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This post is the third in our series of guest blogs this week on the city’s budget deficit. Brief recap: We’re hoping to spur discussion on how the city solves its $179 million deficit this year and others projected down the road.
Our blogger for today is Joan Raymond, a sanitation driver for the city of San Diego and the president of the blue-collar employee union, AFSCME Local 127.
Here’s Raymond’s response:
Good afternoon. I’m likely just finishing up my trash route as this is getting posted. I get to see so many different neighborhoods of San Diego as I drive my routes. Every street offers a glimpse of the promise and the problems of San Diego. Besides worrying about the city’s fiscal problems, I have to make sure my 20-ton truck avoids the occasional child who darts into the street and all other obstacles.
It is interesting that I am constantly asked to answer what is a fairly complex financial question. To manage and finance a city this large is not my profession. I represent the blue-collar workers of the city so I have become familiar with many of the city’s operations. But to be clear, my members provide the labor. City management, under the direction of the mayor, is responsible for direction and funding of city operations. However, since all of city management’s woes inevitably get pinned on the workers of this city, we have made efforts to clue city management into areas of savings and efficiencies to help tighten its belt. Every year our input falls on deaf ears.
Did you know that city administrators receive a much larger benefits package than all other city employees? It is called the Management Benefits Package and costs the city an additional $3 million to $4 million a year.
Did you know that there are an average of seven layers of management between our members and the mayor? Does the city really need so many middlemen between the man in charge and the people doing what needs to be done?
Did you know that in many departments that management has increased while the front-line workforce has decreased?
We made many proposals to address these issues last year to save the city up to $14 million. They were proposals based on what city workers could see right in front of them — a still-growing bureaucracy, avoiding the same concessions and cuts that all front-line employees endured. Of course cuts to front-line employees mean cuts to direct services to the residents of San Diego.
It seems to be plain common sense that a conscientious administrator should opt for management reductions BEFORE reducing library and recreation center hours, BEFORE reducing street repair crews. To generate goodwill and cooperation, a conscientious leader would equalize benefit levels BEFORE extracting concessions from the lowest-paid in the city. Obviously, our proposals need to be revisited now that the city is in a deeper mess. They won’t solve the whole problem, which will require many solutions, but they should not be ignored.
One of the most important solutions is leadership. The mayor needs to finally tell the public what he has been telling our members in private for more than three years. San Diego lacks sufficient revenues to pay for its services. It won’t be popular and it will likely be met with opposition but it is the truth. To me, delivering hard news like that seems to be the text-book description of leadership.
Thoughts on Raymond’s argument? Post your comment in The Hall blog if you’re not there already or chime in on our readers’ conversation. Remember, I’ll be posting the best reader responses tomorrow.