Do you think we need major change in how our city government spends taxpayer money?

Do you think the city can deliver services to your neighborhood in a more efficient and effective way?

If you do, I’d like to join me for a series of Town Halls my office will be conducting.

These Town Halls will cover a number of ideas for fixing the city’s financial problems and improving the way city services are provided.

More importantly, the Town Halls are designed to let you comment, ask questions, and share your own ideas for how we can make meaningful improvements in city government.

We’ll begin the Town Halls by providing you with a briefing on a five-year comprehensive financial reform plan I recently released called the “Roadmap to Recovery.” The plan was put together by gathering ideas from the public, consulting legal and financial experts, and adopting best practices used in other cities and counties.

The Roadmap to Recovery plan balances the Fiscal Year ’12 budget without tax and fee increases — and more importantly without cuts to core city services such as police, fire, libraries and parks.

That’s important for the short-term challenge of keeping core city services running, but we also need to finally confront and solve the long-term financial crisis facing our city.

Given the gravity of the city’s financial problems, some have proposed bankruptcy as the vehicle for reform. The experts strongly disagree, but have incorporated some elements from a traditional bankruptcy proceeding into the Roadmap to Recovery — achieving reforms without the stigma, expense, and uncertainty of a bankruptcy filing.

Like in a bankruptcy process, the focus of the Roadmap is on reducing the city’s liabilities and bringing the city’s annual operating costs back down to sustainable levels.

That’s why the centerpiece of the Roadmap is a series of integrated reforms to the city’s pension system — all of which are legal and do not challenge vested rights.

Among other items, the plan calls for a cap on “pensionable pay” for city employees for five years — to prevent pension spiking. The plan requires city employees to pay an equal share of the cost of pension benefits — as is the case in the private and non-profit sectors. The plan also creates more affordable pension tiers and a defined contribution plan for new hires. Most importantly, existing city employees would be able to “opt-out” of higher pension tiers into more affordable plans — saving taxpayers money and increasing take home pay for employees.

Over five years, these and other reforms to city pension and retirement benefits produce over $730 million in savings for taxpayers — savings that will bring our debt down to manageable levels and will prevent the city from sliding into insolvency.

But we must do more than prevent a fiscal meltdown – we must work to restore and improve vital services that are so important to our quality of life in each neighborhood.

That’s why the Roadmap Plan calls for a heavy dose of rethinking and re-engineering how city services are provided. City leaders should immediately implement competitive bidding on support services such as facilities maintenance, auto maintenance, landscaping, and information technology. We should also embrace partnerships, new technologies, and look for ways to reduce layers of management and redundant processes.

The Roadmap documents more than $300 million in cost savings that can be achieved from redesigning city government — savings that the Roadmap proposes to immediately put back into preserving and expanding core services such as police, fire, and road repairs.

The Roadmap shows how city leaders can replace the current deficits in the city’s financial outlook with surpluses in each of the five years. To provide accountability for how those surpluses can be spent each year, the Roadmap proposes a clear formula be established: 25 percent for service restorations with police and fire as top priority; 25 percent for road repairs; and 50 percent for further debt reduction.

San Diegans are tired of hearing of the city’s financial woes — and are frustrated by the annual cycle of cuts in core neighborhood services.

It’s time for a new approach to solving our city’s problems. San Diego needs a clear plan that lays out all of our financial obligations in an integrated fashion and provides comprehensive solutions for achieving balance.

It is my hope that the Roadmap to Recovery can serve as a starting point for that discussion — with more ideas needed from the public to make sure the plan work for all of our neighborhoods.

That’s why these Town Hall forums are so important — and I hope you will attend one of the following forums and share your views on how we can create a city government we can be proud of again.

Hillcrest: LGBT Center, December 4, 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Point Loma: NTC Command Center, December 14, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

City Heights: City Heights Recreation Center, December 15, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Tierrasanta: TBD

For more information on the Town Hall meetings please visit

Carl DeMaio is the San Diego City Councilman for District 5.

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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