San Diego’s Central Library / Photo by Sam Hodgson

The city of San Diego’s independent budget analyst released a review of Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposed budget this week, identifying a handful of weaknesses in the plan to cut library hours for budget savings.

The report pointed out that the $6.9 million in projected savings from the mayor’s proposal assumes libraries would fully re-open by July, even though that “is likely not feasible until the fall as noted by the library director,” the report reads. So if enacted, the cut could end up saving something like 15 percent to 25 percent less than projected.

Beyond that, though, the report includes two pieces of information that were new to us.

Can’t cut something that’s not open: The library system reports it won’t be able to re-open in July “under any scenario,” because it has so many vacant positions. Last year, library staffers were reassigned to other departments when libraries were closed, and as new vacancies occurred, the city didn’t fill those positions. The department now has 110 vacant jobs for hourly workers and 157 vacancies all together.

That’s why they want the cuts: The library director doesn’t expect she can fill the vacancies. So the cuts – which were first proposed last year by former Mayor Kevin Faulconer, before the Council rejected them, and which were offered by the library director this year prior to the passage of the latest round of pandemic relief – are about the libraries’ inability to fill all the vacancies, according to library leaders.

Even if the City Council balks at the idea of cutting the department’s budget – and most Council members in their budget priorities said they wanted to maintain library hours – library leaders are still requesting that all the department’s hourly positions be converted instead into 59 half-time jobs, with benefits.

If the cuts are shot down, the library department thinks it could open by September or October. If they go through, library leaders think they could open as early as August.

You read that correctly: Yes, they think they could open earlier if their budget is cut.

On Police Overtime

The fine print in Gloria’s budget on his proposal to cut some police overtime spending leaves plenty of doubt that those cuts will ever occur.

On the $2 million reduction in shift overtime, the budget reads: “This reduction will be realized through enhanced oversight that will ensure extension of shift overtime is only approved when necessary.”

Got it. Cut the fat. Root out waste.

“However, in the case of major events that may negatively affect the City’s strategic objective of safe and livable neighborhoods, the department will respond in a manner expected from the public which may require extension of shift overtime,” the budget continues.

In other words, we’ll cut $2 million by approving overtime when it is absolutely necessary, and we get to decide whether it’s absolutely necessary, and if we decide that it’s absolutely necessary than there won’t be $2 million in cuts, because the spending was absolutely necessary.

Another Court Victory for Underperforming Tax Hike Votes

Dispatch from Lisa Halverstadt: As city lawyers prepare to take court action to force the issue of whether the hotel tax Measure C passed with less a two-thirds vote in March, the state Supreme Court has opted to let a third appellate court ruling declaring that citizens’ initiatives can pass with a simple majority stand.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to review a ruling that asserted a 2018 San Francisco citizens’ initiative to increase commercial rent taxes to fund childcare and early education services passed with 51 percent of the vote.

The unanimous decision not to hear the case further established the blockbuster 2017 state Supreme Court ruling suggesting citizens’ measures may not need to cross the two-thirds threshold. It could represent a major shift for tax hike proposals that have long been crippled by that requirement.

Why it matters: Tax hikes put on the ballot by local governments would still require two-thirds vote if the money will be used for a specific purpose. But almost certainly, the people who want to see governments get money for those kinds of things – think new stadiums or money for Balboa Park, etc. – will choose to go the citizens’ initiative route.

Sacramento-based election law attorney Brian Hildreth said the Thursday decision could mean the only way to now re-establish a two-thirds vote requirement for citizens’ measures proposing tax hikes is a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution.

So what does this mean for San Diego’s Measure C, which received 65 percent of the vote last March? TBD.

Several legal experts told me that San Diego’s hotel tax initiative could be viewed differently because it includes bond financing, an element that can often require its own two-thirds public vote. But whether that becomes a significant issue depends on how much an individual judge digs into the issue and whether an opponent in the city’s forthcoming validation action seizes on it. All the other citizens’ initiatives that courts have deemed to have passed with a majority only pitched tax increases.

On that note: Andrea Guerrero, from Alliance San Diego, has emerged as the top critic of the city’s effort to get the hotel tax in Measure C implemented and the Convention Center expanded with it.

She took issue a bit with our unquestionably hilarious summary of the situation in the Friday Morning Report. She said we keep talking about it like it is a foregone conclusion that courts will agree that Measure C, like these others, passed with 65 percent of the vote instead of two-thirds.

Here’s Guerrero: “But that ignores the Oakland case, which is ongoing and the most relevant to San Diego. It is the only one of the cases already decided where the City Council said the vote threshold was 2/3 before the election and the City Council then declared the measure passed with a simple majority, crossing the voters. The court determined that action to be a fraud on the voters and rejected the change to the election results.”

New Labor Leader Not Leaving Her Old Leader Job

Brigette Browning has been officially elected the new executive secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. We dedicated a recent Politics Report to the decision and some observations about her.

Leading the Labor Council can be a very high-profile role. Her predecessor, Keith Maddox, was in the news a lot and was as responsible as anyone for major political moves like Measure C and deals up and down the region.

But Browning will be different than her predecessors in one important way: She’s keeping her old job as president of the hotel workers union, Unite HERE Local 30.

“I trust the team at Local 30 will provide strong leadership and call on me when my expertise is needed, and I will be dedicated to building a stronger labor movement in my new role at the Labor Council,” Browning wrote in a statement to the Politics Report.

Sources at the local dog park told the Politics Report that her longtime No. 2 at the hotel workers union, Rick Bates, will have a more prominent role leading the group.

And it’s also a much different job. Only about 1,000 of the 6,000 Unite HERE members in San Diego are working right now.

San Diego 101 Is Back

Last year, we gave you the perfect links to send someone who needed to know how San Diego gets its water or the difference between the county and the city. Now we have four new videos out explaining how schools get money, why the border watershed is both beautiful and a hellscape of toxic pollution, what the city charter is and who polices the police.

Check them out.

And Finally …

If you missed Andrew’s story this week about Reform California, Carl DeMaio’s political group that has angered conservatives across the state for somehow ending up with more money each time it gets involved in a statewide conservative cause, change that and read it. DeMaio is pretty upset about it.

He called us the “Void of San Diego” on his radio show and says it is an “error-filled, false-narrative” but has not elaborated on what is incorrect. But he also decided this week was the time to start attacking former Mayor Kevin Faulconer again.

He’s referring, we think, to Faulconer’s embrace years ago of the effort to take over the purchasing of electricity from SDG&E. But Faulconer always maintained he wanted SDG&E to still deliver it. That, of course, is now also being challenged.

Not unrelated: The recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom that Faulconer and DeMaio want did officially qualify for the ballot this week.

The vote will occur likely in late November, meaning it will be one year before the next normal gubernatorial election.

California is only one of 20 states that have recall processes like this for governor. But it’s much easier to do here. They needed only collect signatures from 12 percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. In Wisconsin, where former Gov. Scott Walker was pushed to a recall election in 2012 (which failed), they needed to collect signatures from 25 percent of the number of votes cast in the previous election.

In other words: Recall votes will probably happen again and again and again.

The Politics Report has decided not to run for governor on the recall ballot. That’s primarily because it is a political newsletter that comes out on Saturdays, not a qualified leader ready to inhabit the governor’s mansion. If you have any feedback for it, send it to or 

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...

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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