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(Editor’s note: This blog was supposed to run on Friday, Jan. 18 when Erik Bruvold hosted the Café. Due to a technical error, it did not make it into Friday’s posts. We regret the error.)

Reader Coast Watcher wrote: “And how did we get to paying so much for education?”

Long, tortuous, and complicated story probably best saved for another day. Some of the key decisions include the state’s immediate response to Proposition 13 (which resulted in distribution of property tax collections based upon the share of municipal budget paid for by property taxes — which meant that low tax cities like San Diego were disadvantaged compared to localities like SF and LA) and the Serrano v. Priest decisions that required the state to work toward “equalizing” funding for the state’s school districts. The result was the massive expansion of Sacramento’s role in educational funding and what amounts to an inefficient system of sending $$ to Sacramento to be subsequently sent right back to local districts.

Reader Joe wrote: “Are you suggesting we get rid of the libraries and parks as our best and/or only solution for the anticipated budget shortfall?”

Absolutely not. I used them to show the magnitude of the funding challenge. SDI public opinion research showed that most San Diegans have limited knowledge about the size of the city’s budget and how the city allocates our tax money.

Reader Joe also wrote “Is the CCDC more important than both our beautiful parks and our libraries?” and “Is free trash more important than vital public services? Raise the TOT.”

The challenge with both TOT and trash is that revenues would likely NOT be realized in the next fiscal year since raising those taxes would need to go on the ballot. Getting money from CCDC would require action to either nix the downtown library, revise the community plan to reflect new priorities, or refi the ballpark bonds. I would also point out, that there are still real challenges with going to voters in the city of San Diego for those kind of changes.

Reader Jorgeelgato wrote: “and the city council just agreed to pay the lawyers fighting the Mt. Soledad Cross $750,000…The Rose Canyon dollars paid to the lawyers come on top of $3 million.”

The city’s recent track record on legal settlements and payouts is not that promising. I would love (does anyone know a good source for the data?) to examine city payments as a result of litigation and how that has changed over time.

Reader Calendar Calendar wrote what I would consider disjointed and ad-hominine attack that cheapens him/her (Someone smarter than me will have to explain what “Positive notions of turning landscape” means).

But to CC’s point that I have been negative for the sake of being negative I think that misses a key theme in both this and past postings — that the challenges of fiscal constraints on government call not for platitudes or fancy talk but cold, sobering discussions with the public about the true state of city/state/national finances. The rarity of such conversations and often the happy speak that Calendar Calendar seems to call for contributes to our challenges.

Finally, Reader JR writes “I realize this is quite long term, but San Diego really needs to bring back its industries again. Commercial fishing, aviation, farming, ship and boat building all provided a healthy economy, blue collar jobs that paid relatively well and developed a strong middle class and helped that class ride out economic wild rides.”

Some of that is the purpose of strategies (such as SDI’s co-produced Partnership for a Global Economy) that seek to encourage the creation of more jobs in knowledge-based jobs. One serious challenge is that many San Diegans are ambivalent about the trade offs. For instance trade and logistics pay great wages. They also create air pollution and can damage coastal water quality. Some groups championing environmental steward ship would likely fight to the bitter end if there was ever a serious effort to build a container cargo terminal on San Diego bay and really try to attract some of the trade that is creating thousands of good jobs at or near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

— ERIK BRUVOLD

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