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What bothers me the most about Proposition D is that it is flat-out disingenuous. It purports to be about reform, when it is nothing more than a sales tax hike that serves to delay any meaningful change in the way the City does business.
The proponents tout it as an “opportunity for reform.” How can they possibly say that with a straight face when the last six years have been nothing but missed opportunities for reform?
In 2004, the Pension Reform Committee provided a checklist for reform of the pension plan. Some of the easier recommendations were achieved under Mayor Dick Murphy’s term, but the hard part — scaling back the defined benefit plan to an affordable level — has still not happened. Opportunities have been there, but there must be political will in order for an opportunity to turn into action.
The ultimate Prop D insult to the voters is the so-called fiscal analysis contained in the voter pamphlet. Voters should have confidence that such an analysis is unbiased and based in reality. While they expect the arguments in favor and opposed to the measure to contain bias, this analysis should have been a tool to assess those arguments. Instead, it was prepared by the proponents and is essentially a second ballot argument in favor of the measure. Judge David Oberholtzer agreed and declared, “I believe that a voter of average intelligence, informed of the facts, could be deceived by the fiscal impact statement for Proposition D. … Moreover, the ranges of savings available to the — or possibly realized by the City, are sometimes just too remote to include in a statement that should have some … clear advice to the voters.”
Voters should be aware that buried in the trumpeted potential savings is a high end of $27 million annually for completion of the managed competition guide. It is, frankly, laughable to claim that completion of a pamphlet can generate savings. One must actually do something with such a guide before the first dollar of saving can be realized.
Similarly, the claimed savings include $5 million annually as the result of soliciting proposals to take over information technology services. Really? Since when has soliciting a bid ever saved anyone anything? One must receive bids, assess them, and then award a contract resulting in lower costs before money is saved. Those extra steps, however, aren’t a part of the “reforms” required before the tax is levied. Only the solicitation is required. Nothing more.
Let’s be frank. There is nothing in the ten triggers that the mayor and council have not already had the opportunity to do, but chose not to do. The tax, if enacted, generates more than $100 million in new revenue per year. We are told that the deficit is now $94 million per year. If we believe both of those numbers, what is the motivation for an already recalcitrant Council to enact real reform if the tax is passed? Five years of delay is all this buys us.
April Boling is a CPA and the former chairperson of the City of San Diego Pension Reform Committee. She lives in San Carlos.