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Statement: “Because in the past you really just had the mayor pitch something and the council made a few small tweaks here and there and that was it,” voiceofsandiego.org Editor Andrew Donohue, on KPBS’ Editors Roundtable on April 15.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: In a break with tradition, the City Council this year proposed more than $30 million in cuts to the city budget before Mayor Jerry Sanders released his budget proposal. The mayor’s proposal usually signals the start of budget season, but the council has been more active this time around with deep cuts ahead.

Now that the mayor has released his budget, Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office is saying the council likely won’t allow what is essentially the halving of library and recreation center hours to go forward.

In that context, I noted on Editors Roundtable that this year’s budget season was shaping up to be a unique one:

I think what we’re going to see for the first time, at least in my experience over the last decade, is see a real conversation here before actual budget hits the road between the council and between the mayor. Because in the past you really just had the mayor pitch something and the council made a few small tweaks here and there and that was it.

The city’s independent budget analyst, Andrea Tevlin, later emailed and kindly challenged me on the statement. She pointed out that the City Council had in fact pushed the mayor to rescind plans in 2008 to close libraries and recreation centers. And that it had, among other things, forced him to not include proceeds from $600 million in pension obligation bonds in fiscal year 2008.

I decided to try something new and crowdsource the determination, letting VOSD users vote on what the determination should be. The winner: Mostly True. The total tally: Mostly True: 4; Barely True: 3; Misleading: 2; and False: 1.

The general tone from those who voted for Mostly True was that, yes, there are examples of the City Council pushing back but in the big picture over time my statement remained generally accurate. Tevlin was correct in that these were two significant changes forced by the City Council, and I hadn’t considered them when making the statement on live radio. For that, I thought people were going to be harder on me.

But the City Council is stepping up to play a uniquely proactive role in this budget season and over the arc of the last decade the readers felt that my statement contained enough truth to hold onto the Mostly True determination. Personally, I think adding the “really” into that statement gave me enough hedging to escape.

Regardless, I don’t believe my statement was good enough and would rephrase it in the future.

Lastly, I wanted to thank Dylan Mann for his comment on my original post. He voted somewhere between Barely True and Mostly True. But he pointed this out (emphasis mine):

By saying, “…in the past you really just had the mayor pitch something and the council made a few small tweaks here or there…” it insinuates this was always or almost always the case. The City’s budget analyst has not cast doubt on the idea that what you said ever happened, she just makes a decent case that maybe your’s wasn’t the prevailing scenario. But, then again, maybe it was the prevailing scenario. I think neither you nor the budget analyst has provided enough info for the reader to make an informed decision about that, but if you qualify your statement, you’re in the clear.

One thing I learned in this experiment is that next time I need to provide more info the first time around. Hopefully that way I’ll also get more than 10 votes. (Most votes came from people with a pretty intimate knowledge of how the city runs.)

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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