The city of San Diego faces a lot of big bills — it owes money on the pensions it promised workers. It will need to find funds for the equipment and facilities it has let deteriorate.

But few liabilities on the city’s sheet are as daunting as the pledges it made to workers to provide health care even after they retire.

Unlike other municipalities, like the county, the city did commit to some of its workers it would provide them the benefit. But that has become a massive liability for which the city has put aside only 3 percent of the assets to pay. Even a union representative wonders how good a pledge is if only 3 percent of it is funded.

Will workers negotiate changes to the benefit? Can the city dial down this debt? It looks like it can but our City Hall reporter explains why it’ll take a lot more than a simple decision.

In other news:

  • It’s a timeless discussion: Are children born with a blank slate, nurtured to be how they are or some kind of combination? Or are their personality traits and problems preprogrammed from the beginning? UCSD and Scripps Genomics researchers have embarked on an ambitious effort to scan the brains and DNA of 1,400 kids to find out. What they learn might help them figure out where and why things like autism and schizophrenia emerge.
  • Our real estate analyst Rich Toscano has tracked the trends of one measurement of home values for years: the price per square foot. This trend line dipped in November but Toscano says December brought new, different data.
  • As you’ve no doubt noticed, for the past several days I’ve been running simple Q&As with San Diegans trying to gauge their reaction to the same questions and getting responses from them on some custom questions. I’ve found it to be a pretty enlightening exercise.
  • This morning, I posted the latest: questions for Lorena Gonzalez, the labor leader. She says, among other things, that the most important major project to build in San Diego would be the one that best benefited the people who actually work on its construction.

Now, news from elsewhere:

  • The Union Tribune notes that despite city officials’ well-publicized push to get residents to install solar panels, the city jacked up the cost of getting a permit to actually do that. Installers are complaining but the mayor says the fee is needed to employ the people who check on these things.
  • The U-T also lays out the push, led by Assemblyman Marty Block, to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees. It is supposedly in response to the shrinking budgets and ability of the state colleges to handle eligible students, but will community colleges be cheaper and not face the same constraints?
  • AP: A San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge led a study that shows “that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues than youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era.”
  • Finally, a New Mexico man tells a TV station that it took him three weeks to clear up a nearly $500 red-light camera ticket from San Diego. The driver in the photo wasn’t him, and it wasn’t his car either. On the bright side, he didn’t get dinged with a $322 bill for a 19-year-old San Diego traffic ticket, like this Seattle guy whose story we told last year.


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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