San Diego City Councilman Tony Young says he’ll attend any special-called City Council meetings next week, even though he has a vacation scheduled with his family.
“Push comes to shove, I’ll be there,” Young said. “But I don’t look forward to telling my daughters that I’m not going to be there for them.”
Typically, City Council is on recess the month of August. But this is not a typical time. After City Councilwoman Donna Frye rejected a sales tax ballot proposition this week, city leaders have scrambled to try to put something on the ballot by the Aug. 6 deadline. Frye has put out a proposal that ties a half-cent sales tax increase to nine cost-cutting reforms that must be completed within two years or the tax sunsets.
The timeframe to do what Frye wants is very tight, as City Attorney Jan Goldsmith articulated today. Goldsmith pushed for a Friday meeting, but, as of late Wednesday, Council President Ben Hueso is sticking to an original plan of meeting Monday and Tuesday, his spokeswoman said.
A Friday meeting would be fraught with difficulty as Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin is scheduled to be out of town and the City Clerk’s Office has only a skeleton crew working Thursday, Hueso spokeswoman Michelle Ganon said. Also, the city would have to publicly notice a Friday meeting the meeting by 9 a.m. Thursday to comply with open meetings laws, she said.
Ganon said meeting Monday and Tuesday left the council and the city attorney enough time to put a ballot measure together.
“There’s no reason why it can’t be done,” Ganon said.
Young, who supported putting a sales tax increase before voters, said he hoped there was enough time before the Aug. 6 deadline to do something substantive.
He’s concerned throwing a proposal together so quickly could result in legal challenges that could tie up the ballot measure in court, or affect the result if voters’ passed it.
“I don’t know if I could handicap it,” Young said of chances a proposal would appear on the ballot. “There are so many questions here that unless the city attorney brings his ‘A’ game and answers all the numerous questions that are out there to my satisfaction, then I don’t know.”
Still, Young said, he’d be there for the discussion.
“I’ll definitely be fulfilling my council duties, and hopefully it’ll be for something that’s productive,” he said.
While City Council’s Democrats scurried to see if they could put together a proposal all six could agree with, the council’s two Republicans released a financial recovery plan of their own.
Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio said the city should not rely on a tax increase — even as part of a package that included labor concessions — but instead should enact a series of pension, outsourcing and retiree health care reforms to cut costs.
If necessary, Faulconer and DeMaio said, the city could hold a special election in fall 2011 with pension or outsourcing ballot measures.
They continued argue that any tax increase wouldn’t fix the city’s fiscal problems. Even if a tax reaches the ballot, DeMaio said, city leaders should expect it to fail. And without it, he said, there’s no other solution proposed to address the city’s gaping $70 million-plus budget deficit for 2012.
“This is what we call high-risk financial management,” DeMaio said. “This tax increase is not going to pass and yet you have city leaders who are throwing a Hail Mary pass with this proposal. It is reckless to be basically hinging the entire city’s financial future on a tax hike.”
Here’s DeMaio and Faulconer’s full plan.
— LIAM DILLON