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Reader Southof8, who has been a persistent unnamed critic of mine, had some negative comments to my column today about the candor coming from Chula Vista City Manager David Garcia:

It’s an interesting point of view, you have there Mr. Lewis. Any public official that doesn’t share your conservative (libertarian?) views is guilty of not telling the truth. CV was essentially financially sunk when it bet that new housing construction would continue at the same pace as the recent past. A risky bet? Yes, unethical or illegal? Hardly. Right now corporate executives in the private sector are facing similar scenarios—they bet on one “future” and another (much different) arrives. True enough that Mr. Garcia is “telling it like it is”, but what does he lose by doing so? If he pulls it off, he will be a hero, if not—he blames the past regime and moves on to another gig … Knight in shining armor? I doubt it. But, he’s doing what YOU want, so YOU have knighted him…

Let’s just break this down and I’ll respond to each point.

It’s an interesting point of view, you have there Mr. Lewis.

Thank you, Mr(s?) 8.

Any public official that doesn’t share your conservative (libertarian?) views is guilty of not telling the truth.

Chula Vista’s shiny new hall.

I’m certainly not a libertarian. I’m pretty passionate, though, about government officials recognizing their limitations. I want parks and fire stations and competent police officers with high morale as much as anyone. I’m just extremely frustrated with the tendency of politicians to try to have it both ways: They want to avoid taxes but also spend with reckless abandon. That means they have to borrow money to finance it. It’s OK to borrow money, as long as you have a dedicated income that can reasonably be expected to help you make the annual payments.

Chula Vista authorities were perfectly aware that they had only one-time revenue available. The only way it could continue was if the housing market and development boom continued. They refused to accept that it was even possible it would not.

They never would admit the kinds of things Garcia did: That they had the highest salaries in the land; that they had borrowed money with only one-time revenue available to make the first repayments; that their pension payments were getting larger and worrisome and that a declining development boom would be a problem.

A risky bet? Yes, unethical or illegal? Hardly. Right now corporate executives in the private sector are facing similar scenarios—they bet on one “future” and another (much different) arrives.

I never said it was unethical or illegal. But Southof8 makes a good point: They weren’t the only ones to get seduced by the housing boom. Definitely.

But Chula Vista isn’t a hedge fund. It isn’t a bank. It isn’t a mortgage lender. It’s a government agency. It should be the single most conservative type of entity with regard to taking risks with its revenues. Borrowing money based on the unprecedented growth of the past few years is extremely risky. A government should set aside money from boom times in reserves knowing better than anyone that it’ll be around for the long haul and the long haul always, always, includes slumps and even recessions.

True enough that Mr. Garcia is “telling it like it is” but what does he lose by doing so? If he pulls it off, he will be a hero, if not—he blames the past regime and moves on to another gig … Knight in shining armor? I doubt it. But, he’s doing what YOU want, so YOU have knighted him.

Does this mean I’m a king? Nice. Submit your applications for knighthood to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org.

In all seriousness, I don’t know what the big criticism here is. Is it that Garcia’s candor is not all that noteworthy because he has nothing to lose?

OK, fine. Whether it was very courageous or not, it certainly was nice to listen to.

SCOTT LEWIS

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