When I talked to Chula Vista City Councilman John McCann for this column, I took the opportunity to ask him about the city’s finances. You might remember that Chula Vista officials claimed to be on the road to insolvency. Now they say they righted the ship with the tough cuts they recently took.

But I’ve always been curious how the City Council explained it all to themselves. After all, it was just more than six months ago that McCann and his colleagues pased a budget for the year. The same budget that the city manager said would leave the city unable to meet its obligations to the people who lent it money.

So what happened?

“The economy and housing market has slumped much more than any of the projections showed,” McCann said.

‘I’ve got to get to a meeting…’

I pushed him a little bit. The housing market had started a slump by the time they passed their flawed budget. Did he not have any way of knowing this was on its way? Soon after the budget was passed, the City Council hired a new city manager who took one look at the books and started sending distress signals.

What were the City Council members thinking?

“I don’t know how I can eloquently say this but, off the record, the former city manager was cooking the books,” McCann said.

When I told him I hadn’t agreed to go off the record, and that I was quoting it, he said he had to get to a meeting and hung up the phone. (Both the sides need to agree to go off the record.)


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