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San Diego is a city I love. It’s the city where I was born, where I grew up, and the city I am proud to serve.
As a councilman, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. It’s my duty to tell you the truth and give you the information you need.
And I know that Proposition D is the absolute best chance we have to preserve San Diego as we know it.
Like most rational people who read Dan Shea’s recent commentary, I was stunned that he would deliver a sermon on a “life with integrity” while blatantly misrepresenting the service cuts that San Diegans will have to endure if Prop. D fails. Or maybe he just doesn’t get it.
Mr. Shea’s commentary was constructed around a false premise — that the only budget cuts being considered to address the city’s $73 million deficit are jobs held by police and firefighters.
Or, as he put it, “Isn’t it interesting that they don’t threaten to cut white- or blue-collar jobs?”
This claim is false and bordering on being huckster propaganda.
To achieve the forecasted $73 million of cuts necessary to balance the city budget by July 1, 2011, department directors in the city have been asked to step forward with reductions amounting to 24 percent of their current budget. Chiefs in the police and fire-rescue departments have been asked to propose cuts of less than 7 percent (as Mr. Shea suggests, “Let’s prioritize as government should”).
This information is known to anyone who has followed the city’s financial difficulties in the newspaper, attended a Budget Town Hall, or watched the first Town Hall on the web or as it is re-run on CityTV.
Citizens who take the time to learn the facts also know this: 308 employee positions are being proposed for elimination in just three General Fund areas: Park and Recreation, Library and the Street Division of General Services. Other departments that have not yet submitted their reduction proposals will likely be as drastic.
These 308 positions are among the many “white- and blue-collar jobs” that Mr. Shea is so eager to see eliminated.
It’s understandable that people are most focused on the proposed cuts to our firefighters, paramedics, lifeguards and police officers.
No one wants to see reductions in these core services. Yet Mr. Shea and his political allies are intentionally vague about how we can find sufficient savings without them. Even if we shut down every single library in the city, we would still need to find at least $35 million more to cut.
And while Mr. Shea may think their work is inconsequential, the elimination of “white- and blue-collar jobs” will also have profound impacts on our families and our neighborhoods.
Eliminating about 82 positions from the library department will lead to the permanent closure of two branch libraries and brownouts for the rest of the system. Libraries will be paired and open on alternate days. For Council District 3, this means that only two of our four libraries will be open on any given day.
Eliminating 34 positions from the Street Division will translate to between 8,000 and 10,000 fewer potholes will be repaired every year, 1,400 fewer streetlights will be repaired every year, 700 fewer sidewalks will be repaired every year, and 2,800 fewer traffic signs and pavement markings will be repaired or replaced each year.
Eliminating about 190 positions from the Park and Recreation Department will require the closure of nine recreation centers, the closure of every single pool except one, the reduction of remaining rec center hours from 40 per week to just 20 per week, the elimination of 17 after-school and teen programs — which keep 600-750 local kids safe and productive every day — and a 40 percent decrease in park maintenance.
Are these the sunshine-and-roses scenarios that Mr. Shea thinks we’re hiding?
Opponents of Prop. D have called such statements “scare tactics.” I wish that were the case.
The truth is: Facts can be scary. Rational people support Prop. D because, in fact, it is the solution San Diego needs.
Todd Gloria is San Diego City Councilman for District 3. He lives in the Cherokee Point neighborhood of City Heights.