The Morning Report
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As we continue to grapple with the reality that the city of San Diego is bringing in healthy revenues but, at the same time, cutting services, I’m reminded that I don’t know/remember everything.
City Councilwoman Donna Frye e-mailed to remind me of a couple of other places she has noticed the money going. One, to pay for Petco Park. And, two, to pay for increased employee salaries.
The city has to fork over $11 million a year to pay off the debt it incurred to build the downtown ballpark. We will be making payments until 2023. Perhaps the Padres can make it to the World Series before then.
As for raises. The effect is a little tougher to nail down. A 7 percent or 8 percent increase in the total general fund each year should be plenty of money to handle the across-the-board salary raises that governments like to give each of their employee groups. The raises for police officers were the only ones that really went above and beyond normal inflationary jumps.
I could be wrong.
I think there’s an interesting point to this exercise. It is to remember the cost of our civic luxuries in the future when we decide to buy them. Do you think the City Council would have been so easy going about a vote to increase city employee pension benefits if it had been clearly articulated what the consequences of it were to the city’s budget and future services? Maybe, but they would have at least had to deal with them and they would have had to deal with the reality that if they wanted to give these benefit enhancements, they would have to pass some kind of tax increase at the same time.
Or Petco Park. Yes, I know, it’s the sacred cow of 21st century downtown boom. There’s no doubt the ballpark provoked the eastside revival of downtown. Petco is a very nice place. I like it too. But the next time you hear someone talk about a “bond” for some big project (think, I don’t know, Gaylord maybe?) remember that “bonds” aren’t free. They come with consequences like this. If the government doing the bonding doesn’t also work to raise money through a higher tax or new fee, then you will feel a pinch like San Diego’s feeling now.
You just will.
So all I’m asking is that these decisions about big beautiful projects and extra expenditures be accompanied with realistic outlines of their consequences. And that if we want new stadiums, or if we want to pay our city workers more, great, just accompany that desire with realistic sources of funds.
Now, one other point:
- There’s a revival of discussion these days about Richard Nixon. I’m engrossed, as a matter of fact, in the new book “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein. It’s great. I can’t wait to get home tonight to keep reading.
It’s not just history for trivia. As is clear, what Nixon and the 60s did to politics still define a lot of our debates these days. So if that interests you and if you want to read a great story about one San Diegan’s Forrest Gump-like encounters with historical figures from the latter half of the 20th century, you’ve got to read this excellent piece by my colleagues.
And then read Part 2. I like Part 2 the best. Something about Russian oligarchs that just freaks me out.
— SCOTT LEWIS