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Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 | A dozen prominent members of San Diego’s business community delivered a draft report Tuesday to Mayor Jerry Sanders with solutions to the budget deficits that have dogged the city for years.

Neither the business leaders nor Sanders would discuss details from the report, but the private task force is promising significant and specific resolutions to the city’s structural deficit.

“We’re not leaving until it goes to zero,” said Vince Mudd, the owner of an office interior firm and the group’s chairman.

The task force grew out of the mayor’s Civic Leadership Team, a private organization of community and business heavy-hitters gathered to help push the mayor’s agenda. The task force, which includes retired ship builder Dick Vortmann, former City Councilwoman Barbara Warden and restaurateur Dan Shea, has met four hours a week for four months.

This effort is the team’s highest profile by far since the Mayor’s Office organized it over the summer. Despite six weeks of non-stop talks citywide on the city’s current $200 million budget deficit, neither the Mayor’s Office nor any of the task force members previously have mentioned this report.

And they’re still not sharing much. The task force didn’t leave a copy of the report in City Hall during its hour-long meeting Tuesday with Sanders and three top deputies. Through a public records request, voiceofsandiego.org requested a copy but was told that the city didn’t have one.

Mudd said the task force needed to review the accuracy of its information with the mayor’s team and expects to release a report publicly in three weeks. Sanders said the meeting is the first of several he will have with the task force.

“I think that they have given a lot of thought to wise fiscal management in the city,” Sanders said in an interview Wednesday. “I think they’ve given a lot of thought into the structural issues that we face with the structural deficit, and they’ve got suggestions on how to solve that.”

The mayor and the task force have different ideas over who owns the final report.

Mudd promised the report will be comprehensive and free from any mayoral vetoes over its content.

“The concept of the report is looking at the fiscal situation as a whole from a real honest perspective, one that’s not filtered in any way through a political lens,” he said.

But mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the mayor created the Civic Leadership Team to push his agenda, not to promote the agendas of others. Logic dictates that the mayor will have the final say over the report’s content. That’s part of the reason the city didn’t hold onto a copy of the draft on Tuesday.

“When you know it’s going to change and you get your marching orders for change, then there is no reason to keep one,” Laing said.

“If there’s something in the report that’s not accurate or not in keeping with the mayor’s agenda then we don’t want that out there,” she added.

Mudd shrugged off Laing’s comments, calling the mayor’s influence over the report’s content a “non-issue.” He declined to say whether the task force will make substantive changes to the report when it meets again next week.

“When the report comes out, I have a tremendously high level of confidence that the mayor is going to want to see what’s in it,” Mudd said. “And there’s going to be things in it that the mayor’s not going to like.”

“There’s a really small chance that you’re going to tell all of us how to think,” he added.

At the end of the day, Mudd said, the task force and the mayor have the same goal: to eliminate the city’s deficit.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam. And set the tone of the debate with a letter to the editor.

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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