Who's to Blame for SD Budget Deficit?

Ex-Mayor Susan Golding speaks about the ignored pension deficit acquired during her tenure as Mayor

By Gene Cubbison
|  Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011  |  Updated 1:02 AM PDT
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Susan Golding, a two-term San Diego mayor, provides resources and hope to the children who need it most through Promises2Kids.

Susan Golding, a two-term San Diego mayor, provides resources and hope to the children who need it most through Promises2Kids.

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The city of San Diego has been struggling with major financial issues since 2004. But they stem from a series of decisions beginning 15 years ago, when Susan Golding was Mayor.

NBC 7 Anchor Susan Taylor interviewed Golding during a "California Nonstop" newscast Thursday night. Golding has been involved in corporate, educational and nonprofit ventures since leaving office in 2000, but she’s been mostly reticent in public about her mayoral tenure until her interview with Taylor.

She admitted that the city failed to fund pensions while she was in office.

“One of the things in that plan was when the pension fund hit 82 percent, the city was required to fund it. What happened after I left was, they didn't do it,” Golding told Taylor.

Within five years after she left, courtrooms were filled with former city and retirement officials and their defense attorneys answering to a pension deficit fueled by more unfunded benefits. All the while, other priorities were ignored in an economy going south.

"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.

John Dadian, a former Golding chief of staff when Golding was a county supervisor said that Golding should have done more to fund benefits and other city expenses.

"The one point I think she is still in denial about is that the under-funding did start under her administration. And she's trying to say that 'The experts told me…’ Well, leadership starts at the top, and the people vote for the mayor and the Council, and it was their final vote."

It didn't help that an expanded Qualcomm Stadium missed out on $36 million worth of rent over 7 mostly bleak Chargers seasons.

The team's ticket guarantee also spurred growing public outrage.

“The fact is, if they hadn't let that deal go, we'd be getting – I think it was Dick Murphy [who] let it go – we would be getting an amazing amount of rent from the Chargers now," Golding said.

"So much so, that the city's bond debt from the stadium expansion would be fully paid off. As it is now, several million dollars a year is coming from the General Fund."

"You don't have to take my word for it," she added.

Golding had her shining moment hosting the 1996 GOP National Convention and was on the cusp of a U.S. Senatorial bid that eventually fizzled. As did, critics say, her second term as mayor.

"Whether she is more to blame, Dick Murphy is more to blame, [or] the endemic problems in the history of San Diego are more to blame – someone is [to blame],” said Liam Dillon, political reporter from Voice of San Diego. “And someone should take responsibility for what's happened in the city since she was around."

Golding spoke with Susan Taylor for a segment about "Promises 2 Kids," the nonprofit of which she is President and CEO. She agreed, in advance, to discuss those issues from her time in office as well.
 

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