This week we’ve had guest bloggers address the city’s $179 million budget deficit by answering two questions: What can the city do now and what can the city do in the future? We asked our readers to respond as well.
Today, I’m posting the best reader comments and e-mails. Let’s take a cue from city leaders and talk about what people think should be “on the table.”
There tend to be three camps: 1) The city spends too much money on employees; 2) The city doesn’t take in enough revenue to function; 3) The city wastes the money it does have.
A simple demonstration of the interplay between camps one and two is seen in user comments from readers Andy Hoffman and Elmer Walker:
It is time to raise taxes. As long as we citizens want the services, we should be prepared to pay for them. My suggestion is a city income tax of the progressive sort, the more money you make, the more taxes you pay. Solving the budget crisis in any other fashion is unrealistic. Sadly, Andy Hoffman.Andy: You speak for a very small percentage of San Diegan’s Most of us are willing to pay a fair price for the services we want. The employees of San Diego want us to pay an excessive price so they can live far above the populous. Most of the Government workers I have met do not measure up to their counterparts in the private sector. Yet they are told they are the best and they actually believe it. Elmer Walker.
Here’s a good, detailed example from someone with a third opinion in reader, Steve Satz. He used to serve on the University Heights Community Association:
I had to purchase lighted bollards, a function usually performed by someone at City Hall. While the people I worked with there were very nice, and somewhat cooperative, this is when I realized that San Diego does not have buyers, they have purchasers … The difference between a purchaser and a buyer is a couple million dollars to a couple hundred million dollars, depending on what you are buying.
A buyer will track what is being purchased and from whom. They will then use that information to negotiate price, and delivery schedules (as items needed at the same time will cost the consumer less if they are delivered at the same time). These very nice people I dealt with at City Hall were not interested in this concept — I dare say — they had no idea what I was talking about. They pay top dollar for everything they purchase — don’t track how much they’re buying or from whom. It shows up when it shows up. …
We do need to break the Cadillac pension system, we do need to collect for trash pickup, we do need to reel in expenses. We need to do a lot of other things. I do believe that waste is what’s killing us.
There’s also a fair number of folks who address the municipal bankruptcy option. Here’s an e-mail from Jacob Pyle:
What is alarming to me is that it seems all the council members and mayor realize that the $179 million (or $200 million if you believe IBA or $279 million if you believe (Councilman) DeMaio) is impossible to obtain with almost any combination of cuts and revenue, yet not one of them has put bankruptcy on the table for discussion. I’m not an expert, but if our biggest liability is the pension, couldn’t that be restructured in BK?
So what have we learned this week? Guest blogger Murtaza Baxamusa talked about a history of the city ignoring revenue increases. Vince Vasquez discussed public participation from tax amnesty programs, to identifying contracts and purchase agreements that are wasteful and sharing the costs for libraries and recreation centers. Joan Raymond said budget cuts should start at the management level.
These are all starting points, which was the intent of this week’s discussion. Now, the key is to watch if and how city decision makers put these and other ideas into practice.