This was submitted as an idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. VOSD members will vote on the best ideas and on Sept. 19 we’ll announce six contenders (Not a member? Join now to vote). At Politifest on Sept. 29, each of the six finalists will have five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel. The panel rates the ideas and two finalists advance. The crowd at Politifest will vote on a winner. The winner will receive an “idea-inspired” trophy custom-designed by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. VOSD CEO Scott Lewis will also write about the winner’s idea.

My idea is a simple and practical approach to constructing a strong, viable and lasting economy in San Diego that increases the population and income of the middle class. New, fresh upward economic ability will shrink the minimum- and low-wage members of our community. The impact on the wealthy members will be small. The impact on the community will be huge. The impact on our city and county goverments’ revenues is huge.

Please note that I said construct, not re-construct or re-build the economy. There are some bright spots worth keeping! The tourist/convention industries attract significant spending in our beautiful city. National Steel is a godsend. The U.S. Navy and USMC are a blessing. The health and technology industry also make contributions. San Diego’s economy would be completely in the gutter had it not been sustained by these and a few other small but steady businesses. And that’s what our economy is: sustained (more-or-less depending on foreign wars, recession, drought and the dreaded West Nile Virus).

San Diego’s economy is not flourishing. Why? It is not for lack of investment. It is because of the choices for investment. The big draw in San Diego has been tourism, hotel industry and conventions. The city government spent a significant portion of revenues over the last twenty years or more to bring more tourism, more hotel visitors and more conventioneers to San Diego, and with good success. Unfortunately, a few investors make out pretty good and nearly everyone else receives the low end of the service industries. The jobs produced encourage low- and minimum-wage growth. These incomes are barely enough to live off of much less provide the spending that generates revenue. A healthy middle class economy HAS that sorely needed spending.

What is the proposed new construct? I don’t think there is a single source answer to the question. San Diego is wonderfully diverse in culture, resources, even weather! What is good and desirable in Hillcrest is different than it is in Rancho Bernardo or East County. I propose to DEFINE the criteria, resources and goals of the community THROUGH its neighborhoods. I have loosely worked out the details of how this is possible and AFFORDABLE, and am happy to share when I have a little more ink on the paper. For now, let me suggest that San Diegans swap roles this go around. Let’s ask our citizens to decide the direction of our city rather than money-influence and politicians.

The idea is simple. It is based on bottom-up democracy. We begin defining resources and creating the ideas for industries that bring the $50,000-and-up jobs. The local representatives share in the district and ultimately share together in a citizens council.

This is where it gets tricky; the citizenry delivers its desires to the city and county governments with the instructions of how the governments shall proceed. So, the City Council will spend less on tourism and more on… what? future high-tech health industry, for example. The city and county governments will be instructed on what legislation is acceptable and what is off limits. I am not suggesting the government’s hands be tied. It needs freedom to operate. I am suggesting swapping out some emphasis and priorities.

In this manner, San Diegans may define our resources as they see them. They can be a part of the solution influencing the direction the economy takes. It will change the nature of government community improvement spending to enhance the enticements to bring the investments and success to San Diego.

Michael Maguire submitted this idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. Join us on Sept. 29!

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