Some observations from a day on the City Hall beat (thanks, Liam).

  • At every press conference, the Mayor’s Office hands out a package of information — quotes, stats, figures, background. On Tuesday, its handout about the budget cuts spent more time making a case that other cities have recession-driven budget problems than detailing San Diego’s own strategy for making cuts. The handout has 11 pages of news coverage, which includes a sans-context information sheet that reports, for example, that Toledo, Ohio laid off 75 police officers in May and that Akron, Ohio laid off 38 firefighters in October.

    By contrast, it has three pages of details on the mayor’s proposal and doesn’t offer a line-by-line list of savings.

  • Rachel Laing, a Sanders spokeswoman, dug up some of those details for me. (Thanks, Rachel.) Cutting the police unit that patrols Mission Bay will save $67,548 annually. That’s mostly fuel.

    Cutting 12 police dogs will save $644,050 annually — including $421,159 in expenses. That’s a lot of kibble, training, equipment and vet bills.

    Cutting the horse unit will save $243,333 annually — including $183,561 in expenses.

  • When a reporter asked whether the council offices should cut their budgets, City Council President Ben Hueso said, in effect: No.

    But he wasn’t so succinct. He gave a three-minute, 11-second reply that never mentioned that he’s actually proposed a 3 percent cut to his office budget, making him one of the few council members to offer anything.

    Here’s his response, in its entirety:

    It would be my hope that we try to keep our offices in tact. We’ve been reduced to a very core staff. And we have a lot of work to do. This is my own personal view. I think other council members have different opinions.

    I’ve been cutting in my expenses since the first year I joined the council. The first year we had $140,000 budget savings, the next year we made cuts, but I think we’re down to core staff right now. My concern is that if we don’t have the staff that we need to respond to the budget requests that we have and the projects that could before us, we’re not going to have enough time to scrutinize the information that’s put before us.

    And that’s gonna force council members between choosing decisions that they don’t fully vet or just simply voting no. And voting no on things that put before us run the risk of solving problems for our city. And I can tell, right now, in my office, we are extremely overworked, responding to constituent requests. One of my staff is out there removing graffiti on a day-to-day basis trying to prevent neighborhood blight. We are working very, very hard in our offices with very limited resources.

    Cutting another position will only impair our ability to respond to the needs of San Diegans. And that includes passing a budget, passing land-use issues. If you consider the amount of work we have and the different committees and commissions we have, I have staff members that’ve taken on enormous responsibility to vet information at all levels of government: county, state, city, I mean, we serve on various — outside of the council — we serve on MTS, the board of directors, Sandag board of directors, various joint power authorities, various commissions, League of Cities.

    All these positions through our involvement, through our active involvement in different levels of government, we’ve been able to effectuate bringing a lot of money to San Diego. We’ve been able to be a part of the solution. We’ve been able to respond to the needs of our constituents. If that’s eliminated, it’s going to impair the council’s ability to have a balanced form of government. So from my standpoint, I feel that in my office, we’ve done everything we could do to save and create efficiencies. I don’t have anyone in my office — the average salaries in my office are very, very low. It’s hard to recruit capable, talented people when we pay very low salaries. We have been very creative, and we have worked very hard to remain on top of an enormous workload.

    No one asked him a follow-up.

ROB DAVIS

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