Putting together a comprehensive plan to fix the city of San Diego’s financial problems in less than two weeks always was going to be complicated. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is now warning just how difficult that can be.

The City Council and Mayor Jerry Sanders need to take immediate action if they want to beat an Aug. 6 ballot deadline to place a sales tax proposition on November’s ballot, Goldsmith said in a tersely written memo to Council President Ben Hueso released this afternoon.

He was responding to City Councilwoman Donna Frye’s proposal to link a half-cent sales tax increase with a series of fiscal reforms that, if not eventually completed, would cancel the tax after two years. Earlier this week, Goldsmith told me he was contacting the state Board of Equalization, which would be responsible for enforcing the tax. The board, Goldsmith said, has responded.

“Thus far, their input has been that they are unaware of conditional taxes ever being presented to them,” Goldsmith wrote. “Do not leave this decision to next week as there are many complicated parts to getting it prepared and on the ballot.”

Goldsmith also warned that Sanders needs to take an active part in negotiations — which he has hasn’t been doing publicly — and sign or veto the ballot measure immediately.

“I wanted to let everyone know this,” Goldsmith wrote. “The mayor should be involved in the city council deliberations.”

Just before Goldsmith released his memo, Hueso had scheduled a meeting to talk about Frye’s plan on Monday and Tuesday.

Too late, Goldsmith said. He urged council to begin deliberations on Friday, “and continue through the weekend if necessary.”

Hueso’s spokeswoman said his office had just received the city attorney’s memo and was reviewing it to see if the meeting time would change. At a council committee meeting, Councilwoman Marti Emerald said she hoped the sales tax discussion would begin Friday.

At the same time all this was going on, Councilmen Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer — the council’s two Republicans — released a financial plan they said would fix the city’s problems without resorting to a tax increase.

Representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Hueso’s office and Frye’s office all attended DeMaio and Faulconer’s press conference. Like the public, it was the first time they were seeing their plan, too.


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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