In nearly every speech about the city’s pension woes, Mayor Jerry Sanders and other current city of San Diego leaders make sure people know they aren’t to blame. Instead, it’s “past administrations,” “past politicians” or “past city leaders.”
Former Mayor Susan Golding, who led the city when pension underfunding began in 1996, said she isn’t to blame either in a rare interview about her tenure with our media partners at NBC7 San Diego.
Instead, Golding said she relied on opinions from experts who said the plan to take money from the pension system and promise enhanced benefits was legally and fiscally sound. Never mind, of course, that the city’s pension system replaced an outside law firm that had said a similar plan wasn’t financially responsible two years earlier.
Golding instead blamed her successor, Mayor Dick Murphy and subsequent City Councils, though not by name, for the pension failures. Murphy oversaw a second, similar pension deal that increased employee benefits while also diverting money from the fund.
“We’re a low-tax city. It’s gonna find problems. To let the problems sit for five years without any action is why we’re where we are today,” Golding said.
I made two points when NBC’s Gene Cubbison asked my reaction to the interview. When city leaders have tried to do everything, such as host the Republican National Convention and renovate Qualcomm Stadium, without cutting costs or raising taxes, then they’ve turned to more questionable funding schemes. Maybe you can’t do everything if you don’t have the money.
Second, I’ve found that it’s rare for city leaders, present and past, to take responsibility for any of San Diego’s problems.
You can watch the portion of the NBC interview with Golding about city finances here: