As you sit in anticipation of our Sept. 30 debate on Proposition D, remember that this is simply a contest for your trust.

Those opposed to the sales tax increase and its reforms tried out a number of themes but appear to have settled on one in particular: That if we passed the tax increase, we would relieve the city of pressure to reform.

Here is a recent tweet from Councilman Kevin Faulconer:

“Prop. D would disincentivize real reform,” and he linked to a letter to the editor in the U-T (which he reposted on his Facebook page).

And there was another example from his spokesman, Tony Manolatos, who has been at loggerheads on Twitter with police union members and Rachel Laing, the mayoral spokeswoman on leave to work on the Yes on D campaign.

“This tax would torpedo leverage city needs for meaningful reform & you have no idea how much, if any, would go to police/fire,” he wrote.

Yikes! I hate it when people torpedo leverage.

So what do they mean? I asked Manolatos to clarify.

“Kevin’s argument is that labor leaders don’t make moves until everything else has been exhausted,” he said.

In other words, the “leverage” opponents are focusing on is the pressure the city and the unions face as we head into what could be the most brutal rendition of the drama that plays every year at City Hall, “What Will the Structural Deficit Do to Us This Year?”

The idea is that if you pass Prop. D, you close a window. Things are so bad and getting worse, that taxpayers should demand a lot more before they provide any relief. It’s a vision of the crisis as full of transformative opportunity. That the public will no longer stand for cuts to crucial services and so, without more funds, the city would have no other choice but to demand concessions from unions.

It’s a vision that ignores the possibility that unions might care more about protecting their members’ benefits than about losing fellow members to layoffs.

So they’ll bend, Faulconer and his crew contend. Everyone will bend. They’re telling you to take this on faith.

“There’s not going to be votes on this floor to layoff police offers and firefighters. There’s just not,” Manolatos said.

It’s not the first time Faulconer and his team have told residents to have faith.

But this new pose has forced Faulconer to accuse the mayor and others of lying and bluffing when they say that without Proposition D, public safety will suffer.

Faulconer and the mayor, once allies, are now saying the other is simply not to be trusted.

Faulconer’s version comes down to this: Proponents of Proposition D would have you believe that public safety is at risk. We believe they are bluffing and would never cut police officers and firefighters. To deal with a city that is set up to spend more than it is set up to take in, city leaders will cut costs and protect what truly matters.

On the other side of the aisle, we have a similar plea for faith. The reforms that are part of Proposition D are, in many cases, simply steps that must be taken before you can take steps to save money in the way the city operates. As the U-T pointed out today, one of the steps has already been taken, and yet not a dollar has been saved. Sure it was a big step.

But they’re asking voters to give the city a boatload of new revenue based on the faith that they won’t just take the initial steps toward privatizing the landfill, but that they’ll actually someday save money on it. And they’re asking voters to trust they won’t just save $1 in retiree health care costs but more, and on and on.

Both sides are asking for your faith. At our debate Sept. 30, and in everything you read until then, you’ll to decide which side deserves it.

Please contact Scott Lewis directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow him on Twitter:

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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