This evening, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and his top officials will begin their 2010 edition of the Traveling Budget Roadshow.
For the next two weeks, they’ll detail the series of serious cuts to San Diego’s public safety departments, parks and libraries that could come should the city have to close a projected $70 million deficit next year. The first meeting is today at 6 p.m. at University City High School. Seven more will follow in other neighborhoods.
The road show is timely for Proposition D supporters. In two weeks, city voters will decide on the proposition, a sales tax/financial reform ballot measure that could allow $100 million more a year to enter city coffers — enough money to make sure those cuts don’t happen.
But mayoral spokesman Alex Roth said the timing was coincidental. The mayor, a Prop. D supporter, simply wants to make the public aware of the potential cuts the city faces.
“It has nothing to do with Prop. D,” Roth said.
Wow, that’s strange.
This time last year, when the city was attempting to close a $179 million deficit, potential cuts to each department were closely guarded secrets. A Sanders spokeswoman told me then that memos detailing recommended cuts were even exempt from the state’s public records law because they were drafts. This year, similar memos form the basis for the mayor’s road show.
Told about the difference between this year and last, Roth replied that mid-year cuts happened so quickly last year the Mayor’s Office didn’t have time to arrange town halls. But that response ignores the series of community meetings on the budget City Council held last October.
The mayor isn’t the only one holding meetings. City Councilman Carl DeMaio began a “Plenty of Waste Left to Cut” series last week with a report on firefighter pay. DeMaio, a Prop. D opponent, plans to continue the series leading up to Election Day.
I asked DeMaio at last week’s press conference why he’s proposing his ideas piecemeal instead of in a comprehensive financial plan like Prop. D supporters have endorsed. Is it to garner ongoing media coverage? Nope, DeMaio said. All his ideas, he said, would be too much for the public to understand at one time.
“If you go out there with a huge binder and say, ‘Hey, look at all this evidence of waste, fraud and abuse in city government,’ it’s overwhelming,” DeMaio said.