Mayor Jerry Sanders’ spokeswoman, Rachel Laing, began arguing on Twitter Wednesday in favor of Proposition D, the measure that would make permanent the current strong mayor form of government. She was bantering with CityBeat editor Dave Rolland, who surprised a few yesterday when he and his paper also came out in favor of Proposition D (they also, somewhat surprisingly, came out against Proposition B, the push to institute term limits on the Board of Supervisors).

Laing, of course, agreed with Rolland. To buttress their perspective, and to refresh us on the horrors of the previous form of government, she posted a link to this story profiling former City Manager Jack McGrory.

That story was written by her colleague in the Mayor’s Office — the former Union-Tribune writer Gerry Braun. (I gotta say, by the way, I miss those kind of stories from the U-T — the long, rolling profiles by Phil LaVelle, Braun, Alex Roth and others.)

In his narrative about McGrory, Braun wanted to illustrate just how bad San Diego had gotten because of what McGrory and others put in motion while managing the city. How bad was San Diego’s state, Braun wrote this (emphasis added):

Today San Diego staggers under the weight of its financial obligations. City services are being slashed. A new mayor has promised massive layoffs and salary freezes. And the once rock-solid city retirement system, first underfunded by McGrory in 1996 to help finance the good times, is $1.4 billion in the red, and counting.

And counting, indeed. Five years later, as Braun now sees even clearer from his post as head of special projects for the Mayor’s Office, that debt has only gotten worse and the payments to it are astronomical. After all, in 2005, the city was riding a real estate bubble and an economy ballooning at a pace that wouldn’t slow down for quite some time.

But even with that hot economy, the new mayor found himself obligated to promise City Hall brutal restructuring with “massive layoffs.”

I’m trying to picture the conversation Braun must have had with the mayor when he took the job.

“Should we go forward with those massive layoffs, Jerry?”

“No, Gerry.”

“Oh, so more money must have come in somehow?”

“Nope, things are worse.”

“Should we try to raise money?”

“Nope, can’t do that.”

“So what’s our plan?”

“Let’s build a new main library, a new stadium, a new City Hall and a new Convention Center and borrow as much money as we can for other things.”

“Got it.”

— SCOTT LEWIS

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