some very conservative folks I know that we just can’t right our situation without new fees and taxes. That notion has just been buttressed by the council’s independent budget analyst, who suggests using new fees to raise more than $30 million.
But naturally, it meets with balking by anyone who has to run for re-election. New taxes are political suicide, right?
I wonder how many of you out there have thought about this and said, “I would support it, but no one else would.”
I have. It’s just the only responsible, realistic solution.