I’ve been calling San Diego City Council members over past day or so to get a sense of where they stand on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposal to close libraries and recreation centers, reduce the number of fire crews in the city and cut back police and fire academies. These are all crucial parts of a sweeping package of cuts Sanders proposed to close a $43 million midyear budget gap.
I haven’t been able to reach everyone. But based on my conversations with four council members, and comments from Council President Scott Peters’ spokeswoman, it’s looking like the libraries and recreation centers will be saved. The lawmakers I spoke to did not seem as steadfast on denying the mayor his cuts to public safety, but I would count on at least some revisions to his proposal. There are eight council members and it takes five votes to approve a measure.
Here is a rundown of the council members I spoke to, and their comments.
- Councilman Kevin Faulconer: “We have to find options other than closing down libraries and recreation centers. They are both very important. People are passionate about libraries, it’s a core service.”
Regarding public safety, Faulconer said: “I am very concerned about emergency response times. I think we need to do everything we can to find other cuts and solutions.”
- Councilwoman Toni Atkins: “I do think [library and recreation center] hours will have to be reduced. But I do not want to close, entirely, rec centers or libraries.”
On public safety, Atkins said: “If you cut the academies for longer than two years, we will run into the same problem we had two years ago.” (In 2006, the city declared a police officer recruitment and retention crisis.)
- Councilwoman Donna Frye: “No. I do not want to shut down libraries and rec centers. I truly believe that once they shut them down, that is pretty much it. I’m not convinced they will re-open. There are other solutions other than what has been presented. For once, I saw a little bit of a pushback, instead of just rubber stamping what the mayor wants.”
- Councilman Tony Young: “We need to struggle, scratch, fight to keep those facilities open. There is a much bigger picture here — how it affects communities. There is about $30 million in various funds that we can tap into.”
On public safety, Young said he tries “to put trust in law enforcement personnel. I’m cautious about saying public safety people don’t know what they are talking about. They are putting their professional expertise on the line by saying there would be no impact.”
- Michelle Ganon, spokeswoman for Peters, said he “is not in favor of closing libraries.”