CounterPunch: City's $200M Black Hole

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Bryan Crane (left) and Andrew Lund

    Two of the brightest young lights in the San Diego political sky -- Democrat Bryan Crane and Republican Andrew Lund -- are weighing in every other week on hot topics.

    This week's topic: San Diego faces a monster budget deficit estimated between $170 million and $200 million. What steps should the city take now to address the problem? -- Ed.


    Lund's Punch: The city of San Diego can make vital systemic changes now that will help fix its budget mess. The first thing it can do is implement the managed competition of Proposition C, which was passed in 2006.  Prop C allows for competitive bidding in city contracts, resulting in millions of dollars in savings.

    It is also important to consider that large pension programs cost San Diego millions to maintain. Councilmembers Carl DeMaio and Donna Frye -- one Republican and one Democrat -- believe that a budget scoring spreadsheet should be created by the city’s independent budget analyst to determine the exact cost of San Diego’s pension programs. By examining the Deferred Retirement Option Plan program (DROP) and determining the fiscal impact of cost of living adjustments, San Diego will take a giant leap forward in fiscal discipline.


    Crane's Punch: San Diego collects two-thirds the revenue for general services per resident compared to the average California city. The Young Democrats believe addressing our city's structural deficit must include new revenue generation.

    Trash collection is a prime example. Single-family homeowners currently receive municipal service at no fee, while multi-family units (condos and apartments) pay for commercial service. No other major city does this. At $10 per month, San Diego would generate $54 million in new revenue. Storm-water services provide a similar example, where, again, a reasonable fee could generate an estimated $38 million.

    Temporary service cuts and funds transfers may get us through the immediate future, but collecting fees commensurate with services rendered is the long term remedy. Our mayor and council members should unite to persuade voters of the realities required for a balanced budget.


    Lund's Counterpunch: This sounds a lot like a sustained tax increase to me. While I understand the belief that new revenue generation might solve San Diego's budget problems, I do not agree with this belief in the slightest. If the Young Democrats think that taxing the residents of San Diego is a better avenue than managed competition and pension reform, they should have another thought coming.


    Crane's Counterpunch: I recently sought bids to paint my condo. One came in at half the cost of the other but, in the fine print, included only one coat of paint. Outsourcing city services faces the same danger, trading quality for cost and profit. "Managed" is not "free market" competition. Efficiency improvements go unrealized. When tried many times before, including the neglected Walter Reed Hospital, it has failed.


    Bryan Crane, who is the president of the San Diego County Young Democrats, earned his PhD at MIT in 2005, works at San Diego biotech Illumina and admits to being unable to run in flip-flops. 

    Andrew Lund is the current president of the San Diego Young Republicans.