Mayor of Broke City Dreams Big

Mayor Jerry Sanders wants to build big in San Diego

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sanders wants to build big-time in San Diego.

    Jerry Sanders says the convention center expansion, new City Hall and library are all going ahead, despite the worst economy in decades.

    Sanders discussed the points Tuesday in a speech to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association in Mission Valley. Sanders pledged he won't support moving ahead with the projects if they require the use of any money from the city's general fund.

    "During this time of economic hardship, I would never ask residents to choose between funding basic services and investing in discretionary capital projects," Sanders said.

    On Tuesday, Sanders also drew notice to the city's cost-cutting and streamlining departments. Since taking office in 2006, the city has trimmed nearly 1,000 jobs from the city's payroll and cut its budget by $175 million. The mayor warned that the city's budget gap will "dwarf its predecessors."

    The plan to expand the convention center could potentially cost $1 billion. The library has been on the drawing boards for more than a decade and has already cost the city $17 million -- that's without any groundbreaking on a project pegged to cost as much as $185 million -- and that cost was estimated in 2005. The last project, a new City Hall complex, would replace the the Civic Center area downtown. In one plan, a 34-story City Hall, underground garage and other towers built to house hotels, office and retail space would replace what is currently on the site. The voiceofsandiego.org says the price tag for all three projects is in the neighborhood of $1.6 million.

    "In the long run, Sanders said, the three projects will save the city money (City Hall), make the city money (Convention Center) or use money that would otherwise disappear (library)," Liam Dillon wrote in the voiceofsandiego.org.

    The plans have critics. Some point out the city's ballooning pension payments could soar next year, possibly rising even $100 million more this year, while others say that the projects don't make sense now.

    "When I think about legacy, I think San Diegans wouldn’t define legacy as 'build a bunch of new city buildings,' " City Councilman Carl DeMaio said. "I think San Diegans are craving a legacy of a city government that is financially healthy and provides the basic services in an efficient and effective way. The legacy they seek is good government, and I didn't hear a lot of that today."